The Origins of SDI 1944-1983
Donald R. Baucom
Richard W. Leopold Prize
Most people think Star Wars was Reagan's idea, but its roots reach decades farther back. Military historian Don Baucom traces them to the dawn of the atomic age in 1944.
“For the general reader interested in background and synthesis of U.S. ballistic missile defense efforts, this volume provides an excellent beginning.”
“Baucom uses statistics, anecdotes, and a wealth of background material to bring life this topic.”
—Airpower JournalSee all reviews...
“Baucoms book is the best available record of the political process surrounding the creation of SDI, and it is a valuable resource for scholars seeking to understand U.D. defense decision making in the 1980s.”
—American Historical Review
“A valuable contribution to a surprisingly sparse literature on strategic defenses.”
—Political Science Quarterly
“This work will take its place as a standard and important reference work in the field.”
—Stephen J. Cimbala, author of The Technology, Strategy, and Politics of SDI
“Baucom has done some real spade work and has come up with the most thorough and likely most accurate version of events that I’ve seen or the closest we are likely to get for some time.”
—Gregg Herken, author of The Counsels of War and The Winning Weapon: The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War
“This book is more than just an analysis of the events leading up to President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. It is a remarkably well-informed and clearly written account of ballistic missile defense in the whole post-war period. I think anyone interested in the history of American nuclear weapons policy will find this book very much worth reading.”
—Marc Trachtenberg, author of History and StrategySee fewer reviews...
In this first scholarly account of the origins of SDI, Baucom brings together the political, technological, and strategic forces that have shaped the history of ballistic missile defenses from World War II to the present day. He chronicles major technological developments and shows how SDI emerged in 1983 from the technological and strategic legacies of the ICBM, ABM, SALT, and SAFEGUARD programs.
Surprisingly, Baucom concludes that arms control was the primary impetus for Star Wars. He argues that the SDI program grew out of Reagan's desire to see the country defended against nuclear attack, his strong faith in technology, his concern about the impact of Soviet SS-18 missiles, and most importantly, his realization that the policy of offensive nuclear deterrence was increasingly unpopular.
The Origins of SDI is not an evaluation of the Star Wars program. Instead, it is both the story of a policy and a case study of presidential decision making. Baucom bases his conclusions on historical research as well as interviews with the participants in the decision making process. As a result, he provides both the broad historical context for the emergence of Star Wars program and an insider's account, unique in its level of detail, of presidential decision making and the search for consensus.