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Graham Allison

Mailing address

Littauer 368
Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs
79 John F. Kennedy Street, Mailbox 53
Cambridge, MA, 02138

Graham Allison

Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

Member of the Board

Contact:
Telephone: (617) 496-6099
Fax: (617) 495-1905
Email: graham_allison@harvard.edu

 

Experience

Director of Harvard's major Center for Science and International Affairs, Graham Allison is a leading analyst of U.S. national security and defense policy with a special interest in nuclear weapons, terrorism, and decision-making. As Assistant Secretary of Defense in the first Clinton Administration, Dr. Allison received the Defense Department's highest civilian award, the Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, for "reshaping relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to reduce the former Soviet nuclear arsenal." This resulted in the safe return of more than 12,000 tactical nuclear weapons from the former Soviet republics and the complete elimination of more than 4,000 strategic nuclear warheads previously targeted at the United States and left in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus when the Soviet Union disappeared.

His latest book (2013), Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States and the World (co-authored with Robert Blackwill), has been a bestseller in the U.S. and abroad. His previous book, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, now in its third printing, was selected by the New York Times as one of the "100 most notable books of 2004."  It presents a strategy for preventing nuclear terrorism organized under a doctrine of "Three Nos:" no loose nukes; no new nascent nukes; and no new nuclear weapons states. Dr. Allison's first book, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (1971), was released in an updated and revised second edition (1999) and ranks among the all-time bestsellers with more than 450,000 copies in print.

As "Founding Dean" of the modern Kennedy School, under his leadership, from 1977 to 1989, a small, undefined program grew twenty-fold to become a major professional school of public policy and government.

Dr. Allison has served as Special Advisor to the Secretary of Defense under President Reagan.  He has been awarded the Department of Defense's highest civilian award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, twice: first by Secretary Cap Weinberger and second by Secretary Bill Perry. He served as a member of the Defense Policy Board for Secretaries Weinberger, Carlucci, Cheney, Aspin, Perry and Cohen.  He currently serves on the Advisory boards of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the CIA.

Dr. Allison was the organizer of the Commission on America's National Interests (1996 and 2000), a founding member of the Trilateral Commission, a Director of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has been a member of public committees and commissions, among them the Baker-Cutler DOE Task Force on Nonproliferation Programs with Russia, the IAEA’s Commission of Eminent Persons, and the Commission on Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism.

Dr. Allison has served as a Director of the Getty Oil Company, Natixis, Loomis Sayles, Hansberger, Taubman Centers, Inc., Joule Unlimited, and Belco Oil and Gas, as well as a member of the Advisory Boards of Chase Bank, Chemical Bank, Hydro-Quebec, and the International Energy Corporation.

Dr. Allison was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was educated at Davidson College; Harvard College (B.A., magna cum laude, in History); Oxford University (B.A. and M.A., First Class Honors in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics); and Harvard University (Ph.D. in Political Science).


Assistant Info:
Simone O'Hanlon
Executive Assistant
Telephone: 617-496-6098
Email: Simone_OHanlon@hks.harvard.edu

 

 

By Date

 

2015

(AP Photo)

August 19, 2015

"We Asked Graham Allison: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?"

Op-Ed, The National Interest

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

This commentary is part of The National Interest’s special 30th anniversary symposium. TNI asked twenty-five of the world’s leading experts: What is the purpose of American power?

"The primary purpose of American power should be to 'preserve the U.S. as a free nation with our fundamental institutions and values intact.' This sturdy one-liner from the Cold War captures the big idea. It also reminds us of our too-often-forgotten yet most vital national interest. In the twenty-first century, such a bold assertion of 'America First'—without apology—offends many postmodern sensibilities. For many U.S. citizens today, 'American leadership' means serving as a global 911, defending those unable or unwilling to defend themselves, bearing any burden, paying any price. Abroad, any intimation that Americans at home should come first invites criticism for short-sighted selfishness unworthy of a great power."

 

 

(AP Photo)

August 5, 2015

"Singapore Challenges the Idea That Democracy Is the Best Form of Governance"

Op-Ed, The World Post

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

The American Declaration of Independence asserts that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are fundamental, unalienable rights of all human beings -- endowed to us by our Creator. According to the Declaration, the primary purpose of government is to establish conditions in which citizens can realize these goals. In comparing governments, it is appropriate to ask how each is performing by these yardsticks.

As it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding under the late Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore is a marvel to behold and applaud. But its success also poses uncomfortable questions for those of us who "know" that Western-style democracy is the best form of government.

 

 

(AP Photo)

August 5, 2015

"Iran Deal Keeps Our Military Options Open"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

In the debate about whether the Iranian nuclear agreement provides Iran a “path to a bomb” or instead provides us a “window to a target,” Americans should listen carefully to the Israeli who knows best.

In his campaign to persuade Congress to reject this deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has focused like a laser beam on the claim that this agreement “paves Iran’s path to a bomb” because its key constraints expire in a decade. In contrast, one of Israel’s most respected national security barons, Amos Yadlin, formerly chief of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate under Netanyahu, has pointed out that when the agreement expires, an American or Israeli military attack will not be more difficult, and indeed could be easier than it is today.

 

 

Gary Cameron/Reuters

August 4 2015

"9 Reasons to Support the Iran Deal"

Op-Ed, The Atlantic

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

Having carefully reviewed the lengthy and complex agreement negotiated by the United States and its international partners with Iran, I have reached the following conclusion: If I were a member of Congress, I would vote yes on the deal. Here are nine reasons why.

 

 

U.S. Department of State

July 10, 2015

"4 Myths about the Iran Sanctions"

Op-Ed, The National Interest

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School and Gary Samore, Executive Director for Research, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

The latest sticking point in nuclear negotiations with Iran has little to do with the issues that have captivated attention in Washington—centrifuges, uranium stockpile and inspections of military sites. Instead, it has focused on the intricacies of sanctions: the Iranian delegation has demanded that a United Nations embargo on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles be lifted. While the United States rejects such a concession, the Russians have reportedly broken ranks and support Iran’s position.

 

 

F. Hartmann

July 8, 2015

"Nietzsche and the Nuclear Era"

Op-Ed, The Atlantic

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

Diplomats are extending Iran nuclear negotiations into overtime this week, and American lawmakers are preparing for mandatory congressional review. As they decide whether to vote yes or no on a possible deal, they should remember the sage advice of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who observed that the “most common form of human stupidity is forgetting what one is trying to do.” I have a framed version of that quotation in my office and try to think about it every day.

In the case of Iran’s nuclear program, what is the U.S. trying to do? In a sentence: “Stop Iran verifiably and interruptibly short of a nuclear bomb.” No agreement, no airstrike, and no other option anyone has identified can give 100 percent assurance that Iran will not acquire a bomb. The U.S. does not have 100 percent confidence today that Iran has not already built a bomb, or bought a weapon from North Korea (from whom it has certainly purchased missiles). The question members of Congress must answer is whether the deal the U.S. and its P5+1 partners have negotiated is more likely to prevent Iran’s acquiring a bomb for the lifetime of the agreement than any feasible alternative.

 

 

United States Department of State

July 7, 2015

"Assessing an Iran Deal: 5 Big Lessons from History"

Op-Ed, The National Interest

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

As the policy community prepares to assess an agreement between the U.S. and its P5+1 partners and Iran, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker asked me to review the history of analogous agreements for lessons that illuminate the current challenge. In response to his assignment, I reviewed the seven decades of the nuclear era, during which the U.S. negotiated arms-control treaties, including the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968; strategic arms limitation talks and agreements from SALT to New Start; the North Korean accord of 1994; the agreements that helped eliminate nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus in the early 1990s; and the pact that eliminated the Libyan nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Among many lessons and clues from this instructive history, five stand out

 

 

(AP Photo)

June 24, 2015

"Lessons Learned from Past WMD Negotiations"

Testimony

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

Belfer Center Director Graham Allison testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on "Lessons Learned from Past WMD Negotiations" to inform assessment of a comprehensive nuclear deal that will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

 

 

Martha Stewart

Summer 2015

"From the Director"

Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

At our International Council meeting in April, we celebrated the 80th birthday of the man who endowed and revitalized the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in 1997: Bob Belfer. As Dean David Ellwood noted in tribute: “Bob Belfer’s investment in the Belfer Center and in the Kennedy School has changed the world—it really has.” Those of us who work here today are deeply grateful for Bob’s ongoing support for the Center’s efforts to build a more secure, peaceful world.

 

 

(AP Photo by: Alex Milan Tracy)

May 22, 2015

"A Nuclear Nightmare Averted"

Op-Ed, The Atlantic

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

"This week, with little fanfare, one of the world’s key restraints on the spread of nuclear weapons came under scrutiny, as a month-long review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) concluded at the United Nations," writes Graham Allison. "Negotiated over the 1960s, the NPT was signed in 1968 and became international law in 1970. As specified by the treaty, members hold a conference every five years to assess the agreement. The exercise offers insight into our nuclear age, and perspective ahead of the coming debate over a treaty to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions."

 

Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe

Graham Allison, founding dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a former top official at the Pentagon, and one of America’s leading scholars of nuclear strategy and national security, presents the evidence and argument that led him to two provocative conclusions: a nuclear terrorist attack on an American city is inevitable on our current course and speed, but preventable if we act now. 

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.