Richard Samuels | People

Richard Samuels
Ford International Professor of Political Science


Richard J. Samuels is Ford International Professor of Political Science. He was formally Director of the Center for International Studies, stepping down in July 2023 after two decades of service. He has been head of the MIT Political Science Department, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Japan of the National Research Council, and Chair of the Japan-US Friendship Commission. He has also been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and was awarded an imperial decoration, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star by the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Prime Minister. From 2014 to 2019 he was an Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Free University of Berlin, where he directed a research group on East Asian Security during the summer. His study of the political and policy consequences of the 2011 Tohoku catastrophe, 3:11: Disaster and Change in Japan, was published by Cornell University Press in 2013. Samuels’ Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia, was a finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book in international affairs. Machiavelli’s Children won the Marraro Prize from the Society for Italian Historical Studies and the Jervis-Schroeder Prize from the International History and Politics section of American Political Science Association. Earlier books were awarded prizes from the Association for Asian Studies, the Association of American University Press, and the Ohira Memorial Foundation. His articles have appeared in Foreign Affairs, International Security, Political Science Quarterly, International Organization, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, National Interest, Journal of Japanese Studies, and Daedalus. His history of the Japanese intelligence community, Special Duty, was named one of the "Best of Books 2019" by Foreign Affairs, and its translation has been an Amazon best seller in Japan since its publication by Nikkei Books in 2021. His current project, "Kidnapping Politics," examines the domestic and foreign policy implications of captivity.




Publications|Selected Publications

Richard Samuels, “Pushing on an Open Door: Japan’s Evolutionary Security Position,” The Washington Quarterly Vol. 46, No. 2 (Summer 2023) (With Eric Heginbotham and Samuel Leiter)

Richard Samuels, “The Rise, Fall, and Reinvention of the Japanese Intelligence Community” in Ryan Shaffer ed., The Handbook of Asian intelligence Cultures (London: Roman and Littlefield, 2022)

Richard Samuels, “After Abe, Japan tries to balance ties to the US and China,” The Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2022

Richard Samuels, “Writing about Japan,” in Nora Kottmann and Cornelia Reiher, eds., Studying Japan: Handbook of Research Design, Fieldwork and Methods,” (Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgessellschaft, 2020)

Richard Samuels, “La communauté de renseignement japonaise,” (The Japanese Intelligence Community) in Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer, Jean-Vincent Holeindre and Paul Chareon, eds., Le Renseignement : Approches, acteurs et enjeux (Intelligence: Approaches, Actors and Issues) (Paris: Institute for Strategic Research Ecole Militaire, 2020)

Richard Samuels, "Japan’s View of Nuclear North Korea: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” Chapter in William Overholt, ed., North Korea: Peace? Nuclear War? (Cambridge, MA: The Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard University, 2019) (With Eric Heginbotham)

Richard Samuels, "A New Military Strategy for Japan," Foreign Affairs, July 16, 2018 (With Eric Heginbotham)
Richard Samuels, "Japan's National Security Council: filling the whole of government?" International Affairs Vol. 94, No. 4 (July 2018) (With Mayumi Fukushima)
Richard Samuels, "Introduction: Japan's pivot in Asia," International Affairs Vol. 94, No. 4 (July 2018) (With Corey Wallace)

Richard Samuels, "Active Denial: Redesigning Japan's Response to China's Military Challenge," International Security Vol. 42, No. 4 (Spring 2018) (With Eric Heginbotham)

Richard Samuels, “Japan’s Nuclear Hedge: Beyond ‘Allergy’ and ‘Breakout’,” in Demetrios James Caraley and Robert Jervis, eds., The Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Extending the U.S. Umbrella and Increasing Chances of War (New York: The Academy of Political Science, 2018) (Originally published in Ashley Tellis, ed., Strategic Asia 2013-2014: Asia in the Second Nuclear Age) (With James Schoff)

Richard Samuels, "Japan's Energy Security: Strategic Discourse and Domestic Politics," in Mike M. Mochizuki and Deepa Ollapally, eds., Energy Security in Asia and Euroasia (London: Routledge, 2017) (With Mike M. Mochizuki)
Richard Samuels, "How to Get China to Use Its Leverage against North Korea," The National Interest, September 18, 2016 (With Eric Heginbotham)
Richard Samuels, "Poor Substitute: No Japanese Submarines Down Under," Foreign Affairs, May 3, 2016 (With Eric Heginbotham)
Richard Samuels, "Japan's 3.11 Master Narrative Still Under Construction," East Asian Forum, Australian National University, March 2016

For a complete list of publications





NPR, Here and Now, May 13, 2016, "Obama's Visit to Hiroshima Is About Memory More Than It's About Apology."

NHK, September 11 and 12, 2015. Topic: "Power Plays in Asia-Pacific 70 years after WWII"


Moderator, MIT Starr Forum, "3.11 Ten Years Later: Disaster and Resilience in Japan." March 11, 2021.

UC San Diego: "A Conversation about Japanese Politics and Public Policy with Richard Samuels," March 9, 2011.

Moderator, MIT Starr Forum, "President Biden's Foreign Policy Challenges: Views from Abroad," January27, 2021.

Moderator, MIT Starr Forum, "Democracy in distress?" October 23, 2020.


The Japanese Intelligence Community & Espionage, March 15, 2020. Japan Station: A Podcast, by

Asia Today with Jeffrey Bingham Mead, on December 7, 2019, discussing Samuels' new book Special Duty. Podcast #49


Quoted in “Shinzo Abe’s Influence Was Still Evident Long After He Left Office” New York Times, July 8, 2022. 

Quoted in “Why Shinzo Abe was such a towering figure in Japan” The Hill, July 8, 2022. 

Quoted in "The Fukushima disaster was not the turning point many had hoped," The Economist, March 6, 2021.

HIs work is discussed in "National security is in the eye of the beholder,"The Japan Times, May 11, 2020.

Quoted in "North Korea's Threat Pushes Japan to Reassess Its Might and Rights," New York Times, September 15, 2017.