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Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars)

Ronald Reagan

Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars): Ronald Reagan was the 40th American President who served in office from January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989. One of the important events during his presidency was the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars).

Definition and Summary of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars)
Summary and definition:
The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also known as Star Wars, was the US response to possible nuclear attacks. The Strategic Defense Initiative was introduced on March 23, 1983 during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

The objective of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program was to develop an advanced anti-ballistic missile system to enable the United States to prevent missile attacks from the USSR and other countries during the Cold War.

The idea was to set up a large number of space satellites that would detect the launch, and then shoot down, any enemy missiles. The Strategic Defense Initiative program was soon given the nickname "Star Wars" reflecting the development of new initiatives and creative ideas, such as lasers and computer-guided projectiles. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was cancelled in 1993 and replaced with the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) renamed the Missile Defense Agency in 2002.

Facts about Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars)
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars).

Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was the military strategy adopted during the Cold War Arms Race. MAD was based on the assumption that both the USSR and the US would refrain from launching nuclear weapons, knowing that the other country would retaliate and cause the complete nuclear annihilation of both the attacker and the defender.

President Ronald Reagan disagreed with the military strategy of MAD as a nuclear deterrent. Reagan believed that not only was MAD immoral as it was based on the threat of killing massive numbers of people, but also that should a nuclear war begin the United States would not be defended.

The Strategic Defense Initiative program was to develop an advanced anti-ballistic missile system to enable the US to prevent missile attacks from the USSR and other countries during the Cold War.

President Reagan was fascinated by the theories of Dr. Edward Teller and his ideas of using 'x-ray lasers' in space to shoot down enemy missiles and although no such lasers had been developed, space-based weapons were theoretically possible because of new, emerging technologies.

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program was introduced by President Reagan on March 23, 1983. The goal was to detect the launch of enemy missiles and form a protective shield against possible attacks from the Soviets.

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) initiative replaced the strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD) and focused on strategic defense.

In 1984, the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was established to oversee the program and to develop a space-based missile defense system.

In order to make the Soviets feel less threatened, President Reagan promised to share the technology developed, enabling them to have their own protective shield.

Predictably, the USSR did not believe the fiercely anti-communist President Reagan and were extremely suspicious of the new US initiative.

A problem with pursuing the concept of the Strategic Defense Initiative were fears of breaking existing treaties, commonly referred to as the "five United Nations treaties on outer space", that dealt with issues such as the non-appropriation of outer space by any one country and arms control.

The Strategic Defense Initiative became the subject of intense political controversy and many believed that it would extend the arms race into space and cause the USSR to expand its own offensive nuclear weapons.

Many of the proposed weapons, including lasers, neutron particle beams and electromagnetic railguns, represented unusual and un-proven new technologies.

The popular trilogy of the "Star Wars" science fiction movies were released between 1977 - 1983. The "Star Wars" movies enabled the American public to easily associate the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program with new and creative technologies.  

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program was soon given the nickname of Star Wars.

The SDI began extremely expensive research projects costing billions of dollars every year. The  research projects included space-based laser weapons, spy satellites and space-based interceptors.

Considerable research was also conducted on ground-based anti-missile missiles that could be used if the space-based weapons missed their targets.

In response to the US research projects, the Soviets began work. on developing their own version of Strategic Defense Initiative.

The efforts by the Soviet Union to match the expenditure of the U.S. in the Cold War Arms Race had brought the nation to the point of bankruptcy.

SDI became an economic weapon and was instrumental in causing the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev realized that the USSR could not afford the Cold War Arms Race or match the massive expenditure involved in the US Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev fell from power and the Soviet Union was dissolved.

The SDI had itself become an economic weapon and was instrumental in causing the downfall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. 

Congress cancelled the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program in 1993 and was replaced with the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), later renamed the Missile Defense Agency in 2002.

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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