MAD COWs and Practical Wisdom


In the 1950s, researchers at the RAND Corporation ran two different wargames exploring questions of nuclear strategy. Both were named the Cold War Game, known to the participants as COW.  One, run by the Mathematics Analysis Division (MAD), abstracted questions of the ethics of nuclear war in order to seek reproducible results. The other, run by the Social Sciences Division (SSD), reflected concerns over the ethics and implications of nuclear weapons, resulting in less-certain outcomes. The history of these games sheds light not only on nuclear strategy, but also on the balance between logic and emotion in national security decision-making. Doyle Hodges, executive editor of the Texas National Security Review (TNSR), talks with John R. Emery, the author of Moral Choices Without Moral Language: 1950s Political-Military Wargaming at the RAND Corporation, which appears in Vol 4/Iss 4 of TNSR.  This issue is a special issue dedicated to the legacy of Janne Nolan, a founding member of the TNSR editorial board who passed away in 2019.

Matthew J. Cotter from Wigan, United Kingdom, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons