Barry Posen

Barry R. Posen

Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT

Director of the MIT Security Studies Program

CV (pdf)

Security studies; international relations; international security; military strategy; restraint; nuclear studies; military doctrine.


Barry R. Posen is Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT, Director of the MIT Security Studies Program, and serves on the Executive Committee of Seminar XXI. He has written three books, Restraint-A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy, Inadvertent Escalation: Conventional War and Nuclear Risks and The Sources of Military Doctrine. The latter won two awards: The American Political Science Association's Woodrow Wilson Foundation Book Award, and Ohio State University's Edward J. Furniss Jr. Book Award. He is also the author of numerous articles, including "The Case for Restraint," The American Interest, (November/December 2007) and "Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony," International Security, (Summer, 2003.) He has been a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow; Rockefeller Foundation International Affairs Fellow; Guest Scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow; Smithsonian Institution; Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and most recently Visiting Fellow at the John Sloan Dickey Center at Dartmouth College.


Professor Posen's principal research interest is US Grand Strategy and National Security Policy. He also focuses on US military strategy, force structure and capabilities, and force posture (the global distribution of U.S. military forces.) First, what is the grand strategy today, how did we get here, and how well is it working? Second, what major trends in the world might speak to the need for change? Specific trends under examination are changes in the global distribution of material power; the political mobilization of large numbers of young people, especially as it relates to identity politics; and the diffusion of military technology and techniques that permit the weak to better tilt with the strong. Third, what might a changed US grand strategy and its associated military strategy and force structure, which would be more responsive to emerging trends, look like?

Recent Publications

Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy, Cornell University Press, 2014.

"Pull Back: The Case for a Less Activist Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs, January/February 2013.

"Overkill," (part of "The Containment Conundrum: How Dangerous is a Nuclear Iran?") Foreign Affairs, July/August 2010, pp. 160-163.

"Emerging Multipolarity: Why Should We Care?" Current History (November 2009) pp. 347-352.

Breakthroughs:  Armored Offensives in Western Europe, 1944. With Eric Heginbotham, Nick Beldecos, Kevin Oliveau, Jonathan Ladinsky, Brian Nichiporuk, Eugene Gholz, and and Ken Pollack. July 2009.

"Restraining Order," The American Interest, Vol. 3, No. 3, January-February 2008, pp. 94-97.


17.462 Innovation in Military Organizations
17.468 Foundations of Security Studies
17.478 Great Power Military Intervention
17.482-3 U.S. Military Power
17.484 Comparative Grand Strategy and Military Doctrine
17.951 Intelligence: Practices, Problems and Prospects


The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony

Barry R. Posen Foreign Affairs

Grand strategy is a slippery concept, and for those attempting to divine the Trump administration’s, its National Security Strategy—a word salad of a document—yields little insight. The better way to understand Trump’s approach to the world is to look at a year’s worth of actual policies.

The Price of War With North Korea

Barry R. Posen The New York Times

During his first official trip to Asia last month, President Trump issued a stern warning to North Korea: “Do not underestimate us. And do not try us.” But for his part, Mr. Trump should not underestimate the steep human cost of initiating a war against Pyongyang.

Posen wins 2017 Frank E. Perkins Award

MIT Institute Awards

Barry Posen is the 2017 recipient of the Frank E. Perkins Award for Excellence in Graduate Advising in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. The Frank E. Perkins Award is presented to a faculty member who, as a graduate student advisor, demonstrates unbounded compassion and dedication towards students.