Friday, March 15, 2013

Reagan sure was a crazy, senile old man

The "Star Wars" program only stayed alive because he wouldn't let it die: (1987)
The question is no longer whether Star Wars will work. Rather, in the face of repeated findings by independent experts that it won`t, the mystery is its continuing political and financial survival. What`s keeping it afloat? The buoyancy comes from President Reagan`s fervently expressed faith in Star Wars as the principal military innovation of his administration, along with a misguided national faith that for every serious problem--from hostile missiles to dread disease--science and technology can provide an answer. However, the onrushing reality is that both ingredients are rapidly fading. So are the fortunes of the Strategic Defense Initiative, or Star Wars.
He pushed this program in the face of repeated opposition from the Democrats of the day: (1986)
U.S. Rep. Marty Russo (D., Ill.), speaking Sunday at a press conference organized by the Illinois Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, denounced increased spending by the Reagan administration on the Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly called ``Star Wars.``

``It could cost from $1 trillion to $3 trillion to develop Star Wars, and they still don`t know if it will be outmoded in a number of years,`` Russo said on the University of Chicago campus. ``We should try to do something to stop the nuclear arms race instead of encouraging it. We should be working toward a comprehensive test ban treaty.``
What a senile old geezer!  What a waste of money!  Wait, what? (today)
In the wake of North Korean missile and nuclear tests and what seems like increasingly belligerent pronouncements from Pyongyang, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Friday that the US is beefing up its missile defense system.

That system, 30 anti-missile missiles based in Alaska (26) and California (4), is to be increased to 44 defense missiles in the coming years.

“We will strengthen homeland missile defense by deploying 14 additional ground-based interceptors, GBIs, at Fort Greely, Alaska,” Secretary Hagel said. “These additional GBIs will provide a nearly 50 percent increase in our missile defense capability.”
It is said that hypocrisy is the respect that vice pays to virtue.


lelnet said...

SDI and its descendents remind me of the infamous "rules for winning a gun fight".

First rule of winning a gun fight: "Don't get in a gun fight".

Second rule of winning a gun fight: "Be sure to bring a gun".

Could any actual or contemplated missile defense system have defended us effectively against the USSR? Dunno. Can this one defend us against insane Kims? Yeah...better odds, I think.

Old NFO said...

Actually, it's going to take TWO years to cobble something together... sigh...

Sean D Sorrentino said...

There was more to it than that. Star Wars was another element in the "Let's bankrupt the Russkies" plan.

One of the reasons that the Soviets spent so much money funding "peace" movements was that it reduced the size and scope of the US military. The Russians had a tiny economy compared to ours, but everyone outside of USSR thought they were economically equivalent. When Ronnie, Maggie, and PJPII realized what a hollow shell the USSR really was they decided to just bankrupt them.

Ronnie grew the military, proposed a 600 ship fleet, and started banging on about Star Wars. He put ballistic missiles in Germany. The Russians couldn't match us economically, and trying bankrupted them.

It was economic warfare as much as anything else.

Anonymous said...

To partly answer your question, lelnet, I'll point out that even a fairly marginal missile defense system provides disproportionate levels of increased defense.

If your Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) system is 10% efficient (that is, it can knock down 10% of an incoming attack) then you force the enemy to guess which 1 in 10 missiles will get taken out; which targets will not be destroyed. Let's say our 10 priority targets are:

Minuteman Silos 1-7
Washington DC
New York, NY
Chicago, IL

If one of these missiles will be taken out at random, to ensure the targets' destruction we must use two missiles for each target instead of one, a 100% increase in required missiles as a result of a 10% effective ABM system.

In real life it's not that bad, as you perhaps only want to ensure a 90% chance of destruction, and there are many fewer priority targets that normal targets. But it's enough: it hugely increases the likelihood that enough of your opponent's forces will survive to effectively counterattack you, which deters you from making the attack, and makes us all safer.

It's also a little unrealistic in that, because nuclear weapons are far less devastating than most people think they are, you don't target whole cities (since the 60s anyway), you target specific pieces of infrastructure within cities. With multiple devices, if you definitely want them d-e-d ded.

If you want to learn more about the wonderful world of nuclear strategy, may I suggest Herman Kahn's brilliant "Thinking the Unthinkable in the 80's," the updated version of his seminal work in the field.