Max Boot

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies


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


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


Afghan National Security Forces: Resources, Strategy, and Timetable for Security Lead Transition

Author: Max Boot

In a testimony before the House Committee on Armed Services, Max Boot explains that the signing of a U.S.-Afghan Security Partnership Accord in April and the Chicago Summit Declaration in May alleviated some of the uncertainty about the post-2014 period—but only some. The nature and extent of that commitment remain opaque, and that in turn feeds anxiety in Afghanistan, contributes to capital flight, buoys the confidence of our enemies, and leads many Afghans to sit on the fence for fear of joining the losing side.

See more in Afghanistan


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 to discuss. 



Chickens, Home to Roost

Maureen Doud 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.


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.