Full transcript: Discussion panel held immediately after the broadcast of The Day After, November 20, 1983
ABC News Viewpoint: Discussion panel held immediately after the broadcast of The Day After
Washington DC, November 20, 1983
In the spring of 2016, season four of the Cold War spy drama The Americans was released with an episode entitled The Day After. The story, set in the autumn of 1983, used the broadcast of the ABC television film The Day After as a central influence on the characters and plot of the serial drama. This reference to this television special produced thirty-three years ago is a testament to its historical significance. The film grew out of the mass popular movement for nuclear freeze and nuclear disarmament, a movement which had grown in reaction to President Reagan’s hardline anti-communist rupture of détente with the Soviet Union. One million people had marched in Manhattan in June 1982, and the anti-nuclear message was considered important enough for even the board of a corporate broadcaster to approve the expensive production of a film that would show in graphic detail the nightmare of full nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union.
On November 20, 1983, the film was seen by an estimated audience of 100,000,000. The broadcast was an event that many would remember as traumatic and a turning point in their awareness of the world they inhabited. It was simply unbelievable that a major network had chosen to show this horror to a prime time audience. It was a most uncanny "interruption of regular broadcasting" to the consumer consciousness.
The Reagan administration was in a panic about how to respond, and the official backlash was anticipated by ABC. The news division prepared a post-broadcast discussion that would allow a panel of establishment experts to respond to the film and explain to the American public that the situation was and always would be under control. Nonetheless, officials had lost control of the narrative to a certain degree. Popular resistance had led to this film being made, and it spurred further changes that may not have happened otherwise. Ronald Reagan later admitted to being deeply affected by it, as well as by other films, so it is safe to say that The Day After had an influence in the significant reductions in nuclear arsenals that were made over the following decade. In his second term, Ronald Reagan shocked even his own cabinet with his determination to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
The video of the discussion is freely available on YouTube, but the transcript posted on this blog is, I believe, a first which I hope will be used by other researchers or translators. A separate blog post has the highlights, a summary and comments on the full transcript, while this one below is the full transcript.
The video is in the public domain, so the transcript is published here with the understanding that it is fair use for non-commercial purposes. For all other purposes, contact ABC News.
William F. Buckley Jr.
Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft
ANNOUNCER: This is an ABC news special edition of Viewpoint. Here now reporting from Washington is Ted Koppel.
Ted Koppel: There is, and you probably need it about now, there is some good news. If you can, take a quick look out the window. It’s all still there. Your neighborhood is still there, so is Kansas City, and Lawrence, and Chicago, and Moscow, and San Diego and Vladivostok. What we have all just seen–and this was my third viewing of the movie–what we’ve seen is sort of a nuclear version of Charles Dickens Christmas Carol. Remember Scrooge’s nightmare journey into the future with the spirit of Christmas yet to come? When they finally return to the relative comfort of Scrooge’s bedroom, the old man asks the spirit the very question that many of us may be asking ourselves right now: whether, in other words, the vision that we’ve just seen is the future as it will be or only as it may be. Is there still time? To discuss, and I do mean discuss, not debate, that and related questions tonight we are joined here in Washington by a live audience and a distinguished panel of guests: former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, Elie Wiesel, philosopher, theologian and author on the subject of the Holocaust, William F. Buckley Jr., publisher of the National Review, author and columnist, Carl Sagan, astronomer and author who most recently played a leading role in a major scientific study on the effects of nuclear war. Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to President Ford, chairman of President Reagan’s bipartisan Commission on the MX missile, and former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, who wrote in the current edition of Foreign Affairs, “Nuclear weapons are totally useless except only to deter one’s opponent from using them.” That’s our panel and you’ll be hearing from them in just a few moments, but first joining us live from his home in suburban Washington is the Secretary of State, Mr. George Shultz. Mr. Secretary, if I put to you the question that Scrooge put to the spirit of Christmas yet to come, the future as we have just viewed it tonight: is that the future as it will be or only the future as it may be?
George Shultz: Neither. That is not the future at all. The film is a vivid and dramatic portrayal of the fact that nuclear war is simply not acceptable and that fact and the realization of it has been the basis for the policy of the United States for decades now, the successful policy of the United States, based on the idea that we simply do not accept nuclear war. And we’ve been successful in preventing it.
Ted Koppel: Mr. Shultz, that is the answer of a Secretary of State to a reporter and that’s fair enough because that’s what you and I respectively are, but what if you were answering the question to your son or to your granddaughter, what would a grandfather, what would George Shultz who was talking to a member of his family say in response to the same question? Same answer?
George Shultz: Well, I would give the same answer and since children these days are in many respects smarter, it seems to me, than their elders, they would ask a lot of questions about that, and I think it’s possible to explain why it is that it’s possible to have a policy that prevents nuclear war.
Ted Koppel: I guess what some of those smart youngsters are worried about and what a lot of smart older people are worried about too is not so much the policy but just the presence of so many nuclear weapons, so many nuclear warheads in the world and the question which I now address to you: With so many of them is it not inevitable that at some point or another they will be used, and if not why do we need them?
George Shultz: The only reason that we have nuclear weapons, as President Reagan said in Japan recently, is to see to it that they aren’t used. We have to provide a balance so that others who have nuclear weapons, particularly the Soviet Union realize that what could happen to us could happen to them and would happen to them, and under those circumstances neither we nor they will use these weapons. In this sense I’m agreeing with the quotation that you gave from Secretary McNamara, but I think we have to do a lot more and we are doing a lot more. We work to reduce the number of these weapons and it is interesting to note, important to note, that if you go back to the 1960s and compare the amount of destructive capability of our nuclear arsenal now as compared with then, that it’s about 70% less. The point that I’m trying to make here is that in addition to having this policy of balance and deterrence we have a policy of reduction, and in President Reagan’s efforts to deal with this problem, reduction of nuclear weapons has been at the top of his list, reduction all the way down to the point of zero.
Ted Koppel: Mr. Secretary, I cannot doubt nor do I doubt that that is the president’s intention. Why has that policy been so difficult to achieve then because since your administration has come into office there has not been any reduction on either side?
George Shultz: Well, no, that’s not correct. There have been some reductions as part of a general program to do so and only last October it was announced that another thousand nuclear weapons or warheads would be taken out of Europe, so that process goes on, but it’s also true that the negotiations that have been going on with the Soviet Union–while they haven’t produced a result as yet–have focused on reduction, and many people said when the president proposed reductions, that he shouldn’t do that because the Soviets wouldn’t agree to it. They haven’t agreed, but they have come to the table to talk about the subject.
Ted Koppel: Mr. Secretary, let me focus for a couple of minutes at least before we go to our panel here on the movie which became in a sense much more than a movie. It’s become a national event and your presence here this evening is, I think, some testimony to that. Is the movie going to be useful?
George Shultz: Well, the movie certainly dramatizes the unacceptability of nuclear warfare and from my standpoint it says to those who have criticized the president for seeking reductions that really that’s the sensible course to take, and what we should be doing is rallying around and supporting, as I think people by and large, more and more are [supporting] the idea that we should be trying to reduce the numbers of these weapons. Of course, to do so means that we have to persuade the Soviet Union to come down along with us and hopefully what we would shoot for, as the president again said in Tokyo, his dream is to reduce down to zero.
Ted Koppel: There does seem to be a certain amount of business as usual, Mr. Secretary, in the most lamentable way, by which I mean the Soviets are pointing the finger at us, and we are pointing the finger at them, and somehow the moral imperative of arms reduction is going nowhere. Why?
George Shultz: It is a subject that we are working on constantly. We have made some very good and interesting proposals. I think that the point for us is to stay there and keep talking, and the moral imperative that we feel is, I’m sure, felt by others throughout the world, no doubt including people in the Soviet Union, and so if we are persistent and the propositions we put are reasonable, as they are, we will eventually get somewhere.
Ted Koppel: Let me bring it back to the family level for a moment. Those mothers and fathers out there who, I suspect, want a great many answers themselves and would like to be able to give answers to their own children. Is there anything that American citizens can do? Is there anything that you would like them to do? And maybe those are two separate questions.
George Shultz: Well, I think that clearly this question has been and is and will continue to be a matter of great importance, and it seems to me the effort to reduce the numbers of these weapons around the world here and elsewhere, particularly in the Soviet Union, is the right thing to do and so the more widespread the support is for that and the greater the understanding that there is for that, the more chances we have for success. I think it is a subject that everyone should be paying attention to and registering in on, and that will be helpful.
Ted Koppel: Well, forgive me. I wasn’t asking about paying attention, but whether people can do anything, other than what I suppose I would have expected you to say and that is support the president’s policies. Is there anything else that people can do?
George Shultz: Well, it isn’t simply the president’s policy. The proposals that have been put forth in both of the Geneva negotiations are widely supported. The one that deals with so called intermediate range weapons is based on proposals developed with our allies in Europe and are closely coordinated with members of Congress so that they know what’s going on. The same thing can be said for the other discussions that are taking place. In fact, I think it’s a fair statement that members of Congress contributed a great deal to the so called build-down proposal–that’s the most recent proposal put forward at Geneva by our negotiator, General Rowney.
Ted Koppel: Secretary Shultz, thank you very much for joining us this evening. And so we move now to our panel, and let me begin with you, Mr. Buckley. You have been quite eloquent in your denunciation of the movie that we saw this evening. Now that you have seen it do you feel encouraged to become even more vociferous in your denunciation or have you found some merit in it?
W. F. BUCKLEY: Well, I think unhappily the Secretary of State misses the point. The whole point of this movie is to launch an enterprise that seeks to debilitate the American...
Ted Koppel: May I just ask you to move in a little closer to your microphone?
W. F. BUCKLEY: It seeks to debilitate the United States. This is terribly plain. The guy who wrote it says, “I would like to see people starting to question the value of defending this country with a nuclear arsenal.” That is his motive and people who have seen the film who have thought to debilitate American defenses have gathered around it. It’s become a cause militante. It has a totemic significance, and I’m delighted to hear the Secretary of State say such calm and lucid and cogent things, but that’s unrelated to the effort of this film.
Ted Koppel: You think that there is a deliberate political effort behind this film, or are you’re prepared to concede that if indeed there is one it may be accidental?
W. F. BUCKLEY: Well, it’s certainly deliberate on the part of the writer. He says that was his motive. Now if you ask if it was deliberate on the part of shareholders of ABC, I don’t think they were consulted, but there’s no question that people who seek to write tendentious copy write tendentious copy because they seek to forward a particular point of view. I certainly do.
Ted Koppel: All right, let me raise the question. Carl Sagan, do you see any merit in this movie or is the movie simply and exercise in emotionalism which may cause despair rather than do anything useful?
Carl Sagan: I think in this country we’ve been sleepwalking during the last 38 years and passed this problem without really coming to grips with how dire and compelling it is, and I think ABC should be congratulated for spurring what I hope will be a year-long debate on this issue, but it’s my unhappy duty to point out that the reality is much worse than what has been portrayed in this movie, and this new emerging reality has significant policy implications. The nuclear winter that will follow even a small nuclear war, especially if cities are targeted, as they almost certainly would be, involves a pall of dust and smoke which would reduce the temperatures of not just in northern and mid latitudes, but pretty much globally to sub-freezing temperatures for months. In addition, it’s dark, the radiation is much more than we’ve been told before. Agriculture will be wiped out, and it’s very clear that beyond the one or two billion people who would be killed directly in a major nuclear war–five to seven thousand megatons, something like that–that the overall consequences would be much more dire and the biologists who have been studying this think that there is a real possibility of the extinction of the human species from such a war.
Ted Koppel: Let me stop on that point because if our viewers were not depressed enough after seeing the movie, I suspect you’ve brought them to an even greater nadir.
W. F. BUCKLEY: I think that’s good news, Mr. Koppel.
Ted Koppel: What is that?
W. F. BUCKLEY: What he just said is very good news.
Ted Koppel: Because?
W. F. BUCKLEY: If the Soviet Union knows that a first strike is going to mean the extinction of the Soviet Union, then you know there won’t be a first strike.
CARL SAGAN: I agree with that, Tom, and I’m amazed to find myself agreeing with Mr. Buckley, that is absolutely right.
Ted Koppel: Well, let me capitalize on that brief moment of agreement because I suspect there won’t be very many more. Dr. Kissinger, let me turn to you and ask you then if indeed one accepts either Dr. Sagan’s version or the version that we saw here we are in either case talking about damage and loss of life unparalleled in human history. How is it possible under any circumstances to conceive of the use of nuclear weapons?
Henry Kissinger: I think that this film presents a very simple-minded notion of the nuclear problem and it deals with the most obvious question that a general nuclear war aimed at cities is a disaster and a catastrophe. I wrote a book on the subject 30 years ago when the notion of general nuclear war first arose. The problem of our period, the problem we have to grapple with is how to avoid such a war, how to preserve freedom while seeking to avoid such a war, how to establish, how to create a military establishment that reduces the dangers of such a war, what arms control policies are compatible with this policy, how we handle crises. Those are serious questions. To engage in an orgy of demonstrating how terrible the casualties of a nuclear war are, and translating it into pictures from statistics that have been known for three decades, and then to have Mr. Sagan say it’s even worse than this... I would say: what are we to do about this? Are we supposed to make policy by scaring ourselves to death, or is somebody going to make some proposals about where we are supposed to go? And if people don’t make them, then I do not believe we are making any contribution. That’s my objection to this film. It took this most simple-minded problem that everybody will agree upon. There’s nobody in this room who disagrees with the fact that this must not happen. It’s how to avoid it that we should be discussing.
Ted Koppel: Dr. Kissinger, you have brought us precisely the issue that I think brings us all here together this evening. I think it can go without saying that there’s no one in this room, indeed there is probably no sane person in the country, who would recommend nuclear war or who would look at that movie and say that what is seen there is some prescription for any solution to any problem. We are here to try to answer the question of what if anything can be done. Mr. McNamara, do you want to take a crack at that question?
Robert McNamara: I think much can be done, Mr. Koppel, much that we’re not doing, and I want to start by emphasizing I’m not talking about the Reagan administration. I’m talking about several different administrations, but most of all I’m talking about the American people. I do not believe the American people understand the world we live in. I do not believe they understand the full risk that we face. There are 40,000 nuclear warheads in the inventories of the US and Soviet Union today, with the destruction par roughly a million times that of the Hiroshima bomb. I don’t know any arms expert, and I doubt if anyone in this room believes in the next 10 to 15 years we can reduce that number by more than half, and we’re still going to be living then in a world 15 years from now with 20,000 nuclear weapons, and frankly I think that it’s very unlikely to get that low, but just assume that.
W.F. BUCKLEY: What makes you think we’ll be alive 15 years from now?
Robert McNamara: Because in addition to stressing reduction in the numbers of weapons, we need to stress introducing stability in the forces to avoid temptation to either side to pre-empt, and most of all we need to introduce steps to reduce the risk that those weapons will be used, and I don’t want to take more of my time, but I’ll be quite happy during this program to outline a whole series of those steps.
Ted Koppel: Well, in fact you stopped short of where I thought you were going. Let us assume for a moment the desirable, but probably the unthinkable, and that is that we could somehow agree to do away with all nuclear weapons. We still live with the knowledge of how to make them. How does one live in a nuclear world, one which we will never be able to turn back from?
Robert McNamara: We live in a nuclear world by stressing that this is a plus sum game that we’re working on. There is a commonality of interests between the Soviets and the US to avoid the use of these weapons. That’s what that film shows. I totally disagree with those who say it’s a disservice to the nation to show the film. Not at all. It’s stimulating discussion on exactly the issue we ought to be discussing. There’s a million times the Hiroshima destruction power out there. We must ensure it not be used. It’s equally in the interest of the Soviet Union not to use it. Therefore, there is a basis for coming to agreement. It’s going to be very, very difficult, and while we’re working on reducing the numbers, which the arms negotiations now in Geneva are pointed to, we should pick up an idea that Henry Kissinger put forward. I put it forward. Others have put it forward. It’s not enough to reduce numbers. We must increase stability. As long as we have more warheads than they have launchers, they fear we may use those warheads to destroy their launchers and destroy their society. We must begin to introduce stability. Henry has suggested, I suggested that we move to reducing the ratio of warheads to launchers. This sounds technical. It’s not. It simply means increasing the safety of both societies. If we both move that way, we’re both better off. There are 15 different actions I could suggest to you which if taken today–some unilateral, by the way. We must be more daring, we must be more imaginative as a society, not just as a government–-as a society–to reduce this risk and we must negotiate. We must drag the Soviets into negotiating.
Ted Koppel: Let me pick up a point that was made here a few moments ago and address it to you, General Scowcroft. I believe it was you Mr. Buckley, who found optimism in Mr. Sagan’s pessimism. If indeed we live in a world in which a nuclear exchange of 100 megatons or more, if we live in a world in which an exchange of a hundred megatons or more means, whether literally or almost literally, the extinction of the human race, have we not reached a point at which any kind of nuclear exchange is unthinkable because of what it may portend?
General Scowcroft: It may be unthinkable, but deterrence is a very ambiguous notion. It cannot be demonstrated unless it fails, in which case you know it was not there. Otherwise, it cannot be demonstrated. We have probably very different ideas about deterrence than does the Soviet Union. I think we tend to think that nuclear weapons have done away with war as an instrument of national policy, that it is insane, that the mere existence of nuclear weapons means that nuclear war cannot happen, as you suggest.
Ted Koppel: Well, forgive me. There are there are something like 42, 43 or maybe 44 wars going on in the world right now, so clearly it hasn’t done away with war. Are you talking about...?
General Scowcroft: Nuclear war. I’m talking about a US-Soviet nuclear exchange like in the movie. The Soviet Union, however, both as a result of its history of repeated invasion and the extent to which ideology still motivates its belief that it is surrounded by hostile states, probably wants nuclear war no more than does the United States, but I think realistically it anticipates that it could happen. And if it could happen, then they must do their best to prepare for it, and I think it is that that is the essential, central issue of deterrence, and that is we must have a military posture which the Soviets, whatever they think about deterrence, whatever they think about the nature of nuclear weapons, can never imagine that resort to them makes sense. I’m not sure that’s clear at this point.
Ted Koppel: Well, when you talk about preparation for it, I assume you mean, among other things, their evacuation procedures, their civil defense program and things like that. If I understand Carl Sagan and his colleagues, and these seem to be in total agreement with Soviet scientists, all of that is so academic as to be totally pointless. If indeed we are going to have a world in which life itself is essentially extinguished, what difference does it make whether it’s extinguished six feet underground or extinguished on the surface?
General Scowcroft: Because I don’t think fundamentally we’re talking about a deliberate decision to launch nuclear war. We’re talking about behavior in a crisis where each side is estimating both the posture and the will of the other side, in which case miscalculations can make all the difference between peace and war, and it is in that guise that we must ensure that the Soviet Union can never miscalculate.
Ted Koppel: Before we slide too far into the technical, Elie Wiesel, we deliberately invited you here so that you would bring a humanistic touch to what otherwise threatens to become either a very technical or a very theoretical kind of discussion. Is there anything that the individual man can do anymore? Is there any point in even discussing that, or is it out of his and her hands?
Elie Wiesel: Not being a nuclear specialists in any way, I’m scared. I’m scared because I know that what is imaginable can happen. I know that the impossible is possible. I’ve seen the film and while I was watching it, I had a strange feeling that I had seen it before, except once upon a time it happened to my people, and now it happens to all people. And suddenly I said to myself maybe the whole world strangely has turned Jewish. Everybody lives now facing the unknown. We are all, in a way, helpless. We are talking about nuclear arms, about the bomb with a capital B, a kind of divinity in itself. Unless those who know militarily what it means, we readers, writers, people... we don’t know what it all means. When I hear about a thousand bombs, megatons... I don’t have that kind of imagination. To me it’s an abstraction, but to me, what all this means is that the human species may come to an end, that millions of children may die simply because one person somewhere... And I am not so much afraid of the big powers. I’m afraid of the small nations. If not now, maybe 10 years from now or 20 or 50, a Khomeini will get hold of nuclear weapons. He won’t hesitate. He will not have a discussion such as the one that we have here.
Ted Koppel: Elie Wiesel, you know better than most that during the 1930s in Europe, especially in England, there were discussions not dissimilar from this discussion in which people with the best of motives spoke about pacifism, the need not to go to war, the horror of war, and some historians feel, indeed I would suggest most historians feel, that it was that very sense that brought about precisely what everyone was trying to avoid. I think what Dr. Kissinger was talking about before is precisely that. The danger that in being human about what we’ve just seen, we may become not only impractical but unwise. Would you like to respond to that notion?
ELIE WIESEL: No, I agree with you. I agree with Dr. Kissinger on that, that pacifism in the absolute sense would be dangerous. We cannot yield our world to dictatorship. We cannot yield our Western society, our democracy, to a totalitarian regime that would have alone, exclusively, a nuclear superiority. It would be foolish. On the other hand, I also know that if we have thousands and more thousands and more thousands of weapons, one day they will explode. Hence my ambivalence. I mean hence my fear. I do not see realistically the way out. I don’t know what could be done.
Ted Koppel: Dr. Kissinger, you’ve been writing about, dealing with this notion, as you pointed out a few moments ago, for some 30 years. Why do we need all these weapons which, as Churchill once pointed out, are sufficient now only to make the rubble bounce?
Henry Kissinger: Only from the point of view of strategic doctrine or of military strategy, I have been writing for 30 years that these are weapons in search of a doctrine, so I do not want to defend any particular level of forces. The fact, however is, as Bob McNamara pointed out, we have 40,000 now. If we cut them in half in 10 years, it would be a miraculous achievement. The exact same problem we are discussing tonight will exist at the level of 20,000, and that problem is: how do we avoid their use? That is a component of the relationship among the superpowers and among the nuclear powers. It requires us to analyze the design of our forces and to design them in such a manner that there is a minimum incentive for first strike by either side. It requires that we analyze what is likely to cause crisis, and it requires that we do not scare ourselves to death because if the Soviet Union gets the idea that the United States has morally disarmed itself and psychologically disarmed itself, then the precise consequences we are describing here will happen. Our problem is to avoid unilateral disarmament and at the same time to develop a policy which eliminates the danger of nuclear war. This is the challenge we face and we have been going back and forth between extremes of intransigence and extremes of conciliation, and if we do not focus on some of the problems that Bob McNamara mentioned: how we design forces that make for stability, how we communicate over an extended period of time, and what political crises we must seek to avoid and how to handle them in time, then things are going to slide, but the relationship that is being established around this table between the numbers of weapons and the probability of war is in my view not true. The kind of war shown in this film is most likely at the lowest numbers of weapons, and has in fact been advocated at those numbers of weapons.
Ted Koppel: If you can, Dr. Kissinger, explain that briefly. Why?
Henry Kissinger: There was a theory at one time that was, and that is still used by many groups, which is that if you can kill a certain number of people, and if you can destroy a limited number of cities, what do you need more nuclear weapons for? And then there have been all sorts of calculations made: 200, 300, 400. At any rate, the point is that these weapons have then been advertised as a means of slaughtering civilians. This creates exactly the dilemma we now face. Any statesman... I think Bob will forgive me if I tell of a personal encounter we had when I became security advisor. I saw for the first time what our plans were, and I called up Bob, as [he was] the last Secretary of Defense, or at any rate the one I knew best, to ask him to come to the White House, and I first asked him whether he thought these figures were accurate, and then I asked him how he was going to handle that issue, if he ever were asked by the president on what to recommend. So this issue has been with us and it will face every administration of whatever party. We can’t eliminate these weapons completely in a foreseeable time. We should not have a strategy that is designed to maximize casualties because then if anything goes wrong, we will have Carl Sagan’s world and yet we are assaulted–anyone who seeks that course–on the one side by military technologists who think nuclear weapons are just another kind of weapon, and then by pacifist groups who believe that unless you paint the most horrible picture of nuclear war, it will happen, and you participate in bringing it about. This is why it’s been so hard to get this sort of thing that Bob McNamara is talking about.
Ted Koppel: All right, we’re going to have to take a break in just a couple of minutes. Mr. Buckley, go ahead. I may have to cut you off in mid-sentence, though.
W. F. BUCKLEY: Well, I’d like to focus on this business of stabilization because I think we have moved away from stabilization. There’s a line in this movie. They’re hearing all this bad news about all the threats that are happening. The Germans are moving, and the Russians are moving, and then the girl says, “Well we did have a crisis in 1962 and we overcame that, didn’t we? There isn’t anybody there who says yes, and we also had a considerable deterrent policy in 1962 which was unambiguous. Question: Are we moving towards an ambiguity in our deterrent forces? In the last four years the German Social Democratic Party has turned right around. I would ask Mr. McNamara, “Is that a sign of stabilization or precisely the contrary?” But it’s by seeing this kind of thing, which, by the way they all saw before they took that vote last week.
Ted Koppel: Before... and I promise I’ll come right back to you so you have an opportunity to answer that question... but before we do that I need to say this as we are coming up on the hour: that this is a special edition of ABC News Viewpoint. I’m Ted Koppel. Now then, Mr. McNamara, pick it up, please.
Robert McNamara: First, we have a stable deterrent today. We do a great disservice to our nation when we say otherwise, and we will have a stable deterrent tomorrow, if we act intelligently. I have absolutely no question in my mind about it, but I want to go back to the two conditions that we are facing, and they’re not going to change. I was in Berlin today. I had lunch in Berlin. I was at the [Berlin] Wall today. We didn’t build the wall. The wall was built 22 years ago by the Soviets to hold their people in. They retain it today for exactly the same reason. I’m not arguing whether it’s wise or unwise for them to do it. It’s a symbol of the tension that exists. Events possibly beyond their control or ours may cause these miscalculations that were discussed a moment ago. That’s one set of facts. The other set of facts is the 40,000 nuclear warheads that Henry and I agree are unlikely to be cut by more than 50% in the next 10-15 years. We’re going to live for decades in a world of tension, and with tens of thousands of warheads, a few hundred of which can cause [interrupted by voice off camera]... pardon me... May I finish? ... that can cause nuclear winter or destroy civilization. We must learn how to avoid their use. Nobody that I have ever talked to knows how to stop a nuclear war once it is started. Therefore, for God’s sake, don’t ever start one. That’s the first point.
Ted Koppel: All right, let me let Mr. Sagan respond to that, then general Scowcroft, and then folks you may as well get ready with your questions because we’re going to start involving you with all of the panel. Mr. Sagan.
Carl Sagan: Let me try to make three quick points coming out of the previous discussion. First of all, there is a kind of threshold. It’s fuzzy, but it’s somewhere around a thousand strategic weapons at which the nuclear winter could be triggered. If that’s the case, it seems to me that the only prudent policy is to get well below that threshold. So that no concatenation of computer failure and communications malfunctions and madness in high office could kill everybody on the planet. That seems to me elementary planetary hygiene, as well as elementary patriotism. You don’t want to have a circumstance in which we can end the human endeavor. Now I think that with 18,000 strategic warheads in the world, we have 18 times, at least, more weapons than are needed to trigger this catastrophe. If you were well below a thousand warheads you would still have an adequate strategic deterrence, and I believe just as slavery was once in the world, and people considered it impossible to change, and it was everywhere, well, now we have a world in which there is virtually no chattel slavery. Conventional expectations about what is inevitable can be changed if there is political will, and I think that the existence of this catastrophe can provide the political will. Now, just one more thing. We heard from Secretary Shultz, in answer to your question, Ted, that it wasn’t true that the Reagan administration was building up weapons, that in fact they had reduced weapons, and he mentioned a figure of a thousand in Europe. Now those thousand weapons in Europe are tactical weapons, not strategic weapons. They are largely obsolete weapons, and they are forward-based weapons which means that they are vulnerable to capture in case of an attack. Now what the administration is really doing, according to the Congressional budget office, is increasing the inventory of strategic warheads from 9,000 in the United States to 14,000. We’re going in the wrong direction.
Ted Koppel: Carl, forgive me. Let us leave it in those general terms because I must confess statistics leave my mind reeling and I suspect everybody else’s too. General Scowcroft, do you want to respond to the general thrust of what Dr. Sagan was saying?
General Scowcroft: Yes. There are two basic truths. We are not going to dis-invent nuclear weapons, as Henry said, the knowledge, and as Bob said, the knowledge of them there, regardless of the number, the knowledge is there. In some respects, the lower the numbers, the more unstable the situation and the more the encouragement for other powers to acquire nuclear weapons.
Ted Koppel: That’s the second time that’s been said now. Dr. Kissinger said it a moment ago. Explain it one more time. Why is less more in this case?
General Scowcroft: Because if each side of the Soviet Union and the United States has only a thousand weapons, or each only 500, that encourages other powers to become major nuclear powers in a way that they can do because the numbers are relatively small.
Ted Koppel: Well, in that case what you’re sketching out is a world in which, by definition, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union can ever afford to fall below a certain excessive level.
General Scowcroft: I think for the short-term future that may be true. I think that the two truths are that we are in a nuclear age, and secondly, we do have a fundamental antagonism with the Soviet Union which we may be able to ameliorate, but which for the foreseeable future is not going to end. Now, the question is: what do we do about it? And I agree with Bob McNamara that we are not going to get rid of nuclear weapons. The important thing is, as the President’s Commission on Strategic Forces underlined, is to improve the stability to integrate our weapon systems programs and our arms control to reduce the chances that in a crisis either side will resort to nuclear weapons feeling it can gain an advantage.
Ted Koppel: All right, gentlemen, I have a hundred questions buzzing in my mind, but I suspect that there are at least 200 people out there. The gentleman over here in about the third row, go ahead, sir. It’s your question.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Secretary Shultz said tonight that there’s a lot more to do. Mr. McNamara said tonight we have to increase stability while at the same time being much more imaginative. Mr. Kissinger said that we need a policy that will one day eliminate the need for these types of weapons.
Ted Koppel: I’ll tell you what. Help me out so that you don’t set an example here that I don’t want anyone else to follow. Don’t tell us what we have already heard. Ask your question, please.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: OK, the question is: is it not possible to somehow develop a technological end run to find a solution that might be a space-based defense system, a system that would render nuclear weapons obsolete? I’d like the panelists to comment on this.
Ted Koppel: All right, we’re hearing from the high frontier school of thought, right? All right, who would like to pick it up? Dr. Kissinger, high frontier?
Henry Kissinger: I don’t know enough about the space technology to have a judgment on whether it is technically possible to do this. The debate on the nuclear issue has taken the paradoxical form that whenever a defense system has been proposed it has been opposed by many of the groups that are dedicated to disarmament because they’re afraid that anything that reduces the impact of a nuclear war also increases the willingness to engage in it, and therefore there has been a tendency to deprecate any possible defense system. I don’t particularly... I haven’t studied... I don’t know anything about whether the space system... I do not believe, however it’s a general proposition, that there is one reliable technological means on the basis of which you can say that now the danger of nuclear war has been eliminated. On the other hand, I also do not like this undifferentiated discussion of all nuclear wars taking Carl Sagan’s form.
TED KOPPEL: What are you saying with that last point? Are you suggesting...?
Henry Kissinger: What I’m saying with this point is if it is true that we live in a world in which we are doomed to have nuclear weapons, and if it is true that someday there could be an accident, then it is also true that together with all the measures that have been discussed we have a moral and political obligation to think of procedures, strategies and message to keep the war from mindlessly escalating into the sort of thing that we have seen on television here, and not to talk ourselves into the frame of mind that the first time a nuclear weapon is used it must end with the destruction of hundreds of millions of people and a nuclear winter.
Ted Koppel: Carl Sagan, pick up if you will, on A) the question that was asked but B) also the point that Dr. Kissinger made, namely that that defensive systems and, for example, at one point we were in the process of building an anti-ballistic missile system in this country... that defensive systems are destabilizing because they may lull the side that has it into a sense of security that would permit that side to then launch nuclear weapons on the other side.
Carl Sagan: Well, on the space-based systems… for them to have any adequacy to stop a significant strike, they have to have a technology which does not exist today, which the best experts in the field say cannot exist, in any case something which would cost enormous amounts of money that would have to be deployed on an absolutely unprecedented scale, and which is vulnerable to the simplest kinds of countermeasures, so my sense is that the ballistic missile defense system that is being talked about–and there are a variety of them and obviously we don’t want to get into the details–is dangerous A) because it lulls us into thinking that we can get away from this problem without the kind of confidence-building and stabilizations that Dr. Kissinger and Secretary McNamara have talked about.
Ted Koppel: All right, let’s go to a question, to the lady about in the fifth row back. Yes, ma’am. Go ahead.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: What are we to do 20 to 25 years from now when the superpowers no longer have the decision-making power about whether nuclear war will or will not occur? And this could be a small-scale nuclear war as opposed to the type of war that we’ve seen in the movie where there is complete devastation everywhere. What about the point that Mr. Wiesel raised earlier about a Khomeini or Qaddafi having that capability?
Ted Koppel: Mr. McNamara, do you want to pick up on...?
Robert McNamara: I would say several things first. We need to maintain and tighten our non-proliferation policy. We have allowed it to become weak and we by that means have contributed to the problem this lady is pointing to. Secondly, we need to establish procedures that will ensure that our nuclear forces are not triggered by a terrorist launch of a weapon, or by an accident, a mechanical or a human failure, and we need to ensure that the Soviets are following the same procedures. These are the kinds of actions that we need to take in our common interest to avoid a launch against terrorists, thinking we’re launching against a Soviet attack, or a launch in the event of a mechanical or human failure. And one of those procedures that we ought to take unilaterally, and then we ought to try to persuade them to adopt as well, is to state publicly we will never, never, never launch on warning. We have not yet said that nor have they.
Ted Koppel: You have just raised, I’m afraid, an issue of such controversy that I don’t think I can just let it just go by. Launch on warning is the notion that if anyone were to fire any missiles in our direction, we would not wait for them to land, but the president would give the command [to launch] our land-based nuclear missiles, our ICBMs. It’s the old use-them-or-lose-them notion, right?
Robert McNamara: Yes.
Ted Koppel: And is that... well, I’m not even sure if I can discuss it. Is that our policy?
Robert McNamara: We have not said it is not our policy, and the Secretary of the Air Force within the past few weeks in California has stated that the administration is unwilling to state it’s not our policy, and the Soviets, within the past several weeks, have in their press indicated that the Pershing missile deployment to Europe is likely to trigger their launch on warning.
TED KOPPEL: All right...
Robert McNamara: But now I think we’re both insane if we ever launch on warning.
TED KOPPEL: All right...
Robert McNamara: Because the warnings may be false, as they have been in the past.
Ted Koppel: Is that not another one of the paradoxes that seem to dot this nuclear minefield: unless we maintain that level of doubt in our adversaries minds that it might happen, they might be tempted to try it?
Robert McNamara: No, absolutely not because our forces are invulnerable and so are theirs. There’s absolutely no reason for the Soviets to launch on warning and there’s absolutely no reason for us to launch on warning.
TED KOPPEL: Anybody disagree with that?
HENRY KISSINGER: I actually do not believe we should launch on warning. I don’t know any administration that would have launched on warning and I doubt that this administration...
ROBER MCNAMARA: Then we should say so.
HENRY KISSINGER: Now the question is: does the concept of launching on warning make a nuclear war more likely? The argument for not saying what we are doing and will be doing is that if you assert it, it makes the calculations of a potential attacker somewhat simpler because he can then determine exactly what is going... or at least he can try to turn it into a mathematical problem. If you don’t say it, there is an element of doubt, but I want to make clear I think neither side can possibly gear its procedures to launch upon warning. I think it’s from a procedural point, technically next to impossible, and I think it would be a highly destabilizing course, so I agree with the policy. The question is whether there’s a great advantage in saying it.
W.F. BUCKLEY: Here’s where I think you’re incorrect. What we must not lose sight of is the fact that we want to deter. Now, President Carter came out and recommended a mobile missile, the idea being to shield us from that window of vulnerability of our fixed silos which can be wiped out, giving the enemy a leverage over us by threatening to take out our cities. Now, Congress turned that down. In turning that down we then headed towards MX, but the point is we have got to head in such a direction as to guarantee our survival of a first strike, and if launch on warning is what we are reduced to as a result of our failure to allow a proliferation of small weapons, then indeed that’s certainly better if indeed it succeeds in deterring.
Ted Koppel: Gentlemen, there’s an awful lot that every one of these questions and all of your answers provokes, but as you can see we have a great many questions. The gentleman in about the fifth row back. Yes, sir, go ahead. There you go.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: As an educator I find that young people are increasingly aware of the threat of nuclear war and are very cynical and despairing about their future. My question to any of the panelists is how do you think this next generation should be educated about these issues so that they can engage in planning for their own future with a sense of hope?
Ted Koppel: Elie Wiesel, why don’t you pick up on that?
Elie Wiesel: The keyword is education and I happen to believe that is the only way for us to save mankind. It is through education. It’s not weapons. We are talking here about changing weapons, improving weapons. Why not improve human nature, if it is possible at all to speak about it? I too, I am in touch with young students. My students are scared and when they talk about the nuclear issue they are worried. So am I because I must tell you I’m a little bit taken aback. We are already fighting the nuclear war around this table. We already have been speaking about the first strike, about warning, about bombing. How can we even talk about it? I would like to educate our society, our young people especially, to make sure that it won’t happen.
Ted Koppel: How can we, forgive me, but how can we not talk about it?
Elie Wiesel: Well, that is really the problem: if we talk, it’s bound to happen. If we don’t, it’s bound to happen again.
Ted Koppel: Go ahead, Mr. Buckley.
W. F. BUCKLEY: I think that we do have to talk about it, and Dr. Kissinger 25 years ago got hell for consenting to talk about it. So did Herman Kahn. The fact of the matter is that here we are talking about all the tensions we’re going to be living under in 15 years, 20 years from now. Well, the implied assumption is that we’re going to be alive 15-20 years from now. That’s pretty good news, isn’t it? We began with a monopoly of atom bombs. We offered to give them to the United Nations. When we had a monopoly we dropped one on Japan. If Japan had had one we wouldn’t have dropped one on Japan, so I see nothing that has changed involving that essential stability, and although all of us wish this nightmare would go away, in point of fact it is probably not going to until somebody does a lobotomy on the men in the Kremlin, and nobody suggested doing that.
Ted Koppel: 15 years may be pretty good news to many of your generation in mine. I suspect that some of our children might regard that as a rather limited lifespan.
W. F. BUCKLEY: I didn’t say there is going to be a war in 15 years.
Ted Koppel: Go ahead, gentlemen.
GENERAL SCOWCROFT: I think we’re not talking about nuclear war. We’re talking about the steps necessary to deter, to prevent a nuclear war, and to me that’s a vast difference, and faced with the central dilemma of our times; that is, nuclear weapons and US-Soviet antagonism, we have to sort our way through it, and the first thing I would tell young people is that there is no simple nostrum, no simple solution that if we could just get rid of inept or malevolent government, it would be out there for us to grab, to solve our problem.
Ted Koppel: Go ahead, sir. The gentleman on the aisle with his left hand up.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Thank you. For Professor Sagan, please. 75% of the American public supports the nuclear weapons freeze with the Soviet Union, yet we haven’t heard that mentioned this evening. I’m wondering if as an alternative to prevent nuclear war, people opposing the MX missile, the Trident 2 missile, the Pershing, the cruise... Is that not a viable alternative for people to rally around as an alternative to what the Reagan administration is planning in the next, not ten years, but for the next two or three years?
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: But wouldn’t everything that we saw tonight be possible if there was a freeze?
Audience Question: Your question in a minute. If I could get Professor Sagan...
Carl Sagan: My opinion is that the freeze, which you quite properly point out, is supported according to opinion polls and votes by the majority of American people… I think it would be an excellent first step. It tends to prevent the introduction of further destabilizing modernization, and it would almost certainly be followed, as in the Kennedy-Hatfield resolution, by an agreement on an annual percentage drop in nuclear weapons, and if that’s at the 5 to 10% a year level, which is what is talked about, that would get us a long step up on getting to this threshold I talked about. If I can just say one other thing about this... In this discussion there has been a sense that you can’t change things, that getting down even by a factor of two in decades is the most you could possibly hope for. I’d like to read a quick quotation from General Douglas MacArthur. He said, “The masses of the world are far ahead of their leaders in this subject. I believe it is the massed opposition of the rank and file against war that offers the greatest possible hope that there shall be no more war.” And then Dwight Eisenhower said something very similar. He said, “People in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of their way and let them have it.”
Ted Koppel: Let’s talk for a moment about nuclear freeze. Just for a moment, Mr. McNamara, the question I want to raise is that there is implied in every discussion of nuclear freeze the suggestion that it could happen, if not overnight then certainly within a very short period of time. Do you accept that?
ROBERT MCNAMARA: Well, I think a freeze could happen quickly, but I don’t believe it gets at the heart of the problem we’re talking about. It isn’t a freeze we need. It’s a substantial reduction. It’s an increase in stability. It’s a reduction in the risk of use, and the freeze fails to address those issues. The freeze movement has played, from my point of view, a very positive role in our society. It has drawn the attention of political leaders, religious leaders and other leaders of our country to this problem, and that’s been very positive, but it does not go nearly far enough in dealing with the problem we’re talking about.
Ted Koppel: Dr. Kissinger, some thoughts on the freeze?
Henry Kissinger: I think that the freeze will prevent many of the measures that we’ve been talking about. It would prevent, for example, going from the MIRV missile to the single warhead missile. It might prevent several other changes in the direction of stability. I was involved in, and in fact, I conducted the negotiations for SALT 1 which were a freeze of certain categories of weapons, and it leads you into an endless debate of what is modernization and what is a new weapon, what is a modernization of an old weapon, so the freeze by itself is, in my view, not a solution to the problem. The problem, the solution in the military field, is to develop a military doctrine that conduces to stability, and there’s a second point that has not been mentioned this evening at all. We are talking as if nuclear weapons cause wars. What will cause wars is political tensions, and crisis, and uncontrolled ambitions, and unless one is willing to face that fact and unless one is willing to do something about it… If tensions multiply in the world, sooner or later there will be a war, not necessarily a nuclear war, and any war increases the danger in which we are involved, and maybe the Soviets are involved... increases the danger of nuclear war and there has to be a linkage, unfashionable as this word is, between the military strategies of the countries and their political conduct, and if that cannot be established, then sooner or later it is going to be the political instability that is going to drive us into war, not the weapons by themselves.
Ted Koppel: All right, let’s see if we can get to the gentleman way in the back there with your left hand up. Go ahead.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: We are not necessarily afraid of the man in the White House. For us here, building on what Mr. Kissinger said, how do we convey, how do we get to the men in the Kremlin to say we want to do something? What can we do about them?
Ted Koppel: General Scowcroft?
GENERAL SCOWCROFT: I think the men in the Kremlin respond to strength, and by and large they take gestures of goodwill, designed by us to indicate we bear them no ill will, as signs of weakness rather than in the sense in which they are presented. I think it is possible to negotiate with the Soviet Union. It is not possible to negotiate them out of something they think they can get for free, and I think that is the central reason why we have to continue a vigorous arms program to convince the Soviets that there is no easy way for them to gain or to maintain an advantage over the United States. If they realize that, I think it is possible to negotiate serious arms control.
Ted Koppel: Elie Wiesel, I mentioned before the whole discussion of nuclear issues is filled with paradoxes. Put your fine philosopher’s mind to the last paradox that we just heard. You cannot indicate goodwill by showing weakness. You have to show strength and then you can show the goodwill and then there will be a response, but it’s always a building upon a building upon a building.
Elie Wiesel: I am not against paradoxes, you know, but then I am not a political scientist, which is my privilege, but on the other hand, I am optimistic with regard to Russia in a strange way, not because of the strength that you invoke, but because of the people in Russia. I have the feeling that what is happening here in Western society, meaning there is an increasing awareness about the nuclear madness. I think it is happening. It is beginning to happen in Russian society as well. The human rights movement in Russia, headed by Sakharov, who is a great hero and a great man... the human rights movement is an anti-nuclear movement in Russia. It may take a few years, but the young people in Russia, I’m convinced of it, will join in a way, will join hands with us. We have seen it, for instance, in the case of Soviet Jewry. Young people in the thousands, and I’ve seen it myself, in the thousands in the early 60s already came out, and they dared to defy the Soviet regime openly. I’m convinced that sooner or later they will move Jews and non-Jews, and all the dissidents in Russia will move into the anti-nuclear field, meaning they will try to persuade their leaders, with all the risks involved, that it is impossible to think about a nuclear war.
Ted Koppel: Go ahead, Mr. McNamara.
Robert McNamara: I want to come back, just one second, to the gentleman who asked about the youth. This is a very important question. What can we tell our young people today about this world we’re moving into? I say we should tell them there’s hope. We should have confidence. We should not create myths of our weakness. In the 1960s, the presidential campaign was fought on the myth, as it turned out later, of a missile gap. Recently we’ve had the myth, and it is a myth, of a window of vulnerability, and it was General Scowcroft’s commission that tore aside that myth and destroyed it. We consistently understate and under-rate our own strength in the world. We are a democratic country. That brings us strength. We are technologically advanced. We have productivity far superior in agriculture and industry and arms to the Soviets. We just saw yesterday or the day before yesterday... I read in Europe that the CIA is now saying that the Soviets have not been increasing their defense expenditures as much as we said they were. We should tell our young people to be confident. Confident of our strength and deal with the Soviets from a position of confidence.
Ted Koppel: On that that same glimmer of optimism, let me just give a cautionary note to our affiliates down the line. We are going to go a little bit longer, and I think you can see why. There’s no need to explain any further. Yes, ma’am, on the aisle.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: OK, to address a previous point: how can we talk about a nuclear freeze at this point in time when Sakharov is well aware of the serious consequences of a nuclear confrontation, states that in order to prevent a nuclear war and to get the Soviets to seriously negotiate, we must first achieve nuclear parity with the current deployment of missiles in Europe? And secondly, that we must reach a position of strength from which meaningful reductions can be made. According to Dr. Sakharov, if it is only by attaining...
Ted Koppel: I’m sure Dr. Sakharov has a lot of fascinating things to say, but boil it down to a brief question if you would...
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Therefore, to push for nuclear freeze at this time would be detrimental for the safety and security of the free world. Would it not?
Ted Koppel: Carl Sagan.
Carl Sagan: Imagine a room awash in gasoline, and there are two implacable enemies in that room. One of them has 9,000 matches. The other has 7000 matches. Each of them is concerned about who’s ahead, who’s stronger. Well, that’s the kind of situation we are actually in. The amount of weapons that are available to the United States and the Soviet Union are so bloated, so grossly in excess of what’s needed to dissuade the other, that if it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable. What is necessary is to reduce the matches and to clean up the gasoline.
GENERAL SCOWCROFT: I have great respect for Carl Sagan’s judgment, but it is true that Andrei Sakharov himself suggested that the United States probably had to deploy the MX missile in order to bring the Soviets to the bargaining table.
Ted Koppel: All right, folks, before we even start with a smattering of applause. We had a little compact before. We’re going to keep it to no signs of approval or disapproval. Let’s go on to the next question there. The lady in the back.
W.F. BUCKLEY: I don’t think Dr. Sagan should be allowed to shake his head.
Ted Koppel: We’ll let Dr. Sagan shake his head and you can shake yours. Let’s get on to the next question. Please.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Many of the panelists have been emphasizing that what the real objective is is the pursuit of stability in the world. Secretary McNamara and Mr. Kissinger both emphasize this. I have to ask in light of that, and if we want to reduce the probability of a conventional war escalating into a nuclear war, is it time for us to question our policies in the Middle East and our invasion of Grenada, our plans for an invasion of Central America. Isn’t that the type of situation that could in fact emerge and erupt into a nuclear war?
Ted Koppel: Mr. Buckley?
W. F. BUCKLEY: Well, theoretically anything could result in a nuclear war if the Soviet Union thought it could win it, but I think that we proved that we are stronger than Grenada and that in flexing our muscles there we probably convinced the Soviet Union that it would not be profitable to provoke us with a nuclear war but that they had better watch out before they start trying to gobble up the Caribbean. So I think on the whole, our venture in Grenada was definitely a venture towards stability, and I wouldn’t be surprised if when he was Secretary of Defense Mr. McNamara had an invasion of Grenada as a contingency operation.
TED KOPPEL: Did you?
Robert McNamara: No.
Ted Koppel: All right, let’s go on to the next question. Yes, sir. I’d like to return to an affirmative approach to some of these problems. Secretary Kissinger mentioned the need for new institutions with which to maintain stability. At this time thousands of Americans have joined together to work for the establishment of a national peace academy which would focus and concentrate study and research in the field of peacemaking and conflict resolution. My question to the panel is: would it not be a method of trying to prevent what we saw tonight, by devoting some of our resources to the field, to study and research in this field? And isn’t it time that we got on with it?
Ted Koppel: Dr. Kissinger, are we, in suggesting a peace academy and suggesting that we devote our resources to that, are we being naïve, or is that in fact the reality with which we have to come to grips?
Henry Kissinger: Now, I think that the problem of peace requires careful thought and study. I am uneasy about the concept of a peace academy because I do not believe you can segregate the notion of peace from the general conduct of international affairs. It used to be said 25 years ago, in fact, I said it myself at the time, that if we could only devote more resources to the study of arms control, we would make great breakthroughs in thinking about arms control. In fact, almost all of the breakthroughs that were made in thinking on arms control happened before a lot of resources were devoted to its study because I had an uneasy feeling the same papers were written over and over again as research funds became available. I don’t like the idea that peace is something abstract and that there’s a group of peace lovers and a group of war mongers. I think we have to study the whole context of international relations for the purpose of bringing about peace, stability, progress towards peace and stability. I wouldn’t... so it isn’t something I would have publicly opposed or taken a position on, if you hadn’t raised the question on this program and I wouldn’t feel deprived if...
Ted Koppel: Ladies and gentlemen, let me give you a fair warning. We’re coming down to roughly our last 10 minutes, so let’s see if we can make the questions crisp, and the answer equally crisp. Yes, sir, it’s your question.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: I’d like to direct my questions both to Mr. Scowcroft and Mr. Kissinger. If in fact what we’re trying to do now is move away from single-warhead... move away from MIRV ICBMs toward single-warhead ICBMs, why are we then moving forward with the 10-warhead MIRV MX missile?
Ted Koppel: General Scowcroft.
GENERAL SCOWCROFT: I think because it’s essential to deploy the MX in order to get from here to there. The single-warhead missile is a long ways away. The Soviets at the present time have an advantage in land-based ICBMs. You can argue about the significance of that, but in fact it does exist. There’s no reason they should give up that advantage without some incentive to do so, and last but not least, we’ve now had four presidents who have said that the MX missile is important if not vital to our national security. Now to get back to this idea of deterrence, and the will aspect of deterrence, to go back on that when there’s been no change in the circumstances, it seems to me, would be very detrimental, but the small single warhead missile can best survive in an arms control environment which the MX should help preserve.
Ted Koppel: Senator Warner, I’m not going to call on you for the very reason that your senatorial rank gives you a chance to talk to these gentlemen all the time. The lady over there on the aisle.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: You’ve talked a lot, Mr. Sagan, about a nuclear freeze. How can you talk about nuclear freeze when we’re dealing with people who would kill civilians on an airliner, who would use chemical weapons against women and children, along with soldiers, and people who have never held up to many treaties that we made with them? How can we trust the Soviet Union when we’re talking about arms control and a nuclear freeze?
CARL SAGAN: Without debating whether what you said is factually right or not, which could be interesting, but maybe too time-consuming, let me merely quote Averill Harriman who said in this context that the only thing you can trust the Russians to do is to act in their own interest, and it is very clear that it is in their interest, as it is in our interest, to first freeze and then make a very steep decline in the total number of warheads in the world. What’s more, we do have to trust and we can trust our own technology because the ability of the United States through reconnaissance satellites and other national technical means to verify a freeze and a major reduction is very clear.
Ted Koppel: All right, let’s move on to the next question. The gentleman with his right hand up. Go ahead.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: I’d like for the panel to react to a key point that I think that they haven’t reacted to this far, and that is: how do you accomplish a verifiable reduction in nuclear arms?
Ted Koppel: Mr. Buckley, do you want to take a crack at that?
W. F. BUCKLEY: That’s a technical question I don’t have the answer to. Why do they allege that they are violating SALT 1 right now? Maybe Dr. Kissinger can tell us whether that’s true or not–with that radar installation they have in Siberia.
Ted Koppel: Well, rather than isolating on that point, is it, in fact, Dr. Kissinger, possible to independently verify that the Soviets are keeping to agreements that they make? And to address the point was raised just a moment ago, do we do it on the basis of trust ever?
Henry Kissinger: We shouldn’t do it on the basis of trust during the period that I had access to that kind of intelligence information. I did not believe that they were violating SALT 1. There was one case of a marginal nature which was stopped when we called it to their attention, but on that particular issue of the radar station, that is as described. I would consider that a violation.
Ted Koppel: All right, we’re down to our last couple of questions. The lady in the front row.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Secretary McNamara, you said that you had a list of about 18 things that the United States could do, and you mentioned no launch on warning. You’ve written about no first use, and I wonder if you would please tell us what some of the other things are, both multilateral and unilateral that the United States and the Soviet Union could do?
Ted Koppel: Only the top three because we’re running out of time.
Robert McNamara: I’d be happy to tell you later the other 15, but first we should reduce the number of warheads in Europe far more than we’ve agreed to so far. There are roughly 6,000 warheads there. They’re obsolete. They’re vulnerable. They’re dangerous. They’re useless. We could cut them in half tomorrow and be ahead. Secondly, we should withdraw, of the remaining half, those that are in the forward areas of Germany. They would be overrun in the early hours of a conflict. There would be a use-them-or lose-them tension, and the great danger is they’d be used and start the conflagration we’d all want to stop. Thirdly, we could engage the Soviets into much more productive negotiations of how to stabilize our respective forces beyond freezing or reducing the numbers. This is perhaps the most important single thing we could do to avoid unintended use of these weapons.
TED KOPPEL: Mr. McNamara, allow me to consider that your statement of summation, and I’m going to let the other five panelists give us their closing thoughts because we are quite literally down to our last couple of minutes. General Scowcroft.
GENERAL SCOWCROFT: I think the key issues are how we sort our way through what is a very dangerous period. I do agree, as Mr. McNamara said, that in the long term, we have every reason for hope. The resources available to the West are so out of proportion to those available to the Soviet Union that if we can survive the next decade, the next 10-15 years, I think we will be in good shape.
Ted Koppel: All right, I’m going to place a very high premium on brevity. Dr. Sagan.
CARL SAGAN: I think that this can be done. We can get out of this trap that we and the Soviets have jointly set for ourselves and our civilization and our species, but the way to cut nuclear weapons is to cut nuclear weapons.
Ted Koppel: Dr. Kissinger.
Henry Kissinger: I think we must have confidence in ourselves and we can solve both the arms control problem, and we must solve the political problem that is created by the deliberate creation of tensions in the world. In that case, if we do not unilaterally disarm ourselves psychologically, I believe that at the end of a 10 to 15 year period, changes in the Soviet system that Elie Wiesel has talked about are likely to occur.
Ted Koppel: Elie Wiesel.
Elie Wiesel: I’m afraid of madness. I’m afraid that madness is possible in history. We have seen that occasionally madness erupts in history, and the only way, I believe, to prevent that madness would be to remember. If we remember that things are possible, then I believe memory can become a shield.
Ted Koppel: Mr. Buckley.
W. F. BUCKLEY: We saw tonight a hypothetical catastrophe. There is an ongoing catastrophe that is not hypothetical. That’s life in the Soviet Union under gulag. I very much regret the kind of drunk thought that is encouraged by ventures of reductionism of the kind that that movie suggested. There is not that in the conversation here tonight, for which, I think, we are all grateful. We have only to remember this. We have to fear the Soviet Union because they have an appetite to govern us and do to us what they have done to their wretched people.
Ted Koppel: You have taken the words out of my mouth in thanking everyone here for the high level on which this discussion has been conducted. I would also like to thank our audience for the thoughtful questions that they posed and to apologize to the many of you who, I know, wanted to ask questions but simply did not get the opportunity. One reason you didn’t is that I have a closing thought, and I would like to deliver it now. It is a paradox that the most emotional issue of our time, possibly the most emotional issue of all time, namely the potential annihilation of the human race, needs more than anything to be considered calmly and without emotion. In that respect, tonight’s presentation of The Day After may have been less than useful. It is difficult to be calm in the face of Armageddon. It is next to impossible to be unemotional when the apocalypse is shown to be so easily within our reach, but if the film has shed something of a national tendency toward complacency, then that is good. We need to talk about the problem. We need to examine, not only as a nation, but as members of an endangered species, a means toward a solution. We cannot succeed in that goal if we are rigid and doctrinaire in our approach to those with whom we disagree. What is at stake this time is much more than simply winning an argument. This coming week, Tuesday through Friday on Nightline, we will present the crisis game. 10 high-ranking officials who served former administrations in the military, intelligence and in diplomacy will show you how the decision-making process at the highest level of government works, or sometimes does not work during a time of great international crisis. Among those taking part, former senator and Secretary of State Edmund Muskie will play the role of president. Former Secretary of Defense and advisor to presidents Truman and Johnson, Clark Clifford, who will play the role of Secretary of State, and playing the role he also played in government, former Secretary of Defense, James Schlesinger. The crisis game will be on Nightline this coming week, Tuesday through Friday 11:30 p.m., 10:30 central time. That concludes this edition of Viewpoint. Again, my thanks to everyone here. I’m Ted Koppel in Washington. Goodnight.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this has been an ABC News special edition of Viewpoint.