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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Randall Forsberg, 1988

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Dr. Randall Forsberg was executive director of the think tank she founded in 1980, the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies. In her wide-ranging interview for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age: “Visions of War and Peace,” Forsberg explores war-and-peace issues, military doctrine, the history and economics of nuclear-weapons development and policy, war-fighting capability and force structure, scenarios and resistance to arms reduction, the history of relations between the superpowers, and their interactions with developing nations. Seven countries, she asserts, account for 99 percent of nuclear weapons. The dispersal of weapons—in the form of the Rapid Deployment Force, tactical weapons, and missiles fitted with multiple warheads—heightens the risk of war in a world moving toward becoming what she calls “a global nuclear porcupine.” Forsberg asserts that “threatening to commit genocide as a way of conducting politics” is one of the most “deeply immoral and subversive acts of government in the modern world.” Moreover, she maintains, a conventional military crisis could easily cross that nuclear threshold. Forsberg advocates the three Rs: “reduce, restructure, and restrain” conventional forces—the other side of the military coin—that consume 75 percent of the U.S. military budget. She recalls the moment during arms negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union when she determined that the arms race is not driven by basic deterrence but by the imperative to gain superiority in threatening to win—without actually waging—nuclear war. She compares disarmament with abolitionism: most people understood that slavery was evil and didn’t know when it would end, but they realized that they had to work until it was eliminated. Forsberg’s analysis of the country’s “defense dependency” and of the shortcomings of the nuclear-freeze movement she spearheaded is laced with her optimism about Soviet Union general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms. She never abandoned her vision of an educated public that will prevail in “demilitarizing international relations” to achieve a “secure, stable permanent peace.”

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Visions of War and Peace
Program Number



Interview with Randall Forsberg, 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

Even in the best international atmosphere, the superpowers face continuing differences about hot to reduce the risk of nuclear war. This final episode analyzes the continuing themes of the nuclear age.

- American attitudes toward nuclear weapons are intertwined with American anxieties about the nature of the Soviet State. - NATO relies on a threat of first use of nuclear weapons in response to an attack even by conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact. - To date, there is no defense against nuclear missiles. - More and more nations are acquiring nuclear technology. - Many people confuse arms control with disarmament.

The challenge of the Nuclear Age is to find a new way for nations to resolve disputes so they will no longer resort to force.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Soviet Union
Nuclear weapons
International relations
Nuclear disarmament
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Nuclear arms control
Middle East
World War II
Strategic Defense Initiative
Reagan, Ronald
Mutual assured destruction
Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies (U.S.)
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Antinuclear movement
Cruise missiles
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Warsaw Treaty Organization
Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968)
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
Korea (South)
International relations
United States. Congress
Schlesinger, James R.
Korea (North)
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1987 December 8
Military-industrial complex
United States
Deterrence (Strategy)
Single Integrated Operational Plan
Nuclear warfare
Warfare, Conventional
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
Brookline, MA
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Forsberg, Randall (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Randall Forsberg, 1988,” 03/03/1988, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Randall Forsberg, 1988.” 03/03/1988. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Randall Forsberg, 1988. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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