Sam Nunn

Statesman of the Nuclear Age

Frank Leith Jones

In a 2012 opinion piece bemoaning the state of the US Senate, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank cited a “leading theory: There are no giants in the chamber today.” Among the respected members who once walked the Senate floor, admired for their expertise and with a stature that went beyond party, Milbank counted Sam Nunn (D-GA).

Nunn served in the Senate for four terms beginning in 1972, at a moment when domestic politics and foreign policy were undergoing far-reaching changes. As a member and then chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he had a vital impact on most of the crucial national security and defense issues of the Cold War era and the “new world order” that followed—issues that included the revitalization of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations military capability, US-Soviet relations, national defense reorganization and reform, the Persian Gulf conflict, and nuclear arms control. In this first full account of Nunn’s senatorial career, Frank Leith Jones reveals how, as a congressional leader and “shadow secretary of defense,” Nunn helped win the Cold War, constructing the foundation for the defense and foreign policies of the 1970s and 1980s that secured the United States and its allies from the Soviet threat.

“In Sam Nunn: Statesman of the Nuclear Age,Frank Leith Jones considers the political career and policy accomplishments of one of the most influential senators of the last half century. Jones’s work proceeds with a clarity of purpose as it explores not only Nunn’s character, expansive influence, and keen strategic sense but also his policy leadership in defense and the international arena. Exceedingly well-paced and cogent, this book covers an extraordinary amount of historical and policy ground.”

—Douglas B. Harris, professor of political science, Loyola University Maryland

“Frank Leith Jones’s invaluable and incisive biography shows why Sam Nunn stands as one of the most consequential senators of the twentieth century. In tracing Nunn’s Senate career, Jones provides a master class for scholars and citizens alike on the art of coalition building, the exercise of legislative leadership, and the dynamics of the never-ending contest between Congress and the president to shape US foreign and defense policy.”

—James M. Lindsay, senior vice president, director of studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, Council on Foreign Relations, and author of Congress and the Politics of U.S. Foreign Policy

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At a time of bitter political polarization and partisanship, Nunn’s reputation remains that of a statesman with a record of bipartisanship and a dedication to US national interests above all. His career, as recounted in Sam Nunn: Statesman of the Nuclear Age, provides both a valuable lesson in the relationships among the US government, foreign powers, and societies and a welcome reminder of the capacity of Congress, even a lone senator, to promote and enact policies that can make the country, and the world, a better and safer place.

About the Author

Frank Leith Jones is professor of security studies and the General George C. Marshall Chair of Military Studies in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. His published work includes Blowtorch: Robert Komer, Vietnam, and American Cold War Strategy.

Additional Titles in the Congressional Leaders Series