The leading "revisionist" historian during the years of the cold war, William Appleman Williams played a major role in shaping the perceptions of a generation of young historians. His best-known book, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1959), established themes he would pursue throughout his career as a writer and a teacher---the contradictions between ideals and "practicality" in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and the centrality of economic factors in the nation's world outlook. Product of a solidly rural Iowa background and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Williams nonetheless became a figure of controversy because of his unconventional, often iconoclastic, observations about the American experience and his subjection of capitalism to a searching criticism that borrowed freely from Karl Marx, even as it rejected doctrinaire Marxism. At a time when most historians subscribed to a generally benevolent view of the nation's past and of its role in world affairs, Williams's freewheeling critiques often irritated the older generation of scholars. Yet they also opened the way for younger historians to break from the "consensus" school of history and enter into previously unexplored pathways to the American past.
Andrew Bacevich was born in Normal Illinois. He was a graduate of West Point in 1969 and served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He later held posts in Germany and the Persian Gulf up until his retirement from service in the early 1990's. He has a PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University and has taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University before joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998 and becoming Professor of International Relations. He has been a critic of the U.S. occupation of Iraq calling the conflict a catastrophic failure. He wrote several books including American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy and Washington Rules.