Max Boot

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies


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


National Security and Defense Program


Max Boot is one of America's leading military historians and foreign-policy analysts. The Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Boot is also a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and the Los Angeles Times, and a regular contributor to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and other publications.

Boot's newest book, Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present, was released in January 2013 by W.W. Norton & Co./Liveright and immediately became a New York Times Bestseller. It was acclaimed as "enormous, brilliant, and important" (Michael Korda, the Daily Beast) and "thoughtful, smart, fluent, with an eye for the good story" (Michael Mazower, New York Times Book Review, front page). John Nagl wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "Mr. Boot's impressive work of military history is destined to be the classic account of what may be the oldest as well as the hardest form of war."

His previous book, War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today (Gotham Books, 2006), has been hailed as a "magisterial survey of technology and war" by the New York Times and "brilliantly crafted history" by the Wall Street Journal.

Boot's first book of military history, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power (Basic Books) was selected as one of the best books of 2002 by numerous newspapers, 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. More than 150,000 copies of his books are in print.

He is now writing two books for Norton/Liveright: a biography of Ronald Reagan and a biography of General Edward Lansdale, the legendary Cold War counterinsurgent.

Boot has served as an adviser to U.S. commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also a senior foreign policy adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign in 2007–2008 and a defense policy adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign in 2011–2012.

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 Australian Defense College, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School, and West Point.

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 years 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 (1991), and a master's degree in history from Yale University (1992). He was born in Russia, grew up in Los Angeles, and now lives in the New York area. He has three children: Victoria, Abigail, and William.

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


Iran Won't Close the Strait of Hormuz

Authors: Captain Bradley S. Russell, USN and Max Boot
Wall Street Journal

Captain Bradley S. Russell, USN and Max Boot argue that Iran must realize that by initiating direct hostilities in the Strait of Hormuz, it risks American retaliation against their covert nuclear-weapons program.

See more in Iran; United States; Oil; Sanctions


Iraq: Baghdad Without America

Author: Max Boot

Max Boot says that at the moment, Iraq is an uneasy mixture of good and bad, volatile and stable, healthy and diseased—a strange witches' brew that could blow up or, just possibly, turn into an elixir for the entire region.

See more in Iraq; Military Operations

Expert Roundup

Was the Iraq War Worth It?

Authors: Andrew J. Bacevich, Max Boot, Michael O'Hanlon, and Michael Ignatieff

As the U.S. military formally ends operations in Iraq, four top expert voices in the debate on the war differ over whether it merited the cost in blood, treasure, and U.S. credibility.

See more in Iraq; Wars and Warfare


Losing Iraq?

Author: Max Boot
Weekly Standard

Max Boot states that an American drawdown in both Iraq and Afghanistan makes continued war—and with it the possibility of a catastrophic American defeat—more likely by emboldening our enemies and disheartening our friends.

See more in Wars and Warfare; Afghanistan; United States; Iraq

Testimony Author: Max Boot

In his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Max Boot argues that the impact of budget cuts has the potential to devastate our armed forces and do more damage to their fighting capacity than any other external foe.

See more in Defense Strategy; Defense Budget


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

Media Conference Call

U.S.-Led Airstrikes in Syria


Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, CFR, Janine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, CFR


Jonathan Tepperman, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs
September 24, 2014

This meeting is on the record.


Conference Call ⁄ New York

What to Do About Iraq


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


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.



Risk and Military Planning


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


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.


National Program Meeting ⁄ Chicago

Chicago Meeting: Invisible Armies: Guerrilla Warfare From Past to Present


Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
March 13, 2013 7:30-8:45 a.m.

This meeting is not for attribution.


General Meeting ⁄ New York

War Made New


Max Boot, Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; and author, War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today


John F. Lehman, Chairman, J.F. Lehman & Co.
October 23, 2006

This meeting is on the record.


General Meeting ⁄ New York

The American Military Around the World: An Account from the Front Lines


Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly; Author, Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground


Max Boot, Senior Fellow, National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
October 11, 2005

This meeting is not for attribution.


General Meeting

Republican National Convention: Council on Foreign Relations Foreign Policy Discussion

Introductory Speakers:

Clyde Tuggle, Honorary Vice Chairman,, Council on Foreign Relations, Maurice R. Greenberg


Elizabeth C. Economy, Max Boot, Benn Steil, Stephen E. Flynn
August 31, 2004

This meeting is not for attribution.



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.


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.



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.