The MAD strategy postulated that our only hope of avoiding nuclear war was by threatening massive retaliation and killing as many enemy people we could. "Morning-in-America" Reagan offered the contrary vision of hope.
"Wouldn't it be better to save lives than to avenge them?" he said. "What if we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?"
Reagan thus added the necessary fourth leg to his strategy of Peace Through Strength. It encompassed not only diplomacy, deterrence and offensive weapons, but also defensive weapons.
This made eminently good sense to the American people, who fully understand that battle requires both a sword and a shield. Conservatives had been pleading for an anti-missile defense system for more than 20 years.
The whole disarmament/pacifist crowd attacked Reagan unmercifully for his determination to defend America with defensive as well as offensive weapons. U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., led the pack by ridiculing Reagan's plan as Star Wars.
Reagan's opponents criticized him on every front, claiming an anti-missile system can't work because it requires hitting a bullet with a bullet. This new test should finally put to rest the false claims that it won't work.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, we know that it was Reagan's determination to push forward with what became known as his Strategic Defense Initiative that won the Cold War. The Strategic Defense Initiative was the centerpiece of his strategy.
At the Geneva and Reykjavik Summits, Mikhail Gorbachev, then the leader of the Soviet Union, offered every carrot and stick in his arsenal to persuade or intimidate Reagan into abandoning the Strategic Defense Initiative. When Reagan refused, Gorbachev realized the jig was up for the Soviet empire and its delusions of world conquest because the Soviets could not compete with the U.S. military-economic powerhouse.
Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, so courageously proposed in 1983, ultimately enabled him to defeat the "Evil Empire" without firing a shot. We know the system works, and it's just as necessary in the post-Sept. 11 world as in the days of the Soviet threat.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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