From the beginning and throughout all the years of the Cold War, the United States led the Soviet Union in total numbers of strategic nuclear bombs and warheads. The bitter US political debates of the 1970s and early 1980s about nuclear strategy, nuclear force levels, supposed Soviet first-strike capabilities, and strategic defense hinged on arguments as divorced from reality as the debates of medieval scholars about the characteristics of seraphim and cherubim.
Others on the panel mentioned the possibility of reform and spoke confidently of their ability to negotiate with their Soviet counterparts. They mentioned the possibility of getting the number of weapons in the world reduced by 20,000 within the next ten to fifteen years, and this number turned out to be underestimated. By the mid-1990s the world total had gone from 60,000 to 16,000. But William F. Buckley could see only danger ahead. He stated that the makers of The Day After sought to “debilitate American defenses.” When asked if American involvement in Latin American wars could lead to superpower nuclear conflict, he glibly said,
Toward the end of the program Mr. McNamara responded to a person in the audience who asked him to list some of the steps that need to be taken to improve stability and guarantee that nuclear war never happens. Many of these were indeed carried out in the years that followed thanks to the Reagan-Gorbachev summits, perestroika, and probably thanks to some degree to the film The Day After:
Watching The Americans: A 1980s Primer
Barack Obama on Nuclear Disarmament, 1983