Free Nonproliferation Review Article: Escape from Nuclear Deterrence

Free Nonproliferation Review Article: President Reagan Strategic Defense Iniative Speech Source: White House Photo Office

President Reagan’s 
Strategic Defense Initiative Speech, WikiMedia Commons

Dallas Boyd
James Scouras
June 17, 2013

View the full Taylor and Francis Article.

Lessons for Global Zero from the Strategic Defense Initiative

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Since the post-World War II genesis of nuclear deterrence, two presidential initiatives have been presented to deliver humanity from the threat of its failure. The first was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a constellation of space- and ground-based systems that President Ronald Reagan envisioned would render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete.” The second is President Barack Obama’s roadmap to “a world without nuclear weapons,” commonly referred to as “Global Zero.”

While these proposals appear to have little in common, deeper investigation reveals a number of provocative similarities in motivation and presentation. Moreover, both generated fierce debate, often with ideological overtones, about their strategic desirability and technical feasibility. We use these parallels, as well as prominent dissimilarities, to draw lessons from the SDI experience that can be applied to the debate over Global Zero.

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