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Rosa Brooks
Born 1970
New York, NY
Education A.B. Harvard, M.St. Oxford, J.D. Yale
Occupation Journalist, author, law professor
Children Two
Notable relatives Barbara Ehrenreich, mother
Notable credit(s) Advisor to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy; Op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times; law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center; author of Can Might Make Rights?, among other works; frequent guest on
Official website

Rosa Brooks is a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she also serves as Director of Georgetown Law School's Human Rights Center. In April 2009, Brooks was appointed senior advisor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Michele Flournoy.

Brooks' recent scholarly work has focused on terrorism and rule of law issues, international law, human rights, law of war, and failed states. Along with Jane Stromseth and David Wippman, Brooks coauthored Can Might Make Rights? Building the Rule of Law After Military Interventions[1] (2006), a book which helped shape the United States Army's praxis of rule of law. Brooks is also the author of numerous scholarly articles published in law reviews.[2][3][4 ]

In 1991 Brooks earned a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University, where she studied history and literature;[5] while an undergraduate at Harvard, Brooks served as president of the Phillips Brooks House Association. At Oxford University she was awarded a Master of Studies degree in social anthropology in 1993[5], and was a Marshall Scholar. In 1996 she completed her studies at Yale Law School, which conferred upon her the title of Juris Doctor.[5][6]

As a popular and influential columnist in addition to a scholar, her byline has appeared in publications all over the world, ranging from Harper's Magazine to the Washington Post, and in 2005 she began a weekly op-ed column for the Los Angeles Times. Her writings focused on foreign policy, human rights, and national security issues, and occasionally spanned other topics, including economics and culture.[7][8] to a humorous take on parenting.[9]. (Brooks has two young children). Brooks retired the column upon her appointment to the United States Department of Defense.

Brooks has been a popular but controversial and frequent guest and panelist on MSNBC (The Rachel Maddow Show, Race for the White House, Countdown, and Tucker), a commentator on [1], and a blogger for Slate Magazine's XX Factor. In May 2005 she appeared on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor.[10] She has never been invited back on the show, although O'Reilly has periodically vilified and attacked her. In May 2007 she wrote a lighhearted column poking fun at O'Reilly's bluster.[11].

Brooks' previous work has also included government service as a senior adviser to Assistant Secretary Harold Hongju Koh at the U.S. Department of State, five years as an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, and a stint as Special Counsel to the President at the Open Society Institute, George Soros' philanthropic foundation. She is the former director of Yale Law School's human rights program, and she has taught at both Yale and at Harvard. She has also been a consultant for Human Rights Watch, a fellow at he Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, a board member of Amnesty International USA, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law.

In 2004 she served as a foreign policy advisor to the Kerry-Edwards campaign, and she was an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign through her columns. She was a board member of the National Security Network, a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Fragile States, and a member of the steering committee of the White Oak Foreign Policy Leaders Project. She has traveled and worked around the world, including in Kosovo, Iraq, Indonesia, China, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Russia.

In her work as a columnist, Brooks has been recognized by liberals for her courage and outspokenness, and her remarks have at times generated backlash from the political right.[12] When she was appointed by Barack Obama to a Pentagon advisory position in April 2009, conservatives attacked her. Most of the attacks focused on her criticism of Bush administration's use of so-called torture against suspected terror detainees.[13] She was also critical of the decision to go to war in Iraq, though she has recently taken a view cautiously supporting a slow and phased withdrawal.

In 2007, she wrote that prior to 9/11, "most experts say... al-Qaida was little more than an obscure group of extremist thugs, well financed and intermittently lethal but relatively limited in their global and regional political pull. On 9/11, they got lucky. … Today, thanks to U.S. policies, Al-Qaida has become the vast global threat the administration imagined it to be in 2001. Our ham-handed detention and interrogation tactics and our ill-advised invasion of Iraq have alienated vast swathes of the Islamic world, fueling extremism and anti-Americanism. Today, Al Qaeda is no longer a single organization. Now it's a franchise, with new gangs of terrorists around the world proudly seizing the "Al Qaeda" affiliation." [14]

She has also penned a 2006 column in which she wrote that President "Bush...authorized practices that even [former Attorney General] Gonzales predicted might be seen by 'future prosecutors' as violations of the War Crimes Act," and that "it's far too late for [Bush] to leave a legacy that won't be a source of shame to future generations." [15]

She has been occasionally been a critic of some policies of the State of Israel. According to Brooks, "In the United States today, it just isn't possible to have a civil debate about Israel, because any serious criticism of its policies is instantly countered with charges of anti-Semitism."[16] [17]

Brooks has also been an advocate for increased taxpayer-funds for public media (such as National Public Radio and public and community broadcasting). In April 2009 she asserted that "Years of foolish policies have left us with a choice: We can bail out journalism, using tax dollars and granting [broadcast] licenses in ways that encourage robust and independent reporting and commentary, or we can watch, wringing our hands, as more and more top journalists are laid off." [18]

As a supporter of sending more troops to Afghanistan and an advocate of a robust and well-funded counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism strategy,[19][20] and as an occasionally sharp critic of prominent Democrats (including Hillary Clinton),[21][22] Brooks has also sometimes annoyed the political left.

In December 2008, for instance, she warned "Democrats still basking in the reflected glory of Obama's win" that "Idiocy and greed aren't just for Republicans. For every Larry Craig, there's an Eliot Spitzer; for every Ted Stevens, there's a Rod Blagojevich.... [I]t's precisely when a party achieves power that its members need to start worrying the most about idiocy and greed.... [P]ower really does corrupt. But illegal corruption isn't the only thing Democrats should be on guard against.... Members of political majorities succumb easily to smugness and complacency, to the conviction that explaining and justifying ideas is no longer necessary, to the temptation to dismiss critics as so many irrelevant cranks. "Groupthink" is mainly a disease of the powerful and complacent, not the fractious opposition." [23]

On economics, Brooks is a progressive/liberal populist. She has skwewered the Bush administration's alleged mishandling of the economy [24], argued for addressing the economic crisis with New Deal-style programs,[25],[26] and decried large bailouts for financial firms.[27]

The daughter of best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) and psychologist John Ehrenreich, Brooks currently lives with her family in Virginia.



Other Notable Publications

  • Failed States, or the State as Failure?, 72 U. Chicago L. Rev. 1159 (2005)[28]
  • War Everywhere: Rights, National Security Law, and the Law of Armed Conflict in the Age of Terror, 153 U. Pennsylvania L. Rev. 675 (2004).[4 ]
  • The New Imperialism: Violence, Norms & Rule of Law, 101 Mich. L. Rev. 2275 (2003).[29]
  • Law in the Heart of Darkness: Atrocity & Duress, 43 Virginia Journal of International Law 861 (2003).[30]


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