With a joint appointment in History and at Wagner, Timothy Naftali is a Clinical Associate Professor of History and Public Service and co-director of NYU’s Center for the United States and the Cold War. A native of Montreal and a graduate of Yale with a doctorate in history from Harvard, Naftali writes on national security and intelligence policy, international history and presidential history. Using Soviet-era documents, he and Russian academic Aleksandr Fursenko wrote the prize-winning One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-1964 and Khrushchev’s Cold War, the latter winning the Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature in 2007 and inclusion on Foreign Affairs’ 2014 list of the ten best books on the Cold War. As a consultant to the 9/11 Commission, Naftali wrote a history of US counterterrorism policy, published as Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism.
Naftali came to NYU Wagner after serving as the founding director of the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, where he authored the Library's nationally acclaimed exhibit on Watergate and oversaw the release of 1.3 million pages of presidential documents and nearly 700 hours of the infamous Nixon tapes. Naftali, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Slate and Foreign Affairs, is also seen regularly on television as a commentator on contemporary history. Most recently, he was featured in CNN’s The Sixties and The Seventies and in the PBS documentaries Dick Cavett’s Watergate, Dick Cavett’s Vietnam, and The Bomb.
What is it like to make decisions of war and peace, more equality or less equality? How much freedom does a senior decision-maker, including the president, have? What roles do politics, high and bureaucratic, information and time play in public policy outcomes? Through a series of case studies drawn primarily from the federal level—and involving foreign as well as domestic policy—students will examine decision-making in search of patterns and lessons helpful to future public policy. The class is primarily a discussion section with digital content and issue-setting lectures by the professor. Topics include nuclear danger, welfare reform, tax reform, intelligence oversight, matters of public health and the use of drones.