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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Ashton Carter, 1987 [2]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Ashton Carter was a Defense Department Consultant and a co-author of a 1984 study on the feasibility of a missile defense shield. In this interview, he begins by discussing the Office of Technology Assessment study he undertook, summarizing its conclusions and recalling its hostile reception by parts of the Defense Department. This leads to a lengthy discussion of SDI as a concept, its impact, several of its technical aspects, and a consideration of why it might at least be worth conducting basic research along similar lines. He acknowledges the difficulty of concluding, as he does, that the United States is unavoidably vulnerable to destruction, and he evinces some sympathy for President Reagan for having the desire to propound a different approach. Yet, he continues to believe that SDI was at heart a false hope.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
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Interview with Ashton Carter, 1987 [2]

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

Does the United States really plan to use nuclear weapons? Or is their only purpose to deter others from using them? These questions fuel debate over the Mobile Missile known as the MX.

The MX was designed in 1975 to counter the threat of large accurate missiles being bult in the Soviet Union. General Russell Dougherty of the Strategic Air Command recalls, “We had to have some more warheads ... with more accuracy. That was the rational for ... the MX.” It faced ten years of difficult questions in Congress, withing the military and from civilians. Was the missile meant to deter a Soviet attack or to survive one? One question led to another. There was one practical question: where to put the 200,000 pound 100 foot long missiles? In 1983 Congress approved production of 100 MX Peacekeeper missiles and based the first 50 in existing Minuteman silos.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


United States
Nuclear weapons
United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment
Reagan, Ronald
Strategic Defense Initiative
United States. Dept. of Defense
Soviet Union
Nuclear warfare
Cambridge, MA
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Carter, Ashton B. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Ashton Carter, 1987 [2],” 11/09/1987, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed March 26, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_3E5DD3EE9EED4D66ABC34770FAC50602.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Ashton Carter, 1987 [2].” 11/09/1987. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. March 26, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_3E5DD3EE9EED4D66ABC34770FAC50602>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Ashton Carter, 1987 [2]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_3E5DD3EE9EED4D66ABC34770FAC50602
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