Regarding SDI, both Thomas K. Longstreth ("How Many Eggs for the Star Wars Basket?" Op-Ed Page, Sept. 5) and Gray have missed the point entirely.
SDI is not about defense any more than Reagan's MX "peacekeepers" are about peace. SDI is about power and who will wield it.
For generations Americans have been assured of the invulnerability of America defensively and of her absolute supremacy offensively. In the last few years it has become painfully obvious that we are neither supreme nor invulnerable.
Now, instead of the "light at the end of the tunnel" we are offered the carrot at the end of the stick. Pour money into a complex funnel called SDI, we are told, and out the other end comes a proud and impregnable America. Unfortunately, a working missile defense system such as SDI has an application never mentioned in Pentagon news releases. Invulnerability to a "first strike," while a seemingly high-minded goal, is incompatible with the state of the world as it exists today. Where the superpowers now hold each other hostage with nuclear mega-tonnage there is a dark side to SDI: being protected from a missile attack would make the prospect of a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union much more palatable in military circles. We even have the undetectable "surprise weapon" available now: the cruise missile.
For those aghast at such an "un-American" concept as hitting first, I would remind all that at the conclusion of World War II the United States actually had a plan drawn up to annihilate the Soviet Union via bomber-delivered nuclear weapons. Twenty were deemed necessary for the task according to the top secret plan, "Strategic Vulnerability of the U.S.S.R. to a Limited Air Attack," dated Oct. 25, 1945 (available to any who care to read it courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act). Unfortunately we had used all of our "nukes" on Japan. The Soviet Union was allowed to survive and the rest is history.
SDI, as it is currently presented, is a double-edged sword, either blade perfectly capable of cutting our own collective throat. If it works and plans are made to deploy it, the Soviets would be foolish not to launch their own preemptive strike before their missiles were rendered "impotent and obsolete." If it is deployed and doesn't work (much more likely given the system's complexity) then we advance on the false premise of invulnerability and square off against our adversaries holding the skeleton of a nuclear umbrella over our heads.
To gain world peace we are faced with a dilemma that is not solvable through the application of technology; it must be dealt with at the human level. The residents of the "evil empire" are, after all, people, too.
STEPHEN C. LEE