REAGAN’S STRATEGIC DEFENSE INITIATIVE – 34 YEARS LATER A REALITY

Washington Times on March 20, 2017 published a commentary by Ed Feulner on President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Reagan had in March 1983 said it was an initiative that would change history. So it has, argues Mr. Feulner. Excerpts below:

His speech [on March 23, 1983] introduced Americans and the world to SDI, a comprehensive, layered ballistic missile-defense program designed to protect the United States and its allies from a threat that had bedeviled it for more than 20 years. It marked a true turning point in our adversarial relationship with the Soviet Union.

The Heritage Foundation was privileged to lay the visionary groundwork that led to Reagan’s historic announcement. The year before the president’s SDI address, the Foundation published its first missile-defense study, “High Frontier: A New National Strategy.” The study proposed a comprehensive system, including laser weapons capable of intercepting Soviet missiles as they were launched or while they traveled in space toward the United States.

At that point, most of the country’s policymaking elite considered Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD, appropriately enough) an acceptable policy to deter the Soviet Union.

Most policymakers believed MAD was enough to ensure the Soviet Union would never attack, and that any missile defenses could upset the delicate balance of assured destruction.

President Reagan was skeptical of the MAD doctrine.

Adversaries and potential adversaries have chosen to exploit U.S. vulnerability and invested heavily in ballistic missiles, as well as programs researching and developing lethal payloads for them. As Heritage has continued to emphasize, the threat from ballistic missiles is only 33 minutes away.

Building on President Reagan’s legacy, the United States slowly woke to the ballistic-missile threat, withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that prohibited missile-defense deployments in 2002, and started an initial missile-defense program designed to protect the country, forward-deployed troops and allies from primarily Iranian and North Korean ballistic missiles.

…a lot more work remains to be done, especially since the program was hampered at times by the Obama administration. The new administration must invest in space-based missile-defense interceptors, as envisioned under SDI. We must develop and deploy directed-energy weapons, building on the research and development legacy of the SDI program.

Thirty-four years ago, Ronald Reagan described a visionary goal to help secure our country. Now we must build on his vision…

Ed Feulner is founder of the Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).

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