The first-ever popular history of the RAND Corporation, written with full access to its archives, Soldiers of Reason is a page-turning chronicle of the rise of the secretive think tank that has been the driving force behind American government for 60 years. Born in the wake of World War II as an idea factory to advise the air force on how to wage and win wars, RAND quickly became the creator of Americas anti-Soviet nuclear strategy
.A magnet for the best and the brightest, its ranks included Cold War luminaries such as Albert Wohlstetter, Bernard Brodie, and Herman Kahn, who arguably saved us from nuclear annihilation and unquestionably created Eisenhowers military-industrial complex.In the Kennedy era, RAND analysts became McNamaras Whiz Kids and their theories of rational warfare steered our conduct in Vietnam. Those same theories drove our invasion of Iraq 45 years later, championed by RAND affiliated actors such as Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and Zalmay Khalilzad. But RANDs greatest contribution might be its least known: rational choice theory, a model explaining all human behavior through self-interest. Through it RAND sparked the Reagan-led transformation of our social and economic system but also unleashed a resurgence of precisely the forces whose existence it denied religion, patriotism, tribalism.
With Soldiers of Reason, Alex Abella has rewritten the history of Americas last half century and cast a new light on our problematic present.
©2008 Alex Abella (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"Well-researched... Kudos to Abella." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"[R]evealing and original... Abella does an excellent job ferreting out details... Abella's book is an introduction to the broad range of ideas RAND has espoused." (Chalmers Johnson, Asia Times)
I am SO lucky I rolled the dice on this one. This book hides from us because we don???t really know what it is. To help classify the book, I would describe it as American History since 1940 through the lens of whiz kids at war. To me, this book revealed an American phenomenon. All through history warfare has been mainly the domain of conquerors, of tough guys, of bullies, and bandits???of men of force. But here, in America we brought in the nerds, the guys whose test scores made them carnival freaks or social outcasts. We brought them in on an industrial level and militarized their math. Here, our generals and geniuses made an alliance, and in their efforts to win World War II, they accidentally created an empire. We invented the supersmart superpower. How many bombs will it take to destroy a Nazi stronghold? They???ll tell you. Should the US drop an atomic bomb or invade with ground troops? They???ll tell you, even if the answer is horrifying. The world now has a powerful military, assisted by the cold research of geniuses, and equipped with the highest technology. The book is plain fascinating...
A history of the RAND corporation would normally not be at the top of my reading list, but the book title and editor's summaries made it appealing enough to try it, plus all the other audiobooks I had been listening to were political commentary, so I wanted a change to something more factual, as opposed to opinionated and agenda-driven. Fortunately this book was perfect, and I do not have buyers remorse in the least. The author really does an excellent job (and the narrator also) of creating an interesting history of the RAND corporation.
RAND stands for Research and Developement, which is the American civilian think-tank which influenced military technology and planning, Cold War diplomacy, wartime strategy, and many other topics, even branching into social science, medical science and educational areas of research as well. This book covers the contributions and careers of the most interesting "RAND-ites" as well as the growth, change, and significant historical events RAND corp was involved in since its inception in the mid 20th century. RAND had a big impact on major parts of American history in the 20th century. I would describe Soldiers of Reason as a history book that is well researched and written in a very interesting and readable way. As a non-history buff, I found it a light, enjoyable (but still solid, authorative, well-researched) listen over about a week during my daily commutes in my car. A true history buff may find it even more intense and enthralling. Definitely worth a listen if you have an interest in either RAND or American military and political stragety in the modern age.
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