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US Army strategist joins ASU as professor of practice

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Cavanaugh

Matt Cavanaugh

August 02, 2019

Matt Cavanaugh, a new professor of practice in the School of Politics and Global Studies and an affiliated faculty member with the Center on the Future of War, was in Tempe this July to film a lecture for his first semester teaching online at Arizona State University.

Lt. Col. Cavanaugh is an active-duty U.S. Army strategist with experience in 11 countries and assignments ranging from Iraq and the Pentagon to Korea and New Zealand. He is also a co-founder of and a nonresident fellow with the Modern War Institute at West Point. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, and the Daily Beast, among others.

In his first semester, Cavanaugh will be teaching a course in ASU's MA in global security program. During his visit he took some time to share more about his research and what he hopes to accomplish while at ASU.

Question: As an active-duty U.S. Army strategist with many past accomplishments, what led you into your current field of study?

Answer: Life. In my early 20s I deployed to Iraq in 2003 and again in 2005. Ever since, I've endeavored to understand what it was all about, why it was so chaotic and violent and tragic and difficult. My career and academic paths have run in parallel ever since — and focused on better understanding war and military strategy.

Q: The Modern War Institute at West Point generates new knowledge for the profession of arms, enhances the West Point curriculum and provides the Army and the nation with an intellectual resource for solving military problems. What led you to co-found the MWI?

A: A threat. While teaching at West Point from 2012 to 2015, I noticed cadets really wanted to talk so much more about modern war, about what was dominating the headlines. And when former President Obama threatened the now infamous "red line" to deter Syrian regime use of chemical weapons … knowing how much the cadets would want to learn more about all the angles in that confrontation, I pulled together a panel and 200-plus showed up — without anyone forcing them. We did more events, built momentum, demonstrated the demand and MWI followed soon thereafter.

Q: Why did you decide to come to ASU as a professor of practice for the MA in Global Security online degree?

A: Luck. I happened to be speaking at New America/ASU's 2018 Future of War Conference and met the dynamic duo of Daniel Rothenberg and Jeff Kubiak and the rest, as I say, isn't just history, it's the firm foundation of a really meaningful and cool academic program.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as you work at the university?

A: To learn. To forge a better compass in life and research. Above all, to get a little bit better.

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