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The Making of the Cold War Enemy: Culture and Politics in the Military-Intellectual Complex [Paperback]

Ron Theodore Robin

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Book Description

26 Jan 2003

At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. government enlisted the aid of a select group of psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists to blueprint enemy behavior. Not only did these academics bring sophisticated concepts to what became a project of demonizing communist societies, but they influenced decision-making in the map rooms, prison camps, and battlefields of the Korean War and in Vietnam. With verve and insight, Ron Robin tells the intriguing story of the rise of behavioral scientists in government and how their potentially dangerous, "American" assumptions about human behavior would shape U.S. views of domestic disturbances and insurgencies in Third World countries for decades to come.

Based at government-funded think tanks, the experts devised provocative solutions for key Cold War dilemmas, including psychological warfare projects, negotiation strategies during the Korean armistice, and morale studies in the Vietnam era. Robin examines factors that shaped the scientists' thinking and explores their psycho-cultural and rational choice explanations for enemy behavior. He reveals how the academics' intolerance for complexity ultimately reduced the nation's adversaries to borderline psychotics, ignored revolutionary social shifts in post-World War II Asia, and promoted the notion of a maniacal threat facing the United States.

Putting the issue of scientific validity aside, Robin presents the first extensive analysis of the intellectual underpinnings of Cold War behavioral sciences in a book that will be indispensable reading for anyone interested in the era and its legacy.

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"Robin has not only significantly added to the literature on Korea and Vietnam but also given us an impressive historical consideration, at once moving and sobering, on the perils that occur when social science gets too close to policy. The book should be required reading in political science."--Anders Stephanson, International History Review

An insightful addition to a growing body of literature assessing the intellectual history of Cold War America. Robin traces an expansive network linking universities, think tanks, and foundations to the psychological warfare strategies deployed on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam. Robin's book provides an excellent analysis of the way that social scientific inquiry and Cold War policy reinforced each other. It will be of great interest to intellectual historians as well as scholars of American foreign relations."--Michael E. Latham, The Journal of American History

"Brilliantly highlights the frailty and ultimately the absurdity of applying model theory to real-world problems. This is an academic gem."--Choice

"Although no reader is likely to be struck by the judiciousness of The Making of the Cold War Enemy, it merits the highest praise for its cogency, insights, and bite."--Stephen J. Whitfield, Journal of Cold War Studies

"While a good deal of work has been done on the role of academics in nuclear weapons research laboratories, Robin's study goes beyond the 'wizards of Armageddon' to focus on the role of academics and think tanks in the development of Cold War strategy. His study offers an original, and damning, assessment of the role of behavioralists and the willingness of academics to abandon inquiry in favor of conformity."--Walter L. Hixson, American Historical Review

"The Making of the Cold War Enemy presents an important perspective with far-reaching moral, political and intellectual implications regarding the post-WWII behavioral science project. . . . Robin's book thus deserves our careful consideration."--Mark Solovey, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

From the Inside Flap

"A first-rate book by a first-rate historian. Among works on the Cold War, Ron Robin's book stands out on account of the sheer quality of its exposition and analysis and because of its attention to the less-studied and distinctly problematical field of behavior sciences. The Making of the Cold War Enemy will attract readers interested in the Cold War and its culture, American intellectual history, and the Korean and Vietnam wars."--Michael S. Sherry, Northwestern University

"Ron Robin has written a fascinating account of the ideology of Cold War America, focusing on the emergence of the behavioral sciences. Most historians take as a given the intellectual assumptions of the Cold War. But few have offered a critical examination of the thinking behind the entire enterprise and/or analyzed in any detail how and why particular concepts became dominant. Robin does both, brilliantly, in this book."--Marilyn B. Young, New York University

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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1 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How the West won 19 July 2003
By Bruce P. Barten - Published on
More than an overview of the best university and think tank efforts to help American policy makers turn the Cold War into a propaganda battle that the West could win, THE MAKING OF THE COLD WAR ENEMY by Ron Robin (Princeton University Press, 2001) almost captures the perversity of the times in which World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam were not quite what everybody was expecting to happen next, but close enough to fit into the conceptual framework that explains how narcissism was the greatest enemy against which governments and the social planners on every side were sure to end up offending someone. Typical of the thinkers included, Thomas Schelling is given credit for maintaining a single idea. "Whether analyzing the strategies of America's global adversaries, domestic economic developments, or social trends at home and abroad, Schelling identified monopoly--economic, political, or ideological--as the source of all evil." (p. 39).
Don Quixote does not appear in the index of this book. Karl Marx isn't there, either, or any philosopher who might be associated with the concept, "end of ideology," which is an entry in the index and is discussed at several places in the book. After World War II, the shift in psychological warfare was not much, because "the task of the efficient psychological warrior was to devise a mechanism for circumventing the repressive devices of modern civilization in general and military life in particular in order to tap into the individual's natural state of narcissism. The exploitation of socially subversive primal drives was the main, if not the only, task of efficient psychological warfare." (p. 96). I was surprised that a journal article by Edward Shils, "The End of Ideology?" in 1955 was "credited with coining the phrase `end of ideology,' " (p. 130) in those contexts where "political rhetoric was of little significance." (p. 130).
There is a single entry in the index for Henry Kissinger, due merely to a comment he made for a New York Times article on reactions to the book, REPORT FROM IRON MOUNTAIN. "A chagrined Herman Kahn dismissed the report as `very bad satire,' while Henry Kissinger diagnosed the author as `an idiot.' " (p. 229). The seven pages of the index do not fully reflect the number of times that some names appear in the book. I'm not actually sure if the name, Don Quixote, appears in the book, but I know that other names in the book have prompted me to check the index, only to wonder if the author, a Professor of History at Haifa University in Israel, has a habit of referring offhandedly to characters of books, television shows, or movies, as President Ronald Reagan frequently did, which are just as fictitious as Don Quixote.
One name in the index, Carl Pletsch, is of an author whom I have slighted far more than he ever slighted me, and in 1981 he wrote a journal article, "The Three Worlds, or the Division of Social Scientific Labor, circa 1950-1975" which is covered by this book. "As historian Carl Pletsch has observed, modernization theorists approached the competing socialist bloc as a proto-modern development, encumbered temporarily by an ideology preventing its `efficient and natural' development. By contrast, the free world appeared to be at a higher evolutionary stage, `guided by invisible hands' and supposedly developing `without ideological prescription or management.' The assumption of `the more natural' developmental stage of capitalist democracies implied that the socialist world, once freed from the transitory encumbrance of ideological chains, would `slowly but surely approximate the free world.' " (pp. 32-33).
DON QUIXOTE is much longer than this book, but the form of suspense maintained by its author, Cervantes, in those episodes in which a great adventure was about to be told, but the narrative included so much detail that countless pages needed to be turned before the events of great renown could be fully disclosed, was frequently on my mind as I plowed through minor matters about behavioral science, opinion leaders, and political elites which became the epitome of perversity as long as Vietnam was an active issue in American politics or history. The tenth chapter was the goal of this quixotic quest, "Paradigm Lost: The Project Camelot Affair," on pages 206-225 would bring about "Extensive disenchantment with modernization as dominant theory and the demise of Project Camelot as exemplary praxis." (p. 224). The big excitement in the middle of the book is like a game theory applied to the negotiation of the armistice for the Korean War.
Key figures in the book include Harold Lasswell, who is mentioned far more frequently than merely for the six topics which cover the pages for his name in the index, Nathan Leites, whose listings include brainwashing, counter-insurgency, nuclear strategy, operational codes, and Vietcong psychological warfare, and Herbert Goldhamer, who is introduced on page 124 as a Rand Corporation author of Korean memoirs, who, "By late August 1951, he had assumed the unofficial position of coach and confidant at the armistice talks. His active participation in the negotiations during the fall of 1951 removed the stigma of irrelevance from Rand's social science division and thrust this hitherto marginal unit into the eye of the storm." (pp. 124-125). Warren Zevon once released a rock 'n' roll album called "The Envoy" in 1982, about 30 years after those negotiations, and this was my first opportunity to see if the intellectual involvement in the process was more exciting than the songs on that album. This book depends on the idea, "that communist elites were orthodox followers of a `secular religion.' As faithful followers they adhered rigidly to dogma" (p. 133) which was not quite as exciting as "Upon joining the team of armistice negotiators, Goldhamer distributed copies of THE OPERATIONAL CODE." (P. 134). " `Compromise' did not appear in the index." (p. 135). "They were communist clones of their Russian Bolshevik benefactors." (p. 135). There's one that America's rebels won't go on believing forever.
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