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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Francois de Rose, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Francois de Rose was France's Ambassador to NATO from 1970-1975. He discusses the influences on the French government leading to pursuit of the bomb. These centered around the notion of national self-confidence and grew out of France's defeat in 1940 and a sense of rivalry with Britain, among other reasons. He relates President de Gaulle's active steps toward developing an atomic weapon and his parallel pursuit of a veto over an American decision to use the bomb. In his view, the desire to be independent of the United States was paramount for de Gaulle. Mr. de Rose does not think there was any outright hostility between the two governments but believes that Kennedy resented France's steps more than Eisenhower did. France did not have any misgivings over Nixon's détente policies with the USSR, he says, especially since tactical weapons were not part of the SALT process. He notes the importance of the Ottawa Declaration in reasserting the unity of the alliance on defense matters.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Education of Robert McNamara, The
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Interview with Francois de Rose, 1986

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

In the 1960’s Secretary of Defense Robert Mcnamara confronts the possibility of nuclear war and changes his views on questions of strategy and survival.

McNamara was Secretary of Defense for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961 to 1968. By the 1960’s the Soviets’ increased nuclear capabilities raised disturbing questions. What would the United States do if attacked? American strategy had been “massive retaliation.” But, as McNamara explains, it became increasingly apparent to the Soviets that the US was unlikely to respond. If the United States did launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, the remaining Soviet forces would destroy the US. McNamara’s Defense Department developed a new strategy. “Flexible response” was based on a “ladder of escalation” from conventional to nuclear options. But by 1967, McNamara, who tried to create rules for limited nuclear war, concluded, “The blunt fact is that neither... can attack the other without being destroyed in retaliation. And it is precisely this ... that provides us both with the strongest possible motives to avoid a nuclear war.”



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


International relations
Tactical nuclear weapons
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Gaulle, Charles de, 1890-1970
Nuclear weapons
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Hydrogen bomb
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
United States
Soviet Union
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Macmillan, Harold, 1894-1986
Nuclear arms control
Strauss, Franz Josef, 1915-1988
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
Great Britain
Nuclear energy
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Rose, Francois de, 1910- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Francois de Rose, 1986,” 11/03/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Francois de Rose, 1986.” 11/03/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Francois de Rose, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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