In This Review

The Cold War They Made: The Strategic Legacy of Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter
The Cold War They Made: The Strategic Legacy of Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter
By Ron Robin
Harvard University Press, 2016, 376 pp
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A persistent pattern of thought in U.S. security policy presents the country as permanently on the edge of danger, forever vulnerable to sneaky enemies, and requiring vigilance at all times. This view was built on the trauma of Pearl Harbor and reinforced by the 9/11 attacks, and it is kept alive by a policy community obliged to constantly scour the world for threats. Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter, spouses who made their names at the RAND Corporation during the early years of the Cold War, did more than almost anyone else to foster this grim mindset. Robin demonstrates that this was a team effort, with Roberta’s early literary work on Hamlet providing a model for thinking about the effects of indecision and her later historical work on Pearl Harbor illuminating the dangers of surprise attack. Albert’s main contribution was a series of studies that demonstrated how the developing nuclear balance might be far more delicate than many believed. 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.