Thirty years ago tomorrow, president Ronald Reagan unveiled his Strategic Defense Initiative, a military program designed to change the paradigm from the old notion of “mutually assured destruction” to one in which nuclear weapons would become obsolete thanks to SDI’s missile defense system.
The program was an enormous shock to the USSR even though the Soviets had begun developing their own missile defense system. Accordingly, they began opposing SDI officially and also via American anti-anti-communists. Domestic opponents tried ardently to state that it was scientifically impossible to create a system that could work effectively, creating a pattern of deception that is now being used again today against hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” another technology that can significantly change the world but is being opposed by the Left.
I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on this topic this past Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation alongside Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute and Karen Moreau of the Foundation for Land and Liberty.
You can watch the video of the conversation below:
For more details on the history, see the following excerpt that the discussion moderator Kevin Mooney of Watchdog.org wrote in the Washington Examiner:
The necessity and feasibility of missile defense are widely accepted today, but Reagan's SDI unsettled his own military establishment, the mainstream media and the academic community. The Soviets sought to undermine the program, Kengor explains, not because they thought an anti-missile system wouldn't work, but because they feared it might.
In fact, SDI's robust role in undermining the Soviets became clear after the fall of communism -- Alexander Bessmertnykh, foreign minister for General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, has said SDI "accelerated the decline of the Soviet Union."
Today, yet another game-changing technological advance threatens to change international relations forever. And some of the same media outlets, academic institutions and pressure groups that worked to discredit SDI 30 years ago are now concentrating their efforts against it. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has made it possible to tap into natural gas deposits that were previously inaccessible, could soon make America a net energy exporter, and the naysayers are out to stop it with any dodgy argument or scientific claim they can get their hands on.
An excerpt from the Reagan 1983 speech follows. You can read it in its entirety here.
Since the dawn of the atomic age, we have sought to reduce the risk of war by maintaining a strong deterrent and by seeking genuine arms control. Deterrence means simply this: Making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States or our allies or our vital interests concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won't attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.
This strategy of deterrence has not changed. It still works. But what it takes to maintain deterrence has changed. It took one kind of military force to deter an attack when we had far more nuclear weapons than any other power; it takes another kind now that the Soviets, for example, have enough accurate and powerful nuclear weapons to destroy virtually all of our missiles on the ground. Now this is not to say that the Soviet Union is planning to make war on us. Nor do I believe a war is inevitable - quite the contrary. But what must be recognized is that our security is based on being prepared to meet all threats.
There was a time when we depended on coastal forts and artillery batteries because, with the weaponry of that day, any attack would have had to come by sea. Well, this is a different world and our defenses must be based on recognition and awareness of the weaponry possessed by other nations in the nuclear age.
We can't afford to believe that we will never be threatened. There have been two world wars in my lifetime. We didn't start them and, indeed, did everything we could to avoid being drawn into them. But we were ill-prepared for both - had we been better prepared, peace might have been preserved