The Progress of Cold War Psychology
In retrospect, it seems clear that policy-oriented behavioral expertise was neither fragile at the time of Camelot nor seriously jeopardized by the outcome of the scandal. In 1966 SORO, Camelot's sponsoring organization, reconstituted itself as the Center for Research in Social Systems (CRESS) and continued, under its new name, to provide the army with detailed information about the Third World. The name change was virtually the only change. Camelot's spirit lived on. Its outlines continued to inform the work of CRESS and other research organizations long after 1965. A number of subsequent studies bore more than a passing resemblance to the shelved project.
A three-volume CRESS study, Challenge and Response in Internal Conflict (1968), provides some clues about what Camelot might have looked like had it been completed. Like Camelot, it was launched in 1963 under the watchful eyes of SORO director Theodore Vallance. Its purpose was to provide the army with an "institutional memory bank" that could guide counterinsurgency planning. Although its authors declined to evaluate the specific military purposes to which their research might be put because "counterinsurgency might be undertaken by either 'good' or 'bad' governments in an assorted mix of 'good' and 'bad' ways," they were quite certain that U.S. counterinsur-gency efforts always assisted morally virtuous and popular regimes. The finished product encompassed the work of 45 experts from 14 universities, detailed 57 cases of twentieth-century insurgencies (29 since World War II), and literally covered the globe.
In the period after Camelot, CRESS also produced a number of Camelot-like behavioral studies spotlighting the Vietnamese insurgency. One, "Human Factor Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies," surveyed twenty-four postwar cases, but an analysis of National Liberation Front psychology was its centerpiece. In their effort to understand why normally law-abiding individuals were drawn into
the orbit of dangerous revolutionary movements, psychologists Andrew Molnar, Jerry Tinker, and John LeNoir emphasized all the basic social psychological factors that had been identified as key variables during World War II: group membership and cohesiveness, patterns of leadership, the advantage of emotional over rational appeals. Like their predecessors in World War II-era psychology, they placed the individual firmly at the center of inquiries into social and political phenomena.
The study also featured a developmental stage model of the revolutionary process, based on the principles of crowd psychology, very much like the one Rex Hopper had outlined in 1950. It concluded with the familiar theme that the best counterinsurgency strategy was preventive treatment. But when nipping upheavals in the bud was impossible, as was the case in Vietnam, soldiers should be trained as "agents of pacification." They should be made into admirable models of civic action, engaged in the necessary work of building roads and bridges and, at the same time, capable of coercively channeling popular frustrations into the "catharsis" provided by loyalty to the existing government.
Many CRESS studies considered the frustration of personal needs a convincing explanation for revolutionary upheaval in Vietnam and elsewhere, a smooth continuation of yet another strand in World War II psychological warfare. One sophisticated 1969 survey, subcontracted by CRESS to the Princeton Center for International Studies, began by noting that "it seems evident that most riots and revolutions are made by angry men, not dispassionate ones, and that the more intense their anger, the more destructive their actions are likely to be.... Most human aggression occurs as a response to frustration."
Ironically, Camelot's spirit was destined to have its most lethal reincarnation in Chile, the country where it had been exposed, but which had never been one of the intended targets of research. In 1973, almost a decade after Camelot was canceled, its mark could be seen in the secret, CIA-sponsored coup against the socialist government of Salvador Allende.
The connection came through Abt Associates, a research organization located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose president, Clark Abt, had been one of Camelot's consultants. In I965 the DOD's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) contracted with Abt to design a computer simulation game to be used for monitoring internal war in Latin America. Except for the addition of sophisticated computer technology, Camelot's goal remained intact. Dubbed Politica, the game
was first loaded with data about hundreds of social psychological variables in a given country: degree of group cohesiveness, levels of self-esteem, attitudes toward authority, and so on. Then it would "highlight those variables decisive for the description, indication, prediction, and control of internal revolutionary conflict."
In the case of Chile, according to Daniel Del Solar, one of Politica's inventors, the game's results eventually gave the green light to policy-makers who favored murdering Allende in the plan to topple Chile's leftist government. Politica had predicted that Chile would remain stable even after a military takeover and the president's death. Just as useful to the planners of military and covert action as the RAND study of Viet-Cong motivation and morale had been, Politica proved to be far more accurate.
Precisely because it was a fiasco, Camelot's story illustrates the stamina of the World War II worldview in the face of a significant challenge. It also helps to explain the political distance that behavioral science—psychology in particular—had traveled in twenty years, and the intimate links that had been forged between psychology's diverse public uses. By 1965 a majority of elected officials and top policy-makers thought they understood why "we have psychiatrists and psychologists running out of our ears in this Government of ours today." With regular prodding from the experts, they proclaimed that behavioral scholarship was indispensable to foreign and military policy. Yet in Camelot's case the aggressive political deployment of psychological expertise was effectively obscured through psychology's old scientific and new therapeutic reputation, which made it likely that knowledge about human societies would be considered as neutral technology or impractical basic research, even when it was being paid for by military or other institutions with clear political missions.
Almost two decades had passed since George Lundberg's classic formulation of social expertise as the ability "to predict with high probability the social weather, just as meteorologists predict sunshine and storm. More specifically, social scientists should be able to say what is likely to happen socially under stated conditions." Yet the vision of an objective psychology whose practitioners should strive to be technically proficient social engineers, which World War II had done so much to further, remained secure. Camelot's antiseptic language often emphasized the allegedly apolitical character of behavioral science, referring, for example, to "insurgency prophylaxis" rather than counterrevolu-
tion. Even at the height of the Cold War, psychology offered a convenient way to avoid all mention of capitalism, communism, or socialism.
One of Camelot's lessons was that even a significant international scandal, which in an earlier period might have elicited much debate about the proper relationship between knowledge and power, did not noticeably interrupt psychology's political progress. The heated debate among intellectuals that followed the project's cancellation revealed more about the insecurities felt by a group of intellectuals new to power than it did about any serious threat to their public status. Many of the official architects of the Vietnam War, after all—policy-makers like McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, and Walt Rostow—were the very models of the new "mandarins" Sola Pool had so hopefully proclaimed to be the vanguard of a humanistic future.
They, along with the researchers put to work on Cold War projects like Camelot, all had liberal, behaviorally oriented educational backgrounds. They had dutifully absorbed the lessons of recent war, hot and cold: that political passions, ideas such as freedom, and military conflicts themselves were contaminated by toxic emotions in need of immediate treatment and firm containment. They studied the chaotic compound known as "national character," subsequently renamed "political culture," in hopes of producing effective management techniques. For the Cold War generation, "population control," the calculated shaping of behavior at home and abroad, was both a realistic and responsible goal. (This use of the term "population control" should not be confused with the global family planning programs it has frequently denoted since the 1960s.) Prediction and control via behavioral management was the enduring refrain of World War II-era experts, and it was constantly reiterated during the years that followed 1945. According to morale specialist Rensis Likert, "The important problems of our times concern human behaviour. . . . Problems of human behaviour underlie each of the many kinds of organized group effort on which nations are becoming increasingly dependent. . . . The larger social problems of nations and of the world also involve human behaviour." Cold War managers were, after all, charged with nothing less than overseeing the awful dangers of superpower conflict. Because they were involved in a global "minds race," the very future of the planet depended on how well they could stabilize the emotional and behavioral disorder caused by aggression, fear, self-interest, primitive loyalties, and the ever-present human quest for security, which took so many
irrational forms. Is it any wonder, in the face of such imposing emotional obstacles during the postwar decades, that the most famous psychologist in the United States—B. F. Skinner—would reject individual autonomy and suggest that psychology's biggest challenge was to move "beyond freedom and dignity." Skinner defined his profession's toughest problem as follows: "to induce people not to be good but to behave well."
As the years wore on, the booming postwar economy would slow and the quagmire of U.S. policy in Vietnam would become more obvious and elicit more protest. Cold War psychology, one product of the World War II worldview, would be more seriously challenged than it was at the moment of Camelot's exposure. By the end of the decade, Harold Lasswell himself, the very embodiment of World War II-era faith in psychological expertise, was expressing grave doubts about the enlightening potential of scientific expertise. "If the earlier promise [of science] was that knowledge would make men free," he said, "the contemporary. reality, seems to be that more men are manipulated without their consent for more purposes by more techniques by fewer men than at any time in history." By the time Lasswell spoke these discouraging words at the 1969 APA meetings, psychological experts had long since found secure new homes and enthusiastic new sponsors in federal bureaucracies devoted to cleaning up U.S. domestic social problems. Total federal expenditures on the "psychological sciences" steadily increased throughout most of the 1960s, from $38.2 million in fiscal year 1960 to a high of $l58 million in fiscal year 1967. While the source of most of the funds did shift decisively from DOD to HEW early in the decade, defense-related research spending never dipped. Camelot had little if any impact on the financial resources the military made available to psychological experts.
Neither, in 1965, had intellectuals of the sort involved in Camelot been recast by the Vietnam War, and antiwar critics like linguist Noam Chomsky, as the "secular priesthood" whose job it was "to ensure that the people's voice speaks the right words." Eventually, the antiwar movement would convert many Americans to views directly opposed to the World War II worldview. With a civilian population sharply divided on the merits of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, it became possible to think that psychology (and other varieties of expertise) was useful mainly because it helped the state maintain ideological control over a potentially unruly population, shield a murderous foreign policy from
public view, and "manufacture consent" by insisting that U.S. motives were always pure and U.S. power always legitimate.
The notion that mercenary experts were reinforcing U.S. dominance around the world in hopes of gaining power themselves was a far cry from the World War II image of exemplary citizen-intellectuals putting their social responsibility on display by going to work for the government. In 1972 Margaret Mead, compelled by the idea of a "generation gap" and exceptionally receptive to the ideas of young people, admitted as much when she reflected on what her own wartime activities had taught her: "that psychological warfare rebounded on those who perpetrated it, destroyed trust and simply prepared for later trouble—discoveries which the young radicals were to make over again in the 1960s but about which we had no doubt in the late 1940s."
When Camelot unfolded, however, most of the antiwar movement's history (including the partial takeover of the 1969 APA conference by antiwar activists) still lay in the future. The teach-in movement, which did so much to expose the military-industrial-academic complex, was just getting off the ground with novel, all-night gatherings on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The ideological beliefs of the World War II generation were still, for the most part, quite solid. Momentous conflicts existed between good and evil. Democracy was infinitely superior to any political alternative. And government could be trusted to use the power of science responsibly.
In 1965 the dreams inspired by World War II had come true. Psychological experts were no longer required to prove the efficiency they brought to military functioning, nor were they pressured to defend their investments in anti-Communist foreign and military policies, tasks they had pursued avidly in earlier years. The political benefits of psychology had become, for the moment at least, entirely self-evident and, at the same time, largely invisible. Society had become the patient. Psychology had become the cure.