Aaron O'Connell

Faculty Fellow  | Clements Center
Aaron O'Connell



Aaron O'Connell is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin and Faculty Fellow at the Clements Center. Previously, he served as Director for Defense Policy & Strategy on the National Security Council at the White House, where he worked on a range of national security matters including security cooperation and assistance, defense matters in Africa, significant military exercises, landmine and cluster munitions policy, and high-technology matters affecting the national defense, such as autonomy in weapon systems.  He is a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.


Dr. O’Connell’s scholarly interests span four inter-related fields: 20th century military history, U.S. foreign affairs, cultural history, and American politics.  His scholarly publications focus on understanding the effects of U.S. military influence and infrastructure inside and outside the United States. His public history pieces mostly concern how the U.S. military affects contemporary domestic and political culture. He teaches courses in military history, U.S. foreign policy, U.S. military culture, and the U.S.’s role in the world since 1898.


Dr. O’Connell is the author of Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps, which explores how the Marine Corps rose from relative unpopularity to become the most prestigious armed service in the United States.  He is also the editor of Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan, which is a critical account of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan since 2001. He has also authored a number of articles and book chapters on military affairs and the representations of the military in U.S. popular culture in the 20th century. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.