The Corner

SDI: How Do You Like It Now?

Here is the opening of an excellent report by Robert Burns, who writes about national security for the AP:

As North Korea rattles its nuclear saber, threatening to bomb the U.S. at “any moment,” a nerve-jangling question hangs in the air: If Pyongyang did launch a nuclear-armed missile at an American city, could the Pentagon’s missile defenses overcome their spotty test record and shoot it down beyond U.S. shores?

When I was coming of age, missile defenses — a.k.a. SDI, a.k.a. Star Wars — were a huge issue. Democrats, broadly speaking, were dead-set against a missile-defense system. In 2013, I wrote a series on the subject. The impetus was the 30th anniversary of Reagan’s SDI speech. The series was in five parts, which are at the following links: I, II, III, IV, V.

Today, everyone seems to be saying, “Come on, Pentagon! Faster! Better! Now!” Which is good.

I wish Reagan were around to say, “Did you really have to launch all-out opposition, back when? Was protection against nuclear weapons really so poisonous, even if I was the one who proposed it? And even if the Soviet Union existed?”

This is an enormous subject, of course, but I want to make one more comment — a cliché of a comment. Burns’s report says,

No one is predicting a bolt-out-of-the-blue North Korean nuclear attack, but the threat looms larger as the Koreans seemingly stride closer to fielding a nuclear-armed missile that can reach U.S. territory.

On this matter of “No one is predicting a bolt-out-of-the-blue North Korean nuclear attack,” here is my cliché of a comment: No one predicted Pearl Harbor. No one predicted 9/11. The thing about bolts from the blue is, they’re bolts from the blue.

Reagan thought it was right to be prepared. To have a shield, of a sort. To have something better than — certainly something morally superior to — Mutual Assured Destruction. Was that really so bad?

P.S. When it comes to regimes that adore death — Iran’s, for example — Mutual Assured Destruction is useless. As Professor Lewis says, death is not a deterrence to the mullahs; it’s an inducement.

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