Aaron B. O'Connell's scholarly interests span four inter-related fields: 20th century military history, cultural history, U.S. foreign affairs, and American politics. His scholarly publications focus on understanding the effects of U.S. military influence and infrastructure inside and outside the United States. O'Connell's public history pieces mostly concern how the U.S. military affects contemporary domestic and political culture.
Prior to joining UT Austin, O'Connell served 22 years in the Marine Corps, which included assignments as a Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Special Advisor to General David Petraeus in Afghanistan, and the Senior Defense Official / Defense Attache' at U.S. Embassy, Juba, South Sudan. From 2016-2017, he served in the Obama Administration as Director of Defense Policy & Strategy on the National Security Council.
O'Connell is the author of "Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps," which explores how the Marine Corps rose from relative unpopularity to become the most prestigious armed service in the United States. He is also editor of "Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan," which is a critical account of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan since 2001. O'Connell has authored numerous articles on military affairs and military history and his opinion pieces have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He teaches courses in military history, U.S. foreign policy, U.S. military culture and the U.S.'s role in the world since 1898.