International security and the space domain: applying traditional theories of international relations to the astropolitical environment

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University of Alabama Libraries

Traditional theories of International Relations have long been used to describe the politics of space. The space security debate itself reflects the inter-paradigm debate of the 1970s and 1980s in which neorealist and neoliberal institutionalist scholars argued over the constitutive character of the anarchic international system. This disagreement is projected onto the space environment and thus contending theoretical assumptions are used to justify opposing propositions concerning the securitization of the domain. Neorealists assume that militarization is an effective method of securitization while neoliberals assume that subscription to international institutions is a more effective method. The extant literature on space security appeals to or extends from military doctrine and political psychology to make prospective space behaviors intelligible. In this dissertation, I apply the theoretical assumptions that undergird traditional schools of thought to the space security environment and operationalize them in a manner conducive to quantitative statistical analysis. I propose that the security status of space can be operationalized by the frequency of non-military payloads placed in orbit every year. This represents the perceived precarity of the domain among civilian and commercial industrial leaders. I operationalize the neorealist explanatory variable as the frequency of military payloads placed in orbit every year and the neoliberal explanatory variable as the annual number of ratified international space treaties. These observations are regressed against the dependent variable and alternative explanatory variables in order to discover which of them accurately accounts for space security. This project utilizes an original, longitudinal database consisting of 195 political actors observed over 63 years from 1957 to 2019. Two estimator models are used to empirically analyze the respective effects of military activity and international space treaty subscription on the security status of space: feasible generalized least squares (FGLS) and generalized least squares (GLS) with Huber-White sandwich estimators. The results strongly support the neorealist position that military activity has a positive influence on security. The results to do not support the neoliberal institutionalist position that subscription to space treaty organizations has a positive influence on security.

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International relations