March 23, 1983: Reagan Taunts the Russians With 'Star Wars' Plan
Tony Long 03.23.07
1983: President Reagan announces his "Star Wars" missile-defense program.
The program, known formally as the Strategic Defense Initiative, was meant not only to shield the United States and its allies from a massive Soviet missile attack, but to put as much pressure as possible on the Soviet economy by forcing the Russians to try and keep pace technologically.
SDI earned its "Star Wars" sobriquet from detractors who mocked the idea of space-based battle stations and laser-equipped satellites, which were features of the Reagan administration plan. The lasers were to be used to destroy incoming Soviet ICBMs, a goal that in 1983 seemed about as plausible as running into a bunch of ex-pat aliens at an intergalactic bar.
In any case, it wasn't the feasibility of SDI that doomed the program, but the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
In 2007, U.S. missile defense remains pretty much what it has always been: a ground-based missile system designed to cope with individual ICBMs, and not the all-encompassing shield envisioned in SDI.