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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Michael Mawby, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Michael Mawby was Assistant Director of SANE. In the interview he describes his participation in the fight against deployment of the MX missile system, an issue that began as a local concern for people living in Utah and Nevada, where the missiles were going to be based. However, once those states campaigned enough to change the strategic plan, the issue rose to the national level. Mr. Mawby then describes the extensive lobbying efforts to cancel the MX system altogether, as well as the fight in the House of Representatives, which began to consume members to such an extent that they tried to avoid discussing the issue at all during visits to their home districts. Key freeze supporters like Les Aspin and Norman Dicks, he comments, created public confusion over their decision to back the basing policy. He analyzes a compromise that has passed both the House and the Senate, which would permanently cap the number of MX Missiles at 50.

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



Interview with Michael Mawby, 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

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


Kampelman, Max M., 1920-2013
United States. Congress
Mormon Church
MX (Weapons system)
Garn, Jake
Dicks, Norman D.
United States. Air Force
Nuclear weapons
United States
Colby, William Egan, 1920-1996
United States. Congress. House
Antinuclear movements
Nunn, Sam
Turner, Stansfield, 1923-
Aspin, Les
United States. President’s Commission on Strategic Forces
Peace movements
Nuclear arms control
Reagan, Ronald
Brown, Harold, 1927-
Farley, Frances
Common Cause (U.S.)
Hecker, Guy L.
United States. Congress. Senate
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Mawby, Michael (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Michael Mawby, 1987,” 12/04/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Michael Mawby, 1987.” 12/04/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Michael Mawby, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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