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

China’s “New” Diplomacy: Opportunities for American Statecraft

A. Wess Mitchell and Christopher Vassallo

The People’s Republic of China has embarked on an ambitious diplomatic campaign to increase its influence in strategically-vital regions and burnish its credentials as a great power of global reach.
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Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East

David Hale

The Middle East has for so long dominated the United States’ vision of its threats that it has come to distort the latter’s picture of the globe; a correction of these distortions is overdue. The United States also has a significant, if at present strained, informal alliance structure in the region and considerable assets — soft and hard — that should not be abandoned. What is needed is a sense of proportion, balance, and conceptual coherence for the partnerships among the United States and like-minded Middle Eastern states to guide the re-prioritization inherent in the idea of a rational pivot.
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Two Fronts, One Goal: Euro-Atlantic Security in the Indo-Pacific Age

Luis Simón, Daniel Fiott, and Octavian Manea

This paper outlines how Europe can contribute to alleviating the “two-front” predicament in U.S. global strategy. It shows how Europeans can help free up the United States’ strategic bandwidth in Europe so as to enable a proper U.S. prioritization of China without weakening Europe’s deterrence architecture. The paper also shows how Europeans can contribute to U.S.-led efforts to uphold deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.
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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.
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Classics and Strategy

by Jakub Grygiel 

Classic texts – whether by Roman historians such as Tacitus or Greek tragedians such as Aeschylus or Florentine diplomats such as Francesco Guicciardini – give us important, and even unusual, insights into strategy. They certainly do not supply a ready-made strategy that could be applied to a specific security problem we face now. But they can open for us new or forgotten ways of thinking about threats and the competitive security environment, offering a perspective that is missing in modern intellectual and educational circles. Free of technical jargon and without abstractions, classics favor simplicity over simplification, privilege practical insights over abstraction, and elevate the role of individuals over impersonal trends and institutions. And they describe the motivations and the drivers behind men’s actions, the core of any strategy. This book brings back some of these classic writers, examining their thoughts on strategy and politics.
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The Strategy of Denial

by Elbridge Colby 

The most informed and in-depth reappraisal of America’s defense strategy in decades, this book outlines a rigorous but practical approach, showing how the United States can prepare to win a war with China that we cannot afford to lose—precisely in order to deter that war from happening.
Get the book
February 20, 2024

U.S. Hawks Must Finally Get Real About China

TIME | Hawks have been saying for decades that we are living in an incredibly dangerous world. That was an exaggeration twenty years ago but now is actually true...........
February 15, 2024

Why Is The American Right Pandering to Putin?

The Free Press | Elbridge Colby tells The Free Press: "The fact of the matter is that Russia under Vladimir Putin is a very dangerous state. It has embarked on an evil invasion of Ukraine............
February 13, 2024

‘Totally Out of Whack’: Senate Prioritizes Ukraine Over Americans’ Interests

The Daily Signal | National security expert Elbridge Colby, co-founder and principal at The Marathon Initiative, spoke with The Daily Signal about what’s playing out on Capitol Hill and why he thinks this legislation misses the mark. He also explained how the United States should be prioritizing its national security............
February 13, 2024

What Taiwan needs to do to prevent a war with China | DW Analysis

AM 560: Chicago's Morning Answer | Elbridge Colby, co-founder and principal of The Marathon Iniatitive & served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development from 2017-2018:...........
February 12, 2024

Bei Einem Krieg umm Europa… // In the Event of a War in Europe…

Apollo News | Unter Trump diente er als Vize-Verteidigungsminister für Strategie, im Interview mit Apollo News erklärt Elbridge Colby, warum für die USA nun Asien der „entscheidende Schauplatz“ ist, den man vor Europa priorisieren muss...........
February 12, 2024

5 Rules for Superpowers Facing Multiple Conflicts

Foreign Policy | While the debate rages about how to handle what’s happening in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia, it may be worth pausing to consider the situation from a historical perspective......
February 6, 2024

Elbridge Colby: A Geopolitical Run on the Bank is Precisely the Danger we are Now Courting

AM 560: Chicago's Morning Answer | Elbridge Colby, co-founder and principal of The Marathon Iniatitive & served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development from 2017-2018:...........
February 5, 2024

A Foreign Policy Review with Elbridge Colby

The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show | Elbridge Colby, co-founder of The Marathon Initiative and former U.S. Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development, joined Clay and Buck to take stock of all the world's hotspots............
February 2, 2024

US needs a ‘combination’ of a ‘forceful’ response to the drone attack in Jordan

The Australian | Former US deputy assistant secretary of defence Elbridge Colby says America needs a “combination” of a “forceful” response to the drone attack in Jordan.........
January 31, 2024

Will Europe Lose World War III?

UnHerd | UnHerd's Freddie Sayers talks with Aris Roussinos, Elbridge Colby and Pippa Malmgren, about the possibility of World War III. Will 2024 be the year of a Third World War?...........
January 29, 2024

Jacek Bartosiak & Elbridge Colby: Failure of US Primacy

Strategy & Future | Jacek Bartosiak talks to Elbridge Colby about the failure of US primacy, world war, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons............
January 25, 2024

Where is US foreign policy heading?

Chatham House | Europeans are keen to understand the strategic debate in America about where US foreign policy is likely to head in the future. Elbridge Colby, former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development, discusses what US foreign policy should seek to achieve and what it should focus on..........
January 24, 2024

A Decade of Decline: The Need to Restore America’s Military Power

The Heritage Foundation | Join us as Sen. Roger Wicker, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, noted grand strategist Elbridge Colby, and former Green Beret Joe Kent discuss how we can reverse a decade of decline and restore America’s military power........
January 23, 2024

Why Should Americans Care About the Future of Taiwan?

The Morgan Ortagus Show | “Why should Americans care about the future of Taiwan? Elbridge Colby dived into why supporting democracy in the Indo-Pacific is crucial to American national security on ‘The Morgan Ortagus Show’. Catch our full interview on the Sirius XM app!”...........
January 20, 2024

VOA Korea: [워싱턴 톡] “‘타이완 전쟁’ 시 한국 스스로 방어해야…북한 남침해도 중국 격퇴가 우선” // [Washington Talk] “Korea must defend itself in case of ‘Taiwan War’… Even if North Korea invades South Korea, defeating China comes first.”

VOA Korea | American experts have pointed out that if war breaks out in the Taiwan Strait and the United States intervenes, Korea will have to defend itself. The explanation is that even if China instigates North Korea to attack South Korea, the US military's core forces will prioritize dealing with China, not the North Korean threat.
January 18, 2024

Rethinking Strategic Competition with China: A Conversation with Elbridge Colby

CSIS ChinaPower Podcast | In this episode of the ChinaPower Podcast, Mr. Elbridge Colby joins us to discuss U.S. strategic competition with China. Mr. Colby stresses that he is most worried about the PRC military threat............
January 14, 2024

The Global Impact of Chinese Ascendancy Examined with Elbridge Colby

Lead-Lag Live Podcastast | Elbridge Colby, the architect of the 2018 National Defense Strategy and author of "The Strategy of Denial," joins us to untangle the complex web of China's rise and its implications for global power dynamics...........
January 12, 2024

The U.S. has ‘a set of bad options’ in the Red Sea, says fmr. Pentagon official Elbridge Colby

CNBC | Elbridge Colby, former Pentagon official in the Trump administration and ‘The Strategy of Denial’ author, joins 'Squawk Box' to discuss the U.S.-led coalition strikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in....
January 12, 2024

The Impact of Taiwan’s upcoming Presidential Elections

Renaissance Macro Research | Former Pentagon official and defense strategy author Elbridge Colby joins RenMac to discuss The Impact of Taiwan's upcoming Presidential Elections. ..........
January 12, 2024

FP Insider: This Is a ‘5-Alarm Fire Right Now’

Foreign Policy | Viewed from Washington, there’s currently one big war going on in Ukraine, another war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that could get bigger, and one war that hasn’t started yet but that would dwarf all the others should it come to pass: a war between the United States and China....


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