William Pfaff is the author of The Irony of Manifest Destiny, published in June 2010 by Walker and Company (New York) -- his tenth and culminating work on international politics and the American destiny. He describes the neglected sources and unforeseen consequences of the tragedy towards which the nation's current effort to remake the world to fit America's measure is leading. His previous books and his articles in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and his syndicated newspaper column, featured for a quarter century in the globally read International Herald Tribune, have made him one of America's most respected and internationally influential interpreters of world affairs.   [Read more...]
Biography : William Pfaff
on 2000/1/31 17:40:00 (2617 reads)

William Pfaff

     In a long assessment of William Pfaff’s work and influence in The New York Review of Books (May 26, 2005 ; see Special Articles [click]), Pankaj Mishra wrote “His broad-ranging intellectual and emotional sympathies distinguish him from most foreign policy commentators who tend to serve what they see, narrowly, as their ‘national interest.’ Pfaff is also indifferent to, and often brusquely dismissive of, the modish theories that describe how and why dominoes fall, history ends, and civilizations clash....
     “[In his book, The Bullet’s Song], a long essay on utopian violence, he reiterates his conviction that the idea of total and redemptive transformation of human society through political means is ‘the most influential myth of modern political society from 1789 to the present days.’ Pfaff is especially wary of its ‘naïve American version,’ which, ‘although rarely recognized as such, survives, consisting in the belief that generalizing American political principles and economic practices to the world at large will bring history (or at least historical progress) to its fulfillment.”
     The late Robert L Heilbroner wrote in 1964: “I suspect that in the future it will no longer be possible to qualify as a wholly serious thinker if one has not, to whatever small degree, made one’s peace or accommodation with [his] harsh message.”

     William Pfaff has written a newspaper column since 1978, begun at the invitation of the Paris-based International Herald Tribune. It subsequently was syndicated in the United States and internationally by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate (which later became the Chicago-based Tribune Media Services, a division of The Tribune Company). The American historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. has called him “Walter Lippmann’s authentic heir.”
     His magazine articles have appeared in The New York Review of Books, Harper’s, Foreign Affairs, World Policy Journal, The National Interest, and other publications in the United States, and elsewhere in Commentaire (Paris), Neue Zürcher Zeitung and DU magazine (both Zurich), Politica Exterior (Madrid), Europäische Rundschau (Vienna), Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik (Bonn), and other journals.
     Between 1971 and 1992 he published more than seventy “Reflections” (“a political-literary form of your own invention,” his editor, William Shawn wrote to him), on international politics and society in The New Yorker magazine.

     From 1972 until 1978 he was deputy director of Hudson Research Europe, Ltd., in Paris, the quasi-independent European affiliate of the American policy research organization, the Hudson Institute – of which he had been, in 1961, one of the earliest members, following publication of his first book, The New Politics. (Hudson Institute at the time conducted heterodox independent strategy and public policy analyses for official and private-sector clients. Later, after the death of its founder, Herman Kahn, it become one of the many neo-conservative American ‘think-tanks.’)
     Before, Pfaff had been an executive of the Free Europe Committee, a (CIA-sponsored) political warfare organization concerned with Central and Eastern Europe, publishing research studies, monographs and a magazine dealing with the region, and conducting activities designed to furnish books, publications, and independent information to the Warsaw Pact countries, notably but not exclusively through Radio Free Europe.
     He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1949, having majored in literary and political studies. (His mother had attended its sister-school, Saint Mary’s Notre Dame.) He became an editor of the lay-Catholic Commonweal magazine in New York, during and after the Korean War served in infantry and Special Forces units of the United States Army, and subsequently returned to Commonweal until leaving in 1955 for extensive travel in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. After a brief passage at ABC News in New York, he was invited to join the Free Europe organization.

     Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the end of 1928, he is of German-English-Irish origin. His paternal grandparents -- from the Black Forest, in Baden – moved to the American middle-west in 1892. His mother’s family was also German on the paternal side, descended from George Frederick Kuhnlien [Anglicized as Keeline], born in Prussia in 1825, whose descendants were pioneers of western Iowa, moving from West Virginia to Council Bluffs following the Civil War. His maternal grandmother’s Irish antecedents were John and Margaret English Dohany, natives of County Clare, and on the English side, Clarissa Noble, descendant of a revolutionary soldier and of the English Starr family, which settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635.
     Pfaff’s father was a businessman in Iowa. Following Pearl Harbor, the family moved from Des Moines, where they then lived, to Columbus, Georgia, location of the U.S. Army’s infantry center, Fort Benning.

     His first book, a collaboration with the late Edmund Stillman, was published in 1961, and seven others have followed (see: His Books [click]).
   He lives in Paris with his wife, the former Carolyn Cleary of Sydney, Australia, a writer and gardener. They have two grown children, Nicholas James Pfaff and Alexandra Frances Pfaff-Drouard, and six grandchildren.


     2006, Arthur Ross Award for Distinguished Commentary on American Diplomacy and Foreign Relations from the American Academy of Diplomacy [see "Asides"].
     2005, Robert Schuman Memorial lecturer, the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands.
     2005, Member of the International Jury for the Prix Tocqueville.
     2004, laureate, Prix de l’Annuaire Français de Relations Internationales (for “contributions to the analysis of international relations in the written press”).
     2003 - present Member, The Club de Monaco.
     2002 - present Member, The Athens Seminar.
     2001-2004, Member of the Board of Directors, Social Science Research Council. New York.
     1996, Hans J. Morgenthau Memorial lecturer, the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.
     1992, LLD (honoris causa), the University of Notre Dame.
     1989, finalist, U.S. National Book Award (for Barbarian Sentiments).
     1989, laureate, Prix Jean-Jacques Rousseau of the City of Geneva (for the best political work of the year, Le Réveil du Vieux Monde, French translation of Barbarian Sentiments).
     1987, Best American Essays of 1987 (“The Lay Intellectual,” published originally in Salmagundi).
     1981, Regents’ Lecturer, University of California – San Diego.
     1961, Rockefeller Foundation Grant (for The New Politics).

     Sometime lecturer, Yale University, University of California (Berkeley), University of Southern California, University of Oregon {Eugene), George Washington University, Georgetown University, University of Chicago, Harvard Divinity School, the Institut des Sciences-Politiques (Paris), the U.S. Naval War College, the NATO Defense College (Rome), the State Department Senior Seminar. Member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and sometime Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


For University of California Berkeley "Conversations with History" Video, interview with William Pfaff by Harry Kreisler. [click]/b/

His books