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

ment, the NSDD’s opening section on Military Strategy indicated support not only for U.S. strategic modernization, but also for strategic defense as parallel efforts to change Soviet calculations and deter Soviet attack. Thus:

The U.S. must modernize its military forces . . . so that Soviet leaders perceive that the U.S. is determined never to accept a second place or a deteriorating military posture. Soviet calculations of possible war outcomes under any contingency must always result in outcomes so unfavorable to the USSR that there would be no incentive for Soviet leaders to initiate an attack.10

Reagan’s Public Launch of SDI—March 1983. In a televised Address to the Nation on Defense, National Security, and SDI, on March 23, 1983, Reagan surprised the world, and most U.S. officials, with a short speech insert that launched his revolutionary Strategic Defense Initiative designed to truly provide for the common defense and radically alter the preeminent doctrines and practices of Cold War defense and arms control strategy. He presented an extraordinary moral-strategic vision and presciently refuted the outcries that followed from Soviet propaganda and his opponents. Thus:

[Saving Lives and Achieving Stability] If the Soviet Union will join with us in our effort to achieve major arms reduction, we will have succeeded in stabilizing the nuclear balance. Nevertheless, it will still be necessary to rely on the specter of retaliation, on mutual threat. And that’s a sad commentary on the human condition. Wouldn’t it be better to save lives than to avenge them? Are we not capable of demonstrating our peaceful intentions by applying all our abilities and our ingenuity to achieving a truly lasting stability? I think we are. Indeed we must.

[From Retaliation to Defense] After careful consultation with my advisers, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I believe there is a way. Let me share with you a vision of the future which offers hope. It is that we embark on a program to counter the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive. . . . What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?

[Maintaining U.S. Nuclear Deterrence and Defense] I know this is a formidable, technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century. Yet, current technology has attained a level of sophistication where it’s reasonable for us to begin this effort. It will take years, probably decades of effort on many fronts. . . . And as we proceed, we must remain constant in preserving the nuclear deterrent and maintaining a solid capability for flexible response. But isn’t it worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war? We know it is. In the meantime, we will continue to pursue real reductions in nuclear arms, negotiating from a position of strength that can be ensured only by modernizing our strategic forces. . . .

[Allies] As we pursue our goal of defensive technologies, we recognize that our allies rely upon our strategic offensive power to deter attacks against them. Their vital interests and ours are inextricably linked. Their safety and ours are one. And no change in technology can or will alter that reality. We must and shall continue to honor our commitments. . . .

[Mankind, R&D, Arms Control] I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete. Tonight, consistent with our obligations of the ABM treaty and recognizing the need for closer consultation with our allies, I’m taking an important first step. I am directing a comprehensive and intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles. This could pave the way for arms control measures to eliminate the weapons themselves. We seek neither military superiority nor political advantage. Our only purpose—one all people share—is to search for ways to reduce the danger of nuclear war, . . . an effort which holds the promise of changing the course of human history. (headings added)11

NSDD 85. Shortly after his public launch of SDI on March 23, Reagan issued NSDD 85—Eliminating the Threat from Ballistic Missiles on March 25 to formally set SDI’s high humane purpose at the outset of the program:

to reduce world tensions and enhance stability, . . . to achieve significant reductions in strategic offensive forces and to eliminate [Long Range Intermediate Nuclear Force] LRINF land-based missiles, . . . [and] to decrease our reliance on the threat of retaliation by offensive nuclear weapons and to increase the contribution of defensive systems to our security and that of our allies. . . . [The NSDD directs] development of an intensive effort to

[Book pg. 303]