The Intellectuals Debate Professional Ethics
Camelot's demise was also followed by much soul searching among intellectuals, who saw the project's significance rather differently than did its military sponsors or its congressional critics. Some observed that Camelot's consequences for experts were rather surprising. The credibility of behavioral science, they suggested, survived the ordeal of the congressional probe not only unscathed, but strengthened. As Robert Nisbet put it,
Let it be trumpeted far and wide: The federal government, starting with the subcommittee whose job it was to look into Camelot's coffin, and going all the way across town to Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, love the behavioral sciences; love them not despite but, apparently, because of their sins.... With the kind of luck that ... God grants to children, fools, drunkards, and citizens of the United States of America, the behavioral sciences emerged from this potentially devastating hearing with their luster untarnished, their prestige, if anything, higher.
What began as a Pandora's box may have ended as a lucky break in the coming-of-age story of behavioral experts, but intellectuals themselves were divided on Camelot's lessons. Some insisted that Camelot had been an excellent opportunity to shape policy, unforgivably squandered by incompetent operators. Others wondered about the acceptability of contracts from military agencies and compared what behavioral scientists were doing for the Defense Department to the huge amounts of work being conducted under the auspices of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) and other domestically oriented bureaucracies by the mid-1960s. A very few, worried that researchers were being turned into the unwitting servants of power, ventured so far as to ask whether any form of federal support could be ethical.
In the end, they reached no consensus. Few participants were naive enough to defend Camelot for its basic scientific value, but many maintained their remarkable optimism about the potential of behavioral science in government, regarding Camelot as an example of socially engaged research, even a rare opportunity for science "to sublimate" the military's unfortunate tendency toward violence. David Riesman, not a participant in Camelot himself, was not alone when he suggested that the episode proved "the top management of the Defense Department
often seems to have a wider perspective on the world than its counterpart in State." The next year, Gabriel Almond was still scolding DOS policy-makers for their backward intellectual tastes. "They believe in making policy through some kind of intuitive and antenna-like process," Almond noted testily, "which enables them to estimate what the prospects of this and that are in this or the other country. I believe they are a backward agency, as far as their relationship to science is concerned."
Ithiel de Sola Pool, a political scientist who had worked with Harold Lasswell at the Library of Congress during World War II, was a key figure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for International Studies, which had been founded and supported throughout the 1950s (with Ford Foundation and secret CIA funds) "to bring to bear academic research on issues of public policy." Sola Pool was probably the most enthusiastic proponent of a "humanizing" alliance between social science and government. "They [the social sciences] have the same relationship to the training of mandarins of the twentieth century that the humanities have always had to the training of mandarins in the past.... The only hope for humane government in the future is through the extensive use of the social sciences by government." Far from considering Camelot's participants to be spies, Sola Pool went so far as to accuse critics of "a kind of neo-McCarthyism."
Neither Camelot's supporters nor its detractors were politically homogeneous, and the project cannot, therefore, be easily dismissed as a perverse brainchild of rabid cold warriors. Many, perhaps even a majority, of participants were liberal anti-Communists; some were critics of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. For them, deploying the theories and techniques of behavioral science to prosecute the Cold War efficiently and nonviolently was evidence of the democratic values embedded in U.S. policy. Indeed, Camelot's critics and defenders all tended to venerate the vital and progressive role that behavioral expertise could and should play in government. Sociologist Irving Horowitz, who endorsed this position and called it the "Enlightenment Syndrome," was the most influential academic observer of the project's "life and death," "rise and fall." In his own articles on the subject and in the book he edited, The Rise and Fall of Project Camelot (1967) (which gathered primary documents as well as critiques), Horowitz expressed the anxieties of many intellectuals when he interpreted Camelot's cancellation as a serious attack on behavioral scientists' intellectual freedom and public contribution. "The degree to which the development of the social sci-
ences is permitted within a nation," he wrote, "operates as a twentieth-century index of freedom.... I do not think anyone can participate in social research and fail to see a high correlation of good social science and a good society."
Unlike Horowitz's belief in the freedom-reflecting quality of behavioral expertise, Charles Bray and the Smithsonian Group (the immediate predecessors of Camelot), had at least admitted that psychotechnologies were politically neutral, capable of application to repressive as well as benevolent ends. Awareness of the negative potentials of behavioral science was never, of course, entirely absent during the period after World War II. Bray's group followed the lead of important World War II-era figures like social psychologist Kurt Lewin and sociologist and NSF administrator Harry Alpert, who, while deeply committed to a vision of behavioral scientists bringing order and enlightenment to public policy, were nevertheless alert to the ever-present danger that their wisdom could still be used for manipulative purposes. "Unfortunately there is nothing in social laws and social research which will force the practitioner toward the good. Science gives more freedom and power to both the doctor and the murderer, to democracy and Fascism," wrote Lewin in a 1946 essay. Alpert restated the message more than a decade later. "Whether the atom is used for peace or destruction, whether bacteria are mobilized for purposes of health or disease, whether knowledge of human motivations is used to provide happiness or to sell soap, are alternatives which the scientist as seeker of knowledge and truth cannot determine," Such warnings seemed to lose their force under the pressure of Cold War conflicts and opportunities, at least until the antiwar movement gained the loyalty of many intellectuals in the late 1960s. During the 1950s and early 1960s, few doubts surfaced that U.S. policy-makers would see fit to use behavioral expertise exclusively in the interests of freedom, just as there was correspondingly little skepticism about the repressive reach of the Soviet psychological and psychiatric professions. "Nothing in the social sciences increases the capacity to manipulate an individual against his will," insisted Daniel Lerner in 1959. "The central tendency of social science is rather to increase man's capacity to manipulate his own social environment."
Horowitz was among the most thoughtful commentators on Camelot and its implications at the time. His own political views were decidedly left-wing; he was, for example, a great admirer of radical sociologist C. Wright Mills well before the New Left turned Mills into a hero.
Yet Horowitz embodied many of the assumptions of the World War II worldview, for example, that intellectuals' social responsibilities included special obligations to government, even when they opposed government policies.
In the case of Camelot, Horowitz criticized participants for their unscientific reluctance to look a gift horse in the mouth. Swallowing military objectives without question was a terrible mistake for which intellectuals should, Horowitz felt, be held responsible. But he was also convinced that contempt for social and behavioral science—rather than defective method or botched research design—was the real motive behind Camelot's termination. He regarded the whole affair as a major setback and Johnson's memo as "a gross violation of the autonomous nature of science." For Horowitz, Camelot's unhappy end threatened the fragile hold that behavioral expertise had on public policy. He chose to emphasize the virtues of socially engaged intellectuals over their ideological sins. They were, after all, at least trying to survive as the voice of reason in an unreasonable political system.
Some intellectuals on the Left, like social psychologist Herbert Kelman, were more willing than Horowitz to concede that behavioral research could serve repressive ends, that "even under the most favorable conditions manipulation of the behavior of others is an ethically ambiguous act." Yet Kelman too maintained that psychological expertise was a prerequisite for democratic decision making, "that social science ought to contribute to the policy process," and that it could and should be a profoundly "constructive and liberating force in society." Overcoming all the negatives required ensuring that psychological research would proceed uncontaminated by mundane political considerations and that experts would be able to do their work autonomously and in the spirit of international scientific cooperation.
Horowitz and Kelman were only two of the canceled project's public critics in the social sciences and psychology. The questions they raised about the ethical values and social responsibilities of behavioral scientists, and the relationship of research to government policy, were both timely and sincere. It does not detract from the validity of their critique to point out that they were also self-interested. Few voices were heard, for example, calling for a halt to government-funded research. Dismay about Camelot did not alter the conviction, widespread among behavioral scientists across the political spectrum, that such research should be continued, and preferably expanded.
The belief that science required complete political independence in order to generate positive results was entirely compatible with insis-
tence that whatever controls over socially useful research were needed should be retained by professionals themselves. Keeping the material and status benefits of government research contracts while expanding the authority of experts over the conditions and applications of their work was part of the ongoing, successful bargaining process that marked the public history of psychological expertise in the decades after World War II. Because experts whose political views led them to disagree about everything else (the Vietnam War, for example) could still agree about this, practically no ground was lost in the fight for government research support. Considering the international proportions of the Camelot scandal, this was a remarkable feat.
If any criticisms of Camelot questioned the very foundations of the bond between behavioral science and government, they tended to be voiced by cultural anthropologists for both historical and practical reasons. Their discipline, inextricably bound to the establishment of global empires by European states, had been shaken by espionage charges earlier in the century. In 1919 Columbia's Franz Boas accused four anthropologists of "prostitut[ing] science by using it as a cover for their activities as spies" during World War I. Even though his campaign to bring sanctions against them was outvoted in the American Anthropological Association (AAA), the discipline carded the burden of its imperial heritage uncomfortably; anthropological work sensitized scholars to the impact of Western rule on the underdeveloped world. Moreover, anthropology depended more heavily than any of the other disciplines on foreign field opportunities, and these could readily evaporate if foreign authorities doubted the sincerity of researchers' scientific intentions.
After Camelot, the AAA appointed a Committee on Research Problems and Ethics, sponsored a wide-ranging inquiry into the responsibilities of social scientists, and strongly urged other behavioral science organizations to do the same. The AAA adopted a series of resolutions such as the following: "Constraint, deception, and secrecy have no place in science.... Academic institutions and individual members of the academic community, including students, should scrupulously avoid both involvement in clandestine intelligence activities and the use of the name of anthropology, or the title of anthropologist, as a cover for intelligence activities." The anthropologists were not, however, entirely certain about how either "science" or "intelligence" should be defined. Ralph Beals, one of those most concerned with the negative consequences of Project Camelot for the profession, was also aware that the CIA extracted most of its information from civilian research. He
was forced to conclude that "unfortunately today there is practically no information that may not, under some circumstances, have military significance."
That this dilemma represented something more than a definitional problem was well illustrated when the alarm over Camelot in 1964 escalated into a tidal wave of shock over revelations of CIA involvement in academic life in the years that followed. Advocates of an "engaged anthropology" gained momentum from news about colleagues' secret activities, as they did from the gathering strength of the antiwar movement, and young leftists formed professional groups like Anthropologists for Radical Political Action. But the anthropological establishment reacted publicly too, stepping up its campaign to erect impermeable barriers between legitimate intellectual work and cloak-and-dagger intelligence gathering. The difference between the two, however, was far less obvious than caricatured images of scientists and spies would suggest, as they well knew.
As if to underscore the enduring confusion between research and espionage, antiwar activists brought evidence of counterinsurgency activities by social scientists to members of the AAA's Committee on Research Problems and Ethics in 1970, five years after Camelot had been put to rest. The Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam documented numerous instances of cooperation between anthropologists and the U.S. military, including a counterinsurgency project in Thailand run by the American Institutes for Research, the organizational descendent of SORO and the Center for Research in Social Systems (CRESS), which superseded SORO at the American University in 1966. In spite of the AAA's formal position that an unbridgeable gulf ought to exist between covert activities and anthropological fieldwork, the two committee members who went public with this information (Eric Wolf and Joseph Jorgensen) were reprimanded by the AAA for acting outside the bounds of their authority. They finally resigned in protest.