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SDI AND THE ATLANTIC ALLIANCE Pierre Lellouche he first point to be made about the Strategic Defense Initiative (sdì) is that it was conceived and laid out primarily as an American unilateral initiative, without even the slightest political or strategic consultation with the Allies. Indeed, Western leaders—like many top officials in the U.S. government, for that matter—learned about Ronald Reagan's speech of 23 March 1983 only after it had been pronounced. Of course, this is not the first time that the United States has resorted to unilateral actions. Nor is it the first time that Europeans have complained about lack of consultation. But another European paper complaining about U.S. unilateralism would be futile—especially as the effect of such complaints is generally to exacerbate American exasperation about the weak state of mind of their allies and their ungratefulness. Yet nothing can be understood about the current Alliance debate and attitudes about the sdì decision without comprehending its completely unilateral origin. Reintroducing strategic defenses into the nuclear equation of the past forty years is a tremendously important decision that has an immediate impact on European security, and therefore on the Atlantic Alliance itself. This is obviously the case for the non-nuclear Europeans who, rightly or wrongly, still rely on the American nuclear deterrent for their own defense. And this is also true for the two European nuclear powers, who also rely on nuclear deterrence for their security—that is, Pierre Lellouche is associate director of the Institut Français de Relations Internationales. His most recent publication is L'Avenir de h Guerre (The Future of War) Paris (1985). 67 68 SAIS REVIEW through their own deterrent in the context of a continued American commitment to Europe. Thus the announcement by the United States—the guarantor and the leader of a nuclear Alliance—that it had decided to modify the accepted rules of the deterrence game without informing anyone else in Europe was bound to raise difficult issues. After all European security is equally at stake! This point is clearly relevant to the extent that it has profoundly shaped the attitudes of several European capitals toward sdì, two years after Reagan's speech. The second reason, which reinforces the problem just described, is that the American objectives in this instance are confused and contradictory . On 23 March 1983 and several times thereafter, President Reagan and some of his closest aides have repeatedly stressed that the goal of sdì is to make nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete—beginning with ballistic missiles, but eventually including all nuclear weapons. This means disinventing the bomb—giving up nuclear deterrence and moving toward a different strategic world, beyond deterrence. Yet during the past two years many more voices in the U.S. government have talked about a different goal and a differentjustification . Strategic defense, one is now told, is a necessary precaution against the Soviet Union's own active defense program. To start, it is about defending missiles—at least in the first phase—and by succeeding in doing so, one deprives the Soviet Union of the dangerously tempting first-strike option it now enjoys.1 By reducing such first-strike options, sdì will reinforce deterrence, a deterrence that has been dangerously destabilized by the quantitative and qualitative growth of offensive nuclear arms. According to this argument, the president's postnuclear dreamworld is at best wishful thinking of the kind one uses in public posturing when referring to the long-term goal ofdisarmament (the total elimination of nuclear weapons). Hence this glaring contradiction: On the one hand the purpose of sdì is to reject the logic of deterrence as a dangerous and unethical proposition in the long run; Mutual Assured Destruction (mad)—even though we no longer abide by mad's logic, given the refinement and redundance of offensive weapons—is accused of all the evils, leading to the conclusion that we should move away from it toward a non-nuclear world. On the other hand, sdì reinforces the logic ofmad more than ever before, since the (other) argument states precisely that defenses are aimed at denying first-strike options, thereby returning nuclear weapons 1. The Scowcroft Commission cited evidence to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-4724
Print ISSN
1945-4716
Pages
pp. 67-80
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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