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Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson

Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

 

 

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September 29, 2015

Kissinger: Volume 1: The Idealist, 1923-1968

Book

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Few figures provoke as much passionate disagreement as Henry Kissinger. Equally revered and reviled, his work as an academic, national security adviser, diplomat, and strategic thinker indelibly shaped America’s role in the 20th century. Kissinger’s counsel knew few boundaries: His advice was sought by every president from Kennedy to Obama. Yet the man and his ideas remain the object of profound misunderstanding.

Drawing on 50 archives around the world, including Kissinger’s private papers, this book by Niall Ferguson, Kissinger: Volume 1: The Idealist, 1923-1968, argues that America’s most controversial statesman, and the cold war history he witnessed and shaped, must be seen in a new light.

 

September/October Issue

"The Meaning of Kissinger"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Foreign Affairs

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

There are reasons other than his longevity why so many world leaders—among them the Chinese President Xi Jinping—continue to seek the counsel of Henry Kissinger, who stepped down as U.S. secretary of state close to four decades ago. In this respect, Barack Obama is unusual. He is the first U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower not to seek Kissinger’s advice. Periodically, commentators urge Obama to be more “Kissingerian.” Others argue that he is Kissinger­ian in practice, if not in rhetoric. But what exactly does the term mean?

The conventional answer equates Kissinger with realism, a philosophy characterized by the cool assessment of foreign policy in the stark light of national self-interest, or, in the journalist Anthony Lewis’ phrase, “an obsession with order and power at the expense of humanity.” Writing in 1983, Kissinger’s former Harvard colleague Stanley Hoffmann depicted Kissinger as a Machiavellian “who believe[s] that the preservation of the state . . . requires both ruthlessness and deceit at the expense of foreign and internal adversaries.” Many writers have simply assumed that Kissinger modeled himself on his supposed heroes, the Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich and the Prussian leader Otto von Bismarck, the standard-bearers of classical European realpolitik.

Yet the international relations scholar Hans Morgenthau, who truly was a realist, once memorably described Kissinger as, like Odysseus, “many-sided.” In the early 1960s, for example, when the agonizing question arose of how much the United States should shore up the government of South Vietnam, Kissinger initially believed that South Vietnam’s right to self-determination was worth U.S. lives. Morgenthau, the authentic realist, vehemently disagreed.

 

 

AP Photo

May 17, 2010

"The End of the Euro"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Newsweek

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

"Just when it seemed safe to start using the word "recovery," a Greek crisis is threatening the world economy, and the very existence of the world's second-biggest currency."

 

 

AP Photo

January/February 2010

"What 'Chimerica' Hath Wrought"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, American Interest

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

"For a time, [Chimerica] was a symbiotic relationship that seemed like a marriage made in heaven. Put simply, one half did the saving, the other half the spending. Comparing net national savings as a proportion of Gross National Income, American savings declined from above 5 percent in the mid 1990s to virtually zero by 2005, while Chinese savings surged from below 30 percent to nearly 45 percent. This divergence in saving patterns allowed a tremendous explosion of debt in the United States, for one effect of the Asian "savings glut" was to make it much cheaper for households to borrow money than would otherwise have been the case."

 

 

AP Photo

December 7, 2009

"An Empire at Risk"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Newsweek

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

"Military experts talk as if the president's decision about whether to send an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan is a make-or-break moment. In reality, his indecision about the deficit could matter much more for the country's long-term national security. Call the United States what you like-superpower, hegemon, or empire-but its ability to manage its finances is closely tied to its ability to remain the predominant global military power."

 

 

AP Photo

November 16, 2009

"The Year the World Really Changed"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Newsweek

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

"...1989 was less of a watershed year than 1979. The reverberations of the fall of the Berlin Wall turned out to be much smaller than we had expected at the time. In essence, what happened was that we belatedly saw through the gigantic fraud of Soviet superpower. But the real trends of our time—the rise of China, the radicalization of Islam, and the rise and fall of market fundamentalism—had already been launched a decade earlier."

 

 

iStock Photo

December 2008

"Wall Street Lays Another Egg"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Vanity Fair

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

"Not so long ago, the dollar stood for a sum of gold, and bankers knew the people they lent to. The author charts the emergence of an abstract, even absurd world-call it Planet Finance-where mathematical models ignored both history and human nature, and value had no meaning."

 

(Photo by Martha Stewart)

Fall/Winter 2015-2016

"Ferguson’s New Look at Kissinger and the Lessons of History"

Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter

By Josh Burek, Communications and Outreach Director and Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Few figures provoke as much passionate debate as Henry Kissinger. Equally revered and reviled, his work as an academic, national security advisor, diplomat, and strategic thinker indelibly shaped America’s role in the 20th century. Kissinger’s counsel knew few boundaries. His advice was sought by every president from Kennedy to Obama. Yet the man and his ideas remain the object of profound disagreement.

 

Pete Souza, White House

April 25, 2016

"Alexander and Charles"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

“You like tomayto, and I like tomahto,” crooned Fred Astaire to Ginger Rogers in the 1937 caper “Shall We Dance.’’

The routine begins with an argument about the pronunciation not of “tomato” but of “either.” Also at issue are the words “neither,” “pyjamas,” “laughter,” “after,” “Havana,” “banana,” and “oysters.” As a middle-class Scotsman who has spent roughly half his adult life in the United States, I no longer have any idea what the “right” way to pronounce these words is.

But imagine all those words being uttered by Her Majesty the Queen. And then imagine them coming from the mouth of President Barack Obama. Never mind hearing them — merely to see the two heads of state together is to be reminded how very different the United Kingdom and the United States are.

 

 

UK Department for International Development

April 18, 2016

"The happy moron and Brexit"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

When I was a little boy, my mother liked to quote the following quatrain (sometimes attributed to the New York wit Dorothy Parker):

See the happy moron,

He doesn’t give a damn,

I wish I were a moron,

My God! perhaps I am!

I often think of the happy moron when I settle down to the read the International Monetary Fund’s semiannual publication, the World Economic Outlook. Almost without fail, this publication acknowledges that its previous projections were too optimistic and need to be revised downwards. The Fund’s economists then proceed to make new projections, surely knowing that they too will soon need to be revised downwards.

 
Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.