18th April 2012: John Lewis Gaddis Receives Biography Pulitzer Prize

John Lewis Gaddis


Congratulations to Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis who received the Biography Pulitzer for George F. Kennan: An American Life (New York: Penguin Books, 2011). Gaddis spent over 5 years writing and almost 30 years researching the diplomat and grand strategist’s life, influences and impact. The chapters on Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram‘ and ‘X’ article are a real education in policy work. You can read the recent H-Diplo discussion of Gaddis’s book here.  Louis Menand’s New Yorker review is here. I’ll miss Gaddis’s talk on Kennan at the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations annual conference. Gaddis’s books on the Cold War and history have given me some informative insights as I work on my PhD about counterterrorism studies and strategic culture.


Here’s a 2012 video of Gaddis discussing George F. Kennan: An American Life:



Photo: Strauss Center/Flickr.

22nd February 2012: Independent Review of Australian Intelligence Community

In December 2011, Gillard Government announced the Cornall-Black independent review of the Australian intelligence community.


Australian National University professor Hugh White and the Lowy Institute’s Sam Roggeveen have each reflected on Cornall-Black; Australia’s understanding of Asia;  diplomacy versus intelligence; and the value of open source intelligence (in deference to US grand strategist George Kennan). Kate Grayson and I responded separately to White and Roggeveen. White also responded to Roggeveen. I will probably respond to White tomorrow. This is an unfolding, interesting debate.

10th January 2012: John Lewis Gaddis on Nuclear Weapons & Grand Strategy


This lecture at Columbia University on 12th August 2010 features a couple of interesting moments. Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis compares Clausewitz’s absolute war, George Kennan’s containment strategy, and Ronald Reagan’s nuclear disarmament talks with Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union. This lecture illustrates how Gaddis constructs a logic chain, uses analogical reasoning, and selects historical sources in order to make arguments (including revisionist debates about particular historical figures, such as James Mann’s The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan). Gaddis also makes a couple of side-comments about a Columbia student simulation on nuclear weapons that was run the afternoon of the talk. The question and answer session touches on several potential research programs that others might explore, such as the role of weapons proliferation in asymmetric wars.

23rd December 2011: Holiday Reading

My holiday reading for late December 2011 and the first week of January 2012:


1. George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis (New York: The Penguin Press, 2011).  I’ll need a few weeks to get through this masterful biography of the foreign affairs maven who conceived of Cold War containment. It took Gaddis almost 30 years to research and write this authorised book, based on archives and extensive interviews.


2. A bunch of private equity books for a planned journal article on the EMI-Terra Firma Capital Partners deal.


3. Aum Shinrikyo chapter notes for the PhD — hope to have a draft for the PhD committee by mid January.


4. Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology (Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Publishers, 2008) for a new project.