National security focus for new CISAC fellow

National security focus for new CISAC fellow

img 3363 Colin Kahl, second from the right, talks with President Barack Obama, far left, Vice President Joe Biden, second from the left, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, middle, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, far right. Courtesty of Colin Kahl

Colin Kahl, a top national security expert and veteran White House advisor, has been named to a new senior fellowship at Stanford.

Starting in January 2018, Kahl will be the inaugural Steven C. Házy Senior Fellow, an endowed faculty chair at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI). He will be affiliated with the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). 

Kahl most recently was an associate professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. From 2014 to 2017, he was deputy assistant to the U.S. president and national security advisor to the vice president. In that position, he served as a senior advisor to President Obama and Vice President Biden on all matters related to U.S. foreign policy and national security affairs, and represented the Office of the Vice President as a standing member of the National Security Council Deputies’ Committee. 

Michael McFaul, director of FSI, said, “Professor Colin Kahl is a terrific hire for FSI and Stanford University as a whole. Very few scholars in the United States have both deep scholarly interests and credentials as well as experience and expertise in policymaking. Colin is that rare professor who truly bridges the gap between theory and policy. We are very lucky to have him at Stanford. "

Amy Zegart, co-director at CISAC, said, “Colin Kahl is a tremendous addition to CISAC in every way – a distinguished scholar and educator who has served in senior policy positions at one of the most challenging junctures in U.S. foreign policy. His wide-ranging work spans nuclear risk reduction, U.S. grand strategy, and Middle Eastern politics, and promises to enhance and enrich nearly everything we do at CISAC.”

Kahl said his Stanford plans include conducting research on a range of contemporary international security challenges, including writing a book examining American grand strategy in the Middle East after 9/11. He is also doing research on the implications of emerging technologies for strategic stability and nuclear rivalry. 

For Kahl, joining Stanford is both an intellectual opportunity and a homecoming of sorts.

“Stanford is one of the top universities in world,” Kahl wrote in an email, “with a diverse faculty in the social sciences and natural sciences working at the cutting edge of international affairs and national security. I can think of no better intellectual community to be part of. I also grew up in the Bay Area, so this is a great opportunity to come home.”

National, global security

Many of the issues dominating national security conversations over the past few decades continue to matter today, Kahl said.

“These include nuclear proliferation, threats from international terrorist organizations and other transnational actors, and the competition between the United States and rising global and regional powers,” he said.

Kahl noted that in a “globalized, hyper-connected world,” other critical issues are becoming increasingly important. This includes climate change and environmental sustainability, and the social, economic, and security implications of the digital revolution. It is time to for a scholarly examination of cyber, big data, robotics, A.I., autonomous systems, 3-D printing, and synthetic biology, for example.

“No university in the world is better positioned to help policy makers understand these challenges and craft creative solutions than Stanford,” he added.

From February 2009 to December 2011, Kahl was the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East at the Pentagon. In this capacity, he served as the senior policy advisor to the U.S. defense secretary for Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, and six other countries in the Levant and Persian Gulf region.

In June 2011, Kahl was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. In 2007-2009 and 2012-2014, he was a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a nonpartisan Washington, DC-based think tank.

Publications, research

Kahl wrote the 2006 book, States, Scarcity, and Civil Strife in the Developing World, and has published articles in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Security, the Los Angeles Times, Middle East Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, Politico, and the Washington Post, for example.

He has analyzed the causes and consequences of violent civil and ethnic conflict in developing countries, as well as U.S. intervention practices in those conflicts, with a particular focus on the Middle East.

From 2000 to 2007, Kahl was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. In 2005-2006, he served as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he worked on issues related to counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and responses to failed states.

Kahl received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Michigan in 1993, and his doctorate in political science from Columbia University in 2000.

Donor background

The gift for the position was made by Christine and Steven F. Hazy in honor of their son, Steven C. Hazy, who was a CISAC honors student and is now a vice president at Aviation Capital Group, one of the largest commercial aircraft leasing firms in the world. A leader in the aviation industry, Steven F. is the founder of two Los Angeles-based air leasing companies.  In addition to many civic leadership roles in Los Angeles and Washington DC, Christine is a current Stanford trustee and former co-chair of The Stanford Challenge. 

It was CISAC core faculty member Scott D. Sagan's engaging and productive mentorship of their son that inspired the family to establish the new senior fellowship. Steven received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford in International Relations in 2004 and his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2011. Steven serves on the FSI Council.


Clifton B. Parker, Center for International Security and Cooperation: (650) 725-6488,