The Strategic Defense Initiative

In This Review

The Strategic Defense Initiative

By Edward Reiss
Cambridge University Press, 1992
249 pp. $49.95
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The Strategic Defense Initiative, begun by Ronald Reagan but still having a half-life today, is likely to go down as the "mother of all defense programs" of this quarter century. Highly controversial from the start, "Star Wars" has gone through more permutations than a chameleon. Today it is called the Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (gpals) system, providing defense against unspecified Third World nuclear aggressors as well as the former Soviet Union, and it is still costing around $4 billion per year in research and development. This excellent study by a British political scientist is, unlike many tracts on the subject, neither a plea for nor against. Rather, it is a balanced analysis of the long and convoluted debate over the past ten years. Reiss shows how, as arguments for SDI were shot down, new ones were born. As technological goals were proven to be infeasible, different ones were set. He does a superb job in identifying the various constituencies and interests in the recurring and high-stakes clashes over money, science and global strategy.