Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Aaron Friedberg

  • Vice President Cheney's Deputy National Security Adviser (2003-2005)
  • American Enterprise Institute: Council of Academic Advisers
  • Alexander Hamilton Society: Cofounder

Please note: IPS Right Web neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.

Aaron Friedberg is a professor of international affairs at Princeton University who has served as a member of the American Enterprise Institute’s Council of Academic Advisers. A well-known Asia hawk who served as a national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, Friedberg was also a founding member of the Project for the New American Century, a neoconservative pressure group that helped build public support for attacking Iraq after the 9/11 attacks.

Friedberg considers China to be a “strategic challenge of historic dimensions” for the United States. In a 2015 commentary for Politico he worried that the 2016 presidential candidates were failing to focus sufficient attention on China, writing: “[M]ost of the likely Republican contenders are talking tough on foreign policy and criticizing the Obama administration for its evident failings in handling Russia, Iran, Syria, and the Islamic State and other Islamist extremists. These threats are undeniably pressing but, in the long run, all of them pale in comparison to the strategic challenge posed by China. Yet China and Asia more generally have thus far been almost entirely absent from political discourse over the future of American foreign policy.”[1]

Friedberg’s fears about China are long-standing. In 2000, he contributed a chapter on China for Present Dangers, edited by PNAC co-founders William Kristol and Robert Kagan. More recently, Friedberg contributed a chapter to a 2015 book published by the neoconservative John Hay Initiative, an organization which has been dubbed a “rebirth of the Project for the New American Century.”[2] Titled “A New China Strategy,” Friedberg’s chapter called for a U.S. approach towards China that “is more forthright in acknowledging the extent and severity of the challenge posed by Beijing’s growing strength and broadening ambitions, more forceful and determined in defending U.S. interests and values, and more skillful and farsighted in integrating all of the instruments of American national power and working with like-minded friends and allies.”[3]

Track Record

When Friedberg was appointed in May 2003 to the post of deputy national security adviser working under I. Lewis Libby in the Office of the Vice President, many observers saw it as a sign that the Bush administration was going to take a harder stance toward China. It was also seen as a victory for neoconservative ideologues both in and outside the administration.

John Gershman, an Asia specialist at New York University, said of the appointment: “There really haven't been top people under Bush who knew much about China. He's the first one. … [Friedberg] fits clearly into the group that has been dominant in the administration since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. … He's a China-threat person without being hysterical about it. But his appointment is a clear sign that the cooperation that has emerged between the U.S. and China on the war on terrorism and North Korea is entirely tactical, and that Cheney is still inclined to see China as a strategic competitor."[4]

After his brief stint in government, Friedberg returned to Princeton, where he has continued to focus on Asian security issues. Commenting on President Obama’s 2010 trip to Asia, when the president deliberately did not visit Beijing, Friedberg wrote in The New Republic: “Over the last several years, many Chinese analysts and strategic thinkers have concluded that American power is rapidly on the wane, and some appear to believe that it may now be possible for Beijing to act more decisively in reshaping Asia according to its own preferences. In order to reduce the risk of Chinese miscalculation, the United States and its Asian friends and allies will need to act in ways designed to insure that the overall balance of power remains overwhelmingly in their favor. This will require closer coordination on strategic issues among countries like Japan, South Korea, India, and Australia, as well as between each of them and the United States. And it will necessitate some new defense programs designed to counter and neutralize the more troubling elements of China’s ongoing military build-up. Beijing will object strenuously to any such moves, but neither the United States nor its democratic partners should allow themselves to be dissuaded from taking measures whose true purpose is to bolster stability and keep the peace.”[5]

In 2010, Friedberg co-founded the Alexander Hamilton Society (AHS) with AEI scholar Dan Blumenthal.[6] AHS describes itself as an “an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting constructive debate on basic principles and contemporary issues in foreign, economic, and national security policy.”[7] AHS’s board of advisers includes numerous neoconservative figures, including: former Reagan official Elliott Abrams, former George W. Bush U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, hawkish Council of Foreign Relation fellow Max Boot, Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute, the Foundation for Defense of DemocraciesJohn Hannah, neoconservative historian Robert Kagan, Weekly Standard-editor Bill Kristol, Robert Lieber, Michael O’Hanlon, Mitchell Reiss, Stephen Rosen, Michael Rubin, and Gary Schmitt.[8] In 2011, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered a speech at AHS which the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens characterized as a “neocon manifesto.”[9]

According to his Princeton bio, Freidberg initially joined the faculty in 1987 and served as “Director of Princeton's Research Program in International Security at the Woodrow Wilson School from 1992-2003, as well as Acting Director and then Director of the Center of International Studies at Princeton in 2000-2001 and 2002-2003.”[10]

Friedberg is the author of several books, including The Weary Titan, 1895-1905: Britain and the Experience of Relative Decline (Princeton University Press, 1988) andIn the Shadow of the Garrison State: America's Anti-Statism and Its Cold War Grand Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2000).[11] His latest book is A Contest for Supremacy: China, America and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia, published in 2011 by W.W. Norton.[12]

Share RightWeb

Please note: IPS Right Web neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.


[1] Aaron Friedberg, “The Sleeper Issue of 2016 Is China,” Politico, May 11, 2015,http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/2016-elections-beijing-117831.

[2] Jim Lobe, "Neocons Launch 2016 Manifesto," LobeLog, October 26, 2015, https://lobelog.com/neocons-launch-2016-manifesto/.

[3] Aaron Friedberg, “A NEW CHINA STRATEGY,” The John Hay Initiative, http://www.choosingtolead.net/a-new-china-strategy/.

[4] Jim Lobe, "China Hawk Settles in Neocons' Nest," Asia Times Online, May 13, 2003

[5] Aaron Friedberg, “How Barack Obama Became a China Hawk,” The New Republic, November 10, 2010,http://www.tnr.com/blog/foreign-policy/79030/obamas-china-containment-tour-2010.

[6] Michael Mazza, “The Alexander Hamilton Society Appoints Gabriel Scheinmann As Executive Director,” Alexander Hamilton Society, January 11, 2016,http://hamiltonsociety.nationbuilder.com/the_alexander_hamilton_society_appoints_gabriel_scheinmann_as_executive_director.

[7] The Alexander Hamilton Society, http://hamiltonsociety.nationbuilder.com/about.

[8] Alexander Hamilton Society, “Board of Advisers,” http://hamiltonsociety.nationbuilder.com/board_of_advisors.

[9] Jacob Heilbrunn, “Is Paul Ryan a Foreign Policy Realist or Neoconservative?” The Atlantic, August 17, 2012,http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/08/is-paul-ryan-a-foreign-policy-realist-or-neoconservative/261268/.

[10] Program in Law and Public Affairs, “Aaron L. Friedberg,” http://lapa.princeton.edu/peopledetail.php?ID=305.

[11] Program in Law and Public Affairs, “Aaron L. Friedberg,” http://lapa.princeton.edu/peopledetail.php?ID=305.

[12] Aaron Friedberg, “How Barack Obama Became a China Hawk,” The New Republic, November 10, 2010,http://www.tnr.com/blog/foreign-policy/79030/obamas-china-containment-tour-2010.

Share RightWeb

Aaron Friedberg Résumé


  • American Enterprise Institute: Council of Academic Advisers
  • Princeton University: Professor of Politics and International Affairs
  • Project for the New American Century: Signatory
  • Alexander Hamilton Society: Cofounder
  • National Committee on United States-China Relations: Member
  • National Bureau of Asian Research, Strategic Asia Project: Research Director, 2002-2003
  • Princeton University, Center of International Studies: Director, 2002-2003
  • Princeton University, Research Program in International Security: Director, 1992-2003
  • George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies: Consultant
  • Smithsonian Institution’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: Fellow, 1989-1990
  • Norwegian Nobel Institute: Senior Fellow, 1998
  • Harvard University, Center for International Affairs: Fellow, 1986-1987
  • Foreign Policy: Contributor to “Shadow Government” blog, 2009
  • Joint Forces Quarterly: Editorial Board, 1993-present
  • World Politics: Associate Editor, 1988-2003; Review Articles Editor, 1993-1997

Government Service

  • Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs and Director of Policy
  • Planning, Office of the Vice President, 2003-2005
  • Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion: Member, 2006-2008
  • Defense Policy Board, 2007-2008
  • Library of Congress, Henry Alfred Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations: First Holder, 2001-2002
  • National Security Council: Consultant
  • Department of Defense: Quadrennial Defense Review ‘Red Team,” 2005-2006
  • Central Intelligence Agency: Consultant
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory: Consultant


  • Harvard University: B.A., 1978 in Government
  • Harvard University: M.A., in Government
  • Harvard University: Ph. D., 1986 in Government


Aaron Friedberg News Feed

Trump and China's Xi get ready to tango in Buenos Aires - NBC NewsTrump agrees to temporarily halt U.S. trade war with China - KSBY San Luis Obispo NewsTrump’s uneventful outing at the G-20 - The Washington PostThe US & China: A Colder Peace or Thucydides' Trap? - Breaking DefenseIt is America's Move in its Competition with China - War on the RocksChina’s Understanding of Global Order Shouldn’t Be Ours - Foreign PolicyDid America Get China Wrong? - Foreign AffairsA Marshall Plan for China? It Existed, but Even Marshall Couldn’t Pull It Off - The New York TimesA turning point in US economic relations with China - The InterpreterThe Trump Administration is at a Crossroads on China Trade Policy - War on the RocksThe Return of the Pentagon’s Yoda - Foreign PolicyNew U.S.-China tariffs raise fears of an economic Cold War - The Washington PostIt's now or never pedestrians: German town has Elvis lights - KATUA Contest For Supremacy — By Aaron L. Friedberg — Book Review - New York Times10 Reasons US-China Strategic Competition is Good - The National Interest OnlineAlexander Hamilton Society debate on Singapore Summit brings more agreement than debate - CMU The Tartan OnlineBucking Beijing - Foreign AffairsHow China Went From a Business Opportunity to Enemy No. 1 - BloombergReview: 'A Contest for Supremacy' by Aaron Friedberg - Council on Foreign RelationsRobert George Gilpin Jr., expert on international political economy, dies at 87 - Princeton University

Right Web is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

The Right Web Mission

Right Web tracks militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy.

For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

Featured Profiles

On August 16, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formation of the Iran Action Group (IAG). It would “be responsible for directing, reviewing, and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity, and it will report directly to me,” he stated. Amid speculation that the Donald Trump administration was focused on…

Norm Coleman is a lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government, chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and former senator from Minnesota, known for hawkish, pro-Likud, and anti-Iran foreign policy views.

The millionaire pastor of the Cornerstone Church in Texas, John Hagee argues that U.S. support for Israel will play a “a pivotal role in the second coming” of Jesus. He has also risen to new prominence during the Trump administration.

Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian who served as a chief aide and speechwriter in the George W. Bush White House, is a conservative columnist for the Washington Post and one of Donald Trump’s harshest critics on the right, calling him an “unhinged president.”

Robert Kagan, a cofounder of the Project for the New American Century, is a neoconservative policy pundit and historian based at the Brookings Institution.

Mira Ricardel, former weapons marketer for Boeing, is the deputy national security adviser under John Bolton. She is a well-known foreign policy hawk who has served in key positions in the administration of George W. Bush and, earlier, in the office of former Senator Robert Dole (R-KS).

Fred Fleitz left his role as chief of staff at the National Security Council under John Bolton to succeed notorious Islamophobe Frank Gaffney as president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy.