Matthew Waxman

Matthew Waxman


Matthew Waxman is a professor of law at Columbia Law School and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He previously served as principal deputy director of policy planning (2005–7) and acting director of policy planning (2007) at the US Department of State. He also served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs (2004–5), director for contingency planning and international justice at the National Security Council (2002–3), and special assistant to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (2001–2). He is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School. He served as law clerk to Supreme Court justice David H. Souter and US Court of Appeals judge Joel M. Flaum. His publications include The Dynamics of Coercion: American Foreign Policy and the Limits of Military Might (Cambridge University Press, 2002).

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Recent Commentary


Snowden Disclosures and Norms of Cyber-Attacks

by Matthew Waxmanvia Lawfare
Thursday, March 20, 2014

Secrecy---of the sort that typically shrouds cyber-defense and cyber-attack capabilities and doctrine---complicates the development of international norms.  Secrecy makes it difficult to engage in sustained diplomacy about rules.  Officials can talk about

The Digital Age

Publicly Defending Secret Intelligence Programs

by Matthew Waxmanvia The Briefing
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The government often does a poor job of defending its most secret intelligence programs when they become public through leaks.  There are some obvious and largely structural reasons for this, including that the agencies conducting the programs are not designed for public relat

Featured Commentary

The Briefing: Publicly Defending Secret Intelligence Programs

by Matthew Waxmanvia Advancing a Free Society
Friday, January 17, 2014

Forced Repatriation is Part of Closing Guantanamo

by Matthew Waxmanvia Lawfare
Saturday, December 7, 2013

As the Obama administration re-energizes efforts to winnow the Guantanamo population through transfers to other countries, it will be squeezed from many sides -- including from those who see the transfer arrangements as insufficiently protective of America

Featured Commentary

Killer Robots and the Laws of War

by Kenneth Anderson, Matthew Waxmanvia Wall Street Journal
Sunday, November 3, 2013

With each new drone strike by the United States military, anger over the program mounts. On Friday, in one of the most significant U.S. strikes, a drone killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in the lawless North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan.

Featured Commentary

The Briefing: Obama’s Guantanamo Legacy

by Matthew Waxmanvia Advancing a Free Society
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Obama’s Guantanamo Legacy

by Matthew Waxmanvia The Briefing
Monday, June 10, 2013

Even if President Obama successfully closes Guantanamo, ironically he may leave behind for future presidents a stronger and more reliable law-of-war detention tool for terrorist enemies than he inherited.  If the United States finds itself in another war (technically, an “arme

Law and Ethics for Autonomous Weapon Systems: Why a Ban Won’t Work and How the Laws of War Can

by Matthew Waxman, Kenneth Andersonvia Analysis
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Public debate is heating up over the future development of autonomous weapon systems and the merit and risks associated with their use in war. Grounded in a realistic assessment of technology, this essay outlines a practical alternative with which to evaluate the use of autonomous weaponry that incorporates codes of conduct based on traditional legal and ethical principles governing weapons and warfare.

Featured Commentary

Is the "War on Terror" Lawful?

by Robert Chesney, Jack Goldsmith, Matthew Waxman, Benjamin Wittesvia Defining Ideas (Hoover Institution)
Monday, February 25, 2013