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The Role of Congress in the Strategic Posture of the United States, 1980

1990--Force Modernization and SDI, Missile Defense, Star Wars, Nuclear Weapons and War, Reagan and Bush, START, INF Treaties


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This excellent report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. This is the third in a series of three papers to examine the role of Congress in the development of the doctrinal and material strategic posture of the United States over the three decades of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. This paper examines the role of the 97th through 102nd Congresses, covering the period 1980-1990, the last decade of the Cold War, and corresponding to the administration of President Ronald Reagan and the first part of the administration of President George H.W. Bush.As explained at length in the first paper, the role of Congress in building the U.S. strategic posture is underappreciated by both historians and policymakers. Congress is especially underestimated as regards its ability to influence the intellectual direction of the strategic posture by adopting and implementing theories and doctrines that guide development of strategic forces and plans for their employment. Yet the congressional record is a rich resource, not least for being unclassified and providing meticulous detail on debates and the thinking of the Congress, presidential administrations, and the armed services on the ideas and concerns that shaped the U.S. strategic posture. This resource is underutilized by historians of U.S. strategic policy. This paper is a modest attempt to illuminate and correct the record on the role of Congress in the making of the strategic posture. It is primarily an intellectual history on how the ideas and thinking prevalent in Congress affected plans and programs that became the material capabilities, and limitations, of the U.S. strategic posture. For this purpose, the paper shall draw heavily from the congressional record, letting the actors speak for themselves as much as possible, to demonstrate the richness of this resource, and because it is the best way to tell the story.First, contrary to views popularized by critics in Congress, the press, and academia, the strategic posture favored by the Reagan administration and its allies in Congress—that included not only Republicans but also a number of Democrats—was not a radical departure from that of the Carter administration with regard to offensive nuclear forces and their strategic rationale. Reagan administration strategic offensive programs and their purposes were largely continued from the Carter administration, but with more success because of a more supportive Congress.

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The Role of Congress in the Strategic Posture of the United States, 1980
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