Center for Military and Diplomatic History

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The Center for Military and Diplomatic History, a program of the Foreign Policy Initiative, was formed in July 2016 to connect historians to the national security policy community in Washington, DC. In a world of increasing instability and uncertainty, history has a wealth of insights to offer on current policy issues, from emerging threats and opportunities to traditional challenges. To promote the application of history to contemporary problems, the center strives to bring military and diplomatic historians together with the men and women who develop and implement U.S. national security policy.

Good policy is seldom beholden solely to the past, but it is even more seldom heedless of the past. Although policymakers routinely look to history for inspiration, leaders and staffs rarely have much time to acquire new historical knowledge of relevance to the policies they are making or implementing. Constraints on time and knowledge can encourage leaders to draw historical analogies between situations or policies without sufficiently scrutinizing the comparisons. Historians are uniquely qualified to assess analogies, and to identify alternative analogies that could be more useful.

In order to promote applied history as both a source of policy insight and a field of scholarly inquiry, the center’s activities include:

  • A book series that introduces military and diplomatic historians to policy makers and opinion leaders in Washington
  • Small group discussions that provide senior leaders in both the executive and legislative branches with insights on the application of history to present-day challenges
  • Public events showcasing applied military and diplomatic history, held at locations easily accessible to policy professionals
  • Annual essay competitions that offer opportunities for up-and-coming historians to engage the policy community in Washington, DC
  • Individual briefings for senior executive branch officials, congressional leaders, and candidates for elected offices

Dr. Mark Moyar serves as the center’s director. A military and diplomatic historian by training, Dr. Moyar has published five books and numerous articles. His recently completed history of American special operations forces will be published in 2017 by Basic Books, and in 2018 Cambridge University Press will publish the sequel to his book Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965. He has served as a professor at the U.S. Marine Corps University and as a Senior Fellow at the Joint Special Operations University, and has advised the senior leadership of U.S. Central Command, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, U.S. Special Operations Command, and the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan. He holds a BA summa cum laude from Harvard and a PhD from Cambridge.


CMDH Events

  • Larry Haas - Harry and Arthur: Truman, Vandenberg, and the Partnership That Created the Free World - September 8, 2016
  • Brian Linn - Elvis's Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield - With the OSD Historical Office and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments - September 28, 2016

  • Jeremi Suri - “History and Foreign Policy: Making the Relationship Work” – September 29, 2016

  • Williamson Murray - Military Innovation and Military Culture – October 3, 2016

  • Hal Brands – Making the Unipolar Moment – October  11, 2016

  • Charles Edel – John Quincy Adams and Grand Strategy – October 19, 2016

  • Andrew Roberts – Brexit in the Context of European History – October 26, 2016

  • Ben Jones – The Jedburghs and Unconventional Warfare – October 28, 2016

  • John Hall – To Starve an Army: How Great Power Armies Respond to Austerity – November 4, 2016

  • Thomas Mahnken – Containment: Myth and Metaphor – November 17, 2016

  • Mark R. Jacobson – Lessons of the Carter Administration – November 30, 2016

  • Peter Mansoor – Lessons of the George W. Bush Administration – November 30, 2016

  • Max Boot – Lessons of the Obama Administration – November 30, 2016

  • H.R. McMaster - Strategy, Policy and History – November 30, 2016

  • Barry Strauss – The War for Empire: Rome Versus Carthage – December 5, 2016 

  • James Lacey – Great Strategic Rivalries – December 6, 2016

  • Michael Pillsbury – The Hundred-Year Marathon – December 8, 2016

  • Serhii Plokhy – The Gates of Europe – December 13, 2016

  • William Hitchcock and Melvyn Leffler – The First Year Project – December 14, 2016

  • JP Clark – Preparing for War – January 17, 2017

  • Jakub Grygiel – Repairing  America’s Alliances – January 18, 2017

  • Mackubin Owens – The History of U.S. Civil-Military Relations – February 9, 2017

  • Ted Bromund – Transatlantic Security in Historical Context – February 16, 2017

  • Francis Gavin - Rethinking the History of the Nuclear Age – February 28, 2017

  • Michael Auslin – The End of the Asian Century – March 8, 2017

  • Thomas Schwartz - The Foreign Policy of Nixon and Kissinger – March 16, 2017

  • John Walters – Interagency Collaboration on Colombia – March 21, 2017

  • Anna Simons – Women in Combat Units – March 27, 2017

  • Michael Green – By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783 – March 30, 2017

  • Michael Nieberg – WWI Centennial: The Path to War – April 6, 2017

  • Dr. John Maurer – WWI Centennial: Strategy and Policy – April 6, 2017

  • Edward Lengel – WWI Centennial: Why World War I Still Matters – April 6, 2017

  • Cathal J. Nolan – The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost – March 27, 2017


CMDH Fall 2016 Newsletter

CMDH Winter 2016 Newsletter

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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