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. 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

Our government and citizens are certainly entitled to understand, as best they can, the counterintelligence story: how the Russian government carried out a series of covert operations to intervene in the election of a U.S. president, and how Americans may have encouraged or worked with the foreign agents.
“What Merkel is viscerally remembering was the American-European partnership at its height, in a period of emergency and world crisis,” said Philip D. Zelikow, who advised Mr. Bush on German reunification and the breakup of the Soviet Union. “Now here were are, as the system these leaders created is drifting into great jeopardy.”
Philip Zelikow The New York Times
Former George H.W. Bush advisor and Miller Center scholar Philip Zelikow shares his recollections with UVA Today.
Caroline Newman UVA Today
George Herbert Walker Bush died Friday at the age of 94 at his home in Houston. The 41st President served from 1989 to 1993, before losing his bid for a second term. The Takeaway hears from two people with intimate knowledge of the president's life and legacy: Timothy Naftali, George H.W. Bush biographer and associate clinical professor of history and of public service at NYU, and Philip Zelikow, history professor at the University of Virginia who served on the staff of the National Security Council under President George H.W. Bush.
Philip Zelikow WNYC The Takeaway
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