Catalytic Diplomacy
Author's Foreword
In the fall of 1999, in my 65th year of life, I announced my retirement, to take effect in June 2000, as the President of Federation of American Scientists (FAS). My life memoir, “Every Man Should Try: Adventures of a Public Interest Activist”, covering thirty years of service as the FAS President had just been published. It revealed, in 30 chapters, a wide range of peace activities that surprised my friends and colleagues. This earlier book can be read on this website. (More info) and copies can be purchased, while they last, from Second Story Books at

I decided to continue working. I designed a new modus operandi which involved giving confidential advice to governments (foreign as well as my own) without, of course, payment from them and without acting at their direction. The idea was to get them to act at my direction!

In effect, I decided to try to implement the principles uncovered in my book of three decades before—“Strategic Persuasion: Arms Control Through Dialogue” (Columbia University, 1967). The basic notion was to push policies aimed at avoiding war by shaping and advancing them in forms that domestic and foreign bureaucracies and constituencies could accept. And it continued the basic theme of my work and life that a small entity—a butterfly flapping its wings, for example—could, from time to time, have a major effect.

Accordingly, I founded an organization, Catalytic Diplomacy—an atom-sized non-governmental organization—with a Board of three of which I was one. It was supported by a web of contacts I had made over the years. And I began immediately, in the fall of 1999, to undertake visits abroad as its President and to work on war-peace issues involving Russia, China-Taiwan, North Korea and Iran. These were the four arenas which seemed most likely to lead to major war.

Each of the following seven years (1999-2006) was even more productive than those of the 30 years revealed in Every Man Should Try. This was, perhaps, because the modus operandi was so powerful, the competitors so few, my thinking and skills had matured and, also, I had no administrative responsibilities to distract me. In the end, I had exciting adventures (successes and near-misses) at about twice the rate of my FAS period of 1970-2000.

I made up for the absence of organizational standing—no longer backed by 57 Nobel Prize winners!—in part by passing out copies of Every Man Should Try. But I was already well known in three of the countries being worked on (Russia, China and Iran).

In fact, the Russians and the Chinese considered me to be the inventor of the most important arms control treaty of the Cold War—the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. The Chinese also considered me to be the catalyst of renewing Sino-U.S. scientific exchange in 1972 and a person who had tried to save the life of Premier Zhou En-lai. (In addition, I was the inventor of the 1996 Northeast Strategy for peaceful reunification of the Mainland with Taiwan.) And the Iranians knew I had restarted scientific exchange between Washington and Tehran in 1998-1999 by bringing representatives of the Iranian Academy of Sciences to Washington and making them available to the National Academy of Sciences where they reached agreement. So I had considerable standing.

With the passage of three years since this phase of the work of Catalytic Diplomacy terminated in 2006, it seems possible now, in 2009, to reveal what was done. At the time, it was reported only to the small handful of foundations who supported my travel (Favrot Fund, Edgerton Foundation, Armington Fund and the Rockefeller Family Office), to colleagues in the work and, of course, to the U.S. Government–to the extent its employees wanted to know. Especially important, this publication fulfills an educational obligation to report publicly on lessons learned.

In 2006, I stopped making trips abroad for Catalytic Diplomacy and, instead, began making grants for travel to selected individuals who were doing important work in conflict resolution, albeit using different but effective methods. This is discussed in an afterword.

I want to take this opportunity to thank colleagues who served on the Board of Catalytic Diplomacy: Alton Frye, its first Chairman; the late Townsend Hoopes, its second Chairman; Michael Mann, its third Chairman and Steven Aftergood, a key Board member—all of whom provided splendid advice. I am indebted to Celestine Arndt for sustained encouragement without which, in particular, this second life memoir would not have been written.

Jon Howard copy-edited an early version of the material (but is not responsible for any errors that have crept in later). Especially, I want to thank Matt and Deena Warner of Deena Warner Design LLC. This is the second website that this talented couple has produced for me. Matt and Deena combine superb designing skills with excellent editorial judgment and worked on both projects in a loving and faithful way.


In 1961, a Soviet ultimatum concerning Berlin raised the specter of world war so concretely that American children were being trained to “duck and cover” under their desks in case of warnings of an imminent nuclear attack.

A college roommate, the distinguished economist, Sidney Winter, suggested I put aside my new Ph.D. in mathematics and Stanford Research Institute employment and go to work on war-peace issues at the Hudson Institute, then being formed by his RAND colleague, Herman Kahn.

I was so interested in saving the world from nuclear war that I agreed to work for this influential man whom many of my friends and relatives considered evil for his readiness to prepare for, and even threaten, nuclear war.

Failures Followed

After two years at Hudson Institute—learning in a school of hard knocks that I could not much influence Herman or Hudson—I resigned and spent two years at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs writing two related books: “Containing the Arms Race” (MIT, 1966) and “Strategic Persuasion: Arms Control Through Dialogue” (Columbia University Press, 1967).

Seeing no prospect of my becoming a scholar, I tried but failed to return to mathematics by teaching at Pomona College for two years. A subsequent effort to become an economist through post-graduate work at Stanford University also failed. And a later one-year fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations revealed mainly that I had no further book in me but only a Foreign Affairs article.

The Federation’s Success

I finally found myself, in 1970, by descending from the Executive Committee of the then almost defunct Federation of American Scientists (FAS), founded in 1945 by original atomic scientists, becoming its first paid CEO since 1948.

In the 30 years that followed, I built the Federation into a significant force for peace and became reasonably famous myself. For example, already in the mid-eighties, the Washington Post summarized my activities in an unusual full-page profile–calling me a “Foreman in an Idea Factory” (Appendix), and my alma mater, Swarthmore College, was giving me an honorary degree.

During the thirty years from 1970 to 1999, I enjoyed a wide range of exciting adventures in peace-related public policy and entrepreneurship, which are summarized in “Every Man Should Try: Adventures of a Public Interest Activist” (PublicAffairs, 1999) and presented on this website by permission. One reviewer of this book called me “Zelig” for my tendency to be found in photographs with famous political actors. In case bound copies run out at Second Story books, the book can be run off from the website at

Catalytic Diplomacy’s Success

When I started Catalytic Diplomacy, I was, happily, the sole staff. I came to count leaving the Federation as a blessing. The next eight years, from 1999 to 2006, were the most exciting of my life. Indeed, without any staff to administer, my productivity–measured in chapters with exciting results–doubled, i.e., instead of 30 chapters drawn from a 30-year period, as in my first life memoir, I generated about 15 chapters in the eight subsequent years!

It turned out that I did not need the backing of a star-studded organization with 57 Nobel Prize winners to be effective. I was treated with great respect wherever I went and my quiet advice was taken very seriously indeed. The reports of this period are posted as Catalytic Diplomacy: Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

Catalytic Diplomacy Travel Grants

By 2006, some of my projects had run down. There was not much more I could do for Russia and arms control. Taiwan had a new (KMT) administration that was not provoking the Mainland but was, in fact, applying some of the peaceful unification techniques I had advocated. There was nothing more that I could imagine doing with regard to North Korea. And the Khatami Administration in Iran, which had provided an opening for dialogue with Tehran, had been replaced.

At this point, I focused on a third phase of my career. Could others be motivated and helped to work for conflict resolution with similar techniques and for the low cost of travel? It seemed worth a try to see if Catalytic Diplomacy was a discipline that could be spread. Of course, there were other activists doing various forms of what one might call track 1.5 diplomacy. But almost no one was doing it both full-time and in my fashion—certainly not without salary.

At my request, the foundations backing me agreed to a three-year experiment to see if we could identify suitable persons and projects deserving of relatively small expenditures for travel. This last, still continuing, phase of my work is discussed in an Afterword at the end of this memoir.

How To Read This Book

For introductory reading, the four sections have short summaries, and the chapters in each summary start with a synopsis of what the chapter contains.

Jeremy J. Stone
President, Catalytic Diplomacy
October 2009

Back to top