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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Caspar Weinberger, 1987 [1]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Caspar Weinberger was the Secretary of Defense from 1981-1987. In the interview he discusses the Reagan Administrations’ national security policy. He explains the importance of having a strong offensive deterrent, which the Reagan Administration accomplished by rebuilding the triad of nuclear forces when they came into office. He also explains the research and development of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which he called the “ultimate deterrent.” He defends SDI from criticism and explains how it will protect national security. He asserts that the Reagan Administration has made many contributions to U.S. national security, including SDI, and a military build up that resulted in the Soviet Union taking the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) seriously, thus lowering the level of nuclear forces required to maintain deterrence.

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



Interview with Caspar Weinberger, 1987 [1]

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


Nuclear weapons
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
United States. Dept. of Defense
Nuclear disarmament
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Strategic Defense Initiative
Intermediate-range ballistic missiles
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Antinuclear movement
Soviet Union
Reagan, Ronald
United States
Nuclear arms control
Nuclear warfare
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Deterrence (Strategy)
United States. Congress
Washington, DC
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Weinberger, Caspar W. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Caspar Weinberger, 1987 [1],” 11/12/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Caspar Weinberger, 1987 [1].” 11/12/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Caspar Weinberger, 1987 [1]. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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