Strategic Defenses

  • Michael J. Mazarr
  • Alexander T. Lennon


In the wake of the Persian Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the focus of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) has shifted from defense against massive missile attacks to defense against much smaller attacks. In his 1991 State of the Union address, President George Bush stated:

Looking forward, I have directed that the SDI program be refocused on providing protection from limited missile strikes, whatever their source. Let us pursue an SDI program that can deal with any future threat to the United States, to our forces overseas, and to our friends and allies.


Alert Status Ballistic Missile Limited Attack Limited Defense Nuclear Deterrent 
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  1. 3.
    For background on defenses, see Paul L. Chrzanowski, “The Transition to a Deterrence Posture More Reliant on Strategic Defenses,” in Dietrich Schoreer and David Hafemeister, eds., Nuclear Arms Technologies in the 1990s (New York: American Institute of Physics, 1988), pp. 220–43; Dean Wilkening and Kenneth Watman, “Strategic Defenses and First-Strike Stability” (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, R-3412-FF/RC, November 1986); Glenn A. Kent and David E. Thaler, “First-Strike Stability and Strategic Defenses” (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, R-3918-AF, October 1990); and William Kerby, “The Impact of Space Weapons on Strategic Stability and the Prospects for Disarmament: A Quantitative Analysis” (Hamburg: Institut fur Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik, October 1986).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    John Wilson Lewis and Hua Di, “China’s Ballistic Missile Programs: Technologies, Strategies, and Goals,” International Security 17, no. 2 (Fall 1992): 19, 28. According to Lewis and Di, the current SLBMs will be replaced by a much longer-range and more accurate missile in the mid- to late 1990s, and the ICBMs will be replaced by solid-fuel missiles by 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Lisbeth Gronlund and David C. Wright, “Limits on the Coverage of a Treaty-Compliant ABM System,” Physics and Society 21, no. 2 (April 1992): 6.Google Scholar
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    Space-based defenses may also be incapable of destroying short-range missiles, especially if the trajectories are slightly depressed. See David C. Wright and Lisbeth Gronlund, “Underflying Brilliant Pebbles,” Nature 350 (April 25, 1991): 663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 17.
    Barbara G. Levi, Frank N. von Hippel, and William H. Daugherty, “Civilian Casualties from ‘Limited’ Nuclear Attacks on the Soviet Union,” International Security 12, no. 3 (Winter 1987/88): 188. The authors give 90 million to 140 million deaths for a 300-EMT attack on the Soviet Union; since Russia contains only 52 percent of the population of the former Soviet Union (but a high percentage of its military and economic targets), it is reasonable to assume that casualties from a 300-EMT attack on Russia would be closer to the estimates given for the United States.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See, for example, Steve Fetter, “Protecting Our Military Space Systems,” in Edmund S. Muskie, ed., The U.S. in Space: Issues and Policy Choices for a New Era (Washington, D.C.: Center for National Policy Press, 1988), pp. 1–25.Google Scholar
  7. 27.
    The United States lost interest in air defense after the Soviet Union deployed ICBMs, because a defense against aircraft would do little good without an accompanying defense against missiles. If effective missile defenses are deployed, however, this would be sure to reopen the debate over air defense. For a discussion of the potential of strategic air defense, see Arthur Charo, Continental Air Defense: A Neglected Dimension of Strategic Defense (Cambridge, Mass.: Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, 1990).Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    For a boost-phase defense, see Christopher T. Cunningham, “The Space-Based Interceptor,” in Dietrich Schroeer and David Hafemeister, eds., Nuclear Arms Technologies in the 1990s (New York: American Institute of Physics, 1988), p. 278.Google Scholar
  9. 31.
    See Sherman Frankle, “Aborting Unauthorized Launches of Nuclear-armed Ballistic Missiles through Postlaunch Destruction,” Science and Global Security 2, no. 1 (1990): 1–20, for a discussion on how this can be done in an absolutely secure manner.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Center for Strategic and International Studies 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Mazarr
  • Alexander T. Lennon

There are no affiliations available

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