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Kenneth A. Osgood

Kenneth A. Osgood, 35

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, Director, Alan B. Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency, Florida Atlantic University 
Area of Research: US History, US Foreign Relations, Propaganda, Media & Culture 
Education: Ph.D., History, University of California at Santa Barbara, 2001. 
Major Publications: Osgood is the author of Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad(University Press of Kansas, 2006), the winner of the Herbert Hoover Book Award,  Kenneth A. Osgood JPGand the co-editor with Klaus Larres of The Cold War after Stalin's Death: A Missed Opportunity for Peace? (Rowman and Littlefield, Harvard Cold War Series, 2006). 
He has written articles and book reviews for Diplomatic History, The Journal of Cold War Studies, The Journal of American History and other anthologies and journals, including: "Hearts and Minds: The Unconventional Cold War [review essay]" Journal of Cold War Studies 4:2 (Spring 2002): 85-107; "Form before Substance: Eisenhower's Commitment to Psychological Warfare and Negotiations with the Enemy," Diplomatic History 24:3 (Summer 2000): 405-433. 
He has also contributed book chapters including: "The Perils of Coexistence: Peace and Propaganda in Eisenhower's Foreign Policy," in Kenneth Osgood and Klaus Larres, eds. The Cold War after Stalin's Death: A Missed Opportunity for Peace?, (Rowman and Littlefield, Harvard Cold War Series, 2006); "Words and Deeds: Race, Colonialism, and Eisenhower's Propaganda War in the Third World," in Andrew L. Johns and Kathryn Statler, eds. Eisenhower, the Third World, and the Globalization of the Cold War (Rowman and Littlefield, Harvard Cold War Series, 2006), 3-25; "Waging Total Cold War: Eisenhower and Psychological Warfare," in Malcolm Muir, Jr. and Mark F. Wilkinson, eds. The Most Dangerous Years: The Cold War, 1953-1975 (Virginia Military Institute, 2005), 79-91. "Propaganda," in Alexander DeConde, Richard Dean Burns, and Fredrik Logevall, eds. Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy, 2nd. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001), 239-254.
Osgood is currently working on The Enemy of My Enemy: The United States and Iraq since 1958 [research monograph]; Selling War in a Media Age: The Presidency and Public Opinion in the American Century [edited volume, under contract with the University Press of Florida], and Rethinking Public Diplomacy: Toward an International History [edited volume]. 
Awards and Fellowships: Osgood is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Herbert Hoover Book Award, for best book on any aspect of American history during 1914-1964, 2007;
Sponsored Research, Florida Atlantic University, Program to Enhance Scholarly and Creative Activities Research Grant, 2007;
Researcher of the Year Award nominee, College of Arts and Letters, Florida Atlantic University, 2006;
University Award for Excellence in Teaching, Florida Atlantic University, 2004;
Writing Across the Curriculum workshop and grant, Florida Atlantic University, 2004;
Grant from the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace (Columbia University) to attend the Summer Workshop on Analysis of Military Operations and Strategy held at Cornell University, 2004;
Postdoctoral Fellowship, The Mershon Center (for the Interdisciplinary Study of International Security and Public Policy), Ohio State University, 2003-4;
Dwight D. Eisenhower Foundation research grant, 2003;
Predoctoral Fellowship, Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, 1999/00 & 2000/01;
Richard Mayberry Award for top graduate student in history, U.C. Santa Barbara, 2000;
Research Fellowship, Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1999;
Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1999 Brython Davis Research Fellowship, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1999;
Research Grant, Rockefeller Archive Center, 1999;
University of California Regents Fellowship, 1999;
William J. Ellison Prize for outstanding research paper in history, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1998;
J. Bruce Anderson Award for excellence in teaching history, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1998;
Robert Kelley Award for excellent graduate work in public policy history, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1998. 
Additional Info: 
During the 2006-2007 academic year, Professor Osgood held the Mary Ball Washington Chair in American History at University College Dublin. Previously, he was a research fellow at the Mershon Center for international security studies at the Ohio State University, and a fellow with the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California. He also served as associate coordinator of the Center for Cold War Studies at the UC Santa Barbara, and as a representative on the council for the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations.

Personal Anecdote

I know why Stanley Kubrick made Dr. Strangelove a comedy. Sometimes it is just plain difficult to take the Cold War seriously. Having spent the past ten years studying Cold War propaganda, I have embarrassed myself in more than one archive by disturbing the silence with unexpected bursts of laughter. 

There was, for example, the time I found a civil defense poster giving Americans straightforward advice for protecting themselves from a nuclear attack: "Don't be there!" And then there was the national security investigation into the birthplace of "Ham," the chimpanzee sent into outer space as part of the U.S. effort to catch up with the Soviet Union's lead in the space race. The classified memorandum confirmed that, yes indeed, Ham was an American-born monkey. And then there were the ideas for demonstrating American scientific prowess. Why not drop a hydrogen bomb into a typhoon to reverse its direction? Maybe dig a harbor in Alaska by exploding a thermonuclear device? Or perhaps use a rocket - i.e. a ballistic missile - to deliver the mail? 

And of course there was Atoms for Peace, the program designed to make Americans less fearful of the atomic bomb by highlighting all the wonderful benefits of atomic energy. Inspired by Atoms for Peace propaganda, National Geographic comforted its readers with the knowledge that golf balls had been made radioactive so they could be more easily located when lost in the rough. And dogs benefited from atomic energy's healing power too, the magazine revealed in a caption of a photograph of a boy holding his puppy as it received radiation therapy for a cancerous tumor. Perhaps, I thought as I kept encountering references to dogs in the course of my research, I should write my next book on the "Canine Cold War." 

But I'm not a satirist. I'm a historian. My task and my challenge is to take all this seriously - to understand, to explain, and to find meaning in a world that sometimes seems very different from the one I am living in now. In this endeavor I am reminded of a personal experience that was both unsettling and inspiring. I was a junior at Notre Dame looking into graduate programs in history. I arranged a meeting with Otis Graham, the eminent political historian who was then teaching at U.C. Santa Barbara. I think I expected him to be so dazzled by my brilliance that he would accept me into the program on the spot and shower me with cash. Instead he told me not even to apply to graduate school - or at least not yet. 

He said I should follow "Graham's Rule." He explained that historians write about life, and that to be good historians we needed to be grounded in the real world; we needed to have many rich and varied experiences. "So take a year off," he advised me. "See the world, do the kind of things you can only do now, while you are young. And then, when you are ready, go to graduate school." 

At first I was crushed. This was not the advice I expected. But an hour later I was inspired, and I soon was spending my time following Graham's rule. I worked as a chef at a ski resort and a golf club in Utah; I spent six months studying Russian in Monterey, California and St. Petersburg, Russia; I worked as an intern at the State Department in Washington, D.C., and I drove my pickup truck from California, to Florida, to Maine, to Alaska, and back. A year and a half later, I started graduate school at U.C. Santa Barbara. 

I learned Graham was right. These experiences made me a better historian. They changed the way I view and interpret my study of the past. Conversely, so too has my study of history changed the way I look at the world. Even the seemingly narrow subject of my research -- the Cold War's propaganda battles -- offers broader lessons and bigger insights. It clarifies the way humans communicate and interact -- the way they represent themselves, the way they spin unpleasantness, the way they deceive others, and the way they are willingly deceived by others. It is also a subject that became strangely relevant after September 11th, 2001 and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Will today's Stanley Kubrick make a film about the war on terror? Will it be as much of a cultural landmark as Strangelove was? And will it be a comedy, a tragedy, or a little of both? I know enough to know that only time will tell. 


By Kenneth A. Osgood

  • This process by which leaders employed the prospect of peace to further their own ends has a longer history. Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad JPGThroughout the twentieth century, world leaders used appeals for peace to bolster their legitimacy at home. They also manipulated the hope of peace to create the psychological conditions and moral space for war. They perceived ... that hatred and vengeance were necessary, but not sufficient, requirements of total war mobilization. Such passions needed to be softened and made morally acceptable by rhetorical bombast and propaganda framing total war as a communal sacrifice, carried by the entire nation, to bring about a more peaceful and prosperous future. -- Kenneth A. Osgood in "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • About Kenneth A. Osgood

  • "Osgood's book is a carefully crafted, thoroughly researched, and illuminating analysis of U.S. psychological warfare and propaganda during the height of the Cold War. When 'public diplomacy' is stated to be critical for winning the war against terrorism, it is invaluable to have this study of the Eisenhower administration's efforts to win the hearts and minds of humankind during the turbulent decade of the 1950s." -- -- Melvyn P. Leffler, author of "A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War" reviewing "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "Impressively researched, packed with new information and insights, Total Cold War is a major contribution to Cold War studies and the history of the Eisenhower presidency. An outstanding first book." -- George Herring, author of "America's Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975" reviewing "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "This is more than just another chapter in the history of psychological warfare. Osgood's well-researched volume uses topics as diverse as cultural diplomacy, the arms race, and the space race to shed new light on efforts by the Eisenhower Administration to shape opinions at home as well as abroad, in the free world as well as the communist world. The book succeeds in large part by situating its narrative in a larger context having to do with the new media resources that made this kind of warfare easier and more sophisticated, with the nature of modern war as total war, and with the growing interpenetration between the public and the private spheres, between war and peace, between the home front and the front line that became increasingly typical of both modern war and the modern corporative state." -- Michael J. Hogan, author of "A Cross of Iron: Harry S. Truman and the Origins of the National Security State, 1945-1954" reviewing "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "Kenneth Osgood continues the scholarly tradition of raising historians' estimate of the Eisenhower presidency. Total Cold War is a highly informative, suavely argued, conscientiously researched, and articulate book, which shows how crucial the techniques of psychological warfare were to the geopolitical strategy of the United States in the 1950s. Osgood makes a superlative case for the resourcefulness of an administration that was once dismissed as too stodgy to wage an effective fight against Communism abroad." -- Stephen J. Whitfield, author of "The Culture of the Cold War" reviewing "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "This is far and away the most thorough, sophisticated, and meticulously researched account of U.S. propaganda efforts during the early Cold War. Kenneth Osgood's pathbreaking study demonstrates the centrality of such efforts to the overall foreign policy strategy of the Eisenhower administration. As issues of image and public diplomacy have once again gained currency in the contemporary era, this book could not be more timely." -- Robert J. McMahon, author of "The Limits of Empire: The United States and Southeast Asia Since World War II" reviewing "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "Total Cold War is totally absorbing and will alter our understanding of the ways that Americans waged the Cold War in the 1950s. With the United States now engaged in another global battle for hearts and minds, Osgood's rich and rewarding study is timely and instructive." -- Chester J. Pach, author of "Arming the Free World: The Origins of the United States Military Assistance Program, 1945-1950" reviewing "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "Kenneth Osgood's path-breaking book on how the Eisenhower administration tried to shape world and domestic opinion at the height of the Cold War could not be more relevant today. Elegantly written and powerfully argued, Total Cold War reminds us that pens and microphones can be as important as guns and bombs in defending U.S. national security. The book belongs on the shelf of core texts for understanding U.S. foreign relations." -- Timothy Natfali, author of "Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism" reviewing "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "This is a superb book that sheds valuable light on the Eisenhower administration's efforts to sway official and public opinion in the non-Communist world. The use of psychological warfare against the Soviet bloc has been covered in several recent books, but Kenneth Osgood highlights the 'other side' of U.S. psychological operations-the operations that focused on neutral countries, on U.S. allies, and on the American public. Osgood convincingly shows, in a sophisticated narrative that weaves together many topics and themes, that the struggle to 'win hearts and minds' in Western countries and the Third World was at least as high a priority for the United States as the battle to influence sentiments in the Communist bloc. Total Cold War offers a remarkably comprehensive look at the vast array of programs and policies that cumulatively shaped the Eisenhower administration's attempts to convey a positive image of U.S. values and American society abroad. The book alters our understanding not only of U.S. foreign policy but of the whole way the 'war of words and deeds' was 'fought.'" -- Mark Kramer, Director of the Cold War Studies Center at Harvard University and editor of the "Journal of Cold War Studies" reviewing "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "Kenneth Osgood has written probably the best book to date on any aspect of U.S. Cold War propaganda. ... I highly recommend this book." -- "Pacific Historical Review" review of "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "...a nuanced, thoughtful and rewarding study grounded in admirably exhaustive research." -- "Diplomatic History" review of "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "... provocative and disturbing ... Total Cold War deserves a wide audience. Despite the continued classification of relevant documents, Osgood has written a well-researched, comprehensive account of one of the Cold War's often overlooked front lines." -- "Journal of American History" review of "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "Osgood breaks new ground in shifting his focus from tales of psychological operations to foment unrest behind the Iron Curtain to the broader effort to win the hearts and minds of people in the free world. ... Well written and beautifully illustrated, this book provides engaging reading for anyone interested in the Cold War, psychological warfare, information operations, or the views and policies of the thirty-fourth president." -- "Journal of Military History" review of "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "Many other books have concentrated on psychological operations behind the so-called Iron Curtain, but Florida Atlantic University history professor Kenneth Osgood's Total Cold War emphasizes the extent to which Eisenhower's propaganda agencies directed their messages to friends, not foes. ... a fascinating cultural analysis." -- "Bulletin of Atomic Scientists" review of "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "Kenneth Osgood covers ground that cold war scholars often identify but rarely traverse. ... Osgood forces his readers to reconsider Eisenhower's cold war strategy within the context of "total war." He also provides them with a tool for evaluating America's struggle for hearts and minds today." -- "History: Reviews of New Books" review of "Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad"
  • "I have had Dr. Osgood for three graduate classes and rate him extremely high. Tough, knowledgeable, accurate and expressive, he is the professor to have in his area of concern - diplomatic history."... "Osgood is the greatest teacher at FAU. If you need a history class he is your man."... "I would totally recommend this class to everyone. Professor Osgood is an awesome teacher and very helpful. Loved it!!!"... "Dr. Osgood is one of the best teachers."... "I loved this class!"... "Dr. Osgood is one of the most effective instructors I have ever had."... "Excellent class, truly broadened my horizons."... "Really opened my mind."... "I have learned so much from this course, and I value what I learned more than what I learned in any other class." -- Anonymous Students