Assistant Professor of Public Policy and History, Duke University
Durham, NC 27708
Areas of Expertise & Civic InvolvementsBrands 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.
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.
Media ContributionsBrands’ research has been quoted, cited or discussed in New York Times, Washington Times, The Independent, El Universal (Mexico), World Politics Review, CNN.com, Raleigh News & Observer, Estado de Sao Paulo, Guatemala Times, Reuters, The News (Pakistan), Folha de Sao Paulo, El Paso Times, El Periodico de Gutemala, Central American Data, Milenio Online (Mexico), and La Republica (Uruguay). Here is a selection of his media contributions:
"Why Did Saddam Want the Bomb? The Israel Factor and the Iraqi Nuclear Program," Foreign Policy Research Institute E-Notes, August 1, 2010.
"Los Zetas and the Transnational Drug War in Mexico," World Politics Review, September 15, 2009.
"The Rise of the Center in Latin America," World Politics Review, July 13, 2009.
"Third-Generation Gangs and Criminal Insurgency in Latin America," Small Wars Journal, July 1, 2009.
"Gangs and the New Insurgency in Latin America," World Politics Review, June 10, 2009.
"Mexico’s Narco-Insurgency," World Politics Review, December 22, 2008.
"Lo que no funcionará de nuevo," El Universal, August 31, 2008.
"U.S.-Latin American Relations: Future Challenges," American Diplomacy, August 19, 2008.
"U.S. Plan to Fight Drugs in Mexico Bound to Falter Without Changes," San Jose Mercury News Online, July 27, 2008.
"The War on Terror Has Fizzled," Hartford Courant, September 2, 2007.
Talks and Briefings
"Crime and Violence in Latin America: Guatemala as a Case Study," Air Force Special Operations School, July 16, 2010.
"Crime, Violence, and the Crisis in Guatemala: A Case Study in the Erosion of the State," RAND Corporation (Washington Office), January 13, 2010.
"Mexico’s Narco-Insurgency and Implications for U.S. Policy," George Mason Conference on Transnational Crime and Terrorism, September 10, 2009.
"The Latin American Challenge to U.S. and Western Hegemony," International Security Studies Colloquium, Yale University, March 21, 2008.