. . . the Strategic Defense Initiative?
President Reagan announced it on March 23, 1983. Critics quickly derided it as "Star Wars" and said it would never work but would upset the nuclear balance with the Soviets -- the first and only time progressives ever said a kind word for mutual assured destruction.
Now the intellectual and moral heirs of the mockers, President Obama and Defense Secretary Hagel, are . . .
The Pentagon will spend $1 billion to expand the West Coast-based missile defence system in a direct response to provocations by North Korea and rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, officials said Friday.
By 2017 . . . Hagel said the U.S. [read United States] would install 14 additional ground-based missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, representing an increase of near 50% over the 30 interceptors now located both there an in California.
(Julian E. Barnes, Keith Johnson, and Dion Nissenbaum, "U.S. Boosts Defense from North Korea," wsj.com, March 16, 2013)
Here are excerpts from President Reagan's speech. Though it was centered on the then-present Soviet threat -- something the left never quite believed to be real -- Mr. Reagan spoke later and in other contexts about how SDI would also help defend the nation from rogue madmen elsewhere.
Let me share with you a vision of the future which offers hope. It is that we embark on a program to counter the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive. Let us turn to the very strengths in technology that spawned our great industrial base and that have give us the quality of life we enjoy today.
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 the 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. 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?
. . . . Tonight . . . I am directing a comprehensive and intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles. . . . We seek neither military superiority nor political advantage. Our only purpose -- one all people share -- is to search for ways to reduce the danger of nuclear war.
Against this balanced, sensible, and well-delivered statement and the policy it announced, the American left went ballistic, so to speak, and fought against funding the program. All sensible people agreed. Learned papers and editorials were written. Speeches given. All for naught, of course, while Mr. Reagan and George H.W. Bush held the White House.
When Bill Clinton was elected, he finally succeeded in cutting the budget, but he had far too much common sense to eliminate the program. George W. Bush restored the budget, and here we are.
About a decade ago, more or less, I heard an eminent senior history professor at Rice University lecture the miserable hostages in an adult continuing education class on how Reagan had little or nothing to do with the fall of communism and how, all these years later, Star Wars would never work. Never. He also condemned his audience's comfortable houses and prosperous lifestyles as unsustainable extravagances for which we should feel only shame. What a guy.
Mr. Reagan correctly saw that a nuclear exchange by the superpowers threatened civilization -- a word he was unashamed to use, by the way.
Yet there were still some people at the Pentagon who claimed a nuclear war was "winnable." I thought they were crazy.
Ronald Reagan, At American Life, page 586.
The Soviets predictably went nuts and made defunding SDI a centerpiece of their negotiating strategy with the United States.
Senator Ted Kennedy, the Lion of the Senate, the liberal's liberal, led the anti-SDI fight in Washington. At one point he famously sent a trusted aide to Moscow and offered to help the Kremlin fight a public relations war against SDI and President Reagan's defense buildup. He would arrange friendly interviews between Secretary Andropov and influential U.S. network anchors, such as Walter Cronkite, the KGB reported in a letter that came public in 1992.
UPDATE: Now President Obama, to whom Senator Kennedy handed the mantle of progressive leadership in 2008, who said as a candidate that he disagreed with the missile defense program, and who has chopped billions out of the missile defense budget, deploys defensive missiles.
Does God have a sense of humor or what?