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This report examines the political environment in which the Strategic Defense 
Initiative (SDI) must compete with other military programs for sustained attention 
and funding. Specifically, the report argues for increased funding and for moving 
the SDI from the research phase to the deployment phase. Due to the rapid changes 
in the international environment and the perceived end to the cold war, the rationale 
behind the SDI must be updated and expanded or else the program will become increasingly 
irrelevant. The report examines the SDI in terms of: (1) the strategic benefits of 
near-term limited deployments, (2) the political and economic forces arrayed against 
SDI, and (3) political strategies to advance the nar-term deployment option. 






J. J. Tritten 

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'It was the best of times and it was the worst of times' is 
an apt description of the state of United States policy on 
ballistic missile defenses in the 1980s. President Reagan's 
'Star Wars' speech of 23 March 1983 was the focus of much of the 
strategic debate for this decade both in the United States and 
around the world. The speech certainly renewed interest in the 
topic of strategic defenses but it is also clear that the United 
States may now be as far away as ever from actually deploying 
effective strategic defenses. In his speech, Reagan offered a 
sweeping long-term vision of a world transformed from reliance on 
offensive retaliatory punishment for deterrence to a world where 
Americans and our allies "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." 1 In order to bring this vision to 
fruition, Reagan called upon the American scientific community to 
create the technology to make nuclear weapons "impotent and 
obsolete. "^ Reagan's announcement of his sweeping strategic 
vision was the seminal strategic event of the decade not only 
because it reopened the debate on the utility of strategic 
defenses among the national security community but also, and 
perhaps more importantly, his vision sparked the imagination of 
the American public and literally changed the shape of the 
domestic political playing field for strategic issues almost 
overnight. With his long-term vision, Reagan at least 
temporarily largely defused both those in the national security 

community who were critical of his nuclear strategy and strategic 
modernization programs and also those elements of the public who 
saw him as a nuclear warmonger and who called for a nuclear 
freeze as the best first step to ending the nuclear arms 'race'. 

The Strategic Defense Initiative ( SDI ) was the research 
program created to investigate the prospects of strategic 
defenses in accordance with President Reagan's vision and the 
Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was the agency 
created within the Department of Defense (DoD) to manage the 
program. As with many other programs during Reagan's tenure, his 
SDI was ambiguous enough to appear to be many things to many 
people and thereby provide great initial political utility while 
leaving many of the difficult and inevitable political and 
financial bills to be paid in the future. In responding to the 
president's vision, SDI was at first primarily concerned with 
developing exotic and highly competent systems which could be 
capable of rendering ballistic missiles impotent and obsolete. 
More recently, the program has focused more heavily on less 
capable but more mature systems perhaps in an attempt to 
capitalize on the fleeting remaining years of Reagan's second 
term by presenting early deployment options. In the event, 
Reagan did not push for early deployment of strategic defense 
systems and remained true to the spirit of his 1983 speech which 
noted that investigation of the feasibility of strategic defenses 
would reguire a long term research program and that any decisions 
on deployment would have to be made by future presidents and 
future congresses. The SDI program has also failed to provide 

any authoritative guidance for our strategic roadmap for moving 
from our current situation to a defense dominated world. 
Moreover, SDI has evolved against a complex and changing 
international milieu where perceptions of its t utility vis a vis 
the Soviet threat or as a bargaining chip in arms negotiations 
have waxed and waned. Thus, it is hardly surprising that both 
the ultimate purpose and the shorter term goals of the SDI 
program are less than clear to both supporters and critics of the 
program. It is also egually clear that Reagan's 1983 vision was 
essential to creating the program but cannot now guide the 
current direction of the program. Moreover, the inevitable 
political and financial costs of the program are becoming 
increasingly apparent and will be more and more difficult to 
sustain based solely on Reagan's long-term strategic vision of 

The bills on SDI are now coming due. Unless the program can 
be restructured to provide visible positive feedback on shorter 
term goals, then it is probably doomed to irrelevancy in terms of 
providing near-term defense deployments and will probably revert 
to the lower funding levels and the lesser attention which 
strategic defense research efforts received before our disparate 
strategic defense related programs were coalesced into the SDI 
rubric. This report will argue that if SDI does not lead to 
near-term deployment it would be a great tragedy not only because 
deployed strategic defenses offer the U.S. opportunities for 
strengthened deterrence, improved stability, improved negotiating 
leverage, and improved superpower relations but also because the 
demise of SDI would represent a dangerous failure of political 

will and is probably avoidable if SDI can be packaged and sold to 
the American public properly. The American public is at best 
only marginally interested in strategic issues, has a notoriously 
short attention-span, and is far more receptive to strategic 
developments perceived to be positive: SDI must be packaged and 
sold in light of these political realities. Because the forces 
opposing SDI leading to near-term deployments are powerful, the 
orientation and the packaging of the program must be changed soon 
or it is likely that we will see a repeat of the 1960s strategic 
defense debate wherein the political impetus for deployments will 
erode as the technical capabilities of the system increase. This 
report will examine the political prospects for turning SDI from 
a research program into a deployment program in the near-term 
through an analysis of SDI in three areas: 1) a review of the 
strategic benefits of deploying a near-term, limited defense 
system, 2) an overview of the political and financial forces 
arrayed against near-term deployment, and 3) some specific 
potential strategies which might advance the near-term deployment 

Before turning to our analysis of the political prospects 
for the SDI program leading to near-term strategic defense 
deployments we must first examine some fundamental questions 
related to the whole concept of Ballistic Missile Defenses (BMD). 
In evaluating BMD in general most lines of inquiry revolve around 
three interrelated broad question areas: 1) will it work?, 2) how 
much will it cost?, and 3) will it make nuclear war more or less 
likely? This report will focus on question number three by 

arguing that questions number one and two can only be answered 
within a strategic/political context and only question number 
three fully opens this strategic/political context. In other 
words, the desirability of strategic defenses is primarily a 
strategic/political question rather than a technical or fiscal 
problem. How one approaches the strategic/political question 
will largely determine how one answers the other questions 
regarding strategic defenses. 

Question number one revolves around technology and can 
involve arcane discussions of problems involved with the cutting 
edge of science in many areas such as physics, mechanics, 
engineering, and computer software and technology. These 
discussions in turn generally devolve into debates between rival 
factions of 'experts'. This approach generates a great deal more 
heat than light; because the technical merits of these debates 
almost always exceed the technical understanding of the audience, 
the public is left to accept or reject the arguments of the big 
name experts on the opposing sides as articles of faith. 
Moreover, since most of these big name experts have already made 
up their minds concerning the feasibility or desirability of 
strategic defenses (most were heavily involved in the BMD debate 
of the 60s) their arguments do not necessarily relate to the 
technical merits of the issue at hand but rather reflect their 
predetermined strategic preferences couched in technical 
language. Ultimately, the entire question of the technical 
feasibility of strategic defenses relates more to judgements 
about the strategic utility of certain hypothesized warhead 
leakage rates than to the technical problems involved with 

strategic defense per se. Almost no one wixl argue that 
strategic defenses can be built that have extremely low or zero 
leakage rates and likewise almost no one will argue that we do 
not now have the technology to destroy or disable some percentage 
of attacking boosters and warheads plus decoys. Thus, the 
question of whether a strategic defense system will work or not 
becomes at what maximum level of leakage do strategic defenses 
become strategically significant and how much technological 
innovation and financial commitment is required to reach this 
point. This is a strategic/political question and while 
technology can offer direction and guidance, technology by itself 
cannot answer the question. 

Likewise, financial questions about the costs of deploying 
strategic defense systems must take place within the context of 
the strategic utility and political trade-offs required to field 
the system in question or this debate will end up being similarly 
sterile. The public has been subjected to an extremely wide range 
of cost estimates for the deployment of strategic defenses. 
Estimates ranging from as much as a Trillion dollars or more down 
to as little as ten to twenty-five Billion dollars for completely 
deployed systems have been widely circulated.-* These estimates 
reflect different deployment options, modes and architectures in 
reaching their vastly differing estimates for the cost of a fully 
deployed system. More importantly, however, these divergent 
estimates are driven by fundamental disagreements on the 
strategic/political question of how much leakage the system can 
allow in order to have strategic utility. Those who believe 

strategic defenses have little strategic/political utility unless 
they have extremely low or zero leakage rates present cost 
estimates for extremely robust, redundant, and complex systems 
requiring birth to death tracking of many thousands of objects 
and capable of reaching such levels of near perfection. Those 
who believe that strategic defenses have strategic/political 
utility at far lower levels of effectiveness present cost 
estimates which reflect less complete and complex systems. Thus, 
examining raw cost comparisons in a strategic/political vacuum is 
nearly useless. Of course, any decision to deploy strategic 
defenses will also be subjected to the normal intensely political 
process by which all military systems are funded by our 
government. In this context, judgements about appropriate 
funding levels for strategic defense deployment must be made in 
the context of trade-offs between other defense procurements and 
will be a primarily political decision. 

Having examined why focus on questions one or two in 
isolation cannot really help us to decide whether the U.S. should 
proceed with deployment of strategic defenses, we must now turn 
to the central issue: an examination of the interrelationship 
between strategic defenses and U.S. nuclear strategy. As 
deterrence of nuclear war is the primary goal of U.S. nuclear 
strategy, it seems appropriate to ask question number three in 
the form given above but the interrelationship between strategic 
defenses and strategy is clearly more subtle and all-encompassing 
than can be captured by the relatively simple question of whether 
strategic defenses increase or decrease the likelihood of nuclear 
war. The difficulty in posing a simple question which adequately 

describes the interrelationship between our nuclear strategy and 
strategic defenses illustrates the complexities involved in any 
discussion of strategy. Indeed, perhaps one of the reasons why 
questions number one and two above seem to receive more attention 
and discussion is that these questions can be rather well bounded 
and are suitable for empirical testing whereas any discussion of 
strategy does not lend itself to empirical testing, is less well 
bounded and generally more esoteric in nature. Nonetheless, we 
must focus on the interrelationship between our nuclear strategy 
and strategic defenses because this is an essential intellectual 
underpinning for any analysis of technology or costs as discussed 

Another intellectual barrier to analysis of the 
interrelationship between strategic defenses and U.S. nuclear 
strategy is the lack of precision surrounding the concept of 
deterrence. There is a wide and probably irreconcilable schism 
between those who believe that the fundamental reality of the 
nuclear age dictates that deterrence is best maintained through 
the threat of societal punishment and those who believe that the 
evolving dynamics of both offensive and defensive weapons 
technology dictate that deterrence is best maintained by the 
ability to deny the war objectives of the enemy. This 
fundamental schism largely determines how those in each school of 
thought view the utility of strategic defenses. Those in the 
deterrence by punishment or Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) 
school would logically see great utility only in strategic 
defenses which offered a very high level of societal protection 

and even then this would not be their preferred policy choice 
because the logic of MAD dictates that it would be better to 
leave both sides virtually defenseless and thereby reduce the 
need for large numbers of offensive forces. Those in the 
deterrence by denial school would logically see utility in 
strategic defenses of lesser capability so long as these defenses 
could help to deny enemy war objectives. A related problem 
concerning deterrence and strategic defenses is captured by the 
popular admonition that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. In 
relation to strategic defenses, this would imply that since 
offensive only nuclear deterrence has worked for 44 years so far 
it would be foolish to disrupt the stable basis on which that 
deterrence rests with the introduction of something as radical as 
strategic defenses. While superficially appealing, this line of 
reasoning has several flaws: First, one can never determine why 
deterrence is operative, only detect when it has failed. Second, 
this line of reasoning would seem to view the strategic balance 
as static rather than dynamic and would deny the impact of 
technological change on strategy and credibility when technology 
has obviously played a crucial role in shaping our strategy in 
the past and history is replete with examples of offensive-defen- 
sive interaction. Finally, closing the door on strategic defense 
options keeps the ultimate basis for deterrence resting on the 
threat of massive societal punishment based on a political judge- 
ment -- a basis which would seem to be unacceptable over the 
long-term, especially if other options might be available. 

Strategic Benefits of Near-Term Limited Strategic Defenses 

A complete analysis of all of the strategic benefits of a 
near-term deployment of strategic defenses is beyond the scope of 
this paper. However, the most important rationales must be 
presented here since they form the underpinning for the political 
strategies detailed below. Perhaps the most obvious rationale 
for the United States to move toward near-term strategic defense 
deployments is that such defenses are a necessary and logical 
adjunct to our current nuclear strategy. Despite the fact that 
the MAD concept dominates much of the public (and also to a 
lesser degree official) thinking on the subject of nuclear 
deterrence and also provides the basis for the 1972 SALT I 
Interim Agreement and ABM Treaty, MAD has not provided the 
intellectual basis for U.S. nuclear strategy as it has evolved 
since SALT I. While still seemingly useful as a declaratory 
policy or as a tool to measure 'how much is enough?', MAD had 
never been useful as a guide to force employment and the 
credibility problems with MAD as a basis for our nuclear strategy 
began to surface immediately following SALT 1.^ The 1974 
Schelsinger Doctrine represents the earliest official repudiation 
of MAD since it emphasized the development of Limited Nuclear 
Options (LNOs) to enhance deterrence across the spectrum and 
provide our National Command Authority (NCA) with preplanned 
options for nuclear use below the level of societal punishment 
implied by MAD. During the remainder of the 1970s, U.S. nuclear 
strategy continued to move further away from MAD as Multiple 
Independently-Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) technology and 


accuracy continued to improve and MAD was seen as a less and less 
credible basis for nuclear deterrence. 

The movement of U.S. nuclear strategy away from MAD reached 
technical and force structure limitations with the promulgation 
of Presidential Directive (PD) 59 by President Carter in 1980. 
This secret product of Carter's National Security Council 
apparatus reportedly moved the U.S. nuclear targeting policy to a 
heavy emphasis on countermilitary and countercontrol targets and 
as such was a complete reversal of the targeting priorities 
implied by a MAD philosophy. Indeed, the demanding scope of the 
target base outlined by PD 59 was apparently beyond the reach of 
U.S. weapons and intelligence capabilities and President Reagan 
therefore reportedly adopted a similar but less stringent set of 
targeting priorities in his National Security Decision Directive 
(NSDD)-13 of 1981. Given the actual development of U.S. nuclear 
doctrine, it is somewhat ironic that President Carter was 
popularly perceived as a wimp and President Reagan was seen as a 
trigger-happy cowboy. It is abundantly clear that by the early 
1980s MAD no longer served to guide U.S. nuclear strategy -- 
instead our strategy had reverted to a more traditional 
war-fighting and denial approach to deterrence. 

The evolution of U.S. nuclear strategy away from MAD is 
significant in that it highlights the need for strategic 
defenses. Deterrence based on the ability to credibly conduct 
militarily significant nuclear war operations and deny the enemy 
his wartime objectives cannot be complete without some form of 
defense. Even limited and low levels of strategic defenses can 
be significant in disrupting the timing and military objectives 


of an enemy strike and, of course, these military benefits become 
more significant as the defenses become more robust and acquire 
the capability to defend high value targets preferentially. Just 
as the logic behind MAD dictates very low levels or no strategic 
defenses, the logic of deterrence by denial dictates that 
strategic defenses are a necessary adjunct to the ability to 
credibly conduct militarily significant nuclear war operations. 
While the evolution of U.S. nuclear strategy has not been without 
debate, it is significant that both Democratic and Republican 
administrations have strongly adopted the shift to deterrence by 
denial and the burden of proof should rest upon those who do not 
agree with this shift in emphasis to explain why administrations 
as disparate as those of Carter and Reagan would have both 
strongly endorsed this reorientation in U.S. nuclear strategy. 
Given the context of the evolution of U.S. nuclear doctrine, it 
is clear that Reagan's 1983 'star wars' speech was more of an 
evolutionary adjunct to our evolving strategy than the 'bolt from 
the blue' which it is often characterized to be. 

An interrelated concept which also points to the logical 
need for strategic defenses relates to the continuing 
improvements in Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence 
(C3I) capabilities and in ballistic missile accuracies by both 
superpowers. Indeed, the entire evolution of U.S. nuclear 
strategy in the postwar period can be thought of as a continuous 
intricate dance between strategy and technology with the constant 
objective of credibility. Credible strategies must reflect the 
military capabilities of our evolving technology. Just as the 


inaccurate single warhead ballistic missiles of the 1960s 
dovetailed well into the concept of MAD, the advent of MIRVs and 
the evolutionary improvements in ballistic missile accuracy and 
C3I made any strategy based on MAD both less credible and also 
facilitated the movement towards a nuclear strategy based on 
deterrence by denial. These trends towards greater accuracies 
and better C3I continue today and this evolution highlights the 
need for strategic defenses. As terminal guidance and/or 
navigational updates via the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) 
or the Soviet GLONASS system will greatly enhance the accuracy of 
ballistic missile warheads, both superpowers also continue to 
make significant improvements to their C3I networks. Thus, we 
are rapidly approaching the time when both superpowers will be 
able to conduct intercontinental strikes with near zero Circular 
Error Probable (CEP) and realtime C3I networks to facilitate 
'shoot-look-shoot' targeting strategies. Indeed, with these type 
of accuracies and C3I networks, the superpowers may also soon 
move towards non-nuclear strategic weapons and these type of 
weapons could strain deterrence in the absence of any defenses 
since there would seemingly be fewer disincentives for their use 
when compared with nuclear weapons. 

The cumulative impact of these evolutionary technological 
improvements means that any fixed and locatable target which is 
not superhardened is today very vulnerable and will only become 
more vulnerable as the technology improves. These technological 
improvements have an obvious negative impact on both crisis and 
strategic stability. When the probability of kill for any fixed 


^arget which is not superhardened becomes essentially the 
reliability of the missile, both superpowers have increased 
incentives to strike first or to overreact in crisis situations. 
Introduction of even very limited and incomplete strategic 
defenses change these calculations significantly because of their 
capability to disrupt at least the timing of a comprehensive 
first strike. Moreover, only strategic defenses offer the 
potential to make stabilizing contributions across the board in 
this area -- introduction of the mobile small ICBM or 
superhardening of crucial C3I links would both be important and 
would both make stabilizing contributions but could not provide 
the synergistic effect which strategic defenses give to all 
systems. Of course, the stabilizing contributions of strategic 
defenses in this area become more pronounced as the defenses 
become more robust and preferential boost-phase intercepts are 
added to the defensive architecture. 

Many critics of SDI attack the program on the basis of their 
perceptions of SDI ' s impact on US-USSR arms control negotiations. 
The basic thrust of these type of arguments is generally that the 
U.S. cannot have its cake and eat it too -- we must either choose 
SDI or strategic arms control. These arguments are certainly 
buttressed by the virulent attacks on SDI often made by the 
Soviets and their traditional continuing theme that SDI is the 
primary stumbling block to a comprehensive START agreement which 
encompasses a 50% reduction in certain categories of offensive 
weapons. In this context, the recent Soviet offer to formally 
end their insistence on explicit linkage between SDI and START 
made by Foreign Minister Shevardnadze to Secretary of State Baker 


at Jackson Hole, Wyoming largely defuses this line of 
argumentation . ° Moreover, this Soviet retreat from their 
initial negotiating position is reminiscent of their negotiating 
strategy in relation to the INF talks where they eventually 
backed away from several strategic defense related preconditions 
(as well as agreeing to resume the talks following their walkout) 
in order to reach the INF Treaty. Now that the Soviet 
precondition of an explicit linkage between SDI and START has 
been removed, we can examine the interrelationship between START 
and SDI on the basis of our overall nuclear strategy and not 
primarily on the basis of a more narrow arms control focus. 
Highlighting certain features of current US-USSR strategic arms 
control efforts can show both that our current START efforts will 
not necessarily lead to a more stable strategic environment and 
also that strategic defenses and arms control are not necessarily 
inherently mutually exclusive (as they are too often portrayed to 
be) and that in many situations strategic defenses can actually 
enhance efforts towards significant arms control. 

Contrary to popular perceptions, past US-USSR strategic arms 
control has not necessarily lead to greater strategic stability, 
actual reductions in numbers of weapons, or even improved US-USSR 
political relations. Today, given the attitude of the current 
leadership of the USSR and the generally good relations which 
presently prevail between the US and the USSR it is reasonable to 
hope that the ongoing START negotiations can produce some true 
progress towards arms reductions and improved US-USSR relations. 
Yet, the ironic twist to these negotiations lies in the 


relationship between strategic stability and arms reductions: 
with the present and foreseeable force structure of the U.S., 
arms reductions of the type envisioned by START actually serve to 
decrease strategic stability. The reasons for this inverse 
relationship between numbers of strategic weapons and strategic 
stability lies both in the structure of earlier US-USSR arms 
control regimes and in the evolving nature of strategic 
technology detailed above. 

To a certain degree, our current and foreseeable strategic 
force structure is a vestige of US-USSR arms control of the SALT 
era because it reflects our past emphasis on MAD in nuclear 
strategy and also the counting rules of the SALT era. Clearly, 
the current U.S. strategic force structure with its heavy 
emphasis on Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles ( SLBMs ) was not 
designed to optimize our nuclear warfighting capability. A major 
goal of the U.S. in the SALT I negotiations was to 'move the 
Soviets out to sea' by attempting to increase the utility of 
SLBMs within the context of the Interim Agreement and under the 
overarching MAD construct. 7 SLBMs are ideal MAD weapons -- 
they are assumed to be invulnerable to preemption and also too 
inaccurate to be used for counterforce targeting. While 
difficult to guantify, MAD thinking certainly contributed to and 
continues to influence the U.S. emphasis on SLBMs. The advent of 
the D-5 SLBM will supposedly correct the lack of counterforce 
potential of current U.S. SLBMs. MAD and SALT notwithstanding, 
the Soviets have generally maintained their heavy emphasis on 
ICBMs (60% of their current strategic warheads are on ICBMs) and 
START does nothing to reduce this potentially threatening 


asymmetry in prompt hard target kill capability and throwweight. 
Thus, the U.S. enters the START regime with a force structure 
which largely reflects our MAD orientation and without 
negotiating leverage or incentives for the Soviets to reduce 
their heavy reliance on counterforce capable ICBMs. 

A more serious problem with the current and foreseeable U.S. 
force structure relates to the mismatch between SALT and START 
counting rules and the degree to which our current force 
structure was designed with an eye to SALT era counting rules. 
In this context, the problem is that we have designed a force 
structure with a limited number of launch platforms and heavily 
MIRVed missiles since under SALT the counting rules limited 
launchers. Now, under START, the counting rules more properly 
deal with warheads but our force structure matches far better 
with the old counting rules than with the new counting rules. 
Quite simply, given our current and projected strategic force 
structure, the U.S. will have too many eggs in too few baskets 
and this problem will only be exacerbated with the START proposed 
50% cut in warheads. Thus, under START, the U.S. will find 
herself in a position where a combination of a reduced number of 
aimpoints and the technological advances in technology discussed 
above could combine to make the strategic balance more precarious 
since each side will possess more capable warheads and the 
leverage gained by initiating a strike will increase. To some 
degree, the Soviets have already mitigated this problem by making 
their SS-24 and SS-25 ICBMs mobile. It remains to be seen how 
far the U.S. will be able to advance the mobility option for our 


ICBMs especially in light of the internecine warfare required to 
field any of our MX ICBMs. 

Another major arms control related point made by those who 
oppose deploying strategic defenses deals with the 
action-reaction model concerning the interrelationship between 
strategic defenses and offensive force levels. Much of the logic 
underpinning the stability assumed to be inherent in MAD and SALT 
I derived from the posited interrelationship between these two 
factors. Simply put, this interrelationship logically posits 
that there is a direct link between defensive capabilities and 
required offensive force levels; the more capable the defenses, 
the more the offensive forces must be increased to overcome these 
defenses. Of course, as actually formulated in the ABM Treaty 
and the Interim Agreement, this interrelationship would logically 
imply that neither side had any incentive to increase their 
offensive force levels since the superpowers had codified a 
'plateau of stability' where both sides were assumed to have 
sufficient forces to inflict assured destruction on the other 
side and defenses were frozen at essentially a zero level. 
Unfortunately, the evolution of the nuclear force structures and 
doctrines of the superpowers towards greater numbers of more 
capable warheads and warfighting doctrines since SALT I 
dramatically illustrates the fact that many factors are at work 
in shaping the nuclear balance between the superpowers and 
stability is a very difficult condition to achieve. Given the 
actual development of the strategic balance following SALT I, the 
burden of proof should rest upon those who argue that stability 
and low levels of offensive forces will flow more or less 


automatically from low levels of strategic defenses. 

Instead of evaluating strategic defenses from a MAD 
perspective in which their deleterious effects upon strategic 
stability and arms control are accepted as articles of faith 
since they flow logically from conditions assumed to be inherent 
in a MAD world, we must instead evaluate the potential for 
contributions to stability and arms control which strategic 
defenses could make based on the actual evolution of the 
superpower balance. In this context, strategic defenses could 
make significant contributions to comprehensive superpower arms 
control regimes in three interrelated ways: First, effective 
strategic defenses would reduce the military utility of ballistic 
missiles and would thereby increase the incentives to make 
substantial cuts in these forces. So long as ballistic missile 
warheads are given essentially a free ride to their targets, 
neither superpower has a great incentive to radically reduce the 
numbers of these warheads since these reductions relate more to 
political posturing than to any strategic rationale. Second, 
reducing the strategic utility of ballistic missiles would serve 
to move the superpowers towards more stable and less threatening 
types of weapons systems which would not offer the capability for 
prompt hard target kill. Finally, effective strategic defenses 
could serve as a type of insurance policy against cheating by 
either side. Negotiating extremely low ballistic missile levels 
which otherwise might be attractive to both sides could be very 
difficult in the absence of effective strategic defenses since 
extremely low force levels present more serious problems related 


to potential cheating. For example, the relative effect of 100 
clandestine ballistic missiles under a negotiated ceiling of 500 
warheads is obviously far greater than under the current and 
projected far higher ceilings and, unfortunately, our ability to 
monitor and verify with high confidence would seem to be bounded 
by technology and inspection regimes but would be independent of 
and inversely related to the negotiated force levels. 

A final point where the interrelationship between strategic 
defenses and arms control could be critical involves the process 
of transition from total reliance on offensive only retaliation 
for deterrence to a more balanced offense-defense balance and 
finally towards defense dominance. Without U.S. -Soviet 
negotiations to help manage this transition by making it more 
predictable and stable, the process of transition presents great 
potential for instability. The greatest potential for 
instability would lie in a unilateral deployment of effective 
strategic defenses by either superpower and preventing this is, 
of course, the primary intent of the ABM Treaty. Thus, a 
restructured ABM Treaty regime can and should serve as a 
principal focus for the defensive transition of the superpowers; 
through renegotiation or modification it could serve as a 
measuring and limiting tool as the two sides move to bilaterally 
and relatively equally increase their levels of strategic 
defenses. Additionally, use of the ABM Treaty regime to manage 
the defense transition could help to avoid the problem of 
unilateral deployment of partially effective defenses (good 
enough to effectively thwart a ragged retaliation but not good 
enough to effectively deal with a first strike) by both managing 


the bilateral defensive deployments and the numbers and 
capabilities of the offensive forces. Overall, the recent Soviet 
decision to no longer hold START hostage to restrictions on SDI 
portents that the U.S. and Soviet Union may be able to achieve a 
truly cooperative transition to strategic defenses and that arms 
control can play an essential role in helping to make this 
transition more stable and predictable. 

Other features of the international environment indicate 
that the U.S. should think very seriously about moving to deploy 
limited strategic defenses in the near term even if we are not 
able to establish a cooperative transition regime with the 
Soviets. The changes begun by Gorbachev have created enormous 
instabilities throughout the Communist world. While most of 
these changes appear to be heading in a direction which would 
ultimately benefit both the U.S. and those countries now 
Communist, Gorbachev has also unleashed tremendous pent up forces 
which will be very difficult to control. No one should feel 
sanguine about predicting where the U.S.S.R. will find herself in 
the next five years. One only need look to the events in 
Tienanmen Square to recognize that the changes initiated by 
Gorbachev need not have a happy outcome for either the Soviets or 
the U.S. Instability and rapid change can undermine the 
rationality required for deterrence to operate. To present a 
possible worst case scenario: consider the possibility that the 
Soviet Union could devolve into a number of warring republics 
many of which would possess significant nuclear capability. How 
much nuclear restraint and forbearance would the warlords ruling 


these republics demonstrate if their survival wer* 7 threatened 
and where would they target their nuclear warheads? 

The instabilities in the current international system also 
serve to illustrate the fragile basis of worldwide deterrence. 
The same technological improvements which have increased the 
effectiveness of the arsenals of the superpowers have also 
introduced new and less costly yet more potent technologies to 
many other countries around the world. Many countries now posses 
or will soon acguire the capability to build ballistic missiles 
and the spread of this technology is proving extremely difficult 
to counter. The 'war of the cities' during the Iran-Iraq War is 
a gristly illustration of the potential uses of this new 
technology recently acquired by the developing world. As more and 
more countries acquire these capabilities, worldwide deterrence 
becomes increasingly complex and the probability of the use of 
some of these weapons increases (due to increased chances for 
accidents if nothing else). Maintaining bilateral deterrence 
between the U.S. and the Soviet Union is difficult enough but 
that task looks easy compared to attempting to deter an extremely 
wide variety of threats from extremely divergent groups. In this 
environment, the development of a limited near-term strategic 
defense system by the U.S. could prove extremely beneficial. We 
may soon no longer enjoy the luxury of maintaining deterrence 
based on what we consider rationality and would be far better 
served by defenses than by retaliation. Of course, many will 
argue that building strategic defenses against this type of 
emerging threat is itself irrational since the chances of this 
threat being realized via ballistic missiles is remote and many 


threat being realized via ballistic missiles is remote and many 
other delivery methods or threats would be cheaper and more 
credible. Nonetheless, if the U.S. does move to deploy limited 
strategic defenses in the near-term it could serve to devalue the 
potential benefits of ballistic missile development by emerging 
countries. More importantly, U.S. development of strategic 
defenses could help bolster American resolve in an increasingly 
dangerous world -- a world where American have recently shown a 
great tendency to panic in reaction to even minor potential 
threats. How would a country which strongly overreacts to the 
discovery of a couple of poisoned Tylenol capsules, apples, or 
grapes respond to a Quadaffi brandishing a few ballistic missiles 
with nuclear, chemical or biological warheads? Clearly, 
strategic defenses can have great potential benefits for the U.S. 
both within and outside the context of bilateral U.S. -Soviet 
Relations . 

Political and Economic Forces Arrayed Against SDI 

Despite the potential for very significant contributions 
from a near-term limited strategic defense system as discussed 
above, our current SDI efforts appear to be running out of steam. 
A wide range of individuals, organizations, and factors are 
converging on SDI and cumulatively they spell real trouble for 
the continuation of a large scale research program let alone any 
type of near-term deployment. Identifying and gaining a 
rudimentary understanding of these factors converging on SDI is 
essential to exploring viable strategies for selling SDI as will 
be discussed below. 


From the domestic politics perspective, perhaps the most 
readily identifiable factor working against SDI is the change in 
administrations from Reagan to Bush. SDI was very clearly Ronald 
Reagan's baby (it was often characterized as the President's SDI) 
and he was quite willing to be the heavy on more than one 
occasion in order to keep the program energized and avoid the 
perception that it was a bargaining chip.** Reagan's strong 
support for SDI research helped to initially keep the program 
independent from the budgetary battles within the Pentagon and to 
encourage support from Congress. President Bush's level of 
commitment to the program is far less clear and moreover he is 
generally less decisive in his leadership style. While Bush and 
especially Vice President Dan Quayle have made several policy 
statements generally supportive of SDI, strategic defenses do not 
appear to be a top priority of this administration. ^ Perhaps 
the best way to illustrate the differences between the Reagan and 
the Bush approaches is to recognize that Reagan was ideologically 
committed to SDI while Bush is more pragmatic in general and 
seems to support strategic defenses on this basis. Bush's 
pragmatic support for SDI may be quite strong but it is still not 
the same as Reagan's ideological commitment and will probably 
prove to be insufficient to provide focus and discipline for the 
executive branch bureaucracy involved with SDI or to be very 
persuasive to members of Congress. Strong, consistent, and 
visible presidential support is critical to the viability of 
almost any large scale undertaking of our government; the SDI 
will flounder without this type of presidential support, and, 
currently, President Bush is not providing the actual or 


perceived type of leadership in relation to SDI which could 
advance strategic defense deployment options. 

Another critical change in personnel also took place in 
January 1989. Lieutenant General James Abrahamson stepped down 
as head of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) 
and was replaced by Lieutenant General George Monahan. Both 
Generals are from the Air Force and represent the determined 
effort of the Air Force to maintain military control of and 
provide direction for the SDI. However, despite being from the 
same service, Abrahamson and Monahan bring very different 
perspectives and styles to bear on the issue of strategic 
defenses. Abrahamson was very energetic, positive and 
sales-oriented in his approach to SDI in his appearances before 
Congress and the public. Monahan is far more low-key and focused 
on management rather than sales. Moreover, Abrahamson and 
Monahan also serve to illustrate important perceptions towards 
SDI held within powerful quarters of the military: despite the 
fact that he came to SDIO from a string of successful assignments 
and was perceived to be on the rise within the Air Force, 
Abrahamson left SDIO after his five year stint without his fourth 
star; conversely, Monahan was sent to SDIO with just a little 
more than one year to go before he reaches mandatory retirement 
after 3 5 years of service. The bottom line message is quite 
clear -- the top military leadership did not agree with 
Abrahamson in his strong support for SDI and now see SDIO as a 
final posting before a general is sent out to pasture. Both of 
these developments bode ill for SDIO and illustrate a fundamental 


lack of support or at best lukewarm support for SDI within the 

Those who do not follow the SDI closely generally 
assume that it is just another one of those overpriced and unnec- 
essary programs foisted upon the unsuspecting American public by 
the Pentagon. In the case of SDI this conventional wisdom is 
fundamentally wrong. SDI did not originate in the Pentagon and 
neither the civilian leadership nor the services are very 
comfortable with the idea of strategic defenses in general and 
are extremely uncomfortable with the prospects of funding any 
significant strategic defense deployment. This is not to say, 
however, that the SDI enjoys no support within the Pentagon. SDI 
represents a significant infusion of money and all organizations 
welcome increased funding, especially for basic research and 

In order to understand the Pentagon's position, one must 
distinguish between the SDI and actual programs designed to 
deploy strategic defenses in the near-term. In this context, the 
rationale behind the Pentagon's support for SDI as a source of 
funding but general opposition to programs designed to actually 
deploy strategic defenses in the near-term (which at first seems 
to be contrary to the 'logical' position of the Department of 
Defense) become clearer when one examines the roles, missions, 
and identities of the services. The lack of institutional 
support for deployed strategic defenses from the services flows 
directly from the fact that strategic defense is not and has not 
been a primary role or mission for any service nor is the idea of 
providing strategic defenses a fundamental element of the 


identity of any of the services. Thus, while the SDI might be a 
useful source of funding and could produce spin-offs in other 
weapon areas, none of the services have any institutional 
incentives to take the lead in pushing for deployment of 
strategic defenses. Not only are there no institutional 
incentives for the services to push for deployment of strategic 
defenses but currently, given the DoD's attempts to fund the 
remnant of Reagan's strategic modernization program with a 
shrinking budget, there are strong incentives for each service to 
protect their own core budget at the expense of everything else. 
Indeed, within the current budgetary environment, the services 
have sought to use SDI as an additional source of funding for 
programs they wanted independent of SDI and thus save their own 
budgets for programs essential to their core identity. A final 
institutional disincentive towards any service actually pushing 
for near-term deployment of strategic defenses relates directly 
to the carefully brokered positions of the services concerning 
their roles and missions and the relationship of these roles and 
missions to significant arms control limitations. In sum, the 
services would rather keep the organizational peace within the 
DoD rather than entering into the type of internecine warfare 
necessary to establish strategic defenses as a core role and 
mission of one of the services (or of a new service) or to 
dismantle service positions built upon on the ABM Treaty regime. 
Thus, from a bureaucratic perspective, it is very clear that 
there is little support for SDI within the military and certainly 
not the type of support which would push strongly for early 


deployment options. 

Another major interrelated problem area facing SDI concerns 
Congress and the current severe constraints on the federal 
budget. The lack of any real institutional support for SDI within 
the DoD (except as a source of funding for basic research or 
programs which the services wanted anyway) is exacerbated by the 
fact that right now Congress would be unlikely to generously fund 
a new large scale program even if the DoD were strongly 
supportive. Moreover, the level of support for SDI within the 
Congress is eroding for a variety of reasons including: a 
perception of weakening public support for strategic defenses, 
perceptions of greatly improved U.S.- Soviet relations, new and 
unrelated items moving to the top of the policy agenda (e.g. 
Eastern Europe, education, and the war on drugs), and a general 
lack of national level or constituent oriented direct benefits 
from the billions already spent on SDI. The cumulative impact of 
these factors will make it very difficult for the Congress to 
adequately fund and support SDI as the program is currently 
structured. Indeed, the very slight cut in SDI ' s budget for FY 
1990 is remarkable under these circumstances.^ 

Public perceptions of strategic defenses in general and of 
the specific progress of SDI form another key element in any 
evaluation of the prospects for SDI. In this regard, SDI seems 
to enjoy general public support, but this support tends to be 
shallow and uninformed and tends to weaken when confronted with 
policy or budgetary trade-offs. Additionally, there are two 
significant factors which impact on public perceptions of SDI. 
The first is a general perception that SDI has not made 


significant technological advances since its inception despite 
all the rhetoric and money. This perception relates directly to 
the impatience of the American public and the general vision 
which the 'star wars' image conjures up. Thus, the actual steady 
technological progress of SDI has a very difficult time competing 
with the futuristic images held by the public. In this regard, 
the current emphasis on near term deployment options featuring 
kinetic energy weapons (KEW) such as Brilliant Pebbles could be 
perceived as a major retreat from the early public images of SDI 
featuring directed energy weapons (DEW). The fact that SDI has 
thus far failed to provide any type of 'show-stopper' public 
demonstrations no doubt contributes to the public impatience with 
SDI and the perception that no significant technological advances 
have been made. The second major factor weakening public 
perceptions of SDI are the generally negative media and elite 
judgements on SDI and strategic defenses in general. The bias of 
the media elite against SDI is usually subtle but its cumulative 
effect is unmistakable. Likewise, to the extent that political 
elites in this country are still enamored with the concept of 
MAD, deployed strategic defenses will never be a preferred policy 
option. While the effect of the media and elite bias against SDI 
may not be that significant in each individual instance, the 
long-term cumulative effect can be significant -- one eventually 
becomes soaked if forced to stand in even very light drizzle for 
a long period of time. 

The final major factor impacting upon SDI which we will 
examine is perhaps the most significant: the perception of vastly 


improved U.S. -Soviet relations. The rise of Mikhail Gorbachev to 
power in the Soviet Union and his restructuring policies of 
glasnost and perestroika have fundamentally altered the nature of 
U.S. -Soviet relations from the perspective of the American 
public. Public perception of the Soviets in general and of the 
Soviet threat in particular have undergone a radical shift since 
1983 when the SDI program was begun. *■*■ Currently, the need for 
strategic defenses or SDI in the context of vastly improved 
U.S. -Soviet relations appears to be very questionable in the 
minds of the American public. In the present political climate 
what matters is not the fact of massive and still expanding 
Soviet strategic offensive capabilities but the perception that 
these capabilities are on the decline and that they are 
increasingly insignificant in the context of U.S. -Soviet 
relations. SDI must be packaged and sold in light of the 
'Gorbymania' which would appear to be a major component of 
U.S. -Soviet relations for the foreseeable future or else it will 
never help to advance near-term strategic defense deployment 
options . 

Political Strategies to Advance SDI 

Having discussed the strategic rationale for near-term 
deployment of strategic defenses and also the political forces 
currently stacked against movement in this direction, we must now 
attempt to reconcile these two opposing forces with some specific 
strategies to advance near-term deployment options. In 
attempting to build these strategies we must keep in mind that we 
live in a political and not a strategic world -- a world where 


decisions are made based upon the more tangible realities of 
international relations, domestic budgets and political 
trade-offs rather than upon the esoteric logic of strategy. 
Moreover, without at least a rudimentary level of political 
support, even the most technologically sweet, cost-effective, and 
strategically sound strategic defense system will not be advanced 
as a near-term deployment option. Here, then, are three specific 
options to enhance the political viability of SDI as a path to 
near-term deployment options: 

1. Change and broaden public perceptions of why near-term 
deployments from the SDI are required . Unless the public 
perceives specific and logical rationales for near-term 
deployments, there will be no near-term deployments. Restoring a 
high-level of public support for SDI would seem to be the sine 
qua non for advancing near-term deployment options. While this 
requirement for popular support may be self evident, specific 
strategies to build popular support are less clear and self 
evident. The links between the rationale behind near-term 
deployment and public support are both subtle and broad-ranging. 
Development and advancement of specific strategies to enhance 
near-term deployment options could have a synergistic effect on 
popular support for SDI and should be the first area of 
concentration for an overall strategy to advance near-term 
deployment options. What are these strategies to enhance 
near-term deployment options? 

First, the rationale behind any type of near-term deployment 
must be broad enough to attract support from many sectors. In 


this context, it imperative to highlight all of the things a 
near-term deployment can do rather than focusing on just how it 
can thwart the effects of and lessen the threat of a Soviet first 
strike. An overly narrow focus on what percentage of Soviet 
warheads would penetrate during a massive first strike does not 
illustrate the other substantial potential benefits of a 
near-term deployment. Moreover, this focus equates our 
deployment with a reactive Soviet first strike in response when, 
in fact, any such deployment would greatly complicate any 
effective first strike, make such an option a far less rational 
choice, and reflects a MAD mindset as discussed above. The 
other, and perhaps equally important, strategic rationales for 
near-term deployments should be advanced at the same time as 
SDI ' s ability to thwart a Soviet first strike. Any near-term 
deployment, even if very limited, would have some effectiveness 
against accidental launches and while the probability of 
accidental launches may be small the consequences could be 
enormous. Politicians should be held accountable for keeping 
their constituents vulnerable to this threat when their actions 
are based on political judgements and not on any technological 
shortcomings. Likewise, even limited near-term deployments could 
have significant potential to deflect any ballistic missile 
attack from other countries as well as making the pursuit of this 
technology for threatening purposes less attractive to these 
other countries. Highlighting the spread of ballistic missile 
technology as well as the means and material to create weapons of 
mass destruction could increase support for strategic defenses 
since the public should be able to distinguish between deterrence 


of rational attacks and protection from irrational threats. 
Finally, public support for strategic defenses could also be 
built by emphasizing the synergistic benefits which any near-term 
deployment could have for mitigating against the vulnerability 
problems which threaten all of our strategic forces. The public 
has already been sensitized to the vulnerability problems our 
strategic forces face by the MX deployment debates; we need to 
build upon these sensitivities by pointing to the potential 
benefits any near-term deployment could have in this area, 
especially if even very limited preferential defenses could be 
more cost effective than passive defense options alone. 

Overall, the objective of the strategies outlined in the 
paragraph above is to move the public perception of SDI 
deployment rationales from a focus on the threat to a focus on 
the benefits. Redirecting public attention on SDI away from just 
the narrow Soviet first strike threat and onto all of the broader 
benefits is essential given the political realities of the 
'Gorbymania' era. The American public will not spend billions to 
build something to defend them from a threat which they do not 
perceive to be very threatening. If SDI is sold strictly as a 
means of thwarting a Soviet first strike, it will not have enough 
political support to proceed to the stage of near-term 
deployments during a period when the American public perceives 
that U.S. -Soviet relations have improved and believes that the 
prospects for further improvements are excellent. Focusing on 
how near-term deployments can enhance U.S. interests by providing 
protection against accidents and irrational threats would 


highlight the multilateral nature of the deterrence/defense 
problems the U.S. will face in the future and also the bilateral 
nature of MAD. 

Another substantial benefit to widening the public's 
perceptions regarding the strategic rationales behind near-term 
deployments relates to public perception about MAD and nuclear 
war in general. Indeed, without widening the horizons concerning 
the rationales behind strategic defenses it is doubtful that the 
American public can ever be weaned away from MAD and its 
pernicious influence upon any ideas of strategic defenses. One 
of the greatest beauties of MAD is that is so politically 
expedient -- once a nation accepts the logic of MAD, they are no 
longer required to think seriously about how to fight a nuclear 
war since such calculations are irrational by definition nor do 
they have to continually spend large sums on strategic forces 
since they need not procure more than second strike forces 
capable of delivering assured destruction upon the enemy. A 
politician could scarcely ask for a better political strategy 
because under MAD neither he or his constituents have to think 
about nuclear war (indeed the very repulsiveness of the subject 
is held to contribute to deterrence) nor is he required to spend 
more money on defense. Emphasis on the strategic benefits of 
near-term deployments in relation to accidents and threats from 
other countries will highlight the bilateral nature and 
rationality assumptions inherent in MAD and should serve to 
weaken this entire construct as the basis for long term 
multilateral stability. Moreover, this reexamination of the 
logic forming the basis of MAD should provide an opportunity to 


highlight once again that the U.S. has chosen to attempt to 
implement stability on the basis of a mutual hostage relationship 
as the result of political choices and not on the basis of some 
immutable logic. 

A final area in which advancing the broader strategic 
rationales behind near-term deployments could prove useful is 
linked to the relationship between public perceptions of MAD and 
of SDI . Far too much of the public debate and perception 
regarding SDI surrounds the idea of creating a ' leakproof ' 
astrodome over the U.S. This line of reasoning is detrimental to 
near-term deployment options for at least two major reasons: 
First, such thinking reflects a MAD framework for evaluating 
strategic defenses; it is a framework under which strategic 
defenses have to be nearly perfect to have any strategic utility. 
This line of thinking reflects an ironic and ultimately untenable 
link between MAD thinking and population defense, the most 
popular element of SDI. Since the logic of MAD and any 
significant level of population defense are mutually exclusive, 
it is far better for supporters of strategic defense to make this 
fact clear at the outset rather than to have the terms of the 
debate set within the MAD framework for judging strategic utility 
of strategic defenses. A second related reason why this emphasis 
on an astrodome type of defense is detrimental to any near-term 
deployment is that it makes it very difficult to achieve these 
types of defenses in the real world in which the deployments 
would actually be made based upon political choices. This 
argument is well summarized by the adage that 'the best is the 


enemy of the good.' It is very unlike 1 y that a complete and 
robust strategic defense system will spring forth as did Athena 
from the head of Zeus. We may eventually be capable and willing 
to field a system which would constitute something approaching an 
astrodome, but the steps along the way will certainly have lesser 
capabilities and it is highly unwise for the proponents of 
near-term deployments to allow themselves to be held to the 
standard of near perfection which MAD requires and the astrodome 
image implies. 

2. Create a powerful agency with the bureaucratic impera- 
tive to field near-term deployments . This specific strategy is 
fairly straightforward and does not relate specifically to the 
strategic rationale behind near-term deployments but focuses 
rather on the political realities of the bureaucratic nature of 
our government. The rationale behind creating a powerful agency 
with the primary mission of fielding near-term strategic defenses 
is very clear -- fielding strategic defenses would then be sub- 
ject to a fundamental law of any bureaucracy. This fundamental 
law of bureaucracy states that the primary driving force behind 
any bureaucracy is to expand and defend its turf. Thus, if 
fielding strategic defenses were the primary mission of a power- 
ful agency, it is likely that this option would be advanced even 
if there was not a large amount of public support for this. 
Clearly, this hypothesized situation would be very nearly the 
antithesis of the current bureaucratic situation in which the 
near-term deployment option finds itself. As described above, 
today there is no powerful agency with the primary mission to 
deploy strategic defenses. Certain elements within SDIO do favor 


near-term deployments but SDIO is currently primarily concerned 
with continuing as an entity because it is surrounded by far more 
powerful bureaucratic actors many of which do not wish it to 
prosper. Because of the fundamental law of bureaucracy, our 
current bureaucracies which control the turf under which the 
concept of strategic defenses lies have almost no incentive to 
give away this turf to a new or redefined agency with strategic 
defense as its primary mission. Thus, there is almost no 
likelihood that strategic defenses will emerge as a primary 
mission of any agency from out of our current bureaucratic 

The creation of an agency with strategic defenses as 
its primary mission could also be imposed upon the bureaucracy. 
In this context, public opinion could play a crucial role in 
helping to create pressure on Congress and the Executive Branch 
for an agency with the mission and the required clout to actually 
advance the near-term deployment option but this outcome seems 
very unlikely. The public seldom wishes to create additional 
bureaucracies and at any rate remains to be convinced of the need 
for near-term deployments. Thus, while this strategy of creating 
an agency devoted to near-term deployments has logical appeal, it 
does not now seem very viable politically. Perhaps the best that 
can be hoped for in this area is for the broader rationales for 
strategic defenses discussed above to stimulate more public 
support for the creation of a powerful agency with the mission to 
deploy strategic defenses. Or perhaps those favoring near-term 
deployments in Congress could attach provisions favorable to the 


bureaucratic position of SDI onto legislation which i s more or 
less required such as continuing resolutions or omnibus spending 
resolutions . 

Other more limited and incremental type of changes could be 
made to SDIO and might prove very beneficial to advancing the 
near-term deployment option. General Abrahamson recommended that 
the SDIO Directorship be made a four star billet in his end of 
tour report and this would undoubtedly provide some greater clout 
to the organization but probably not enough within the DoD 
hierarchy given the general hostility of the DoD towards 
deployment of strategic defenses. Another change that might prove 
more beneficial along these lines would be to place SDIO under 
more direct civilian control by making the SDIO Director an 
Undersecretary of Defense. Any changes which could help SDIO 
defend itself against the services and to take on deployment of 
strategic defenses as its primary mission would clearly advance 
the near- term deployment option. 

3. Link SDI directly and specifically to improved 
U.S. -Soviet relations . This strategy is similar to the first 
strategy outlined above except that here the concern is with 
broadening and improving the bilateral versus the multilateral 
impact of SDI . The very foundations and core assumptions 
underlying U.S. -Soviet and all East-West relations seem to be 
transforming before our eyes; SDI must be packaged and sold in 
light of these fundamental political transformations or it may 
come to be seen as an antiquated irrelevancy in relation to our 
changing relationships. Moreover, since strategic defenses can 
make so many contributions to long-term strategic stability they 


can and should play an important role in helping to improve 
superpower relations over the long-term. In this context, 
strategic defenses should be viewed as a technological adjunct to 
and an insurance policy for the opportunity to make bold 
political moves to radically restructure our relationship with 
the Soviets. As we move to dismantle the structures of the cold 
war, strategic defenses could help us to remove the bulk of the 
most deadly vestige of this ideological struggle: the huge 
offensive only nuclear arsenals of the superpowers. 

Of course, many would argue that if the relationship between 
the superpowers is improving so greatly, why even bother with 
building strategic defenses? If our political relationship is so 
good, why not just drastically reduce the arsenals of the 
superpowers through 'traditional' arms control? These arguments 
are appealing and it is inherently a risky business to attempt to 
predict the future path of superpower relations; however, several 
factors mitigate against this purely political path towards 
greater improvements in superpower relations and highlight the 
role which strategic defenses could play in the evolution of our 
relationship with the Soviets. First, our relationship with the 
Soviets is in transition but has not yet been transformed. While 
the future currently looks very bright, almost no one is 
predicting an end to the long term competition between the 
Americans and the Soviets. We may wish to transform our rivalry 
into some more benign form such as economic competition but a 
wide-scale transformation along these lines is certainly not 
imminent. Meanwhile, our current efforts towards these type of 


ends via 'traditional' arms control such as the current START and 
Defense and Space Negotiations appear to be bogged down, limited 
in scope, and plagued with the structural difficulties outlined 

Perhaps it would be wise to draw an analogy between the 
recently concluded INF negotiations and the prospects for 
strategic defenses playing an enabling role in strategic arms 
control. Of course, a myriad of factors surround the INF Treaty 
and it would be extremely unwise to offer a monocausal 
explanation for this high drama played out for the better part of 
a decade; nonetheless, it does appear clear (if counterintuitive) 
that the emergence of the Treaty was critically dependent upon 
the actual deployment of INF forces by NATO. In other words, a 
western buildup of INF forces was critical to the eventual 
elimination of INF forces. Applying this analogy onto strategic 
defenses and strategic arms control would imply that actual 
deployment of strategic defenses could lead to drastic reductions 
in strategic forces. While this analogy is far from perfect (the 
absence of offense-defense interaction in relation to INF forces 
is one fundamental difference), it may still prove useful in 
illuminating the structure of current U.S. -Soviet competition as 
reflected in our most recent arms control treaty. Thus, 
specifically linking deployed strategic defenses to offensive 
force reductions within an arms control framework would appear to 
be one method of attempting to achieve substantial reductions in 
strategic offensive forces and is an approach which deserves 
careful examination and consideration. Another way to describe 
this approach to linking strategic arms reductions and deployment 


of strategic defenses would be to say that it represents the 
antithesis of the MAD inspired framework of the SALT I regime. 

Clearly, in attempting to advance this arms control strategy 
of linking strategic defenses with offensive reductions we must 
confront the MAD philosophy once again. Here, it is most useful 
to note that the proponents of MAD not only deny the possibility 
for movement away from the mutual hostage relationship between 
the superpowers which they assume to be the fundamental truth of 
the nuclear age but they also make this assumption into a 
positive virtue due to the stabilizing benefits which are assumed 
to flow from the mutuality of this condition. The empirical 
failure of this construct as embodied by SALT I to produce the 
theorized benefits should be incentive enough to attempt other 
approaches to U.S. -Soviet relations and arms control efforts. 
Moreover, our sanctif ication of the supposed virtue of the 
ability of both superpowers to largely incinerate the populations 
of the other side must rate as one of the most morally repugnant 
and illogical thoughts in all of human history. MAD is clearly 
morally repugnant as it "rests on a form of warfare universally 
condemned since the Dark Ages -- the mass killing of hostages. "-^ 
Moreover, threatening to target civilians based on the MAD 
targeting philosophy makes the American government into de facto 
terrorists since we threaten civilian death on an unimaginable 
scale. Likewise, blind adherence to MAD is highly illogical 
since the impact of this philosophy on nuclear deterrence is 
inherently empirically untestable and is based on assumptions 
about the fundamental nature of the nuclear age, it fit well only 


with the nuclear technology of the late 1960s, and it seems to 
deny the dynamic interaction between technology and strategy. 
Perhaps the most pernicious legacy of our continued adherence to 
MAD is that this philosophy will continue to have a poisonous 
influence on superpower relations due to its fundamental tenet of 
making a virtue out of possession of assured destruction 
capability. The time is long past to strongly question this 
fundamental assumption and ask ourselves whether we would prefer 
that the superpowers continue to maintain the ability to largely 
annihilate each other in the name of stability into the 
indefinite future or whether other approaches to superpower 
stability might be more benign and hopeful. 

Reliance on the MAD mindset creates a self-fulfilling 
prophesy under which the superpowers must make every effort to 
continue to maintain their assured destruction capabilities in 
the face of political and technological changes and despite the 
fact they would find very little utility in an assured 
destruction capability outside the MAD construct. Why continue 
to treat a mutual assured destruction capability as a virtue when 
such a philosophy is clearly morally repugnant, illogical, and 
not a superpower goal or requirement outside the MAD construct? 
Indeed, it is instructive to note how close the superpowers 
reportedly came to moving towards almost complete nuclear 
disarmament at the Reykjavik Summit and while the failure of this 
summit to reach this goal is generally laid at the step of SDI , 
perhaps our failure to progress along this avenue and the great 
apprehension with which our allies greeted these developments is 
more indicative of the west's continued and unwarranted adherence 


to MAD as the only basis for long-term superpower stability. 

Many other specific benefits to improved superpower 
relations could also be realized by a mutual introduction of 
strategic defenses. If our devotion to maintaining a robust 
assured destruction capability is devalued through our 
reexamination of MAD and the utility of our ballistic missiles is 
devalued by introduction of strategic defenses then the way is 
opened for truly substantial and meaningful reductions in the 
nuclear arsenals of the superpowers. As discussed above, 
strategic defenses provide a type of insurance policy against the 
dangers of cheating at very low levels of forces and defenses 
could therefore serve to enable reductions to very low levels. 
Negotiated bilateral introduction of strategic defenses as a 
means of reaching very low levels of offensive forces would also 
serve to reduce the fears regarding and incentives for either 
side backsliding towards increased offensive capabilities or a 
return to assured destruction offensive force levels. Perhaps 
most importantly, negotiated bilateral introduction of strategic 
defenses would focus the efforts of the superpowers onto 
defensive technology and the type of defensive systems which are 
inherently less threatening than are offensive nuclear systems. 
The structure of the postwar world is undergoing fundamental 
and seemingly irreversible changes -- changes which will 
fundamentally alter the nature of U.S. -Soviet relations. 
Strategic defenses offer the superpowers tremendous potential for 
long-term stability and continuing improvements in our relations. 
Because the knives are clearly out in relation to the DoD budget, 


it is now more important than ever to present politically astute 
rationales to advance the viability of SDI . It is hoped that 
this report will help to stimulate thoughts and discussions along 
these lines as we proceed into the rapidly changing strategic 
environment of the 1990s. 



1. Televised Speech by President Ronald W. Reagan, 23 March 

2. Ibid. 

3. General Abrahamson gave the ten to twenty-five billion 
dollar estimate for a Phase One Strategic Defense System 
deployment using Brilliant Pebbles technology in his end of 
tour report. For estimates on the high end of the scale 
see, for example, Space-Based Missile Defense , A Report by 
the Union of Concerned Scientists (Cambridge, Mass.: Union 
of Concerned Scientists, 1984); or James R. Schlesinger, 
"Rhetoric and Realities in the Star Wars Debate," Interna- 
tional Security , Summer 1985 (Vol. 10, No. 1). 

4. See Leon Sloss and Marc Dean Millot, "U.S. Nuclear Strategy 
in Evolution," Strategic Review , Winter 1984 for a concise 
recap of the evolution of U.S. nuclear strategy. 

5. For a complete description of the evolution of Reagan's 
"Star Wars" concept see the report by SDIO Historian Lt Col 
Donald R. Baucom, Origins of the Strategic Defense Initia- 
tive: Ballistic Missile Defense, 1944-1983 , 24 March 1989. 

6. "The Statement After U.S. -Soviet Talks," The New York Times , 

25 September 1989. 

7. See, for example, John Newhouse, Cold Dawn , (New York: Holt 
Rinehart and Winston, 1973). 

8. Reagan's strong defense of SDI following the Reykjavik 
Summit is perhaps the best example of his willingness to 
defend the program at a time when political currents were 
moving in the opposite direction. 

9. See, for example, Michael R. Gordon, "Bush plans to cut 
Reagan Requests for Key Weapons," The New York Times , 24 
April 1989; Remarks by the Vice President to The American 
Defense Preparedness Association and the National Academy of 
Sciences, Washington, D.C., 29 June 1989; Press Briefing by 
Marlin Fitzwater, The White House, Office of the Press 
Secretary, 7 September 1989; Remarks by the President to the 
71st American Legion Convention, Baltimore, MD, 7 September 
1989; and James Gerstenzang, "'Star Wars* Cut Back, White 
House Confirms," The Los Angeles Times, 8 September 1989. 

10. The FY 1990 budget for SDI will be about $3.79 billion and 
this is $279 less than was spent in FY 1989. See Michael R. 
Gordon, "Lawmakers agree to cut "Star Wars' in Military 
Budget," The New York Times, 3 November 1989. 


11. See, for example, R.W. Apple, "Poll Finds that Gorbachev's 
Rule Eases American Minds on Soviets," The New York Times , 
16 May 1989. Or Daniel Yankelovich and Richard Smoke, 
"America's New Thinking," Foreign Affairs , Vol. 67, No. 1, 
Fall 1988. 

12. Fred Charles Ikle, "Can Nuclear Deterrence Last out the 
Century?," Foreign Affairs , January 1973, pp. 267-285. 



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