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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Albert Carnesale, 1988

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Albert Carnesale served on the U.S. delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) and led the delegation to the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation (INFCE). In this second interview, he focuses on the Reagan administration, beginning with its reassessments of the security picture upon entering office. He takes issue with some of the administration's assumptions, such as the notion of superiority. He discusses the growth of interest in missile defense in the early 1980s, then turns to a lengthy treatment of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) – the political environment that led to the 1983 speech, what the speech was trying to express, and why the Soviets were so opposed to the concept. He believes SDI has been an obstacle to significant arms reductions but thinks it will survive the Reagan presidency. He ends with a discussion of how Reagan's outlook on nuclear matters changed over time, and a commentary on the president's legacy, which will primarily be tied to the rise of conservatism, with its important implications for security.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
Program Number



Interview with Albert Carnesale, 1988

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.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Nuclear arms control
Antinuclear movement
Summit meetings--Iceland--Reykjavik
United States
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
Weinberger, Caspar W.
Strategic Defense Initiative
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Reagan, Ronald
United States. Congress
United States. Dept. of Defense
Soviet Union
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Civil defense
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Antimissile missiles
Nuclear weapons
Cambridge, MA
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Carnesale, Albert (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Albert Carnesale, 1988,” 11/03/1988, GBH Archives, accessed June 19, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Albert Carnesale, 1988.” 11/03/1988. GBH Archives. Web. June 19, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Albert Carnesale, 1988. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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