by Rod D. Martin
March 30, 2004

Last week — March 23 — marked the twenty-first anniversary of the announcement of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to defend America from a missile attack.

For everyone who sees missile defense as a moral and strategic imperative, it’s been a happy anniversary indeed. The reason? Thanks to President Bush, this is the year we’ll finally begin deploying it.

That’s great news, but why the wait?

That’s precisely what reasonable people were wondering when SDI was unveiled 21 years ago. When Reagan announced it, millions of Americans were stunned by the mind-boggling revelation that our country had been facing a nuclear-armed Soviet Union with no missile defense whatsoever.

With the Soviets still in business, Americans feared the consequences of an attack. And indeed, after President Reagan’s speech, an attack of sorts was launched: not by Kremlin leaders, but by Beltway liberals like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Before long, words like “reckless,” “provocative,” “war mongering,” and “Star Wars fantasies” blanketed the airwaves, crowding out rational discourse and threatening to strangle SDI in its cradle.

Why was the Left so hysterically opposed to missile defense? Why were normally free-spending, pie-in-the-sky liberals suddenly obsessing about costs and whether the idea actually “worked” in the real world?

Simple. SDI was a full-frontal assault, not merely on the liberal conception of “defense” but on the Left’s view of America itself.

The keystone of liberal defense strategy was the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This treaty banned virtually all systems capable of defending American and Soviet populations while embracing the theory of “mutually assured destruction” or MAD. According to MAD, the best defense lay in a surreal “balance of terror”, in each country’s certainty that an attack on the other would result in its own civilian population being consumed in a sea of nuclear fire.

This strategy was both utterly immoral and ridiculously naive. If holding civilian populations hostage isn’t evil, exactly what is? And indeed, the Left – forever prepared to “blame America first” — rested its defense on the foundational premise of “moral equivalence,” that each side’s problem was lethal weaponry, not Communism’s lethal intent. It ascribed the same motives to each side when in fact their aims could not have differed more: the USSR worked till its collapse to conquer and enslave the world, while America sacrificed deeply to keep that same world free.

Yet for an entire generation the Left prevailed: not one air defense battery and not one missile site was deployed to defend America. Congressional Democrats prevented Reagan and Bush, Sr. from all but research, and only a new Republican Congress saved the program from President Clinton’s clutches.

But those days are no more.

In December 2001, George W. Bush abrogated the ABM Treaty. By the Fourth of July 2004, America’s first missile interceptor will be in its Alaskan silo. By New Year’s Day 2005, we’ll have a half-dozen interceptors in Alaska and four more in California. In 2005 — if and only if Bush is re-elected — ten more will be added in Alaska, ten will be added at a third site not yet determined, and ten will be placed at sea, the beginning of a ship-based mobile defense this column has vigorously advocated for years.

This is just the beginning; but it is a beginning, the beginning of a new era in which we live up to the Constitutional and moral duty to “provide for the common defense.”

The Left continues to fret aloud — more from propaganda than from principle — that “no defense is perfect”, that a determined attack might overwhelm the system, or that a suitcase nuke might be smuggled in, and that therefore any missile defense should “obviously” be scrapped.

Yet this is “obviously” nonsense. Perhaps our enemies can still hurt us, but making them work harder to do it is good; and without a defense, they can kill any or all of us at will. Even after the rise of nuclear China, India, North Korea and Pakistan, even after the revelation that the latter two countries are actively spreading their weapons and their know-how to anyone who can pay, Kerry and company would leave us defenseless, cowering as we wait for the hammer to fall.

But we need not suffer a nuclear 9/11 or a last-ditch attack by a desperate or defeated dictator to see that the Left is loony. History is a fine enough teacher, of that and of many other things. Among those is surely this: that they who cower before terrorists and dictators pay a price far higher than those who stand strong.

In discharging Ronald Reagan’s vision, George W. Bush has committed the greatest patriotic act of our new century. For this, he deserves our deepest praise.