Michael Desch

Brian and Jeannelle Brady Family Director of the Notre Dame International Security Center
Packey J. Dee Professor of Political Science

Packey J. Dee Professor of Political Science
2026 Jenkins and Nanovic Halls
Notre Dame, IN 46556
+1 574-631-2792


Research Interests

International Relations, American foreign policy, International security


Michael C. Desch is the Packey J. Dee Professor of International Relations at the University of Notre Dame and founding Brian and Jeannelle Brady Family Director of the Notre Dame International Security Center.

He served two terms as chair of the Department of Political Science. He was also the founding Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and the first holder of the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University from 2004 through 2008. 

From 1993 through 1998, he was Assistant Director and Senior Research Associate at the Olin Institute. He spent two years (1988-90) as a John M. Olin Post-doctoral Fellow in National Security at Harvard University's Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, among other positions. He received his B.A. (With honors) in Political Science (1982) from Marquette University and his A.M. in International Relations (1984) and Ph.D. in Political Science (1988) from the University of Chicago.

Michael Desch talks with a student at an outdoor stone table

Desch has published numerous scholarly and broader interest articles and he is the author of four books:

  • When the Third World Matters: Latin America and U.S. Grand Strategy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993)
  • Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999)
  • Power and Military Effectiveness: The Fallacy of Democratic Triumphalism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008)
  • Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018)

He is also a co-author of Privileged and Confidential: The Secret History of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2012), co-editor of From Pirates to Drug Lords: The Post-Cold War Caribbean Security Environment (Albany: State University Press, 1998), and editor of Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena: Professors or Pundits? (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2016) and Soldiers in Cities: Military Operations on Urban Terrain (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College, 2001).

Desch has worked on the staff of a U.S. Senator, in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State, and in the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division of the Congressional Research Service.

Mike Desch, Director of the Notre Dame International Security Center