Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Stephen Kinzer

Stephen Kinzer

Stephen Kinzer

Journalist in Residence


Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent whose articles and books have led the Washington Post to place him "among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling."

Kinzer spent more than 20 years working for the New York Times, most of it as a foreign correspondent. He was the Times bureau chief in Nicaragua during the 1980s, and in Germany during the early 1990s. In 1996 he was named chief of the newly opened Times bureau in Istanbul. Later he was appointed national culture correspondent, based in Chicago.

Since leaving the Times, Kinzer has taught journalism, political science, and international relations at Northwestern University and Boston University. He has written books about Central America, Rwanda, Turkey, and Iran, as well as others that trace the history of American foreign policy. He contributes to the New York Review of Books and writes a world affairs column for the Guardian.


Kinzer's research is focused on the way the United States acts in the world. He seeks to understand the cultural and social roots of American foreign policy, as well as the political and economic ones.

Much of Kinzer's work has involved re-interpreting history and exploring episodes that are not well known. His books on the American-led operations that deposed governments in Guatemala and Iran during the 1950s, and his history of American regime-change operations, Overthrow, have sharpened his focus on the long-term effects of foreign intervention.

Kinzer's newest book, which tells the stories of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, uses the framework of biography to ask: Why does the United States behave as it does in the world?

As tensions have risen in Iran and Turkey, Kinzer has written about their challenges. He is also researching the history of anti-imperialism in the United States, and seeking to discover why it has never managed to win broad popular support.


The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War
Times Books – October 2013

Beyond Military Intervention: A 'Wacko Birds' Manifesto for US Foreign Policy
"Never mind John McCain's jibe at those who challenge the consensus on American 'might is right', the US needs this debate."
The Guardian - March 24, 2013

John Kerry and the Restraint of American Power in US Foreign Policy
"The key issue facing Hillary Clinton's replacement at State is whether he can temper interventionist instincts with new realism."
The Guardian - January 31, 2013

Libya and the Limits of Intervention
"A dose of humility might lead Americans to realize that military intervention always produces unforeseen consequences."
Current History - November 2012

US Inadvertently Creates a Terrorist Haven in Mali
Boston Globe - July 15, 2012

Iran's First Great Satan Was England
New York Times - December 3, 2011

Libya is not 'Another Rwanda'
"The disciplined Tutsi rebel force led by Paul Kagame in 1994 in Rwanda differs greatly from the ragtag opposition in Libya today."
The Boston Globe - April 1, 2011

News|Recent News

No easy choice on ISIS (by Stephen Kinzer)

June 5, 2015 The Boston Globe

Stephen Kinzer, journalist in residence, in the Boston Globe: "If Kurdish and Iranian forces can bring the battle to ISIS in ways that do not further inflame sectarian tensions, it is in our interest to encourage them. First, though, we must decide whether crushing ISIS is really our priority."


The Iran deal is too big to fail (by Stephen Kinzer)

June 3, 2015 Al Jazeera

Journalist in Residence Stephen Kinzer in Al Jazeera, "Iranians are thrilled that their government has reached a preliminary agreement with outside powers and are eager for a final accord, which all parties say they want to conclude by June 30. The possibility that Iran could emerge from its pariah status and begin rebuilding its ties to the outside world has electrified the country."


Erdogan seeks a new Turkish sultanate (by Stephen Kinzer)

June 1, 2015 Al Jazeera

Journalist in Residence Stephen Kinzer in Al Jazeera, "Turks have spent countless hours wondering what produced Erdogan’s astonishing transformation from a reformist leader to an angry, divisive politician blinded by unlimited personal ambition."


An honor revoked in Turkey, but free press perseveres (by Stephen Kinzer)

May 27, 2015 The Boston Globe

Journalist in Residence Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe, "In many countries, a head of state would not even acknowledge a few unflattering sentences published ın a newspaper thousands of miles away, or might shrug them off with no more concern than an elephant shows for a mosquito. Erdogan, however, takes an intense interest in what the press writes about him. Many of the country’s independent journalists have been forced from their jobs. Those who remain are expected to toe his party line."