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Max Boot

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies

Expertise

U.S. foreign policy; defense policy; military history; terrorism and guerrilla warfare.

Programs

Roundtable Series on National Security Affairs

Bio

Max Boot is Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He is a military historian and foreign-policy analyst who has been called one of the “world’s leading authorities on armed conflict” by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Boot is also a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and the Los Angeles Times, and a regular contributor to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and other publications.

Boot is the author of three widely acclaimed books: the New York Times bestseller Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present, which the Wall Street Journal said “is destined to be the classic account of what may be the oldest as well as the hardest form of war”; War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today, which was hailed as a “magisterial survey of technology and war” by the New York Times; and The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, which won the 2003 General Wallace M. Greene Jr. Award from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation as the best nonfiction book pertaining to Marine Corps history and has been placed on Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy professional reading lists.

He is now writing two books for Norton/Liveright: a biography of Ronald Reagan and The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Experience in Vietnam.

Boot has served as an advisor to U.S. commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also a senior foreign policy advisor to John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2007–08, a defense policy advisor to Mitt Romney’s campaign in 2011–12, and the head of the Counter-Terrorism Working Group for Marco Rubio’s campaign in 2015-2016.

Boot is a frequent public speaker and guest on radio and television news programs, both at home and abroad. He has lectured on behalf of the U.S. State Department and at many military institutions, including the Army, Navy, and Air War Colleges, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School, West Point and the Naval Academy. In 2004, he was named by the World Affairs Councils of America as one of “the 500 most influential people in the United States in the field of foreign policy.” In 2007, he won the Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism, given annually to a writer who exhibits "love of country and its democratic institutions" and "bears witness to the evils of totalitarianism."

Before joining the Council in 2002, Boot spent eight years as a writer and editor at the Wall Street Journal, the last five as op-ed editor. From 1992 to 1994 he was an editor and writer at the Christian Science Monitor.

Boot holds a bachelor’s degree in history, with high honors, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in history from Yale University. He was born in Russia, grew up in Los Angeles, and now lives in the New York area. 

The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Experience in Vietnam

The legendary Edward Lansdale, a covert operative so influential that he was said to be the model for Graham Greene's The Quiet American and for one of the main characters in The Ugly American, remains, even four decades after the conclusion of the Vietnam War, one of the most fascinating, mysterious—and misunderstood—figures in post-1945 American foreign policy. A former advertising man, he was a master of psychological and political warfare and one of the most influential military advisers of the twentieth century, second only to "Lawrence of Arabia." In the Philippines and South Vietnam in the 1950s, he pioneered the kind of "population-centric counterinsurgency" strategy that has since been implemented from Afghanistan to Iraq. Based on access to his personal letters and to newly declassified documents seen by no previous scholar, I am writing a book that sheds fresh light not only on Lansdale but on the Vietnam War in which he was such a pivotal figure. The Road Not Taken will conclude with "Lansdale's Lessons" for the United States as it seeks to advise and influence allies in the developing world as Lansdale once did so skillfully.

This project is made possible in part through the  support of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. 

Reagan: The Man Nobody Knew

Ronald Reagan was one of the most successful and influential presidents of the twentieth century. Despite his many accomplishments there is no comprehensive biography of him currently available—nothing like what Robert Dallek has done for John F. Kennedy, David McCullough for Harry Truman or Ron Chernow for George Washington. The aim of my research is to produce such a work—an objective biography that examines Reagan's entire life to better understand his achievements and shortcomings. It will no longer do to dismiss Reagan, as Clark Clifford once did, as an "amiable dunce." He was clearly much more than that, yet he was not easy to understand because he was a bundle of contradictions. Affable to all, he had few if any real friends. Reagan had strong convictions but lacked intellectual depth or curiosity. He could be stubborn to the point of distraction, but he was usually willing to compromise and settle to get a deal done. He could make tough policy decisions when they were needed, but he found it impossible to fire anyone. My research will grapple with these and other paradoxes to produce the most comprehensive, fair, and readable account yet penned of Reagan's life based on archival work and interviews with those who knew him best.

This project is made possible in part through the  support of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. 

American National Security in a Dangerous World: An Ongoing Analysis

History has not ended and the tide of war has not receded. Indeed in such places as Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China, the United States faces pressing threats to its national security which demand a response from Washington. As a regular contributor to Commentary's blog and to numerous print publications (including the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Weekly Standard), as well as a regular public speaker and guest on radio and TV programs, I provide timely analysis of these and other pressing national security issues. My focus is primarily but not exclusively on the U.S. armed forces whose operations I study during regular trips "down range" to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Besides commenting upon, and analyzing, U.S. military operations, I try to place them in a broader framework of geopolitical events and American grand strategy to produce recommendations of value to policymakers.

Featured Publications

All Publications

Op-Ed

NeverTrumpers Should Not Shun Trump

Author: Max Boot
USA Today

The president of the United States has vast power—nearly unlimited in the realm of foreign affairs. He can order U.S. troops into combat. He can bomb any country he wants. He can round up illegal immigrants. He can spy on millions of people. Soon all that power will be in the hands of Donald J. Trump, hardly the most sober and restrained individual ever to occupy the Oval Office. Checks and balances on a president's national security powers have never been more important, writes CFR's Max Boot.

See more in United States; Presidents and Chiefs of State; Organization of Government

Op-Ed

Why a Trump Presidency Might Not Be as Awful as We Fear

Author: Max Boot
ForeignPolicy.com

In 1777, when Britain received words of the drubbing its forces had suffered at Saratoga to the American rebels, a friend of Adam Smith’s exclaimed that “the nation was ruined.” The wise philosopher calmly replied: “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” That proposition is about to be put to the test by President-elect Donald Trump. We must now hope that Trump can be reined in from the rhetoric of his campaign.

See more in United States; Presidents and Chiefs of State; Grand Strategy

Op-Ed

The GOP May Not Survive the Trump Takeover

Author: Max Boot
USA Today

Donald Trump began the final presidential debate in what was, for him, an unexpected fashion. He was subdued, spoke calmly, and sounded like a conventional Republican. He promised to oppose abortion, support the Second Amendment, and appoint Supreme Court justices who “will interpret the Constitution the way the founders wanted it interpreted.” But about halfway through, Trump made one crazy, false statement after another. It was a farrago of falsehoods the likes of which no one has ever seen...since Trump’s last debate. What does it tell you about the future of the Republican Party that so many ordinary Republicans seemed to thrill to his misstatements and vicious attacks?

See more in United States; Elections

Op-Ed

The Nazi Echoes in Trump's Tweets

Author: Max Boot
Los Angeles Times

Donald Trump’s attempt to assign blame for his potential defeat is violating the most basic tenet of democracy: The willingness of one side to accept defeat at the polls and acknowledge the legitimacy of the winning side. That is something that candidates such as Richard Nixon in 1960 and Al Gore in 2000 did even when there were legitimate questions of election fraud. They realized that at some point pursuing their own ambitions would fray the very fabric of our democracy. Trump either doesn’t know that or doesn’t care. 

See more in United States; Elections

Op-Ed

Donald Trump Isn’t Campaigning to Run a Democracy

Author: Max Boot
Foreign Policy

Trump’s rhetoric at the debate was more dictator than leader of the free world. The grass-roots fervor for Trump suggests that the Republican Party may be beyond salvation — and that the republic itself could be in peril if in the future we see some demagogue who is smoother than Trump and devoid of his debilitating personal flaws.

See more in United States; Elections

Op-Ed

America Is Turning Into a Confederacy of Dunces

Author: Max Boot
Foreign Policy

Why is Donald Trump within a whisker of the White House? Two-thirds of the country can’t even name the three branches of government. If we don’t revitalize civics education, we will be entrusting our future to people who know little to nothing of the way our government works. The way we are going, one of these days a Bernie Sanders or, heaven help us, a Donald Trump will not just be a candidate for president. He will actually become president, writes Max Boot.

See more in United States; Elections; Society and Culture

Op-Ed

Republicans Are Paying the Price for Their Addiction to Their Own Media

Author: Max Boot
Washington Post

This election year is memorable for many reasons but among the most important is showing Republicans the cost of their infatuation with “alternative” news sources. The right’s addiction to its own news has become destructive. Whether Trump wins or loses, conservatives need to re-evaluate their infatuation with “alternative” news sources that tell them what they want to hear and join a more mainstream conversation that includes different points of view.

See more in United States; Elections; Media and Foreign Policy

Op-Ed

Who's Better for His People? Putin or Obama? The Answer Is Obvious.

Author: Max Boot
Los Angeles Times

Donald Trump has gotten a lot of well-justified criticism for his paeans to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s anti-American dictator. But Trump isn’t backing down from his effusive praise of Putin, and neither are his supporters. On both foreign and domestic policy there is simply no comparison between the democratically elected president of America and the thug who has seized control of Russia. Putin is not serving Russia’s interests, only his own and those of his crooked cronies and it’s terrifying that Trump sees Putin as an admirable leader, and shameful that his supporters have fallen in line to defend his indefensible views.

See more in United States; Russian Federation; Elections; Presidents and Chiefs of State

Op-Ed

Trump Will Never Be Ready to Lead on Foreign Policy

Author: Max Boot
USA Today

Trump is as unready to be commander in chief today as when he started running for president. His comments sound as ignorant and deluded today as they did when Trump started running for the presidency. Only now, he is a lot closer to having life-and-death power over hundreds of millions of people.

 

See more in United States; Elections

Events

Roundtable Series on National Security Affairs

Director: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
July 2007—Present

This series focuses on issues, primarily military, that affect American national security. The series begins withan early focus on the war on Iraq, and later roundtables examine issues relating to the transformation of the American armed forces to cope with warfare in the information age.

CFR Events

Meeting ⁄ Washington

What To Do About ISIS

Speakers Max Boot

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Audrey Kurth Cronin

Distinguished Service Professor, School of Public Policy, George Mason University; Author, “ISIS Is Not a Terrorist Group,” Foreign Affairs

, Janine Davidson

Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans, U.S. Department of Defense (2009-2012)


Presider Michael Allen

Managing Director, Beacon Global Strategies; Former Special Assistant to the President, National Security Council (2007-2009)

March 31, 2015 12:00–12:30 p.m. - Lunch Reception
12:30–1:45 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting

U.S.-Led Airstrikes in Syria

Speakers Max Boot

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, CFR

, Janine Davidson

Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, CFR


Presider Jonathan Tepperman

Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs

September 24, 2014

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ New York

What to Do About Iraq

Speakers Stephen D. Biddle

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University

, Max Boot

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Meghan L. O'Sullivan

Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs and Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Project, Harvard Kennedy School


Presider Richard N. Haass

President, Council on Foreign Relations

June 18, 2014 12:00–1:00 p.m. - Conference Call

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting

Risk and Military Planning

Speakers Max Boot

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Janine Davidson

Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

, Theo Farell

Head of the War Studies Department, King's College London


Presider John A. Nagl

Headmaster, The Haverford School; Former President, Center for a New American Security; Visiting Professor, King's College London

March 25, 2014 9:45–10:45 a.m.

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Meeting

Nontraditional Warfare

Speakers Max Boot

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Maria Casa

Director, National Program & Outreach Administration, Council on Foreign Relations

October 24, 2013 12:00–1:00 p.m.

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ New York

War Made New

Speaker Max BootSenior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; and author, War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today
Presider John F. LehmanChairman, J.F. Lehman & Co.
October 23, 2006

This meeting is on the record.

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Press/Panels

Radio Interview

Donald Trump and the Pitfalls of Anti-Intellectualism

The Takeaway's John Hockenberry interviews Max Boot, who argues that Trump is the product of years of anti-intellectualism within the Republican Party.

Using examples like Ronald Reagan or George Bush, Boot argues that the GOP has built a "know-nothing" facade for political purposes, and Trump has revealed that it might not be a facade any more.

Listen

Video Interview

The World According to Trump

Donald Trump delivers his first major address on foreign policy of the campaign. Max Boot from the Council on Foreign Relations joins Chuck Todd on MTP Daily to discuss. 

Watch

Article

Chickens, Home to Roost

Maureen Dowd mentions Max Boot in a New York Times op-ed reflecting on the Republican presidential primary. 

Video Interview

AUSA Panel Discussion

Max Boot talks about insurgency, governance and political warfare. He discusses what motivates insurgents and what we can do to stop it.

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Video Interview

Max Boot on Small Wars

Washington simply doesn’t have the luxury of simply avoiding long wars against brutal insurgencies. Instead, it needs to figure out how to fight them better, argues Max Boot, Jeane Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs. Boot recently sat down with Gideon Rose to discuss how.

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Video Interview

Growing Fears of a Coup in Iraq

U.S. officials continue to pressure Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down. Max Boot from the Council on Foreign Relations joins to discuss.

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Article

The Guerrilla Myth

Unconventional wars are our most pressing national security concern. They're also the most ancient form of war in the world. Max Boot on the lessons of insurgency we seem unable to learn.

Radio Interview

Max Boot on NPR's Morning Edition

In the new book Invisible Armies, author Max Boot traces the role of guerrilla warfare through history, starting in the Roman Empire all the way up to Afghanistan. He tells Steve Inskeep the American Revolution was the turning point in guerrilla warfare.

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