Randall Forsberg and the Nuclear Freeze Movement: Selected Materials from the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies Archive

The creation of the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies Records Collection was supported by the Grants Program for Digital Collections in Arts and Sciences, awarded to Matthew Evangelista, Government; Agnieszka Nimark, Judith Reppy Institute for Peace & Conflict Studies; Judith Reppy, Science & Technology Studies, in 2019. The following introduction to the collection was written by Agnieszka Nimark and Matthew Evangelista.

The Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies (IDDS) was founded in 1979 by the scholar-activist Randall Caroline Watson Forsberg (1943-2007) to conduct research on military forces and the prospects for disarmament and to provide knowledge in support of peace activism. This digital collection represents a small sample of the full archive, held in the Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC). The Institute’s publications included the Arms Control Reporter (a monthly update on negotiations), the World Weapon Database, and the Peace Resource Book, along with a newsletter. IDDS became the first headquarters of the influential Nuclear Weapons Freeze campaign and it collaborated with the European Nuclear Disarmament (END) movement and colleagues worldwide, including in the Soviet bloc. Cornell faculty members Judith Reppy and Matthew Evangelista served on the Institute’s board of directors. Forsberg maintained her connection to Cornell with occasional visits for seminars and lectures, including participation in a well-attended conference with Cornell physics professor and Manhattan Project veteran Hans Bethe and retired Admiral John Marshall Lee, sponsored by Cornell's November 11th Committee in 1986. The IDDS archive includes extensive documentation of the Committee’s activities in the 1980s. Forsberg’s last visit to Cornell took place in 2003 in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq.

Upon Forsberg’s untimely death from cancer, Professor Reppy, as chair of the IDDS board, assumed responsibility for the voluminous IDDS archive and secured its transfer to the Cornell University Library. The full archive consists of files concerning the Nuclear Freeze Movement, including correspondence with counterpart organizations in other countries as well as with members of the general public; records of the hundreds of talks given by Forsberg to activist groups, universities, and government bodies; organizational material; letters and reports of meetings to form a Political Action Committee to push for the Freeze during the 1984 presidential election; and reports of the yearly meetings of the Nuclear Freeze campaign, as well as documents from specific task forces within the campaign. Audio tapes in the collection include many of Forsberg's talks, as well as recordings of workshops and meetings. There are a few draft monographs by scholars and activists associated with IDDS and a small collection of about ten photographs of Forsberg with public figures. The archive includes various drafts of Forsberg’s proposals and chapters for her PhD dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the final version of which was published as Toward a Theory of Peace: The Role of Moral Beliefs.

In 2019, Dr. Agnieszka Nimark, who had catalogued the IDDS archive for the library, prepared, in consultation with Professors Reppy and Evangelista, a selection of materials to be digitized with support from a Digital Collections in Arts and Sciences grant. Here are some of the highlights:

Building a Social Movement for Disarmament

June 6, 1979 | View item

Although most famous for helping initiate the Nuclear Freeze movement, Randall Forsberg saw the campaign for nuclear disarmament as only one component of a broader movement against foreign military intervention, including US and Soviet interference in their respective "spheres of influence" in Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. She developed her ideas in a presentation in 1979 at a conference in New York of the Institute for World Order and World Order Models Project. Forsberg argued that the true obstacle to reducing the arms of the big powers lies in the actual function of those arms. She discussed the role of conventional and nuclear forces and changes necessary to achieve disarmament, namely breaking what became known as the "deadly connection" between nuclear weapons and military intervention. Forsberg spoke often on this topic in the coming years, including at a conference organized by Joseph Gerson and the American Friends Service Committee in Cambridge, Massachusetts in December 1982, whose proceedings were later published as a book in several editions; also available is a recording of Forsberg’s speech. The Cornell archive includes a video of a half-hour version of the talk that Forsberg prepared for a conference at Wesleyan University which she was unable to attend in person.

Randall Forsberg (date unknown), © Packard Manse Media Project
Courtesy of Marianne Hughes
Source: IDDS Archive, RMC, Cornell University Library
Photo generated from the video recording of Randall Forsberg’s talk "Behind the Façade of Deterrence: Nuclear Arms and Third World Intervention," pre-recorded for a conference on "Deadly Connections" at Wesleyan University (date unknown). A Sony Video Cassette KCA / 60 BR with Randall Forsberg’s talk was donated by Ernie Urvater and is included in the IDDS Archive, RMC, Cornell University Library.

The Prospects for Arms Control and Disarmament: A View from Moscow

December 1981 | View item

Since her years working at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Randall Forsberg had maintained professional contacts with scholars and officials from the Soviet Union and other countries of the Warsaw Pact. In December 1981 Forsberg spent ten days in Moscow talking to arms control experts, on a trip sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (Philadelphia) and the USSR-USA Friendship Society (Moscow). This document summarizes her discussions with Soviet representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations on various topics related to disarmament and arms control and includes the Soviet experts' views on nuclear arms control and their response to the Freeze proposal. What is notable about this visit is that it took place more than three years before Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet leader and began a number of initiatives intended to halt the arms race. Forsberg had already forged valuable personal ties with people who became Gorbachev’s advisers, such as Gennadii Gerasimov, the foreign affairs spokesperson who coined the expression the “Sinatra Doctrine” to replace the “Brezhnev Doctrine” that had justified Soviet military intervention against its East European allies.

Randall Forsberg and Gennadii Gerasimov (1988), R. Forsberg’s private collection
Source: IDDS Archive, RMC, Cornell University Library

"Stop the Arms Race" The Proposal to Stop the Development and Production of Nuclear Weapons

November 25, 1981 | View item

At the height of the European Nuclear Disarmament movement, formed to oppose the deployment of US and Soviet nuclear missiles to Europe, Randall Forsberg traveled to Amsterdam to participate in the World Council of Churches International Public Hearing on Nuclear Weapons and Disarmament. Her Proposal to Stop the Development and Production of Nuclear Weapons was considered conservative by some activists who favored unilateral nuclear disarmament, but Forsberg argued that the proposal to halt nuclear weapons production (as embodied in the Nuclear Freeze) was a suitable first step, because it struck a balance between more ambitious goals of disarmament and what could be achieved in the near future.

Some 350,000 demonstrators protest nuclear weapons in Amsterdam on 21 November 1981
© Rob Bogaerts /Anefo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

USSR is not ahead...Statement by Randall Forsberg

March 31, 1982 | View item

Statement by Randall Forsberg addressed the claim of Reagan Administration officials that the Soviet Union was ahead of the United States in the nuclear arms race. Forsberg explains that the claim refers to the counterforce capabilities of the Soviet ICBMs and the number of Soviet land-based missiles facing Europe and that reference to such isolated statistics is simplistic, misleading, and selective to the point of distortion. She discusses the measures of overall nuclear capability on the US and USSR sides and concludes that both sides' strategic forces are partially vulnerable and that neither side can pose the threat of a "disarming" first strike against the other. Unlike many peace activists, who rejected engaging in arcane debates about nuclear strategy, Forsberg considered it important to try to persuade proponents of nuclear weapons by using their own languages and concepts, without losing sight of her ultimate goal of disarmament.

Testimony at Ad Hoc Hearings on the Full Implications of the Military Budget

April 1, 1982 | View item

In her testimony at the Ad Hoc Hearings on the Full Implications of the Military Budget held by Members of the House Armed Services Committee, Randall Forsberg states that there are two major changes that could be made in US military spending and policy in 1982 which would increase US and world security. These changes are: 1. Stop preparations for unilateral conventional interventions in countries such as El Salvador and Saudi Arabia and 2. Stop the development and production of dangerous new nuclear weapons systems, designed for counterforce, first strike and escalation. In this context, Forsberg presents her alternative military budget and policy for the United States. This occasion gave Forsberg an opportunity to extend her analysis of the “deadly connection” between nuclear weapons and conventional military interventions beyond an audience of sympathetic peace activists into the halls of government. In subsequent years she would meet regularly with military officers and in 1989 she briefed President George H.W. Bush before his meeting with Soviet leaders at Malta. Over the next decade Forsberg was invited to provide testimony in Congressional hearings on the US military budget and international control of the arms trade, among her areas of recognized expertise. View a video of a 1997 hearing.

Thank you card from President George H.W. Bush to Randall Forsberg, 1989
Source: IDDS Archive, RMC, Cornell Library
Original photo courtesy of George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

START Proposal Invites a Continued Arms Race, Press release

May 10, 1982 | View item

In this statement, Randall Forsberg addresses President Reagan's START proposal announced on May 9, 1982. Forsberg compares the impact of the START proposal on US forces and on Soviet forces. She states that by proposing to reduce some categories of weapons and by permitting new, more advanced weapons to replace the existing ones, Reagan's position, if accepted by Soviets, would lead to a continued nuclear arms race with greater, not less, instability. Her alternative—a bilateral freeze on production and deployment of new nuclear weapons—would provide a better basis for subsequent negotiations to reduce destabilizing weapons on both sides.

Speech at June 12th Rally United Nations and Central Park

June 12, 1982 | View item

On June 12, 1982 an estimated million people assembled in New York City and marched for a Nuclear Freeze in the largest peacetime rally in US history. A highlight of the demonstration in Central Park was Randall Forsberg’s call for an end to the nuclear arms race and for restoration of the fundamental decency of the United States as a nation. Especially for those who knew Forsberg only for her academic seminar presentations or congressional testimony, it was an electrifying moment to watch her impressive public speech.

Randall Forsberg speaking at the Freeze Rally in Central Park, June 12, 1982
© Robert Richter
Source: Documentary “In Our Hands” 1982, Directed by Robert Richter

A Functional Theory of Disarmament

July 13, 1983 | View item

This paper summarizes briefly and further develops a "functional" theory of disarmament which Randall Forsberg initially sketched out in her 1979 essay "Confining the Military to Defense as a Route to Disarmament." The main elements of the theory are summarized in a few propositions. Four of those dealing with the process of disarmament show the need for a phased or step-by-step approach. In addition to these propositions, the functional theory of disarmament comprises many substantive propositions concerning the relations between the existing functions of armed forces, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, disarmament. Many of the ideas expressed in this document came to undergird the activities of the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies over the next two decades.

Randall Forsberg with colleagues, Steven Lillyweber, Brian Burgoon, Alan Bloomgarden,
and Shelley Alpern at the IDDS office
(1989 or 1990), R. Forsberg’s private collection
Source: IDDS Archive, RMC, Cornell University Library

Harvard Symposium on "Beyond Deterrence: Avoiding Nuclear War in the Longer Run"

September 5, 1986 | View item

In 1986 the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University organized several symposia to mark its 50th anniversary. Randall Forsberg was invited to speak opposite then-Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger in a Symposium on "Beyond Deterrence: Avoiding Nuclear War in the Longer Run.” Weinberger, a Harvard alumnus, had many ties to the university and at the time was on the Kennedy School Visiting Committee. His talk was devoted to defending Reagan’s Star Wars program. Forsberg, whose inclusion in the program was a sign of the prominence she had achieved through the Nuclear Freeze Movement, argued that to reduce the risk of nuclear war and ultimately abolish nuclear arms, we must create a more stable conventional peace among the big powers: the United States, the European powers, the Soviet Union, China, and Japan. The photograph shows Forsberg with two other members of the panel, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., director of the Center for Science and International Affairs, and Graham T. Allison, Dean of the Kennedy School. View video recording of the symposium.

Randall Forsberg with Joseph S. Nye, and Graham T. Allison, 1986
© Martha Stewart, Boston
Source: IDDS Archive, RMC, Cornell University Library

Bertrand Russell Peace Lecture

March, 1989 | View item

In 1989 Randall Forsberg presented a lecture in the prestigious series sponsored by the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University in Canada. The series "focuses on issues related to the maintenance of world peace based on respect for human rights, democracy and justice." Previous lecturers included fellow peace activists, E.P. Thompson and Mary Kaldor, founders of the European Nuclear Disarmament Movement. Forsberg made two presentations as part of her visit to McMaster, only the second of which was recorded. She spoke for an hour and twenty minutes and then engaged the audience for 40 minutes of comments and discussion. At the time, the presentation represented the most developed statement of Forsberg’s vision of a step-by-step transition to a world without war, and foreshadowed the argument later published in Toward a Theory of Peace: The Role of Moral Beliefs. The lecture, and especially the subsequent discussion with a well-informed and thoughtful audience, shows how Forsberg formulated her strategy for peace, the nature of her thought process as she worked out her ideas on the chalkboard, and how she interacted with audiences. The discussion shows Forsberg enacting what Neta Crawford, in the editors' introduction to Toward a Theory of Peace, calls Habermasian discourse methods — trying to figure out where her questioners disagree with her and what kind of evidence would support one or the other position. The presentation includes several personal asides, including Forsberg’s experience growing up in Alabama and how it shaped her later understanding of the relationship of racism to issues of war and peace, and some self-criticism of early failures to recognize the problem of discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexuality. The lecture is an intellectual tour de force that reveals the many facets of Randall Forsberg as a scholar, activist, and visionary.

Randall Forsberg, 1989
Courtesy of the Center for Peace Studies, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada
Source: IDDS archive, RMC, Cornell University Library
Photo of Randall Forsberg generated from a video recording of the 1989 lecture. VHS tape with a copy of Bertrand Russell Peace Lecture delivered by Randall Forsberg at McMaster University, Canada, is included in the IDDS archive, RMC, Cornell University Library.

About the Arms Control Reporter

The Arms Control Reporter began publication in 1982 under the aegis of the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies (IDDS). The original idea for a loose-leaf publication on arms control negotiations, one that—like law reviews—could be regularly updated, came from Chalmers Hardenbergh, who served as editor from 1982 to 1990. The small staff collected and tracked details of all arms control negotiations and treaty implementation, and the Reporter organized that information under a set of subject tabs. Subscribers included individuals, many libraries, and embassies and government departments around the world; at one point the CIA had six subscriptions.

The Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies Records, 1974-2007 at Cornell University contain a full run of The Arms Control Reporter, from its first issue in 1982 until it ceased publication in 2007, following Randall Forsberg’s death. The digital collection covers the years 1982-1991, the decade of the Nuclear Freeze Movement and numerous other arms control initiatives. Each year has a separate link; to follow a topic chronologically you will need to go to the relevant tab in successive volumes. There is a more detailed explanation at the beginning of each annual volume.