Philip Zelikow

White Burkett Miller Professor of History

Fast Facts

  • Former Miller Center director
  • Executive Director of 9/11 Commission
  • Elected member, American Academy of Diplomacy
  • Expertise in American foreign policy, military history, European military history, Cuban missile crisis

Areas Of Expertise

  • Foreign Affairs
  • American Defense and Security
  • War and Terrorism
  • Domestic Affairs
  • Governance
  • Congress
  • Leadership
  • Politics
  • The Presidency

Philip Zelikow is the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia, where he has also served as dean of the Graduate School and director of the Miller Center. His scholarly work has focused on critical episodes in American and world history. 

He was a trial and appellate lawyer and then a career diplomat before taking academic positions at Harvard, then Virginia. Before and during his academic career, he has served at all levels of American government. His federal service during five administrations has included positions in the White House, State Department, and the Pentagon. His last full-time government position was as the counselor of the Department of State, a deputy to Secretary Condoleezza Rice. 

He directed a small and short-lived federal agency, the 9/11 Commission. He also directed an earlier bipartisan commission on election reform, chaired by former Presidents Carter and Ford, that led to successful passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. More recently he was managing director of “Rework America,” a landmark project on American economic opportunity in the digital age, organized by the Markle Foundation. 

He is one of the few individuals ever to serve on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Boards for presidents of both parties, in the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He has also been a member of the Defense Policy Board for Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and a member of the board of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2020, he was elected a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy.

Philip Zelikow News Feed

In this interview, Philip Zelikow discusses his experiences in and out of government that inform his diagnosis of declining U.S. state capacity. He describes the leadership failures of Woodrow Wilson, the strengths and limitations of the “moderate” perspective in politics and government, and the essence of successful political problem-solving. He explains the business and military cultures that contributed to the country’s successes during World War II and over the following decades, as well as the more recent deterioration in public service training and staff habits. He talks about his current work as director of the COVID Commission Planning Group, and suggests how Americans can rebuild our national competency and regain our global image as the ultimate “can-do” country.
Philip Zelikow Niskanen Centere
Earlier this year, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks produced a flood of commentary, mostly focused on the United States, about the so-called global war on terror and its legacy. And, without a doubt, the two decades that followed 9/11 represent an important chapter in the history of the modern world. But it is a chapter that is not mainly about the United States.
Philip Zelikow Foreign Affairs
In this episode Eliot and Eric explore why Woodrow Wilson was unable to end World War I in 1916 despite the exhaustion of Britain, France, and Germany (the main combatants on the Western Front), how the lack of an adequate staffing may have contributed, the rise of a staffing culture inside the US government and the more recent loss of staffing and strategic competence, the role of reviewing past policy failures, the work of the House January 6 Committee investigation, and prospects for an Afghanistan and COVID-19 independent commissions. Our special guest is Philip Zelikow, the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia, the former Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission and author of the recent book, The Road Less Travelled: The Secret Battle to End the Great War, 1916-1917 (New York: Public Affairs Press, 2021).
Philip Zelikow Shield of the Republic Podcast
Antholis introduced History Prof. Philip Zelikow as the keynote speaker. Zelikow formerly worked in the federal government under five administrations and directed the Miller Center from 1998 to 2005. Zelikow began by talking about his experience after 9/11, having visited the towers’ remains soon after the attacks. “I can remember going to ground zero shortly after the attacks, and noticing that awful pungent smell of the place, as if the terrorists had opened up some special sulfurous path,” Zelikow said.
Philip Zelikow The Cavalier Daily
We all have our own memories associated with the tragedy of 9/11. In my case I can remember going to Ground Zero shortly after the attacks and noticing that awful, pungent smell of the place, as if the terrorists had opened up some special, sulfurous path to hell. Later, directing the commission investigating what happened, I have vivid memories of tramping through the Tarnak Farms camp in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden had once had a headquarters.
Philip Zelikow War on the Rocks
On the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the 2021 Ambassador William C. Battle Symposium explores its impact on the United States at home and in the world. Drawing on expertise from scholars, practitioners, and journalists, this conference examines the history of this era with an eye toward its implications for the future.
Philip Zelikow Miller Center Presents