Faculty Research Profiles


Professor William C. Martel is willing to tackle the big questions and strategic issues. Since the late 1990s, his research focused on the meaning of victory in war - a topic which, until recently, had not been addressed by a systematic set of ideas or been a topic of debate.

In his book-length study on the subject, Martel uses a series of case studies to develop a general theory of victory in an attempt to provide some answers. His examples range from ancient Greece, through the American Revolution, to the end of the Cold War, and include post-Cold War examples from Libya, Panama, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and Iraq.

His research was the subject on an article in the Boston Globe (“In Modern Warfare, What Does Victory Mean?,” January 26, 2013): “Having clear language on victory is necessary because it’s the only way we can establish any coherence on what a society—both its policy makers and its public—can expect to achieve when they decide to use military force,” said William Martel, associate professor of international security studies at The Fletcher School and author of Victory in War: Foundations of Modern Strategy (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

As the Boston Globe put it, “Martel is among a handful of scholars and military experts trying to solve one of the most nettlesome problems in modern foreign policy: coming up with a new definition of “victory” that matches the complexity of our conflicts.”

Currently, Martel completed a book on the nature and meaning of grand strategy, which examines its evolution from ancient history to its practice in modern politics. Cambridge University Press will publish it in early 2015.

In addition to this project on grand strategy, Martel is conducting two ongoing research studies conducted with and supported by MIT Lincoln Laboratory. The first is a study that is developing codes of conduct (CoC) to govern cyberspace. This research, which involves a team of 10-15 Fletcher students, has written a cyber code of conduct for states, with work underway to develop two separate CoC: one for private sector firms and another for individuals. This work has generated significant interest from the scholarly and policy communities.

The second study, in collaboration with MIT Lincoln Laboratory, is conducting research on developing rules of engagement for space. With the long-standing defense and foreign policy debate on the pros and cons of weaponizing space, the central questions are how should states operate in space and what rules should govern their behavior?

The purpose of this research is to answer such basic questions as: What is the permissible range of activities that can occur in space? What rules should govern how states behave in space? Do we need rules of engagement or a code of conduct to govern what actions are permissible in space? If so, what are the policy and security implications?

This research is establishing the basis for some rules, which are the beginnings of a framework within which to address and answer such questions that policymakers likely will face. What is particularly exciting is the ability to engage Fletcher students in cutting-edge issues of great concern to scholars and policymakers alike.

In his courses, which include Evolution of Grand Strategy, Decision Making and Public Policy, Foundations of International Cyber Security, Foundations in Policy Analysis, Leadership in Public and Private Organizations, and Technology and International Security, Martel’s approach to teaching is to engage students in discussions that focus on the intersection between theory and practice. When students leave his courses, he wants them to think critically about the central problem or question, and to focus their intellectual efforts and passions on that issue.

Contact information:
Email: william.martel@tufts.edu
Telephone: 617-627-4706
Fax: 617-627-3933
Office: Cabot 602
Twitter @BillMartel234
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