DR. strangelove discussion questions

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1. In the war room, General Turgidson suggests to the President that the U.S. military should launch an all out attack on the Soviet Union, which would reduce the Soviet’s retaliatory force by 90%. The net result of this action would be 20 million Americans killed vs. 150 million. Good idea or bad idea? Why?

2. The survival kits on the bomber included a tiny book that was a combination Bible and Russian phrase book. Why is that funny?

3. What else could the U.S. President have done to fix the situation?

4. General Ripper’s mental state was the initial cause of the crisis. Other elements of human error were also introduced after that. What were they and what is the larger lesson we should learn from these?

5. Dr. Strangelove says the following to the President about the doomsday machine: “That is the whole idea of this machine, you know. Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy—the fear to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision making process which rules out human meddling, the doomsday machine is terrifying. It's simple to understand. And completely credible, and convincing.” In spite of all the potential human error involved in nuclear war strategy, is it better to leave humans in the loop rather than make something like the dooms day machine automated?

6. One of the tenets of just war theory is “proportionality,” that is, the military should only use the amount of force that is required to achieve their goal. Does the dooms day machine abide by the requirement of proportionality?

7. Strangelove involuntarily calls the President “Mein Fuhrer” and gives him the Hitler salute. What are the parallels between Hitler’s actions and the President’s role in nuclear war?

8. Strangelove discusses a survival strategy were several thousand people are placed in a mineshaft for 100 years, while waiting for nuclear fallout to reach acceptable levels. Strangelove says “with the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females to each male, I would guess that they could then work their way back to the present gross national product within say, twenty years.” Would it be reasonable to have a male/female ratio like this?

9. General Turgidson warns of a possible “mine shaft gap” whereby the Soviets put more people in their mineshafts than Americans, and thus have superior numbers when they emerge 100 years from now. What is the film’s point here?

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