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News Viewing the SDI through a political lens

  1. Dec 28, 2004 #1
    To look at the SDI through a scientific lens, one can formulate a lot of arguments for and against its legitimacy. However, to what extent do you guys believe that Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative brought about the end of the Cold War?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2004 #2
    The Cold War is over? I thought they just transfered the fear from 'Communists' to 'Terrorists'.... really.. what's changed.
  4. Dec 28, 2004 #3
    I had a friend at school that wrote several papers on the subject and I have to admit he made a believer out of me. After 4 decades of competing directly with the US on virtually everything, from hydrogen bombs to the space race to nuclear submarines, the prospect of spending trillions for a satellite defense system (which probably wouldn't have worked anyway) was too great of a financial burden for the old USSR. Certainly not the only reason, but I think it was a factor.

    Smurf: What has changed is that the possibility of a full-scale gloabal thermonuclear war has dropped considerably. We may be *more* likely to have a single isolated nuclear event under terrorists than the old Soviet Union, but only an exchange between 2 very powerful nations could manage to wipe out the entire human race.
  5. Dec 28, 2004 #4


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    American civilians are now in the line of fire.
    Yeah, and there's that...

    ...and ask a Lithuanian or an East German (a what?) what has changed...
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2004
  6. Dec 28, 2004 #5
    how can anyone look at SDI except through a political lens???? the American Physical Society published a ~400-page study on its feasibility, & it won't work. check it out:

    i really hope paul martin doesn't sign up for it, but after picking a fool like bill graham or a card-carrying hawk like david pratt as ministers of defence he can't be trusted at all
  7. Dec 28, 2004 #6

    The National Missile Defense is pretty different from the old SDI (aka Star Wars.) Judging by all the pretty illustrations I used to see on TV every week, SDI involved satellite based X-Ray lasers or missiles to shoot down incoming warheads. The scale was also much larger (shoot down thousands of warheads, rather than 3 or 4.)

    Also, unlike NMD, I don't think SDI was ever seriously comtemplated. It was a bluff, just like in a poker game. Even if the US had had the technology in the 80's (very unlikely), it was unlikely they would have spent trillions of dollars on it. Ronald Reagan did a very good job of putting a serious face on it, enough so that if you buy into the theory, the USSR was faced with the prospect of building its own SDI system or else the US would be impervious to it's nuclear missiles.

    For an example of something similar, look at the Soviet space shuttle program. I was watching an interview with a former soviet engineer (a program about the Russian space program) and he said something along the lines of: 'We couldn't figure out why the Americans went to the space shuttle. It cost more $/kg to operate. We figured they must know something we don't, so we built our own.'
  8. Dec 28, 2004 #7


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    I recently started playing poker and I rarely bluff unless I have at least something in my hand to fall back on. Bluff or not, billions of dollars were spent on it. And though we could have spent a trillion and not gotten a single satellite up, it produced the enabling technologies for everything from the Airborne Laser (basically theater [as opposed to strategic or global] SDI) to adaptic optics telescopes, to cheap CD players.

    As far as the real significance of SDI in the Cold War, I'm unsure. Reagan was a decent actor: did Gorby really believe him? And at the same time, Reagan was a good diplomat: he extended the hand of friendship and meant it, even while holding a gun in the other.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2004
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