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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Brent Scowcroft, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Brent Scowcroft was the U.S. National Security Advisor for President Gerald Ford (and later President George H.W. Bush), and served as Chairman of the presidential Commission on Strategic Forces, which recommended basing MX missiles in Minuteman silos. Here, he describes the Commission as way to overcome an impasse with Congress over how to deploy a new ICBM force, a challenge made more difficult by the sheer number of proposals from various quarters, each of which was flawed in certain ways. He provides details about the Commission’s goals and workings, including his interactions with Congress and the role of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He discusses concepts like survivability and window of vulnerability, the conduct of arms control, his differences with President Reagan over strategy, and his views on developments such as Reagan’s “mistake” in canceling the Multiple Protective Shelter system. He also offers his opinions on the uses of ICBMs and the Midgetman missile.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
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Interview with Brent Scowcroft, 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

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


Midgetman Missile
United States
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Townes Commission
Nuclear weapons
United States. President’s Commission on Strategic Forces
Nuclear arms control
Ford, Gerald R., 1913-2006
Reagan, Ronald
First strike (Nuclear strategy)
United States. Congress
Minuteman (Missile)
Nuclear survivability
United States. Dept. of Defense
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Dicks, Norman D.
Intercontinental ballistic missiles -- Mobile basing
Strategic Defense Initiative
Weinberger, Caspar W.
Summit meetings--Iceland--Reykjavik
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
MX (Weapons system)
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Clark, William Patrick, 1931-
Soviet Union
Aspin, Les
United States. Air Force
Multiple Protective Structures (Missile basing system)
Deterrence (Strategy)
McFarlane, Robert C.
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Scowcroft, Brent (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Brent Scowcroft, 1987,” 11/30/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Brent Scowcroft, 1987.” 11/30/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Brent Scowcroft, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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