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SDI 30 Years On


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sdi-30-years-on.phpPower Line:

Steven Hayward



Earlier this month Paul Kengor and others brought to our attention the 30th anniversary of Reagan’s famous “evil empire” speech, which was, keep in mind, chiefly a domestic policy speech where Reagan slipped in the evil empire reference that his foreign policy apparatus had managed to strip out of previous foreign policy speech drafts. But there was no getting around the objections of both the State and Defense Departments to his call for revived missile defense barely two weeks later, before the dust had fully settled from the evil empire speech. Today is the 30th anniversary of that pivotal speech, which was just as big an outrage for establishment opinion.


Just about every senior figure in the Reagan Administration was against the idea; even Cap Weinberger was lukewarm. George Shultz was adamantly opposed, bluntly warning Reagan up to an hour before the speech that he should not go with SDI. His only supporters were science adviser George Keyworth and national security adviser William Clark. Shultz called Keyworth a “lunatic” in an Oval Office meeting in front of Reagan. He warned Reagan that the Soviets would react badly, that the idea as presented would be “destabilizing.” Shultz complained strongly to Clark: “I feel you guys are leading the president out on a limb, and people will saw it off. The [Joint] Chiefs should have their neck wrung.”


The Left naturally went into overdrive to kill the idea. Sen. Ted Kennedy and other Democrats thought they had hit on an effective ridicule for the idea by dubbing it “Star Wars.” It is questionable whether attempting to denigrate Reagan’s idea by associating it with the most popular movie franchise in history was an effective tactic. Even as common sense Americans understood Luke Skywalker and “The Force” to be fantasy, at the same time Americans like audacious imagination. SDI, by whatever name, polled very strongly after Reagan elevated it to the front burner of American public discourse.


And today?..........(Snip)

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