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Blind Oracles:
Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger
Bruce Kuklick

Paperback | 2007 | $30.95 | £25.95 | ISBN: 9780691133874
264 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 9 halftones.
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In this trenchant analysis, historian Bruce Kuklick examines the role of intellectuals in foreign policymaking. He recounts the history of the development of ideas about strategy and foreign policy during a critical period in American history: the era of the nuclear standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The book looks at how the country's foremost thinkers advanced their ideas during this time of United States expansionism, a period that culminated in the Vietnam War and détente with the Soviets. Beginning with George Kennan after World War II, and concluding with Henry Kissinger and the Vietnam War, Kuklick examines the role of both institutional policymakers such as those at The Rand Corporation and Harvard's Kennedy School, and individual thinkers including Paul Nitze, McGeorge Bundy, and Walt Rostow.

Kuklick contends that the figures having the most influence on American strategy--Kissinger, for example--clearly understood the way politics and the exercise of power affects policymaking. Other brilliant thinkers, on the other hand, often played a minor role, providing, at best, a rationale for policies adopted for political reasons. At a time when the role of the neoconservatives' influence over American foreign policy is a subject of intense debate, this book offers important insight into the function of intellectuals in foreign policymaking.


"Blind Oracles . . . brilliantly combines in concise yet penetrating fashion analysis and reflection on a range of intellectuals. . . . [I]t provides a fascinating study of the role of ideas and intellectuals, the methodological approaches and interpretive frameworks associated with realism, liberalism and so forth that are not only seen as abstract formulae but provide a demonstration of how these ideas are injected into policy and used by the policy-makers on the central issues of war from the origins of the Cold War, through Cuba and on to Vietnam."--David Ryan, International Affairs

"A provocative exploration of the connection between knowledge and politics that evaluates the role of intellectuals in formulating US foreign policy form 1945 to 1975, Kuklick divides his learned actors into three groups: scientifically oriented experts attached to the RAND Corporation; foreign policy academics, mostly social scientists who were associated with Richard Neustadt and Ernest May; and the university-based academics, such as McGeorge Bundy and Henry Kissinger. The value of Kuklick's analysis resides in the connections he makes between the individuals in each group; his assessment of their commitment to the theoretical principles he outlines; and his evaluation of the practical consequences of the intellectuals' approaches. . . . Kuklick concludes that the impact of ideas on policy was often minimal, unintentional, and less significant than political considerations."--Choice

"Bruce Kuklick has written an engaging and important study of the national security concepts of intellectuals and their influence on the policies of the United States during the period between the end of World War II and the Vietnam War. . . . Kuklick . . . demonstrates . . . an impressive capacity to relate ideas to politics and diplomacy."--Gary R. Hess, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

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Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations xi
Note on Citations xiii
INTRODUCTION: The Social Role of the Man of Knowledge 1
CHAPTER 1: Scientific Management and War, 1910-1960 17
CHAPTER 2: Theorists of War, 1945-1953 37
CHAPTER 3: RAND in Opposition, 1946-1961 49
CHAPTER 4: Accented and Unaccented Realism, 1946-1961 72
CHAPTER 5: RAND and the Kennedy Administration, 1961-1962 95
CHAPTER 6: Cuba and Nassau, 1962 110
CHAPTER 7: Intellectuals in Power, 1961-1966 128
CHAPTER 8: The Kennedy School of Government, 1964-1971 152
CHAPTER 9: The Pentagon Papers 168
CHAPTER 10: Henry Kissinger 182
CHAPTER 11: Diplomats on Foreign Policy, 1976-2001 204
Conclusion 223
Acknowledgments and Methodological Note 231
Index 235

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