Faculty Research Profiles


Since arriving at Fletcher in 1970 and founding its International Security Studies Program in 1971, Professor Robert Pfaltzgraff has embodied the School’s commitment both to an interdisciplinary approach to world issues and to understanding the nexus of theory and practice. A political scientist by training, Pfaltzgraff may be best known by students in the field for his textbook, Contending Theories of International Relations, together with numerous other writings on international security issues, foreign policy and alliance relations. His most recent book is Anticipating a Nuclear Iran, published by Columbia University Press. His intellectual interests and academic background run the Fletcher gamut: an MBA from Wharton has contributed to an enduring focus on international economic relationships and their implications for strategy and politics. His childhood passion for US and British history has evolved into a perennial intellectual pursuit. An awareness of the transformative effects of technology on international affairs has inspired him to develop expertise in that area that he applies to international security.

As the Founder and President of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA), Pfaltzgraff translates his academic knowledge into the policy world. Through IFPA, his projects have included such topics as national security strategy, homeland security, missile defense options, counter-proliferation studies and United States space policy. He has also advised U.S. officials on military strategy, modernization and arms control policy, and participated in the development and conduct of political-military gaming exercises.

Pfaltzgraff is particularly intrigued by the “new security paradigm,” which includes states and other actors and cuts across the international and domestic settings. After 9/11 he assisted the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in developing a strategic plan for homeland security. He has also worked with each of the military services to organize major conferences on emerging security issues shaping the 21st Century crisis map. He has just completed a major study on escalation dynamics in a world of proliferating technologies to an unprecedented number of states and others extending across a spectrum from the nuclear to the cyber. 

A life-long educator, Pfaltzgraff incorporates many of his practical experiences into the Fletcher curriculum. His seminar on “Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies” provides students with insights into the issues facing today’s policymakers and practitioners. The crisis management course, offered in the fall semester, culminates in a two-day simulation that brings together Fletcher students, relevant government representatives and gaming experts to tackle a realistic international crisis scenario. His course on International Relations Theory includes a focus on how principal theories help shape, or relate to, major policy issues.

Numerous international teaching experiences have both contributed to and built on Pfaltzgraff’s Fletcher career. He has taught in various capacities at Scotland’s University of St Andrews, Germany’s Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Japan’s National Defense College, and the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. Lecturing in foreign settings, as well as the internationally diverse classrooms of Fletcher, has impressed upon him the fact that the world can look very different when viewed from culturally, historically and geographically diverse points of the globe.

His answer to the question of how to manage and juggle the various elements of a wide-ranging career? “You need a strategic vision of your goals that allows you to establish priorities, and then you need to organize your means to achieve those goals,” he counsels. “And you also need to be a bit of a workaholic.”