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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Mordekhai Gur, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Mordekhai Gur was a military officer who served as Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from 1974-1978, then became a member of the Knesset. He discusses his thinking about nuclear issues in the Middle East. He asks rhetorically whether Israel can trust the balance of terror to protect it from attack, pointing to “crazy” Arab leaders like Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein. If Israel chose to use such weapons first, in his opinion, it could raise significant problems, which is why Israel’s policy is not to do so. He points to the 1981 strike against the Iraqi nuclear reactor as a complex and widely debated issue that was resolved only when there was “no doubt” that Baghdad was about to use the facility to produce weapons. He explains why Moshe Dayan’s proposal for utilizing a mix of a nuclear threat with conventional power was a mistake. He doubts international agreements on nonproliferation will work in a region like the Middle East where he implies certain leaders may act illogically. No international supervision, in his view, would be able to stop a threat such as that posed by the ongoing war between Iran and Iraq.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Carter's New World
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Interview with Mordekhai Gur, 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 Carter comes to office determined to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and to improve relations with the Soviet Union. His frustrations are as grand as his intentions.

Carter had hoped the United States and the Soviet Union would reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons. He stopped production of the B-1 bomber. He believed the SALT II negotiations would be a step toward eliminating nuclear weapons. But his intentions were frustrated by Soviet actions and by a lack of consensus among his own advisors, including Chief SALT II negotiator Paul Warnke and national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (who was dubious about arms control). Carter balanced Soviet aggression in Africa by improving American relations with China. He withdrew SALT II treaty from Senate consideration but its terms continued to serve as general limits on strategic nuclear force levels for both the United States and the Soviet Union.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


United States
Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968)
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear nonproliferation
Qaddafi, Muammar
Hussein, Saddam, 1937-2006
Nuclear weapons
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Gur, Mordekhai, 1930- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Mordekhai Gur, 1987,” 01/21/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Mordekhai Gur, 1987.” 01/21/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Mordekhai Gur, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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