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LBJ School Professor Frank Gavin Probes the 1960s to Illuminate Current U.S. Foreign Policy Dilemmas

A historian by training, Professor Frank Gavin firmly believes that lessons from the Cold War era can lead to better U.S. foreign policy today. By using recently declassified documents to shed new light on U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War era, Gavin is able to reconstruct the past, analyze the how the policymaking process works, and understand why certain policies succeed and others fail. He is writing two books that demonstrate this theory, and thanks to a prestigious fellowship from the Smith Richardson Foundation, he has devoted himself entirely to these projects during the 2002-03 academic year.

Gavin's first book deals with post World War II international monetary relations and is set for release this fall. His second project is reassessing nuclear strategy and arms control during the Cold War through a series of thematic essays that connect the past with the present.

Gavin's work has led him to numerous universities and libraries around the U.S. and Europe. In May 2002, he visited the Sorbonne in France where he lectured on the topic of Franco-American economic and security relations during the 1960s. But it is Gavin's fervor for recently declassified documents from the 1960s that has kept him close to home at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, where he conducts the majority of his research.

His first book, Gold, Dollars and Power: Money, Security, and the Politics of the U.S. Balance of Payments Deficit, 1958-1971, will be published this fall by the University of North Carolina Press as part of its New Cold War History Series. By exploiting recently declassified documents from both the United States and Europe, and employing economic analysis and international relations theory, Gavin offers a compelling reassessment of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates and dollar-gold convertibility. For the first time, Gavin demonstrates how the politics of post-World War II international monetary relations had a dramatic effect on U.S. political and military strategy during a dangerous period of the Cold War. The University of Texas Cooperative Society awarded Gavin a grant in support of the book's publication.

Weapons of mass destruction is the topic of Gavin's other book, Strategy and Arms Control Reconsidered: Missile Defense, Nonproliferation, and Nuclear Strategy During the 1960s. Gavin said he believes "nuclear proliferation remains the most important issue on the planet," and that he sees many parallels between the dilemmas surrounding arms control and nuclear strategy faced by the Johnson administration and those faced by the current Bush administration.

"Understanding the core power political concerns behind arms control during the 1960s puts the current debate over proliferation in a completely different light," he said. "While there have been dozens of books, articles, and editorials written about arms control and nuclear strategy over the past forty years, there has been no systematic effort to mine the most important U.S. and international archival sources."

Gavin said he believes that by taking this approach he will identify the true motives behind the change in nuclear strategy in the 1960s and provide new insight on the origin of the current arms control regime.

In addition to receiving support from the Smith Richardson Foundation, Gavin was awarded a Summer Research Assignment Grant from the UT Austin Provost's Office for this project. Over the past year he has lectured at universities including Yale, MIT, the University of Chicago, and Stanford as well as Italy's Machiavelli Center for Cold War Studies. He has also established visiting scholar affiliations with Yale and the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

Professor Gavin joined the LBJ School faculty in the fall of 2000. He previously was a John M. Olin Postdoctoral Fellow in National Security Affairs at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs and an International Security Fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He has also been a Research Fellow at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, where he directed the Presidency and Economic Policy Project, and a Visiting Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania.

Gavin received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in diplomatic history from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Studies in Modern European history from the University of Oxford, and a B.A. in political science (with honors) from the University of Chicago. He has published scholarly articles in the Journal of Cold War Studies, Diplomatic History, International History Review, the Journal of European Integration History, and Orbis, and he has written book reviews and editorials for the Sunday Washington Post, the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer, the Austin American-Statesman, Orbis, and the Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science.

March 3, 2003


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