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

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.
Read the Report

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
June 2, 2023

Why Biden’s China Reset Is a Bad Idea

Foreign Policy | "Now is not the time for the United States to pursue détente with China, as the Biden administration has been trying to do for several weeks now."....
May 26, 2023

China’s infrastructure threat ‘very serious’: Elbridge Colby

Fox Business | Former defense official Elbridge Colby discusses the seriousness of a China cyber threat and penetration of U.S. infrastructure on 'The Bottom Line.'...
May 25, 2023

There is a clear recognition that China is the top threat: Elbridge Colby

Fox News | Elbridge Colby rejoins the Ingraham Angle to discuss China as the top threat and to give his take on U.S.-PRC relations under the Biden administration......
May 24, 2023

Jacek Bartosiak speaks to Elbridge Colby on strategy vs China

Strategy&Future | Elbridge Colby sits down with Strategy&Future for a discussion about China strategy in 2023 and beyond.....
May 18, 2023

The top-line fact in the weapons to Ukraine or Taiwan debate

Washington Examiner | Elbridge Colby and Alex Velez-Green note the basic point in their Washington Post op-ed on Thursday. As they put it, "The fact is that both Ukraine and Taiwan need many of the same weapons, the United States only has limited quantities of those weapons in....
May 18, 2023

To avert war with China, the U.S. must prioritize Taiwan over Ukraine

The Washington Post | Prioritization is never easy — but it is long overdue. The administration and Congress have rightly described China as the preeminent threat to the United States, but they have not acted with the focus, scale and urgency needed to address it....
May 17, 2023

Why a ballistic sub can visit South Korea but not Japan

Nikkei Asia | Former Pentagon official Elbridge Colby called the port call "meaningless" in a recent webinar hosted by the Institute for Korean-American Studies." A ballistic missile submarine can launch a ...
May 12, 2023

Elbridge Colby joins The Charles C. W. Cooke Podcast to talk Taiwan Defense

National Review: The Charles C. W. Cooke Podcast | “On this week’s episode I talked to Elbridge Colby about Taiwan. Among the topics we discussed are why Taiwan matters more to the United States and the West more generally than, say, the Falkland Islands; whether Americans are prepared for an invasion of Taiwan....
May 9, 2023

China is chastising the US while Biden tries to play nice: Elbridge Colby.

Fox News | Elbridge Colby joins “The Ingraham Angle” to discuss the latest on China and the U.S....
May 9, 2023

Rethinking a Conservative Foreign Policy

WSJ Podcast: Free Expression | How can U.S. foreign policy succeed in a new age of great power confrontation? Does the challenge of an ascendant China mean U.S. support for a European war against Russia is a dangerous distraction?...
May 9, 2023

Debating American Strategy and Global Priorities, with Michael Mazarr and Elbridge Colby

War on the Rocks: Unspent Rounds | Elbridge Colby and Mike Mazarr join the Unspent Rounds podcast (War on the Rocks) for a timely discussion on American priorities abroad.....
May 4, 2023

China Could Soon Be the Dominant Military Power in Asia

The Atlantic | “The military balance between the U.S. and China in Asia is ‘very delicate and trending in an unfavorable direction in this decade for the U.S. and its allies,’ Elbridge Colby, a co-founder of the Marathon Initiative…”
May 2, 2023

Elbridge Colby Returns to The Nixon Seminar on Conservative Realism and National Security to Discuss Border Security

Richard Nixon Foundation | “This month's Nixon Seminar topic is the relationship between the United States and its neighboring countries at its Southern border and beyond......
May 2, 2023

Should US Prioritize Combating China or Russia?

Newsmax | “Former Deputy Defense Secretary Elbridge Colby, who was instrumental in writing the 2018 National Defense Strategy, contends that preparing for the inevitable war with China over Taiwan should take precedence over Ukraine…”.....
May 1, 2023

Elbridge Colby to Speak at the Aspen Ideas Festival 2023

The Aspen Institute | Elbridge A. Colby, Co-Founder and Principal of The Marathon Initiative; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Strategy and Force Development; author of “The Strategy of Denial”, will participate as a speaker at the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival, hosted by The Aspen Institute, a renowned, global nonprofit committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society.....
April 29, 2023

DeSantis critical of China, hazy on Ukraine as he charts foreign policy path

The Washington Post | “By a large margin the Republican primary vote seems very far from the GOP old guard on foreign policy,” Colby said in a statement to The Washington Post. “And the truth is that the voters’ views are actually closer to reality:......
April 28, 2023

Declaration May Not Ease South Korea’s Concern Over U.S. Nuclear Commitment

VOA | The Washington Declaration and the NCG are "useful and productive steps," according to Elbridge Colby, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Strategy and Force Development and the cofounder of The Marathon Initiative, a Washington-based institution focused on providing foreign and defense policy recommendations..... ....
April 28, 2023

WPR: The U.S. Still Needs Europe to Compete with China

World Politics Review | One argument, as captured well by former Trump administration Pentagon official Elbridge Colby, is that since China is the principal threat to the U.S. and seems poised to take increasingly more aggressive actions toward Taiwan,......
April 27, 2023

Washington DC’s 500 Most Influential People of 2023

Washingtonian | Elbridge Colby, Marathon Initiative Cofounder and Principal, included on Washingtonian’s list of the DC’s 500 Most Influential People of 2023....
April 25, 2023

A Critical Debate on the Ukraine-Taiwan Weapons Trade-Off

Washington Examiner | The Hudson Institute think tank hosted a much-needed debate on Monday. The motion: "Winning in Ukraine is critically important for deterring a war in Taiwan." Hudson's President John Walters proposed the motion, with the Marathon Initiative's Elbridge Colby opposing......


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