Philip Zelikow Reinterprets the History of U.S. Foreign Policy

Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia, is presenting at the next National History Center-Wilson Center “Washington History Seminar” on Monday, November 22 at 4:00 pm at the Wilson Center. He will be discussing “Accidents and Axioms: The Curious History of U.S. Foreign Policy.”

The history of U.S. foreign policy has usually been told in order to spotlight recurrent purposes and dilemmas. American exceptionalism, open-door imperialism, realism vs. idealism – all are examples. Yet such schools of interpretation can obscure more than they reveal. They set up historians as judges whose verdicts become parables for the day’s debates. They attach common labels to disparate thought. They hypothesize collective purposefulness that was not there, imagine a government driving the action when it was reacting spasmodically to choices made by outsiders. The presentation speculates about how to make the narrative history of U.S. foreign policy a bit more, well, historical – yet still notice some distinguishing characteristics and patterns that really do cross time.

Philip Zelikow is the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia. His books include The Kennedy Tapes (with Ernest May), Essence of Decision (with Graham Allison), and Germany Unified and Europe Transformed (with Condoleezza Rice). A former career diplomat, he served on the staff of the National Security Council and as director of the 9/11 Commission. He was also Counselor of the Department of State.

Reservations are requested because of limited seating.  To reserve a seat at the seminar, contact Miriam Cunningham at 202-544-2422 ext 103 or email.  The seminar takes place at the Wilson Center, located in the Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

The seminar is sponsored jointly by the National History Center (an initiative of the American Historical Association) and the Wilson Center. Wm. Roger Louis and Christian Ostermann are the co-directors. The seminar meets weekly during the academic year, January to May and September to December. Click here for the schedule, speakers, topics, and dates as well as videos and podcasts. The seminar is grateful for the support given by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.