Abraham D. Sofaer

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

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

Doing Justice During Wartime

by Abraham D. Sofaer, Paul R. Williamsvia Policy Review
Friday, February 1, 2002

Why military tribunals make sense

THE WAR ON BUGS: Bioterrorism

with Abraham D. Sofaer, Jonathan B. Tucker, Dean Wilkeningvia Uncommon Knowledge
Wednesday, November 14, 2001

With the arrival of anthrax letters in Washington, New York, and Florida in the fall of 2001, the often-ignored threat of bioterrorism became a very frightening reality, causing illness and death and costing billions of dollars. How has this attack changed our assessment of the threat of biological and chemical weapons? What can and should be done to detect and control these weapons and defend ourselves against future attacks?

The New Terror

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Tuesday, October 30, 2001

September 11 changed everything. How should the United States respond? By Hoover fellow Abraham D. Sofaer.

THE THIN BLUE LINE: United Nations Peacekeeping Missions

with Abraham D. Sofaer, Stephen Stedmanvia Uncommon Knowledge
Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Are peacekeeping missions undertaken by the United Nations a good idea? Is there a difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking? What sort of conflicts should the UN become involved in and which should it avoid? What are the alternatives to UN peacekeeping missions? Why have the number of UN missions increased so dramatically since the beginning of the 1990s?

Crime Goes High Tech

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Sunday, April 30, 2000

The crime stats for cyberspace are up—way up. Hoover fellow Abraham D. Sofaer explains how to battle the recent rash of cybercrime.

FEAR OF INTERNATIONAL TRYING: The International Criminal Court

with Abraham D. Sofaer, Diane Marie Amann, William Schabasvia Uncommon Knowledge
Saturday, April 22, 2000

In 1998, at an United Nations conference in Rome, 120 nations voted in favor of creating the International Criminal Court. Following the model of the Nuremburg and Tokyo war crimes tribunals after WWII, the ICC would hold individuals responsible for their roles in grave human rights violations, war crimes and genocide. Why was the United States one of only seven nations to vote against the ICC? Does the ICC go against American principles of international law or is the United States trying to hold itself above the law? What is the risk that American leaders will be tried before the Court?

The Present Threat

by Abraham D. Sofaer, Sidney D. Drell, George D. Wilsonvia Hoover Digest
Sunday, January 30, 2000

The threat of biological and chemical weapons is already upon us—and in some ways is even more grave than the threat of nuclear weapons. A report by Hoover fellows Sidney D. Drell, Abraham D. Sofaer, and George D. Wilson.

The Administration Gets It Half Right

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Friday, July 30, 1999

Hoover fellow Abraham D. Sofaer explains what’s right—and wrong—with the administration’s latest antiterrorism proposal.

Why We're Allowed to Hit Back

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Friday, April 30, 1999

The legal basis for attacks on terrorists? In a word, self-defense. By Hoover fellow Abraham D. Sofaer.

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