Elizabeth Cobbs


Elizabeth Cobbs was a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. Cobbs is a historian, novelist, and documentary filmmaker, holds the Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History at Texas A&M. She specializes in US foreign relations and also writes more broadly on world and American history for the general public. She is the author of eight books, the latest of which are The Tubman Command (Arcade 2019), about the story of Harriet Tubman at the height of her powers, The Hello Girls: America’ First Women Soldiers (Harvard 2017), about the First World War and women’s suffrage, and The Hamilton Affair: A Novel (Arcade 2016), about the American Revolution.

Cobbs’s first book, The Rich Neighbor Policy: Rockefeller and Kaiser in Brazil (Yale 1992) won the Allan Nevins Prize and the Stuart L. Bernath Prize. Her first novel, Broken Promises: A Novel of the Civil War (Random House 2011) won the San Diego Book Award and received Director’s Mention for the David J. Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. In 2016 American Public Television broadcast her first documentary film, American Umpire, on the history and future of US grand strategy. Sponsored by WETA-Washington, it won Best Short Documentary at the San Diego GI Film Festival in 2017. Her other books include American Umpire (Harvard 2013), All You Need Is Love: The Peace Corps and the 1960s (Harvard 2000), and four editions of the textbook Major Problems in American History (Cengage 2002–15). She has written essays and articles for the New York Times, Reuters, Jerusalem Post, Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, San Jose Mercury, San Diego Union, Washington Independent, Politico, and The Hill, as well as various academic journals.

Elizabeth Cobbs earned her PhD at Stanford University in 1988. She served on the Historical Advisory Committee of the US State Department from 1995 to 2005 and the jury for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in History. From 1999 to 2015, she held the Dwight E. Stanford Chair in American Foreign Relations at San Diego State University, where she twice won the departmental award for Most Influential Teacher. Previously, she was chair of the History Department at the University of San Diego. 

Her current projects include a documentary for public television on the history and future of work in the age of artificial intelligence, an article on patterns of American diplomacy, and a novel on the Civil War military service of Harriet Tubman.

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Recent Commentary

Analysis and Commentary

Brexit Vote Has Global Consequences

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia San Diego Union-Tribune
Saturday, June 11, 2016

President Barack Obama has urged the British electorate to think hard about consequences. In a letter to the London Times, 13 U.S. foreign policy experts, including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and George Shultz, expressed concern that “the UK’s place and influence in the world would be diminished” and Europe weakened.

Analysis and Commentary

How Donald Trump Has Already Shaken U.S. Relations With Friends And Foes

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Reuters
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Donald Trump says he doesn’t care what the world thinks of him. The whole world. Has any presidential candidate ever exhibited such boorishness? Does it matter?

Analysis and Commentary

The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest For The American Presidency, By Ellen Fitzpatrick

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Times Higher Education (UK)
Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hillary Clinton is not the first woman run for the White House. Elizabeth Cobbs enjoys an entertaining look at her and her predecessors.

Analysis and Commentary

Kuwait Showed The Value Of Limited Intervention

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia The New York Times
Sunday, February 28, 2016

Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait, a textbook case of successful military intervention for one primary reason: The United States government forswore regime change. That Middle Eastern event contrasts dramatically with those since 9/11.

Analysis and Commentary

Which President Had The Best Last Year In Office?

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Politico
Sunday, December 27, 2015

And what are the lessons for Obama? 12 top historians weigh in.

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Analysis and Commentary

Why The U.S. Officially ‘Believes’ Pakistan’s Bin Laden Story

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Reuters
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Throughout its “war on terrorism,” the United States has had to rely on Pakistan. Though Washington may occasionally have believed its trust was abused, the Pentagon’s need for overflight rights or landing bases, crucial for U.S. troops in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East, trumped diplomatic niceties.

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Analysis and Commentary

Why The Letter To Iran Won’t End Well For Republicans

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Great Debate (Reuters)
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What happens when senators and congressmen go around a controversial president to communicate directly with the enemy? They undermine the stability of their own party — and the integrity of the nation.

Analysis and Commentary

Why Boehner’s Invite To Netanyahu Is Unconstitutional

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Reuters
Monday, March 2, 2015

House Speaker John Boehner’s annoyance with President Barack Obama is turning into a grudge match against the Constitution.

Analysis and Commentary

Avoid a Classic Blunder: Stay Out of Religious Wars in the Middle East

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Reuters
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Muslims in the Middle East are fighting wars of religion. Like the carnage between Protestants and Catholics that haunted Northern Ireland during the last third of the 20th century, there is little anyone can do until local peoples crave peace so intensely they are willing to cultivate it.

Best Frenemies

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Hoover Digest
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nations have interests, not friends. Neither the Syrian war nor the Snowden case should deter the United States from working with Russia.