Chapter 13 - Strategic Defense: SDI, MAD, ASATs, Civil Defense


The Reagan Revolution in strategic defense centers on his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) of March 1983. SDI was as an indispensable moral and strategic imperative for both defense and arms control and a decisive Cold War turning point in Reagan’s effort to move the superpowers from a “balance of nuclear terror” based on the U.S. doctrine of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD). SDI also responded to the realities of extensive Soviet anti-ballistic missile (ABM) programs that included violations of the ABM Treaty of 1972. Far from being an offensive “Star Wars” program or “militarizing space,” as labeled by U.S. critics and Soviet propaganda, SDI would provide increasingly effective strategic defenses to protect millions of lives from the existing MAD situation of potential hair-trigger nuclear choices and strikes. With Reagan’s confidence in SDI’s research potential high, its deployment benefits to be shared, and a growing defense-based strategic consensus, SDI would increasingly replace MAD instabilities and add U.S. negotiation leverage for deep reductions in offensive arms. It would provide required deterrence and insurance against nuclear aggression, cheating, and proliferation in a nuclear world. SDI was never a negotiations “bargaining chip” as the Kremlin, Reagan’s critics, and some of his own diplomats saw it, but a precondition for moving away from MAD, achieving secure arms control reductions, and attaining a safer world. At the same time, in the area of Anti-Satellite (ASAT) systems, Soviet programs were taken seriously as was the need for U.S. ASAT programs to be assured rather than constrained

[Book pg. 295]