Commentary

Professor Lincoln P. Bloomfield, 1920-2013: Reminiscences from the Stimson Center

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The Stimson Center remembers Lincoln P. Bloomfield – a leading foreign policy thinker, educator government official and World War II veteran who died Oct. 30 at the age of 93. Professor Bloomfield, who influenced generations of American policymakers, was the father of Stimson Board Chairman Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr.

An obituary chronicling Professor Bloomfield’s life appeared Nov. 12 in the Boston Globe.

Dr. Bloomfield’s long career included service as a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, State Department official, member of the National Security Council staff, and World War II Navy officer and member of the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor of the CIA).

Stimson Center Co-founder and Distinguished Fellow Barry Blechman, Senior Associate William Durch, and President and CEO Ellen Laipson reminisce about Professor Bloomfield:

Barry Blechman:

Professor Bloomfield was an early influence on my career. Torn between a desire for government service and a commitment to academic research in my later undergraduate and early graduate years, a mentor pointed to Professor Bloomfield as one of several examples of people who managed to combine both. It helped that one of his books, The United Nations and U.S. Foreign Policy, a book that I admired, was required reading in one of my courses. Also, in those days, MIT was associated with the Center for Naval Analyses where I worked, so I also became familiar with Professor Bloomfield’s work with gaming and game theory – also subjects of great interest to me.

I didn’t meet Professor Bloomfield personally until recent years, but without knowing so, decades earlier, he had been an important influence on a then-young political scientist. The fresh perspectives he brought to government, and the knowledge of how government works that he imparted to students, were both significant contributions to the evolution of US foreign policy. And now we’ve come full circle, with his son, Linc, Jr., the chairman of the Center I co-founded. The world, indeed, can be a very small place.

 

William Durch:

It was my privilege, as a grad student at MIT in the 1980s, to have had the benefit of Linc Bloomfield, Sr.’s immense wisdom on matters of US foreign policy. The years have passed and now I am Linc’s age when he gave that seminar, which is both scary and reassuring, especially having read the final entry in his online blog . It offers a far sharper and better-grounded analysis of contemporary social, political, and economic realities than 99 percent of the commentary one reads in contemporary press or academic work. We should all be so sharp at 93, or 63, or 33.

At the peak of his career, Linc was a prolific contributor to the study and practice of controlling nuclear weapons on a bipolar planet, of the prospects for multilateral cures for bipolarity and, as the Vietnam War ballooned in size and cost, of the deep difficulties inherent in controlling small wars – wisdom painfully regained by a later generation at great and continuing cost. Toward the end of his life, he sounded deeply optimistic about the future: “Bad things are still happening and the future has a habit of being unpredictable. But the evidence seems to show an uneven but nevertheless welcome and widespread trend: things are looking up.” I hope he’s proven right.

 

Ellen Laipson

I knew the son before the father, but was well aware of Lincoln Bloomfield, Sr., and his role as a conceptualizer and implementer of vital parts of American foreign policy throughout the second half of the 20th century. Long after his retirement, we had the privilege of hosting him when we honored former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Embassy of Canada. He was a lively and even mischievous presence, asking provocative questions while full of good cheer and curiosity. At dinner, Secretary Albright was flanked on both sides by the Lincoln P. Bloomfields, pere and fils, embodying Stimson’s eclectic and bipartisan spirit and identity. We honor his memory.

 

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