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

Analysis and Commentary

Taking The War To The Terrorists

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Forbes
Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Who could have guessed when the campaign for president began that the candidates would argue in their first debate over whether to announce an intention to kill terrorists in Pakistan, or to "do what is necessary" without the announcement? ...

Analysis and Commentary

A Reagan Strategy for Iran and Syria

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Iraq Study Group's recommendation that the Bush administration drop its preconditions and negotiate with Syria and Iran has been praised as a "no-brainer" -- and condemned as an improper effort to reward rogue regimes...

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Solution and Resolution

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Monday, October 30, 2006

The road to peace in Lebanon runs through Damascus. The only question is whether Syria is more interested in real estate or in supporting terrorism. By Abraham D. Sofaer.

Analysis and Commentary

War of resources

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Marketplace
Thursday, August 17, 2006

You can't destroy a community-based organization like Hezbollah through military action alone…

Analysis and Commentary

Solution and Resolution

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Security Council Resolution 1701, adopted unanimously on Aug. 12, contains the bases upon which a lasting peace could be established along the Lebanon/Israel border, and true sovereign authority transferred to Lebanon's government…

Analysis and Commentary

Should Dictators Be Put to Death?

by Abraham D. Sofaer, Kenneth Rothvia Council on Foreign Relations
Tuesday, June 6, 2006

The apprehension of Charles Taylor, the ongoing trial of Saddam Hussein, and the recent death of Slobodan Milosevic while in custody raise difficult questions for prosecutors, international lawyers and human rights scholars…

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Disengagement First

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Sunday, January 30, 2005

Ariel Sharon's disengagement from Gaza will result in a more secure Israel while enhancing prospects for the creation of a Palestinian state. By Abraham D. Sofaer.

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Dinner with the Eight of Spades

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Thursday, October 30, 2003

In 1985 Hoover fellow Abraham D. Sofaer attended a dinner in honor of Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz. A tense exchange between Aziz and Donald Rumsfeld hinted at the conflict to come.

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On the Legality of Preemption

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Was the war in Iraq legal? By Hoover fellow Abraham D. Sofaer.

CASTLES MADE OF SAND: The United States and Saudia Arabia

with Abraham D. Sofaer, As'ad AbuKhalil, Daniel Pipesvia Uncommon Knowledge
Thursday, March 20, 2003

Is Saudi Arabia an ally or an adversary? Saudi Arabia remains an autocratic monarchy, where the rights of women and the press are severely restricted. Saudi money is a principal source of funding for the Wahhabi sect, which promotes a militant form of Islam throughout the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen participants in the attacks of September 11 came from Saudi Arabia. And yet, for more than 50 years, the United States has treated Saudi Arabia as an ally. Why? What role have Saudi oil and Saudi oil money played in shaping our relationship? Is it time to recognize that Saudi Arabia may threaten American national interests? If so, what should U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia be?