12: MAD: 1960-1972 | Cold War

The United States nuclear strategy of counterforce, intended to counter a Soviet conventional attack by targeting military facilities, is discredited following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Instead Defence Secretary McNamara adopts the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), with the belief that the targeting by the superpowers of each other's cities would deter a nuclear war. Both sides step up nuclear testing and acquire more nuclear weapons, in particular submarines capable of unleashing retaliation should the opponent strike first. The Soviets choose to follow a more defensive doctrine and introduce anti-ballistic missiles, which the United States seek to counter with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. The arms race remains expensive, controversial and, as demonstrated in the Palomares incident, not without risk. However some small promise of arms control comes from the SALT Treaty. Interviewees include Russell E. Dougherty, William Kaufmann and Harold Brown. The pre-credits scene has McNamara explaining how MAD was the foundation for deterrence.

Clip Info
  • Clip length: 46'27''
  • Broadcast year: 1998
Curriculum Connection
  • History | The Cold War

Licence: ERA Licence required


UK only
Staff and students of licensed education establishments only
Cannot be adapted

  • Provider: BBC
  • Channel: BBC Two
  • Programme: Cold War
  • Episode: 12: MAD: 1960-1972