A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Abraham D. Sofaer was appointed the George P. Shultz Distinguished Scholar and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution in 1994. Previously, he served as legal adviser to then Secretary Shultz at the U.S. Department of State from 1985 to 1990, where he was principal negotiator in various interstate matters, including the claim against Iraq for its attack on the USS Stark, the dispute between Egypt and Israel over Taba, and the claims against Chile for the assassination of diplomat Orlando Letelier. He received the Distinguished Service Award in 1989, the highest State Department award given to a non-civil servant.
His career highlights also include serving as U.S. district judge in the Southern District of New York, 1979–1985; professor of law at Columbia University School of Law, 1969–1979; and assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, 1967–1969. Today, as a professor at Stanford Law School, Sofaer’s work focuses on separation of powers issues in the American system of government, including the power over war, and on issues related to international law, terrorism, diplomacy, national security, and the Middle East conflict. In 1989, he delivered the Waldemar A. Solf Lecture in International Law on “Terrorism, the Law, and the National Defense,” 126 Military Law Review p.89 (1989). His latest book, The Best Defense? Legitimacy and Preventive Force, argues that the threats of greatest concern today are those prepared in secret, launched without warning, and conducted without regard for established rules governing the conduct of war.