Starr Forum: Night Watch: A Discussion About The Threat of Nuclear Warfare

Starr Forum: Night Watch: A Discussion About The Threat of Nuclear Warfare


VIPIN NARANG: Good
evening, everyone. Welcome to today’s Starr Forum,
where we’re going to screen and talk with one of the writers
and producers of “Night Watch” for Madam Secretary–
a discussion about the threat
of nuclear warfare. And we’ll be looking at this
through the lens of the CBS drama. It was the season
finale of season 4– last year. I’m Vipin Narang, Associate
Professor of Political Science and a member of the MIT
Security Studies Program. I work primarily on nuclear
weapons and nuclear strategy. And I’ll just be
moderating today. But I’m thrilled and honored
to introduce our guest speaker, Alex Maggio. Mr. Maggio is a writer and
producer on the CBS drama Madam Secretary. He was part of the
team that developed the storyline of “Night
Watch” and figured out how to dramatize the danger
of hair-trigger nuclear alert status. As an MFA graduate of
UCLA, his thesis play, Lost Cause was an Alliance
Candida National Graduate Playwriting Competition
runner-up and an O’Neill semifinalist. His theatrical work
has been performed in New York, LA, Atlanta,
Houston, Aspen, and Santa Cruz. Before becoming a
playwright, Alex worked as an analyst at the
Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, DC– and is a teaching fellow in
history at the Andover Phillips Academy, just up the street. In his spare time,
he’s a trivia junkie, trying to relive his
glory days on Jeopardy, where he was a
three-day champion. He has a BA from
Yale University. And we’re very excited to
have Alex with us today. He will show a clip from
the episode– and then a short discussion about how
they arrived at the concept and the show itself. And then I’ll make a
few very brief remarks before opening up
for question-answer. For Q&A, I’d like
to remind everyone to ask only one question. And line up behind
one of the mics on either side to
ask your question. And please keep it brief,
so that Alex can actually answer your question. So please, join me in
welcoming Alex Maggio. And we look forward to the
clips and your discussion today, Alex. Thanks for coming today. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Thank you. [APPLAUSE] And I do talk again tomorrow. And I’m going to
give you another– oop– waterfall. I’m going to give you
another brief spoiler and tell you that, ultimately,
Elizabeth McCord, our secretary of state character and
the hero of this story, is able to sign a treaty
with the Russians, agreeing to mutually de-alert
our nuclear missiles, thereby presumably reducing
this particular threat to our lives and safety. So this is an episode that
ends with a win– so you know. But I would encourage
everyone to go watch it. So I just want to take a moment
to thank MIT’s Starr Forum and Mass Peace Action for
bringing me here today. It’s a absolute thrill
to be in this setting. It’s really cool to
be sharing the stage with a guy like Vipin– talented academic that normally
I only encounter on the page, alone in my room, when
I’m imagining cool people I’d like to write dialogue for. So I’m happy to be here. I’m also just happy
to be representing the show as a writer. Normally, actors
are the ones who get to do this kind of thing. So any time we can
crawl out from the dark and be in the limelight
makes us feel happy. So thank you for that. So has been
mentioned, I was part of the writing
and producing team that put together the
story for this episode and plotted it out. The dialogue in
the script itself was written by two
of our top writers and our show creator
Barbara Hall and David Gray. But I was happy to
be a part of it. And I was able to
contribute, I think, some small amount
to the process. And so I’ll speak
to that a little bit today because, obviously,
I’m not an expert. I did start my career
thinking I was going to work in government intelligence. And my area, when I was
working for the DIA, was counterproliferation,
so I had some awareness of nuclear issues. And I’ve always been
interested in them. But it was an interesting
bit of serendipity when we ended up doing so
many stories about them on this show. So I’ll try to
answer the question– how does a layperson like
me, someone without a lot of special training– same as the other
writers on their show– go about trying to
dramatize a story like this? And I’ll talk a little
bit of the origins of how we decided we wanted to do it. Now, for any writer of
any television show, the temptation to do stuff
about nukes is pretty strong. I think, just take a survey
of your local DVD library. And you’ll see a lot of
nuclear incident stories. So it’s always a temptation. And there’d been a
couple of scare incidents that had been
happening in the news, including the false
alert in Hawaii. We were in the writers room. But more than anything
else, it was the fact that, for some reason, with
this current president, a lot of people
have been talking about the power of one
individual to press a button and blow up the world. And so we wanted to dramatize
that in some effective way. But we knew, if we
were going to do it, it had to be really in keeping
with the mission of our show. And from the very beginning,
our creator, Barbara Hall, has tried to emphasize
two things very strongly. One is that it’s civic minded. She always likes to talk
about trying to give the civics lesson of the show. And in the case of
this episode, I’d probably interpret
that to mean– show what the
actual process would be like behind the curtain
for the people involved in trying to execute
a president’s order in this situation. And then, also, that
it’s aspirational. We are unashamedly positive. We solve a lot of problems
in 43 minutes that probably couldn’t be solved in 43 years. But we like to try
to keep as much verisimilitude as possible. And what we’re always going for
is something that’s a reach, but it’s achievable. And that’s what we tried
to do in this episode. So we knew we
wanted to do a story about a nuclear launch and
the scare that would follow. But we wanted to leave
viewers with something positive at the end
of day, because we didn’t want to scare
people to death or paralyze them with fear. We wanted to have some positive
takeaway that would, hopefully, make us safer in the future. And we talked to a number
of nuclear experts, who were made available to us
through this organization called Hollywood
Health and Society. That’s run out of the
Annenberg Center at USC. And so we were
particularly lucky. We talked to Global Zero. We talked to the Plowshares
Fund, Jeffrey Lewis from the Middlebury Institute
of International Studies. And then also, this
guy, Bruce Blair– that a lot of people in
this room actually know– gave us a lot of information. He was a former missile
officer and told us a lot about what the actual
launch process was like. So I would recommend
watching the episode again. You can see some of those
scenes inside the silo. They’re very cool. Or at least, I think they’re
cool, for obvious reasons. So we knew we wanted
to tell this story in an aspirational way that
ended with something positive. And what these experts told
us really is that, probably, the most achievable concrete
thing that could be done– that might make the possibility
of an accidental nuclear war a lot smaller– would be de-alerting
our land-based missiles. Because in the
current system, even though we can detect
launches really rapidly– and this is my understanding– by the time the information
successfully filters up to the president,
he or she is only going to have about
five minutes in which to make the decision
that’s going to affect the fate of everyone on earth. And as writers, we really
are interested in putting our characters through
that situation. And in particular,
we’re always looking for flaws and possible
tragedies to exploit for drama. And so it’s always more
interesting to us when we take a very responsible,
intelligent, reasonable person– and that absolutely describes
the character of President Dalton on our show– into this situation, where
it’s incredibly high pressure and you’re dealing with
a certain doctrine that’s existed for decades that says,
you can only make one choice. And we wanted to dramatize how
intense those few minutes would be. So that was our intention. The next step after
that was trying to figure out what
specific thing could have caused the president
to accidentally give a launch order. And looking through history– this was the point in the
story-breaking process where we lost a lot of sleep. And you just look through
nuclear near-misses– at least the ones that
have been declassified. And a lot of them are
kind of horrifying. The particular one we zeroed in
on was from November 9, 1979. And this was a
real-world 3:00 AM phone call that NORAD made to the
national security advisor at the time of President Carter. I think it was Zbigniew
Brzezinski, right? Yeah– Brzezinski, saying
that they thought a launch was happening. And fortunately, he
waited a few minutes before waking up the
President and telling him that we needed to retaliate. And then they
realized, belatedly, that a training tape had been, I
think, put in the wrong system. And they were looking at a
training exercise, rather than an actual attack. We thought that
sounded pretty good. And we also liked
the idea that, when you keep a certain
system in place, history might repeat itself. And if you don’t
reform the system, you run a risk of having the
same mistake happen again. So we decided to crib
from that a little bit. It was referenced in the debate. So we had the
generalized elements of what we wanted to
do with this story. And we had our basis on a real
event to be inspired from. And so then we played around
a little bit with the format. If you watch the episode–
you can’t really see it here. But we actually go back in time. And we look at different
shifting perspectives from those few minutes where the
false information starts first coming in, to the reactions of
people and the eventual recall order. So we really hyper-focused
on those few minutes. Beyond that, we tried to
be very truthful to what the experience might be like
for the people involved. That’s why you see, in
the setup of this episode, a lot of people going
through their daily lives. Like, imagine you’re playing
tennis with your buddy. And all of a sudden, you get
a text message telling you you have to participate in the
continuity of government plan at Mount Weather,
which itself is a totally fascinating subject
that I would recommend people looking at. We don’t see it. We didn’t see it in this clip. But ultimately,
our main character, Secretary of State, Elizabeth
McCord, when she eventually finds out that this
is taking place, decides she wants to
die with her family rather than go on without them. So she tells her
security detail, she doesn’t want
to be evacuated. So we tried to be
truthful to what the human drama of
those individual moments might be for the people who
are the leaders of government, for the people who might
be asked to survive, for the people who wouldn’t
be asked to survive that particular event. And then we really tried
to get the details right. We were fortunate to have a
number of military consultants who were really able to help us. I mentioned Bruce Blair earlier. We also had numerous connections
we made to the Glover Park Group in Washington,
DC, who helped us get a lot of the details from
the biscuit to the football– there’s so much jargon
in the military. It always drives us
crazy as writers. We leave blank
spaces and then call, begging for help from
technical experts who can then help us fill them in– through the whole
the whole process of issuing the launch order. And hopefully, we
came as close as we could be, within the confines
of a 43-minute network drama, to illustrating that. And ultimately, I
hope people come away with the point-of-view
that five minutes is an awfully short time for
anyone to make a decision. And whether or not you believe
that that’s the right posture– and we tried to be very faithful
to the other side of the coin and the military
arguments for why you don’t want to remove
one leg of the stool, as we heard referenced
multiple times. We tried to be faithful to
that side of the argument. But hopefully, at
the end of the day, people watching this
episode will come away with the kind of
curiosity interest that will lead them to get
more educated and engaged in the subject. And that– beyond just
entertaining people and speaking to artistic
elements of the human condition or whatever else we tell
ourselves when we look in the mirror in the morning– we really hope that
we can motivate people to learn
more and hopefully connect with experts
in the field who can help them become more
engaged, either politically or just as citizens. So that’s the process
of writing this episode. And I’m happy to answer any
questions you might have about decisions we made
that I didn’t get to in this little talk. So thank you. [APPLAUSE] VIPIN NARANG: Thanks, Alex. That was great. So I thought it was a great
episode and very realistic and had high fidelity
to the details. In some ways, I actually think
you didn’t scare people enough. And that’s a hard– you want a feel good story
and everyone survives. But there are couple of features
about our nuclear posture and global nuclear
postures that are actually, I think, scarier than
the episode surfaces. So the detail about the– and if you watch
the whole episode, the two launch control officers
are given an abort order after one had already
turned the key. And so if the second
officer had simultaneously turned the key before
the abort order came in, that would have been one
vote to the missile flight to launch its missiles. You don’t need five votes
in a missile squadron, which consists of five flights
of control officers, to launch all the missiles. You only need two. And this was by design. All of the features in the
episode that kind of look insane in the American
nuclear strategy are features and not bugs of
American nuclear strategy. This was how the
system was supposed to be designed, with
a ton of redundancy, assuming that we would be
losing pieces of the command and control structure, losing
missile flight officers, and launch command centers. So you only needed
40% of the officers to concur to launch
the missiles. And if they didn’t, there
was still an airborne system that could override the
launch control centers and launch the missiles. So the amount of luck
required to contravene a valid and authentic
order, when it is given, is actually tremendous. And it might have underplayed
it in the episode, if you walk through what the
redundancy in the system is. And it’s there precisely
because the amount of time a president would
have to respond to a warning and then spin up the
forces– the ICBM leg and the SSBN leg and the bomber
leg– is very, very small. And so the system was
designed this way. And I think, a really
important question is whether de-alerting
solves this problem– whether de-alerting is enough. Because our system skews so
heavily towards usability rather than safety. And that was because
the Cold War had– the belief was, there’s so much
time urgency and that, when we had to go, we
had to go quickly with everything against
the entire Soviet arsenal and the entire communist bloc. The second thing that’s
interesting about the episode, to me, was– this was a scenario
responding to a warning. So we were retaliating
to a warning from Russia, in this case. And so the president
had time to convene and opted to get
consent in the process. That consent is not required. The President does not require
the consent of the National Security Advisor, the
Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, or
the STRATCOM Commander in order to launch nuclear weapons. That does not constitute a
valid and authentic order. If the President– so we
take the Hawaii missile false warning. If President Trump had seen a
tweet about it on his phone– and this is leaves President
Trump as an example, but this is a process that has
existed from the beginning– and decided that he, without
being informed by the National Security Advisor or anybody
else– he saw the tweet, there’s a missile
in-coming to Hawaii. And that was a tweet
that was out there during the fog of this alert. If the President
decided, you know what? Kim is done. I’m going to launch a first
strike with nuclear weapons against North Korea, nothing
can stop him, short of a mutiny. If he’d have called the
military aid over that carries the football– he didn’t have to consult with
the National Security Advisor. If he picked up the phone,
called the duty officer at the National
Military Command Center, whipped out his biscuit– and hoping it wasn’t Cheerios
or something– and it said, this is the President of the
United States– authenticate Alpha Zulu Tango
9-6-5, strike package North Korea, the duty officer
the National Military Command Center would issue the
order to the forces. It would not require
approval from the Secretary of Defense, Chief of Staff,
National Security Advisor, Secretary of State. The process that’s
in the show is consultative in a lot of ways. But it is not required
constitutionally for the President
of the United States to launch nuclear weapons. So the first-strike scenario
is actually the scary one. It would essentially take a
mutiny or several key officers in this process, who are
not necessarily generals or have stars on
their brass, in order to stop the President
from doing this. And even then, once
the issue is ordered, you could have a large portion
of the ICBM officers say, I don’t want to do this. I have no reason to believe
this is what the United States should be doing, you need
only a small number of officers to override any attempt
to slow it down. And the US is almost
unique in this. There’s no other
system that I know of, publicly, where you
have sole authority, where the president
does not require the consent of anybody else
to launch nuclear weapons– he or she. Even in the Russian system,
there are three footballs. And it requires the
order to be issued from both the president–
so President Putin– and one of the other two, either
the Chief of General Staff or the Minister of Defense. You need two votes. One of them has to
be the president. But you’d need a second one in
order to confirm the launch. So the president alone– I don’t know when they
instituted this– maybe when Yeltsin was drunk all the time. But you need at least two
votes in the Russian system. And so the US is
unique in this way. And it is a question that’s
being raised in Congress today about whether sole
authority is the right way to organize our system in the
post-Cold War world, where one person has this authority. President Nixon was drunk for a
large portion of the last days he was in office. And Schlesinger,
the former Secretary of Defense– his Secretary of
Defense– goes around saying, I told the military and anybody
to contact me or read me in into any orders
before executing them. And that wasn’t constitutional. That, in fact, if
it was true, he exceeded his
constitutional authority. And so there’s a
debate that probably should be had in the US system
as whether sole authority is the right way to
organize the system. And the third
final point is this was about the US and
Russia in the episode. But there is another
conflict out there where the time pressures
are even more severe. In the US and the
Russian system, they’re 30 minutes basically
from when an ICBM would be launched until it hits. So you have 30 minutes
to get the warning to the relevant
parties, some time to decide what to do
to confirm the warning, and then launch at
least the ICBMs. SSBNs would take a
little bit more time. But India and Pakistan–
the flight times are not 1/2 an hour. They’re two to three minutes. So imagine in a crisis– we’re
just coming out of a major crisis between India and
Pakistan where, thankfully, nuclear weapons– I don’t think–
were in the picture. But if you got going and the
music started in South Asia, the time that a prime minister
in either Islamabad or Delhi has to decide whether
to retaliate if there’s indication of a strike or
a launch by the other side is effectively 0. And we have to ask
yourself if this is the way we want to run
postures in, not only Russia and the US, but worldwide also. So I thought the episode raised
and surfaced a whole bunch of interesting questions and
was almost, probably, I think, too optimistic actually
about how lucky we could get. Because if that scenario
actually happened, we’re also banking on the
redundancy in the system not to override
the abort orders. And that was always a feature
of the system and not a bug. And so I encourage everybody
to watch the episode. It was a real pleasure to
have Alex here with us today and talk about the process. And the details were, I
thought, fantastic and accurate. And it’s hard to do
in a show like this. So I encourage you
to watch the show. And now, we’ll take
your questions. [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: Thank you
for the presentation. I did not see the episode. But I was wondering– I remember, growing
up, there always was a hotline, a red phone
between Moscow and Washington. Is that part of the protocol
anymore, in terms of, if there’s a possible alert,
get Putin on the line, verify if this is happening,
or try to verify it or not? VIPIN NARANG: I think so. But it depends on somebody being
on the other end of the line too. I don’t know what the state
of the hotline currently is. These confidence
building measures– I know that there is one
between India and Pakistan, but at the
military-to-military level, not at the prime
ministerial level. AUDIENCE: Right. It would at least
be an opportunity to find out if, in fact,
it is a false warning. VIPIN NARANG: Right. AUDIENCE: Thank you. VIPIN NARANG: Please
come to the microphones if you want to ask a question,
so everyone else can hear you. AUDIENCE: Thank you– mine’s
just a follow up to that. Even if you had the
phone between the two, if they did do the first
strike, would they necessarily give you the honest answer? And that’s my
thought about that. If they did it, they did it. VIPIN NARANG: We’re going to
some really dark places– yeah. AUDIENCE: Yeah. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Don’t worry. VIPIN NARANG: Don’t be shy. AUDIENCE: My name is
[INAUDIBLE] and I’m working as a consul in the
Korean Consulate General. Thank you for making
the fantastic episode. I already saw the whole episode. It was very moving. My question is whether
if, in the near future, North Korea attempts
another provocation– such as the demonstration of
the ability and technology of reentry into the
atmosphere or the ability to make warheads small enough
to be loaded into an MIRV– do you think President
Trump will press the button? VIPIN NARANG: Do you want
to answer the question? ALEXANDER MAGGIO: I don’t
think my opinion’s worth a lot. I don’t know. VIPIN NARANG: I– I think, any military
strike on North Korea, either with conventional
or nuclear weapons, runs a very high risk
of a nuclear weapon being used in the region– probably US bases or forces
in Japan, maybe South Korea, although there’s some evidence
that Kim Jong Un wouldn’t use nuclear weapons
against fellow Koreans on the peninsula. But in extremis, the fear– we have to assume that Kim Jong
Un has designed his command and control structure, such that
any sort of centralized control of his nuclear
forces rapidly shifts to being able to use them before
he loses his nuclear weapons. And that creates a
very dangerous dynamic. He has long been afraid– and
North Korea has reason to be afraid– that, if the US wanted to
attack him and eliminate him or his nuclear
forces, it would have to be a surprise attack. And we desensitize North Korea
all the time by running B-1s, which they think are
nuclear capable– which technically are not,
but they think they are– up to the NLL and back. And one day, all they have
to do is take a left turn. And that’s how the music will
get started with North Korea. And so we have to assume that
he’s instituted procedures to rapidly launch
nuclear weapons, in an effort to improve
his chance of survival, even though it would
be relatively low. And the arsenal size
now is– depending on whether you believe the
CIA estimate or the DIA estimate– anywhere from, let’s
say, 20 to 70 nuclear weapons. The idea that you can go and
get all of them before he uses them is a very risky
sporting proposition. And there is a world in which– OK, you can attrit the force. And you got missile defenses
which may, in theater work. And then our national missile
defense really doesn’t– it’s not great yet. So you’re talking about
potentially exposing a state in the region to a
nuclear attack and, possibly, the United States homeland. And President Obama– Bob Woodward, in his book Fury– Fury? Fire and Fury? Fury? there’s this anecdote where
the President Obama said, look, if we’re going to go get
it, can we go get it? And the assessment
was, we can eliminate 80% of North Korea’s known
nuclear weapons capability. So you’ve got the problem
of the unknown capabilities. And you have the
problem of 20% of those that you do know are
still going to survive and then probably be used. So I think that
window has passed. And I know, Washington
is allergic to the idea of accepting
nuclear North Korea. You don’t have to accept it. But you may have
to live with it. And so the discussion
today, actually, between your president
and President Trump about a step-by-step– slowing the program
is a good idea. I think that we should
focus on slowing the North Korean
nuclear program first, so it reduces the chance
of vertical proliferation in North Korea, but also of
spreading nuclear weapons. North Korea’s shown a penchant
for selling nuclear technology. So for me, that’s– I think– the more realistic
and sensible pathway forward, as opposed to trying to
eliminate their force by force. AUDIENCE: All right–
thank you very much. VIPIN NARANG: Yes, ma’am. AUDIENCE: Hi, I’m
Annie [? Peets. ?] I was Andover Class of ’10. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Cool. AUDIENCE: I’m just curious about
the differences between what we saw in the show and
the example scenario you based it on, where he
had those few minutes to wait to tell the president. Where was that, in the
sequence you described and the sequence we saw– take place? ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Yeah, sure. So I’ll just tell you
about the sequence that happened in the episode. And then maybe– I assume that maybe you know
more about that 1979 incident than I do. VIPIN NARANG:
Brzezinski was asleep. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: He woken
by a 3 AM phone call. VIPIN NARANG: So
was the President. And so he was woken up. And then he said,
I’m going to go back to sleep until they confirm. And so, they weren’t
on a golf course. AUDIENCE: OK. VIPIN NARANG: The president
was standing right there. So if you– ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Yeah, we
chose to do ours in daylight. We chose to have
the president try to reach most of his
National Security Council– which he was able to
do in this scenario, with the exception of
the secretary of state– and then have that debate
right then and there. So the national security
advisor, in this case, was literally on the golf
course with the president when her phone started
having the crazy alarm. So there wasn’t any chance to
filter it out, even if she’d wanted to, in our scenario. AUDIENCE: And how long does
he or she have to do that? VIPIN NARANG: Just
a couple minutes. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Yeah, we were
told five when we were writing. VIPIN NARANG: Five to seven,
depending on if you see– there’s very little
time, because it’s also the question of– there’s a process where the
call, if it’s an alert– I think this is exactly right. STRATCOM goes to the NSA. The NSA then decides– you confirm. And then it goes
to the President. And this is in the event
of an alert like this. If the President
wanted to go first, then it’s a different story. But in this kind of
retaliation scenario, from the time that we detect
a launch to– you really don’t have a lot of time. Because 30 minutes
incoming– you’ve lost 10 minutes by
the time the NSA is probably contacted
and reached. So there isn’t a lot
of time after that. AUDIENCE: Hi, I’m Peter Metz. And Alex and I met last night
when the whole film was shown. And it’s very powerful. And I’ve seen it a
couple of times before. I retired from here
quite a while ago. I was the Executive
Director of what is now the Center
for Digital Business. I chose, a couple years
ago, to focus my energy on nuclear disarmament. So I’m very, very, very
concerned about this. And my question
is to you, Vipin. If we do de-alert, aren’t
we still at tremendous risk? VIPIN NARANG: Yes– I think that this is the– so I’ll just say– so my
own analysis and scholarship focuses on deterrence
at low numbers rather than complete
disarmament. And I don’t need to
get into that debate. Because I think, a world
without nuclear weapons but with nuclear
knowledge can be more dangerous in a lot of
ways, as you’re racing– the NSA makes the
argument, if you de-alert– but when you’re
generating the force, there are all these
risks that are created. If you were trying to
disarm but everyone had standby nuclear
programs, my view is that that would be
very destabilizing. Because the first one
there is a monopoly. And we need to think
through whether, in a world with nuclear knowledge,
deterrence at low numbers may be more stable than a
world without nuclear weapons. So de-alerting would
solve the problem of– the ICBM leg–
the reason I think Bruce Blair focuses on
de-alerting the ICBM leg is because the ICBM leg
is the most responsive leg of the triad. And because it’s
on alert, it only takes two to three
minutes, whereas the SSBNs take about 15 minutes. So given the time pressure, if
incomings would have taken out our ICBM leg completely–
which is what the Secretary of Defense points out– while you’re SSBNs
are spinning up– and your bombers, if
they’re not ready, are still hours away
from their targets. And so the argument that the
Secretary of Defense was making is, if you lose an
entire leg of your force and the de-alerted
force is a sitting duck, then you’re putting a lot of
pressure on the SSBN force. And these are debates to be had. Is it better? It solves this problem for sure. And if you think there’s
zero chance of the Russians launching a first strike
at you, then you’re not really losing anything. And it’s possible,
in this world, that de-alerting– you can
re-alert pretty quickly too, right? So in this phase, if we’re
not worried about the Russians in particular, who are the only
other country with the ability to disarm us of our ICBM leg– if you’re not worried about a
bolt-out-of-blue strike from Russia on our ICBMs, then
you could go to a de-alert– I think, you could eliminate
this particular risk, where you’d have more
time for recallability at the very least. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: And we knew,
when we were approaching this, that this was a very small
step to take in the larger, extremely scary architecture of
how nuclear work could start. But as I maybe
mentioned– yeah– 43-minute episode of
network television– we wanted to start somewhere. And this seemed like a
rational place for us. VIPIN NARANG: Absolutely. AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Khalil. So it seemed to me that there
was quite a bit of activity going on within a
very narrow frame– very important decisions
had to be made. But it didn’t seem to
me that any thought was given to maybe alerting
the public that we’re under threat of nuclear
attack or missile attack. And so my question is,
in real-life, where does this happen in
the sequence of events? VIPIN NARANG: It wouldn’t. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Yeah, that’s– AUDIENCE: So we just– ALEXANDER MAGGIO:
–what we were told. VIPIN NARANG: President
Dalton has that great line– what’s the point? ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Yeah,
and I think we maybe weren’t able to show this clip. So there’s a whole
debate, when the president is whisked to Air Force One. He’s taking off. And his chief of staff– Russell Jackson, on our show– says, I was thinking about
calling my wife or the boys– his sons. And the president
says, what’s the point? And what we were told, at least
when we were researching this, was– yeah, what’s the point? Are you’re really
going to have millions of people trying to leave metro
areas with only a few minutes’ warning? They might as well
die oblivious. AUDIENCE: Yeah. ALEXANDER MAGGIO:
I think I would. AUDIENCE: So then I’d
followed that up with– the people who spent
quite a bit of money building their own bunkers– and is that all for naught? VIPIN NARANG: They wouldn’t– I mean, those were theater. Shelter in place–
if anybody was doing that, that was theater. It wasn’t going to do anything. The bunkers that would
survive would have been– you have very hard
and deep in-bunkers. But most of the nuclear shelters
were not going to survive. Yes, ma’am? AUDIENCE: So I’m on the
board of Mass Peace Action. But I can’t take any
credit for this event. I have two questions. You did not mention
submarines, which– I believe– no matter
where they are, they can shoot off their
missiles at Russia. But I have a more
fundamental question. And that is– do we have to
consider Russia an enemy? I don’t really think it is. We may not like each other. But it seems that we
always have to have some bogeyman out there. And Iran is one, which
makes no sense to me. And Russia is another. Is that really necessary? Is it ever possible that we
can have a civilized friendship or something like
that with Russia? ALEXANDER MAGGIO: It’s a
good political question. I can tell you, as a drama
writer, you need a villain. VIPIN NARANG: It’s
helpful, right? ALEXANDER MAGGIO: You need
the tension and conflict from an adversary in order
to build up the tension and drive the
story of your show. So in the world of our
show, just from a purely fictional point-of-view,
we did feel like we need that to create
the plausible scenario for a possible false
launch accident. VIPIN NARANG: It’s the only
plausible scenario, too. This is not an issue– if you
detect a launch from China, you’re like, OK. That’s not– Russia is the
only plausible scenario. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: And we
actually spent some time, plot-wise, building up tensions
with Russia in a few episodes before this show just to the
point where we were hoping– even a reasonable president
could pause and think, well, I don’t know. Maybe they are really mad. Maybe the Russian president
is a little nutty. And we covered a little
bit of that in the opening. And– VIPIN NARANG: I thought that
was a great detail actually. Because it’s not out of
the realm of possibility if we kill 300 Russian
soldiers in Syria, whether it’s an accident or not. Remember, we accidentally bombed
the Chinese embassy in Kosovo? The Chinese were pissed, right? They didn’t think
it was an accident. And so, in this case,
the lead up actually– it’s plausible the
president said, well, is he really that crazy and
upset that’d be a launch and launching an
all-out nuclear strike. And it had to be Russia,
in this particular case. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: In terms
of the submarine part, we did try to touch
on that a little bit when Elizabeth is
arguing for de-alerting. One of the arguments
she uses is– all of the Ohio-class
submarines we have available that we could use. And her argument is, why
would we need the land forces, in that case? But in terms of how we regard
Russia today politically, I can’t really speak to that. VIPIN NARANG: Yeah– I wouldn’t be able– if I go into, maybe, academic
professor mode for a second, the interesting thing
is– the argument– we’re modernizing our
nuclear force now. We’re spending– they’ll
say $1.3 trillion– all said and done– I think it’s going to
be a little bit more than that– over 30 years. But the argument that ends up
being made for the ICBM leg to modernize it to
the Ground Based Strategic deterrent– which
is literally the worst name. And I think General Heighton
was made fun of in Congress the other day,
because they don’t have a nice name for GBSD. But GBSD– when you
really push STRATCOM as to what the purpose is,
it is to be a warhead sponge. Because our SSBNs actually
have our hard-kill capability, our primary strike weapon is
the submarine-based force. The missiles–
the D5 on the SSBN are far better and more
accurate than our ICBMs. Although, GBSD will be accurate. But when really pushed– this is about getting– the idea is to force Russia
and only Russia to commit 1,400 warheads approximately– to disarming us of the ICBM leg. And that’s really the only
rationale– a warhead sponge. And so as taxpayers– we’re footing the bill for this. And I think there is a
logic for the SSBN force. The SSBN force– if you’re going
to have a deterrent survivable at sea, this is the way to go. There’s also– I think, the
air leg, the bomber force, has real advantages. The ICBM leg– a
lot of countries don’t have ground-based. France no longer does. Britain does not. China and Russia do. India and Pakistan have
mobile missiles, right? So you ask– we’ve had this
legacy of the ICBM force. And it’s ready. And it’s on alert. It’s reasonable to
ask, is this how we want to posture and structure
our forces going forward, if you really think
that the chance of a Russian
first-strike is small? We would devastate them with
everything else we have. So it’s an open question. I don’t think there’s
an easy answer to it. AUDIENCE: Hi. Thank you for the preview
of Madam Secretary. It looks like an exciting show. My question is– do you
think the white swan bombers that were flown down
near Caracas last December are a part of Putin’s
political theater? Or are they there for any real
military strategic purpose? VIPIN NARANG: I do not have a
good answer to that question. In general– theater? I don’t know. I don’t know enough about
that particular operation. AUDIENCE: [? Cole ?] Harrison–
about the nuclear winter theme that was in the film, when they
say, well, it’s just a theory– so what is the actual
state of the doctrine among nuclear experts at MIT
or the Defense Department– people who think they’ve
got a rational strategy? Isn’t it true that the
science of nuclear winter has made the theory of
mutually-assured destruction no longer applicable? Where is the
breakdown in thinking? Or what am I missing here? What is your
understanding, professor, of where this is being examined? VIPIN NARANG: I’m not an expert
on nuclear winter science. Areg might be. AUDIENCE: Sure, that’s an
expertise of climate science, right? But the climate scientists say– VIPIN NARANG: I mean– AUDIENCE: –don’t they? VIPIN NARANG: At the
point that you’re talking about ending the
northern hemisphere anyway, nuclear winter is a
disaster for the rest of the planet that survives. But the living may
envy the dead anyway. There’s that famous line. There was a study in India
and Pakistan actually, also, about the effects of even
a limited nuclear exchange and how devastating it would
be for the environment. My sense is that
it’s a real thing. But I think the Cold War– this notion of exchanging
massive nuclear exchange is not the threat today. The false warnings
are real threats. And we still have
our forces postured and our warning system postured
for the Cold War scenarios. But the real threat–
we traded, I think, a low risk of a
world-ending event– massive Soviet-US
nuclear exchange– for a higher risk of limited
nuclear exchange in the Cold War. And I go around saying that,
I think, in our lifetime, we will likely– not likely. I think it is a
non-zero chance that we will see a nuclear weapon used
in anger in our lifetimes. And there are several plausible
flashpoints out there– South Asia, Russia
and the Baltics, the Koreas, if there
is a misperception. And it wouldn’t be a
world-ending event. You wouldn’t have a
massive nuclear strike. We’d have nuclear use again
for the first time in 70 years. And that’s a different world. So I think we traded one
risk for another today. And a lot of our force
posture is sized and geared towards the old threat and not
necessarily the new threat. And I think that’s something we
should also be thinking about. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Just
in terms of our mention of nuclear winter in the
episode or being a controversial thing– we included
that, because we heard that there were some
people who disputed that. And we thought it might be a
plausible point-of-view for one of our characters who is
from the Defense Department. And in general, we put it
there to illustrate the idea that, in these scenarios,
and at least doctrinally, it seemed to us, as writers, that
people were much more focused on the immediate victory
and not really thinking a lot about long-term
consequences for humanity in their war planning. AUDIENCE: Just to
quickly add that, if we’re spending $1.3 trillion
for a new generation of it, then the assessment that
it’s not the likely scenario doesn’t seem to fit
what we’re doing. VIPIN NARANG: Some of that
is generating capability for the new scenarios. But we’re keeping
the old stuff too. So there is a pressure. I think, for those that
value these legacy systems, it’s very difficult to
convince them to give them up. AUDIENCE: Hello, everyone. My name is Areg Danagoulian. I’m from Nuclear
Science and Engineering. Just to comment about the
question on nuclear winter– I’m not a climatologist
or anything like that. But there were two papers
that came out, I believe, last year– this is
a hot topic again– no pun intended– about exactly
what’s going to be the scale. Because the original
concepts were developed in the ’80s by Carl Sagan. And climatological models
were not very accurate. The difficult thing in trying
to estimate what will happen is estimating how much
particulate matter will get injected into the stratosphere. That’s a very difficult problem. So the one paper that came out
from University of Colorado, I believe, said
that even something like 150 warheads exchanged
between India and Pakistan would result in a six-year
freezing temperatures in all agricultural regions
in the northern hemisphere. Then the Los Alamos
paper came out later, which was very detailed. Again, I’m not an expert. But I found the Los Alamos
analysis much more detailed and much more rigorous–
which concluded that most of the smoke would
come fall right back down. And just to clarify what
we’re talking about is– in case of a strike against
city urban centers, which have lots of wood, you will end
up having super fires that– VIPIN NARANG: Fires. AUDIENCE: –inject
lots of, basically, soot into the upper atmosphere. I think, the whole question
is, will this smoke come up? Cool down– fall back down? Or will it really
go all the way up? And anyway, Los
Alamos then concluded that it’s not a big deal. Maybe 1% change in temperature
or something like that. So my question was about
the chain of command. When Trump got elected
three years ago, in 2017, there was lots of
debate as to exactly– what’s the chain of command? And it looks like,
from what I saw, there seemed to be a lack
of clarity as to who orders what and who can intervene,
et cetera, et cetera. Then the head of
STRATCOM, John Heighten, came out and stated that, if the
President orders a first-strike and if they find
the order illegal– for example, it violates laws
of war and things like that– they will not follow that order. That seemed to have
been what he said. VIPIN NARANG: That’s
exactly what he said. No, I was going to
mention this in my– so that was very
clever wordplay. All of the US strike
options in the book are deemed to be
legal by counsel– substantively legal. So the President
can’t say, I want you to launch a nuclear
weapon at Pyongyang. There has to be an approved
strike package, which has been pre-vetted as
legal, as consistent with the laws of war. They tend to be
counterforce options. And there are a couple of
varieties of counterforce. One is hard-kill counterforce,
so we don’t target civilians. That’s consistent
with laws of war. The other is–
obliterate everything, and call it counterforce. So we say, we’re
not intentionally targeting civilians, but a
lot of civilians will be– the only legal question
then is, is the order given authentic and valid from
the President procedurally legal? So what General Heighton, I
believe, was referring to– and I think, in
subsequent conversations, there was some ambiguity
as to what he meant. But I think what he
really meant was– we will work with
the President if he orders something that isn’t
an already pre-approved strike package or wants to do something
that is not already vetted by Counsel– we’ll say, OK. That’s not legal, Mr. President. We’ll come up with something
that is legal substantively. AUDIENCE: Legal
equivalent– or something. VIPIN NARANG: Yeah– right? And then there’s a
question of process– procedural legality. So in the scenario where
the President decides, I want to order a first-strike
on North Korea with a pre-vetted strike
package which does exist– OP Plan 80-11– I don’t
know what the number is– or whatever– when you guys
were doing the research– when you came up with
strike option one– ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Yeah. VIPIN NARANG: –was that a
detail that came from experts? Or was that a– I don’t know what the
language is anymore. It keeps changing. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: I
forgot where we got that. But it was relatively
old language, I think. VIPIN NARANG: Yeah, there’s– ALEXANDER MAGGIO: So I
don’t know what the modern– VIPIN NARANG: Psyops
kept changing them. But in any case, if there
was a pre-vetted first-strike on North Korea– which almost, I
would be willing to bet dollars to donuts there is– the President picked up the
football– the biscuit– national military– that
is a legal strike order. So the scenario that General
Heighton was referring to was if the President
said, General Heighton, I want you to drop a nuclear
weapon on Pyongyang and get Kim Jong Un. And General Heighton would
say, that’s not legal, Mr. President. It’s first counter value strike. It violates the laws of war. We do have an option
that is legal. If you’d like to do that, it
is your prerogative to do that. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Just
in terms of the drama of our own episode, we did
have the STRATCOM commander countermand the order,
presumably completely illegally. But like I said,
we’re aspirational. VIPIN NARANG: Yes. AUDIENCE: A couple
of years ago, I borrowed a DVD tape from a
local library near where I live. It’s on Eisenhower. So at the end of the DVD is a
speech by President Eisenhower. And he specifically
warned the danger of the military industrial
complex in the late 1950s. So I want to refer
to a comment on that. He was a general. And of course, he
knows the importance of a strong military. And even him– warned the
danger of a too strong power of the military
industrial complex. He said that the reason why we
expend so much money, as you explained, on this capability. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Well,
I’ll just speak for a moment about writing our show. We’re constantly
looking for obstacles for our secretary of state–
to performing her job. And I found this
very fascinating– the number of times diplomats
will recount stories of bumping into the military
industrial complex– actually interfering with
their work in the Department of State– was actually interesting. So it had been on our radar. We actually did an episode
this season, season 5, about Elizabeth
McCord, our secretary of state being dragged
into an arms sale to Taiwan that the US military
was pushing, because it felt like it needed to have a
certain number of orders for a particular
fighter, in order to cost control a program that
was already super-inflated. So we kind of delved into
the absurdity of that. It was basically a
thinly-disguised joint strike fighter problem that we
talked about on our show. But just as an outside
observer– as someone who’s trying to write about
people in government trying to do their jobs
effectively, it certainly seems like the
inertia of a system where congressional
representatives have very powerful
caucuses forcing them to order a
lot of spending– it seems like a real problem. AUDIENCE: Vipin, you said before
that the US is the only country in the world that has
the sole authority part of their nuclear strategy? VIPIN NARANG: I think so. Don’t hold me to that. It may be one of the few. The other countries I know have
other checks in the system– yeah. AUDIENCE: OK, that makes sense. It sounds like you kind
of are of the opinion that that’s a bad
strategy to have. Do you think there’s a
better strategy that already exists that would maybe be a
better option for the United States. VIPIN NARANG: Again, it
was a feature, not a bug. We operated in a world in which
you weren’t– it wasn’t clear that the President would be able
to get the Secretary of Defense or the STRATCOM. And if you needed consent from
a very specific individual, given the time compression,
and that individual– Secretary McCord–
was not available– what if she was the only person
that could consent to the– then the whole system fails. And so there was a reason
why we had sole authority and the President had the
military aid always with him or her, could always reach– there’s a duty officer– 24/7– National
Military Command Center. And then it just goes out. And so there was a logic. It came with a risk. And everyone understood
what the risks were. The belief was– until Nixon
got drunk all the time– that the President would be
within his or her faculties and wouldn’t just pick
up the phone and say, I’m going to have
fun today– right? Other systems are designed–
like, the Chinese, Indian, and I think the
Pakistani system also– they have very different
peacetime and wartime postures. Whereas the US, and especially
ICBM force– as the episode points out– is almost
always on wartime posture– always alerted. And so is there a better system? Senator Warren is
proposing no first-use. Now, for me, no first-use,
in and of itself, doesn’t– you can say, no first-use. But your adversaries
won’t believe it. And your allies will, which
is the worst possible world. So without an attendant change
to your posture, you need– if you’re going to
do no first-use, you have to de-alert. It’s the only way
to make it credible. You may have to
take other changes. But this is a debate
we should have. I don’t have the answers. I have personal beliefs, but I
don’t have the answers to this. There are other ways to do this. You could network footballs. We could do what the
Russians do and have two votes, two out of
three– the chance– or three out of four or
two– whatever you want. There are ways to get out of the
sole authority system, if you think that’s a concern. So far, it really
wasn’t an issue. And I think, a lot of this
is there is general unease with President Trump. But we gave President Obama–
we gave President George W. Bush– we gave President
Clinton the same authority. So this has long-existed. And now, I think a lot
of people are worried– is it actually a
feature and not a bug? And do we want to change it? But I think it’s just important
to know what the process is. And then absent a
viable alternative, this is what we’ve got. And it wouldn’t be the
easiest thing to change it. So I think the most
important thing is public debate about it, right? Is this something that we
want empower one person with? Because the downside
is something crazy. The upside is, if the US
ever had to respond quickly, we’re in a position to do it. But that may not be the
world we’re in anymore. AUDIENCE: Thank you. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Martin. My question is a little bit
more– political incentives, generally, around this area. And my understanding–
maybe limited– was that the upgrading
of the nuclear system– the $1.3 trillion whatever–
was the political price that Obama paid in order
to get NuSTART approved. And so if you look at
something like that, you could say, OK, with the
US withdrawing from INF today and NuSTART will expire– there isn’t another
necessarily $1.4 trillion– something political– to give
to even incentivize, perhaps, a new INF treaty– maybe broader– but any sort
of nuclear arms control. So anyway, we talked about the
military industrial complex. I’ve heard it referred to
as the military industrial congressional comp–
and you talk to this– VIPIN NARANG: Build in all 435– ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Yeah, we
reference the ICBM Caucus in this episode. AUDIENCE: Yeah– so anyway,
where does the political will necessarily– or
incentive– come from to even take a next
step, even if the next step is doing things we’ve
done in the past, which is reach agreements? ALEXANDER MAGGIO: I
could talk about what we did in this episode. I didn’t really show you
the full solution element. But it was through
public demand. Our fictional
aspirational president decided to declassify
a whole series of nuclear near misses and
problems that had happened, in order to motivate the public
to tell the representatives that they wanted to
de-alert and support the idea of a treaty with
Russia that would de-alert. That’s how we did
it on our show. Again– very aspirational. It’s this classic TV thing
of– tell the people, and they’ll do the right thing! And they did, in
our fictional world. But it certainly
seemed to us, when we were researching,
that you’d really need a very strong populist
wave of demands doing this. Because otherwise, it
seems like the only people who are politically engaged
in it– at least on a lower average citizen level– are
the ones who are stakeholders. VIPIN NARANG: Yeah, I wouldn’t
die on a hill for INF, because the Russians
were violating it. It’s a bilateral treaty. At some point, if the other
party is violating it, you can say, we’ll just
ignore the violation and have the fiction
of the treaty. Or we’ll say, look,
we’re a country that operates under a legal edifice. We’re going to withdraw, so that
the treaty formally demise– OK. But NuSTART, for me– if NuSTART expires, this
will be the first time in 30, 40 years that we don’t have
a foundational arms-control agreement limiting the number
of strategic deployments between Russia and
the United States. I will die on a hill for that,
because it has so far been– there’s been bipartisan
support for it. Why? Nobody likes to talk about it– keeping the Russian
force small is great if you’re a counterforcer. You can go get that. So even for people who
are on the hawkish side, NuSTART is good. And it’s arms control. So you’ve got the
arms controllers and the left on– so there’s
been this, maybe, unholy marriage in support of
arms control on both sides. And then you ask yourself,
who are the people who oppose the treaty? It’s those that want
an unlimited arms race, because they
think the United States has an advantage
in an unlimited arms race with Russia. And they may not be wrong. But it’s going to
be very expensive. And what is the purpose of that? It is to get Russia to cry
uncle again, potentially. The argument used yesterday
about getting China in NuSTART is ridiculous. China is way under
NuSTART limits now. And it’s just an argument
to poison pill the process. So I don’t really understand
the strategic argument against extending NuSTART. So I won’t die on
a hill for INF. But I will die on
a hill for NuSTART, because I think it’s
good for everybody. It’s good for the Russians. It’s good for us. It’s good for the world– and both sides of
the aisle here too. AUDIENCE: Yes, thank
you, professor. I wonder if you could
talk a little bit about– well, in very simple
terms, the current status of funding and money
being spent in research on attempts to knock
down incoming missiles and whether you think there
is any feasibility to that and whether you think it would
simply exacerbate the arms race if we were successful and
it were known and publicized. VIPIN NARANG: Do you want to– so missile defense
history question. The 2018 nuclear posture
review didn’t scare the Chinese or the Russians. The 2019 missile
defense review did, because it threatens
their ability to penetrate and retaliate
against the United States. And it is not that our
missile defense works today. It is the fear that it will
work tomorrow that drives them to modernize their arsenals,
work on countermeasures– like hypersonic
vehicles, decoys, MIRVs– all of those, to
saturate the system. Our regional missile
defenses– so often, you’ll hear the
conventional wisdom– missile defenses don’t work. That’s not true. Our terminal missile defenses– Patriot– our theater
missile defenses, like THAAD and Aegis Ashore,
are actually pretty good. Our midcourse system against
ICBM targets is not great. It’s actually pretty poor– 55%, 57%, I think, is the
empirical intercept rate. But that doesn’t mean it’s
not going to get better. The problem is– you can
integrate all of these systems to track and improve
your kill accuracy. And there are ways to do it. But the question is whether
the adversary always has the advantage? The interceptors are so
expensive that you can saturate the system pretty easily. Hypersonics will be a big
problem for missile defenses. Every time we think we
are about to solve it, the adversary can develop a
countermeasure against it. So the question is whether
you’re just fundamentally on the losing side
of that balance. And I personally believe we are. And you can’t do it
with the Russians. No matter how good your
first-strike might be, the Russians will have enough
that survive, probably, to saturate the system. Maybe against the Chinese–
you can tell yourself a story. But I even have a
hard time believing you can do that
against the Chinese. And there are advantages. The academics have
always believed that there are advantages to
mutually-assured destruction and mutual vulnerability. But Washington is
allergic to that concept. The US– we don’t want to
be vulnerable to anybody. It’s un-American
to be vulnerable. And that has driven a lot of
our strategy over the years. And there’s a lot
of money into it. But there’s also– you
can sell it politically, because they’re just defenses. And you want them against
North Korea and Iran, where you’re worried about
a rogue state launching a missile. But the fear that Russia
and China have is, well, one day we can
make their forces look like North Korea and Iran
and then use missile defenses to pick up the residuals. And so it does have a
very significant impact on the strategic balance
against major powers and our major power adversaries. So I think, we’re
spending a lot of money. And it does have
destabilizing effects. And we should be having
this public debate about whether we can ever get on
the right side of that balance to make it even worth
pursuing national missile defense against major power
targets going forward. AUDIENCE: Hi, thank you. I’m Jonathan King,
from Mass Peace Action. I actually chair the Nuclear
Disarmament working group that brought Mr. Maggio here. Many of us think that the
major force in the United States pushing for
increased nuclear weapons is the industry who
manufactures the weapons– enormously profitable–
hidden cost-plus contracts. You can’t give the
contracts to the Chinese, according to the Congress. You can’t audit them,
because of national security. So many of us think that
a lot of the discussion about counterforce and
the Russians or the US is just the fog that protects
the enormous profitability of these industries, which
is our tax dollars, right? So we’re very active
in supporting the no first-use legislation
and played a key role in actually getting
that launched. But we have a more creative
thing coming forward. We worked with a group
of state legislators filing legislation in
Massachusetts, which requires the state to disinvest in– that prevents the pension
fund from being invested in stocks and corporations that
manufacture nuclear weapons, as a way to having
people learn that it’s a for-profit business–
nuclear weapons. It’s not just about the
US versus the Russians. So there are some
petitions going around. They’re the no
first-strike petitions. But if you sign it, you
get on our mailing list. And when the hearing occurs
in the state legislature as to whether the state should
divest from corporations investing in nuclear weapons,
we’ll want all kinds of folks to come and give their three
minutes testifying that you think that’s a good idea. Thanks. VIPIN NARANG: I didn’t hear
a question there– so– AUDIENCE: I’m not very good
at talking in front of groups, but I’ll try. It was mentioned
that, if there was a strike coming from a foreign
power, they’d be angry at us. And they might be pissed off
and send a missile our way. And I thought of Donald Trump,
this past summer and fall, being very angry
at Kim and thinking of bombing him with a few
limited missile strikes. And at the same
time, I was in Asia. I was in North Africa. And people– as soon as they
found out I was American, they came looking for me. And they said, is Donald
Trump going to end the world? So we’re talking about foreign
powers maybe getting mad at us. But he was the guy that was
the most angry, I think, this year and kind of crazy. And so that’s what
I told people– that he was a mental case. ALEXANDER MAGGIO: I’m sure
there’s a lot of agreement there. In terms of the scenario that
we concocted on our show– like I think I mentioned
before– we wanted to really get into the
situation of– what would it be like for a rational,
reasonable, intelligent president to be faced
with that choice– and show this whole
thing unfolding. Like, best case
scenario is you have a person like that in power. And even then, our
president in the show, who’s a pretty immaculate
character, I think, overall, kind of bowed to the pressure
of his military advisors and ordered the
massive retaliation. Of course, in the writers
room, what we’re all talking about though was– we’re hoping that,
when someone sees how a rational
reasonable person reacts, they’re going to start
thinking about how a less-than-rational, possibly
upset, maybe not clear thinking or consulting other people
type of person might respond. And so I think we’re
all wondering that. VIPIN NARANG: Can I ask
you, is President Dalton modeled on George H.W. Bush? ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Yes. VIPIN NARANG: Is that the
model you have in mind? ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Yes– I
mean, he’s one of the models. But generally speaking,
that’s the model. VIPIN NARANG: I always
think of Poppy Bush when I– ALEXANDER MAGGIO: Yeah. AUDIENCE: We actually
have a question from one of our
Facebook viewers. Carol wants to
know, Alex, was it intentional that it took a
female with emotions to point out the problems of the policy? ALEXANDER MAGGIO: I would
say, not specifically. What our intention was– when we were having
that argument really– was to show how a female– basically, how I think,
in a lot of ways, it’s harder for a
female politician or female political leader
to push back on the military, because they’re a little bit– probably more subject
to sexist arguments. But I think, what we
all believed in the room when we were talking
through it, is actually an emotional
response to something like that is a
rational response. There’s no distinction
between those two things. And hopefully, you found
it effective in the scene. VIPIN NARANG: OK, I
think we’ve actually reached the end of time. And please, join me in thanking
Alex for joining us today. We had a really great time. Thanks for coming today. ALEXANDER MAGGIO:
Thanks for having me. VIPIN NARANG: It
was really nice. A lot of fun. [APPLAUSE]

Danny Hutson

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