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Nora Bensahel

Visiting Professor of Strategic Studies and Senior Fellow of the Merrill Center for Strategic Studies


Nora Bensahel is a Visiting Professor of Strategic Studies and Senior Fellow of the Merrill Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She is also a Contributing Editor and Columnist for War on the Rocks, and an Adjunct Research Staff Member at the Institute for Defense Analyses. She writes and lectures frequently on U.S. defense policy, U.S. and coalition military operations, and leader development, and also serves as a member of the Secretary of Defense’s Reserve Forces Policy Board.

Before joining Johns Hopkins SAIS, Bensahel was a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the School of International Service at American University and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. Prior to that, she was a senior fellow and co-director of the Responsible Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security. Her recent publications include The Future of the Army: Today, Tomorrow, and the Day After Tomorrow; Hard Choices: Responsible Defense in an Age of Austerity; Building Better Generals; Battlefields and Boardrooms: Women’s Leadership in the Military and the Private Sector; and The Seven Deadly Sins of Defense Spending.

Bensahel’s early career included over eleven years at the RAND Corporation, where she rose to the position of senior political scientist. She authored numerous reports at RAND including “After Saddam: Prewar Planning and the Occupation of Iraq” and “The Experiences of Foreign Militaries,” in Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy. Bensahel has also written several book chapters and has published articles in Survival, Journal of Strategic Studies, Joint Force Quarterly, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Defence Studies, and European Security.

She spent more than a decade as an adjunct professor in the Security Studies Program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, where she taught MA-level classes and received the Alumni Leadership Council Teaching Award. Bensahel is a frequent commentator in well-known media publications and programs, and has testified before Congress.

Bensahel received her PhD and MA degrees from the Department of Political Science at Stanford University and her BA magna cum laude from Cornell University. While at Stanford, she worked as a research assistant for former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry. She held fellowships at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University. She currently serves as a member of the President’s Council on Cornell Women.



  • Defense Analyses
  • U.S. defense policy
  • U.S. and coalition military operations

In the News

Transforming the U.S. Army for the 21st century.

Nora Bensahel wrote in Parameters 03/02

Adaptation under fire.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel’s book reviewed in Military Review, 03/01

Biden has lifted the military ‘trans ban.’ But there’s more work to do.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel wrote in The Washington Post, 01/25

Senate confirms Austin, installing first black Defense Secretary.

Nora Bensahel quoted in The New York Times, 01/22

Adaptation under fire.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel interviewed on New Book Networks podcast, 01/08

Most read War on the Rocks articles of 2020.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel’s article and Mark Cancian’s article cited in War on the Rocks, 12/31

War books: Major General Mick Ryan’s 2021 reading list.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel’s book cited by Modern War Institute, 12/29

Civil-military relations from Trump to Biden.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel quoted in Task & Purpose, 12/16

Elf Confidential: Santa’s 2020 national security gift list.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel wrote in War on The Rocks, 12/15

December 2020 book reviews.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel’s book reviewed by Association of the U.S. Army, 11/18

Trump’s Pentagon shake-up has implications for Afghanistan.

Nora Bensahel quoted in U.S. News and World Report, 11/12