Khaab Khayaal Saraab

Thursday, May 01, 2003

I read the book "Marco Polo, If You Can" recently. It is a spy thriller based in the Eisenhower-Khruschev era. While that might sound trivial, part of the premise of the novel is the discussion that the U2 spy plane will become obsolete once spy satellites come online and therefore the protagonists use the planes to make a point one last time. If you really want to get into both the technical issue and its legal implications, they include:

a) the U2s are still being used for things like monitoring Iraq, bringing up the issue that some "old" technologies don't die, their usage model evolves which is interesting when I see too many Pakistanis saying--or implying--that all we need to do is adopt the latest, hotest, greatest technology and we will become an "Advance Country" and so on.

b) it is very interesting how the legal issue of overflight has evolved in the Space Age. Up to the time of the U2s, overflying a country was a violation of their air space and considered, in every way, shape and form, an act of war. But the first chapter in Space Law was written very differently as soon as the USSR sent up Sputnik without first checking with the multitude of countries it would fly over and most of humanity just stood up and cheered instead of considering themselves at war with the USSR. The other player in the Space game at that point, the US of A, just smirked silently because the USSR had just made it okay for them to send up spy satellites without the USSR being able to complain. Of course, the USSR then did the same.

Amazing what one can get from a spy thriller if you think about it. :D