Case 1: Great Promise
Suppose that in the next few years the current R&D program shows that there is a substantial possibility of eventually building a strategic defense that would be reliable; survivable; cost-effective (even in the light of the currently foreseeable chain of responses and counterresponses); and on top of all that, leakproof, or very nearly so. If a majority of researchers and key political leaders become convinced of its ultimate feasibility, the resulting course of action is easy to imagine. The United States would, and probably should, go ahead with an accelerated effort, arguments about transition problems and costs notwithstanding. Even in this case (one seen as extremely unlikely by well-informed analysts), the political authorities would still be well advised to make no other changes in strategic policy until it becomes completely clear that this wondrous
outcome could be achieved soon. This admonition applies equally to U.S. arms-control efforts, alliance arrangements, and plans for modernizing the strategic forces—assuming, of course, that these policies are all currently correct as they stand. To the extent that the remainder of U.S. strategic policies make sense now, they will continue to do so for at least the foreseeable future and should not be substantially changed on the basis of a very improbable, even if highly desirable, outcome for SDI. Even if the researchers' most optimistic expectations are fulfilled, developing and deploying a multilayered defense will take decades. In the interim, it would be most imprudent to behave as though the outcome were a foregone conclusion.