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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with George Keyworth, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


George Keyworth was Science Adviser to President Reagan from 1981-1985. He begins the interview with a discussion of the Soviet focus on rocketry and a description of his notion that there have been two essential chapters in the nuclear age: a period of counter-value deterrence followed by a counter-force age involving targeting silos instead of cities. The latter, he says, has led to the concept of a window of vulnerability based on the prospect of one side seeing an advantage to launching first. Dr. Keyworth briefly describes the Reagan administration’s early thinking about restoring a commitment to national security and particularly to nuclear stability, then compares it with Jimmy Carter’s conceptions. He says the current administration is not resistant to arms control, but sees it as just one of several tools for maintaining security. He denies that survivability has ever been a goal for Reagan, and that the point has always been prevention. The rest of the interview focuses in depth on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) – its origins and objectives, initial reactions to it inside the government, criticisms, and various technical aspects of the program. He believes the Reagan period will be seen as one of reversing the erosion of stability, and he has no doubt that SDI will survive if a Democrat enters the White House.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
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Interview with George Keyworth, 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.



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Raw video

Media Type


Wallop, Malcolm
Counterforce (Nuclear strategy)
United States. Dept. of Defense
United States. Dept. of State
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Nuclear weapons
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Reagan, Ronald
Soviet Union
United States. Congress
Strategic Defense Initiative
Weinberger, Caspar W.
United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment
Nuclear arms control
Civil defense
United States
Antimissile missiles
American Physical Society
Abrahamson, James A.
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Keyworth, George A., 1939- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with George Keyworth, 1987,” 11/30/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with George Keyworth, 1987.” 11/30/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with George Keyworth, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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