Abraham D. Sofaer

George P. Shultz Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy and National Security Affairs, Emeritus

Abraham D. Sofaer was appointed the first George P. Shultz Distinguished Scholar and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution in 1994. Named in honor of former US secretary of state George P. Shultz, the appointment is awarded to a senior scholar whose broad vision, knowledge, and skill will be brought to bear on the problems presented by a radically transformed global environment.

Sofaer's work focuses on the power over war within the US government and on issues related to international law, terrorism, diplomacy, and national security. His most recent books are Taking on Iran: Strength, Diplomacy, and the Iranian Threat (Hoover Institution Press, 2013) and The Best Defense?: Legitimacy and Preventive Force (Hoover Institution Press, 2010).

From 1985 to 1990, he served as a legal adviser to the US Department of State, where he resolved several interstate matters, including the dispute between Egypt and Israel over Taba, the claim against Iraq for its attack on the USS Stark, and the claims against Chile for the assassination of Orlando Letelier. He received the Distinguished Service Award in 1989, the highest state department award given to a non–civil servant.

From 1979 to 1985, Sofaer served as a US district judge in the Southern District of New York. From 1969 to 1979, he was a professor of law at Columbia University School of Law and wrote War, Foreign Affairs, and Constitutional Power: The Origins. From 1967 to 1969, he was an assistant US attorney in the Southern District of New York, after clerking for Judge J. Skelly Wright on the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, and the Honorable William J. Brennan Jr. on the US Supreme Court. He practiced law at Hughes, Hubbard and Reed from 1990 to 1994.

A veteran of the US Air Force, Sofaer received an LLB degree from New York University School of Law in 1965, where he was editor in chief of the law review. He holds a BA in history from Yeshiva College (1962). Sofaer is a founding trustee of the National Museum of Jazz in Harlem and a member of the board of the Koret Foundation.

His research papers are available at the Hoover Institution Archives.

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Recent Commentary

Taking on Iran

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Friday, October 18, 2013

Between empty ultimatums and threats of overwhelming force lies a diplomatic sweet spot. An interview with ABRAHAM D. SOFAER.

Analysis and Commentary

The UN Should Take Away Ahmadinejad’s Annual Podium Of Hate

by Abraham D. Sofaer, Irwin Cotlervia National Post (Canada)
Thursday, September 27, 2012

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations Monday on the rule of law – a cruel parody of law and justice given that Ahmadinejad is himself one of the world’s leading violators of international law and the United Nations Charter

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Blank Section (Placeholder)Analysis and Commentary

A Cold War for Iran

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Defining Ideas
Thursday, August 23, 2012

U.S. grand strategy should punish aggression, engage in diplomacy, and advance American interests.

Taking on Iran book cover

Taking On Iran: Strength, Diplomacy and the Iranian Threat

by Abraham D. Sofaervia SingerSiddur
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Abraham D. Sofaer argues that US policy toward Iran cannot safely be restricted to a strategy that considers only the two high-risk, costly, and potentially infeasible options of a preventive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities or containing a nuclear-armed Iran. Instead, the United States should respond forcefully to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) aggression, enhancing its credibility and increasing the likelihood that Iran will negotiate in earnest. The United States must also be prepared to engage Iran in a disciplined manner, avoiding disabling preconditions and adopting the negotiating practices used successfully by the United States when dealing with the Soviet Union during the 1980s.

Analysis and Commentary

Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was Worth the Price

by Abraham D. Sofaervia US News and World Report
Friday, November 11, 2011

The war in Iraq has been costly, though most of the cost was avoidable.

Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was Worth the Price

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Advancing a Free Society
Friday, November 11, 2011

The war in Iraq has been costly, though most of the cost was avoidable. Taking sovereign power in Iraq to convert it into the first genuine Arab democracy was unnecessary and unwise.

Libya and the War Powers Resolution

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Advancing a Free Society
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Listen to Abraham Sofaer interviewed by Michael Krasny on KQED’s Forum.


Analysis and Commentary

Submission to the ICC on Jurisdiction and the Palestinian Declaration

by David Davenport, Kenneth Anderson, Edwin Meese III, Abraham D. Sofaer, Julian G. Kuvia Advancing a Free Society
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Here is a letter to Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court...

Let’s Call It an Indefinite Furlough

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Friday, July 2, 2010

Lawmakers have all but bankrupted the Golden State. Californians need a way to fire every one of them. By Abraham D. Sofaer.

Analysis and Commentary

Obama NSS To Drop Preemption

by Abraham D. Sofaervia DoD Buzz
Monday, May 3, 2010

The Obama Administration will soon issue its first National Security Strategy (“NSS”). How will it compare with those issued in 2002 and 2006 by the Bush Administration...