Sean A Mirski

By Author, Politics No Comments

This week on the Here’s What We Know Podcast, our host Gary Scott Thomas had a fascinating conversation with Sean A Mirski, a lawyer, historian, U.S. foreign policy scholar, and author of the monumental book “We May Dominate the World: Ambition, Anxiety, and the Rise of the American Colossus.” Sean shares how he spent eight years crafting his book while juggling a demanding law career. His book unpacks nearly 100 years of complex policy across the entire Western Hemisphere with gripping storytelling as we deeply dive into the pivotal moments that shaped our nation’s destiny.

So if you’re up for a historical exploration filled with drama, strategy, and lessons for our times, tune in now and be ready to geek out!

This episode is sponsored by:

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In this Episode:

  • Explore how Sean’s time at the University of Chicago shaped him and touch upon his role as a visiting scholar.
  • Sean shares insights into his writing process and rigorous research involving primary sources, from dusty archives to Library of Congress documents.
  • The discussion delves deep into understanding history through human stories rather than dry facts.
  • Sean reflects on the importance of presenting balanced perspectives that respect historical complexities instead of one-sided narratives.
  • Sean emphasizes meticulous documentation and how easy it is to distort history without proper context or verification.
  • Impactful historical events involve political figures like President Abraham Lincoln, General Ulysses S. Grant, Secretary William H. Seward, President Theodore Roosevelt, Republican politician James G. Blaine, Major General Smedley Butler, and President James Monroe.


“There is kind of a rhythm to the story that helped me sort of keep it all in my head.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“There’s a secret thrill that I feel when I’m in the archives that I’m reading through these documents and sort of just the feeling of having one of these, you know, memoranda or messages in your hand and knowing sort of the historical weight that ended up, being attributed to it and the kind of consequences that it had. There’s just something fun about that for me that I really, I can’t, I guess, fully explain.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“There are a mix of both where there’s really kind of, I think, shades of gray and a lot of complexity because that’s just how we are as human beings, we’re messy.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“Human beings being the mortal creatures that we are, it just didn’t always pan out that way. There were always sort of indirect consequences. There were always things that sort of ended up backfiring or having perversions, you know, incentives that led to bad things happening.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“I think for every generation, it’s worth sort of revisiting the stories of the past because there’s always going to be things that you sort of discover and new insights you glean by virtue of the fact that you’re kind of looking at this history through a new lens that, you know, previous generations didn’t, didn’t have because they were just stuck in a different moment in time.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“It obviously leads to sort of sense of humility, I think, among historians to know that. There are always going to be other ways of telling the story.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“But one of the sort of lessons I at least took away from writing this book is that you’re never going to have a definitive answer to history, because even once you have all the documents in front of you, and even when you tell a story that’s entirely consistent with them, uh, there’s always going to be different ways of telling that story.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“And so I offer my book not in the spirit of this is right and no one can challenge it, but as this is one way to look at it that I hope is consistent with the historical materials, but there are other ways of looking at the same events and sort of coming to, you know, slightly different conclusions.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“One lesson I learned in sort of writing this and it certainly sort of affected the way I now read other history books is sort of never being a definitive yes or no, but always being more of a sort of here’s one version of the story that we can tell.” ~ Sean A Mirski

“That’s the main reason I wrote the book to sort of look at the example of the United States and say, well, Are there any lessons we can draw, right?” ~ Sean A Mirski


Sean A. Mirski is a lawyer, historian, and U.S. foreign policy scholar who has worked on national security issues across multiple U.S. presidential administrations. A term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he currently practices national security, foreign relations, and appellate law at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, and is also a Visiting Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He previously served in the U.S. Department of Defense under both Republican and Democratic administrations as Special Counsel to the General Counsel, where he earned the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Award for Outstanding Achievement. He has written extensively on American history, international relations, law, and politics, including as author of We May Dominate the World: Ambition, Anxiety, and the Rise of the American Colossus (Public Affairs 2023), and as editor of the book Crux of Asia: China, India, and the Emerging Global Order (CEIP 2013). Earlier in his career, he clerked for Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. on the U.S. Supreme Court and then-Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and served as a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Named one of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30,” he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago.

Guest Contact Info:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sean-mirski-06779222/
“We May Dominate The World: Ambition, Anxiety, and the Rise of the American Colossus” Book Link: Amazon