William R. Polk, the author of Understanding Iraq, taught at Harvard until becoming the member of the State Department's Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East in 1961. He served as head of the interdepartmental task force on the Algerian war and was a member of the crisis management subcommittee during the Cuban missile crisis. After leaving government, he became professor of history at the University of Chicago and president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs.
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