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Big Ifs for Star Wars

Ronald Reagan's hope for his Strategic Defense Initiative is to render nuclear missiles obsolete by erecting a leakproof umbrella over the U.S. But skeptics argue that an attempt to build a Star Wars defense would be "destabilizing" and would make nuclear war more likely, not less.

Paul Nitze, the Reagan Administration's most experienced and respected arms- control adviser, pointed out last week that a Star Wars system would have to meet two criteria to be effective. First, it has to be "survivable," or able to withstand a pre-emptive attack. Otherwise, said Nitze, "the defenses would themselves be tempting targets for a...

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