Tirman, John

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Tirman, John


Born in IN; married Nike Zachmanoglou; children: Coco (daughter). Education: Indiana University, B.A., 1972; Boston University, Ph.D., 1981.


Home—MA. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]


Winston Foundation for World Peace, Washington, DC, executive director, 1986-99; Social Science Research Council, Washington, DC, program director; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, executive director of Center for International Studies, 2004—. Trustee and U.S. chair, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, International Alert, and the Foundation for National Progress. Worked at Time magazine, New York, NY. Creator of educational Web site Cyprus Conflict.


Fulbright scholar in Cyprus; Human Rights Award, United Nations Association.



(Editor) The Fallacy of Star Wars, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1984.

(Editor) The Militarization of High Technology, Ballinger (Cambridge, MA), 1984.

(Editor) Empty Promise: The Growing Case against Star Wars, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1986.

Sovereign Acts: American Unilateralism and Global Security, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1989.

Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America's Arms Trade, Free Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Making the Money Sing: Private Wealth and Public Power in the Search for Peace, Rowman & Little-field Publishers (Lanham, MD), 2000.

(Editor) The Maze of Fear: Security and Migration after 9/11, New Press (New York, NY), 2004.

(Editor, with Ramesh Thakur and Edward Newman) Multilateralism under Challenge? Power, International Order, and Structural Change, United Nations University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World, Harper Perennial (New York, NY), 2006.

(Editor, with Marianne Heiberg and Brendan O'Leary) Terror, Insurgencies, and States: Breaking the Cycles of Protracted Violence, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Nation, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times.


John Tirman is a political scientist who has published numerous books on international affairs. His 1984 book The Fallacy of Star Wars was an early and important critique of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a controversial ballistic missile defense system first proposed by Ronald Reagan. Tirman wrote another volume critical of U.S. policy in 1997, Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America's Arms Trade. In this book, he faults the arms industry and arms traders for supplying weapons to some of the world's most oppressive governments. He illustrates the way in which conflicts of interest can lead to massive violations of human rights. For example, he states that concerns about Arab fundamentalism, extreme nationalism in Turkey, and local concern in the state of Connecticut about the loss of jobs linked with the Sikorsky military helicopter led to large-scale, systematic destruction of lives and villages across Kurdistan. Tirman argues that arms trading is morally unjustifiable, and reports that not only conservatives, but many politicians who identify themselves as liberal Democrats support arms trading. Nader Entessar, reviewing the book in Library Journal, described it as an "engaging and challenging look" at the disturbing repercussions of U.S. arms sales overseas. Harvey Wasserman, writing in the Progressive, stated that Tirman "proves a savvy commentator on both belt-way politics and the need to convert the national economy to peacetime production."

Tirman's experience as the founder of the Winston Foundation for World Peace provided him with abundant background material for Making the Money Sing: Private Wealth and Public Power in the Search for Peace. In this book, Tirman points out the ways in which money can act as agent of social and political improvement—in concert with hard work, courage, and intelligence. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true. Walter C. Uhler, reviewing Making the Money Sing in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, called this book a "riveting indictment of an immoral and counterproductive arms-for-protection policy in the Middle East. His book should become a primer on the politics the United States should avoid."

Tirman criticized U.S. policy around the world once more in 100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World. The tone of this book is somewhat light, and yet, the author insists that the content is not a joke. Among the "100 Ways" listed that U.S. actions have gone wrong—or have gone as planned, but with unfortunate results for the rest of the world—he includes racial bigotry, a culture that glorifies violence, the Vietnam War, pollution, obsession with celebrities, and the spread of the culture of Walt Disney. The author also lists ten positive things he feels the United States has brought to the world, including generosity, the rule of law, and a welcoming attitude toward immigrants. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Tirman possesses "a sly style and makes his often predictable points with unexpected panache." Speaking with Jessica Bennett for Newsweek Online, Tirman explained his purpose in writing 100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World. "We have a very, very powerful impact throughout the world, and I don't think most Americans realize that. And that's part of what I'm trying to convey here. Let's think about what we're doing, because it really has tremendous consequences."



Tirman, John, Making the Money Sing: Private Wealth and Public Power in the Search for Peace, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (Lanham, MD), 2000.


Booklist, October 1, 1997, Mary Carroll, review of Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America's Arms Trade, p. 293.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 1, 1998, Walter C. Uhler, review of Spoils of War, p. 64.

Chronicle of Philanthropy, November 30, 2000, Gwen A. Williamson, "Philanthropy Can Shape Society, Politics for the Better, Author Claims."

Library Journal, October 15, 1997, Nader Entessar, review of Spoils of War, p. 77.

M2 Best Books, February 9, 2006, "Not Guilty Plea Entered by Turkish Publisher."

National Catholic Reporter, February 4, 2005, Lena Khan, "Abolishing Mistrust," p. 25.

Progressive, July, 1998, Harvey Wasserman, review of Spoils of War, p. 42.

Publishers Weekly, September 1, 1997, review of Spoils of War, p. 89; June 12, 2006, review of 100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World, p. 42.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2007, review of 100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World.


BlogCritics,http://blogcritics.org/ (October 31, 2007), Larry Sakin, interview with John Tirman.

John Tirman Home Page,http://www.johntirman.com (October 5, 2007).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for International Studies Web site,http://web.mit.edu/ (October 5, 2007).

Newsweek Online,http://www.msnbc.msn.com/ (July 27, 2006), Jessica Bennett, interview with John Tirman.

University of Colorado at Boulder,http://www.colorado.edu/ (October 5, 2007), biographical information on John Tirman.