The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
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Meghan L. O’Sullivan is the Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs and the Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, and the Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The Belfer Center – which includes more than 300 scholars, practitioners, and former policymakers and consistently ranks as the world’s top academic think-tank – advances policy-relevant knowledge in the areas of international relations, security, technology, science, and energy and the environment.
Dr. O’Sullivan draws on her broad experience in government, diplomacy, academia, and business to contribute insights into foreign policy and national security, energy markets, the transition to a net-zero global economy, and the geopolitics of that transition to benefit her students and colleagues, the U.S. government, global businesses, and the public debate. She takes pride in teaching and mentoring the world’s future leaders as a member of the Harvard Kennedy School faculty since 2008.
O’Sullivan’s scholarship continues to be at the nexus of traditional disciplines, examining topics at the intersection of geopolitics, science, markets, and policy. Her work on how large changes in the energy system – from advances in technology to extract oil and gas to the global move away from carbon-intensive fuels – has shaped how policymakers and academics alike view these issues. Her publications in this area include her award-winning 2017 book Windfall: How the New Energy Abundance Upends Global Politics and Strengthens America’s Power and “Green Upheaval: The New Geopolitics of Energy,” a co-authored Foreign Affairs article with Jason Bordoff was selected as one of the “Top Ten” print articles published in that journal in 2022. O’Sullivan also has written on the intersection of economic tools, markets, and foreign policy, including her 2003 Shrewd Sanctions: Statecraft and State Sponsors of Terrorism which is still used in syllabi across the country today. Her most recent book, Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy that George W. Bush Passed to Barack Obama, was co-edited with Steve Hadley, Peter Feaver, and Will Inboden, and was released on February 15, 2023.
O’Sullivan has served in multiple senior policymaking roles and has advised national security officials in both Republican and Democratic administrations. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her public service, including the U.S. Defense Department’s highest honor for civilians (the Distinguished Public Service Medal) and the State Department’s Superior Honor Award (which she has received three times).
O’Sullivan is currently a member of U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s Foreign Policy Advisory Board. Between 2004 and 2007, she was special assistant to President George W. Bush and was Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan during the last two years of her tenure. There, she helped run two strategic policy reviews: one on Afghanistan in the summer of 2006 and one on Iraq in late 2006 and early 2007, which led to the “surge” strategy. In her job at the National Security Council, O’Sullivan was responsible for identifying and building consensus around new policy directions in these countries as well as overseeing their execution. She spent two years in Iraq in total, during which she helped negotiate the Transitional Administrative Law, which was the interim constitution of Iraq from 2004-2006, and conclude the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and Strategic Framework Agreement between the United States and Iraq.
From July 2013 to December 2013, O’Sullivan was the Vice Chair of the All Party Talks in Northern Ireland, which sought to resolve outstanding issues in the peace process. She also worked in the office of Policy Planning in the State Department under Richard N. Haass and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
O’Sullivan also has extensive experience advising the private-sector on geopolitical risk and in board leadership and advisory roles in non-profit organizations. She is a Senior Director at the strategic consulting firm, Macro Advisory Partners, and is the Chair of the North American Group of the Trilateral Commission. Beginning in 2017, she was a director on the board of United Technologies, and continued on the board of the successor company, Raytheon Technologies, after the merger between United Technologies and Raytheon in 2020; her tenure on this board will end in the spring of 2023. She is also a member of the International Advisory Group for the British law firm, Linklaters. O’Sullivan serves on the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, a trustee of the International Crisis Group, and a member of the board of The Mission Continues, a non-profit organization to help veterans. O’Sullivan is on the advisory committee for the Women’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, as well as Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy.
O’Sullivan earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, a masters of science in economics, and doctorate in politics from Oxford University. She was a Henry Crown Fellow from 2015-2017 and a Henry Luce Fellow in Indonesia from 1991-1992.Last Updated: