by Eva Gudbergsdottir

Paul Warnke
In his honors thesis, Middlebury Institute student Paul S. Warnke explores the conflicting views of the U.S.- Soviet strategic competition held by his namesake grandfather and Albert Wohlstetter.

Leading Dove in Vietnam Era,” was the headline of the 2001 obituary of former Pentagon official Paul Warnke in the New York Times. Later that year in a special appreciation Bill Keller of the Times refined that remembrance to say that Warnke’s “subspecies was the intellectual dove.” In his honors thesis for the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies degree, recent Middlebury Institute graduate Paul S. Warnke MANPTS ‘18, Warnke’s grandson and namesake, took a deep dive into the strategic policy debate between his grandfather and Albert Wohlstetter on the pages of Foreign Policy, exploring it in the context of the social and political backdrop in which it took place.

The elder Warnke was known for his open opposition and questioning of the Vietnam war while a senior official in the Johnson administration, and for seeking to reduce the American and Soviet nuclear stockpile as President Carter’s chief arms control negotiator. Again quoting the New York Times, “Mr. Warnke never hesitated to express his views.” In his best known article, “Apes on a Treadmill,” he strongly expresses his views on the pointlessness of an arms race. That article played a starring role in Warnke’s 1977 confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate which lasted for weeks and became a national spectacle. Senators took different lessons from the article, concluding either that it showed that Warnke “was not going to be a creampuff, any marshmallow, any weakling,” when negotiating with Moscow, or that it showed dangerous defeatism and naivety.

Paul Warnke the younger majored in History and Political Science at Middlebury College and says he has always been “greatly interested” in the Cold War. At the College, his senior thesis was on U.S. involvement in the Brazilian coup in the early 1960s. While studying for his master’s degree at the Institute, Warnke worked as a graduate research assistant at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS). One of the first research projects he worked on with CNS Director Bill Potter concerned U.S.-Soviet cooperation in the nonproliferation world, which meant “reading through lots of declassified documents.” With every mention of his grandfather in the documents, his interest grew in learning more about the man who had died when he was young.

With every mention of his grandfather in the documents, his interest grew in learning more about the man who had died when he was young.

The honors thesis “Conflicting Views of the U.S. – Soviet Strategic Competition: Tracing the Warnke-Wohlstetter Debate Across the Pages of Foreign Policy” is thus an exploration of a family legacy as well as of an essential debate about strategic policy that would shape the careers of both men, to say nothing of the subsequent direction of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. It was a nuanced debate about fundamental issues, and Warnke brings the intensity and complexity of it to life through full character descriptions and interesting historical and political context in his nearly 100-page thesis. The debate also played a critical role in the founding of Foreign Policy magazine. 

It was a nuanced debate about fundamental issues, and Warnke brings the intensity and complexity of it to life through full character descriptions and interesting historical and political context in his nearly 100-page thesis.

As part of his research, the younger Warnke spent considerable time doing archival research at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, as well as reading his grandfather’s papers which are kept at Georgetown University, and interviewing many of his grandfather’s colleagues who are still alive. “I learned a lot about him,” he shares and adds that it has been rewarding to share what he has learned with the rest of his family as well. “I also learned a lot about good writing,” he says with a smile.

After graduating in December, Warnke moved to Washington D.C. where he now works as a Congressional Nuclear Security Fellow in the United States Senate.

For More Information

Jason Warburg
jwarburg@middlebury.edu
831-647-3516

Eva Gudbergsdottir
evag@middlebury.edu
831-647-6606

CNS Activities at the 2018 NPT PrepCom

On April 23–May 4, 2018, the Preparatory Committee of states parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) met in Geneva. Leaders, researchers, and students from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and the Middlebury Institute participated in various ways.