'It's not that Ronald Reagan hasn't got any ideas of his own,' an American who held high office in the Pentagon under Jimmy Carter remarked recently. 'The trouble is that he has such peculiar ones.' He was referring to what has been officially termed the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) but what is much more appropriately called Star Wars. It is the President's idea for making nuclear weapons 'impotent and obsolete'. With all the fervour of a true believer he has announced that he is staking his faith in America's scientific and technological genius on the proposition that a carapace can be erected over the United States - and (why not?) over Nato Europe as well. Any and every incoming missile is to be intercepted at some place along the flight path starting with the initial boost phase. After all, Americans produced the atom bomb, they got to the Moon, why not this as well? Reagan wants $26 billion spent on research and then, when American scientists have come up with the secret, they can share it with the Russians - then they will both be safe. Anyone who opposes the project - and some of America's most distinguished citizens have explained, in lucid prose and with impeccable logic, why it cannot succeed and why it is dangerous to try - can be shown either to lack faith in America's ability to do anything it really sets out to do or to be morally unwilling to depart from the appalling implications of Mutual Assured Destruction.
LRB 18 April 1985 | PDF Download