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The Making of the Cold War Enemy

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

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    The Making of the Cold War Enemy
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3030-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Introduction: Rumors of an Enemy
    (pp. 3-16)

    Throughout most of the Cold War rumors of an enemy plagued the United States. The nation’s policy makers and military strategists stalked and feared an elusive predator based on suggestion and autosuggestion, the blurring of fact and fiction, and the projection of collective fears and desires. Much like everyday rumors, the enemy-as-rumor represented an attempt to resolve uncertainty, compensate for crucial information voids, and reframe a chaotic world in familiar forms. Rumor—an amalgam of opaque knowledge and cultural codes—transformed a distant adversary into a clear and present danger. Plausible, yet unauthenticated explanations replaced an uncomfortably ambiguous reality.¹


  7. Part One Defining the Paradigm

    • 1. Inventing the Behavioral Sciences
      (pp. 19-37)

      The American Soldier(TAS) was a misleadingly modest title for a very ambitious project. Published in 1949, TAS was, indeed, a study of military life. However, its main contribution was the enunciation of a new scientific enterprise, soon to be called the behavioral sciences. This first installment of the series, “Studies in Social Psychology in World War II,” presented the findings of three hundred inquiries and over six hundred thousand separate interviews carried out under the auspices of the Research Branch, Information and Education Division, United States Army. The multivolume project was directed by University of Chicago sociologist Samuel Stouffer,...

    • 2. The Culture of Think Tanks
      (pp. 38-56)

      Throughout his career as university professor and think tank consultant, Thomas Schelling dabbled in numerous, eclectic topics that were far removed from his main field of expertise. Ostensibly a strategic analyst, Schelling published studies on racial segregation, organized crime, and other distinctly domestic issues.¹ This type of checkered research agenda vindicated a new intellectual format in which universities no longer monopolized the production of knowledge. In the burgeoning world of post–World War II academia, scholars frequently wandered between the traditional groves of academe and military-funded civilian research corporations. Such loose arrangements allowed curious scholars to glide between ostensibly unconnected...

    • 3. Psychopolitics and Primary Groups: Theories of Culture and Society in Cold War Academia
      (pp. 57-72)

      On October 30, 1938, a CBS radio dramatization of H. G. Wells’War of the Worldsprovoked widespread fears of a Martian invasion in New Jersey. Radio listeners exhibited acute signs of panic, ranging from spiritual preparations for the end of the world to actually fleeing their homes. In subsequent years, similar broadcasts in other countries suggested that the power of radio to provoke extreme reactions was not a uniquely American phenomenon.¹ These extraordinary media events were, according to contemporary commentators, remarkable demonstrations of the ability of electronic media to manipulate the minds of the masses.²

      The burgeoning behavioral sciences...

  8. Part Two Normal Science

    • 4. The Obstinate Audience: The Art of Information Management in the Cold War
      (pp. 75-93)

      During the Christmas season of 1950, three American professors wove an erratic path along the Korean battlefront. Unaware of the changing fortunes of the war, they turned toward the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, only to be blocked by a massive jam of troops and refugees fleeing south in the wake of advancing Chinese forces. These consultants of the Air Force University’s HRRI settled, instead, for a brief visit to recently liberated Seoul. With the sounds of battle in the background, they mustered the remaining strands of their academic composure and set about analyzing the social impact of communism on...

    • 5. The War of Ideas: Ideology and Science in Psychological Warfare
      (pp. 94-123)

      When war broke out in Korea on Sunday, June 25, 1950, Harry Truman was back home in Independence, Missouri. Dean Acheson, his secretary of state, was enjoying an idle weekend on his family farm in rural Maryland.¹ Although resting, the country’s leaders claimed in their memoirs that they were not caught entirely off guard. Surprise, they implied, was mostly of a geographic quality; they had expected conflict, but not in Asia. America’s military and civilian leaders had anticipated that the test of wills would occur on familiar European battlefields. “For some months, as tensions had mounted . . . we...

    • 6. Deus ex Clinica: Psychopolitics and Elite Studies of Communism
      (pp. 124-143)

      Upon returning from Korea in late November 1951, the Rand Corporation’s senior analyst, Herbert Goldhamer, recorded his impressions on dictaphone “in order to fix memories and impressions before they disappear.”¹ Published posthumously by Rand in 1994, Goldhamer’s Korean memoirs were an unusual record of intellectual assumptions and the role of the behavioral sciences in the military-academic complex. Goldhamer and his colleagues had arrived in Korea charged with the limited mission of assessing weapons effectiveness by debriefing enemy POWs. An astute reading of local circumstances led them away from this pedestrian mission and toward the more intriguing issues of enemy morale...

    • 7. Collective Behavior in Totalitarian Societies: The Analysis of Enemy POWs in Korea
      (pp. 144-161)

      The most immediate sensation experienced by newcomers to Koje Island was the stench of excrement. The pungent odor enveloping the entire island was the product of about 170,000 enemy prisoners, a few thousand custodial personnel, the island’s 118,000 natives, and the 100,000 refugees and camp followers who had turned this once sparsely inhabited island into a gargantuan and surrealistic prison city.¹

      The Koje prison complex was a study in contrasts. The island had many of the customary symbols of strict authority and repression, ranging from looming guard towers to incessant roll calls and heavily guarded work details. Such trappings of...

    • 8. Prison Camps and Culture Wars: The Korean Brainwashing Controversy
      (pp. 162-182)

      In late June 1953, as the last of America’s POWs returned home to a lackluster welcome, the American public learned that twenty-one Americans had refused repatriation. Over the course of the next decade, a disturbing debate on POW conduct in Korea dominated the public memory of the war. Prominent journalists provided an unsettling picture of undisciplined prisoners, lacking in camaraderie and indifferent to the military code of honor. As many as a third of the prisoners were accused of having collaborated in some form with the enemy. None had apparently tried to escape. Twenty-three airmen, including a marine pilot, Colonel...

  9. Part Three Crisis

    • 9. Vietnam: From “Hearts and Minds” to “Rational Choice”
      (pp. 185-205)

      In the summer of 1962, the American University in Washington D.C., hosted a conference on “The U.S. Army’s Limited War Mission and Social Science Research.” The event was sponsored by the Chief of Research and Development in the Department of the Army, and organized by the SORO, a military-academic think tank funded by the army and nominally administered by the American University. Over a hundred prominent academic advisors as well as a battery of army officials and officers, ranging from the secretary of the army to the commandant of West Point, participated in this three-day conference.

      The focus of the...

    • 10. Paradigm Lost: The Project Camelot Affair
      (pp. 206-225)

      In 1965, the military-academic enterprise became the focus of an intense public debate. The ostensible reason for such unwarranted scrutiny was the scandal-ridden Project Camelot. Established in 1963 by SORO, and funded by the Army Office of Research and Development, Project Camelot was the most conspicuous of several military-funded efforts to comprehend, contain, and combat political insurgency in the volatile new nations of the Cold War world.

      The architects of Project Camelot contracted with an army of consultants for producing universal models of social unrest and designing strategies for obviating political strife in the “modernizing” countries of the post–World...

    • 11. Epilogue: Report from Iron Mountain and Beyond
      (pp. 226-238)

      Sociologist Jessie Bernard’s revelations on her role in the Iron Mountain Project dismayed her sympathetic biographer, Robert Bannister. Bernard’s participation in this notorious analysis of the political dangers of world peace was, according to Bannister, an unfortunate blemish on her career. Nonetheless, Bannister added, Bernard had not succumbed to the project’s sinister agenda; she had stood her high moral ground. When confronted by a reluctance to address the exclusionary implications of war and peace for women, she abruptly resigned, well before her chauvinistic collaborators had produced their disturbing assessment of the contribution of war to robust democratic societies.¹

      Bernard’s confession...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 239-270)
  11. Index
    (pp. 271-277)