The Cognitive Crucible is a forum that presents different perspectives and emerging thought leadership related to the information environment. The opinions expressed by guests are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of or endorsement by the Information Professionals Association.
During this episode, Dr. Sean McFate discusses his influential book, The New Rules of War. Sean describes how the Westphalian state system is changing, consequences for conventional war, the rise of mercenaries and international mega-corporations, and information operations. Plus, the Cognitive Crucible gets not only one–but two–Monty Python references.
Research Question: Sean asks several questions worthy of examination. First, how can a democracy fight secretive wars without losing its democratic soul? Second, strategic culture can eclipse strategic IQ; so, how can a strong strategic culture be broken? Finally, what is strategic thinking, and how are good strategic thinkers created?
Dr. Sean McFate is a foreign policy expert, author and novelist. He is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington DC think tank, and a professor of strategy at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Additionally, he serves as an Advisor to Oxford University’s Centre for Technology and Global Affairs.
McFate’s career began as a paratrooper and officer in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He served under Stan McChrystal and David Petraeus, and graduated from elite training programs, such as Jungle Warfare School in Panama. He was also a Jump Master.
McFate then became a private military contractor and paramilitary. Among his many experiences, he dealt with African warlords, raised armies for U.S. interest, rode with armed groups in the Sahara, conducted strategic reconnaissance for the extractive industry, transacted arms deals in Eastern Europe, and helped prevent an impending genocide in the Rwanda region.
In the world of international business, McFate was a Vice President at TD International, a boutique political risk consulting firm with offices in Washington, Houston, Singapore and Zurich. Additionally, he was a program manager at DynCorp International, a consultant at BearingPoint (now Deloitte Consulting), and an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton.
McFate writes novels based on his own military experiences. His latest thriller is High Treason, and #1 New York Timesbestselling author James Patterson said: “Sean McFate just might be the next Tom Clancy, only I think he’s even better…The action is non-stop.” James Rollins said: “It had me breathless—it’s not to be missed!”
McFate also writes serious non-fiction. The New Rules of War: How America Can Win—Against Russia, China, and Other Threats (Morrow) has been called “The Freakonomics of modern warfare.” It was named a “Book of the Year” by The Economist, The Times [UK], and The Evening Standard, and is included on West Point’s “Commandant’s Reading List.” Admiral Jim Stavridis, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, said: “Stunning. Sean McFate is a new Sun Tzu.” Max Hastings wrote in The Sunday Times: “[This] iconoclastic book is being hailed by radicals as a wake-up call to governments and armed forces everywhere.” It has been translated into six languages and the British edition is titled Goliath: Why the West Isn’t Winning. And What We Must Do About It (Penguin). McFate also authored The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order (Oxford Univ Press). The Economist called it a “fascinating and disturbing book.”
McFate is a consultant to the U.S. military, U.S. intelligence community, United Nations, and Hollywood. His has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, Politico, Daily Beast, Vice Magazine, War on the Rocks, Military Review and African Affairs. He has appeared on CNN’s Amanpour, Morning Joe, Fox and Friends, MSNBC, Fox, Sky News, NPR, BBC, WSJ, FT, Economist, Vice/HBO, The Discovery Channel, and American Heroes Channel. As a scholar, he has authored eight book chapters in edited academic volumes, and two monographs on modern war for the U.S. Department of Defense.
McFate holds a BA from Brown University, MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a Ph.D. in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He was also a Fellow at Oxford. McFate lives in Washington, DC.
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