Photo of MAJ Wilkins in front of US flag

MAJ Samuel Wilkins

Executive Officer

Instructor of International Affairs


Major Sam Wilkins serves as the Executive Officer in the Department of Social Sciences, where he is also an Instructor of International Relations. Sam served as a Special Forces Detachment Commander from 2016-2019, including deployments to Somalia and Nigeria. Prior to his service in Special Forces, Sam served as an Infantry Platoon Leader and Infantry Reconnaissance Platoon Leader, including one deployment to Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Sam holds an M.A. in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a B.S. in Military History from the United States Military Academy. While at SAIS, Sam served as the Research Assistant to Dr. Mara Karlin and was selected for the CNAS Next Generation Fellowship. His research interests include American foreign policy in Africa, limited military interventions, and the Cold War. His writing on these and other topics has appeared in War on the Rocks, The National Interest, The Strategy Bridge, The Modern War Institute, and The Small Wars Journal. Sam is also a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ongoing Research Projects

“The Great Open Field of Maneuver: Evaluating American Strategy for the Early Cold War in Africa (1957-1963)”: For Cold War policymakers in the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, Africa represented, to quote one 1962 State Department memorandum, “the greatest open field of maneuver in the world-wide competition between the Bloc and the non-Communist world.” This essay takes a comparative approach to American Cold War strategy in Africa from 1957-1963. Juxtaposing the Eisenhower and Kennedy approaches to the Global Cold War in Africa offers valuable insights into both the effectiveness of their respective approaches and the enduring dilemmas of American foreign policy in Africa. 

Publications & Presentations

"The Rise and Fall of Village Stability Operations in Afghanistan: Lessons for Future Irregular Warfare Campaigns," Modern War Institute, August 9, 2022,

“The Falklands and Leadership in Multi-Domain Operations,” War Room, 27 January, 2022,

“What Tigray Portends: The Future of Peace and Security in Africa,” War on the Rocks, 13 September, 2021,

“To the Last Bullet: The Cold War’s Lasts Gaps and Enduring Impact in the Horn of Africa,” The Strategy Bridge, 3 September, 2021. To the Last Bullet: The Cold War’s Last Gasps and Enduring Impact in the Horn of Africa (

“Seven Pillars Revisited: The Myths and Misreadings of T.E. Lawrence,” The Modern War Institute, 15 April 2021,   

“Why Are We In Africa?” The Dilemmas of Making American Strategy Towards the African Continent,” The Strategy Bridge, 30 March, 2021.  

“Détente Under Fire: Contrasting Approaches to Cold War Strategy and Crisis Management in Africa,” The Strategy Bridge, 5 November, 2020. 

“Race and the Cold War in Africa,” The Strategy Bridge, 16 September, 2020. 

“Does Great Power Competition Favor Autocracies?” The National Interest, 11 June, 2020. 

“Does America Need an Africa Strategy?” War on the Rocks, 2 April, 2020. 

“Butcher and Bungler or Architect of Victory: Reviewing Douglas Haig’s Role in the First World War,” The Strategy Bridge, 11 December 2019. 

“Buried in the Sands of the Ogaden: Lessons from an Obscure Cold War Flashpoint in Africa,” War on the Rocks, 6 September 2019. 

“From Security to Reconciliation: How Nigeria Can Win its Bloody War Against Boko Haram,” War on the Rocks, 8 December 2017.