Events and public defences

Dissertation: Bernard Brodie modernized stategic theory for the nuclear age


Since the strategic shock of September 11, 2001, interest in nuclear strategy is again on the rise. Barry Zellen’s dissertation examines the evolution of the strategic theories of Bernard Brodie (1910–1978), a pioneering theorist of nuclear deterrence whose ideas influenced American strategy from the end of World War II through to the Cold War’s end.

Barry Zellen’s thesis explores Brodie’s evolution as a theorist, and his response to the many military-technological innovations that transformed warfare, from the global conflict of World War II through the more limited wars waged in Korea and Vietnam, and the complex strategic competition of the Cold War. Brodie is best known for his work on nuclear deterrence, including his influential works The Absolute Weapon (1946) and Strategy in the Missile Age (1959).

Zellen’s thesis examines Brodie’s oeuvre of published works, internal RAND memos and reports, as well as an archived collection of his papers at the University of California, Los Angeles. Zellen is the first researcher to examine these papers since 1991, the end of the Cold War.

Great impact on strategic nuclear theory

Bernard Brodie’s early scholarly works focused on naval strategy, notably his 1940 doctoral thesis, Major Naval Inventions and Their Consequences on International Politics, 1814–1918. It was completed just as America became involved in World War II, catapulting a young and little-known graduate student to the forefront of naval thinking and military education.

However Brodie’s most lasting impact would come after World War II, within the emerging field of strategic nuclear theory. Brodie was among the first to conceptualize America's strategy of deterrence, later refining his thinking to take into account America’s loss of nuclear monopoly, the advent of thermonuclear weapons, and the proliferation of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“It was Brodie’s strategic and philosophical response to the new danger of atomic war that led to his life-long effort to reconcile Carl von Clausewitz’s theories of war – which were a direct response to the strategic upheaval of Napoleonic warfare that brought upheaval – with the new challenges and unprecedented dangers of the nuclear age”, Barry Zellen notes.

As the number of nuclear-armed states increases, along with concerns that non-state actors might gain a nuclear capability, Zellen hopes this research on one of the pioneering theorists of the post-Hiroshima world will help restore interest in this group of theorists and strategists, described by American journalist and author Fred Kaplan as the “wizards of Armageddon”.

About the public examination of the dissertation:

Barry Zellen’s dissertation “Bernard Brodie and the Bomb: At the Birth of the Bipolar World” will be examined on Friday 23 January 2015 at 12 noon by the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Lapland. The thesis will be publicly defended with the permission of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Lapland. The opponent is Professor Michael Dillon from Lancaster University. The custodian is Professor Julian Reid from the University of Lapland. The public examination will take place in Lecture Hall 3 (main building of the University of Lapland, address Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi). Welcome!

Information on the doctoral candidate:

Barry Zellen was born on April 14, 1963 in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. He is graduated from Weston High School in 1981. He earned his bachelor’s degree in government, specializing in international relations, from Harvard University in 1984 and earned his master’s degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1985.

Zellen has taught at Wesleyan University, Aurora/Arctic College, the Center for Northern Studies, the Wellesley College Summer Exploration Program, and the Waterville Valley Academy. He has also served as a teaching assistant at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley in a wide variety of courses including international relations, war and strategy, peace and conflict studies, physics, and astronomy.

From 2004 through 2011, he worked for the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School as a journal and web editor. At the moment he is also a nonresident fellow of the Alaska-based Institute of the North, where he works on projects related to Arctic security.

Further information:

Barry Zellen
bsz5 (at)
barryzellen (at)
Tel. +1 (603) 236-7818

Press copies of the doctoral dissertation are available in the Lapland University Press, tel. +358 40 821 42 42, publications (at)

Publication data:

Barry Zellen: Bernard Brodie and the Bomb: At the Birth of the Bipolar World, University of Lapland: Rovaniemi. Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 295, ISSN 0788-7604, ISBN 978-952-484-802-2; Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 163, ISSN 1796-6310, ISBN 978-952-484-801-5


Academic and Art Bookshop Tila (University of Lapland Library, Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi), tel. +358 40 821 4242, publications (at), online orders at