Totem and Taboo

Depolarizing the Space Weaponization Debate

by Karl P. Mueller


Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price
Add to Cart Paperback25 pages Free

The debate over space weaponization is typically cast in simplistic, unidimensional terms, while many participants caricature their opponents as naive pacifists or rabid warmongers. This article redraws the subject more realistically. First, it surveys the question of what systems are truly space weapons and what developments would constitute weaponization. Second, it describes six distinct schools of thought regarding weaponization: idealist, internationalist and nationalist sanctuary theories, and preemptive, utilitarian and hegemonist pro-weaponization perspectives. Third, it analyzes and largely debunks the leading arguments which hold that space weaponization is inevitable. Finally, it suggests reforms to make the debate more sensible and productive.

Research conducted by

Originally published in: Astropolitics, v. 1, no. 1, Summer 2003, pp. 4-28.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.