Faculty Research Profiles


Associate Professor of International Security Studies William Martel is willing to tackle strategic questions and challenges. His book, Victory in War: Foundations of Modern Military Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2007) addresses the deceptively simple yet immensely important question of what it means to achieve victory in war.

Since the late 1990s, he has been focusing his research on the meaning of victory in war—a topic which, until his involvement, had not been addressed by a set of ideas or been a topic of debate.

Martel’s argument is that since we do not have a unified concept of victory, policymakers and scholars do not clearly understand the nature of victory or how to achieve it. Victory in War—which has received critical acclaim—outlines historical definitions of victory as well as how victory has evolved and ways in which policymakers have implemented it in the past. He uses a series of case studies to develop an organized set of principles in an attempt to provide an answer. His examples range from ancient Greece, through the American Revolution, to the end of the Cold War, and include post-Cold War examples of Afghanistan, and Iraq.

While victory is central to American thinking about war, Martel argues that our current generation of policymakers has failed to define what it means for strategy and war. That failure to systematically define what we mean by victory put the nation into difficult circumstances, as exemplified by Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terror.

Another project that is occupying Martel’s hours is a two-year study, undertaken collaboratively with (and funded by) MIT Lincoln Laboratory, that examines the principles and policies that regulate satellites and space regimes. There has been a long-standing debate within the defense and foreign policy communities on how space should be used for commercial, military, and environmental purposes. The question of whether to weaponize outer space is debated actively in Beijing, Moscow, and Washington.

“It is imperative that we answer such questions as: What is the permissible range of activities in space? What are governments and commercial firms allowed to do in space? Can we develop “rules of the road” for space to guide states and firms? Can we develop principles of transparency in space to reduce the chances of miscalculation and war? What is the balance between military and commercial activities in space, and what are the policy and security implications?” says Martel.

There are political, legal, and international security constraints on how we use space. What happens if satellites interfere with other satellites? Does the area around a satellite have special legal status? Since states and commercial firms worry directly about such concerns, Martel hopes to develop a framework for addressing these and related questions about the future direction of space development. In 2009, Martel will present his findings to policymakers in Washington who are concerned about the global and commercial implications of space. A number of Fletcher students are assisting Martel in the research for this book.

In addition, Martel is working on a new book with Cambridge University Press on the use of policy analysis to evaluate a range of complex problems in both international and domestic politics.

In his courses, which include “Foundations in Policy Analysis,” “Leadership,” “Decision Making and Public Policy,” and “Technology,” Martel’s approach to teaching is to engage students in discussions that focus on the intersection between theory and practice. When students leave his courses, he wants them to think critically about the central problem or question, and to focus their intellectual efforts and passions on that issue.