As Dr. Poe suggests, historians are by their nature public intellectuals because they are intellectuals who write about public events. In the interview, Zelizer discusses his efforts to bring the historian’s voice to the public and his most recent book Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security From WWII to the War on Terrorism (Basic Books, 2010), using historical research and writing to inform the public and public debate. The book proves that in the U.S. politics does not “stop at the water’s edge.” From the very beginning of the Republic, American foreign policy has been informed by a subtle mix of electoral politics, ideology, and institutional infighting. Zelizer focuses on the Second World War to the present, and shows that politics have a powerful effect on the major foreign policy decisions of the era: Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Reagan’s volte-face on disarmament, the First Gulf War, and the Second. It is in the nature of our political culture to cross swords and break lances over issues of foreign policy.
To listen to the interview, please click here.