When the who’s who of missile defense mavens gathered for a gala in Washington last year, there was a palpable aura of triumph. Twenty-five years earlier, with much fanfare, President Ronald Reagan had announced the Strategic Defense Initiative. The political right embraced SDI as a heroic plan, akin to Apollo or the Manhattan Project, that could make nuclear warfare obsolete. The left ridiculed SDI as Star Wars and derided the endeavor as chimerical at best, wasteful and dangerous at ...

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