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The Percentages of 'Star Wars'

August 18, 1985

To clarify some misconception that Todd Gitlin possesses, as evidenced in his letter, "Star Wars" (July 2), I feel the other side should be represented.

Gitlin states that "the failure of its previous experiment inadvertently reveals how absurd that . . . the Strategic Defense Initiative is going to provide a foolproof shield against nuclear attack. . . ." If Gitlin has ever experimented with any new idea or technique, he would clearly understand the importance of obtaining data from failed missions. The idea of "learning through our mistakes" is a powerful and important concept that makes us work harder toward "100% reliability."

Gitlin also states that "to live up to . . . its . . . billing, high-tech wonders . . . would have to be 100% effective." I don't know of any defense weapon that is 100% effective (which includes the idea of mutually assured destruction.) If the SDI weapons were only 85% effective, they would still serve their purpose--and that is to reduce the threat of an enemy first strike. I don't know of anyone who would get into an airplane that had a 15% chance of landing safely! Likewise, if I were a Soviet commander, I would think twice about launching an all-out attack that only had a 15% chance of success.

PETER A. MEISENZAHL JR.

Upland

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