Prof. John E. Mueller


Born June 21, 1937


Professor John E. Mueller is a leading scholar of national security, war, and peace. He’s credited with discovering the “Rally Round the Flag Syndrome” as described in his book War, Presidents and Public Opinion. Prof. Mueller’s other ideas, that war is becoming obsolete and is a banal exercise, are also highly regarded. Over his lengthy career, Prof. Mueller has become a renowned teacher and innovator as well as a respected historian of dance. He is an Emeritus Professor at the Ohio State University and a Senior Fellow with the Cato Institute.


Essential Thoughts


It should not be concluded that conflict itself will somehow go away. Conflict is inevitable because it is impossible for everyone to have exactly the same interests. The issue is not whether conflict will persist, but whether countries will use war to settle these conflicts. 


I do not hold that everything is getting better in every way, nor do I hold that everything people generally consider bad will vanish from the earth. But things do change. Slavery used to be an institution as venerable and apparently as natural and inevitable as war. Formal dueling used to be widely accepted as an effective method for resolving certain kinds of disputes. Both became thoroughly discredited and then obsolete. There is reason to believe the institution of war could eventually join their ranks.


I think the trends with respect to major war are very favorable but, since peace could be shattered by an appropriately fanatical, hyper-skilled, and anachronistic leader who is willing and able to probe those parameters of restraint, it would be sensible to maintain vigilance.


As Communism died, so did many romantic myths about violent revolution… As violent revolution has become discredited, peaceful democratic reform has begun to look pretty good by comparison… Democracy is an imperfect, but often effective, method for resolving local conflicts peacefully and for placating aggrieved minorities.


Peace is not a utopian condition; it is merely better than the alternative. If we stop envisioning it as heaven on earth, it will be easier to achieve and to maintain.

— "Is War Still Becoming Obsolete?"