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Building Strategic Competence: Lessons from Battlegrounds Overseas & in D.C.

, Virtual Meeting Room

Updated 2/12

Lt. General H.R. McMaster

Former National Security Officer, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Live streamed programs. Advance registration required.


Building Strategic Competence: Lessons from Battlegrounds Overseas & in D.C.

The series draws on the lecturer’s experience as a general officer in the United States Army and as the United States’ 26th Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs to illuminate critical aspects of leadership, strategy development, and effective implementation. The series places the lecturer’s experiences in the context of history and aims to understand how the past produced the present as the first step in anticipating the future. The objective is for students to develop their own theory of strategic competence. Seminars will focus on aspects of strategic competence and elements of effective leadership. Students will discuss real-world, complex problems to illuminate the following elements of strategic competence such as:

 - Developing an organization’s vision and mission

 - Framing complex problems

 - Reasoning by historical analogy

 - Fostering collaboration, gaining interdisciplinary perspectives

 - Building relationships and coping with difficult personalities

 - Anticipating and organizing for rapid decision-making

 - Assessing progress and building flexibility into plans and organizations

 - Balancing short- and long-term perspectives

 - Driving sensible implementation

Dates & Times

 - Tuesday, February 2 at 12:00 p.m. (EST)

 - Tuesday, February 9 at 12:00 p.m. (EST)

 - Tuesday, February 23 at 12:00 p.m. (EST)

 - Tuesday, March 9 at 12:00 p.m. (EST) / Recommended Readings, Articles: The Future of South Asian Security

 - Tuesday, March 23 at 12:00 p.m. (EST)


About Lt. General H.R. McMaster

Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, US Army (Ret.) serves as the Chairman of the Board of Advisors at the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. General McMaster was the 26th assistant to the president for National Security Affairs. He served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army for thirty-four years before retiring as a Lieutenant General in June 2018.

From 2014 to 2017 General McMaster designed the future army as the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center and the deputy commanding general of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

General McMaster was an assistant professor of history at the United States Military Academy from 1994 to 1996 where he taught undergraduate courses in military history and history of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He also taught a graduate course on the history of military leadership for officers enrolled in the Columbia University MBA program.

He is author of the award-winning book, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. He has published scores of essays, articles, and book reviews on leadership, history, and the future of warfare in many publications including Foreign Affairs, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. He was a contributing editor for Survival: Global Politics and Strategy from 2010 to 2017.

Seminar Details

- February 2, 12:00 Noon EST

The Policy Process: Pitfalls and Prescriptions

The discussion will draw on the pitfalls in developing Vietnam War policy and the fellow’s efforts to avoid those pitfalls as national security advisor.
Guest Lecturer: Megan Badasch

Recommended Reading/Watching:

 - The Evolution of America's Strategic Competence w/ H.R. McMaster

 - Explaining Strategic Competence with H.R. McMaster

 - Uncommon Knowledge: H. R. McMaster: The Policy “Battlegrounds” He Has Won, Lost, and Continues to Fight

 - Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, Conclusion

 - PolicyEd video on Embracing Strategic Empathy


- February 9, 12:00 Noon EST

The Case for Strategic Empathy as Foundational to Effective Foreign Policy

The discussion will critique US policy since the end of the Cold War as prone to strategic narcissism – the tendency to view crucial foreign policy challenges only in relation to the United States and undervalue the agency that rivals, adversaries and enemies have over the future. Examples include US policy toward China and Russia.
Guest Lecturer: Fiona Hill

Recommended Reading/Watching:

 - Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, Introduction, 1-19

 - How China Sees the World

 - HR McMaster on His Time as NSA, China, and History's Role in Policymaking

 - Embracing Strategic Empathy | The Fight to Defend the Free World with H.R. McMaster


- February 23, 12:00 Noon EST

Alien to Its Nature: Strategic Narcissism at War in Afghanistan and Iraq

The seminar will explore the implicit and fundamentally flawed assumptions that underpinned American war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those assumptions, based in large measure on neglect of continuities in the nature of war, increased the cost and length of the wars.
Guest Lecturer: Lisa Curtis


- March 9, 12:00 Noon EST

Rebutting Retrenchment: The Need for a Reasoned, Sustained and Sustainable Foreign Policy

The discussion will critique arguments for U.S. retrenchment and use the Middle East and the ‘long war’ against jihadist terrorist organizations as an example.
Guest Lecturer: Joel Rayburn

Recommended Reading/Watching: The Future of South Asian Security


- March 23, 12:00 Noon EST

Regaining Strategic Confidence: Competence and Self Respect as Requirements for Building a Better Future

The discussion will examine why improving competence and restoring national pride are important to competing effectively abroad and securing a future of peace and prosperity for America and the free world.
Guest Lecturer/s: Yll and Ylber Bajrakatari


Additional Resources

  • PolicyEd, Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, an 8-part investigation into the most critical foreign policy and security challenges faced by the United States. 

  • Battlegrounds Interviews (with foreign leaders).

Conferences. Panels. Speakers
School of Public Affairs, Sine Institute of Policy & Politics
School of Public Affairs
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