When she was 33 years old, Meghan O’Sullivan entered Iraq as part of the first civilian convoy into the country after Saddam Hussein fled Baghdad. Over the next 15 months, she worked with the Iraqis to help them rebuild the political institutions of their country and was a key political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority. When she returned home after the Iraqis regained sovereignty, she was recognized as having close ties with Iraqi leaders and was hired by the White House to be Special Assistant to the President. Over time, she was promoted to the position of Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan, which gave her regular opportunities to brief President Bush and help shape U.S. policy in these two countries. She is known as one of the key architects of the “surge” strategy which led President Bush to send more troops to Iraq in 2007 and helped affect an appreciable decline in violence there.

Before going to Iraq, O’Sullivan was a specialist in ethnic conflict and worked for the State Department on the Northern Ireland peace process and at a Washington think tank writing books and articles on civil wars and U.S. foreign policy. She left the U.S. government in 2007 to join Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she is now a lecturer.