Edward Nicolae Luttwak (born 4 November 1942) is a political scientist known for his works on grand strategy, military history, and international relations. He provides consulting services to governments and international enterprises including various branches of the U.S. government and the U.S. military.
Luttwak was born into a Jewish family in Arad, Romania, and raised in Italy and England. After elementary school in Palermo, Sicily, he attended Carmel College and Quintin Grammar in England, where he also received basic training in the British Army, and then the London School of Economics where he graduated in analytical economics in 1964.
After working for the British, French, and Israeli militaries, he moved to the United States in 1972 for graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University, where he received his doctorate in 1975. He had held an academic post at the University of Bath before moving to United States where he taught at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown University.
He has served as a consultant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council, the United States Department of State, the United States Navy, United States Army, United States Air Force, and several NATO defense ministries. Working for OSD/Net Assessment, he co-developed the current maneuver-warfare concept, working for the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), he introduced the "operational level of war" concept into U.S. Army doctrine, wrote the first manual for the Joint Special Operations Agency, and co-developed the Rapid-Deployment Force concept (later U.S. Central Command) for the Office of the Secretary of Defense International Security Affairs.
Luttwak has been a frequent lecturer and consultant, and is known for his innovative policy ideas, suggesting for example that major powers' attempts to quell regional wars actually make conflicts more protracted. His book Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook has been reprinted numerous times, and translated into 18 languages. His book Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace is used as a textbook in war colleges and universities, has also been translated in several languages.
The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire from the First Century AD to the Third is controversial among professional historians. Luttwak is seen as an outsider and non-specialist in the field. However, the book is recognized as seminal because it raised basic questions about the Roman army and its defense of the Roman frontier. Although many professional historians argue against his views on Roman strategy, some at book length, his 1976 book has undoubtedly increased interest in the study of Roman frontiers and strategy. (For a summary of his thesis and criticism see Defence-in-depth (Roman military).) Since the 1980s he has published articles on Byzantium and his book, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, was published in late 2009.
Luttwak is frequently cited by Italian media on political subjects. He has also co-authored two books in Italian with Susanna Creperio Verratti (a political philosopher and journalist): Che cos’è davvero la democrazia ("What Democracy Really Is"), 1996 and Il libro delle Libertà ("The Book of Liberties"), 2000.
He served on the editorial boards of Geopolitique (France), the Journal of Strategic Studies, The European Journal of International Affairs, and the Washington Quarterly. He speaks English, French, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish.
He was previously associated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the Italy-USA Foundation. He received the America Award from the Italy-USA Foundation in 2011.
In his 2002 book Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard A. Posner said Luttwak "writes well and with authority (that is, with an air of great confidence) and knows a lot—he is a serious historian and defense analyst". "But writing as a public intellectual, he repeatedly ventures predictions that events falsify. In 1983, he pronounced the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan a success. He also thought it likely that the Soviet Union would launch a limited war against China, especially if the West increased its military power (as it did in the 1980s, under President Ronald Reagan). Years later, and indeed just a few months before the Berlin Wall came down, Luttwak was worrying that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika would augment the military power of the Soviet Union. Instead, those policies precipitated the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union".
Besides also citing Luttwak’s prediction, in response to a question, of the impoverishing of all but a small minority of Americans "soon enough", Posner wrote that Luttwak predicted, shortly before the first Persian Gulf War, that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would evacuate Kuwait "after a week or two of bombing (the bombing continued for six weeks without inducing him to do so) and warned that the use of ground forces ‘could make Desert Storm a bloody, grinding combat with thousands of (U.S.) casualties.’ The ground fighting lasted only four days, rather than the minimum of two weeks that Luttwak predicted, and U.S. casualties were minimal. Writing a month into the bombing, Luttwak was no longer predicting heavy casualties but he still opposed a ground campaign. He thought it would lead inevitably to a military occupation of Iraq from which we would be unable to disengage without disastrous foreign policy consequences."
Luttwak had made the casualties prediction in a Reuters article on August 23, 1990, in which he was quoted by reporter Jim Wolf as saying, "Don't think that your precision weapons and your gadgets and your gizmos and your stealth fighters are going to make it possible to reconquer Kuwait without many thousands of casualties".
In a 2003 essay in The Next American Century: Essays in Honor of Richard G. Lugar (Rowman & Littlefield), Kenneth Adelman, a former director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, criticized such "fear–mongering" and added, "As it happened, our 'gizmos' worked wonders".
Most recently, Luttwak assessed the results of a Donald Trump presidency in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal arguing that "his foreign policies are unlikely to deviate from standard conservative norms," withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, avoiding involvement in Syria and Libya, eschewing trade wars, and modestly reducing spending—in short, "changes at the margin."
Writing in 2007 in National Review Online, former George W. Bush's speechwriter David Frum said Luttwak “is a very genuinely interesting writer. His book on the grand strategy of the Roman Empire was terrific, and his Coup D'État is that astounding thing: a great work of political science that is also a hilarious satire. Part of the secret of his success is his tone of total confidence. He makes startling claims in a tone that says, ‘If only you knew my super-secret sources.’” Frum was writing on the occasion of having just seen a column by Luttwak in the UK magazine Prospect, titled “The Middle of Nowhere”, in which Luttwak “magisterially and sardonically attacks a whole series of intellectual errors that allegedly dominate expert opinion on the Middle East”.