Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Excerpt Of The Week: Part 2- "Prince Of Darkness: Richard Perle" By: Alan Weisman

"Part of the Reagan legend was his 1979 visit to the NORAD missile warning facility in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. The trip had been arranged by a Hollywood screenwriter friend of Reagan's, and Reagan had invited another friend, economist Martin Anderson, to join him. Anderson, an unabashed Reagan worshiper, described the visit as an epiphany for the California governor. When their tour guide, air force general James Hill, explained to Reagan that because the facility had been designed in the 1960s, the current Soviet ICBMs could not be stopped if launched, 'a look of disbelief came over Reagan's face.' Apparently, this was the first time it had occurred to the president-to-be that there was no reliable defense for incoming missiles. Anderson then claims that it was his memorandum to candidate Reagan proposing development of a missile defense shield that set in Motion the Strategic Development Initiative, or Star Wars, program that became the centerpiece of Reagan's overall foreign policy. As author Frances Fitzgerald points out, why Reagan would listen to what an economist had to say about nuclear missile defense is a mystery, especially since his memo is filled with so many mistakes regarding terminology and plausible systems design that he was 'clearly talking through his hat.'

Nevertheless, the very idea of a missile shield guarding the 'shining city on a hill' had obvious appeal to Reagan; it was a simple idea he could sell. Aiding and abetting the exercise were former B-Teamers Edward Teller and Dan Graham, who were busy flooding the Defense Department with proposals for fantastic weapons that would require billions of dollars with very little chance of a meaningful return. Teller's rhetoric was especially preposterous; he warned Reagan in one memo that the Soviets were ready to deploy 'powerful directed energy weapons to militarily dominate both space and earth.' Despite Teller's fantasies, his opinions carried great weight in political circles. especially among those whose knowledge of science was minimal at best. Teller and his followers would be joined by Perle acolyte Frank Gaffney, from the old Scoop Jackson team, who became such a relentless advocate for the missile shield idea that even some of his friends and colleagues consider him 'out there.'

'I'm not a rocket scientist,' Gaffney told me. 'I'm not an engineer or a physicist. I don't know the answer to the question of what exotic technologies might be brought to bear. But my sense of technology and the extraordinary capability of this country is that it will be.' Gaffney remains a believer despite more than two decades and $100 billion of research that has produced no significant results. Even with the benefit of hindsight, Gaffney refuses to concede that Reagan's infatuation with SDI was misguided or that the long list of skeptical scientists was correct after all." -From, "Prince Of Darkness: Richard Perle" By: Alan Weisman

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