Stefan Thomas Possony
|Stefan Thomas Possony|
March 15, 1913|
|Died||April 26, 1995
Los Altos, California, U.S.A.
|Occupation||Economist, Military Strategy|
|Known for||Strategic Defense Initiative|
Stefan Thomas Possony (March 15, 1913 in Vienna – April 26, 1995) was an Austrian-born U.S. economist and military strategist who conceived the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly known as Star Wars, after the successful science fiction film series.
Possony graduated in 1930 from the University of Vienna in History and Economics, and a PhD in Political Science. He was employed by the Foreign ministry and after 1934 assisted in the efforts of the Schussnig government to resist Hitler's anschluss. In March 1938 after Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany he emigrated first to Czechoslovakia, and then when Germany occupied that country in March 1939, he fled to France. Prior to emigrating there, in August 1938 he was one of the participants in the Colloque Walter Lippmann, whose aim was to strive for the restoration of classical liberal ideas which had seen a decline in interest after the 1920s and 1930s. With this purpose in mind, Possony went to work with the French Foreign Affairs Ministry as a counselor in Psychological Warfare, and was active as a consultant with the French Armed Forces.
After France was occupied by the German Army in World War II, Possony, who had been on the Gestapo's wanted list due to his opposition to Austria's annexation by Germany, was taken into custody, but was subsequently able to escape. He planned to flee over the Spanish border, but was fortunate to gain passage for himself and his first wife to French Algeria as the Wehrmacht occupied Paris in 1940. From there he managed to get passage to the United States, where he worked with US Military Intelligence. He was appointed to a position at Princeton University. He later became a professor at Georgetown University and directed graduate studies for a number of students including active service military officers, while remaining a consultant to the Pentagon. Possony was one of the analysts who predicted the date of the first Soviet nuclear test.
Possony later worked at Stanford University. He was with William Kintner and Robert Strausz-Hupé a coauthor of the influential Cold War strategy treatise The Protracted Conflict, and in 1968 was co-author with Jerry Pournelle and Francis X. Kane of The Strategy of Technology. One of the chapters of Strategy of Technology was "Assured Survival", an argument against the prevailing strategy of "Assured Destruction," and argued strongly for strategic defense including defense against ICBMs.
He was a Senior Fellow and director of International Studies at the Hoover Institution. In 1980 he participated in the Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy which wrote the space strategy policy for the transition team of the incoming Reagan Administration. The Council, which included General Daniel O. Graham, advocated the development of anti-ballistic missile systems, including space-based defense weapons, ground laser systems with mirrors in orbit, and nuclear defensive weapons to intercept massive multiple ICBM attacks. In this position he helped to influence Ronald Reagan, who in 1983 initiated the development of such a system under the title Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1982 he was a cofounder of the International Strategic Studies Association.
Possony met the woman who would become his wife in the United States after migrating there from Spain. Regina Golbinder Possony, like her husband, had had to flee her native Germany as a result of Adolf Hitler's rise to power. She herself was a survivor of Stalin's prison camps, having fled to the Soviet Union from Germany with her father and his family, who as both a Jew and a Communist had little likelihood of survival. As Stalinist policy was to send any such refugees to the camps, this was a stark but better alternative to remaining in Nazi Germany. Her family's condition in the camps were improved somewhat by her taking advantage of her acquaintance with Albert Einstein, acquired in her youth on a family visit to the United States. She wrote Einstein a letter from the USSR prison camp addressed to "Dr. Albert Einstein, United States of America," which was duly delivered to him by the US Post Office at Princeton University. Einstein took the trouble to reply, and even included a small package of food and hygienic goods. This reportedly raised her status somewhat in Stalin's estimation.
After Stefan suffered a stroke in 1985, Regina Golbinder Possony singlehandedly kept him alive for ten years when no one expected him to live a single month longer. He died in Los Altos, California, USA, on April 26, 1995.