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The War Room

The year is 1956. The Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union is a reality. The world stands on the brink of nuclear annihilation as two international crises converge on the stage of history. You learned about the first of these crises, the Suez Crisis, last week. Recall that France, Great Britain, and Israel invaded the Canal Zone in a bid to retake what had once been a strategically important asset under British and French governments. Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, was not about to sit by idly and let his Egyptian allies get pummeled, so he upped the stakes by issuing the first nuclear threat in history, warning the French and the British that nuclear bombs were about to rain down on Paris and London. Second, and to make matters worse, there was a crisis in Hungary, a country under the political influence of the Soviet Union. In Hungary, there was an anti-Soviet uprising that had spread into open revolt. As Khrushchev looked at events in Egypt and Hungary, he concluded that the Western powers were conspiring against Moscow.

These historic events actually inspired a book titled Red Alerton which the movie, Dr. Strangelove, is based. The movie is a political satire and black comedy that pokes fun at the Cold War. Here, focus on this scene: Dr. Strangelove (1964)—(Movie clip) get Premier Kissoff  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. . The President of the United States and his advisors have been informed that Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, who commands Burpelson Air Force Base, home to the 843rd Bomb Wing of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), has cracked under the strain of command and become unhinged. Ripper has put his bases on high alert lockdown and issued an order for the Wing to attack their targets inside the Soviet Union using Wing Attack Plan R. In this particular scene, President Merkin Muffley and his advisors sit around a great table along with the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Air Force General Buck Turgidson, played by George C. Scott, advocates a nuclear first-strike against the Soviets to devastate their capabilities and minimize the potential for a nuclear counter-attack. However, it is also clear that the Soviet’s capabilities would not be entirely destroyed, and the United States would suffer at least some nuclear retaliation.

You are President Merkin Muffley. You must make the call. You will deliver your own response to General Buck Turgidson’s recommendations. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Review this scene from Dr. Strangelove: Dr. Strangelove (1964)—(Movie clip) get Premier Kissoff  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. .
  2. In one page, respond to General Turgidson. Do you accept his recommendations? Reject them? Would you propose some other solution? Any answer is acceptable, provided that you justify your reasoning with logic. Your analysis should take into account all information contained in the film to this point. Remember, the Soviet ambassador is upstairs, so you haven’t heard about the Doomsday machine yet. You should also consider the strategic realities of the Cold War in your response. For this part, please do not use external sources.
  3. In a separate page, in one paragraph, reflect on your decision. In what way have you shown characteristics of a leader described throughout this course, and other places in your life? In what way have you failed, if at all?
  4. In one paragraph, assess whether your decision was a moral one. In other words, based on your own moral beliefs and ethics, was this ‘right’? For these two final paragraphs (steps 3 and 4 above), you may wish to support your claims with examples from required material(s) and/or scholarly sources. If you do so, please review the In-Text Citation Guide (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and the Common APA Reference List Models (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. , and cite your sources in APA format.

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