Victor Hugo’s aphorism that there is no more powerful force in history than an idea whose time has come, is not as true as those many merchants of ideas who quote it so often and so hopefully would like to believe. As much as excellent and original ideas are neglected and disparaged, foolish and dangerous ones are trumpeted and celebrated. To affect history, an idea must have political strength as much as substantive content. The civilian strategists gained notice because their concepts and prescriptions were bold and imaginative. Their historical moment came in January 1961, because they succeeded in influencing an incoming Administration. To a remarkable extent their concepts were adopted as working guidelines for American defence policy. Few ideas so novel and far-reaching can have been given such a severe test so soon after their original formulation.
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