Focused on Strategy with Impact
Committed to Deep Analysis
Oriented to the Future
Committed to Public Duty
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What We Do

America is entering an era of great power competition for which it is not prepared. How to secure American freedom and prosperity in this more competitive age is the organizing national security question of our time.

The mission of The Marathon Initiative is to develop the diplomatic, military, and economic strategies the nation will need to navigate a protracted competition with great power rivals.

Marathon is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research organization. It is funded by private individuals and foundations, as well as by grants from or contract work for the U.S. Government. Marathon does not seek or accept funding from corporations or from foreign sources.

To preserve America’s prosperity, security, and democratic way of life in an era when they are threatened by the return of great power competition.

Who We Are

Elbridge Colby

Elbridge Colby is co-founder and principal of The Marathon Initiative and formerly served as the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development.

Wess Mitchell

Dr. A. Wess Mitchell is co-founder and principal at The Marathon Initiative and formerly served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Jakub Grygiel

Dr. Jakub J. Grygiel is a Senior Advisor at The Marathon Initiative and formerly served as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State.

Edward Luttwak

Dr. Edward N. Luttwak is a Distinguished Adjunct Fellow at The Marathon Initiative and formerly served as a consultant to the U.S. government.

Matt Pottinger

Matt Pottinger is a Senior Advisor at The Marathon Initiative and formerly served as the U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor.

Our Work

Strategic Sequencing: How Great Powers Avoid Multi-Front War

by A. Wess Mitchell

This paper examines how four great powers in history have handled simultaneity. Byzantium, Venice, Habsburg Austria, and the British Empire were all confronted, at important moments in their life cycles as empires, with the appearance of new threats both more powerful and different in kind than anything they had previously encountered.
Read the Report
August 11, 2022

Erin Molan: Australia can ill afford to overlook the threat of China

The Daily Telegraph (Australia) |  There are plenty of experts who believe that Taiwan isn’t the main target and that China is more likely to attack bigger (read the West) and do it quickly........

August 11, 2022

China’s ‘new normal’ for Taiwan raises fears for global trade

Al Jazeera | “If the Chinese impose a full or partial blockade, the United States should work with like-minded countries in Asia and beyond to ensure that Taiwan is resupplied with adequate critical goods,” Elbridge Colby, a former high-ranking US defence official, told Al Jazeera....

August 11, 2022

America Must Prepare for a War Over Taiwan

Foreign Affairs | Why isn’t the United States doing more to prepare for war with China over Taiwan—precisely to deter and thus avoid it?....

August 7, 2022

China has ‘incentives’ to ‘strike big and early’

Sky News Australia | Former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Elbridge Colby says he's worried about the possibility of China striking "big and early in a pretty surprising way", as laid out by NSW Liberal Senator Jim Molan....

August 4, 2022

‘Japan to triple its defense budget’: Former U.S. Defense official Bridge Colby

Nikkei Asia | The Fumio Kishida government is considering increasing defense spending at a pace that will not be able to counter the threat from China. Former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Elbridge Colby, who is visiting Japan, said in an interview with the Nihon Keizai Shimbun on the 4th that the defense budget should immediately be tripled from the current level.......

August 3, 2022

Pelosi talks over Taiwan visit ‘outdated’, US experts fear

Asahi | U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. The Chinese government has warned that Pelosi will take "strong countermeasures" if she visits Taiwan, which is expected to increase tensions between the United States and China.......

August 2, 2022

Eagle eyes are on Taiwan, but is China distracting us from a ‘second Pearl Harbour’?

The Sydney Morning Herald | I turned to a well-regarded US strategist, Elbridge Colby, for guidance. Colby was the lead author of the US National Defence Strategy published in 2018.......

July 25, 2022

Canadian Global Affairs Institute: What is a Strategy of Denial?

Canadian Global Affairs Institute | How should countries deal with renewed power competition? Colin Robertson talks to Elbridge Colby's Strategy of Denial, and with John Gruetzner they explore the implications for Canada on #TheGlobalExchange.......

July 25, 2022

American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict

Hidden Forces | In Episode 261 of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Elbridge Colby, co-founder and principal of The Marathon Initiative, an organization whose mission is to develop the diplomatic, military, and economic strategies that the United States will need to navigate a protracted era of great power competition.......

July 23, 2022

Biden admin doing opposite of what it should do to avoid war with China: Defense expert

The Ingraham Angle | COLBY: I warned in a Wall Street Journal piece back in February that there was a real risk that Ukraine would be a distraction from China and Taiwan. And frankly, here we are........

July 23, 2022

Why the U.S. military thinks Pelosi’s Taiwan trip is a bad idea

Nikkei Asia | Elbridge Colby, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, said that the situation over Taiwan is becoming increasingly dangerous and that Washington needs to be careful of the messages it sends......

July 14, 2022

Revisiting Deterrence: What’s Changed from 2007 to 2022

Foreign Policy Research Institute | In a 2007 article for Orbis, Elbridge Colby argued, "deterrence is a security policy offering a way forward for the United States that is not only more effective because it is more tailored, but is also more moral than its alternatives."...

July 14, 2022

Is the US counter-bid to China’s rising influence ‘too little too late’?

Ben Fordham Live (2 GB - 873 AM) | Former Defence Official at the Pentagon Bridge Colby says there has not been “enough focus” on the Western Pacific....

July 12, 2022

The West wants to save Ukraine from defeat. But what about victory?

Discourse Magazine | In many minds, the U.S. should be thinking very specifically about how to counter China because China is equipping and girding itself specifically to defeat the U.S. and any coalition it might assemble....

July 8, 2022

The West wants to save Ukraine from defeat. But what about victory?

The Washington Post | Elbridge Colby, a former national security official in the Trump administration, has warned for months against the United States overextending itself in Ukraine, while sleeping on the potential threat China may pose to Taiwan....

July 1, 2022

China, Not Russia, Still Poses the Greatest Challenge to U.S. Security

The National Interest | Nothing that has happened since Russia’s abominable invasion of Ukraine has changed a set of facts: Asia is the world’s largest market area, and it is growing in global share.....

June 28, 2022

How to keep the peace in the Indo-Pacific

The Japan Times | Still, there is a limit to the appeal of public goods There is a real difference between “new friends” and making hard choices that risk doing real damage to national security. Countries will take what they’re offered but are likely to remain on the fence in a conflict. .....

June 22, 2022

U.S. needs nimbler Asia posture to blunt China’s punch: study

Nikkei Asia | Recent arguments for countering China through "denial" have been spearheaded by Elbridge Colby, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force planning and the lead architect of the Trump administration's 2018.....

June 21, 2022

Zeitenwende? Deutsche Verteidigungspolitik in einer Epoche der Großmachtkonflikte

Fraktion der Freien Demokraten | Keynote: Elbridge A. Colby, Mitbegründer und Leiter der Marathon-Initiative....

June 17, 2022

Podcast: Does Biden have a geopolitical plan?

The Spectator Podcast — The District | Spectator Deputy Editor Oliver Wiseman is joined by Elbridge Colby, a senior Pentagon official during the Trump administration and the author of A Strategy of Denial, to discuss Biden’s foreign policy, the war in Ukraine and whether the US is doing enough to rise to the China threat......


For press inquiries, please email us at press@themarathoninitiative.org.

For all other inquiries, please email us at inquiries@themarathoninitiative.org.