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Les Gelb

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Les Gelb

Leslie (Les) Howard Gelb (born March 4, 1937) is a former correspondent for Power Rules: How Common Sense can Rescue American Policy published in March 2009.


Gelb was born to Jewish parents in New Rochelle, New York, and attended New Rochelle High School, graduating in 1955. He received a B.A. from Tufts University in 1959, and an M.A. in 1961 and Ph.D. in 1964 from Harvard University. From 1964-1967 he was Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University.[1] He married Judith Cohen on 2 August 1959 and lives in New York City. They have three children. He received the Father of the Year award in 1993.[2]


Gelb was director of Policy Planning and Arms Control for International Security Affairs at the Department of Defense from 1967 to 1969, winning the Pentagon's highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal. Robert McNamara appointed Gelb as director of the project that produced the controversial Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War.

He was diplomatic correspondent at The New York Times from 1973 to 1977.

He served as an Assistant Secretary of State in the Carter Administration from 1977 to 1979, serving as director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs and winning the Distinguished Honor Award, the highest award of the US State Department. In 1980 he co-authored The Irony of Vietnam which won the 1981 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Book Award in 1981.[3]

He returned to the Times in 1981; from then until 1993, he was in turn its national security correspondent, deputy editorial page editor, editor of the op-ed page, and columnist. This period included his leading role on the Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism in 1986 for a six-part comprehensive series on the "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative).

Gelb became President of the Council on Foreign Relations in 1993 and as of 2012 is its President Emeritus.[4]

He supported the Iraq War but later said[5][6] his "initial support for the war was symptomatic of unfortunate tendencies within the foreign policy community, namely the disposition and incentives to support wars to retain political and professional credibility."

He serves as the chairman of the advisory board for the progressive foreign policy think tank, National Security Network, on the board of directors of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, member of the board of advisors of the Truman Project, board of directors of the Center for the National Interest and the advisory board of United Against Nuclear Iran.[7]

Gelb is a contributor to The Daily Beast, a news aggregation site.

Selected publications

  • Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy (2009) ISBN 978-0-06-171454-2
  • Anglo-American Relations, 1945-1950: Toward a Theory of Alliances (1988)
  • Claiming the Heavens: The New York Times Complete Guide to the Star Wars Debate (coauthor, Crown Publishing Group, 1988)
  • Our Own Worst Enemy: The Unmaking of American Foreign Policy (1984, co-author with I. M. Destler and Anthony Lake)
  • The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked (1980)


External links

  • The Daily Beast
  • C-SPAN
  • Internet Movie Database
  • WorldCat catalog)
  • Template:Nndb
  • 1982 Interview at WGBH Open Vault
    • Council on Foreign Relations)
    • Encyclopædia Britannica)
Government offices
Preceded by
George S. Vest
Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
February 23, 1977 – June 30, 1979
Succeeded by
Reginald Bartholomew

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