The Rewards of Being Wrong
America’s Cold War wizards botched many predictions. But that was often for the better.
America’s intelligence experts and futurists were dead wrong about many of the big questions during the Cold War. At the outset, they badly underestimated how quickly the Soviet Union would be able to build its first atomic bomb, and they topped off their poor record decades later by failing even to imagine the Cold War’s end. Yet their work was invaluable, argue Matthew Connelly, a Columbia University historian, and his student coauthors in American Historical Review.
More than any other conflict, the Cold War put a premium on “prevision.” Nobody had ever fought a nuclear...