Professor Joseph Siracusa | Connecting the Dots & Learning Patterns of History

Professor Joseph Siracusa | Connecting the Dots & Learning Patterns of History


Professor Joseph Siracusa was previously Deputy Dean of Global and Language Studies in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

Born and raised in Chicago and a long time resident of Australia, Joseph studied at the University of Denver and the University of Vienna and received his PhD at the University of Colorado (Boulder). He has worked at Merrill Lynch in Boston and New York; the University of Queensland; and for three years served as a senior visiting fellow in the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance at Griffith University.

He has authored and co-authored 310 refereed publications including 75 books, monographs and chapters, 115 journal articles/entries and scholarly reviews, and 120 refereed proceedings. His publications include the following:

  • America and the Cold War, 1941-1991: A Realist interpretation, 2 volumes (Praeger, 2010)
  • Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction (Second edition, Oxford University Press, 2015)
  • The Death Penalty and U.S. Diplomacy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013)
  • A Global History of the Nuclear Arms Race, 2 volumes (Praeger, 2013)
  • Language of Terror: How Neuroscience Influences Political Speech in the United States (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)

Joseph is also very active in research higher degree supervision, having supervised 35 PhD candidates, including 20 in the period from 1998 to 2015.



  • Like Marcus Aurelius, we should aim to use simple language when speaking and writing so that all people can understand the value in what we say. 
  • Many people think that uneducated people are unintelligent, but this simply isn’t the case. There are different kinds of intelligence. 
  • Lesson in history: The powerful do what they can, and the weak always do what they must. 
  • Lesson in history: The past is not dead. It’s not even passed. 
  • Lesson in history: There are only three things that people can do. They can do more, they can do less, or they can do nothing. 
  • An interesting idea: (talking about Russia) Was the state in possession of an ideology, or was the ideology in possession of the state? Very interesting to consider that ideologies do have the power to spread and takeover minds, even without the direct enforcement of the state. 
  • Lesson in history: Look for the “tricks of the eye” or the unintended consequences in history. This will show you some clues for how things will go. 
  • Lesson in history: Human nature is easy to understand if you know that it never changes. Humans will always act how humans act. 
  • Big weapons that will be used in future wars: cyber warfare, biological warfare, chemical warfare, and nuclear. 
  • Information warfare has been around for a while now. For example, in the 40s the United States tried 73 times to influence communist nations with misinformation.
  • The Covid-19 crisis could be seen as a fire drill for the next big war. 
  • We are back to where we were in 1914. There were 5 major players: the British, the Russian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the French and the Italians. Today we also have 5 major units: USA, Russia, China, the European Union, and the rest of free Asia. We also have many friction points including energy security, water security, food security, viruses, wars, and much more. 
  • Just like the time when the USA had to choose between working with France or Britain (they ended up playing their own game), now we see countries like Australia who will be forced to choose between China and the USA. 
  • We are the only creatures who fight each other like we do. Joseph suggests that diplomacy is the key solution to this problem. 
  • Public diplomacy (soft diplomacy) allows states to interfere with the thinking and lives of the citizens of countries they’re accredited to.  
  • “All the indices are in place, and they’ll fall over like dominos when the time comes.” 
  • Thomas Jefferson believed that South America would not follow the way of the USA because everyone is either a hammer or an anvil. Does that describe people in general? 
  • We need people to connect the dots in our modern history. We need to learn what people are like and we need to see the connections between how people are acting and how they have acted in the past. 
  • The game of international politics has been played for millennia, and when people stop connecting the dots we are bound to repeat history. 
  • When people stop studying history and philosophy they stop seeing the connections that are warning signs of things to come. 
  • Mark Twain discussed the idea that it’s hard to tell how people will act, but if you watch their feet (where they’re going) then you’ll know what they’re up to. 
  • Karl Popper: “Philosophy is about throwing a brick through the window to let some fresh air in.” 
  • One thing to know about humans and nature: Nature abhors a vacuum.