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Professor Ball was the leading figure in Strategic Studies in Australia of his generation, and made a major contribution to global scholarship in a field of vital importance. He was one of Australia's foremost public intellectuals, and exemplified the way scholars can and should contribute to national policy debates. Over many decades he was a major voice on questions of defence policy, nuclear strategy, intelligence and Asia-Pacific security.

During the Cold War, Professor Ball advised US President Jimmy Carter against nuclear strikes against Soviet targets. At the time, President Carter wrote that 'Desmond Ball's counsel and cautionary advice, based on deep research, made a great difference to our collective goal of avoiding nuclear war'.

Professor Ball also publicly revealed the development of the Pine Gap US base in the Northern Territory, leading him to be classified as a 'person of interest' in 1966.

He wrote or edited more than 60 books and monographs. His achievements were recognised in 2013 with the Peter Baume Award, and in 2014 when he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

In over 40 years’ service at ANU, Des made a remarkable contribution to this university as a scholar, teacher, academic leader, and mentor. These lectures commemorates his legacy as an outstanding scholar.

Related content

American Foreign Policy and the 2020 Presidential Election

With less than three weeks until the 2020 United States Presidential Election, Professor Bruce Jentleson examines foreign policy issues that may bear significantly on the outcome. Amidst a context of key issues including climate change, relations with China and the COVID-19 crisis, this upcoming election has the potential to pivot American foreign policy for decades. Professor Jentleson shows that beyond specific election issues, and irrespective of who wins, there are deeper political dynamics of political disequilibrium, swirling societal forces, and an ‘apart-atop-amidst’ historical shift in America’s position in the world.

This paper critically reflects that America is neither going isolationist nor reverting to the liberal internationalism of the prior era. Instead, domestic politics, broad 21st century geopolitical realities and lessons from COVID-19 all point to the need for a recalibration of how best to play a constructive role globally as well as with allies like Australia and within the Indo-Pacific region.

Author/s (editor/s): Bruce W. Jentleson

Publication year: 2020