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Kenneth M Pollack

Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy

Kenneth M. Pollack is an expert on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, with particular emphasis on Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the other nations of the Persian Gulf region. He is currently a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He served as the director of the Center from 2009 to 2012, and its director of research from 2002 to 2009. His most recent book, "Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy" (Simon & Schuster, 2013), was named one of the "Best Books of 2013" by The Economist and one of the "100 Notable Books of 2013" by The New York Times.

Pollack began his career as an Iran-Iraq military analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he was an employee from 1988 until 1995. During that time, he was the principal author of the CIA’s classified post-mortem on Iraqi strategy and military operations during the Persian Gulf War of 1990 to 1991. Pollack received the CIA’s Certificate of Distinction for Outstanding Performance of Duty for work before and during the Persian Gulf War. He also twice received the CIA’s Exceptional Performance Award, also for work related to the Persian Gulf War.

Pollack has twice served on the staff of the National Security Council. From 1995 to 1996, he was director for Near East and South Asian affairs, and from 1999 to 2001, he served as director for Persian Gulf Affairs. In this latter capacity, he was the principal working-level official for U.S. policy toward Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and the Gulf Cooperation Council States at the White House.

In addition to these positions, Pollack has been a senior research professor at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University where he principally worked on long-term issues related to Middle Eastern political and military affairs for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He has been the director for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In 2011, in response to the remarkable events in the Middle East, Pollack brought together 18 Brookings scholars to write "The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East," published in November 2011 by the Brookings Institution Press. This work is the first comprehensive look at these epochal events. The book examines the dynamics of the Arab Awakening, from the role of new media to the role of Islamists and from the impact of economics to the impact of the Arab militaries. It also addressed virtually every country in the Middle East and what the Arab Awakening meant for it, as well as other regional players like Iran, Israel, and Turkey, in addition to key non-regional powers like China, Russia, Europe, and the United States. Pollack was both the lead author of the book and responsible for drafting nine of its 36 chapters.

Pollack’s book, "A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East," was published in July 2008 by Random House. This book warned that the economic, social, and political stagnation of the states of the Muslim Middle East had pushed all of these countries into a pre-revolutionary state that could trigger revolutions, civil wars, insurgencies, and failed states at any time. It also prescribed a long-term, overarching approach for the United States to pursue to secure its interests by enabling a process of gradual, indigenously-driven reform throughout the Muslim Middle East. It has been a Washington Post and Foreign Affairs best-seller and was chosen as one of The Washington Post’s “Best Books of the Year” for 2008, as well as an editor’s choice of The New York Times Book Review.

Pollack is also the author of six other books: "Unfinished Business: An American Strategy for Iraq Moving Forward" (Brookings Institution Press, 2010), co-authored with Raad Alkadiri, J. Scott Carpenter, Frederick Kagan, and Sean Kane; "Which Path to Persia: Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran" (Brookings Institution Press, 2009), co-authored with Daniel Byman, Martin Indyk, Suzanne Maloney, Michael O’Hanlon, and Bruce Riedel; "Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover of a Civil War in Iraq," co-authored with Daniel Byman and published by the Brookings Institution Press in 2007; "The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America," published by Random House in November 2004; "Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991," published in 2002 by the University of Nebraska Press; and "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq," published in 2002 by Random House, which was a New York Times and The Washington Post bestseller.

Among his other work, Pollack is the author of the October 2014 analysis paper, "Building a Better Syrian Opposition Army: How and Why," in response to President Obama's pledge to build a moderator Syrian opposition. He was the principal author of “A Switch in Time: A New Strategy for America in Iraq,” a center monograph published in February 2006, which laid out a comprehensive, alternative U.S. policy toward the military, political, economic, and bureaucratic reconstruction of Iraq along the lines of the “surge” strategy adopted by the United States in 2007. He is also the author of numerous articles including “The Seven Deadly Sins of Iraqi Reconstruction,” in the December 2006 edition of Middle East Review of International Affairs; “What Iran Really Wants,” in the November 2006 issue of Current History; “Iraq Runneth Over: What Next?” co-authored with Daniel Byman in The Washington Post Outlook section, on August 20, 2006; “Taking on Tehran,” co-authored with Ray Takeyh in the March/April 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs; “Spies, Lies and Weapons: What Went Wrong?” in the January 2004 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, and “Securing the Gulf,” in the July/August 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs.

Pollack received his bachelor's from Yale University and a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His dissertation was titled "The Influence of Arab Culture on Arab Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991."

Affiliations:
Albright Stonebridge Group, senior advisor
Georgetown University, adjunct professor
Gerson Lehrman Group, consultant
Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, advisor
The National Interest, contributing editor

Kenneth M. Pollack is an expert on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, with particular emphasis on Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the other nations of the Persian Gulf region. He is currently a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He served as the director of the Center from 2009 to 2012, and its director of research from 2002 to 2009. His most recent book, “Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy” (Simon & Schuster, 2013), was named one of the “Best Books of 2013” by The Economist and one of the “100 Notable Books of 2013” by The New York Times.

Pollack began his career as an Iran-Iraq military analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he was an employee from 1988 until 1995. During that time, he was the principal author of the CIA’s classified post-mortem on Iraqi strategy and military operations during the Persian Gulf War of 1990 to 1991. Pollack received the CIA’s Certificate of Distinction for Outstanding Performance of Duty for work before and during the Persian Gulf War. He also twice received the CIA’s Exceptional Performance Award, also for work related to the Persian Gulf War.

Pollack has twice served on the staff of the National Security Council. From 1995 to 1996, he was director for Near East and South Asian affairs, and from 1999 to 2001, he served as director for Persian Gulf Affairs. In this latter capacity, he was the principal working-level official for U.S. policy toward Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and the Gulf Cooperation Council States at the White House.

In addition to these positions, Pollack has been a senior research professor at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University where he principally worked on long-term issues related to Middle Eastern political and military affairs for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He has been the director for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In 2011, in response to the remarkable events in the Middle East, Pollack brought together 18 Brookings scholars to write “The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East,” published in November 2011 by the Brookings Institution Press. This work is the first comprehensive look at these epochal events. The book examines the dynamics of the Arab Awakening, from the role of new media to the role of Islamists and from the impact of economics to the impact of the Arab militaries. It also addressed virtually every country in the Middle East and what the Arab Awakening meant for it, as well as other regional players like Iran, Israel, and Turkey, in addition to key non-regional powers like China, Russia, Europe, and the United States. Pollack was both the lead author of the book and responsible for drafting nine of its 36 chapters.

Pollack’s book, “A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East,” was published in July 2008 by Random House. This book warned that the economic, social, and political stagnation of the states of the Muslim Middle East had pushed all of these countries into a pre-revolutionary state that could trigger revolutions, civil wars, insurgencies, and failed states at any time. It also prescribed a long-term, overarching approach for the United States to pursue to secure its interests by enabling a process of gradual, indigenously-driven reform throughout the Muslim Middle East. It has been a Washington Post and Foreign Affairs best-seller and was chosen as one of The Washington Post’s “Best Books of the Year” for 2008, as well as an editor’s choice of The New York Times Book Review.

Pollack is also the author of six other books: “Unfinished Business: An American Strategy for Iraq Moving Forward” (Brookings Institution Press, 2010), co-authored with Raad Alkadiri, J. Scott Carpenter, Frederick Kagan, and Sean Kane; “Which Path to Persia: Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran” (Brookings Institution Press, 2009), co-authored with Daniel Byman, Martin Indyk, Suzanne Maloney, Michael O’Hanlon, and Bruce Riedel; “Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover of a Civil War in Iraq,” co-authored with Daniel Byman and published by the Brookings Institution Press in 2007; “The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America,” published by Random House in November 2004; “Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991,” published in 2002 by the University of Nebraska Press; and “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,” published in 2002 by Random House, which was a New York Times and The Washington Post bestseller.

Among his other work, Pollack is the author of the October 2014 analysis paper, “Building a Better Syrian Opposition Army: How and Why,” in response to President Obama’s pledge to build a moderator Syrian opposition. He was the principal author of “A Switch in Time: A New Strategy for America in Iraq,” a center monograph published in February 2006, which laid out a comprehensive, alternative U.S. policy toward the military, political, economic, and bureaucratic reconstruction of Iraq along the lines of the “surge” strategy adopted by the United States in 2007. He is also the author of numerous articles including “The Seven Deadly Sins of Iraqi Reconstruction,” in the December 2006 edition of Middle East Review of International Affairs; “What Iran Really Wants,” in the November 2006 issue of Current History; “Iraq Runneth Over: What Next?” co-authored with Daniel Byman in The Washington Post Outlook section, on August 20, 2006; “Taking on Tehran,” co-authored with Ray Takeyh in the March/April 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs; “Spies, Lies and Weapons: What Went Wrong?” in the January 2004 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, and “Securing the Gulf,” in the July/August 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs.

Pollack received his bachelor’s from Yale University and a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His dissertation was titled “The Influence of Arab Culture on Arab Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991.”

Affiliations:
Albright Stonebridge Group, senior advisor
Georgetown University, adjunct professor
Gerson Lehrman Group, consultant
Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, advisor
The National Interest, contributing editor

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