War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Robert Bowie, 1986
Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.
Robert Bowie was the Chairman of the Policy Planning Staff, U.S. State Department, from 1953-1957. In the interview he describes the evolution of NATO and U.S. defense strategy in the 1950s and early 1960s. His discussion of U.S. policy focuses in part on what came to be known as the New Look, introduced in 1953. He also discusses the consideration to use nuclear weapons to defend a Europe that the Europeans couldnt and the Americans wouldnt defend with conventional forces. He describes Secretary of State Dulles speech on massive retaliation policy in January 1954. That policy, he says, was never intended for local wars, like Korea or Vietnam, nor was it as simple as most people think now, incorporating both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons to provide mobility and flexibility in devising responses to Soviet aggression. He offers background to Eisenhowers thinking on strategy, including his determination not to involve American troops in another land war in Asia. On a related point, he expresses doubt that Dulles ever offered to the French to use nuclear weapons at Dien Bien Phu. His discussion of NATO policy starts in 1950, when European NATO members insisted on having American troops deployed in Europe to serve as a stronger deterrent than just the promise of troops should Europe need them. The credibility of the American deterrent is another topic Mr. Bowie deals with in the interview, including the Norstad proposal for a NATO nuclear force. In addition, he comments on the subject of deploying tactical nuclear weapons for defense of the continent. He also discusses at length the Multilateral Force (MLF) plan, which was formulated in 1960, in an attempt to solve the problem of Europes dependence on and lack of control over U.S. military strength. This approach helped to mitigate the German sense of being treated as second-class in comparison to the British and French, who were developing their own national nuclear forces. The MLF did have the drawback of requiring the absolute consensus of all NATO nations for any retaliatory action. Mr. Bowie adds that the plan was essentially derailed when Secretary of Defense McNamara canceled the Skybolt missile program between the U.S. and British, which led to President Kennedys offer of Polaris missiles as a replacement, ultimately giving the British a stronger national capability but also undermining the MLF concept.
- War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
- Bigger Bang for the Buck, A
- Program Number
Interview with Robert Bowie, 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
For the destructive power they deliver, nuclear weapons are cheap and efficient. In the 1950’s the United States begins to rely on nuclear, rather than conventional, weapons for its defense.
As nuclear policy evolved during the Eisenhower Administration, three factors combined to produce a new American reliance on nuclear weapons: pressure to control the federal budget (the “bigger bang” argument); competition as each branch of the American military adapted nuclear weapons to its mission; and Soviet bluffs that fueled American fears about a “bomber gap” and later a “missile gap.” On October 4, 1957, Sputnik, the Soviet satellite that was the first to orbit Earth, shocked Americans and delighted the Soviets. A month later, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2 with a dog on board. Both the Soviets and the Americans knew that a booster capable of carrying a dog into space could also deliver a nuclear warhead across a continent in 30 minutes.
- Asset Type
- Media Type
- Dulles, John Foster, 1888-1959
- Herter, Christian Archibald, 1895-1966
- Gaulle, Charles de, 1890-1970
- Great Britain
- Polaris (Missile)
- McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
- United States
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975
- Norstad, Lauris, 1907-1988
- Nuclear weapons
- Massive retaliation (Nuclear strategy)
- Multilateral force (Nuclear strategy)
- Macmillan, Harold, 1894-1986
- Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971
- Geneva Conference (1954)
- North Atlantic Treaty Organization
- Radford, Arthur William
- Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
- German rearmament
- Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
- Thorneycroft, Peter
- International relations
- United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Dien Bien Phu, Battle of, Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, 1954
- Korean War, 1950-1953
- Soviet Union
- Washington, DC
- Global Affairs
- War and Conflict
- Bowie, Robert R. (Robert Richardson), 1909- (Interviewee)
- Publication Information
- WGBH Educational Foundation
- Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Robert Bowie, 1986,” 12/12/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_542CFBDA69FB40E98CF8D5DE60938016.
- MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Robert Bowie, 1986.” 12/12/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_542CFBDA69FB40E98CF8D5DE60938016>.
- APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Robert Bowie, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_542CFBDA69FB40E98CF8D5DE60938016