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

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Nicholas Mavroules was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts from 1979-1992. In the interview he focuses on his efforts to cancel the MX Missile program, and his support of the Midgetman program. He argues that, despite what the Air Force says publicly, the MX is a first-strike weapon, a fundamentally destabilizing strategic option in which the country should not invest. He explains the benefits of the Midgetman as a mobile, accurate, and therefore effective deterrent; it is also much cheaper than the MX. He describes the sometimes bitter congressional debate over the issues, commenting that moderate Democrats like Les Aspin and Norman Dicks “were suckered” by the Reagan administration, which initially helped the MX program pass the house. He also briefly addresses questions about European perceptions, the need for a first-strike capability, the window of vulnerability, and related issues.

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



Interview with Nicholas Mavroules, 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


United States
Closely-spaced basing (Nuclear basing mode)
Midgetman Missile
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Antinuclear movement
Dicks, Norman D.
United States. President’s Commission on Strategic Forces
Aspin, Les
MX (Weapons system)
Weinberger, Caspar W.
Wilson, Pete, 1933-
United States. Congress
Reagan, Ronald
Nuclear arms control
Nuclear weapons
United States. Air Force
Common Cause (U.S.)
Soviet Union
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Mavroules, Nicholas (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Nicholas Mavroules, 1987,” 12/15/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Nicholas Mavroules, 1987.” 12/15/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Nicholas Mavroules, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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