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.
"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