Stanford News

2/26/97

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Political scientist honored for reducing risks of nuclear war

The National Academy of Sciences will honor Alexander George, professor emeritus of political science, for his contribution to the prevention of nuclear war. He was cited for "combining theory with history to elucidate the requirements of deterrence, the limits to coercive diplomacy and the relationship between force and statecraft," the academy said in a press release.

George is the third recipient of the academy's Award for Behavioral Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War, which includes a prize of $15,000. He will receive the honor at ceremonies in Washington, D.C., on April 28.

The award acknowledges George's contribution to "crisis management in U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations, where his 'models of escalation control' influenced decisions on both sides," said his colleague Gabriel Almond, Stanford professor emeritus of political science.

"Conventional wisdom is of two minds about learning from history," Almond said. "If you don't learn from history you are compelled to repeat it; and on the other hand, history never repeats itself. Alex George's development of case study methodology in the field of foreign and security policy has gone far toward resolving this dilemma.

"Over a career of half a century he and his students and collaborators have perfected a method of converting the stream of 'diplomatic history' into discrete, analytically distinct cases, which can be systematically compared, and their implications confirmed, disconfirmed and revised."

George's work gave scholars and foreign policy makers "an empirically grounded conceptual vocabulary, which shows us how to turn the anarchic world of international politics into an orderly and potentially prudent competition and contest," Almond said.

The award, established by a gift from William K. and Katherine W. Estes to the academy, is among 18 in various fields that it will present at its 134th annual meeting. George joined the faculty in 1968 and later became the university's first Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations. He has received numerous honors, including honorary degrees and a special edition in 1994 of the journal Political Psychology devoted to his contributions.

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By Kathleen O'Toole