What if free people 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?
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. There will be failures and setbacks, just as there will be successes and breakthroughs. And as we proceed, we must remain constant in preserving the nuclear deterrent and maintaining a solid capability for flexible response. But isn't it worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war? We know it is.
Reagan's proposal was immediately derided by Ted Kennedy as "Star Wars"; ever since, liberal critics have been arguing that it was impossible for such a system to work, or at a minimum arguing that it was not worth developing the technology if it could not be shown that it was already a workable system before development and testing were commenced (pretty much the opposite of how your usual R&D works). Slate.com defense critic Fred Kaplan, for example, has mocked the missile defense system as "bunk" and a "fantasy," while Greenpeace contends that "Missile Defense Does Not Work." Of course, these arguments have often been stalking horses for a variety of other ideological concerns about restraining U.S. "bullying," tying us more closely to international treaties, or not "militarizing space" (as if the worst imaginable place for war is a vacuum containing no civilians). Much as in the debate over coercive interrogation techniques, liberal critics prefer to pretend that things they dislike can never, ever work, so they can avoid the debate over the kinds of tradeoffs involved in defending the nation.
This week's successful effort to shoot a malfunctioning satellite out of the sky showed the world quite vividly how far these technologies have come: