Key Research Interests

David Milne is interested in the connections between ideas and policy in the history of America's foreign relations. His first book was a study of Walt Whitman Rostow, a prominent social scientist and an architect of the Vietnam War. Entitled America's Rasputin (Averell Harriman's acid nickname for Rostow), the book was published in 2008 to reviews in The Wall Street Journal, The Miami Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The National Interest, The Weekly Standard, and The Nation. The philosopher John Gray described the book as "absorbing... A book that vividly illuminates the dangers of ideology in foreign policy, America's Rasputin could not be more timely."

David is currently working on a second book which examines the interplay between nine intellectuals who played a pivotal role in shaping the way America viewed its place in the world: Alfred Thayer Mahan, Woodrow Wilson, Charles Beard, Walter Lippmann, George Kennan, Paul Nitze, Henry Kissinger, Paul Wolfowitz and Barack Obama. Rather than examining U.S. foreign policy through the prism of realism vs idealism, it suggests that art vs science is an intellectual binary that offers greater enlightnement.

Each of the individuals in the book approached foreign policymaking with contrasting manners of thought and expression – their education and subsequent disciplinary preferences were quite different. Some were drawn primarily to history, philosophy and literature – like Mahan, Kennan and Kissinger – which tended to impart a sense of tragedy, caution, and a reluctance to depart from observed historical precedent. But others, including Wilson, Nitze and Wolfowitz, were trained in the social sciences – political science, economics, psychology, and later the fledgling discipline of international relations – and were more inclined to view the world as “makeable” following the identification and application of the appropriate patterns and theories. Conceived as an intellectual history of U.S. foreign policy, Worldmaking: The Art and Science of American Diplomacy will be published in 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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