Marshall Lecture Series

Nicholas Thompson to Discuss New Book

Author Nicholas Thompson will discuss The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War as part of the Marshall Lecture Series on October 20 beginning at 5:30 PM in the Pogue Auditorium.  Reception and book signing to follow.

The Hawk and the Dove Book Cover Nicholas Thompson

Only two Americans had positions of great influence from the beginning of the Cold War until its end: Paul Nitze and George Kennan. Fierce rivals, they advocated profoundly different strategies for how the United States could win (and survive) that harrowing conflict. But they also remained friends throughout. This is the story of their often parallel, and sometimes perpendicular, lives—and how two men shaped America during the second half of the 20th century.

In this masterly double biography, Nicholas Thompson brings Nitze and Kennan to vivid life. Nitze—the hawk—was a consummate insider who believed that the best way to avoid a nuclear clash was to prepare to win one. More than any other American, he was responsible for the arms race. Kennan—the dove—was a diplomat turned academic whose famous “X article” persuasively argued that we should contain the Soviet Union while waiting for it to collapse from within. For forty years, he exercised more influence on foreign affairs than any other private citizen.

As he weaves a fascinating narrative that follows these two rivals and friends from the beginning of the Cold War to its end, Thompson accomplishes something remarkable: he tells the story of our nation during the most dangerous half century in history.

About the Author

Nicholas Thompson is a senior editor at Wired Magazine and the author of The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War. He is a fellow at the New America Foundation and an official panelist on CNN International’s “Connect the World” with Becky Anderson.

Prior to Wired, Mr. Thompson was a senior editor at Legal Affairs and an editor at the Washington Monthly. He has written about politics, technology, and the law for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The New York Observer, and many other publications.

Among the Cast of Characters to Populate the Cold War

George C. Marshall


The five star general served as the U.S. Army Chief of Staff during WWII. Marshall became a military advisor, Secretary of Defense, and was eventually named Secretary of State by President Truman in 1947.  Marshall’s most famous diplomatic contribution was the European Recovery Act, known as the Marshall Plan, for which he received a Nobel Peace Prize.  Reflecting back on Marshall, Kennan would write, “Like everyone else, I admired him and in a sense loved him.”

Harry Truman

Harry Truman

President of the United States from 1945 to 1952, Truman led the country through the early days of the Cold War and the Korean War. At the end of his life, Nitze would say that Truman and Reagan were the two presidents he admired most.


“The book is brimming with fascinating revelations about the men and the harrowing events they steered through.” —The New York Times 9/14/09

“In this important and astute new study, Nitze emerges as a driven patriot and Kennan as a darkly conflicted and prophetic one.” —The Wasington Post 9/13/09

“Paul Nitze and George Kennan were the yin and yang of American foreign policy. They were also the only figures deeply involved in the Cold War from beginning to end, and so they make ideal focal points for Nicholas Thompson’s lively and illuminating book.” —Newsweek 9/17/09

“Few men did more to shape postwar U.S. Foreign policy than Paul Nitze and George Kennan. In tracing their dueling visions of America’s role in the world, Nicholas Thompson provides a white-knuckle glimpse inside the 20th century’s most dangerous moments.” —Time Magazine 9/4/09

“Thoroughly engrossing … Thompson succeeds admirably in blending biography and intellectual history, painting colorful portraits of complicated men who embodied conflicting strains of American thinking about foreign policy.” —The New York Times Book Review 9/13/09