Remarks at a White House Briefing for Supporters of the Strategic Defense Initiative
you very much, and greetings to Secretary Weinberger and General Abrahamson. I
hope you haven't said everything I'm going to say. I'm grateful to have this
opportunity to speak with you and to thank you for all you're doing to keep
There are three stages of reaction to any new idea, as Arthur C. Clarke, a brilliant writer with a fine scientific mind, once noted. First, ``It's crazy; don't waste my time.'' Second, ``It's possible, but it's not worth doing.'' And finally, ``I always said it was a good idea.'' [Laughter] When I notice how much support tax simplification seems to have attracted as of late, I can't help but think of Clarke's observation. Well, one sometimes has to live with opposition to proposals such as changing the tax code, but when the same kind of skepticism stands in the way of the national security of our country, it can be perilous. Clearly, intelligent and well-meaning individuals can be trapped by a mindset, a way of thinking that prevents them from seeing beyond what has already been done and makes them uncomfortable with what is unfamiliar. And this mindset is perhaps our greatest obstacle in regard to SDI.
at a critical point now on national security issues, and we need your help.
Many of our citizens are still unaware that today we are absolutely defenseless
against the fastest, most destructive weapons man has ever created: ballistic
missiles. Yet there are still those who want to cut off, or severely cut back,
our ability to investigate the feasibility of such defenses. Congressional
action on the defense authorization bill is coinciding with increasing
diplomatic activity with the
in 1983 I challenged
people believe the answer lies not in SDI, but only in reaching arms control
agreements. Trust and understanding alone, it is said, will lead to arms
control. But let's not kid ourselves, it's realism,
not just trust, that is going to make it possible for adversaries like the
There has been progress. There's a serious prospect today for arms reductions, not just arms control; and that by itself is a great change. And it can be traced to our Strategic Defense Initiative. SDI can take the profit out of the Soviet buildup of offensive weapons and, in time, open new opportunities by building on today's and tomorrow's technologies. I say this fully aware of the Soviet campaign to convince the world that terminating our SDI program is a prerequisite to any arms agreement. This clamoring is nothing new. It also has preceded steps we've taken to modernize our strategic forces. It was especially loud, for example, as we moved to offset the unprovoked and unacceptable Soviet buildup of intermediate-range missiles aimed at our allies by deploying our Pershing II's and cruise missiles. When I made it clear that we would no longer base our strategic force decisions on the flawed SALT treaties -- and let me add that that action was taken when there was ample evidence that the Soviet Union was already in clear violation of key SALT provisions -- the cry went up that it was the death knell of arms control and the beginning of a new, even more destructive nuclear arms race. Well, let me just point out, in case no one noticed, the naysayers' predictions have been about as accurate as the time my old boss, Harry Warner, of Warner Brothers film company, said when sound films first came in, ``Who the hell wants to hear an actor talk?'' [Laughter]
today we continue to negotiate with the Soviets, and they're negotiating with
us. In fact, their recent proposals -- in stark contrast to those gloomy
predictions -- are somewhat more forthcoming than those of the past. We're
giving serious consideration to what the Soviets have recently laid upon the
table in response to our own concrete reduction proposals. Also, we're looking
toward the next summit between General Secretary Gorbachev and me, as we agreed upon last November, where nuclear arms
reduction will be one of several significant issues to be discussed.
Forecasting is not useful, but let me just say again: I am optimistic. It is
demonstrably in the interest of both our countries to reduce the resources that
we commit to weapons. If the
for SDI, let me again affirm, we are willing to explore how to share its
benefits with the
Many of the vocal opponents of SDI, some of them with impressive scientific credentials, claim our goal is impossible; it can't be done, they say. Well, I think it's becoming increasingly apparent to everyone that those claiming it can't be done have clouded vision. Sometimes smoke gets in your eyes, and sometimes politics gets in your eyes. If this project is as big a waste of time and money as some have claimed, why have the Soviets been involved in strategic defense themselves for so long, and why are they so anxious that we stop?
I understand that General Abrahamson has already briefed you on the progress we've made. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the general and his team. They're all first string and doing a terrific job. Jack Swigert, an astronaut, an American hero of the first order -- well, I think I'm getting ahead of myself there. I should continue with what I was saying and say that I'm more than happy with the strides made in our ability to track and intercept missiles before they reach their targets. The goal we seek is a system that can intercept deadly ballistic missiles in all phases of their flight, including, and in particular, the boost phase -- right where they're coming out of the silos. Our research is aimed at finding a way of protecting people, not missiles. And that's my highest priority and will remain so. And to accomplish this, we're proceeding as fast as we can toward developing a full range of promising technologies. I know there are those who are getting a bit antsy, but to deploy systems of limited effectiveness now would deter limited funds and -- or divert them -- and delay our main research. It could well erode support for the program before it's permitted to reach its potential.
I'll talk about Jack Swigert, an astronaut, an
American hero of the first order, who once said, ``I was privileged to be one
of the few who viewed our Earth from the Moon, and that vision taught me that
technology and commitment can overcome any challenge.'' Well, Jack tragically
died of cancer and was cut short from the great contributions he would have
made to his country and to mankind. He was the kind of individual who made this
the great land of freedom and enterprise that it is. His can-do spirit is alive
and well in
We and the other free people of the world are on the edge of a giant leap into the next century. That turning point in 13\1/2\ years, will not only mark the end of a century but the beginning of a new millennium, and the free people of the world are ready for it. Our research on effective defenses helps to point the way to a safer future. The best minds from some allied countries are already working with us in this noble endeavor, and we believe that others will join this effort before too long. In SDI, as elsewhere, we've put technology that almost boggles the mind to work, increasing our productivity and expanding the limits of human potential. The relationship between freedom and human progress has never been more apparent.
our freedom and security, as we are sorely aware, depend on more than
technology. Both diplomacy and our internal debate are at a critical juncture,
and your active support is imperative. Together, we must make it plain that
this is the worst time to undermine vital defense programs and take away
one last little incident, if you aren't aware of it already, that might be
helpful to you and some people that you might be discussing this subject with.
I want to thank you all again for all you are doing to keep our country out in front, to keep her secure and free, and don't let up. And God bless you. I'll just leave you with this thought, once again: When the time has come and the research is complete, yes, we're going to deploy.
Note: The President spoke at in Room 450 of the