Book Search:  


Google full text of our books:


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

Book Description | Reviews | Table of Contents

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Published by Princeton University Press and copyrighted, © 2001, by Princeton University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher, except for reading and browsing via the World Wide Web. Users are not permitted to mount this file on any network servers. Follow links for Class Use and other Permissions. For more information, send e-mail to

This file is also available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format

INTRODUCTION: Rumors of an Enemy

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

This powerful rumor induced periodic harsh twists and sudden turns in the nation's global and domestic policies. The mutant enemy appeared everywhere--in foreign lands and at home. Exorcising his presence became a national obsession. Occasionally the rumored enemy unleashed dangerous forms of escapism. The "cult of the superweapon"--the dependency on supe rior American technology as a substitute for a painstaking assessment of enemy strengths and weaknesses--was the most prominent example of the impulse to circumvent rather than confront the enemy.2 These and other reactions to the presence of the Cold War enemy shared a crucial common denominator: the image of the enemy was derived from an uneven mixture of fragmented information and unauthenticated presumptions. It was a rumor.

The concept of a rumor does not deny the presence of existential threats facing the United States during the course of the Cold War. In fact, the predominant image of the enemy was, at times, quite realistic. Nevertheless, veracity had little to do with the rumor's reception. The rumor spread because it provided a culturally compelling explanation for an uncertain predicament; fact and accuracy played a supporting role only. The sinister face of the enemy emerged primarily from a common "universe of discourse" and a pool of "shared assumptions" permeating American society at mid-century.3 Its resonance was derived from, and coincided with, the collective codes and values of the time.

Much like other forms of contagion, this rumor would not have spread without the presence of powerful vectors. The rumor colonized the innermost fiber of the American body politic and confronted negligible resistance due to the privileged status of its agents. A variety of public opinion leaders participated in the transformation of assumptions, fears, and selective information into a plausible, widely accepted construction of the enemy. And, as is often the case with everyday rumors, the clients and consumers of this imaginary enemy were swayed by the credentials of its agents rather than the accuracy of their testimony.

Few of the many groups of opinion leaders responsible for the spread of the rumor could match the resonance of its academic agents. Most Americans at mid-century still regarded science as being fundamentally more reliable than other forms of discourse. The idea that scientific theory may be "accepted for reasons other than evidence--for simplicity, agreement with common sense," or political prudence--was rarely entertained.4 The academic community still basked in the triumphs of World War II accomplishments. Its lingering prestige obviated any critical analysis of academia's observations on the significance of the Cold War in general and the face of the enemy in particular. Thus, it comes as no surprise that absorption of the rumor into contemporary scientific discourse was of particular importance. It transformed a speculative version of the enemy into a powerful working hypothesis. It is with these thoughts in mind that I offer this study of the academic alchemists responsible for transforming a welter of ambiguous data into an authoritative portrait of the enemy.

The following pages move beyond the familiar tale of mercenary science and the brutalization of knowledge-seeking in the national security state. Cold War academia did, indeed, labor in "the shadow of war." However, I do not accept the conventional analysis of a one-way conduit of influence, in which academia developed a pathological dependency on government, the military, and attendant foundations. There is, of course, little doubt that the underwriters of the warfare state affected the evolution of disciplinary knowledge, influenced academia's social structure, and imperiled the notion of academic freedom. Nevertheless, Michael Sherry reminds us, "militarization, like industrialization, was complex and multifaceted: individuals and interests could grasp one aspect of it and resist another."5

The academic co-production of this critical rumor was informed by numerous intellectual developments that were not directly or exclusively related to the military-industrial complex. The national security state was far from being a seamless, monolithic operation, and there was never a unitary militarization of academia. The academic construction of the enemy was powered as much by internal intellectual developments as by the impingement of external political forces. "The way in which universities, other institutions, and the larger culture responded to the cold war," Rebecca Lowen observes, "was determined not simply by the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union but also by concerns that preceded" or developed contemporaneously with, or independently of, the Cold War.6 The transformation of the university from a "community of scholars" to a "loose collection of academic entrepreneurs," the rise of new disciplinary frameworks, generational shifts within the universities, and the burgeoning of interdisciplinary paradigms are just some of the factors affecting the construction of the enemy that were not the exclusive products of national security imperatives.

Most of the academic warriors involved in the making of the Cold War enemy were behavioral scientists, a new, multidisciplinary academic coalition for addressing the nation's social and political concerns. I have not approached these behavioralists as the compliant prisoners of institutional benefactors. Moreover, I intend to demonstrate that the much-maligned government-supported behavioral research was often ingenious and intellectually stimulating. I argue that the major fault of Cold War behavioralism was not its mercenary nature, but, rather, its pervasive contempt for complexity, the uncritical acceptance of contemporary cultural mores, and the denial of its intellectual limitations. Behavioralists and their intellectual kin failed to acknowledge that the creation of theoretical knowledge and the formation of practical policy were fundamentally disparate activities. The criteria for success in the theoretical domains of academic inquiry--innovation, originality, speculation--were of little relevance in the domain of policy, where applicability, tangible results, and cost-effectiveness--economic and political--were the overriding criteria. The conflating of theory and policy in the Cold War military-intellectual complex caused havoc and eventually ruined the credibility of the nation's academic establishment.7

My analysis of the behavioral sciences parts company with Ellen Herman's important study of twentieth-century social research. Herman dismisses the behavioral sciences as a label for a loose institutional coalition, a conduit for facilitating the flow of funds from government to privileged projects. She prefers to focus on one discipline--psychology--as the core of most crucial intellectual and solcial developments. By contrast, I have approached the behavioral sciences as a quintessential paradigm and major disseminator of fundamental intellectual and institutional shifts in American academia at mid-century. No one discipline, however broadly defined, could have accomplished such a mission.8 Born in the immediate post-World War II years, the behavioral sciences challenged the traditional intellectual and social arrangements in the so-called soft sciences. The behavioralist creed rejected, in particular, the social sciences' division of the spheres of human experience--politics, society, and biology--into discrete units. Believing that disciplinary divisions weakened the validity of scientific findings, behavioralists espoused a unified theory of human action; all social knowledge was one and indivisible.

Freed from the checks and balances of conventional knowledge creation, with its rigid departmental divisions and its respect for disciplinary enclosures, behavioralists produced provocative, multidisciplinary, yet often whimsical intellectual concepts for government consumption. In contrast to traditional modes of university research, cognizant of divisional limitations and wrapped in a protective cover of disciplinary qualifications, behavioralists offered a cosmic cogency, clarity, and resolution. Gone was the world in which human conduct was obscure, the product of undiscovered motives and unpredictability. Reality, according to the Cold War behavioralist, could be deciphered by a unified theory of human action. The quest for an inclusive supertheory assumed that human conduct adhered to a series of behavioral "laws"; even accidents appeared to follow a predictable path.

Quantification was the chosen method for routinizing peculiarities and standardizing different behavioral phenomena. The quest for precision, the discovery of regularities, and demands for verification and testability were the ostensible reasons offered for this "trust in numbers." In actual fact, a distinct, sometimes covert, and, often, unacknowledged social conservatism underscored such declarations of detachment and objectivity. As a rule, behavioralists were suspicious of diversity and social change, and avoided the role of social critic. They discounted the power of ideas and values as motivating forces in the human experience, preferring, instead, to treat ideology and belief systems as mere rationalizations of behavioral modes. Thus, behavioralists argued that individuals, rather than formal groups or institutions, were the proper units of analysis. Groups, whatever their size, shape, or social origins, were approached as collections of autonomous, self-seeking individuals.

This focus on measuring rather than critiquing, as well as the preoccupation with conduct rather than ideas, relieved behavioralists of the need to probe and question existing political, economic, and social arrangements. Quantification reflected as well an insistent denial of ambiguity in human affairs. Given their suspicion of nonmeasurable observations, behavioralists ignored fuzzy cultural circumstance and historical happenstance, preferring to approach the human experience as the sum of a crisp, quantifiable, and predictable combination of sociological, psychological, and biological reactions.

In the field of defense research, the subject of this book, this behavioralist impulse produced a shrinking agenda of complexity. Issues that could not be measured were either ignored or trivialized in order to fit the paradigm. In fact, the more distant and inscrutable the subject matter, the more relevant and intimate it appeared to be. Culturally distant people and events were translated into measurable ideal types, mostly by fostering a series of primitive pictures of the Other. Complex cultural phenomena were reduced to basic human instincts of violence, greed, or sexual drives. In defense-related research such concepts offered little autonomy for the enemy. "It was never necessary to inquire what the enemy wants to do, but only what the enemy can do," a critical Anatol Rapoport recalled. "If he can blackmail us, he will. If he can do us in, he will."9 The remote and the strange had to appear ruthlessly simple. Essentially different behavioral phenomena were given an underlying structural similarity; peculiarities were routinized.

Portrayals of the enemy as primitive, brutal, and unchanging were not solely the result of methodological bias. These constructs drew upon deep institutional and cultural sources and, presumably, compounded and reflected widespread contemporary insecurities as well. Behavioralists were both spectators in, and creators of, what sociologist Gabriel Weimann has called in another context the "theater of terror," a repertoire of scenarios aimed more at reducing ambiguous or unknown phenomena to a familiar, brutal, and dramatic format, rather than deciphering its complexity.10 The behavioralists' image of the enemy dramatized, simplified, and accepted uncritically the clear and present dangers that seemed to lurk around every corner. Such brutal choreographies were, of course, related to methodological bias. However, they were nurtured first and foremost by common cultural and political codes.

Using the rise and fall of the behavioral sciences as point of departure and final destination, this study traces the role of academia in producing an authoritative version of the enemy during the course of the Cold War. I have not attempted to provide an exhaustive chronology of behavioralism in action. Instead, I have exhumed and examined several exemplary projects prepared at the behest of government and military clients during a crucial period of the Cold War, from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. The research projects analyzed here resonated far beyond the confines of specific problems or strictly military affairs. These projects were generated by, or contributed to, the creation of new paradigms, were part and parcel of the founding of new academic fields, such as mass communication studies, and nurtured a potent coalition of disciplines claiming affinity with the behavioral sciences.

Contrary to the majority of studies on academic advisors in the Cold War, I have paid particular attention to the masters of conventional warfare. Most historical inquiries of the military-intellectual complex in the Cold War are concerned with weapons development or academia's nuclear strategists.11 In the conventional analysis of the Cold War as a series of strategical threats and nuclear gambits, the period's numerous hot wars appear as distracting sideshows of the main event. Invariably, these studies ignore those defense intellectuals who were not among the creators or theorists of weapons of mass destruction. Here, I move beyond the "Wizards of Armageddon" and focus, instead, on a less visible group of scholar-warriors who were preoccupied with defining strategies for addressing limited, conventional warfare in the thermonuclear age. It is the contention of this study that crucial observations on the nature of the enemy--observations informing both nuclear theorists and prominent "national security managers"--were produced by the analysts of conventional warfare.12

The vast majority of the academic agents of the rumored enemy were behavioral scientists, a self-proclaimed coalition of psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists, seeking to produce multidisciplinary solutions for their government clients. Throughout the 1950s, behavioralists were not privy to the inner sanctum of nuclear strategy. At the Rand Corporation, the major center for defense-related behavioral research, they were patronized by their peers in the physics and economic divisions for their lack of scientific rigor. Paradoxically, such marginalization had unforeseen benefits. Denial of access to the inner sanctum of nuclear strategy pushed behavioral scientists toward the very practical and immediate issues of conventional warfare. Instead of theoretical scenarios, these academic warriors produced working documents for the management of problems related to conventional warfare. Their greatest triumph was, by default, in the early 1950s, when their theories and assumptions were present in the map rooms, prison camps, and battlefields of Korea, Vietnam, and turbulent Third World trouble spots. Their working documents contained authoritative interpretations of the enemy's culture and the significance of conventional warfare in an atomic age.

For obvious reasons my study pays special attention to the developing image of the enemy during the Korean War. As the first major overt clash between East and West, the Korean conflict contributed directly to the establishment of an American-dominated international order and affected quite dramatically both domestic and foreign policy.13 Whether this Asian conflict was the defining event of the Cold War or a reinforcement of existing trends is a matter of contention. There is, however, little doubt that the Korean War hastened the creation of the national security state, strengthened existing images of the enemy, and preordained future American entanglements in Asia. The pres ence of academic advisors at crucial nodes of the Korean conflict serves as the focal point of this study. Whether hovering in the background, or actively participating in the creation of policy, behavioral scientists were influential participants in this important event in the annals of the Cold War.

Some of the chapters in this study move beyond the real to the virtual. Working under the assumption that debates surrounding events that never happened are often as revealing as the autopsies of actual occurrences, I have included brief glances at an abortive project and an imaginary one. Project Camelot, an ambitious attempt by prominent behavioralists to formulate a model of Third World insurgency, was hastily discontinued during its planning stages following a series of indiscretions. While never producing a critical mass of research material, Project Camelot generated an animated exchange on the merits of government-ordained science in general and the accuracy of its predictions in particular.

Contrary to the real, albeit brief existence of Project Camelot, the Iron Mountain Project was a hoax. Report from Iron Mountain, supposedly the final report of a committee on the dangers of world peace, achieved notoriety due to its successful mimesis of the culture of defense intellectuals. The debate surrounding the hoax provided an opportunity to expose, critique, and, ultimately, discredit the metanarrative of military-academic science and its attendant image of the enemy. Both the Camelot controversy and the Iron Mountain parody signaled the declining authority of behavioralists within the military-intellectual complex, and were indicators, in general, of a troubled relationship between academia and the nation-state.

The Projects

The initial fusion of academic and military interests in the post-World War II period occurred in Korea. Several teams of academic advisors were intimately involved in decisive episodes of this early foray into the conventional battle-fields of the Cold War. The air force's Human Resources Research Institute (HRRI) initiated the first large Korean study. During the Christmas season of 1950-51, a team of prominent academic advisors conducted fieldwork in Korea in an effort to pry open the secrets of "Bolshevik" communication theory. In what would become standard procedure, these researchers applied American theories of mass communication and social control to this very foreign context. The point of this exercise was to prove that behavioral laws, as developed in the United States in the immediate aftermath of World War II, had strong universal qualities.

The most influential of the many air force-funded projects in Korea was the Rand Corporation's advisory role at the Korean armistice talks. In addition to providing blow-by-blow commentaries on the enemy's every gesture at the bargaining table, Rand's experts furnished psychological analyses of enemy counterparts and "how to negotiate" tactics to guide the ill-prepared military delegates at the talks. The Rand analysis of enemy behavior at the Korean bargaining table was based upon the concept of an operational code, a concordance of beliefs, values, and perceptions that determined the enemy's political decisions. The operational code assumed that the enemy did not address the external world, but an image of the external world. The enemy's distortion of contemporary events was said to result from the displacement of private and formative early childhood experiences that were common or rampant in Russian society and its authoritarian clones.

The operational code implied that the ideological differences between the two warring sides were of little significance. This guiding theory rejected the possibility of cognition among those who held extreme political positions on either side of the political spectrum. Ideological positions were, according to the operational code, manifestations of emotional dysfunction that one could unmask by means of Freudian apparati, such as repression, displacement, and projection. Rand's advisors did not imply that intimate childhood events exclusively determined adult behavior. Projection of childhood traumas was usually invoked when observed political behavior appeared to be "irrational," by which was meant different from the American norm.

The presence of over 170,000 prisoners of war (POWs) in UN compounds served as the main database for Korea's other major military-funded behavioral analyses of the enemy. The common objective of the POW studies was to discount the importance of ideology as a motivating force in modernizing nations, and to discover, instead, behavioral strategies for winning over converts in enemy societies. These imaginative attempts to circumvent ideology clashed with General Douglas MacArthur's ambitious reeducation program for enemy POWs in Korea. MacArthur's educational experts working out of the Tokyo headquarters of the Far East Command's Civilian Information and Education Division (CIE) set about deprogramming enemy POWs from the supposedly mesmerizing trance of communism. Unwilling to accept the behavioralist discounting of ideas, these reeducation officials approached internal turmoil within the prison stockades as a critical ideological struggle between democratically oriented prisoners and communist adversaries. Their attempts to sway the fortunes of this struggle contributed to a mass refusal of repatriation, thereby transforming the relatively simple issue of the exchange of prisoners into the major stumbling block of the final phases of the war. The signing of an armistice agreement was delayed for over a year as negotiators wrestled with the deceivingly simple issue of POW repatriation.

The repatriation of American POWs from Chinese-administered camps offered additional signs of the fusion of images of the enemy with other political and cultural issues. When confronted by rumors of POW collaboration and communist brainwashing capabilities, behavioralists offered a series of imaginative and mostly counterintuitive explanations. Their studies of repatriated American POWs dismissed the brainwashing thesis and disproved rumors of mass collaboration. In perhaps the most provocative of all claims, behavioralists argued that the ideal American POW was not the aggressive resister, whose frequent clashes with authorities they described as dysfunctional rather than patriotic. Instead, they argued that the ideologically innocent, those who were impervious to ideas in general, were the most resistant to the enemy's proselytizing.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the behavioralists charged with debriefing American POWs argued that race had not been an issue within the prison camps. In part, such color-blindness reflected efforts to counteract public fears of enemy infiltration into domestic American domains. These behavioralists feared, as well, that revelations of racial tensions would play into the hands of opponents of integration in the armed forces. Korea was the first integrated war in modern American history, and the critics of this bold gesture were many. To the degree that African American soldiers exhibited deviant behavior, behavioralists argued that the source was pathologies common to all poor and undereducated prisoners.

The multiple and contradictory narratives of the POW experience suggest that representations of the enemy--the ultimate other--were hopelessly interwined with a series of domestic debates on race, class, and even gender. Skeptical public reactions to scientific assessments of the POW crisis revealed the waning authority of science to adjudicate contested issues in American society in general and the domain of military policy in particular.

A particularly visible indication of the pending crisis occurred in the Vietnamese theater. At Rand Corporation, the most prominent locus of defense-related behavioral inquiry, researchers abandoned psychocultural strategies for deciphering the enemy's behavior in Vietnam, and embraced, instead, a doctrine of rational choice. Espousal of rational choice was ostensibly in response to the rapidly growing climate of insurgency in Indo-China. Rand's counterinsurgency experts proposed defeating insurgents by modifying the behavior of peasant supporters through a harsh coercive campaign of counterterror. Rand advisors argued that forceful, suppressive measures would lead Vietnamese peasants to a rational calculation of the costs and benefits of continuing support of insurgency. According to this theory, the embattled, yet calculating peasant would ultimately choose to abandon, if not actively resist, rebel forces. Despite the controversial nature of this model, and even though the Rand reports did not offer solid historical examples or empirical evidence to sustain this refurbished image of the enemy, the military accepted these recommendations with breathtaking alacrity.

The sudden endorsement of rational choice and, conversely, the abrupt jettisoning of traditional psychocultural explanations of behavior, did little to salvage the declining fortunes of the behavioral sciences. Indeed, by the mid- 1960s the behavioral enterprise was subject to numerous critiques of its underlying ideology and intellectual underpinnings, including the speculative construction of images of the enemy. The most conspicuous attack on the behavioral enterprise occurred during the course of Project Camelot, the ambitious army attempt to develop a global counterinsurgency strategy. Funded and supported by the army's Special Operations Research Office (SORO), Camelot brought together interdisciplinary teams of behavioral scientists whose task was to produce tools for predicting and controlling Third World insurgency. This large-scale effort dedicated to translating behavioral expertise into the language of foreign policy and military action was dominated by rational-choicers, many of whom had previously espoused conflicting psychocultural-oriented theories of enemy motivation. Ostensibly, public furor over military involvement in the civilian domain of foreign policy led to the project's cancellation in 1965. In actual fact, Camelot and its clones--some of which continued discreetly after the passing of the Camelot debate--faltered and eventually faded due to self-doubt rather than external criticism. During the course of congressional Camelot hearings, and in a series of retrospective articles, prominent members of the Camelot team questioned the relationship between "science"--as a specific intellectual enterprise associated with experimental, quantitative, and value-free inquiry--and the production of knowledge within the behavioral and social sciences.

The Camelot debate was followed by the ultimate indignity: a parody of the defense intellectual. Despite its obvious imaginary origins, Report from Iron Mountain was an uncomfortable facsimile of the logic of defense-related science. It exposed the uncritical belief in a "national interest" espoused by a powerful cohort of ostensibly nonpartisan behavioral and social scientists. Iron Mountain revealed, as well, the specious and flimsy construction of the enemy permeating most, if not all major policy decisions during the course of the Cold War. The Iron Mountain debate exposed, in particular, the dependency of the American nation-state on the presence--real or imaginary--of a powerful enemy. Diminishing fears of the Soviet Other as an existential threat introduced doubts in, and instability of, well-entrenched concepts of the American self.

Both the Camelot affair and the Iron Mountain debate dwelt on the problematic scientific logic informing the image of the nation's adversaries. These debates questioned, in particular, the behavioralists' cavalier dismissal of specific cultural, ideological, or historical context. The Rand Corporation's political scientists at the Korean armistice talks had approached ideology--all ideologies--as a displacement of childhood traumas, rather than a cognitive, culturally saturated reaction to contemporary events. As for the sociologists and psychologists of the enemy POWs in Korea, they had contended that techniques of behavior modification developed in the United States could transform ideologically motivated foreign enemies into useful, pragmatic al lies. The experts charged with analyzing the experiences of returning American POWs swiftly transformed their research from mere observations of deviant and disloyal behavior among prisoner-collaborators into a riveting debate on social control in modern societies. The counterinsurgency experts in Vietnam espoused a universal concept of rational choice that dismissed the impact of culture on behavior.

All of these academic studies, irrespective of their differences, rejected the notion of informed intuition or complexity. The military intellectuals of conventional warfare damned humanists as prisoners of the mystique of culture. They claimed for themselves distinct advantages, for they were not held in awe by the lack of familiarity with seemingly esoteric cultures. They argued that all human phenomena could be deciphered by implementing rigorous scientific methodology.

Critics responded that these bold declarations on science and objectivity were pretentious at best. They argued that behavioralism in general and defense-related projects in particular were immersed in hypotheses that were too speculative to be refuted by conventional scientific logic. The psychoanalysis of the enemy could not be falsified because it was pure conjecture; it had no meaningful empirical reference points. Rational choice theory, as the basis for deciphering enemy actions, was equally speculative. Both psychoculture and rational choice were unassailable, because they were theories rather than empirical constructs.

The Paradigm

Given the speculative nature of their theories, how did behavioral scientists come to monopolize the function of interpreters and decipherers of foreign cultures? In addition, what accounts for the swift rise and sharp disappearance of psychocultural explanations of the enemy, and the equally sudden rise of rational choice?

Here, I offer an explanation based on the "paradigm," Thomas Kuhn's concept of the dynamics of scientific inquiry.14 Although Kuhn's monumental study of the production of knowledge is derived from the history of physics, his theory offers a conduit for understanding the privileging of those academic fields seeking to emulate the physical and natural sciences.15

My study focuses, in particular, on Kuhn's questioning of scientific activity as a cumulative process, and his qualifications regarding the scientist as an intrepid discoverer. In a counterintuitive fashion, Kuhn argued that scientific advancements are not built solely on the achievements of predecessors; theories are not discarded merely because new knowledge or sharper forms of analysis have disproved them. Moreover, the development of scientific theories is as much a sociological as an intellectual process. Scientific activity is governed by paradigms, which Kuhn defined as "universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners."16 In the preparadigm stage numerous theories compete for acceptance. The eventual codification of one particular theory as a paradigm, and the subsequent dismissal of competing constructs, has little to do with which theory is closer to some stable truth but, rather, which theory can be enforced by its disciples. In other words, the paradigm is a sociological construct, and not necessarily the result of some innovative scientific breakthrough.

The dominant paradigm, according to Kuhn, is the product of a community of scientists who produce and enforce "normal science," a codex of rules governing the dimensions and direction of inquiry. Paradigms are, by definition, axiomatic. They are never questioned, and the activities of their adherents are limited to puzzle-solving, the unremitting effort to resolve all pertinent problems within the boundaries of preconceived and rigid intellectual parameters. According to Kuhn, one of "the most striking features" of "normal" scientific activity is "how little" it aims "to produce novelties, conceptual or phenomenal." Normal science, far from seeking new horizons, requires an enforcement of orthodoxy and the suppression of competing views. Members of the scientific community are expected to conform to the norms of inquiry defined by the paradigm. Nonconformance, or any questioning of the paradigm per se, is usually met by sanctions. Those who espouse older or novel views are "simply read out of the profession," or, even worse, denied funding.17

Paradigm revolutions, always infrequent and quite complex, occur in times of crisis. Confronted with repeated failures to solve problems within the established scientific framework, the ruling paradigm loses its authority to regulate and curtail dissent, thereby providing space for a new paradigm to emerge. However, Kuhn stressed that crisis is not due to the discovery of new facts. The new paradigm offers new cognitive standards, not new information. The new paradigm offers a new way of looking at familiar phenomena, rather than the discovery of hitherto inaccessible facts. Its ultimate success hinges upon the ability of its advocates to produce a critical mass of believers. The paradigm is, then, a unified body of cognitive strategies shared by a cohesive community of researchers.

In a striking manner the fluctuations within the behavioral sciences movement follow the path marked by Kuhn. Having adopted variations of psycho-culture as their paradigm, behavioral scientists focused on what Kuhn called "puzzle-solving"--attempts to prove that seemingly deviant phenomena did, in fact, fit the dominant paradigm. Such puzzle-solving activities account for the fact that, during the Korean War, the manifest ineffectiveness of theories for understanding the enemy's collective character and motivation did not affect immediately the fortunes of the behavioral sciences community. It was only during the protracted Vietnam conflict that the paradigm reached what Kuhn called the crisis state. The inability to explain away the ineffectiveness of psychocultural strategies as merely a technical issue that could be rectified by puzzle-solving upset existing intramural intellectual arrangements. Fundamental challenges to the paradigm's validity led to its swift abandonment rather than modification, and the adaptation of a new cognitive framework for understanding the enemy. Even though the new paradigm of rational choice was espoused by many of the partisans of its psychocultural predecessor, there was no linkage between the two strategies. In fact, they were incompatible.

Viewing these developments through the lens offered by Kuhn suggests that the rise and fall of the behavioral sciences cannot be assigned exclusively to politics or funding. Rigid strategies, the stubborn quest for a unified code of human behavior, and an intolerant attitude toward ambiguity were, in large part, the result of the juggernaut of paradigm. The endorsement of psychocul-tural strategies, their ultimate abandonment, and their replacement by a conversely harsh theory of rational choice offer a particularly vivid example of the dynamics of scientific paradigms.

This battle of paradigms resonated far beyond the academic estate. Behavioral scientists were observers of, and active participants in, defining the meaning of the Cold War. They contributed to a portrait of the enemy that both reflected and fueled predominant ideological strains within the American body politic. As scholarly partners in the national security state, they were instrumental in defining and disseminating a Cold War culture. Whether their assumptions and theories were scientifically valid is beside the point. The importance of the canon lay in its epistemological authority, its power to fashion a set of working assumptions for understanding the Cold War. The presentation of this intellectual context, its fluctuations and variations, in Korea, Vietnam, and Washington, D.C., is the primary concern of this study.

Return to Book Description

File created: 8/7/2007

Questions and comments to:
Princeton University Press

New Book E-mails
New In Print
PUP Blog
Princeton APPS
Sample Chapters
Princeton Legacy Library
Exam/Desk Copy
Recent Awards
Princeton Shorts
Freshman Reading
PUP Europe
About Us
Contact Us
PUP Home

Bookmark and Share