In the heady days of the Cold War, when the Bomb loomed large in the ruminations of Washington’s wise men, policy intellectuals flocked to the home of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter to discuss deterrence and doomsday. The Cold World They Made takes a fresh look at the original power couple of strategic studies. Seeking to unravel the complex tapestry of the Wohlstetters’ world and worldview, Ron Robin reveals fascinating insights into an unlikely husband-and-wife pair who, at the height of the most dangerous military standoff in history, gained access to the deepest corridors of American power.
The author of such classic Cold War treatises as “The Delicate Balance of Terror,” Albert Wohlstetter is remembered for advocating an aggressive brinksmanship that stood in stark contrast with what he saw as weak and indecisive policies of Soviet containment. Yet Albert’s ideas built crucially on insights gleaned from his wife. Robin makes a strong case for the Wohlstetters as a team of intellectual equals, showing how Roberta’s scholarship was foundational to what became known as the Wohlstetter Doctrine. Together at RAND Corporation, Albert and Roberta crafted a mesmerizing vision of the Soviet threat, theorizing ways for the United States to emerge victorious in a thermonuclear exchange.
Far from dwindling into irrelevance after the Cold War, the torch of the Wohlstetters’ intellectual legacy was kept alive by well-placed disciples in George W. Bush’s administration. Through their ideological heirs, the Wohlstetters’ signature combination of brilliance and hubris continues to shape American policies.
An impressive book about one of the most fascinating and influential couples in recent American history, Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter. The book is full of very interesting material and sheds new light on an extraordinary chapter in the history of American strategic thought.
Ron Robin is outstanding in reconstructing the mental world and cultural milieu that engaged the Wohlstetters. He also shows that Roberta Wohlstetter was a crucial intellectual partner in the marriage of these two scholarly Cold Warriors.
The Wohlstetters were among the most influential strategic thinkers in Cold War America. In this dual intellectual biography, Ron Robin shows how their grim vision of a dangerous, unpredictable world took shape, and how through their followers their vision continued to shape U.S. global strategy in the post–9/11 era.
Provocative…The Cold World They Made is a withering indictment of the Wohlstetters and their influence on defense policy.
Robin’s book is about a rabid form of foreign-policy thinking that speaks with placid assurance about ‘reality,’ that presents itself as ‘pre-emptive’ but takes the form of outright aggression, that claims to be ‘strategic,’ but is often more enamored of tactics than actual strategy.
Although critical of the Wohlstetters’ policy agenda, Robin reveals that they possessed more intellectual depth than their many detractors recognize and traces the ways in which their legacy has been sustained by disciples such as Zalmay Khalilzad, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz.
Thanks to Ron Robin, we now know that [the Wohlstetters’] actual contribution was not to strategy and certainly not to the avoidance of war, but to the art of propaganda. Rather than freeing mankind from fear, they promoted it while simultaneously feathering their own comfortable nest.
- 376 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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