How Reagan Became a Believer

During the first two years of his White House tenure, Ronald Reagan rarely immersed himself in the arcane details of nuclear issues. The difficult minutiae seemed to bore him. But one broader element intrigued him: the question of whether there was any realistic alternative to Mutual Assured Destruction. To Reagan, MAD was the equivalent of two men pointing cocked pistols at each other.

The President was instinctively sympathetic to the arguments of Edward Teller and other outside advocates of new defensive systems. But both the Defense and State Departments were wedded to traditional deterrence. Giving new emphasis to a defensive policy...

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