ALBERT WOHLSTETTER WAS ONE OF THE PREMIER DEFENSE INTELLECTUALS of the last century — a very conservative one but still someone who understood the downsides involved in the Cold War’s “delicate balance of terror.”
His wife, Roberta Wohlstetter, wrote one of the great treatises on strategy and surprise attack, an early treatment of prevention and preemption in war in her seminal Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision.
Interestingly, I had forgotten that Richard Perle, dubbed the “Prince of Darkness” by Strobe Talbott in a book on arms control negotiations was a close devotee of Albert Wohlstetter. Interestingly, he seemed to have retained little from Wohlstetter who would have been quite certain that though his arsenals were mostly empty Saddam Hussein would have taken a duplicitous course with the United Nations, the United States, and Iran — just to preserve his options.
Wohlstetter would have expected Hussein to maximize his interests and to bluff, to a certain degree, particularly so that Iraq could continue to deter Iran. What was missing in this strategic game between the United States and Iraq were the lessons learned during the Cold War and dedicated steps to prevent miscommunication and escalation. Hussein tried to use Dan Rather as his “hotline” to the White House — but Bush’s defense strategists seemed bent on escalation and miscommunication from the beginning.
Drawing off of Fred Kaplan’s excellent classic book on RAND, The Wizards of Armageddon, I wrote this piece which some of you might find interesting.
— Steve Clemons