On War and Politics


Arnold Punaro is the ultimate Washington insider. During his 35 years of service in the Marine Corps, both active and reserve, he rose to the rank of Major General. After being wounded in battle and decorated for valor in Vietnam, he redeployed to a different battlefield: Washington politics. For almost fifty years, he has toiled at the intersection of the political and defense establishment, has served in key positions in the Pentagon, Congress and industry and has been a key participant in all the major defense and intelligence legislation of this era. Punaro’s distinguished career of public service has given him an unrivaled perspective on the events and factors that have shaped defense policy, along with a clear vision on how to solve the tough, pressing challenges facing our nation today.

In his long-awaited memoir, ON WAR AND POLITICS: The Battlefield Inside Washington’s Beltway (Naval Institute Press, on sale October 2016, hardcover), Punaro presents stories from his personal and public life—from sobering accounts of his days in combat in Vietnam to colorful anecdotes about political luminaries such as John McCain, the Clintons, the Presidents Bush, Colin Powell, Robert Gates, and Ash Carter; from revelations about backroom politics in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill to insights into how decisions are really made inside the Beltway. Punaro draws lessons from his military, government, and industry service to propose how we might attack the serious legislative and fiscal problems facing our country, especially the military.

As someone who has spent most of his professional career trying to reform the Pentagon—namely the wasteful and ineffective spending of the Department of Defense—Punaro is unsparing in his criticisms of both Republicans and Democrats and the partisanship he believes is having devastating consequences on the readiness and warfighting capacity of our armed forces. He presents radical proposals for much-needed reforms to military spending, including cutting entitlements and drastically reducing DoD’s overhead and non-combat related spending.

The insights provided in Punaro’s memoir come at an important crossroads in American politics as we approach the presidential election. Punaro has been a key figure in many national security policy fights and when he wasn’t in the ring, he never had less than a ring-side seat. His book will give the reader rare insights into how America’s national security is built, and that knowledge will enable them to cut through election-year campaign rhetoric to judge the claims made by the two would-be commanders in chief, and to fairly judge the performance of the winner.

You would be hard pressed to find a man more passionate about the need for change—whether on the battlefield or in the halls of the Pentagon and the Congress—than Arnold Punaro. His storied and decorated military career, government and business expertise, and deep commitment to personal integrity make him an indispensable voice in conversations on defense policy and mark ON WAR AND POLITICS as essential reading for anyone invested in the security of our country and the very principles our nation was founded upon.

ON WAR AND POLITICS is a richly-drawn, intimate portrait of a man who has devoted his life in service of his country, one with significant lessons for today’s leaders and civilians alike.


“Arnold Punaro’s memoir, On War and Politics, contains a lifetime of wisdom, highlighting important lessons learned from his service as a Marine officer in Vietnam and beyond to his rise to power as a senior staffer in the United States Senate and then as a business leader.  Anyone who wants to understand the politics of U.S. defense and security policy would do well to read Arnold’s book. His book is the story of an American patriot.”
William S. Cohen, Former Secretary of Defense 

“Best book on the congressional-military-industrial complex I’ve read in several FYDPs.”
Mark Thompson, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Reporter for TIME

“Arnold Punaro is a Washington Institution who has done much of the work over the past several decades required to build the most capable military in the history of the planet….while the elected politicians have mostly taken the credit. Bipartisan, fair, patriotic, brave, and principled. He is a model for public service and doing things the right way.”
Dr. John Hillen, Professor, George Mason University and Former Assistant Secretary of State

“The book has a kind of realness, good and bad, that is so often missing in the meticulously well edited, yet yearningly hollow, works of beltway and military leaders today. That is what makes On War and Politics a must read, because in an era of carefully crafted and framed stories, Punaro comes at the reader with his art of making the real world beautiful, and the reader walks away knowing Arnold Punaro and feeling sense of awe at the story of a real person.”
The Strategy Bridge

On War succeeds at all levels. It is a personal, yet riveting, journey of the author’s life, set against the most important military conflict and national security issues of the times.”
Marine Corps Gazette 

“The well-known―inside the Beltway―citizen Marine and his co-author ‘in the actual writing of the book’ offer anecdotes about a lifetime of service to the Corps and Congress. The Vietnam veteran enlisted in 1968 and ‘never intended to make the Corps a life’s work.’ When he arrives on Capitol Hill for a 1973 internship he ‘hadn’t even voted in the previous election.’ Unlike other recent Washington memoirs, the book due in October acknowledges few enemies, but there are a few soft slaps. That other Marine, Oliver North, proves that ‘charisma goes a long way, but not all the way.’ And after Punaro’s 1998 committee suggests creating a nationwide security department, the post-9/11 formation of Homeland Security ‘seems akin to buying the fire truck after the house has burned to the ground.’”
Military Times

“Arnold Punaro has been deeply involved in many of our nation’s military battles over the last four decades—from the jungles of Vietnam to the jungles of Capitol Hill as a top leader in the Marine Corps Reserve, a key player in the defense industry, and a trusted advisor to the Pentagon. This book is informative, and if we’re smart, Arnold’s thoughts will guide us in dealing with today’s security challenges.”
Sen. Sam Nunn, Former Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

“Few people know Washington and the Pentagon with greater intimacy than Arnold Punaro and nobody can speak to the evolution of Defense policy better than him. His no nonsense style and candor make this a must-read for those who can only wonder about how Washington really works.”
George J. Tenet, Former Director, CIA

“In uniform and out, from the jungles of Vietnam as a young Marine to the halls of Congress as Staff Director of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Arnold Punaro has been intimately involved in most of the major defense policy battles of the last forty years. This unique combination of first-hand experience, told with Arnold’s forthrightness and self-deprecating humor, make his On War and Politics a must-read.”
Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, USAF (Ret.), Former National Security Advisor

“His experiences make interesting reading, his historical analysis a major addition to the public policy record, and his insights and analysis a thought-provoking contribution to the ongoing policy debate.”
General Jim Jones, Former National Security Advisor

“The word ‘insider’ in Washington is the ultimate compliment but it’s often overused. Arnold Punaro is the real thing. In his career, he’s advised the mighty, he’s found solutions to policy dilemmas, and all along has performed the impossible: keeping his reputation, integrity, and influential friends through a long career of speaking truth to power.”
Fred Kempe, CEO, The Atlantic Council

“Arnold knows where the bodies are buried, and put some of them there himself; he remains an outspoken voice in Washington calling insistently for defense policy reform. On War and Politics is eagerly anticipated by the defense policy community.”
Dr. John Nagl, Headmaster, The Haverford School, Author of Knife Fights and Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife

“Arnold Punaro is a classic Washington insider, someone who knows everybody—and where the skeletons are hidden, too. I’d pay good money to read anything he writes about
what he learned in DC.”
Tom Ricks, Contributing Editor, Foreign Policy

To schedule an interview with Arnold Punaro or to request a review copy of ON WAR AND POLITICS, please contact: Angela Baggetta, 212-705-4221, abaggetta@goldbergmcduffie.com or Judy Heise at 410-295-1028, jheise@usni.org