Leo Blanken, Associate Professor
Department of Defense Analysis
Naval Postgraduate School

Folk Museum, Rio
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Prof Leo BlankeLeo Blanken, Associate Professor

Leo Blanken joined Defense Analysis in the summer of 2008. He received a BA from the University of San Francisco, an MA from Columbia University, and a PhD in political science from the University of California at Davis. His dissertation on patterns of imperial expansion received the best dissertation award from the Western Political Science Association, and has been published by the University of Chicago Press as Rational Empires: Institutional Incentives and Imperial Expansion. He also has a co-edited book on Georgetown University Press entitled Assessing War: The Challenge of Measuring Success and Failure.

His current research explores the impact of agent incentives within the dynamics of force structure planning, strategy, intelligence, and assessment in emerging conflict environments.

Department of Defense Analysis
Naval Postgraduate School
Root Hall, Room 221
589 Dyer Road
Monterey, CA 93943

Email: ljblanke [at] nps [dot] edu

See a PDF of my CV here.

Leo is a USA Boxing certified trainer and helps kids learn the basics of boxing by volunteering at Pacific Coast Boxing in Pacific Grove, CA.

He also collects and DJs rare soul and funk records from the 1960s and 1970s. He is part of the Soul Lotto crew of DJs based in England, and some of his sets can be accessed at www.soullotto.com.

  • Principal-agent analysis
  • Analyzing the nexus between force planning and military strategy
  • Intelligence in low intensity conflict
  • Metrics and assessment in low intensity conflict
  • Gangs and urban conflict


RationalEmpiresCover In Rational Empires, Leo J. Blanken explains imperialism through an analysis of the institutions of both the expanding state and its targets of conquest. While democratic states favoring free trade generally resort to imperialism only to preempt aggressive rivals—or when they have reason to believe another state's political institutions will not hold up when making bargains—authoritarian states tend toward imperialism because they don't stand to benefit from free trade. The result is three distinct strategies toward imperialism: actors fighting over territory, actors peaceably dividing territory among themselves, and actors refraining from seizing territory altogether. Blanken examines these dynamics through three case studies: the scramble for Africa, the unequal treaties imposed on Qing Dynasty China, and the evolution of Britain's imperial policy in India. By separating out the different types of imperialism, Blanken provides insight into its sources, as well as the potential implications of increased competition in the current international arena.

Today's protracted asymmetrical conflicts confuse efforts to measure progress, often inviting politics and wishful thinking to replace objective evaluation.

In Assessing War military historians, social scientists, and military officers explore how observers have analyzed the trajectory of war in American conflicts from the Seven Years' War through Afghanistan. Drawing on decades of acquired expertise, the contributors examine wartime assessment in both theory and practice, and through alternative dimensions of assessment such as justice and proportionality, the war of ideas, and economics. This group of distinguished authors grapples with both conventional and irregular wars and emerging aspects of conflict—such as cyberwar and nation-building—that add to the complexities of the modern threat environment. The volume ends with recommendations for practitioners on best approaches while offering sobering conclusions about the challenges of assessing war without politicization or self-delusion.

From eighteenth-century conflicts to today's, Assessing War blends focused advice and a uniquely broad set of case studies to ponder vital questions about warfare's past—and its future. The book includes a foreword by Gen. George W. Casey Jr. (USA, Ret.), former chief of staff of the US Army and former commander, Multi-National Force-Iraq.

Journal Articles

Leo J Blanken and Jason J Lepore, "Performance Measurement in Military Operations: Information versus Incentives", accepted for publication in Defence and Peace Economics.

Leo J Blanken 2012 "Reconciling Strategic Studies...with Itself: A Common Framework for Choosing among Strategies" Defense and Security Analysis 28(4): 275-287

Leo J Blanken and Jason J Lepore 2012 "Unpacking the Various Meanings of Redundancy: From Refining the Concept to Military Planning" Defense and Security Analysis 28 (4): 326-342

Leo Blanken and Justin Overbaugh. 2012. "Looking for Intel? … Or Looking for Answers? Reforming Military Intelligence for a Counterinsurgency Environment" Intelligence and National Security 27(4): 559-575.

Leo J. Blanken and Jason J. Lepore. 2011. "Slowing Down to Keep the Lead in Military Technology" Defence and Peace Economics 22(3): 317-334.