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

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Cecil Garland was an environmentalist who became widely known for his opposition to the MX basing plan for Utah in the early 1980s. In the interview he describes his first awareness of the program and his realization of how fundamentally it would have affected his life (and his livelihood) as well as those of his neighbors. He sharply denies that his opposition was in any way unpatriotic, describing the MX as being more about self-promotion for the Air Force and the military-industrial complex than about national defense. In his view, the Carter administration’s concerns about lagging behind the Soviets in terms of nuclear weapons capability were overdrawn, and in any event, for reasons he explains at length, the MX program was far too vulnerable to be useful. Mr. Garland describes the atmosphere and the issues that were raised during various public meetings, and spares little in his criticisms of some of the personalities representing the government on the issue. At other points, he recalls his delight at President Reagan’s decision to stop the MX program, and responds to questions about alternative defense systems.

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



Interview with Cecil Garland, 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


MX (Weapons system)
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Nuclear weapons
Hecker, Guy L.
Military-industrial complex
Moyers, Bill D.
United States. President’s Commission on Strategic Forces
Mormon Church
Chayes, Antonia Handler, 1929-
Reagan, Ronald
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Garland, Cecil (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Cecil Garland, 1987,” 11/15/1987, GBH Archives, accessed February 29, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Cecil Garland, 1987.” 11/15/1987. GBH Archives. Web. February 29, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Cecil Garland, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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