chapter  6
13 Pages

The strategic defense initiative: Between strategy, diplomacy and US intelligence estimates


Among the issues surrounding the final years of the Cold War, one that American historians debate quite strenuously is the intent with which President Ronald Reagan marched into the 1980s. Some argue that Reagan pursued a strategy of breaking the Soviet Union by forcing Russian leaders into unsustainable levels of defense spending. Others maintain that Reagan consciously sought US strategic superiority, on the nuclear plane if not across the board of military capability. Still others hold that President Reagan wished to break the stranglehold of nuclear weapons, an end that would actually have reduced the burden on Soviet defense expenditures. Another school holds that Reagan became infatuated with his vision of an umbrella to negate the nuclear danger, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) he elaborated in 1983 and pursued thereafter, which became known to many as ‘Star Wars.’ This author has argued elsewhere that President Reagan’s policies, whatever his intentions, were modified and moderated by the interventions of officials around him whom I characterized as ‘policy entrepreneurs.’ Those officials most assuredly pursued a policy of seeking strategic superiority.1