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CHARLIE ROSE Transcript #2574

December 15, 1999

CHARLIE ROSE, Host:  Welcome to the broadcast.
        Tonight, NBC anchorman and author, Tom Brokaw.  TOM
BROKAW, NBC News, Author of "The Greatest Generation":
The reason I am writing these books and I feel so committed
to them is that it's my way of saying "thank you" to that
generation for all that they gave me and all that they made
it possible for me to have and for you to have and for all
of us to have in this world at the close of the 20th
     CHARLIE ROSE:  And nuclear expert Richard Garwin.
     RICHARD GARWIN, Council on Foreign Relations, Chairman of
the Arms Control Advisory Board:  A lot of people over here
think the Russians are is such dire economic straits that
they'll be able to afford only 1,000 nuclear weapons.  And
the rest of them will rot.  They will not be useful.
        It doesn't help, then, for us to have 10,000 nuclear
weapons while the Russians have 1,000 and the rest of them
unmaintainable and worth nothing to them because they're
worth a lot to the people who would like to acquire a few of
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Brokaw and Garwin -- next.

(Brokaw interview deleted)

Physicist Calls for Better Technical Analysis on Bombs

     CHARLIE ROSE:  In the 1950s, physicist Richard Garwin
was part of the team that gave birth to the world's first
hydrogen bomb.  Today, he's one of the most respected voices
speaking out against nuclear proliferation.
        He has served under six U.S. president from Kennedy
to Clinton.  He holds over 40 patents, and his work has
touched everything from laser printers to ballistic
        He is currently chairman of the State Department's
Advisory Board on Arms Control.  Last month he testified in
favor of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, which was later
rejected by the Senate.
        I am very pleased to have him on this broadcast.
        Welcome to the program.
     RICHARD GARWIN, Council on Foreign Relations, Chairman
of the Arms Control Advisory Board:  Thank you.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  I don't know where to begin.
        We'll talk some biography about you later on the
program.  But tell me what you think we lost with the Senate
vote on the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty and what your
efforts are directed at now in terms of recovering from that
     RICHARD GARWIN:  I hope it's lost only temporarily.
But we've lost a lot of leverage in getting this treaty to
enter into force and to bind the other nations, the ones who
don't have any nuclear weapons, the ones who have only
primitive nuclear weapons, like India, Pakistan.
        And I hope to bring it back because I think a full
set of hearings in which opponents and supporters argue with
one another about the merits and the problems of a
comprehensive ban on nuclear testing would persuade people
to my point of view.
        And that is that it doesn't constrain us.  We have
fully tested nuclear weapons, more than a thousand such
tests.  So, what it does is to sign people up-- we shouldn't
abandon the use of contracts such as we use in business and
everyday life-- international contracts which are what these
treaties are, to get people to do what the vast majority of
nations and what we want them to do.
        And that is not to test any nuclear weapon
explosively, even to the smallest yield.  So, will they sign
up?  Forty-four of them have to sign and ratify for this
treaty to enter into force -- 41 have signed.  Pakistan,
India and North Korea are the holdouts.
        And India and Pakistan have made pledges to sign.
So, I think that we would get them all signed up.  Once they
sign, they are bound by the Treaty on Treaties not to
violate the spirit of the treaty.
        And we are, too.  In fact, we've had a law on the
books since 1992 that the administration had to have a
comprehensive test-ban treaty by September, 1996.  So, the
Clinton administration pursued that program, signed into law
by George Bush.  And they came up with the treaty in the
summer of 1996.
        It was submitted then to Senate in 1997.  But the
Foreign Relations Committee did not hold hearings on it.
        And then, all of a sudden, in early October it was
called up for a vote without hearings.  Eventually there
were a couple of days of hearings, but totally inadequate to
bring out the facts.  So, other people could in principle
test.  We cannot.
        We've had a moratorium since 1992.  We have no plans
for testing.  This is a field in which better is not a lot
better.  We have better nuclear weapons than anybody.  But
we would not improve our security by further testing, by
further improving our nuclear weapons, while other people
caught up to where were even 35 years ago.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  All the computer models in the world
will not guarantee--
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Every nuclear weapon that we have in
our inventory was designed on a computer that is less
powerful than the PC or the Mac that you buy these days--
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Right.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  --for $4,000.
        So, our big computer effort in this stockpile
stewardship program to look after our nuclear weapons has
nothing to do with the necessity to design nuclear weapons.
People can design perfectly good nuclear weapons and bring
them to point of testing on old-fashioned computers or on
modern computers which cost just a few thousand dollars.
        But, until they actually try them, they have no
confidence, and they should have no confidence that they
would work -- even rather simple weapons because there a lot
of things that you can leave out that aren't included in the
computer calculations in the code.
        So, we should never put a nuclear weapon ourselves,
even with all of our background and all of our computer
capability, into the stockpile without testing it.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  As I understand, part of your work has
been in terms of looking at ways in which we can detect
testing by other nations.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Right, verification.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Verification.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  So, if they agree not to test, then we
verify they are in compliance with the treaty by looking in
the CTBT -- Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Right.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  There are four modalities -- seismic
detectors, the motion of the earth; infrasound, the motion
of the atmosphere; radioactive particulates and gases,
fallout, even leaking from underground nuclear explosions;
and then finally water-- sound in the water.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Right, right.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  So, those would have a threshold-- not
a threshold-- detection threshold of about 1,000 tons of
high explosive equivalent.  Our early bombs were 15,000
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Let me ask you this, then.
        The Israelis are said to have lots of bombs.  Have
they tested them?
     RICHARD GARWIN:  I don't think so.  There was one event
that some people think was--
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Now, how can I be so sure they'll work?
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Well, maybe they're not so sure.  But
that's not their purpose.  Their purpose is to have their
potential opponents -- attackers -- feel that they might
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Yeah.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  And that's good enough for the
     CHARLIE ROSE:  For the purpose that they need 'em,
which is--
     CHARLIE ROSE:  --sort of a kind of fear factor.
        The treaty itself that you so fervently supported
and argued for-- there seemed to be a lot of reasonable
people that disagreed.  You know, everybody made the notion
of how many secretaries of defense and how many chairmen of
the Joint Chiefs and Richard Lugar, who's a reasonable man,
sits on the Foreign Relations Committee; James Schlesinger,
former secretary of defense; Henry Kissinger, former
secretary of state.
        It looked like one of those cases in which a lot of
people were saying, "It's not necessarily to approve--
ratify because it's not a-- it's not the perfect treaty."
        Well, I was really disappointed with Senator Lugar's
position and the statement in full which you can find on his
web site.  And that just shows how much we lost by not
having extensive hearings over a period of months so that
these things could be thrashed out back and forth.
        But Kissinger, for instance, has just published --
November 23rd in The Washington Post -- an article saying it
wasn't so bad that we didn't have that ratified.  We should
have had a delay.  We should have a commission to study
these things for us.
        I think that the hearings would have done the job.
Butthe opponents for the most part had a very well prepared
briefing book, which listed all of the arguments against and
none of the arguments in favor.
        For instance, you know the list of secretaries of
defense and former national security advisers who oppose,
but you don't know the list who support it.
        And they're wrong in many cases.  For instance,
Kissinger says that previous attempt at having a test-ban
treaty included a number of proof tests, permitted under the
treaty.  Wrong.
        He says that Iran had not signed.  Iran signed the
first day of September 9th, 1996, when the treaty was opened
for signature.
        So, there's a lot of arguments that are not tried
and true, but tried and work--
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Yeah.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  --that have been used against the
treaty.  So, there are three points.
        Will people sign?  Yes, they will.  If they don't
sign, it won't enter into force and we are no more bound by
it than we are now.
        Second, can it be verified?  Well, it's a
zero-threshold treaty.  Obviously, if you have only one
pound of high explosive going off in the ground added to
ordinary explosions, you'll not be able to determine that
there was a nuclear explosion.
        But you may learn about it in other ways -- through
intelligence, then you have on-site visiting rights.
        The point is that it's effectively verifiable in
that these little tests would be very hard for a proliferant
country to conduct in any meaningful way.  They know nuclear
weapons can be built.  They don't need to do those little
tests that we did making plutonium and then setting it off.
        They know that can be done.  The question is, "Can
they make an effective nuclear weapon?"
        Twenty of the 6,000 nuclear weapons that the
Russians have or we have will kill 25 million people on the
other side.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Wait a minute.  Twenty-- using 20?  Or
20 of them single-- in one--
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Using 20 either individually or all
together on different targets--
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Can kill 25 million people on the other
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Right.
        And so we've got a tremendous threat facing the
country and the world.  We have this enormous number of
nuclear weapons in Russia in the hands of a country which is
declining economically, in which internal security is not
very good.
        Our aim should be to reduce those numbers as quickly
as possible and to prevent the transfer of those weapons to
other countries or their acquisition by others.
        Now, I've been working at this for 50 years.  I made
nuclear weapons.  I designed nuclear-weapon tests.  I helped
get the first thermonuclear weapons, the 10-million-ton, not
the 15,000 ton.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  This is the so-called hydrogen bomb.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Hydrogen bomb.
        And the point is to keep other people from following
us even into the 1950s or the 1960s.  It would not be good
for their neighbors.  It would not be good for them because
their neighbors would acquire nuclear weapons as well.
        And that's what I fear will happen in South Asia --
Pakistan and India.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  You fear that they will--  It'll just
spread.  Everybody will have to have one?  Is that--
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Yes, that they will use the nuclear
weapons on one another.
        There are two states with a long border who have
fought four wars in the last 50 years.  And they don't get
along with one another.  It's not like the United States and
the Soviet Union who were far from one another and had only
ideological conflicts.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  But bought into the idea of mutually
assured destruction.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Right.
        That was not because we wanted to, as we're
sometimes accused -- us arms controllers are sometimes
accused of wanting to have the country vulnerable.  No.
That's a consequence of the technical facts that the nuclear
weapons are so destructive and there are so many ways to
deliver them -- not only by ballistic missile and aircraft,
but by detonating a weapon in a ship in a harbor-- would
destroy that city just as if it were delivered by aircraft
or a missile.
        And so our point-- our aim is to reduce the threat
to the American people -- Republicans and Democrats alike --
by the use not only of technical means -- defenses -- but
also by the use of international contracts -- treaties -- to
limit these weapons.
        Treaties have not gone out of style.  They've not
gone out of use.  People sometimes don't want to be limited
themselves.  They want to limit only other people.  And
sometimes you can do that if you're sufficiently powerful.
        But you can't do it in a world in which you have to
have relations -- trade, globalization -- with your friends
as well as you adversaries.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  As we talk about this, let me just-- you
worked with what's-his-name who came up with the concept of
the nuclear-- of the hydrogen bomb, Edward Teller.  You
worked with Dr. Edward Teller at Los Alamos, right?
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Right.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  He supposedly-- and I mean-- exposing my
stupidity here, but he supposedly had the concept and you
were the one who made it work.  That what it's been
described to me.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  I drew the design for the system as it
was tested in 1952, right.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Teller later turned into be the most
vocal advocate for SDI and supposedly had some influence
with President Reagan.
        Do you believe that we have reached the point now
that somehow a nuclear shield is a feasible alternative?
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Well, my colleague, Edward Teller,
really didn't want any technical restraints on the United
States or on anybody.  He believes that science and
technology should proceed untrammeled and that only after
you have these things should you decide whether you use
        I don't think that's a proper judgment.  So, he and
I seriously disagree on that.  We've been building defenses
against ballistic missiles for years.
        We even deployed one in 1974 and took it down a few
months later because it clearly wasn't going to do us any
        And we have a treaty of 1972 between the United
States and the Soviet Union -- now the appropriate successor
states -- which says--
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Is this the ABM treaty?
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Which says we're not--
        The ABM treaty which says we're not going to build a
defense of our national territory against strategic
ballistic missiles, that is long-range ballistic missiles.
        We're bound by that until we decide that that treaty
is not in our interest anymore.  So, the question is, "What
can we do?"  We've been developing for the last three years
or more a conventional-- that is, non- nuclear-armed system
for defending against ballistic missiles -- not from Russia,
but from rogue states.
        And I was last year on the so-called Rumsfeld
Commission to assess ballistic missile threat to the United
     CHARLIE ROSE:  Right.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  We said, "Look, North Korea could
have ICBMs, a few inaccurate, unreliable ones, in just a few
years and so could Iran or Iraq within five years after
making the decision to have them and having a high-priority,
well-funded program."
        But we didn't say we should have a defense.  In
order to judge that you should have a defense, you have to
ask, "Is it feasible?  Is this the threat against which we
ought to be spending our money compared with other means of
delivering nuclear weapons?  What will it do when we defend
against these few countries with dozens or hundreds of
interceptors?  What will that do to our great desire to
limit numbers of Russian nuclear weapons?"
        After all, they're the only people who can destroy
the entire country, not these other guys.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  It has been the preoccupation of the
second half of this century -- the notion of nuclear weapons
and nuclear war.  Will it be the preoccupation, do you
think, of the first half of the next century?
     RICHARD GARWIN:  I hope it won't take that long.  I
hope we can solve this problem in large part over the next
10 years 'cause what we have learned is that nuclear weapons
are not useful for war fighting.  They are useful largely
for deterrence -- for keeping people from using nuclear
        And I think that the more people understand the
facts -- the technical facts -- the more they will realize
that we do not have these other applications of tactical
nuclear weaponry, of more bang-for-the- buck.  That is
        Now, I used to consult for Dr. Kissinger when he was
national security adviser.  We had a small group of
technical people who met with him many times and provided
papers on ballistic-missile defense, on multiple
independently-targeted re-entry vehicles, on test ban, and
such things.
        He needs to understand the technical facts from the
people who have had hands-on experience or a lot of-- these
things are not just politics.  These things are not just
strategy.  There is a technical basis that underlies it and
that is what nuclear weapons do the constructs, to the
people, whether you can or cannot use a ballistic-missile
defense to intercept weapons in flight.
        You can, if they don't try to keep you from doing
it.  So, the other half of the problem from North Korea --
the biological agents can be liberated on ascent, fall by
the hundreds, totally uninterceptable, to their targets.
        Or a nuclear weapon could be in an enclosing
aluminized balloon the size of this room.  A nuclear weapon
is my size.  So that the interceptor could strike the
balloon it would do nothing to the warhead because it's a
hit to kill.  It must strike the warhead and it must hit,
you know, someplace on me.
        If it cannot see me within the balloon, it won't be
able to do that.  And that is the unfortunate thing about
the system that we are developing to defend ourselves.  It's
not the main threat.  The Rumsfeld Commission said that
earlier than the long-range missiles any of these countries
could have short-range missile from ships, cruise missiles,
that could strike American cities, port cities.  And, since
they would only have a few such warheads, it would be much
to their interest to use them in that way, rather than
insisting on striking an arbitrary point in the interior.
        So, this is the wrong threat, but it is certainly
the wrong system to counter the threat.  So, I've even been
proposing, if you insist on building a counter to long-range
North Korean missiles, I have been proposing a ground-based
or a sea-based boost-phase intercept.
        So, while the missiles are still burning, you can
intercept them with a rocket and there's no decoying
possible under those circumstances, no bomblets.  If you
would strike the missile even 10 seconds before it finished
its powered flight, it falls short by 5,000 kilometers.  And
so there's no threat to the United States or Canada.
        But I don't necessarily believe that we ought to do
that.  It's just a lot better than the system that we are
proposing to build.  What I do believe is that governing is
difficult.  You cannot do it without looking at the facts,
choosing the options to counter the most important threats.
        And we haven't been doing much of that.
        You mentioned Senator Nunn-- Senator Lugar, and they
have a marvelous accomplishment to their credit in the early
1990s, putting together the Nunn-Lugar Program, about $400
million a year in cooperative threat reduction, to reduce
the threat not by putting up a barrier on the way, but to
reduce at its source in Russia.
        We ought to do more of that.  We ought to give more
attention to diplomacy.  But we ought-- certainly in our
councils of government, try to understand better the
technical facts and the options and then choose the--
        That brings me full circle because the argument made
by you and by others is that this Comprehensive Test-Ban
Treaty-- and people-- did not have a full airing that it
should have had and, therefore, perhaps people reached a
decision that they might not have-- we don't know, if there
had been more of that--
        They also placed blame on different sides as to why
that did not take place -- the politics between Republicans
and Democrats, between the president and the Congress, said
to be a factor in that.
        This is a-- this is an exciting-- I mean, a
fascinating conversation because it goes to what you've
dedicated your life to and some of the best minds that this
century has produced have been somehow involved in this
process -- certainly in the last 50 years.
        I thank you for coming here to talk to us about it.
     RICHARD GARWIN:  Thank you for the opportunity.
     CHARLIE ROSE:  We'll be right back.  Stay with us.

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