The Hawk and the Dove

Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War

Only two Americans held positions of great influence throughout the Cold War; ironically, they were the chief advocates for the opposing strategies for winning--and surviving--that harrowing conflict. Both men came to power during World War II, reached their professional peaks during the Cold War's most frightening moments, and fought epic political battles that spanned decades. Yet despite their very different views, Paul Nitze and George Kennan dined together, attended the weddings of each other's children, and remained good friends all their lives.

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.

Reviews

The key to understanding modern American foreign policy is appreciating the complex 60-year friendship between George Kennan and Paul Nitze. Nicholas Thompson brilliantly captures their divergent personalities, clashing politics, and intellectual bonding.

BY: Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute

With clarity and vigor, Nicholas Thompson has given us an engaging and insightful account of one of the great friendships of the modern age, the personal bond between Paul Nitze and George Kennan that illuminates the epochal stakes of the Cold War. This is a terrific book.

BY: Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek

Thompson’s judicious and delicious depiction of Nitze and Kennan will fascinate anyone who cares about the Cold War or the ways that human beings shape the future.

BY: Jonathan Alter, The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

The Hawk and the Dove is a wonderful idea for a book, wonderfully carried out. Nicholas Thompson has used illuminating new material to present each of his protagonists in a convincing, respectful, but unsparing way.

BY: James Fallows, national correspondent of The Atlantic Monthly and author of Blind into Baghdad

Nicholas Thompson is an exceptionally good writer and a very clear thinker; both of these talents lift up The Hawk and the Dove, an energetic, fair, revealing and highly readable account of two men whose thinking and public lives helped to define the Cold War--and whose views on the international order remain strikingly relevant to the era that has followed.

BY: Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens

The book is also a penetrating, amazingly accessible study of the origins and conduct of the Cold War.

BY: Jim Hoagland, columnist of The Washington Post

Author:

Nicholas Thompson was a Future Tense fellow. He is a senior editor at the New Yorker, a contributing editor at Bloomberg Television and CNN International, and the author of The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War.