William Pfaff

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William Pfaff
Born December 29, 1928
Council Bluffs, Iowa, United States
Died April 30, 2015(2015-04-30) (aged 86)
Paris, France
Nationality American
Ethnicity German, English, and Irish
Alma mater University of Notre Dame
Occupation Writer, political commentator
Religion Roman Catholic [1]
Website www.williampfaff.com

William Pfaff (December 29, 1928 – April 30, 2015) was an American author, op-ed columnist for the International Herald Tribune and frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books.

Early life[edit]

William Pfaff was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and was of German, English, and Irish origin. He grew up in Iowa and Georgia and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1949, having majored in literary and political studies.[2]


Pfaff served in infantry and Special Forces units of the United States Army during and after the Korean War.

He became an editor of the lay-Catholic Commonweal magazine, leaving in 1955 for extensive travel in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. After a brief passage at ABC News in New York, he was invited to join Free Europe. In 1961 he became one of the earliest members of the Hudson Institute.

In 1971 he moved to Paris where he lived until his death.[3]


His first book, THE NEW POLITICS: America and the End of the Postwar World (with Edmund Stillman) was published in 1961. Seven others have followed.

Robert Heilbroner wrote in 1964:

"I suspect that in the future it will no longer be possible to qualify as a wholly serious thinker if one has not, to whatever small degree, made one's peace or accommodation with [his] harsh message."

Between 1971 and 1992 he published more than seventy "Reflections" ("a political-literary form of your own invention," his editor, William Shawn, wrote to him), on international politics and society in The New Yorker magazine.

He has written a newspaper column since 1978, currently published in more than 20 countries.

His magazine articles have appeared in The New York Review of Books, Harper’s, Foreign Affairs, World Policy Journal, The National Interest, and other publications in the United States, and elsewhere in Commentaire (Paris), Neue Zürcher Zeitung and DU magazine (both Zurich), Politica Exterior (Madrid), Europäische Rundschau (Vienna), Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik (Berlin), and other journals.

The American historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. has called him "Walter Lippmann’s authentic heir." He died of a heart attack after a fall in 2015.[2]


  • The Irony OF Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of American Foreign Policy, New York, Walker and Company (2010).
  • The Bullet's Song: Romantic Violence and Utopia (2004)
  • Fear, Anger and Failure: A Chronicle of the Bush Administration’s War against Terror from the Attacks of September 11, 2001 to Defeat in Baghdad (2004)
  • Barbarian Sentiments: America in the New Century (2000) (a revision of Barbarian Sentiments: How the American Century Ends (1989))
  • The Wrath of Nations: Civilization and the Furies of Nationalism (1993)


  1. ^ Miner, Michael."Garry Wills and William Pfaff go at it" Chicago Reader, 06.04.2013. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Simons, Marlise (May 1, 2015). "William Pfaff, Critic of American Foreign Policy, Dies at 86". New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2015. 
  3. ^ Fallows, James."William Pfaff: Clarity in the American Interest" The Atlantic, May 2, 2015. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  4. ^ Pfaff, William (January 7, 1990). "Let's Examine This `Great Success'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 3, 2015 – via Seattle Times. 

External links[edit]