The Corner

A Big Task, Well Worth Doing

In yesterday’s installment of “SDI at 30,” I referred to missile defense as a “hard scientific task.” A scientist sent me an interesting note:

One minor caveat: I think it would be more accurate to call missile defense a “hard engineering task,” since there are no unresolved questions of science involved. You might say that there are important issues of applied science, as opposed to fundamental science, still in question, but I doubt it.

Our reader says that engineers “are the ones who do the bulk of the work that yields the marvelous tools and toys of our modern age,” but “it is the scientists, especially the physicists, who get the bulk of the credit.” Therefore, says our reader, “I like to do my bit to redress the balance.”

Scientific task, engineering task. Reagan said “technical task.” He said it in his original speech, in March 1983: “I know this is a formidable technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century. Yet current technology has attained a level of sophistication where it’s reasonable for us to begin this effort. It will take years, probably decades, of effort on many fronts.”

You have to be willing to put in the effort, of course. Anyway, I quote this bit from Reagan in today’s installment. I also relay a point made to me by David Trachtenberg, a veteran national-security professional, and a particular authority on missile defense.

He says that those of us who favor missile defense are sometimes accused of having a “Cold War mentality.” But what about those who favor “strategic vulnerability,” and ABM-style constraints on missile defense, and further arms-control negotiations with Moscow? Are they not the ones with the Cold War mentality? Are they not the ones clinging stubbornly to the past?

I thought that was an excellent point. Mona Charen adds another point: Not only does this crowd have a Cold War mentality — they have the wrong one!

My series is over, but National Review will not let drop the issue of missile defense, and neither should America. (The song is ended, but the melody lingers on. No, I did not write that, unfortunately.)

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