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Monday, October 10, 2005

Scholarly highs and lows

Thomas C. Schelling has won the 2005 Nobel prize in economics, sharing it with Robert J. Aumann, "for having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis."

During my first semester in the Government and Politics doctoral program at Maryland (long before Schelling would leave Harvard for College Park), I read his Strategy and Conflict (1960) and Arms and Influence (1966).

What great books!

Hardly an academic day goes by without my being influenced by the ideas in those books. In truth, I use some of Schelling's ideas in my everyday life, thinking through logical places to meet lost family members, or formulating bargaining strategies with children.

My copy of Strategy and Conflict is a hardback, which I purchased quite cheaply at a thrift shop in Prince George's county. Someone who used to be a defense policy wonk for the Congressional Research Service had unloaded many of his like-new books and I bought a lot of them for a very low price. It was one of the best investment decisions I've ever made.

I was also pleased that the Nobel committee awarded the Peace Prize to Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way."

ElBaradei has a doctorate in international law from NYU, and was for six years an Adjunct Professor at NYU Law School, so he's a scholar as well as a diplomat.

If only these highs were the only news to report.

As many readers may already know, blogger and IR scholar Dan Drezner was denied tenure by the University of Chicago Political Science Department. This was unfortunate news, certainly, but Drezner has an impressive record and will find another great job.

Finally, my colleague and friend Paul Weber, who as Department Chair was integral in establishing the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, has died. I offer my most sincere condolences to his family.

Paul will be greatly missed by his large circle of friends, colleagues and former students. Paul had a great sense of humor, was a dedicated servant to the university and community, and treated his colleagues with grace and respect.

I have many fond memories of my interactions with Paul over the years. At work, he elevated me to the chair of the Grawemeyer Committee. For my spare time, he shared season basketball tickets with me; I couldn't really afford and certainly didn't want the football tickets that the athletic department sold as a package with the hoops tix. Paul once convinced me to speak to his son's middle school class about the UN. Now, father and 25-year old son have coauthored a forthcoming book.

Paul, coincidentally a University of Chicago PhD, often reminded me that he came to Louisville decades ago thinking that he would be here for only a short time before finding another job elsewhere. Paul was a man of faith and I certainly hope that he's finally found that better place.

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