Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Montage of images and link description. Race for the Superbomb Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Interview Transcripts | Bibliography | Primary Sources

Richard Garwin on: The "Need" to Build Nuclear Weapons
Richard Garwin Q: There is an argument that has been applied to the development of nuclear weapons that says you have to build what's buildable, that you can't really stop progress, that this so-called technological imperative is in fact unstoppable. Do you hold this view?

RG: No, I don't believe in the technological imperative at all. I think there are lots of things that you can do, and you can see have very bad implications and you stop and you try to get people not to do it. I know that Edward Teller is a proponent of the technological imperative. I think it's stronger for him than his anti-communism even. I think that is what has driven him all his life. Even many of my friends in the arms control community argue that you can't really decide whether something should be controlled until you've done it. But there are many examples to the contrary.

We had a big biological weapons program and in 1969 President Nixon asked his science advisory committee of which I was a look at the possibility of a ban on biological weapons and toxins. And we studied it and decided that there was a horrible future out there and it would be much better if there were an international treaty...So we have an executive order eliminating U.S. capability, research development holdings or use of BW or toxins.

Many people criticized that saying that the Russians would never now sign an international agreement now that the U.S. had unilaterally abandoned this work. But in fact the Russians signed up in short order in 1972. We have the BW convention. Now, of course, it turns out that the Russians cheated on it and they have, under Mr. Gorbachev, they have said their program has been brought to an end, and under Mr. Yeltsin again, they've said their program has been brought to an end, and I think that it would have been brought to an end had the economic conditions in Russia been better.

back to Interview Transcripts

Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference