The Star Wars program and the Cold War. With May 4th coming up, AKA Star Wars Day (because it sounds a bit like may the force be with you),we felt it only well and good that we should in some way pay homage to this formerly great, and laterally not so great franchise.
Deciding against moving into the whole movie review gig, we instead take a look at one of the stranger parts of the end of the Cold War, the so called Star Wars Program.
What was the Star Wars Program and was it inspired by the movie?
OK, so good to clear this one up right way, there was no program officially called the “Star Wars Program”, It was actually called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The SDI was announced by President Reagan in 1983, right when the world was gripped into a Star Wars frenzy. The plan involved not only space ships, but satellites and both ground and space based lasers. It was inevitable at the time that the press would dub it the Star Wars Program.
What was the point of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)?
In quite simple terms it was an envisaged program both land and spaced based to intercept Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM’s) during any nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. Using as of the time technology that did not yet exist. Said missiles would duly be stopped in their tracks before hitting Uncle Sam.
There were a myriad of ways this would be achieved, with as well as the aforementioned ground and space based lasers, also included radar and ground based missiles to protect American nuclear weapon silos.
The pro-camp for the Star Wars Program
When first announced not just congress, but the American people were pretty gung-ho about the whole thing. Undoubtedly spurred on by the excitement of watching Luke Skywalker bring down Darth Vadar. It was also believed that such a program would deter the pesky Russians from launching any form of Nuclear attack.
The anti-Star Wars Camp and the end of the program
By anti-Star Wars Camp, we are not talking about Trekkies, that is a whole other ball game. By the mid 80’s US politicians became worried about the cost and effectiveness of a program that was in essence still absolutely theoretical. None of the technology had been proven, but also other things were occurring.
Gorbachev had become paramount leader of the USSR and various arms-control treaties had been agreed. Launching an aggressive space program at this time was seen as an escalation of the arms race, quite the opposite of what many people were trying to achieve.
The project limped on until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, by which time there really was no point in during billions of dollars into the project. Ironically it was not until Trump was elected that an American Space force came into being. Although where that now site under the Biden regime remains to be seen.
From a more amusing point of view check out the Steve Carrel and John Malkovich based Space Force.
How much was the Strategic Defense Initiative influenced by Star Wars?
This is s subject very much open to different opinions, but there are simply too many similarities in how it was presented and indeed the timing of the program to be ignored.
In the early 80’s America was obsessed with two things, Star Wars and the threat of impending doom through nuclear warfare. Regan was a hawkish Republican who wanted to increase US military capability and spending. He had also dubbed the Soviet Union, the Evil Empire.
OK, so quick check on the Star Wars plot, the good guys are threatened with destruction by a weapon of mass destruction, literally ran by an Evil Empire. Not metaphorically, but literally. Few would argue that Emperor Palpatine was a bit of a dick.
Long story short and spoiler alert, but he good guys win and peace is restored to the galaxy. Well restored for 30 years, before the sequels basically pissed on the original 3 films. I digress.
Quite how much Reagan was inspired by Star Wars the movie no one quite knows, but the prospect of space ships and lasers, so quickly after the biggest movies of all time certainly got the publics attention. Without them many surmise that the program would likely have been doomed to failure, which of course it was in the end, bur rather doomed from the start.
And the press ran with it, one politician nicknamed the program Star Wars and within days cartoonists had Reagan sitting with C3PO and R2D2 in the White House, all great fun.
Did George Lucas and the Star Wars Program end the Cold War?
There are many reasons for the fall of the Soviet Union, the Gorbachev pizza add not being one of them.
To read about the Gorbachev Pizza Add click here.
The Soviet Union though was in severe economic dire straits, this was in part what led to glasnost, perestroika and the fall of the USSR. The Soviet Union were so skint they even had to pay for their Pepsi with war ships.
To read about how Pepsi had one of the biggest navies in the world click here.
They simply knew they could not afford to keep up economically in a space arms race with the USA. So, going by this metric IF Reagan was inspired by Star Wars (the movie) to start the Star Wars Program and IF fear of the Star Wars Program pushed Gorbachev to “open up” the USSR, thus leading to its collapse, then yes George Lucas did indeed end the Cold War.
We do not currently visit Tattoine, or Space, but we do run a lot of tours to the old Evil Empire, click here for more details.
May the 4th be with you.