And now, with little fanfare, that vision has been realized. In a world grown even more dangerous than it was in March 1983, the United States and Israel have announced an important advance in missile defense.
“Israel and the U.S. on Monday carried out a successful test of the next-generation Arrow 3 missile defense system, for the first time sending an interceptor into outer space, where it could destroy missiles fired from Iran,” the Associated Press reported on Monday. “The Arrow 3 is part of a multilayered system that Israel is developing to protect against a range of missile threats, from short-range rockets in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to medium and longer-range missiles in the hands of Syria and Iran. The Arrow system is being developed to protect against sophisticated Iranian-made Shahab ballistic missiles.”
When Reagan proposed what became known as “Star Wars,” the left was dismayed.
“President Reagan’s announcement came as a surprise to many in Washington, even those in the Pentagon, with whom the president had not cleared his speech,” the New York Times reported at the time. “Critics called the proposal unfeasible, and questioned whether the United States would ever have the technology to develop the S.D.I. They called it ‘Star Wars,’ first because it sounded like something out of a science fiction movie, and second because the announcement came just weeks after President Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’ speech.”
“A perfect antiballistic missile defense was beyond the reach of technology,” historian Frances Fitzgerald later wrote. “It was just a story, and yet to trust the polls, the idea had great popular appeal in the mid-80s, and many Americans believed such a thing could be built. In that sense the Strategic Defense Initiative was Reagan’s greatest triumph as an actor-storyteller.”
But it wasn’t an actor’s fantasy, any more than President John F. Kennedy’s call in 1962 to put a man on the moon was.
“But why, some say, the moon?” Kennedy asked. “Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? … We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
The Obama administration seems mildly hostile to the Missile Defense Agency because it offends Russia. But the agency, and the advances it is making, are vital to the safety and security of the United States.
Reagan was right.
National defense against the missile threat is a moral obligation.