Philip Zelikow

White Burkett Miller Professor of History and J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance

Fast Facts

  • Former Miller Center director
  • Executive Director of 9/11 Commission
  • Former State Department Counselor
  • 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 and J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance at the University of Virginia, where he has also served as dean of the Graduate School and director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs. 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.

Philip Zelikow News Feed

At the end of last week, the next phase of U.S.–North Korean diplomacy got off to a rocky start in Pyongyang. Following a set of talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the North Korean Foreign Ministry criticized Washington’s “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization.” Pompeo maintains that the meetings were “productive.” Pompeo was right, in the sense that the talks again showed why too narrow a focus on denuclearization has been and continues to be a recipe for failure. A one-track devotion to ending the nuclear program will force all other important issues to queue up behind it. As pressure mounts to resolve the lead issue, the whole diplomatic process could stall or even fail, leading to crisis once again. In contrast, a broader process would actually do more to ease progress on denuclearization, as well as multiple other fronts.
Philip Zelikow Foreign Affairs
North Korea poses one of the world's trickiest diplomatic puzzles, and focusing solely on denuclearization won't solve it, according to a State Department veteran and University of Virginia faculty member who recently visited the Korean peninsula. History professor and former State Department official Philip Zelikow was in South Korea last week to participate in discussions with government officials, diplomats and scholars about ongoing negotiations between North and South Korea and the United States.
Philip Zelikow UVA Today
Focusing on denuclearization won’t get us anywhere with North Korea, says Philip Zelikow, a former U.S. State Department official and professor of history at the University of Virginia. “I’ve been arguing for a long time that we need a different strategy,” he told the JoongAng Ilbo and Korea JoongAng Daily in an interview during the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity on June 27. “Instead of pushing for denuclearization first - a narrow technical agenda that doesn’t even engage the Korean people very much - we should have a broad discussion on many issues that Koreans understand and are important, and then an improved atmosphere will make denuclearization easier.”
Philip Zelikow Korea JoongAng Daily
The two Koreas should be at the center of the denuclearization process, with the backing of the US and China, to resolve the decades-old nuclear standoff and establish a peace regime, a former American diplomat told a forum Wednesday. Philip Zelikow, former counselor of the US Department of State and director of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, suggested that the countries go beyond focusing on technical parts of denuclearization to achieve “results.”
Philip Zelikow The Korea Herald
For the last three years, the author has made his NCAA tournament picks based on a school’s history department. How does Virginia win it all?
Philip Zelikow SBNation
The Miller Center's Philip Zelikow reconstructs the U.S. decision to take the Philippines