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Hal Brands

Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins University
Areas of Expertise:

About Hal

Brands studies U.S. foreign policy and grand strategy, focusing on the period between World War II and the present. His research deals with a variety of subjects: U.S.-Latin American relations during the Cold War and after, U.S. nuclear and arms control policies, U.S.-Middle East relations, and American grand strategy since the Cold War and 9/11. He also writes about contemporary security issues like organized crime and drug trafficking in Latin America. More broadly, his work focuses on determining what components go into a successful grand strategy, and how American leaders can better utilize all aspects of national power to achieve important goals abroad. He has explored these issues in work for the Army War College, the U.S. military, the RAND Corporation, the Institute for Defense Analyses, and other organizations.


Grand Strategy and American Foreign Policy

In the News

Quoted by in "COVID-19 and World Order: The Future of Conflict, Competition, and Cooperation," Business Insider, September 10, 2020.
Opinion: "America Is Safer When Trump Alone Can't Start a War," Hal Brands, Bloomberg News, January 23, 2020.
Opinion: "America’s Secret Weapon Against China: Democracy," Hal Brands, Bloomberg, November 20, 2018.
Opinion: "Trump’s Tapped Smartphone Mirrors His Entire Foreign Policy," Hal Brands, Bloomberg, October 28, 2018.
Opinion: "Nikki Haley’s Resignation Is Another Win for Trumpism," Hal Brands, Bloomberg, October 9, 2018.
Opinion: "Trump Can’t Split Russia From China — Yet," Hal Brands, Bloomberg, July 31, 2018.
Interviewed in "Bloomberg Opinion Radio: Weekend Edition for Week of 7-13-18," Bloomberg, July 16, 2018.
Opinion: "The Real Problem with 'Mexico's Trump'," Hal Brands, Bloomberg, June 28, 2018.
Opinion: "Separating Families Was a Blunder on a Global Scale," Hal Brands, Bloomberg, June 22, 2018.
Opinion: "China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat," Hal Brands, Bloomberg, June 10, 2018.
Research discussed by Carlo Muñoz, in "Mattis Meets NATO Counterparts," The Washington Times, June 5, 2018.
Opinion: "Putin is Playing with Fire and We All May Get Burned," Hal Brands, Bloomberg View, May 8, 2018.
Quoted by Takuya Matsuda in "How America Could Lose Its Most Powerful National Security Tool," The National Interest, April 26, 2018.
Opinion: "Macron’s Trump Ploy Didn’t Work for Abe," Hal Brands, Bloomberg View, April 26, 2018.
Quoted by in "Russia and China Boost Cooperation," The Maritime Executive, April 24, 2018.
Opinion: "The Bromance That's Reshaping the World," Hal Brands, Rand Daily Mail, April 20, 2018.
Quoted by Shane Croucher in "A New Cold War with Russia? Historians Give Their Answer," Newsweek, April 20, 2018.
Quoted by Frank Hoffman in "Vulpine Virtues and Strategic Success," War on the Rocks, April 19, 2018.
Guest on The Brookings Cafeteria, April 17, 2018.
Interviewed in "U.S. Has Only Unpalatable Options with Syria, Says Professor Brands," Bloomberg News, April 15, 2018.
Opinion: "Only the U.S. Can Sustain the Peace in Taiwan," Hal Brands, American Journal of Transportation, March 29, 2018.
Opinion: "Trump’s New National Security Guru is Himself," Hal Brands, Malay Mail Online, March 24, 2018.
Opinion: "Pompeo is the Anti-Tillerson. Let's Hope He's an Adult," Hal Brands, Bloomberg, March 13, 2018.
Opinion: "Xi Jinping May Scare Asia Back into Washington's Orbit," Hal Brands, The Economic Times, March 5, 2018.
Opinion: "Foreign Officials See Bush and Obama in Trump," Hal Brands, Foreign Policy, February 23, 2018.
Opinion: "Global Leadership Void Stares Us in the Face," Hal Brands, Gulf News Thinkers, February 16, 2018.
Quoted by Guy Taylor and Carlo Muñoz in "'Mission Creep' Fears Rise after US Airstrike in Syria," Washington Times, February 8, 2018.
Opinion: "Grand Strategy from Obama to Trump," Hal Brands (with Francis J. Gavin and Ryan Evans), War on the Rocks, January 31, 2018.
Quoted by Simon Reich and Peter Dombrowski in "Has a Trumpian Grand Strategy Finally Stepped into the Light?," War on the Rocks, January 29, 2018.
Quoted by Carlo Muñoz in "Pentagon Strategy Calls for Proxies to Fight War on Terror," The Washington Times, January 23, 2018.
Quoted by John Glaser in "Trump Commits to Another Open-Ended War in Syria," Cato Institute, January 18, 2018.
Quoted by Andrew Madigan in "After the Fire and Fury: What's Next for Books about Trump?," The Guardian, January 17, 2018.
Opinion: "Trump Doesn’t Believe in his Own Foreign Policy. Does that Matter?," Hal Brands, Foreign Policy, January 16, 2018.
Opinion: "If You Thought 2017 Was Bad, Just Wait for 2018," Hal Brands, Foreign Policy, January 8, 2018.
Quoted by Corey Cooper and Will Moreland in "The Long Game on Saving the International Order," Huffington Post, January 4, 2018.
Opinion: "The Sane Way to Live with North Korea's Nukes," Hal Brands (with Francis J. Gavin), Bloomberg View, August 15, 2017.
Quoted by Tara Copp in "Military Officials to Brief Trump on Deployed Forces, Afghanistan and ISIS," Military Times, July 20, 2017.
Quoted by James Carden in "Trump and His Generals are Playing a Dangerous Game in Syria," The Nation, June 21, 2017.
Opinion: "The End of History is the Birth of Tragedy," Hal Brands, Foreign Policy, May 29, 2017.
Opinion: "Can U.S. Internationalism Survive Trump?," Hal Brands, Foreign Policy, May 25, 2017.
Opinion: "The Incompetence Doctrine," Hal Brands, War on the Rocks, May 2, 2017.
Quoted by Peter Baker in "How Trump Has Reshaped the Presidency, and How It’s Changed Him, Too," New York Times, April 29, 2017.
Opinion: "What Should Trump Do after the Islamic State is Defeated?," Hal Brands, Foreign Policy, March 17, 2017.
Opinion: "American Grand Strategy: Lessons from the Cold War," Hal Brands, International Relations and Security Network, September 21, 2015.
Opinion: "Retrenchment Chic: The Dangers of Offshore Balancing," Hal Brands, Foreign Policy Research Institute E-Notes, August 1, 2015.
Opinion: "Why Did Saddam Want the Bomb? The Israel Factor and the Iraqi Nuclear Program," Hal Brands, Foreign Policy Research Institute E-Notes, August 1, 2010.
Opinion: "Los Zetas and the Transnational Drug War in Mexico," Hal Brands, World Politics Review, September 15, 2009.
Opinion: "The Rise of the Center in Latin America," Hal Brands, World Politics Review, July 13, 2009.
Opinion: "Third-Generation Gangs and Criminal Insurgency in Latin America," Hal Brands, Small Wars Journal, July 1, 2009.
Opinion: "Gangs and the New Insurgency in Latin America," Hal Brands, World Politics Review, June 10, 2009.
Opinion: "Mexico’s Narco-Insurgency," Hal Brands, World Politics Review, December 22, 2008.
Opinion: "Lo que no funcionará de nuevo," Hal Brands, El Universal, August 31, 2008.
Opinion: "U.S.-Latin American Relations: Future Challenges," Hal Brands, American Diplomacy, August 19, 2008.
Opinion: "U.S. Plan to Fight Drugs in Mexico Bound to Falter Without Changes," Hal Brands, San Jose Mercury News Online, July 27, 2008.
Opinion: "The War on Terror Has Fizzled," Hal Brands, Hartford Courant, September 2, 2007.


"Thinking about Grand Strategy" (Army War College Monograph Series, forthcoming).
Explains what grand strategy is, why it is so important, and why it is so difficult. Uses examples from the Truman and Kissinger years to flesh out how policymakers might go about constructing a successful grand strategy.
"Conspiring Bastards: Saddam Hussein’s Strategic View of the United States" Diplomatic History 36, no. 3 (forthcoming).
Looks at the evolution of Saddam’s perceptions of U.S. policy in the Middle East during the 1970s and 1980s, and debunks the “green-light” theory of why Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990.
"Saddam, Israel, and the Bomb: Nuclear Alarmism Justified?" International Security 36, no. 1 (2011): 133-166.
Explores the ways that Saddam’s rivalry with Israel influenced his desire for nuclear weapons, and examines the role of chemical weapons on Iraqi policy during the 1990-91 Gulf War.
"Latin America’s Cold War" (Harvard University Press, 2010).
Examines U.S., Cuban, and Soviet policies toward Latin America during the Cold War; looks at the ways that foreign intervention shaped Latin American politics, society, and economy from World War II onward.
"Mexico’s Narco-Insurgency and U.S. Counter-Narcotics Policy," Army War College Monograph Series, April 30, 2009.
Explains the rise of narcotics-related violence in Mexico, analyzes the tactics of the major drug-trafficking organizations, and offers policy guidance for the U.S. and Mexican governments.
"From Berlin to Baghdad: America’s Search for Purpose in the Post-Cold War World" (University Press of Kentucky, 2008).
Analyzes the foreign policies of the Bush, Clinton, and Bush administrations and discusses the difficulties of crafting grand strategy in the post-Cold War environment.