The Hawk and the Dove: Book summary and reviews of The Hawk and the Dove by Nicholas Thompson

The Hawk and the Dove

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

by Nicholas Thompson

The Hawk and the Dove by Nicholas Thompson

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A fascinating revisiting of Cold War estrangements." - Kirkus Reviews

"That Thompson is Nitze's grandson does not inhibit his nuanced account of two men whose common goal of serving America's interests transcended perspectives." - Publishers Weekly

"Thompson writes exceedingly well, and his book not only provides new information on Nitze and his friendship with Kennan, but will introduce a new generation of readers to these two significant architects of American Cold War policy." - Library Journal

"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. It is an insightful and important tale, but also a colorful and fascinating one—an intellectual buddy movie with enormous historical resonance." - Walter Isaacson

"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." - Jon Meacham

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More Information

Nicholas Thompson is an editor at Wired magazine, a fellow at the New America Foundation, and a regular contributor to CNN. He has written articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post and numerous other publications. A grandson of Paul Nitze's, he lives in New York City with his wife and son.

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