Dr. Van Jackson is an American political scientist, strategist, and media commentator specializing in Asian security and defense affairs. He is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and concurrently holds two think tank appointments: as a Wilson Center Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, and as the Defence & Strategy Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies in Wellington, New Zealand. Van's first book, with Cambridge University Press, was Rival Reputations: Coercion and Credibility in U.S.-North Korea Relations (2016). His second book, just out and also with Cambridge University Press, is On the Brink: Trump, Kim and the Threat of Nuclear War (2018). While writing On the Brink, Van kept a diary about its writing process that was published every day at War on the Rocks, called Nuke Your Darlings. Since 2015, he has also been a Senior Editor for War on the Rocks. In 2019, Van was featured in the Washington Diplomat’s “People of World Influence” series.
Van is the former host of the podcast series Pacific Pundit. From 2015 through April 2017, he was an Associate Professor in the College of Security Studies at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) in Honolulu. From 2014 through September 2015, Van was a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in residence at the Center for a New American Security, researching the intersection of Asian security and defense strategy. He has testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, and is a frequent commentator in popular media and policy outlets.
From 2009 to 2014, Van held positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) as a strategist and policy adviser focused on the Asia-Pacific, senior country director for Korea, and working group chair of the U.S.–Republic of Korea Extended Deterrence Policy Committee.
During his time in OSD, Van's responsibilities ranged from long-range strategy, policy planning, and studies of military innovation to crisis management and direct negotiations with numerous Asian government ministries. He was a contributor to the 2013 Strategic Choices Management Review, the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, and OSD’s implementation of the U.S. policy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific. He was also part of the DoD working group that established the Department’s positions on autonomy in weapons systems (DoD Directive 3000.09). From 2009 to 2012, Van advised the White House and Secretary of Defense on crisis management and strategic courses of action through two Korean Peninsula crises, represented the Department in direct negotiations with North Korea addressing its nuclear program, and helped establish the first extended deterrence consultation mechanisms with South Korea and Japan. He is the recipient of multiple awards in OSD, including the Exceptional Civilian Service Medal.
Van previously taught courses on Asian security, grand strategy, and bridging the theory-policy divide at Georgetown University, Hawaii Pacific University, and the Catholic University of America, and has been a rotating lecturer in the Naval Postgraduate School’s Regional Security Education Program. In 2014, Van was also appointed as a Track II adviser to the Alliance Vision Group headed by the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning and South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has delivered guest lectures at a number of schools nationally, including the U.S. National War College, U.S. Naval War College, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. From 2011 to 2013, Van was also a nonresident James A. Kelly Fellow in Korean Studies with the Pacific Forum at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. He has published widely in academic journals, including Journal of Strategic Studies, International Studies Review, Foreign Policy Analysis, Journal of Global Security Studies, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Survival, Naval War College Review, Asia Policy, Asian Security, Comparative Strategy, and Contemporary Security Policy. His commentary and policy analysis has appeared in the Washington Post, POLITICO Magazine, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Hill, Axios, Far Eastern Economic Review, War on the Rocks, The Interpreter, Real Clear Defense, The Spinoff, and The Diplomat, among others. He holds a PhD in world politics from the Catholic University of America and was formerly selected as one of the “Top 99 under 33” foreign policy leaders by Diplomatic Courier magazine. Van started his career in the U.S. Air Force as a Korean linguist and intelligence analyst, and was an honors graduate from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.