Meghan O'Sullivan

Meghan O'Sullivan
Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan
In office
July 12, 2004  September 15, 2007
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Frank Taylor
Succeeded by Douglas Lute
Personal details
Born (1969-09-13) September 13, 1969
Lexington, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater Georgetown University
Brasenose College, Oxford
Religion Roman Catholicism

Meghan L. O'Sullivan (born September 13, 1969)[1] is a former deputy national security adviser on Iraq and Afghanistan. She is Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs,[2] and senior fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.[3] She is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.[4][5]

Early life and education

O'Sullivan grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts.

She received her bachelor's degree from Georgetown University in 1991. O'Sullivan later received her master's degree in economics and her D.Phil. in politics from the University of Oxford. Her doctoral dissertation was about the Sri Lankan Civil War.[6]


O'Sullivan was an aide to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and a fellow at the Brookings Institution under Richard N. Haass.

O'Sullivan has also served in the Office of Policy Planning at the State Department, where she assisted Colin Powell in developing the smart sanctions policy proposal.

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, she volunteered for the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance under Jay Garner. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Jay Garner that he could not keep her (or Tom Warrick) on in Iraq, though Rumsfeld later relented.[7][8] She was an assistant to Paul Bremer in the Coalition Provisional Authority. She was Senior Director for Iraq at the United States National Security Council. O'Sullivan's last position at the White House was as the Special Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan where she frequently communicated via telephone with Fort Leavenworth's General David Petraeus on a new military strategy for Iraq.[9]

During her time in Iraq, O'Sullivan was involved with many key decisions on the political front, including helping to negotiate the early transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis and assisting the Iraqis in writing their interim constitution. She is remembered for driving herself around Baghdad to meet with Iraqis, and endured some harrowing experiences while in Iraq, including escaping from a terrorist attack by scaling a building ledge ten stories up.[10]

On May 31, 2007, President Bush announced that Ms O'Sullivan was returning to Baghdad:

to serve with Ambassador Crocker, to help the Iraqis  and to help the Embassy help the Iraqis  meet the benchmarks that the Congress and the President expect to get passed.[11]

With Stephen Hadley, she is also credited as being one of the original advocates in the White House of the 2007 "surge" strategy.[12][13] On September 15, 2007, she left the White House and began teaching at Harvard.[14]

She has also acted as an advisor to Mitt Romney.[15] In 2013, O'Sullivan was a signatory to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage during the Hollingsworth v. Perry case.[16] During 2013, she acted as Vice-Chair to Richard Haass at talks between the political parties in Northern Ireland.[17][18]

O'Sullivan is also a One Young World Counsellor, speaking about "Peace & Conflict Resolution to a group of 1,300 young people[19] in Dublin, Ireland in 2013.

Published works


  1. U.S. Public Records Index [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007.
  2. "Meghan L. O'Sullivan". Bush Center. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  3. "Meghan L. O'Sullivan - Harvard - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs". Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  4. "Meghan L. O'Sullivan | Aspen Ideas Speaker". 2010-06-29. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  5. "Meghan L. O'Sullivan - Council on Foreign Relations". Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  6. "A Reporter at Large: The General's Dilemma, David Petraeus, the pressures of politics, and the road out of Iraq. by Steve Coll". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
  7. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq - Thomas E. Ricks - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  8. The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq - George Packer - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  9. Kaplan, Fred. (January 31, 2013). "Book Discussion on "The Insurgents:David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War". Louisville Free Public Library. BookTV Series. C-Span. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 17 mins in.
  10. Baker, Peter (April 3, 2007). "Iraq Adviser Departs Optimistic". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  12. "How Bush Decided on the Surge". The Weekly Standard. 2008-02-04. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  13. U.S. Peacefare: Organizing American Peace-building Operations - Dane F. Smith - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 31, 2012. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  15. Avlon, John. "The Pro-Freedom Republicans Are Coming: 131 Sign Gay Marriage Brief". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  16. "Richard Haass says talks 'have real chance to succeed'". BBC News. BBC. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  17. "Some Northern Ireland parties hold more Haass talks". BBC News. BBC. 29 December 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
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