Ahead of New Star Wars Film — A Look Back At ‘Star Wars’ The Missile Defense System

“What Reagan envisioned were orbital laser platforms shooting down missiles as they were flying through space.”

Jake Neher/WDET

Lately on Thursdays, Detroit Today has been talking about issues that used to dominate news headlines but have sort of fizzled out over the years. The upcoming release of the latest Star Wars film inspired a discussion about the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). 

SDI, commonly referred to us “Star Wars,” was championed by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. At the tail end of the Cold War, the United States was seeking a defensive advantage in the event of a Soviet missile attack. 

Peter Trumbore, associate professor of political science and an expert in foreign policy and national security at Oakland University, joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to revisit the “Star Wars” defense system. 

According to Trumbore, SDI was proposed at a time when Cold War tensions had heightened between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. 

“(President Reagan) believed that if it was possible to protect the United States from a Soviet first strike, then that would be better for everyone,” he says. 

Trumbore calls the proposed SDI plan “technologically fanciful.”

“What Reagan envisioned were orbital laser platforms shooting down missiles as they were flying through space,” he says.

“Not only was the technology beyond anything that we would have been capable of in the 1980s, or even are capable of now, but it was understood by a lot of folks, including the Soviets, that a functional missile defense system increasing security would fundamentally de-stabilize the nuclear balance between the two countries.” 

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation. 


  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.