Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 11:15 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 11:15 | SYDNEY

Sir Michael Quinlan, 1930-2009


Rory Medcalf


2 March 2009 14:24

The world of arms control and international security is mourning the passing of one of its giants, the great British scholar and defence policy practitioner Sir Michael Quinlan. Others who knew him much better than I have written already on his legacy.

He was no dreamer. He combined the realism of the policy-maker with a questing intellect, the spirit of pushing the boundaries of the possible, and a deep sense of justice. During ‘retirement’, Sir Michael did valuable service to the security of South Asia, quietly offering advice to the Indian Government on how the lessons of the Cold War might be applied to the pursuit of stable deterrence in that troubled region.

After becoming sceptical to the point of dismissiveness about prospects for nuclear disarmament, I found my thinking deeply influenced in the other direction by his essay ‘Abolishing nuclear armouries: Policy or pipedream?’. His work has been a major inspiration for the new realist-idealist push towards reducing nuclear dangers, typified by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Australian Government’s commission.

Finally, unlike some luminaries on the international security circuit, Sir Michael was a thoroughly approachable and decent human being.