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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Norman Dicks, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Norman Dicks was a U.S. Representative from Washington from 1977-2013. He served on the House Appropriations Committee and was an official observer at US-Soviet arms reduction talks in the 1980s. In the interview he discusses the basing modes proposed by the Reagan administration as alternatives to MPS. He focuses on the opposition to Dense Pack and explains the reasoning behind accepting MX missiles in fixed silos. He argues in favor of MX because they are already paid for, and provide effective deterrence based on their ability to easily target important Soviet military objectives. He also argues for the long-term plan of relying on small mobile missiles for stability since this would require one or two warheads to destroy them, which would reduce the enemy’s incentive to attack. He describes the bitter congressional debates over ICBM modernization, and the deal struck with the Reagan administration to pursue serious arms control. In connection with the nuclear freeze movement, he comments on the Democratic Party’s rejection of a unilateral freeze for the US, which he asserts will bring more balanced mutual reductions. Finally, Rep. Dicks draws several lessons from the MX experience, including the need for bipartisanship and long-term thinking.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Reagan's Shield
Program Number



Interview with Norman Dicks, 1987

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

President Reagan introduces the controversial Strategic Defense Initiative, an idea he believes will make nuclear weapons”Impotent and Obsolete.”

In 1983 President Reagan envisioned a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) that could intercept and destroy Soviet strategic ballistic missiles before they reached the United States. Skeptics dubbed the idea “Star Wars.” It was hard for Reagan to accept the idea of deterrence based on mutual destruction. He believed SDI offered a solution. His science advisor George Keyworth says SDI was “thoroughly created and invented in Ronald Reagan’s own mind and experience.” According to defense scientist Ashton Carter, “The concept is fine. What is not fine is implying to the public that the solution to the nuclear puzzle is at hand.” SDI became the focus of a national debate about nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy, and a stumbling block in strategic arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. The final months of the Reagan Administration brought a drastic reduction in the scope and size of SDI efforts.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Midgetman Missile
Weinberger, Caspar W.
Shultz, George Pratt, 1920-
United States. Congress. Senate
Soviet Union
Brown, Harold, 1927-
Gore, Albert, 1948-
Wilson, Pete, 1933-
Vance, Cyrus R. (Cyrus Roberts), 1917-2002
Reagan, Ronald
United States
Brzezinski, Zbigniew, 1928-
Dellums, Ronald V., 1935-
Nuclear weapons
United States. Congress
United States. Congress. House
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Clifford, Clark M., 1906-1998
Jackson, Henry M. (Henry Martin), 1912-1983
Addabbo, Joseph Patrick, 1925-1986
Aspin, Les
Laxalt, Paul
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Nuclear arms control
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Scowcroft, Brent
MX (Weapons system)
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Perle, Richard Norman, 1941-
Democratic Party (U.S.)
Nitze, Paul H.
Jones, David C., 1921-
Townes, Charles H.
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Dicks, Norman D. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Norman Dicks, 1987,” 12/03/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Norman Dicks, 1987.” 12/03/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Norman Dicks, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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