Regarding Jonathan Rosenbaum’s review of Star Wars [January 31]:

Jonathan states that Ronald Reagan named a weapons program after this movie. This is inaccurate. The Reagan administration proposed an anti-ballistic missile defense program called the “Strategic Defense Initiative” or “SDI” for short. In mockery, the opponents of this program in Congress and the press dubbed it a “Star Wars” program, because the technology involved sounded too advanced to be real, as far as they were concerned. Reagan would visibly bristle at the use of this nickname during interviews.

As for it being a program of “mass annihilation,” as Rosenbaum puts it, I must say that I find it difficult to follow his line of reasoning. Wouldn’t allowing a missile to hit New York and vaporizing its seven million inhabitants be a lot more destructive than shooting the missile down? To be sure, if one intercepted the old Soviet missile fleet en route to the United States, this would entail the destruction of a great many ICBMs, but I don’t think that this is what people have in mind when they refer to the horrors of war. Not unless they’ve developed a real emotional attachment to hardware.

Yours in bewilderment,

Joseph B. Dunphy


Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:

My apologies for misconstruing the source of the term “Star Wars” in reference to the so-called Strategic Defense Initiative. But I think Mr. Dunphy is much too trusting in assuming that New York (as opposed to, say, Baghdad) was ever in serious danger of being attacked, or that the SDI wasn’t what its opponents always claimed it was–a program whose fundamental purpose was to grant this country a first-strike capacity.