Launched in 2006, Tobin’s National Security initiative was founded on the belief that new, collaborative scholarly research could shape public policy and public discourse on national security for the better. Between 2006 and 2008, the Tobin Project’s earliest work in National Security addressed a broad range of issues, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

In 2009, the Tobin Project launched a program on Power Through its Prudent Use, which examined the role of nonmilitary power in American national security. This inquiry considered the viability of a security strategy that put greater emphasis on diplomacy, negotiation, and the judicious use of military power as tools for advancing American interests. Through this initiative, scholars sought to examine the efficacy of nonmilitary statecraft and the implications of such a strategy for the United States and the broader world. These questions became the focus of a conference in 2009 and another in 2010, and the Tobin Project subsequently published the papers from those events in The Prudent Use of Power, edited by Stephen Van Evera (MIT) and Sidharth Shah (The Tobin Project).

The research that emerged from the edited volume raised a set of complementary questions on the political and economic costs of national security. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has largely maintained or deepened its commitments in the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe, despite it being unclear whether such involvement promotes national or global interests. In 2011, the Tobin Project launched an inquiry that strove to assess the benefits of those commitments and whether they could be achieved in less costly ways. These discussions served as the foundation for Tobin’s extended research effort on sustainable security, which sought to reevaluate how the United States could craft a viable security strategy in the face of shifting risks, evolving political economies, and a changing climate.

The Tobin Project subsequently convened three early-stage workshops on this topic that featured both scholars and policymakers, including representatives from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Based on the success of these events, Tobin held a December 2012 conference with over thirty scholars from a range of disciplines who presented and provided feedback on papers prepared especially for this inquiry. Scholars revised and refined their papers at a series of June 2013 workshops and shared them during 2014 meetings at the Brookings Institution and the American University School of International Service. Culminating several years of rigorous, innovative research, the Tobin Project published Sustainable Security: Rethinking American National Security Strategy with Oxford University Press in 2016. Edited by Jeremi Suri (University of Texas at Austin) and Benjamin Valentino (Dartmouth), the volume brings together fifteen leading historians and political scientists to consider how the United States could develop a security strategy that maintains geopolitical stability for Americans and the world alike.

The Tobin Project National Security initiative has been supported in large part by a generous multi-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Read more about the development of a Tobin Project community in the National Security initiative »