A New Hope: The Idea of a Strategic Defense

William James Buchhorn

Abstract


Since August 1953, when the Soviet Union detonated its own "Super Bomb" (multimegaton thermonuclear device), the best national defense against nuclear attack was to have so many nuclear weapons that no enemy would dare risk a retaliatory strike. This idea soon became policy. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was the heart of all policies of Deterrence; and (at least initially)1 all the players in the Cold War seemed to agree with Robert Oppenheimer that starting World War III would soon lead to a world where the only way super powers could resolve their conflicts would be "with sticks and stones."2 By 1983, the possibility of a sudden - no, instantaneous - nuclear holocaust had become the whole planet's worst nightmare. President Reagan stumbled onto a way to give humanity an alternative.


Keywords


Cold War; nuclear armament; Ronald Reagan; military spending; ballistic missile defense (BMD); Arms Race; Strategic Defense Initiative; Soviet Union

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