In This Review

Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War From Kennan to Kissinger
Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War From Kennan to Kissinger
By Bruce Kuklick
Princeton University Press, 2006, 264 pp

The association of large brains and great power is inherently fascinating, especially to academics who are unsure whether they are missing out on the rewards of influence or have narrowly escaped prostituting their souls. During the Cold War, a number of American intellectuals entered government, either as occasional officials or as friendly advisers. Attempts to make sense of the theories and debates surrounding containment, nuclear deterrence, and counterinsurgency have come to be bound up with the biographies and thoughts of such luminaries as George Kennan, Paul Nitze, Albert Wohlstetter, Thomas Schelling, McGeorge Bundy, Henry Kissinger, and Walter Rostow. Kuklick provides a useful survey of their actual relevance to foreign-policy making, with some sharp analysis of the quality of the ideas and interesting points on the formation and management of such key organizations as the RAND Corporation and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. But he does not seem quite sure of the point he is making: he demonstrates the limited and problematic nature of the influence of intellectuals without being able to bring himself to say that their influence is worthless.