Your comment to my X51A thread below deserves its own answer.
The Cold War era is full of examples of weapons systems proposed as “purely defensive”, which the other side interpreted as a sinister attempt to get an unfair advantage and a nakedly aggressive act.
Anti-ballistic missile defense systems are a prime example, and one notable in that both sides tried to sneak it past the other, using the same pious “its only a defensive system” excuse. It is rubbish, of course. Any system that prevents the enemy from retaliating fully gives you an advantage if you initiate a first strike. When the Russians tried it, we put up a self-righteous howl and threat that eventually led to the ABM treaty both sides signed. Just a few years later, we started putting together Stars Wars, using the same hypocritical excuses the Russians had used when they tried to sneak their ABMs past us.
Other proposals, such as the entire MIRV concept, (particularly when installed on our retaliatory arsenal), the high precision “silo-buster” warhead, the lunatic idea of using submarine-launched MIRVed missiles to take out the USSR’s anti-aircraft defenses so our bombers could easily penetrate Soviet airspace, and so on, are all strategies designed to favor a first strike, even though they often weaken our own retaliatory capability by taking resources from it. It is no wonder the Russians considered them aggressive acts. Look up the mad ravings of Hermann Kahn, an influential “hawk” nuclear strategist of the 60s and 70s. It is said Kahn was the prototype of Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove character.
Of course, the Russkis weren’t exactly innocent of this sort of hypocrisy either. They constantly
attempted to get away with obstensibly “purely defensive” measures, such as the ABM and their vaunted Civil Defense program, which we correctly interpreted as shameless preparations to defend against a retaliatory defensive strike (hence, a preparation for an offensive first strike).
The Russians always justified it morally by claiming the USA had such extreme technical and financial advantages that they had no choice but to explore every strategy that might give them a response against the “imperialist aggressors”. Bullshit. They just had their own military industrial complex that needed to justify its budgets.
I worked on such a program myself, a system designed to take out Soviet deterrent capability, which made sense only as a follow-up to a sneak attack by us. You’ll have to take my word on that, I can’t give you any technical or strategic details on the system due to my security oath. But it cost me a lot of sleepless nights.
Still, you get paid good money, and you learn to love it, and you prefer the benefits to the fact your conscience may not only cost you your job, but prevent you from ever working in that field again. So you prostitute yourself.
I knew for a fact we had no intentions of starting a nuclear war, and I suspected the Russians had no such intention either. So what leads to this lunacy? Why do we insist on building weapons that do not add to our security, but only provoke our opponents to perceive us as dangerous aggressors who must be stopped at any cost, and that any countermeasures taken, no matter how destabilizing, are justified?
Institutions have a life of their own, they try to ensure their survival and growth, and they reward those who work there so that they find it in their interests to go along with it, even though they realize they are only helping make the apocalypse possible.