Leslie Gelb

President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations

Leslie Gelb

Leslie (Les) Howard Gelb is a former correspondent for The New York Times and is currently president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Gelb was director of Policy Planning and Arms Control for International Security Affairs at the Department of Defense from 1967 to 1969, winning the Pentagon's highest award, the Distinguished Service Award. Robert McNamara appointed Gelb as director of the project that produced the infamous Pentagon Papers, on the Vietnam War. A substantial portion of the 7000 page document was leaked to the public in 1971. He was an Assistant Secretary of State in the Carter Administration from 1977 to 1979, serving as director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs and winning the Distinguished Honor Award, the highest award of the US State Department.

He was diplomatic correspondent at The New York Times from 1973 to 1977; later, between 1981 and 1993, he was in turn national security correspondent, deputy editorial page editor, editor of the Op-Ed Page, and columnist. He was a leading member of the Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism in 1986 for a six-part comprehensive series on the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Gelb became president of the Council on Foreign Relations in 1993 and is now president emeritus.  He received a B.A. from Tufts University in 1959, and an M.A. in 1961 and Ph.D. in 1964 from Harvard University. From 1964-1967 he was Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University.

Last Updated: July 29, 2017

  • Anglo-American Relations, 1945-1950: Toward a Theory of Alliances (Taylor & Francis, 1988)
  • Claiming the Heavens: The New York Times Complete Guide to the Star Wars Debate (coauthor, Crown Publishing Group, 1988)
  • Our Own Worst Enemy: The Unmaking of American Foreign Policy (coauthor, Simon & Schuster, 1984)
  • The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked (coauthor, Brookings Institution Press, 1980)