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Strategic Defense Initiative

November 17, 1985

Richard Sybert's letter to The Times (Nov. 2), "Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative," deserves close attention. Being a special assistant to the secretary of defense, his views give some good insights into the thinking of our defense and military leaders.

The purpose of his letter seems to be to dispute Robert Scheer's earlier series (Sept. 22, 23 and 24), "Star Wars, a Program in Disarray." Sybert insists that the "Star Wars" program is not in disarray, but well organized, productive, scientifically sound, and moving along very well. I suspect this does not come as good news to the Nobel laureates of this country, the majority of whom have gone on record as opposing the "Star Wars" program as unwise or dangerous.

Sybert agrees that the "Star Wars" program will not be 100% effective, but, "So long as it results in the possible survival of enough retaliatory capacity to deter a first strike" it will "create enough uncertainty in the mind of a would-be attacker to help keep the peace." We are asked to spend a trillion dollars for a "Star Wars" defense and this is the bottom line of what we can hope to achieve! We have enough nuclear missiles hidden away now, in hard-to-find places, to deter a first strike, if that is to be the ultimate purpose of SDI--and the huge "Star Wars" expenditure can be diverted to balancing our budget.

In his letter Sybert asks, "If indeed it is so clear that the SDI won't work, why are the Soviets so concerned about it?"

Well, perhaps the Soviets worry that we (our defense-military establishment and Administration) will be led to believe our "Star Wars" defense will work so well that we will not have to fear Soviet missiles, and so can tell them (the Soviets) with impunity where to get off--and if this faith in our "Star Wars" defense proves to be faulty (many of our own scientists do insist the SDI defense will not be effective or work well), the situation becomes dangerous in the extreme to them as well as to us.

Furthermore, the Soviets may not like the kind of responses available to them to counter our SDI program. If they counter with offense systems to override our defense the world comes closer to blowing up, and they probably don't want to see this happen any more than we do.

Or, perhaps the Soviets can't afford to spend the trillion dollars to match our defense with one of their own. Can we?


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