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

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Jake Garn was a U.S. Senator from Utah from 1974-1993. In the interview he notes that he did not oppose deploying the MX missile in Utah, but did believe that the “racetrack” basing mode was not survivable because the Soviets had enough warheads to take out the decoy and actual missile silos. He also argues that SALT II was not a successful arms control treaty because it only limited the number of launchers, rather than the number of lethal warheads. He discusses the political position of western states, where the federal government owns a majority of the land, which in his view results in those states’ wishes being disregarded in the face of federal priorities. Senator Garn emphasizes that he does not oppose the MX missile system, or any of the proposed missiles, only the basing mode, which he argues should not have money wasted on it. He notes the difficulty in arguing with opponents of missile systems, when decisions are based on emotions, and he cannot respond with facts at his disposal because they are classified. He also defends his delayed opposition to the MX missile system, as proposed with the basing mode, saying that he not only opposed it on principle, but also took time to read the fine print and deliberate the facts. He credits himself and Senator Paul Laxalt with killing the racetrack basing mode, and notes that despite the great impact of the Mormon Church in Utah, it’s influence did not reach Washington, D.C.

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



Interview with Jake Garn, 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


Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Nuclear arms control
Reagan, Ronald
Mormon Church
Political campaigns
Hecker, Guy L.
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
MX (Weapons system)
Nuclear survivability
United States. Air Force
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Nuclear weapons
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1987 December 8
Midgetman Missile
Soviet Union
Van Cleave, William R.
Farley, Frances
United States. Congress
Laxalt, Paul
United States
United States. President’s Commission on Strategic Forces
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Garn, Jake (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Jake Garn, 1987,” 12/03/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Jake Garn, 1987.” 12/03/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Jake Garn, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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