The Star Wars Conspiracy

In March 1983, President Ronald Reagan pledged to make nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete” He planned to end the Cold War and the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction that defined U

S-Soviet relations Thus he launched the Strategic Defense Initiative, a network of powerful satellite lasers that could shoot down any ballistic missiles fired at the USA

Critics called the space-based lasers the Star Wars program Despite early technological successes and the backing of the President, within a few years, it was scrapped But why did the most technologically advanced, non-aggressive defense system in the world fail? Reagan’s Star Wars program had the support of both the scientific community and his administration It planned to create a network of satellites armed with lasers that would detect and destroy nuclear weapons launched by the Soviet Union Reagan hoped that, if Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles couldn’t even reach America, they would stop making them

America therefore wouldn’t need its nuclear arsenal The table would be set for total nuclear disarmament In 1989, Vice President George H W Bush promised to continue the Star Wars program

But two years later, almost to the day, he began his Presidency by scrapping the Strategic Defense Initiative Why? Bush had appointed Dick Cheney as his Defence Secretary Cheney consistently criticized the Star Wars program, even while Bush campaigned on the promise to pursue it But Cheney had the support of the military industrial complex Cheney preferred a simpler system designed to launch ground-based missiles to destroy a few small enemy missiles – but not a massive launch of nuclear warheads

This is exactly what Bush replaced Star Wars with Today it is known as the Missile Defense Agency, and has an annual budget of $8 billion But Professor Stephen Walt claims there is little evidence the ballistic missile defense system actually works In fact, it arguably encourages superpowers like Russia and China to increase their missile stock – because the simplest way to overcome a limited missile defense system is to fire too many ballistic missiles for it to stop Ironically, Cheney and other critics used exactly the same arguments against the Star Wars program

So why did Cheney pursue a program that was as flawed as the one he shut down? Foreign correspondent Jonathan Steele believes Cheney brought down the Star Wars program in favor of preserving the existing military-industrial complex Because it relied on laser satellites, the Star Wars program took defense spending away from the arms industry and put it into scientific engineering Furthermore, Steele believes that Cheney is, at heart, a global interventionist From the invasion of Panama to the Iraq War, his career is defined by getting America and its allies militarily involved in foreign crises In 1992, Cheney wrote a report recommending that America must build up its military strength until it becomes the dominant superpower

The report concluded that no other superpower besides the USA must be allowed to develop In contrast, Reagan’s goal was to create a non-aggressive system that would enable the reduction of America’s weaponry

This, in turn, might lead to peaceful relations between the superpowers Over the next decade, the USA will spend $350 billion upgrading its nuclear arsenal, which in itself is a violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Today America has 7,100 warheads; Russia has 7,700 But Cheney was not alone in conspiring against Star Wars The Soviet Union reacted by dedicating 70% of its propaganda to criticizing the program In particular, it targeted European media to create concern over the Star Wars program’s effect on the economies and security of America’s allies Russia made it clear that the defense initiative might provoke the Soviets to strike first

Unsurprisingly, NATO and other Western nations pressured Reagan to scrap the Star Wars program In 1988, its budget was cut by 50% Unfortunately, it seems that Star Wars was too ambitious for its own good, anyway After five years of research, it could only stop 16% of incoming warheads The Congressional Research Service estimated that between 1983 and 1993, the program cost $71 billion

Once the Cold War was over, President Bush negotiated the unilateral reduction of Russian and American nuclear arsenals In this atmosphere of peace, a potentially provocative laser defense network seemed unnecessary British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher claimed that the Star Wars program helped end the Cold War, by raising the bar too high for Russia to compete In reality, Russia’s economy was already collapsing and the Soviets didn’t see Reagan’s laser satellites as a threat, especially since international treaties forbade the placement of weapons in space Nevertheless, it’s worth questioning just why the U

SA spends $8 billion a year on the Missile Defense Agency, and just who is responsible for it

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