Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter (2009)

Re-upping this content. — ed.

Robert Zarate and Henry Sokolski, eds, Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter (Strategic Studies Institute, 2009). | Book review in Foreign Affairs magazine.


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Pioneers of nuclear-age policy analysis, Albert Wohlstetter (1913-1997) and Roberta Wohlstetter (1912-2007) emerged as two of America’s most controversial, innovative and consequential strategists. Through the clarity of their thinking, the rigor of their research, and the persistence of their personalities, they were able to shape the views and aid the decisions of Democratic and Republican policy makers both during and after the Cold War. Although the Wohlstetters’ strategic concepts and analytical methods continue to be highly influential, no book has brought together their most important essays–until now.

Edited by Robert Zarate, former Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC) research fellow (2006-2009), and NPEC executive director Henry Sokolski, Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter (2009) demonstrates not only the historical importance, but also the continuing relevance of the Wohlstetters’ work in national security strategy and nuclear policy. It is the first book to make widely available over twenty of Albert and Roberta’s most influential published–and unpublished–writings on:

  • methods of policy analysis and design;
  • nuclear deterrence through survivable, controllable and therefore credible strategic forces;
  • nuclear proliferation and the military potential of civil nuclear energy;
  • spiraling arms-race myths versus the real, observable dynamics of strategic competition;
  • the revolutionary potential of non-nuclear technologies of precision, control, and information; and
  • the continuing need for prudence and pragmatism in the face of changing dangers.

In addition, Nuclear Heuristics provides readers with an introduction to the Wohlstetters’ work by editor Robert Zarate; and short commentaries on Wohlstetter writings by Henry S. Rowen (2005 WMD Commissioner and former Assistant Secretary of Defense), Alain C. Enthoven (former Assistant Secretary of Defense), Henry Sokolski (2008 WMD Proliferation and Terrorism Commissioner and former Pentagon official), Richard Perle (former Assistant Secretary of Defense and emeritus Defense Policy Board chairman), Stephen J. Lukasik (former Director of the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, now DARPA), and Andrew W. Marshall (Director of the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Office of Net Assessment).

Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter is a must-read and an indispensable resource for policy makers, military planners, and strategic analysts, as well as for students who aspire to these positions.


Preface (2009) by Henry Sokolski
Acknowledgments (2009)
Introduction: Albert & Roberta Wohlstetter on Nuclear-Age Strategy (2009) by Robert Zarate

I. Analysis and Design of Strategic Policy

Commentary: How He Worked (2009) by Henry S. Rowen
Theory and Opposed-Systems Design (1968) by Albert Wohlstetter

II. Nuclear Deterrence

Commentary: On Nuclear Deterrence (2009) by Alain C. Enthoven
The Delicate Balance of Terror (1958) by Albert Wohlstetter
Excerpts on “Missile Gap” from General Comments on Senator Kennedy’s National Security Speeches (1960) by Albert Wohlstetter
On the Genesis of Nuclear Strategy: Letter to Michael Howard (1968) by Albert Wohlstetter

III. Nuclear Proliferation

Commentary: Timely Warnings Still–The Wohlstetters and Nuclear Proliferation (2009) by Henry Sokolski
Nuclear Sharing: NATO and the N + 1 Country (1961) by Albert Wohlstetter
Spreading the Bomb without Quite Breaking the Rules (1976) by Albert Wohlstetter
The Buddha Smiles: U.S. Peaceful Aid and the Indian Bomb (1978) by Roberta Wohlstetter
Signals, Noise and Article IV (1979) by Albert Wohlstetter, Gregory S. Jones and Roberta Wohlstetter
Nuclear Triggers and Safety Catches, the “FSU” and the “FSRs” (1992) by Albert Wohlstetter

IV. Arms Race Myths vs. Strategic Competition’s Reality

Commentary: Arms Race Myths vs. Strategic Competition’s Reality (2009) by Richard Perle
The Case for Strategic Force Defense (1969) by Albert Wohlstetter
Racing Forward? Or Ambling Back? (1976) by Albert Wohlstetter
On Arms Control: What We Should Look for in an Arms Agreement (1985) by Albert & Roberta Wohlstetter
Arms Control that Could Work (1985) by Albert Wohlstetter and Brian G. Chow

V. Towards Discriminate Deterrence

Commentary: Towards Discriminate Deterrence (2009) by Stephen J. Lukasik
Strength, Interest and New Technologies (1968) by Albert Wohlstetter
How Much is Enough? How Mad is MAD? (1974) by Albert Wohlstetter
Bishops, Statesmen, and Other Strategists on the Bombing of Innocents (1983) by Albert Wohlstetter
Connecting the Elements of the Strategy: Excerpt from Discriminate Deterrence (1988) by the Commission on Integrated Long Term Strategy
RPM, or Revolutions by the Minute (1992) by Albert Wohlstetter

VI. Limiting and Managing New Risks

Commentary: Strategy as a Profession in the Future Security Environment (2009) by Andrew W. Marshall
End of the Cold War? End of History and All War? Excerpt from an Outline for a Memoir (1989) by Albert Wohlstetter
The Fax Shall Make You Free (1990) by Albert Wohlstetter
The Bitter End: The Case for Re-Intervention in Iraq (1991) by Albert Wohlstetter and Fred S. Hoffman
What the West Must Do in Bosnia: An Open Letter to President Clinton (1993) by Albert Wohlstetter and Margaret Thatcher
Boris Yeltsin as Abraham Lincoln? (1995) by Albert Wohlstetter

About the Editors and Contributors

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