Oct 08 2008
The last 200 years teach us that approximately every 56 years great explorations like Lewis and Clark splash into history along with stunning macro-engineering projects (MEPs) like the Suez Canal. Tragically, they are usually followed shortly by a major war like World War I.
Most of this twice-per-century action occurs in the decade just before a peak in the well-documented 56 year energy cycle. These Maslow Windows are invariably the time of exceptional economic booms that create widespread affluence and elevate society to higher realms of Maslow’s Heirarchy. Thus many people momentarily find great explorations and MEPs not only tolerable, but almost irresistible.
Our time is coming. We’re rapidly approaching the opening of the next Maslow Window near 2015, and can expect the usual unfortunate escalation of international tensions of the type we saw in the 1950s during the Cold War.
Unfortunately the current parallel with the 1950s is striking. The Wall Street Journal (8/12/08) suggests that Russian tanks in Georgia revealed “Vladimir Putin’s Napoleonic ambitions”: to dominate Eurasia again. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserted that “Georgia can be rebuilt. Russia’s reputation is going to take a while, if ever,” (CBS TV, 8/17/08). Peter Zeihan, a geopolitical analyst with Stratfor, which Barron’s once referred to as “the shadow CIA,” suggests that, “Russia is attempting to reforge its Cold War-era influence…”
One attractive Russian target is Cuba. Since space centers are the rage around the globe these days, Russia’s offered to build them one (Reuters, 9/17/08). Of course this would just involve little things like joint use of “space equipment…and space communications systems.” If this doesn’t remind you of the Cuban missile crisis (1962) during the early Apollo Maslow Window when WW III almost began, you need to Google it. For their part, the Russians openly acknowledge that “they want to renew Cuban ties that were neglected after the Soviet Union’s collapse.”
One of the greatest sources of joy to the American public, as revealed by opinion polls over the decades, is the prospect of true international cooperation in space, especially with the Russians. And now word comes from the recent International Astronautical Congress in Glascow, Scotland that not only the Russians, but the Chinese want to go to Mars… with the U.S.!!
Such a sparkling joint great exploration concept brings to mind the phrase, “Where do I sign?” But students of long-term trends in geopolitics and history must reluctantly advise caution.
Once upon a time, about one energy cycle ago in the 1950s, there was the International Geophysical Year (IGY), an exhuberant time of global scientific devouring of Earth’s atmospheric and space environment. In 1954 the International Council of Scientific Unions announced plans for artificial satellites to be launched during the IGY, and in July, 1955 the U.S. confirmed its intention to launch one for the IGY. Almost immediately, according to Professor Asif Siddiqi, the Soviets began a secret, crash program to beat the Americans and launch the first satellite.
The shocking result — at least to the U.S. — was the Soviet launch of Sputnik in October, 1957; an event that ignited the 1st race to space and culminated in Neil Armstrong’s footsteps on the Moon in 1969.
What will ignite the next race to space? One possible, but chilling response comes from Stratfor’s Zeihan, “It’s a fairly straightforward exercise to predict where Russian activity will reach its deepest. One only needs to revisit Cold War history.”