Why does our new National Security Strategy not mention asteroids?

Comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) (picture Johannes-Kepler-Observatory, Linz, Austria)

A writer in the Sunday Telegraph today, commenting on the government’s new National Security Strategy, complains that there is no mention of the threat from asteroids. The likelihood of an asteroid strike is extremely low, but the consequences would be extremely severe, as any dinosaur will tell you. (Read the National Security Strategy here.)

The Americans are working on technologies that might deflect or destroy asteroids on a collision course with Earth, so why aren’t we?

Well, isn’t the answer obvious? It is precisely because the Americans are working on technologies that might deflect or destroy asteroids on a collision course with Earth. Any set of defences of the planet that is good enough will defend all of us. Conceivably we should help the Americans on a coordinated effort, but it would be absurd to try to have a British defence against asteroids. What should we do: try to protect Kent by knocking the asteroids off course into northern France instead?

And that is the real point. The very idea of a National Security Strategy makes little sense in our modern, interdependent times. Anything that is a serious threat to Britain – terrorism, climate change, asteroid strikes – is a serious threat to our neighbours, too. We can only resist such threats by working together with them. A European security strategy or a global security strategy would make rather more sense.

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