John Wohlstetter

Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute

John C. Wohlstetter is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute (beg. 2001) and the Gold Institute for International Strategy (beg. 2021). His primary areas of expertise are national security and foreign policy, and the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He is author of Sleepwalking With The Bomb (2nd ed. 2014), and The Long War Ahead and The Short War Upon Us (2008). He was founder and editor of the issues blog Letter From The Capitol (2005-2015). His articles have been published by The American Spectator, National Review Online, Wall Street Journal, Human Events, Daily Caller, PJ Media, Washington Times and others. He gave over 1,000 radio interviews (2008-2015), many on nationwide programs, and guest-hosted the August 14, 2013 Dennis Miller Show. He was the subject of a cover story in the May 2022 edition of the subscription newspaper Charleston Mercury: A Talk with John Wohlstetter: Nuclear Threat, Beethoven and N.Y. Pizza.

He worked on the international securities arbitrage trading desks at Goldman Sachs (1969-73) & Drexel Burnham Lambert (1973-74). As an attorney for Contel Corp. (1978-91), he practiced corporate and communications law, then turned to strategic assessment, a task he continued at GTE Corp. (1991-2000) & Verizon, retiring in 2000. During his tenure at Contel he served as senior adviser to The Committee on Review of Switching, Synchronization and Network Control in National Security Telecommunications (1986-1989). Created by the National Research Council, it published its final report, Growing Vulnerability of the Public Switched Networks: Implications for National Security Emergency Preparedness, in 1989.

He holds degrees from the University of Miami (B.B.A., 1969, Finance major, Art History minor); Fordham University School of Law (J.D., 1977); and The George Washington University (M.A., Public Policy/Telecommunications, 1985). He is a National Trustee of the National Symphony Orchestra (beg. 2014), and served on the NSO Board (1992-2014). He serves on the Board of the Billy Rose Foundation (beg. 1996). He served as a trustee of MyFace (1980-2016), and the Washington Bach Consort (2002-2018). He also served on the Boards of the Hudson Institute (2000-2012), the Harbor League (2009-2012) and the London Center for Policy Research (2013-2018), where he also was a senior fellow.

He is an amateur concert pianist, residing in Charleston, South Carolina.


Casablanca at 80: Greatest-Generation America

Released November 26, 1942, the film’s debut neatly coincided with the November 8, 1942 Allied landing in North Africa, and the British stopping Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps at El Alamein on the same day (an event alluded to in Bogart’s next film, Sahara). The film opened in Los Angeles on Jan. 23, 1943, the penultimate day of the wartime Casablanca Conference featuring FDR and British PM Winston Churchill, noted for its demand for “unconditional surrender” by the Axis powers.

Time Travel Travail

Can America 'Leap Forward' Forever?
The year-round DST bill’s chances in the 118th Congress may hinge on whether people in the fall hate four months of afternoon darkness more than they love an extra hour’s pre-dawn slumber. 

The Great Obama Retreat

Just before he was elected president in 2008, Barack Obama declared, “We are just five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” He may not succeed in his aim to transform the domestic landscape. Instead his legacy may be a different transformation entirely: a tectonic shift in America’s position in the world, diminishing America’s status abroad to its weakest international profile in more than a century. As the Great Recession became shorthand for the deep, prolonged recession that was triggered by the global financial crisis, so the president’s serial retreats abroad may come collectively to be known as the Great Retreat. The momentous consequences of the president’s policy of retreat are already manifested as 180-degree reversals in three

Sleepwalking with the Bomb

About the Book Sleepwalking with the Bomb shows how we can forestall nuclear catastrophe. It offers familiar faces, cases and places to illustrate how the civilized world can face the most pressing nuclear dangers. Drawing from both history and current events, John Wohlstetter assembles in one place an integrated, coherent and concise picture that explains how best to avoid the “apocalyptic trinity” — suicide, genocide and surrender — in confronting emerging nuclear threats. Plaudits John Wohlstetter has given us a tour de force of our troubled nuclear condition… For many years Sleepwalking With the Bomb will be the standard against which all other work on nuclear issues will be measured. R. James Woolsey, Former Director of Central Intelligence; Chair, the

Ariel Sharon: 1928 – 2014

Bravest in battles, whether at war or at peace…. A giant passes on, who looms especially large compared to the pygmy who sits in the White House.  Readings well worth it: Times of Israel obituary: Israel’s indomitable protector. How Sharon narrowly escaped near-certain death in the 1948 war. Elliott Abrams, who worked closely with Sharon for five years, “His Eye Was Not Dim”; Abrams recounts how Sharon encompassed the security dilemmas of Israel in two contexts, geography and the Palestinian Arabs: He saw himself as a Jew whose job it was to protect the Jewish state. In early 2003, President George W. Bush sent deputy national security advisor Steve Hadley and me (I was the senior Mideast official on the NSC) to meet with him, hear him out, and

Who Knows Who Has The Bomb? Not Us

The stunning revelation that a segment of the intelligence community believes that North Korea already has a nuclear weapon compact enough to be placed upon a ballistic missile shows anew the limits of what intelligence agencies can determine as to what goes on in closed societies. What matters from a standpoint of intelligence acuity is less whether Pyongyang can put a nuclear bomb atop a missile-though in the substantive sense of military and terror threats it hugely matters-than whether we can ascertain for sure if they can. In fact, we rarely can ascertain such, if history is a guide. Our agencies have been serially surprised over the years. Days before the August 1949 detonation of the former Soviet Union’s first atomic bomb our intelligence asserted that the first test was

The Long War Ahead and the Short War Upon Us

The Long War Ahead and the Short War Upon Us, provides an assessment of the successes and failures of the United States’ War on Terror, six years after 9/11. As important, it provides a fresh perspective on how to meet the challenges posed by a war with many fronts in a complex and shifting environment. Mr. Wohlstetter sees two wars with very different challenges: a Long War lasting generations, against radical Islamist ideology, a civilizational war of survival, between imperfect civilization and perfect barbarism. The Short War is a war of prevention, attempting to head-off a WMD catastrophe, whose impact could make eventual victory in the Long War seem hollow. We have, Wohlstetter writes, failed to invest enough human and material resources to give ourselves the best chance

Ma Bell’s Lost Sons

The same year Merian Cooper’s epic King Kong was produced (1933) he issued a sequel, Son of Kong. Little Kong was smaller, kinder, gentler, and like his pop did not survive the end of the movie. Ma Bell, like the original Kong, was captured, exhibited for public amusement, and ultimately destroyed. The son escaped capture, but perished when his island universe exploded like Krakatoa. Ma Bell’s kids, in a world inhabited by corporate behemoths like Google, Microsoft, and media mega-firms, may well perish in a market ka-boom. The lesson of the ape films is to beware of messing around with Mother Nature’s creations, as the Law of Unintended Consequences takes over. There is a lesson, too, in the generation-long saga of Ma Bell — the siege, her surrender, and her

Katrina: The Sounds of Communications Silence

Bandwidth September 2005
Click here to view a PDF of the text below. The shriek of Katrina’s 140 mph winds and rat-a-tat-tat of its driving, torrential rain left in its tumultuous wake a coast silenced by vast devastation. Darkness ruled not just night but day, as the electric grid crash darkened shelters and the lights of fiber-optic cable went off in an instant. Cell towers fell, broadcast stations were yanked off the air, and the voices of a great city fell silent. The city, and parts of the Gulf Coast as well, simply dropped off the globally networked web of voice, data and video communications that define societal participation in the Information Age. The sounds that most often reached one’s ears, besides the voices of reporters talking into portable microphones, were those of whirring

Alice in Cableland; Grokster in Fableland

Bandwidth July 2005
In this issue of Discovery Institute’s online technology newsletter, Senior Fellow John Wohlstetter addresses two decisions of the United States Supreme Court, both released June 27. The first held that cable providers, unlike telephone companies, cannot be forced to offer Internet access to their competitors. The second held that “peer-to-peer” network providers who knowingly aid copyright infringement can be held liable by copyright owners. Click here to download a PDF of this issue. ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different

SBC/AT&T: Will Two Decades of Post-Divestiture Folly Finally End?

Bandwidth February 2005
SBC’s purchase of AT&T, if approved, would create a vertically-integrated communications firm with nearly 35 percent of the total revenues of the five largest wireline carriers ($75.4B of $217.7B).1 Consummation of the deal would end more than two decades of federal telecom policy delusion, one that cost the domestic telecom marketplace untold billions in shareholder value and frustrated advanced infrastructure investment in the “last mile” of the local loop. The merger would begin the long-anticipated industry-wide vertical re-integration of local and interstate long distance service. (Among local carriers, only Qwest, which acquired the outlier Bell firm US West, combines local and interstate LD.) Vertical separation is an egregious artifact of the 1984 Bell System

Four Years After the Bubble

VoIP Vampires, Wireless Witches and Broadband Bats Bedevil the Bells' Bellfry and Befuddle the FCC
In this issue of Discovery Institute’s online technology newsletter, Senior Fellow John Wohlstetter addresses the future of telecom, focussing on industry movement in VoIP, Fiber and Wireless and the relationship these have with FCC regulatory habits, past, present, and future. Bandwidth December 2004Download Click here to access past issues of Bandwidth, and to subscribe or unsubscribe to the

Dot Disconnect

Privacy Purists, Profiling Protesters, Licentious Libertarians and Homeland Security in Post-9/11 America
In this issue of Bandwidth, Senior Fellow John Wohlstetter examines the proposals from the 9/11 Commission’s report, and provides strong arguments against typical privacy and civil liberties advocates’ concerns. Bandwidth September 10,

Cleaning Kevin’s Clock

White House Wakes Up, Telecom Shakes Up
In this issue of Bandwidth, Senior Fellow John Wohlstetter reviews new figures on broadband deployment and how President Bush’s policies on telecom may affect the industry. Mr. Wohlstetter also reviews telecommunications policies under President Reagan. Bandwidth July 12,

Networks for Nothing, Fraud for Free:

MCI's "WorldCom Whitewash Waltz"
In this issue of Bandwidth, Senior Fellow John Wohlstetter addresses past and present fraud at MCI-Worldcom, arguing against their Chapter 11 re-organization and citing examples of current allegations of bill and tax evasions at the corporation. Bandwidth April 30,

Comment on 3/2/04 DC Court Ruling

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, largely vacated the local network unbundling rules adopted August 2003 in the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called Triennial Review Order, but upheld key parts of the FCC’s order eliminating requirements that local telephone companies (i.e., Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers-ILECs) share with Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) new fiber-optic and hybrid (i.e., part fiber/part copper) broadband local lines and equipment. The Court, in an unusual move, gave the FCC 60 days to either appeal for reconsideration or adopt rules that comply with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The appeals court ruling was especially notable for the following reasons: The Court termed the 60-day deadline it

Four Years After the Fall:

Asia Ascends; Europe Awakens; America Awaits
Normally after passage of landscape-altering legislation, the early milestones for evaluating its impact on the affected industry are one, five and ten years. That impact is of course determined in significant measure by actions taken by the regulatory body charged with implementing it.