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Cold War Space Policy and Observation Satellites Article in Astropolitics, Routledge, volume 5, n°1, pp. 29-62, January-April 2007.

Constellations of observation satellites resemble the 'Panopticon' system imagined by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham in his 18th century project for an ideal jailhouse - a system that Michel Foucault analyzed in Discipline and Punish (1975). Just as the warden in the central tower watches the prisoners without their being able to see him, satellites watch the Earth while observed countries cannot escape or monitor the extent of the observation.
Will observed countries factor in the control exerted by observing countries, just as prisoners will eventually interiorize the warden's discipline? This may indeed have been the goal of the US satellite observation policy during the Cold War (1950's-1980's). The US at the time sought to exert a new form of power on the international scene, resorting to persuasion and deterrence rather than all-out aggression.
US satellite surveillance was at work vis-a-vis the USSR through different policies linked to nuclear deterrence; and vis-a-vis US Allies (NATO, Great-Britain, France and Israel), then subject to a US information monopoly. The intended panoptical power was not totally efficient, however. Regarding the USSR, its exercise depended ultimately on the political climate between the two Superpowers. Allied countries succeeded repeatedly in warding off US attempts at control through information.


Cold War Space Policy and Observation Satellites