SDI and Arms Control   [open pdf - 2MB]

Alternate Title: Strategic Defense Initiative and Arms Control

"President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI, and the pursuit of defenses to protect against ballistic missile attack are issues of significant debate. Some praise the proposal, first made in a presidential address to the nation on 23 March 1983, as a grand vision that will abolish nuclear blackmail by adopting a totally defensive posture. Others condemn it as being destabilizing, a Pandora's box of strategic transition that could precipitate armed conflict. To date, the focus primarily has been on questions of technology. Are defenses feasible? Will they work? How effective can they be? In addition, many have addressed the impact of defenses on US-Soviet stability. Will SDI defenses seem threatening? Will they destabilize the strategic equation? Is a shift toward defense necessarily away from offense? Perhaps the real questions to ask concern the strategic direction currently being pursued, how strategic defense will or should interact with strategic offense, and the relationship of strategic defense to arms control. The vision of SDI originally portrayed in March 1983-ultimately eliminating the threat of strategic nuclear missiles-is now a longer-term goal. Now deterrence is, as before, the byword; perfect defenses are recognized as being unattainable, and continued dependence on offensive ballistic missiles is envisioned. These considerations, once accepted, may precipitate further nuclear arms control agreements-with SDI as the catalyst."

Report Number:
McNair Paper No. 4
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
National Defense University, Institute for National Strategic Studies: http://www.ndu.edu/inss
Media Type:
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