Edward Luttwak

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Edward N. Luttwak
Edward Luttwak.jpg
Born (1942-11-04) 4 November 1942 (age 78)
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)

Edward Nicolae Luttwak (born 4 November 1942) is an author known for his works on grand 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 nine other languages, is widely used at war colleges around the world.[1]

Early life[edit]

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


After boarding school in Berkshire where he joined the British Army cadet corps, Luttwak moved to London at age 16 where he studied in grammar school, and later analytical economics at the London School of Economics.[2] In 1968, when Luttwak 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 the Middle East. The spy fiction author John le Carré praised the book and compared Luttwak to Machiavelli. In 1969 Luttwak graduated from the London School of Economics (LSE).[1]

Luttwak was a war volunteer in Israel in 1967 and later worked for the Israeli army. In 1972 he moved to the United States for graduate studies at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore where 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.[3][4] Earlier, during a two month 1969 Washington visit, like his LSE roommate Richard Perle, Luttwak joined the Washington, D.C. thinktank Committee to Maintain a Prudent Defence Policy, assembled by Dean Acheson and Paul Nitze to lobby the Congress for anti-ballistic missile systems.[1][5]

In late 1974 and into 1975 a series of articles were published by neoconservative intellectuals, discussing whether the US military should seize the Saudi Arabian oil fields. In March 1975 Harper's Magazine published an article Luttwak had written under the Pseudonym "Miles Ignotus" with the title "Seizing Arab Oil". Luttwak had published the gist of his argument on how to break Arab power previously under the title "Obsolescent Elites" using his real name in the London Times Literary Supplement. He suggested U.S. Marines should storm the Saudi Arabian eastern beaches, assisted by 82nd Airborne Division. The article and the author attracted considerable attention. But there is no evidence the Ford administration considered military intervention. In 2004 Luttwak told the Wall Street Journal he wrote the article "after discussion with several like-minded consultants and officials in the Pentagon". James Atkins, then US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, publicly denounced the "invasion scenario" as a product of "sick minds".[6]

In 1976 he 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 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 Western Europe because in the 1980s Luttwak became a security consultant to US president Ronald Reagan.[7]

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.[8] Luttwak became known for his innovative policy ideas, suggesting for example that major powers' attempts to quell regional wars actually make conflicts more protracted.[9] Luttwak went on to provide consulting services to multinational corporations and government agencies including various branches of the US government and the US military.[10]

He 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.[11] In 1997, with three partners, he purchased 17,000 hectares of land in the Bolivian Amazon where Luttwak set up a cattle ranch.[1]

Luttwak was a lecturer in economics at the University of Bath from 1964 to 1966.[12] In 2004 Luttwak was awarded an honorary doctorate degree (LLD) from the University of Bath. He also received honorary degrees from a university in Arad, Romania and the University of Bucharest.[13] His book The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire was published in late 2009.[1]

Leon Wieseltier, who knew Edward Luttwak since the Reagan years wrote, "But 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]



In 2009 Richard Posner analyzed intellectuals with a public profile in the US. Posner claims that Luttwak sees many affinities between the United States and the declining Roman empire, leading Luttwak to predict a looming dark age, one in which the US population will experience decline into the Third World.[14] According to Posner, Luttwak retained his economic pessimism when the economy of the United States stood at the turn of the century. 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 crime rates and job insecurity, as anticipated in his London Review of Books article "Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future".[15]

Posner and other analysts also examined Luttwak's predictions shortly 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.'" The ground fighting lasted only four days, rather than the minimum of two weeks, and US casualties were minimal. Writing a month into the bombing, Luttwak still opposed a ground campaign. He forecasted that it would lead inevitably to a military occupation of Iraq from which we would be unable to disengage without disastrous foreign policy consequences.[16]

Luttwak has 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 which Luttwak envisaged enduring for a millennium.[17] More recently 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."[18]

On grand strategy[edit]

Edward Luttwak in 2011

The idea of a grand strategy in geopolitics and national security gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s. The 1969 book The Politics of Grand Strategy: Britain and France Prepare for War, 1904-1914 by the US historian Samuel R. Williamson Jr. first applied the grand strategy concept to Anglo-French war planning prior to World War I. In the 1973 book Grand Strategy; Principles and Practices John M Collins lectured the reader on how a military grand strategy is relevant to the US in the post-World War II era. In 1979 Luttwak followed with his book The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire from the First Century AD to the Third. The controversy that followed Luttwak's book increased the wider interest in grand strategy. The academics Barry Posen and Paul Kennedy subsequently interpreted grand strategy for the time after the lost Vietnam War. The economic historian Alan Milward started to detect a strategic synthesis that could explain all factors that needed to be taken into account, that being political, military, social and psychological.[19]

While Luttwak has ever since insisted on the necessity of a grand strategy, he moved beyond the preoccupation with military intervention of his book on the Roman empire.[20] Luttwak started to theorize diplomacy and military alliances. The next subject of his historic investigation was the Soviet Union. 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 which were ignored by both Kreminologists and US intelligence. Luttwak concluded that the Soviet Union relied entirely on military instruments for its grand strategy.[21] Luttwak argued that Carl von Clausewitz's warning against aggressor 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, instead grand strategy was a political utility were diplomacy and alliances needed to achieve the military security of the state.[22] 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.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Luttwak describes himself as a "fanatical snorkeler" and exercises everyday.[24] He lives with his wife in Maryland.[24]


Several books among those listed below have also been published in foreign language editions, in Arabic, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Indonesian (Bahasa), Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (and Brazilian Portuguese) Romanian, Russian, Spanish (Spain, also in Argentina and Venezuela), Swedish, and Turkish.


  • Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook (London, Allen Lane, 1968; Revised Edition: Cambridge, MA, 1979; London, 1979; Sydney, 1979) ISBN 978-0713900675
  • A Dictionary of Modern War (London, Allen Lane, 1971; revised edition in 1991 with Stuart L. Koehl; new edition in 1998) ISBN 978-0713901306
  • The Strategic Balance, 1972 (New York, Library Press, 1972) ISBN 978-0912050331
  • The Political Uses of Sea Power (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974) ISBN 978-0801816598
  • The US–USSR Nuclear Weapons Balance (Beverly Hills, Sage Publications, 1974) ISBN 978-0803900967
  • The Israeli Army: 1948-1973 (with Daniel Horowitz) (New York, HarperCollins and London, Allen Lane, 1975) ISBN 978-0713902297
  • The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire from the First Century AD to the Third (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976) ISBN 978-0801818639
  • Strategic Power: Military Capabilities and Political Utility (California, 1976) ISBN 0-8039-0659-5
  • Sea Power in the Mediterranean: Political Utility and Military Constraints (California, 1979) ISBN 0-8191-6010-5
  • Strategy and Politics: Collected Essays (New Brunswick, Transaction Publishers, 1980), ISBN 978-0878553464
  • The Grand Strategy of the Soviet Union (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1983) ISBN 978-0312342609
  • The Pentagon and the Art of War: The Question of Military Reform (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1985) ISBN 978-0671524326
  • Strategy and History: Collected Essays, Volume Two (New Brunswick, Transaction Publishers, 1985) ISBN 978-0887380655
  • On the Meaning of Victory: Essays on Strategy (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1986), ISBN 978-0671610890
  • Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1987) ISBN 978-0674839953
  • The Endangered American Dream: How To Stop the United States from Being a Third World Country and How To Win the Geo-Economic Struggle for Industrial Supremacy (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1993) ISBN 978-0067186930
  • Turbo-Capitalism: Winners and Losers in the Global Economy (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998), ISBN 978-0297818847
  • Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, Revised and Enlarged Edition (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2002) ISBN 978-0-674-00703-1
  • The Middle of Nowhere: Why the Middle East Is Not Important (London, Atlantic Books, 2008) ISBN 978-1843548188
  • The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2009) ISBN 978-0-674-03519-5
  • The Virtual American Empire: War, Faith, And Power (New Brunswick and London, Transaction Publishers, 2009) ISBN 978-1412810401
  • The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2012) ISBN 978-0-674-06642-7

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
  • Rejuvenating Japan: a national strategy 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 ... (Tokyo: Asuka Shinsha, 2019) ISBN 978-4-86410-728-0 [in Japanese only, 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)[25] ISBN 978-1557530028
  • The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 1991 edited by Grethe B. Peterson with Strategy: A New Era?[26] (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. ^ The Johns Hopkins University (1975). "The Johns Hopkins University 1975 Commencement Program". Johns Hopkins University.
  3. ^ Rozen, Laura (June 5, 2008). "The Operator: The Double Life of a Military Strategist". The Forward. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  4. ^ The Johns Hopkins University (1975). "The Johns Hopkins University 1975 Commencement Program". Johns Hopkins University.
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Sidebottom, Harry (2004). Ancient Warfare: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. p. 72. ISBN 9780191577970.
  8. ^ "Strategy — Edward N. Luttwak". Harvard University Press. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  9. ^ Luttwak, Edward (July–August 1999). "Give War a Chance". Foreign Affairs. 78 (4): 36–44. doi:10.2307/20049362. JSTOR 20049362. S2CID 150572796.
  10. ^ Professional Profile: Edward Luttwak Archived December 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Idcitalia.com. Accessed March 11, 2012.
  11. ^ "Edward N. Luttwak". igs.berkeley.edu. Institute of Governmental Studies - UC Berkeley. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  12. ^ Luttwak, Edward (November–December 1973). "The Political Application of Naval Force: A Precis". Naval War College Review. 26 (3): 38–40. JSTOR 44641436.
  13. ^ "The names of our honorary graduates and which degrees were conferred upon them". www.bath.ac.uk. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  14. ^ Posner, Richard A. (2009). Public Intellectuals. Harvard University Press. p. 294. ISBN 9780674042278.
  15. ^ Posner, Richard A. (2009). Public Intellectuals. Harvard University Press. p. 142. ISBN 9780674042278.
  16. ^ Posner, Richard A. (2009). Public Intellectuals. Harvard University Press. p. 143. ISBN 9780674042278.
  17. ^ Thomas Meaney, 'The Machiavelli of Maryland,' The Guardian 9 December 2015
  18. ^ Edward N. Luttwak, "Suffering From Trumphobia? Get Over It," Wall Street Journal, 10 March 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/suffering-from-trumphobia-get-over-it-1457565216
  19. ^ Milevski, Lukas (2016). The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. Oxford University Press. pp. 110–111. ISBN 9780198779773.
  20. ^ Milevski, Lukas (2016). The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. Oxford University Press. p. 111. ISBN 9780198779773.
  21. ^ Milevski, Lukas (2016). The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. Oxford University Press. p. 115. ISBN 9780198779773.
  22. ^ Milevski, Lukas (2016). The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. Oxford University Press. p. 116. ISBN 9780198779773.
  23. ^ Frum, David (May 3, 2007). "Luttwak's Cakewalk". National Review. Archived from the original on September 21, 2013. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  24. ^ a b "Interview with Edward Luttwak". Interviews with Max Raskin. Retrieved September 10, 2021.
  25. ^ McGovern, George; Westmoreland, William; Luttwak, Edward; McCormick, Thomas; Hearden, Patrick (November 15, 1990). "Vietnam, Four American Perspectives: Lectures". Purdue University Press Books: 112.
  26. ^ "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]