The Corner


A Sitdown with Gaddis

Professor John Lewis Gaddis (Eliza Valk)

Earlier in the week, I mentioned a Q&A with Charles Hill, a grand strategist at Yale. I said I would have another one, with another grand strategist at Yale: John Lewis Gaddis. Here it is. Gaddis is a historian, best known as an authority on the Cold War. What’s it like to be an authority on a period of time so recent, when you can actually talk with and know key players? That’s one of the questions I ask Gaddis.

He is the author of many books, including a biography of George F. Kennan, which won the Pulitzer Prize. I have a recollection of another book — which was reviewed by The Weekly Standard in 1997, when I was working there (a year before I came to National Review). The title of the review has always stuck in my mind: “Thank Gaddis.” Google found it, as it finds so many things: here.

Professor Gaddis grew up in Cotulla, Texas. We talk about that. And about his becoming a historian. Then we talk about the Cold War, of course, including some of its personalities. Kennan is one. Paul Nitze is another. Also, who were some of the unsung heroes of the Cold War? We talk about issues of current contention too. (That was the perennial title of Bill Buckley’s speech — whenever it was, wherever it was: “Current Contentions.”) One of those issues is Russia, Putin’s Russia. Another is NATO (and they are linked). We also talk about life on campus: Is it as nutty as many of us suspect and fear?

A pleasure it is to sit with John Lewis Gaddis, and at his own dining-room table. Treat yourself to it — again, here.

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