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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Georges Seguy, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Georges Seguy was the Secretary of the General Confederation of Labour, a French national trade union center, from 1967-1982. Discussing De Gaulle's announcement of France's acquisition of a bomb and the great national debate that followed, he declares that while the left in general was divided on the issue, Mr. Seguy believes the development was "not a positive fact" because it brought the country into the international arms race. But while the population opposed De Gaulle on economic and social issues, they tended to support him on defense. Mr. Seguy recalls the period after World War II and the objectives and views of the French communist party at that time. As a member himself, he denies as absurd the allegation that Moscow provided direction to the party. He apportions blame to both sides in the Cold War for the period of tensions that followed the war. In his view, the atomic bomb is primarily a political weapon and he believes its use on Japan was not necessary.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Education of Robert McNamara, The
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Interview with Georges Seguy, 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.”



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Raw video

Media Type


Nuclear disarmament
Mitterrand, Francois, 1916-1996
Parti communiste francais
Nagasaki-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955
Gaulle, Charles de, 1890-1970
Stalin, Joseph, 1879-1953
Peace movements
Strategic Defense Initiative
World War II
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Nuclear nonproliferation
Summit meetings--Iceland--Reykjavik
Soviet Union
United States
Warfare, Conventional
Nuclear warfare
German rearmament
Nuclear weapons
Reagan, Ronald
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Seguy, Georges, 1927- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Georges Seguy, 1986,” 05/11/1986, GBH Archives, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Georges Seguy, 1986.” 05/11/1986. GBH Archives. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Georges Seguy, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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