Paul D. Miller

Associate Director, The Clements Center

Location icon United States

Dr. Paul D. Miller is the Associate Director of the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also an adjunct political scientist at the RAND Corporation. He previously served as director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Staff in the White House; as an intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency; and in Afghanistan with the US Army.


Most Recent

The Federalist
Let's Resurrect The Federalist Party

There is a blame game afoot about whose fault Donald Trump is. Some blame Trump on the inner demons of the Right-Robert Kagan calls him the Republican Party's Frankenstein monster. Republicans voted for him, and conservative media enabled him, the natural result of years of obstructionism, conspiracy theories, and ideological fervor.

The Federalist
5 Reasons Every American Should Oppose Donald Trump

At long last, the pushback against Donald Trump has truly begun. Peter Wehner led the way in January, explaining "Why I Will Never Vote for Donald Trump." National Review devoted an entire issue to taking Trump down. Erick Erickson recently recanted his previous position and announced "I Will Not Vote for Donald Trump.

The Federalist
How The Left Created Donald Trump

At the dawn of western philosophy, Heraclitus mused on the " unity of opposites." Millennia later, Hegel argued (apocryphally) that any given thesis gave rise to its antithesis. In a different field, Sir Isaac Newton postulated that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction," and earlier this year Ultron sagely pronounced, "Everyone creates the thing they dread."

National Security

The Alcalde
The Weight of the World

The longest war in American history is over, but the mission is not accomplished. Now more than ever, the world needs our country to lead. On Dec. 28, 2014, after 13 years of Operation Enduring Freedom, the United States formally withdrew almost all troops from Afghanistan, ostensibly closing the Sept.

Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, Vol. 54, No. 5, Oct./Nov. 2012
Five Pillars of American Grand Strategy

Championing liberalism is only one component of US grand strategy. There are four others: defending the American homeland from attack, maintaining a favourable balance of power among the great powers, punishing rogue actors, and investing in good governance and allied capabilities abroad.2 Like support for democracy, these broad goals are well within the mainstream of US foreign policy; they enjoy bipartisan support, and have been remarkably consistent for decades. In fact, these five pillars...

Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, Vol. 54, No. 2, April/May 2012
American Grand Strategy and the Democratic Peace

US foreign policies for two decades have been justified with reference to the spread of democracy and human rights. As a grand narrative to explain America's role in the world, there is no credible alternative.

Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 3, September 2013
Organizing the National Security Council: I Like Ike's

The United States' national security establishment lacks an integrated strategic planning capability. The current National Security Council (NSC) system relies heavily on part-time committees that lack the clout and time to execute strategic planning. The president could overcome this difficulty by looking to President Eisenhower's NSC system.

Improving Strategic Competence: Lessons from 13 Years of War

Which lessons can be distilled from the U.S. experience in 13 years of war (2001-2014)? Which capabilities will be needed in the U.S. government, and in land and special operations forces in particular, in future irregular and hybrid conflicts to enable successful operation in conjunction with joint, interagency, and multinational partners?

Foreign Affairs, July/August 2012
National Insecurity

Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen ("Clear and Present Safety," March/April 2012) argue that "the world that the United States inhabits today is a remarkably safe and secure place." The country faces no "existential" threats, great-power war is unlikely, democracy and prosperity have spread, public health has improved, and few international challenges place American lives at risk.

Studies in Intelligence
Working for the War Czar

In the spring of 2007, President George W. Bush named Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute to serve as his assistant and deputy national security advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan to bring greater attention and coherence to US policymaking in those areas.I worked for General Lute from September 2007 through September 2009 as director for Afghanistan on the National Security Council staff. In this article, after an overview of the NSC and my role in it, I will offer what I consider to be the lessons of...

PRISM, Vol. 3, No. 1
The Case for Nation Building: Why and How to Fix Failed States

Nation-building has a bad reputation. It is widely seen as an impossible fool's errand that is too expensive for today's constrained budgets. That reputation is wrong. First, nation-building is not international charity. It is a necessary and pragmatic response to failed states that threaten regional stability. Time and time again, history has shown that state failure, when left unaddressed, causes demonstrable harm to neighbors, whole regions, and occasionally the international order itself....

Afghanistan and Pakistan

The Federalist
Why GOP Candidates Should Talk About Afghanistan

Somewhat remarkably, foreign policy is a campaign issue in the 2016 presidential race. I say "remarkably" because Americans are generally inattentive to the world beyond their shores, and because there is usually little political benefit to being a foreign policy wonk on the campaign trail.

The New Republic
America, Don't Give Up on Afghanistan

In May, President Barack Obama announced that U.S. forces would withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. "Our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component," he explained, "just as we've done in Iraq." The administration's recent decision to expand the kinds of missions U.S.
Afghanistan's Coming Coup?

In February 1989, the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan after ten years of brutal counterinsurgency warfare. International observers and Afghan rebels expected the swift collapse of the newly orphaned Afghan communist regime in Kabul, as did the regime itself.

The RAND Corporation
Democracy in Afghanistan: the 2014 Election and Beyond

Afghanistan's upcoming presidential election is the most important political event in that country's decade-long transition to democracy. A successful election would be a major blow to the Taliban and al Qaida, and would renew Afghan efforts to bring the war to a favorable conclusion. The defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan would be a major setback for similar groups worldwide, many of which look to Afghanistan as a sort of template for how to accomplish a jihadist takeover. By contrast, a...

Foreign Affairs, Vol. 90, No. 1, January/February 2011
Finish the Job: How the War in Afghanistan Can Be Won

Since 2001, Afghanistan's economy has grown at an impressive rate and major development indicators in the country have improved dramatically. Even security and the rule of law -- long neglected -- are now improving. Washington and its allies could still win in Afghanistan if they are given the time they need.

Survival: Global Politics and Strategy
The United States and Afghanistan After 2014

The United States is not scheduled to depart from Afghanistan in 2014 - a year for transition, not withdrawal. Nor should it, considering what is at stake. Publication: Survival: Global Politics and Strategy February-March 2013 The United States is not scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

World Affairs Journal, March/April 2012
It's Not Just Al-Qaeda: Stability in the Most Dangerous Region

Neither President Barack Obama nor the Republicans competing to run against him are eager to talk about the war in Afghanistan. The electorate certainly doesn’t want to hear about it. Defense analysts are acting like it ended when Iraq did. Even more amazing is that most analysts and policymakers seem to believe that, one way or another, it doesn’t actually matter very much that it didn’t.

The Washington Quarterly
How to Exercise US Leverage Over Pakistan

The United States has more leverage over Pakistan than is widely appreciated, and it is time for American policymakers to use it.
Promises, promises: The U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership

President Obama's surprise speech in Kabul on May 1 was a political stunt filled with the kind of mischaracterizations typical of a campaign, but the actual U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement that he signed while there was something of greater substance. Much of the agreement echoed the language and intent of the earlier 2005 Strategic Partnership Agreement.
Five steps to better politics in Afghanistan

In 2014, Afghanistan is scheduled to hold its third presidential election since 2004, just 18 months after the next U.S. presidential inauguration, and at the height of the withdrawal of the international military presence. Then, just a year later, they are supposed to hold a legislative election in 2015.
Congressional Oversight in Afghanistan

A bipartisan group of senators recently claimed the political scalp of Arnold Fields, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), after over a year of pressure on him to resign. "I have repeatedly raised concerns about the performance of the SIGAR," said Sen.

The Federalist
Don't Thank Me For My Military Service

Americans have welcomed home the 2.5 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, like me, with far greater warmth and gratitude than they did our predecessors from Vietnam. I welcome the expressions of national gratitude, but I fear it has already become pro forma: politically correct words we speak to pay lip service to the latest entitlement group.

The Federalist
Is Islam A Terrorist Religion?

In a widely-circulated article for The Atlantic, Graeme Wood reported on "our ignorance of the Islamic State" and judged "We have misunderstood the nature of" the group, in part because of "a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State's medieval religious nature."

The Federalist
ISIS And The Virtue of Moral Clarity

Michael Boyle, a professor at La Salle University and a good friend of mine, wrote in the New York Times last week of his concern over the demonization of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Getting to Negotiations in Syria

It appears that there is almost no prospect for a negotiated solution to the civil war in Syria in the near term. This is because the Syrian factions believe - perhaps rightly - that they have more to gain by carrying on the fight than by negotiating toward peace.

The Washington Post
When will the U.S. drone war end?

But bombing by drone is also an act of war that kills people. And wars are supposed to end. They have to have an end. Endless war is unacceptable and dangerous. The U.S. government simply cannot arrogate the right to wage an endless, global war against anyone it deems a threat to national security.

Middle East

The Fading Arab Oil Empire

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S pivot to East Asia is well-timed. The geostrategic importance of the Middle East is vastly overblown. The region matters to the United States chiefly because of its influence in the world oil market, but that influence has been in terminal decline for a generation, a fact almost wholly unnoticed by outside observers.

The Federalist
5 Ways Americans Could Really Help Syria's Refugees

In the aftermath of the fall of Saigon, the United States took in 120,000 South Vietnamese refugees. In the long and sad story of the Vietnam War, this is one thing of which Americans can be justly proud.

Survival: Global Politics and Strategy
Evangelicals, Israel, and US Foreign Policy

America's Middle East policy has been a haphazard blend of hard-headed realism, idealism and dispensationalist theology. The result has not served US interests well.

The Federalist
Niebuhr, Iraq, And Moral Clarity

The argument so far: Michael Boyle argued that calling ISIS "evil" is strategically self-defeating. Paul D. Miller argued that moral clarity is vital in wartime. Boyle responded by highlighting some of the potential dangers of moral clarity.

Just War

Punishing the Wicked in Syria

If the United States and its allies respond to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons with a military strike, it will reflect a novel development in Just War Theory in the 21st century. Military action against Syria could be justified in part by a simple moral revulsion at what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has done.

First Things, February 2013
Afghanistan, Justice, and War

The war in Afghanistan is just for a far broader range of reasons that merely self defense.

The City, Winter 2011
The Lessons of Iraq

Reflections on justice, the war in Iraq, and the pursuit of peace.

Political Theory

The American Interest
What Realists Get Wrong About Niebuhr

Democracy promotion is out of fashion. Its failure in Iraq and uncertain future in Afghanistan, coupled with the disappointments of the Arab Spring and Color Revolutions, have led some scholars and policymakers to conclude that democracy cannot work in some countries, or that the process of building one is so uncertain and fraught with risk as to be not worth the gamble.

The Imaginative Conservative
Reclaiming Conservatism from Libertarians

Since the 2012 election, a wide-ranging and helpful debate about the direction of conservatism has broken out among conservative commentators seeking to re-brand the movement. Key in this debate is how far conservatism should transform itself into libertarianism. Ben Domenech championed what he calls "populist libertarianism," echoing Peter Suderman's generous appraisal of what libertarianism can offer.

The Federalist
What The Founders Meant By Self-Governance, Part I

Self-government is, at root, a culture of public responsibility among a citizenry; that is, a widely accepted norm that citizens can and should take a role in public decision-making.

The Federalist
What The Founders Meant By Self-Governance, Part II

James Madison's lofty expectations for representation are implausible. I am not here concerned with the historical record of the U.S. Congress, but with the theory Madison articulated in its defense.

The Federalist
In Praise of Simple Government

Steven Teles identified an important problem in American government in his essay on " Kludgeocracy in America" ( National Affairs, Fall 2013). Government has grown too complicated for citizens to understand. "The complexity and incoherence of our government often make it difficult for us to understand just what that government is doing," he wrote.

Utraque Unum, Vol. 5, No. 1, Winter 2011
Ordered Liberty

On Tocqueville and the balance between order and liberty.


The Federalist
Donald Trump Couldn't Graduate From ROTC

Donald Trump claims he is qualified to be president because he is a billionaire and successful businessman. If he can manage large organizations successfully, the argument goes, he can also manage the U.S. bureaucracy. He is wrong: being president is not analogous to being chief executive officer of a for-profit corporation.

The Federalist
Hillary Clinton's Classified Troubles

Earlier this year the FBI recommended bringing felony charges against former CIA Director David Petraeus for mishandling classified information. Petraeus was accused of passing classified documents to his mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell. Petraeus later pled guilty to unauthorized removal and retention of classified information, accepted two years' probation and a $100,000 fine.

The Federalist
Down Hillary Clinton's Email Rabbit Hole

A picture is emerging from multiple concurrent investigations into Hillary Clinton's handling of sensitive national security information during her tenure as secretary of State. The picture is of a culture, fostered by the secretary, of lax security and inappropriate handling of classified information.

Theology and Culture

Book Reviews

Books and Culture
Gates Unhinged

According to the rules of a Washington parlor game, there is only one thing to do upon the release of a memoir by a former high-profile official: search the text for the most salacious, damning, or quotable put-downs of other officials and shout them over Twitter at your political opponents.

Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 24, No. 4, pg. 751-759.
A bibliographic essay on the Allied occupation and reconstruction of West Germany, 1945–1955

There is no definitive, single-volume history of the Allied occupation and reconstruction of West Germany from 1945 to 1955. This is a significant and surprising lacuna in the literature on US and European history, international relations, and the rapidly growing field in reconstruction and stabilization operations. Scholars, historians, and policymakers need a comprehensive treatment of the German occupation. There is now an opportunity to fill that need. This bibliographic essay...

Books and Culture, November/December 2011
Afghanistan Demystified

Afghanistan is a foreign land about which we knew little before 9/11 but which intruded on our attention with sudden urgency, like Vietnam in the 1960s or, in a different context, Egypt in the 1920s. And as in those earlier instances, alas, we have continued to know very little without fully realizing the extent of our ignorance.

Schaeffer's Ghost

Paul Miller's contributions to a blog of book and film reviews.

Justice at Zero Dark Thirty

I was in Arizona on 9/11. I was in the Army at the time, doing a summer of training at Ft. Huachuca. Someone told us as we milled about after morning class that there was some kind of attack in New York.

Books and Culture

The Hunger Games was first published in 2008. Less than four years later it and its two sequels have 26 million copies in print, and a Hollywood blockbuster based on the first book in the trilogy sold over a half-billion dollars of tickets and set records for opening day.

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