Share | Contact Us | NPEC Email Alerts |
Mission NPEC Staff and Leadership Events Testimonials Books


Follow @NuclearPolicy to be the first in on NPEC's latest research

More of NPEC’s Work
A chronological listing by resource:

Articles | Occasional Papers & Monographs | Interviews | Official Docs & Letters | Op-Eds & Blogs | Press Releases | Presentations | Audio & Video | Testimony & Transcripts | Translations | Wargame Reports
HOME > BOOKS > Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter      

Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter
Published on: Jan 2009

Pioneers of nuclear-age policy analysis, Albert Wohlstetter (1913-1997) and Roberta Wohlstetter (1912-2007) emerged as two of America's most consequential, innovative and controversial 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. 

Published by:

The Strategic Studies Institute Publications Office, United States Army War College

Edited by Robert Zarate and Henry Sokolski - 2009

Download the Complete Edition

Table of Contents

By Henry Sokolski


Introduction: Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter on Nuclear-Age Strategy
By Robert Zarate

I Analysis and Design of Strategic Policy

Commentary: How He Worked
By Henry S Rowen

Theory and Opposed-Systems Design (1968)
By Albert Wohlstetter

II Nuclear Deterrence

Commentary: On Nuclear Deterrence
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 (circa 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
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: US 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
By Richard Perle

The Case for Strategic Force Defense (1969)
By Albert Wohlstetter

Racing Forward? Or Ambling Back? (1976)
Albert Wohlstetter

On Arms Control: What We Should Look for in an Arms Agreement (1985)
By Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter

Arms Control That Could Work (1985)
By Albert Wohlstetter and Brian G Chow

V Towards Discriminate Deterrence

Commentary: Towards Discriminate Deterrence
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
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



By Henry Sokolski

Three years ago, I received a phone call and then a visit at my home from a University of Chicago graduate student eager to learn about Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter. Robert Zarate interviewed me for nearly 2 hours. It was clear from the questions that he asked me that his interest in the Wohlstetters’ work was more than casual.

After Robert’s initial visit, he called me again several times to clarify and pursue additional questions. I recommended other experts who had worked with or studied under the Wohlstetters for him to interview. Harry Rowen, my former Defense Department boss, was one. Andrew Marshall, at the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, was another. Both had worked closely with Albert and Roberta at RAND. Later, Harry and I contacted Joan Wohlstetter, Albert and Roberta’s daughter, and persuaded her to make her parents’ private papers at the Hoover Institution’s archives available to Robert. These papers are now open to the public, and some of them are included in this edited volume. Robert’s visits to Washington multiplied as he interviewed more of Albert’s former protégés, as well as his critics.

In 2006, I asked Robert if he would be willing to help out at my nonprofit research organization, the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC). He immediately agreed and assumed responsibility for completing research that had already been begun by Paul Lettow on the meaning of “nuclear energy for peaceful purposes” in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Although Robert was planning to write a comprehensive biography of Albert Wohlstetter, I encouraged him instead to publish short pieces on the Wohlstetters. His success here led to the next suggestion: an edited volume of Albert and Roberta’s key writings relating to nuclear proliferation and national security affairs, with commentaries by the Wohlstetters’ colleagues and students. I worked with him to develop a grant proposal.

The result is this volume, which is designed not as a eulogy or a Festschrift, but as a testament to the continuing relevance of the work of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter in the fields of nuclear and security policy analysis. Albert and Roberta wrote hundreds of articles and studies on U.S. policy on the Balkans, as well as the Persian Gulf; strategic command and control; intelligence and warning; NATO nuclear planning; U.S.-Russian arms control; strategic and theater missile defenses; the economics and military dangers of civilian nuclear energy; nuclear safeguards and nuclear nonproliferation; and military nuclear strategy and methods of policy analysis and design. Their contributions to and influence in these areas of policy were considerable. As a result, it simply is not possible to include in a single volume all of the studies and writings that one would need in order to cover the full extent of their work.

Still, publishing selections of their most important writings is worthwhile. Increased concern about the spread of nuclear weapons in the Far and Middle East, the controversy surrounding civilian nuclear cooperation with India, the global revival of nuclear power and debate over its economics and security implications, the controversies surrounding how the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s obligations and rights are being cynically read by Iran and other states—all of these issues have prompted Washington pundits and national security analysts to cite the Wohlstetters’ work. The same can also be said of the security concerns recently raised by Islamic fundamentalism, the continued instability of the Balkans, the questions surrounding NATO’s future and America’s alliances in the Far East, the relevance of nuclear deterrence after the Cold War, and the emergence of ballistic missile defense as a key ingredient in strategic forces and alliance relations.

This volume can hardly cover all the insights that the Wohlstetters’ work might shed on these topics. Instead, it is designed to make some of the most significant of Albert and Roberta’s writings—many of which were previously unpublished—much more accessible. Using this volume’s references and its companion website, Albert Wohlstetter Dot Com (, readers will be able to view some of the most interesting of the Wohlstetters’ archived analyses. Finally, Robert Zarate’s introductory essay and the subsequent commentaries, which have been written by some of Albert and Roberta’s closest colleagues and students, should help to introduce the Wohlstetters’ works not only to current policymakers and security planners, but to students who may later assume these roles.

The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), is a 501 (c)3 nonpartisan, nonprofit, educational organization
founded in 1994 to promote a better understanding of strategic weapons proliferation issues. NPEC educates policymakers, journalists,
and university professors about proliferation threats and possible new policies and measures to meet them.
1600 Wilson Blvd. | Suite 640 | Arlington, VA 22209 | phone: 571-970-3187 |