Jeffrey LewisHave a Sense of Humor

I’ve now gotten several emails asking who was the inspiration for the Cold War Troglodyte. One writer wondered if it was an amalgam of Keir Lieber and Daryl Press. Another thought maybe Ward Wilson.

This is ridiculous.

Given that Press and Lieber are about as far from Ward Wilson as I can imagine, I realize that everyone I’ve attended conferences with for the past few months is probably wondering if post refers to them.

Stop what you are thinking; it is not you.

It is certainly not Keir, Daryl or Ward — all of whom I respect, like tremendously and invited to give talks at New America. It isn’t really anyone — it is a cartoon, not a real person.

As I said in the earlier post, the character was inspired by arguments that annoyed me, not some real-life wonk with a furrowed brow or sulking demeanor. And, since everyone is being all sensitive: the arguments that Keir, Daryl and Ward make, to the extent that I disagree with them, are NOT, REPEAT NOT, the sort of arguments that I would choose to parody with a caveman using powerpoint.

Look, the odds are that, unless I’ve actually told you directly that I think your slides would make nice cave paintings, I don’t think you are a Neanderthal.

It was a joke everybody. You can calm down.


  1. Page van der Linden (History)

    Geez, I forgot to write and condemn you for that awful cartoon. I’d better get on that right now. Be right back…


  2. The Other FSB (History)

    But who has actually made the arguments that irritate you? It seems a bit of a cop out to hide behind a cartoon and not name names. One way or the other, it is never a good idea to label those you disagree with as stupid – or even imply that they are. It can come back to bite you in the ass – and your mea culpa suggests that it has.

  3. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Other FSB:

    You are missing the point — it does not pictorially represent one person’s arguments, but rather my reaction to a whole line of thinking that I think has been devolving since Wohlstetter made it in the late 1950s.

    Whereas Wohlstetter’s version was sophisticated (though I disagreed with it), his arguments have lost any nuance or contingency as they have became assumptions behind our discourse about deterrence.

    That was what irritated me, not a particular person’s expression of them. (Indeed, I tend to react to the most amateurish efforts at regurgitating Wohlstetter with amusement rather than exasperation.)

    What prompted my post is not a sense of guilt, but surprise that people wondered if they were the Cold War Troglodyte. I didn’t label specific people that I disagreed with as stupid, but merely tried to poke fun at arguments I thought were simplistic.

    I am not making any apologies for that; indeed, I wouldn’t describe “calm down” as a mea culpa.

    I don’t feel the least bit guilty about mocking dumb ideas.

  4. FSB

    Well, this is what happens when the good old gritty original potty-mouth ACW becomes all goody-two-shoes…I say, who needs sensitive readers of the ACW blog, anyway? Let them go here instead !

    And anyway, is there someone sane who actually supports the deterrent graph shown by the Cold War Troglodyte in the other post?

  5. The Other FSB (History)


    The fact that you have had to go to this length to explain yourself suggests indeed a measure of mea culpa on your part.

    If you meant Wohlstetter and his dissemblers then why didn’t you just say so in the first place? It would have certainly saved you all this embarrassment.

    Oh, and be careful that others do not regard your own branch of nuclear theology with ‘amusement’. After all, in this nuclear world, how can any one of us be so sure?

    Humility might be a good place for all of us to start from.

  6. anon (History)

    What a silly subject for debate. Personally, except for the facial hair I think it looks like a former ASD with the initials of KP. He’s certainly an acolyte of Wohlstetter.

  7. Geoff Forden (History)

    At first, I assumed that you had copied the image from some where. After rereading the post, I realized that you created it yourself. I’m impressed that you can (computer?) draw so well!

  8. Bob Zarate

    Lest Readers of the Wonk misunderstand, (a) Albert Wohlstetter never argued that more warheads/bombs/delivery vehicles will lead to an increased capability to deter; and (b) Jeffrey Lewis, as he wrote in his subsequent comment, does not claim that Wohlstetter himself made such an argument.

    To those interested in actually reading Wohlstetter’s key analyses of what (in his view) would be required to survive — and so be capable of credibly deterring — an opponent’s preemptive attack against one’s strategic nuclear forces, I would recommend not just his seminal 1958 essay The Delicate Balance of Terror (a slightly shorter version of which Foreign Affairs published in January 1959), but also the following, previously unavailable RAND report:

    Albert Wohlstetter, Fred S. Hoffman and Henry S. Rowen, Protecting U.S. Power to Strike Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, staff report, R-290 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, September 1, 1956), top secret, declassified circa mid-1960s.

    In the R-290 report, Wohlstetter et al. argue that the problem of establishing a deterrent that would be survivable, controllable, and therefore more credible in the face of changing nuclear dangers required U.S. strategic nuclear forces to be not only capable of riding out and operating coherently after an actual preemptive attack against them; but also completely controllable in times of peace, crisis, and war — and especially in the face of ambiguous warning — so as to avoid unauthorized operations, accidents, and war by mistake.

    In the context of the above comments, I would draw attention to the following additional points that Wohlstetter et al. made in 1956:

    National defense programs do not now give adequate consideration to the problem of protecting the strategic force as distinct from the problem of force size (p. 6).


    The criterion for matching the Russians plane for plane [or bomb for bomb, or missile for missile], or exceeding them is, in the strict sense, irrelevant to the problem of deterrence (pp. 2-3).

    Wohlstetter et al.‘s entire R-290 report is worth carefully reading, whatever your inclination on these issues.

    Finally, the Other FSB [CORRECTION: As the Other FSB very helpfully and graciously points out below, in my haste I failed to properly observe that it was “Anon,” not s/he, who made the comment that I am trying to correct. — RZ, 19 Nov 2008, 23:34 GMT] appears to suggest that former ASD Keith Payne was “an acolyte of Wohlstetter.” I believe this is inaccurate. Payne was a student of Herman Kahn.

    I would add, Kahn’s thinking and Wohlstetter’s thinking were — contrary to what some might believe — far from identical. Indeed, they differed on many key issues, as well as in analytical methods.

  9. The other FSB (History)

    Bob Zarate: I suggested nothing of the sort, rather ‘anon’ – whoever he or she is – did. I know my Wohlstetter and Kahn acolytes, as well as those of Schelling, quite well without any help from you. But thanks for the offer anyway.

  10. Bob Zarate

    The Other FSB is quite correct: it was “Anon” — and not s/he — who made (what I take to be) the inaccurate statement describing Keith Payne as an Albert Wohlstetter student. My sincere apologies for this obvious and easily avoidable error.

    I should add that my correction of Anon’s comment is not meant, in any way, to be a personal attack.

    In my capacity as an erstwhile blogger on the Wonk, I have made an effort to make clear, and to correct, my error above.

  11. The Other FSB (History)

    Many thanks to Bob Zarate for his correction. All is forgiven.