Williamson Murray

Williamson Murray

Biography: 

Williamson Murray serves as a Minerva Fellow at the Naval War College. He graduated from Yale University in 1963 with honors in history. He then served five years as an officer in the US Air Force, including a tour in Southeast Asia with the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing (C-130s). He returned to Yale University, where he received his PhD in military-diplomatic history under advisers Hans Gatzke and Donald Kagan. He taught two years in the Yale history department before moving on to Ohio State University in fall 1977 as a military and diplomatic historian; in 1987 he received the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award. He retired from Ohio State in 1995 as a professor emeritus of history.

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Recent Commentary

Blank Section (Placeholder)Analysis and Commentary

The Relevance Of World War I

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Monday, October 16, 2017

In the decades before the First World War, vast scientific and technological changes altered the face of the globe. Those changes had immense implications for the world’s military institutions. The invention of the internal combustion engine, nitroglycerine, smokeless power, barbed wire, the telephone, and medical advances had all changed the civilian world and seemed to have major implication for the conduct of war. They did. Most military experts calculated that such technological changes would lead to quicker wars. In that respect, they were wrong.

Blank Section (Placeholder)Analysis and Commentary

The Ghost Of The Athenian Past

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

In 483 B.C. Athenians struck a particularly rich vein at their silver mine at Larium. The immediate political question confronting the Athenian democracy was what to do with the horde of silver that had just fallen into its hands. The obvious solution was to divide the riches among the citizens, but the great strategist and politician, Themistocles, argued for a different use of the money. He urged that it all be spent to build up the Athenian fleet. At the time, most Athenians believed their success at Marathon in 490 B.C. against the Persian invaders had eliminated the Asiatic threat.

Background EssayAnalysis and Commentary

Preemptive Strike Or Preventive War?

by Williamson Murrayvia Strategika
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

With the troubles bubbling over on the Korean Peninsula, as the North Korean regime approaches possession of nuclear weapons and missiles capable of striking the United States, two words, preemptive and preventive, have gained increasing currency. While similar in meaning, their context is crucial in understanding their applicability to the current crisis. And here, as is so often the case, history is a useful tool in thinking through the possibilities. 

America and the Future of War

by Williamson Murrayvia Books by Hoover Fellows
Thursday, June 8, 2017

The end of war? History tells us not likely. Throughout the world today are obvious trouble spots that have the potential to explode into serious conflicts at any time in the immediate or distant future. This study examines what history suggests about the future possibilities and characteristics of war and the place that thinking about conflict deserves in forming American strategy in the coming decades. The author offers a historical perspective to show that armed conflict among organized political groups has been mankind’s constant companion and that America must remain prepared to use its military power to deal with an unstable, uncertain, and fractious world.

Background EssayFeatured

America Alone

by Williamson Murrayvia Strategika
Monday, April 3, 2017

Both in his campaign speeches and in his initial actions after taking office, Donald Trump has made it clear that he aims in his foreign policy to follow the path of dismantling America’s alliance system of turning away an economy that has emphasized globalization to one that is protected by tariffs, and of pursuing what he called one of “America first.” For many Americans, at least to those with some knowledge of the last 75 years, Trump’s direction appears to be a massive break with the past. It is not.

Related Commentary

Russia: Its Boundaries In 2050

by Williamson Murrayvia Strategika
Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In the late 1960s, Charles de Gaulle is reputed to have commented that the Soviet Union would collapse before the end of the twentieth century and that Russia itself would find its eastern borders back on the Urals before the twenty-first century had ended. Given our focus on the present it is impossible to predict what the future will look like thirty years down the road. Nevertheless, given the arrogant machinations of Putin and his crew of kleptomaniacs in destabilizing the small states on Russia’s western borders, it is not difficult to argue that Russia that may well regain much of its political, if not direct, control over its Baltic neighbors, Belarus, and Ukraine, not to mention the small states in the Caucasus. But such a prediction would miss looking at the troubles that Russia faces to the east.

Featured CommentaryFeatured

Terrorism At Home And Abroad

by Williamson Murrayvia Strategika
Monday, August 15, 2016

Despite the enthusiasm of those media purveyors of horror stories about potential terrorist threats that could match the events of 9/11, it is unlikely, at least for the short term, that ISIS is capable of matching al-Qaeda’s bloody success. That said, there are innumerable ways in which its leaders will attempt to create mayhem, disorder, and paranoia in the developed world and the United States in particular. 

Related Commentary

History Suggests the Iran Deal’s Chances for Success Are Slim

by Williamson Murrayvia Strategika
Friday, May 27, 2016

Unfortunately, there is little in the historical record to suggest that the current agreement with Iran that Secretary of State Kerry has recently concluded will in fact to do anything to prevent the Iranians from going nuclear when it suits their convenience and view of their strategic interests. For the moment, they will undoubtedly lie low and use the agreement to dismantle the sanctions that have represented such a major impediment to the successful functioning of their economy. 

Autobiography & Memoir

Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain

by Williamson Murrayvia Classics of Military History
Monday, May 16, 2016

Vera Brittain arrived at Somerville College, Oxford concurrently with the outbreak of the First World War. Almost immediately she left the comfortable confines of that most beautiful of universities to volunteer to serve on Western Front as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment. The fact that the men in her family as well as those she befriended had joined up immediately was undoubtedly a factor that motivated her to leave Oxford. 

Battle History

History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides

by Williamson Murrayvia Classics of Military History
Monday, May 16, 2016

In his introduction, Thucydides remarks that “it will be enough for me, however, if these words of mine are judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past and which (human nature being what it is) will at some time or other and in much the same ways, be repeated in the future.” 

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