Williamson Murray

Williamson Murray


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

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Time To Celebrate Munich

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Monday, April 9, 2018

And so here we are with the eightieth anniversary of the Munich agreement to look forward to this coming September. Of course, it represents the best in the great liberal tradition that one can find a reasonable solution to any major international dispute, based on the common threads of humanity and disgust at the myths of military preparedness. Recognizing that Czechoslovakia was far away and that the country’s geographic position and industrial strength were irrelevant to any serious strategic considerations, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed away its citizens’ freedom. 

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No Shortage of Quagmires

by Williamson Murrayvia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 26, 2018

Seizing the military initiative can lead to success, as history confirms, but only if the party that seizes the initiative is fully prepared to exploit it. Few are. 

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Technology And The Future Of War

by Williamson Murrayvia Defining Ideas
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

In our time of unconventional conflict and rogue actors, the most advanced countries have the most to lose. 

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Are There Consequences For The All-Volunteer Military?

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

In the summer of 1970 in the immediate aftermath of a disastrous spring of rioting by university students, President Richard Nixon decided that a draft lottery would determine the following year’s call up. To the astonishment of university administrators who believed that the students were deeply motivated by moral concerns, the troubles disappeared in the fall.

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Grant, Sherman, And The American Way Of War

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Russell Weigley, one of America’s leading military historians in the twentieth century, used Sherman’s 1864 scorched-earth March to the Sea that made “Georgia howl,” as an example of the American way of war. While there is some truth in Weigley’s description, he missed another aspect of the framework within which Grant and Sherman broke Confederate resistance and ended the Civil War: namely logistics and the problems that it raised for Union strategists in waging the war.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.