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Caitlin Talmadge



September 5, 2023 — May 24, 2024

Professional affiliation

Associate Professor of Political Science Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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  • Security and Defense

Wilson Center Projects

Risky Business: Nuclear Escalation Dangers in World Politics

Full Biography

Caitlin Talmadge is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also serves as a Senior Non-Resident Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution; a member of the Defense Policy Board at the U.S. Department of Defense; and a series editor for Cornell Studies in Security Affairs at Cornell University Press. During academic year 2023-4, she is on leave from MIT as a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.

Professor Talmadge’s research and teaching focus on nuclear deterrence and escalation, U.S. military operations and strategy, and security issues in Asia and the Persian Gulf. She is author of The Dictator’s Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes (Cornell, 2015), which Foreign Affairs named the Best Book in Security for 2016 and which won the 2017 Best Book Award from the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association. In addition, she is co-author of U.S. Defense Politics: The Origins of Security Policy (fourth edition, Routledge, 2021), and she is currently writing a book with Professor Brendan Green on nuclear escalation risk in the emerging deterrence environment.

Dr. Talmadge has published articles in International Security, Security Studies, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, The Journal of Strategic Studies, Foreign Affairs, The Washington QuarterlyThe Non-Proliferation Review, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,and The Washington Post, among others. She has also testified before the Congressionally mandated U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, and her commentary on current events has appeared in The Financial TimesThe New York TimesThe AtlanticThe EconomistNewsweek,and other media outlets such as CNN. 

Dr. Talmadge is a graduate of Harvard (A.B., Government, summa cum laude) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Ph.D., Political Science). Previously, she has worked as a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; a consultant to the Office of Net Assessment at the U.S. Department of Defense; and a professor at the George Washington University and Georgetown University. For more information, please visit or follow her on Twitter @ProfTalmadge.


Major Publications

  • 2015. The Dictator’s Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes (Cornell University Press).
  • 2022. “Then What? Assessing the Military Implications of Chinese Control of Taiwan,” with Brendan Rittenhouse Green, International Security 47(1): 7-45
  • 2022. “Deterrence in the Emerging Nuclear Era,” in The Fragile Balance of Terror, eds. Vipin Narang and Scott Sagan (Cornell University Press Series in Security Affairs).