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The Lessons of Military History for Today: From Ukraine to Taiwan

Thu, September 21, 2023
Dinner Program
Michael O'Hanlon

Military history offers innumerable lessons for today. It can inspire, with tales of human heroism. It can teach tactical lessons about battle. Military history can also stitch those tactical ideas from individual battles together into narratives about broader campaigns and about strategy. Finally, military history can offer lessons as to the mistakes humans, and leaders in particular, seem most prone to make when undertaking military operations—most of all, the cardinal sin of overconfidence. Can leaders today reflect enough on these lessons to find a way to end the war in Ukraine and prevent one against China over Taiwan?

Michael E. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow and director of research in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in U.S. defense strategy, the use of military force, and American national security policy. He directs the Strobe Talbott Center on Security, Strategy and Technology, as well as the Defense Industrial Base working group, and is the inaugural holder of the Philip H. Knight Chair in Defense and Strategy. He co-directs the Africa Security Initiative as well. He is an adjunct professor at Columbia, Georgetown, and George Washington universities, and a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He also serves as a member of the Defense Policy Board at the U.S. Department of Defense. O’Hanlon was a member of the external advisory board at the Central Intelligence Agency from 2011-12. O’Hanlon’s latest book, Military History for the Modern Strategist: America’s Major Wars Since 1861 (Brookings and Rowman & Littlefield, 2023) was published in January 2023.

Dr. O'Hanlon will deliver the 2023-24 Lecture in Diplomacy and International Security in Honor of George F. Kennan.

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