Ashbrook Scholar Alumna an Expert on National Security Strategy

December 24, 2020

Ashbrook Scholar Alumna an Expert on National Security Strategy
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Ashbrook Scholar Alumna Rebeccah Heinrichs is a fellow at the George C. Marshall Institute and Vice Chairman of the Counter-Proliferation Working Group at the John Hay Initiative. Her writing on national security strategy has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the L.A. Times, National Review Online, The Hill, and other publications, and she has provided commentary on CNN,, and the Blaze.

Rebeccah Heinrichs
Rebeccah Heinrichs

After graduating from Ashland University in December of 2004, Heinrichs earned a Masters in National Security and Strategic Studies at the U.S. Naval War College while working as a military legislative assistant for Arizona Congressman Trent Franks. This summer she was one of 14 professionals chosen to participate in the Claremont Institute’s Lincoln Fellow Program, which engages Fellows on the subject of statesmanship and political thought.

We recently spoke with Heinrichs about her work:

How did your education as an Ashbrook Scholar prepare you for your work in the highly specialized field of weapons deterrence?

The Scholar program pushed me to think hard about the questions of greatest consequence. Inspiring professors challenged me to examine my opinions and to value thinking properly above winning an argument. They introduced me to Aristotle, Plato, Locke, Xenophon, Thucydides, Lincoln, and the Founders. I was hooked, and I grew to really love our country, not merely because it was mine, but because her Founding principles are right. The September 11th attacks made it clear that America is being attacked from the outside as well as from the inside, and I thought, ‘if we leave her security to relativists, we’re doomed’.

You write remarkably clear, persuasive articles on nuclear strategy and missile defense. Did the Scholar program help you hone your writing skills? 

I learned as a Scholar that to write clearly, one must think clearly, and muddled writing is often the result of muddled thinking. I’m constantly working to improve my writing—and the more I research and read, the better my writing gets, I think.

You are an expert on nuclear deterrence strategy and missile defense, policy concerns less frequently addressed in the years since the end of the Cold War. Should we discuss these issues more often?

Deterrence isn’t a popular subject because it seems outdated, it’s complex, and it doesn’t boil down to a sound-bite very well. Yet we neglect it at our peril. People worried more about a nuclear attack when the United States and Soviet Union threatened each other with mutually assured destruction. Then President Reagan argued in his Strategic Defense Initiative speech that this policy was neither safe nor moral; he challenged industry to build a defensive system to protect against missile attack. We do not have the space-based system President Reagan envisioned, but we have a limited system able to defend against some kinds of missile threats. But the threat landscape today is perhaps more precarious than it was during the Cold War. Russia and China continue to improve their strategic systems. North Korea has nuclear weapons and Iran has an illicit nuclear and missile program. Each regime is unique and requires different calculations for deterrence, so a truly robust defensive system, as well as a credible and flexible nuclear deterrent, has become all the more important.

What is the best reason to pursue a missile defense system? 

Our country is exceptional and worth defending. What the Founders said in the Declaration is still true: God created all men with equal value and gave them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  But there are ideologies that are directly opposed to these principles. Those who hold to those ideologies often challenge the U.S. and, in some cases, seek to destroy her. The enemies of the U.S. can inflict the greatest harm on the U.S. with nuclear or other mass casualty weapons, so we must deter and defend against them.

You can read a recent opinion piece by Heinrichs at: