Edward Luttwak

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Edward N. Luttwak
Born (1942-11-04) 4 November 1942 (age 81)
Arad, Romania
Alma materLondon School of Economics and Political Science
Johns Hopkins University
Known forCoup d'État: A Practical Handbook (1968)
Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace (1987)
The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy (2012)

Edward Nicolae Luttwak (born 4 November 1942) is an American author known for his works on grand strategy, military strategy, geoeconomics, military history, and international relations. He is best known for being the author of Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook. His book Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, also published in Chinese, Russian and ten other languages, is widely used at war colleges around the world. His books are currently published in 29 languages besides English.[1]

Early life[edit]

Luttwak was born into a Jewish[2] family in Arad, Romania, and raised in Sicily and in England.[1]


After attending a boarding school in Berkshire, where he joined the British Army cadet corps, Luttwak moved to London at the age of 16 and went to a grammar school. He then studied analytical economics at the London School of Economics.[3] In 1968, when he was 26 and working in London as a consultant for the oil industry, he published the book Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook, a pastiche of a military manual. The book explains in detail how to overthrow the government of a state, looking in particular at coups d'état on the African continent and in the Middle East. The spy fiction author John le Carré praised the book and compared Luttwak to Machiavelli. Luttwak graduated from the London School of Economics in 1969.[1]

Luttwak was a war volunteer in Israel in 1967 and later worked for the Israel Defense Forces. In 1972 he moved to the United States for graduate studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He graduated with a PhD in International Relations in 1975. The title of his dissertation was Force and Diplomacy in Roman Strategies of Imperial Security.[4][5] Earlier, during a two-month visit to Washington, D.C. in 1969, Luttwak and Richard Perle, his former roommate in London, joined a thinktank, the Committee to Maintain a Prudent Defence Policy, assembled by Dean Acheson and Paul Nitze to lobby Congress for anti-ballistic missile systems.[1][6]

In late 1974 and into 1975 a series of articles was published by neoconservative intellectuals discussing whether the US military should seize the oilfields in Saudi Arabia. In March 1975, Harper's Magazine published an article that Luttwak had written under the pseudonym "Miles Ignotus" with the title "Seizing Arab Oil". Luttwak had previously published the gist of his argument on how to break Arab power under the title "Obsolescent Elites", using his real name, in The Times Literary Supplement. He suggested that U.S. Marines, assisted by the 82nd Airborne Division, should storm the eastern beaches of Saudi Arabia. The article and the author attracted considerable attention, but there is no evidence that the Ford administration ever considered such an intervention. James Akins, then U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, publicly denounced the "invasion scenario" as a product of "sick minds". In 2004 Luttwak told the Wall Street Journal that he had written the article "after discussion with several like-minded consultants and officials in the Pentagon".[7]

In 1976 Luttwak published The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire from the First Century AD to the Third, which generated controversy among professional historians who saw Luttwak as an outsider and a non-specialist in the field. However, the book is recognized as seminal because it raised basic questions about the Roman Army and its defense of the Roman frontier. Later he started researching the Byzantine empire, beginning with its earliest surviving texts.[1] According to Harry Sidebottom, the majority of scholars were hostile to Luttwak's enthusiasm for fighting wars on client state territory and the book made uncomfortable reading in some circles in western Europe because in the 1980s Luttwak became a security consultant to U.S. President Ronald Reagan.[8]

In 1987 Luttwak published Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace.[1] According to Luttwak's publisher, Harvard University Press, the book has been widely acclaimed.[9] Luttwak became known for his innovative ideas. He suggested, for example, that attempts by major powers to quell regional wars actually make conflicts more protracted.[10]

Luttwak went on to provide consulting services to multinational corporations and government agencies, including various branches of the U.S. government and the U.S. military.[11]

Luttwak has served on the editorial boards of Géopolitique (France), the Journal of Strategic Studies, The European Journal of International Affairs, and the Washington Quarterly. He speaks English, French, Hebrew, Italian,and Spanish, in addition to his native Romanian.[12] In 1997, with three partners, he purchased 19,000 hectares of land in the Bolivian Amazon, where he set up a cattle ranch.[1]

Luttwak was a lecturer in economics at the University of Bath from 1964 to 1966.[13] In 2004 Luttwak was awarded an honorary doctorate degree (LLD) from the University of Bath. He has also received honorary degrees from a university in Arad, Romania and another from Timisoara's University as well as the University of Bucharest.[14] His book The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire was published in late 2009.[1]

Leon Wieseltier, who got to know Luttwak during the Reagan years, wrote: "Edward was this figure out of a Werner Herzog film. He was not some person who had read a bit of Tacitus and now worked at the Pentagon. He knew all the languages, the geographies, the cultures, the histories. He is the most bizarre humanist I have ever met."[1] Luttwak has said that he has used Akira Kurosawa's film Seven Samurai to train men to fight in war, including villagers in El Salvador.[2]

Edward Luttwak holds an issue of Lotta Comunista, Italian Left Communist monthly
Edward Luttwak holds an issue of Lotta Comunista, Italian Left Communist monthly


Before the first Persian Gulf War Luttwak incorrectly predicted that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would evacuate Kuwait "after a week or two of bombing [the bombing continued for six weeks without inducing him to do so] and warned that the use of ground forces without heavy preliminary bombing 'could make Desert Storm a bloody, grinding combat with thousands of (US) casualties.'" Writing a month into the bombing, Luttwak still opposed a ground campaign. He forecast that it would lead inevitably to a military occupation of Iraq from which the United States would be unable to disengage without disastrous foreign policy consequences.[15]

In the 1999 book Turbo-Capitalism: Winners and Losers in the Global Economy Luttwak predicted that dynamic economic growth would increase ugly social phenomena such as higher crime rates and job insecurity, as anticipated in his London Review of Books article "Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future".[16]

In 2009, Richard Posner analyzed intellectuals with a public profile in the U.S. Posner claimed that Luttwak sees many affinities between the United States and the declining Roman Empire, leading Luttwak to predict a dark age in which the U.S. population will experience decline into third world status. According to Posner, Luttwak retained his economic pessimism when the economy of the United States stood at the turn of the century.[17]

In 2015, Luttwak predicted that the Middle East will be embroiled in internecine war for the next thousand years, thanks to the "brilliant stroke" of strategic genius, far exceeding even Bismarck's abilities, exemplified by George W. Bush when he ignited a religious war between Sunnis and Shiites.[18]

Luttwak predicted in a 2016 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that the Trump administration would pursue a foreign policy "unlikely to deviate from standard conservative norms", withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, avoiding involvement in Syria and Libya, eschewing trade wars, and modestly reducing spending — in short, "changes at the margin".[19] In office, Trump ordered dropping the "mother of all bombs" but did not withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, kindled trade wars with the EU by imposing punitive tariffs, and, rather than reducing military spending, Trump increased the military budget with deficit spending.[20]

On grand strategy[edit]

Edward Luttwak in 2011

Luttwak has long insisted on the necessity of a grand strategy, but he moved beyond preoccupation with military intervention,[21] and started to theorize diplomacy and military alliances. His Grand Strategy of the Soviet Union (1983) was the first English-language text that recognized the different nationalities that were re-emerging in the USSR and were ignored by both "Kremlinologists" and U.S. intelligence. Luttwak concluded that the Soviet Union relied entirely on military instruments for its grand strategy.[22]

Luttwak argued that Carl von Clausewitz's warning against aggressive wars was no longer relevant in the post-World War II era. He reasoned that when confronted with weapons of mass destruction, statecraft needed a grand strategy, that is, "the firm subordination of tactical priorities, material ideals, and warlike instincts to political goals". For Luttwak, grand strategy was no longer a military doctrine, but a political issue, and diplomacy was needed to achieve the security of the state.[23]

Writing in 2007 for the National Review, former George W. Bush's speechwriter David Frum said of Luttwak: "His book on the grand strategy of the Roman Empire was terrific, and his Coup d'État is that astounding thing: a great work of political science that is also a hilarious satire.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Luttwak describes himself as a "fanatical snorkeler" and exercises every day.[2] He lives with his wife in Maryland.[2] He has a son and daughter, as well as three grandchildren.[25] Luttwak does not own a smartphone.[2]


Several of his books as listed below have also been published in other English-language editions in the UK, US, and India, and in foreign languages: Arabic, Bahasa, Chinese simplified, Chinese traditional, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Bahasa Indonesia, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (and Brazilian Portuguese), Romanian, Russian, Spanish (in Spain, Argentina and Venezuela), Swedish, Thai, and Turkish. He has also published other books in Italian and in Japanese only.


In Japanese only:

  • "China 4.0" (Tokyo, 2016) ISBN 978-4166610631
  • "Japan 4.0" (Tokyo, 2018) ISBN 978-4166611829
  • "Japan 4.0" in Mongolian only (Cyrillic) (Ulaan Baatar, 2019) ISBN 978-9919-9504-0-8
  • ルトワックの日本改造論/エドワード・ルトワック/著 奥山真司/訳 ... [Rejuvenating Japan: A National Strategy] (Tokyo: Asuka Shinsha, 2019) ISBN 978-4-86410-728-0 [co-authored with Dr. Okuyama Masashi].

In Italian only:

  • Che cos'è davvero la democrazia (What really is democracy) with Susanna Creperio Verratti (Milan, Arnoldo Mondadori, 1995) ISBN 978-8804408697
  • Il fantasma della povertà: una nuova politica per difendere il benessere dei cittadini (The ghost of poverty: a new policy to defend the wellbeing of citizens) with Carlo Pelanda and Giulio Tremonti (Milan, Arnoldo Mondadori, 1995) ISBN 978-8804400660
  • Dove va l'Italia? Intervista a Edward Luttwak (Where is Italy going? Interview with Edward Luttwak) with Gianni Perrelli (Newton Compton, 1997) ISBN 978-8881837267
  • Il libro delle libertà. Il cittadino e lo stato: regole, diritti e doveri in una democrazia (The book of liberties. The citizen and the state: rules, rights and duties in a democracy) with Susanna Creperio Verratti (Arnoldo Mondadori, 2000) ISBN 978-8804408703
  • I nuovi condottieri. Vincere nel XXI secolo (The new leaders. Winning in the 21st century) with Arduino Paniccia (Padua, Marsilio, 2000) ISBN 978-8831775106

As contributor:

  • Vietnam: Four American Perspectives edited by Patrick J. Hearden with The Impact of Vietnam on Strategic Thinking in the United States (Purdue University Press, 1990)[26] ISBN 978-1557530028
  • The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 1991 edited by Grethe B. Peterson with Strategy: A New Era?[27] (University of Utah, 1991) ISBN 978-0874803501
  • Feeding Mars: Logistics in Western Warfare from the Middle Ages to the Present edited by John A. Lynn with Logistics and the Aristocratic Idea of War (Boulder, Westview Press, 1994)
  • Voluntary Simplicity: Responding to Consumer Culture edited by Daniel Doherty and Amitai Etzioni with Consuming For Love (Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003) ISBN 978-0742520660

Preface, foreword:

  • The Parameters Of War: Military History from the Journal of the U.S. Army War College edited by Lloyd J. Matthews and Dale E. Brown (Washington, Pergamon-Brassey's, 1987) ISBN 978-0080355474
  • Strategic Air Power in Desert Storm by John Andreas Olsen (London, Routledge, 2003) ISBN 978-0714651934
  • Free Trade Doesn't Work by Ian Fletcher (U.S. Business & Industry Council, 2010; revised edition in 2011) ISBN 978-0578079677
  • La Repubblica dei mandarini. Viaggio nell'Italia della burocrazia, delle tasse e delle leggi inutili (The Republic of mandarins. Travel in the Italy of bureaucracy, taxes and unnecessary laws) by Paolo Bracalini (Padua, Marsilio, 2014) ISBN 978-8831716758

Selected book reviews[edit]

Luttwak has written book reviews for publications such as The American Spectator, Commentary Magazine, London Review of Books, The New Republic, and The New York Times.

Selected articles[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Meaney, Thomas (September 9, 2015). "The Machiavelli of Maryland". The Guardian. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Interview with Edward Luttwak". Interviews with Max Raskin. Archived from the original on September 10, 2021. Retrieved September 10, 2021.
  3. ^ The Johns Hopkins University (1975). "The Johns Hopkins University 1975 Commencement Program". Johns Hopkins University.
  4. ^ Rozen, Laura (June 5, 2008). "The Operator: The Double Life of a Military Strategist". The Forward. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  5. ^ The Johns Hopkins University (1975). "The Johns Hopkins University 1975 Commencement Program". Johns Hopkins University.
  6. ^ Mann, James. Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 2004, pp. 31-32. ISBN 9780143034896
  7. ^ Yaqub, Salim (2016). Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.–Middle East Relations in the 1970s. Cornell University Press. pp. 192–193, 392. ISBN 9781501706882.
  8. ^ Sidebottom, Harry (2004). Ancient Warfare: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. p. 72. ISBN 9780191577970.
  9. ^ "Strategy — Edward N. Luttwak". Harvard University Press. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  10. ^ Luttwak, Edward (July–August 1999). "Give War a Chance". Foreign Affairs. 78 (4): 36–44. doi:10.2307/20049362. JSTOR 20049362. S2CID 150572796.
  11. ^ Professional Profile: Edward Luttwak Archived December 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Idcitalia.com. Accessed March 11, 2012.
  12. ^ "Edward N. Luttwak". igs.berkeley.edu. Institute of Governmental Studies - UC Berkeley. August 26, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  13. ^ Luttwak, Edward (November–December 1973). "The Political Application of Naval Force: A Precis". Naval War College Review. 26 (3): 38–40. JSTOR 44641436.
  14. ^ "The names of our honorary graduates and which degrees were conferred upon them". www.bath.ac.uk. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  15. ^ Posner, Richard A. (2009). Public Intellectuals. Harvard University Press. p. 143. ISBN 9780674042278.
  16. ^ Posner, Richard A. (2009). Public Intellectuals. Harvard University Press. p. 142. ISBN 9780674042278.
  17. ^ Posner, Richard A. (2009). Public Intellectuals. Harvard University Press. p. 294. ISBN 9780674042278.
  18. ^ Thomas Meaney, 'The Machiavelli of Maryland,' The Guardian, 9 December 2015
  19. ^ Luttwak, Edward N. (March 9, 2016). "Suffering From Trumphobia? Get Over It". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 11, 2023.
  20. ^ "Trump's Fiscal Legacy: A Comprehensive Overview of Spending, Taxes, and Deficits". May 11, 2022.
  21. ^ Milevski, Lukas (2016). The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. Oxford University Press. p. 111. ISBN 9780198779773.
  22. ^ Milevski, Lukas (2016). The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. Oxford University Press. p. 115. ISBN 9780198779773.
  23. ^ Milevski, Lukas (2016). The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. Oxford University Press. p. 116. ISBN 9780198779773.
  24. ^ Frum, David (May 3, 2007). "Luttwak's Cakewalk". National Review. Archived from the original on September 21, 2013. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  25. ^ Luttwak, Edward (2001). Strategy : the logic of war and peace (Rev. and enl. ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-00703-1.
  26. ^ McGovern, George; Westmoreland, William; Luttwak, Edward; McCormick, Thomas; Hearden, Patrick (November 15, 1990). "Vietnam, Four American Perspectives: Lectures". Purdue University Press Books: 112.
  27. ^ "Lecture Library - The Tanner Lectures on Human Values - The University of Utah". tannerlectures.utah.edu. Retrieved February 25, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]