European governments have given the final go-ahead for the launch of the Galileo satellite navigation network, Europe's answer to the U.S.-controlled Global Positioning System.
Europe's answer? What was the question?
The long-delayed $3.6 billion (3.2 billion euro) system, Europe's biggest ever infrastructure project, will be based on 30 satellites and should be operational by 2008.
Yes, but what is it for?
“Only the realisation of this civil system will allow the beginning of the development of the use of satellite navigation in conditions which are suitable for Europeans,” French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot said in a statement.
“Conditions which are suitable for Europeans”? What is that supposed to mean? Does this man compose his speeches using a Eurospeak random-platitude generator or is he criminally insane?
“It will allow the European Union to liberate itself from dependence on the American GPS system,” he added.
Ah, the one kind of “liberation” that the Euro-folk understand. Now we're getting to the point of all this:
Galileo will lead Europe into conflict with the US, which has security concerns about the building of a navigational network to rival its own system.
GPS, like the Russian Glonass system, is a military-run network and can be downgraded or taken offline if an enemy attempts to use the data to launch guided missiles, for example.
By contrast, Galileo will be a civilian-run operation that will be guaranteed in all but the direst circumstances so services that are safety-critical – landing planes, for example – can rely on the data.
So – just to be clear about this: the entire purpose of this multi-billion-Euro technological miracle is that one day it will be left switched on at a time when the US has switched off the GPS. Which the US will only ever do when it believes an enemy is “using the data to launch guided missiles, for example”.
The US has absolutely no choice but to announce that if the European system is ever left switched on at a time when the GPS has been switched off for security reasons, the Galileo satellites will be shot down.
Mr Bush, Mr Rumsfeld, members of the United States Congress, please make that annnouncement now. Some of us here in Europe find it galling enough to be forced to pay for this monstrous monument to anti-Americanism, but we do not want blood on our hands as well. Please promise us that if it ever comes to it, you will not hesitate: shoot the junk down.