“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more difficult of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones.” Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli in The Prince, 1513.
Last Saturday was the 105th anniversary of the birth of President Ronald Reagan, my favorite President. While I can recall many reasons for my views, consider one that I well understand, up close and personal. It also defines unfinished work needed to realize his vision which is now an even more urgent requirement than the present “powers that be” may realize.
Machiavelli’s words are prescient, especially when it comes to President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), to which many attribute (correctly in my view) an early end of the Cold War and the freedom now enjoyed by many, but not all, in what was then called the Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe. Regrettably, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is intent on reversing that achievement, and President Obama’s policies “assist rather than resist” Moscow’s efforts to restore its influence in Russia’s “near abroad” — including in the Middle East. We desperately need a change.
As we approach the 33rd anniversary of Reagan’s March 23, 1983 speech that launched his SDI efforts, we should again consider his original vision — and return to it. Click here for a pertinent excerpt.
Recall that his critics immediately labeled his initiative, “Star Wars” seeking to ridicule his challenge to the scientific community to exploit modern and rapidly evolving technology “to save lives rather than avenge them.”
The “Mutual Assured Destruction,” or MAD, strategy was his only option should the Soviet Union attack us with nuclear weapons, and he considered that Cold War mutual suicide pact to be abhorrent — especially since it offered no protection against even a limited attack by ballistic missiles, which he considered to be the most horrific weapons ever invented. So, he wanted an alternative — and building truly effective defenses, along with serious negotiations to reduce nuclear weapons, was the SDI challenge.
It was my privilege to serve as his Ambassador and Chief Negotiator with the Soviets defending his SDI vision against all comers, including the elite arms control community which opposed us every step of the way. See for example “The President’s Choice: Star Wars or Arms Control“ by McGeorge Bundy, George F. Kennan, Robert S. McNamara, and Gerard Smith,” in the 1984/85 issue of Foreign Affairs. Contrary to the view of these former senior leaders (Google them) and lots of others, Reagan was right — we got both SDI and Arms Control. In fact, SDI gave us the leverage that produced the first arms control agreements in history to actually reduce nuclear arms.
The most memorable evidence of this leverage was revealed to the world at the October 11-12, 1986 Reykjavik Summit, when President Reagan walked out because Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev demanded that he abandon his SDI vision.
Many rightly point out that Reagan rejected an agreement that would have embodied Gorbachev’s concessions on offensive nuclear arms because Gorbachev demanded in exchange that they agree to gut the SDI program. This is a partial truth.
Most have forgotten, if they ever knew, that it was Gorbachev’s specific demand that would have gutted the SDI research on space-based defenses. That would have banned important experiments then being conducted in space. And that specific demand is what broke up the Summit.
Reagan was disappointed as is clear from the below photograph taken as the leaders departed from the summit. He wanted the deep reductions we had proposed and to which Gorbachev had agreed. In fact, we pocketed Gorbachev’s concessions in our continuing negotiations, while successfully insisting that SDI would continue its plans and programs, unaltered.
Many believe that Reagan’s commitment to SDI at the Reykjavik Summit was the turning point in ending the Cold War. Ambassador Vernon Walters, then our UN Ambassador, told me at the time that Soviet Marshal Akhromeyev said that Reykjavik was a “watershed event.” He ought to have known, as he led the Soviet experts group at Reykjavik. Other senior Soviet leaders at the time echoed Marshal Akhrokmeyev. And as Ronald Reagan’s great friend and partner, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, told us when we hosted her in our SDI National Test Facility in Colorado Springs on August 2, 1990:
“I firmly believe that it was the determination to embark upon the SDI program and continue it that eventually convinced the Soviet Union that they could never, never, never achieve their aim by military might because they would never, never succeed.”
Today, many incorrectly claim that Reagan’s SDI vision has been realized as ground and sea-based defenses are being deployed. True, without his strong commitment to SDI and building missile defenses, we almost certainly would not have the defenses we have today. But Reagan’s commitment to space-based defenses was needed to reach his vision for building effective defenses — still an unrealized requirement. But that commitment at the time gave us the key leverage in our negotiations with the Soviets.
(Regrettably, we abandoned all efforts even to conduct serious research on space-based defenses over two decades ago — as I will discuss further after making clear what was at stake at Reykjavik and how Reagan’s resolve aided our negotiations toward the deep reductions in strategic offensive forces that he truly wanted.)
The Reykjavik Summit came on the heels of several rounds of negotiations in Geneva, when I was at the table and well understood the Soviet demands that even research on so-called “space-strike arms” be banned — they defined these code words as referring to space-based defenses as well as all anti-satellite systems and space weapons that could be used to attack targets on the ground.
Many attribute Reagan’s walk-out to Gorbachev’s demand that Reagan give up missile defense — but that misrepresents the facts. It was Gorbachev’s specific demand that all research and testing of space based defenses be limited to the laboratory — nothing in space, which would have ended important experiments then being conducted to determine if building an effective space-based defense was possible. (Let it be understood that these experiments demonstrated that it is indeed possible — indeed, that space-based defenses are the most cost-effective defenses.)
Lest there be debate on this point, below is from the declassified U.S. memorandum of conversation just before the meeting broke on October 12:
As it turned out, we satisfied most of our objectives in our talks with the Soviets, and we signed Treaties eliminating Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (1987) and producing major reductions in strategic offensive arms (1991) without accepting additional restraints on our ability to conduct SDI research and development, including on space-based defenses.
The U.S. Congress and the Clinton administration accomplished what the Soviets were not able to do in our negotiations: First, Congress cut the funds for the “Brilliant Pebbles” space-based defense R&D during my SDI watch in 1992; and Second, upon taking office on January 20, 1993, the Clinton administration completely scuttled all R&D on space defenses. You can review this sad history in Don Baucomb’s record of the “Rise and Fall of Brilliant Pebbles.”
Defense Secretary Les Aspin claimed he was “Taking the stars out of Star Wars” . . . and he indeed did just that.
Moreover, current Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was then Aspin’s Assistant Secretary for International Security Policy and shares the blame for this most unhelpful policy that completely gutted essentially all research on space-based defenses which had been central to Reagan’s vision. And so do “the powers that be” that have populated two terms of President George W. Bush’s watch and most of President Obama’s two terms.
In our article celebrating the 30th anniversary of President Reagan’s speech launching the SDI program, the first SDI Director, Retired Air Force General James A. Abrahamson, and I noted that the space-based interceptor program canceled in 1993 was the best product from the SDI era (1983-1993). The powers that be should reverse this cancellation and use today’s even more advanced technology to build an effective space-based defense.
It would be most appropriate if Defense Secretary Carter would correct his past mistake by assuring that such an initiative is included in the advanced technology efforts he is now championing.
Perhaps there was a rationale (though I would not agree) for not pressing Reagan’s vision when we were constrained by the terms of the ABM Treaty, which blocked the development and testing space of based defenses — but also of sea-based, air-based and mobile land-based defenses of the American homeland.
Even after President George W. Bush withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002, his administration did nothing to revive developing the key technologies to enable eventual deployment of space-based defenses, as would have been consistent with Reagan’s vision illustrated at Reykjavik. And the research during my watch as SDI Director already had indicated space defenses could provide global coverage against ballistic missiles of all ranges greater than a few hundred miles — and for far less expense than other basing modes.
Think what that operational capability would mean in dealing with the implications of last week’s satellite launch that now overflies the United States every 90 minutes or so. Even a fully capable sea-based Aegis BMD system could be an enormous help to our existing homeland Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) systems, which have unwisely given top priority to the most-expensive, least-effective ground based defenses — a continuing legacy of the ABM Treaty era.
These issues are all discussed in substantial detail in the reports of the Independent Working Group, which are linked to the High Frontier webpage. Revival of a serious program to consider the benefits of space-based defenses is an important objective for all who are serious about building truly cost effective defenses.
Let us hope that the past is prologue and that the current “powers that be” will restore a serious examination of space-based defenses among those being developed and deployed today. Also, we should be investing in the most effective Aegis BMD systems that today’s technology affords. This is unfinished business if we are to realize Ronald Reagan’s vision, embodied in his challenge that energized the scientific community 30 years ago and that he so memorably demonstrated at Reykjavik.
The threat from North Korea has everyone’s attention — but there are other threats as well, as we have discussed in our precious email reports. The administration’s initiatives in response to the growing threat, while welcome, do not deal with all aspects of the threat. For example, they do not deal at all with the threat vessels off our coasts — a near term existential threat if even a short range ballistic missile is launched from its deck to detonate a nuclear weapon at high altitude over the United States.
The resulting electromagnetic pulse (EMP) could lead to the demise of over a hundred million Americans during the next year. We have known of this threat for over a decade, but continue to do little to counter it. It was made public by the reports of the EMP Commission in 2004 and 2008 — but little has been yet been done to counter that existential threat.
The recently signed 2016 Defense Authorization Act re-established the EMP Commission, and hopefully that fact will make an important difference that even spills over into assuring the American people they have the best ballistic missile defenses that technology affords—which, in my opinion, includes those based in space.
As the comprehensive analyses recently chartered by Secretary Carter are conducted, hopefully they will consider the full panoply of ballistic missile threats — including from China and Russia as well as rogue states and jihadis — and the advantages of space-based (and sea-based) defenses should become apparent. I believe that unbiased analysis will validate what was intuitively clear to Ronald Reagan.
But remember Machiavelli’s timeless words . . . “It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more difficult of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than the creation of a new system.” . . . and get engaged in this fight, which is far from over.
Near Term High Frontier Plans.
We will continue to inform our readers of the looming threats we confront — and where appropriate urge them to engage in countering that threat. We will press for building the most cost-effective ballistic missile defenses possible and working with South Carolina folks to build a coalition to engage constructively with private citizens and their local and state representatives and other authorities to work with the SC National Guard in understanding and responding to the existential threats to the electric power grid.
We are especially focused on the nuclear power reactors that produce 60-percent of SC electricity—and more generally 20-percent of the nation’s electricity. If it can be assured that they “operate through” a major blackout of the electric power grid — and I believe it can, then these reactors can play a very important role for resurrecting the grid over an extended time and supporting the general public’s survival in the meantime.
What can you do?
Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.
Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage www.highfrontier.org, for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.
Encourage them to review our past email messages, posted on www.highfrontier.org, to learn about many details related to the existential manmade and natural EMP threats and how we can protect America against them. I hope you will help us with our urgently needed efforts, which I will be discussing in future messages.
Click here to make a tax deductible gift. If you prefer to mail a check, Please send it to 500 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.
E-Mail Message 160209
Be sure to follow us on our Social Sites!