Jessica Stern


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My War Criminal:

Personal Encounters with an Architect of Genocide

By Jessica Stern

Out Now!


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A few words on my technique: “Why Listen to Evil Men?”


Dr. Howard Gardner on My War Criminal: Personal Encounters with an Architect of GenocideJessica Stern’s Study of Radovan Karadzic Raises the Question of Whether One Should Attempt to Study Terrorists Face-to-face


Robert Wright interviews Jessica Stern on The Wright Show/Bloggingheads.TV about My War Criminal: Personal Encounters with an Architect of Genocide


 Dr. Indira Novic, “A Bosnian psychologist’s analysis of Karadžić’s life script based on Jessica Stern’s interviews”


Ben Wittes interviews Jessica Stern on The Lawfare Podcast’s Bonus Episode #510, Jessica Stern on Radovan Karadzic


Former Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John McLaughlin on My War Criminal: Personal Encounters with an Architect of Genocide




I cannot tell you how profoundly I disagree with Janine di Giovanni’s Feb. 3 Global Opinions essay, “I can never forget the Bosnian genocide. But others are trying to rewrite history,” which was critical of Jessica Stern’s book “My War Criminal: Personal Encounters with an Architect of Genocide.” Ms. Stern spent arduous hours interviewing imprisoned Balkan war criminal Radovan Karadzic over many weeks. She amply and unambiguously documents Mr. Karadzic’s crimes and leaves no doubt that she found Mr. Karadzic a monstrous human being.

Ms. di Giovanni harshly criticized Stern for noting some of the not-unattractive human qualities that likely enabled Mr. Karadzic to inspire such malign behavior by otherwise normal people. Yet this is precisely what makes Ms. Stern’s analysis so valuable — the acknowledgment that even monsters such as Mr. Karadzic and Hitler are, in the end, mere humans. Avoiding the easy path of simply condemning, she struggles to understand how such humanity can coexist with such evil.

As someone who worked on the Balkans during my government career, I found Ms. Stern’s book one of the most riveting and insightful assessments I’ve ever read on that horrible chapter of the 20th century.

– John McLaughlin, Washington



Book Reviews:

 “Jessica Stern draws a chilling portrait of Radovan Karadžić, giving us an eye-opening new context not only for the Bosnian War, but also of how fear can be harnessed and diverted to violent political ends.” – U.S. Senator Chris Coons

“Timely and compelling.”  Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (2005-2009)

“This book is a remarkable blend of biography, history, and psychiatry– only Jessica Stern could have written it.” – Howard Gardner, Hobbs Research Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard University

Complex emotions are unleashed on both sides as the interviewer circles a wily subject skilled at charm, obfuscation, misdirection, and intimidation — and Dr. Stern lays all of this out with extraordinary candor. Must reading for anyone interested in how a narcissistic leader can merge popular grievances and history to produce  human tragedy on a massive scale.” – John McLaughlin, Former Acting Director, CIA

“This eloquent and revelatory book provides essential insight not just into the Balkan wars, but into the mechanisms of genocide and ethnic hatred all over the world. (Jan.)” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Ultimately, Stern draws chilling parallels between the war criminal and President Trump, including similarities in their tactics of fear-mongering and ethnocentrism, and asks us to question our own moral dexterity and susceptibility to such ethical collapses.” Booklist

“For a two-year period between October 2014 and November 2016 Karadzic was visited by terrorism expert Jessica Stern, who sought, as we must, to understand the psychology of genocide: its motivations, its acts, its perennial surfacing among so-called civilized society. What followed was a series of interviews that form the backbone of this chilling account of how quickly societal order can collapse, particularly when given just the right push from intelligent, charismatic men.”  –  Lit Hub

“A subtle, powerful illustration of terror that resonates today, especially regarding the resurgent white supremacist movement. […] An utterly compelling chronicle form a master scholar and clear writer.” – Kirkus Starred Review


About Jessica Stern

Jessica Stern is a Research Professor at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies.  Stern has taught courses on counter-terrorism for 20 years – at Boston University, Harvard, and CIA University. She is a Member of the Homeland Security Experts Group, a Fellow at both Hoover Institution and Harvard’s School of Public Health, and a non-resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.  She has participated in several DHS, NATO, and DOD-funded countering-violent extremism projects at Children’s Hospital and the Chan School of Public Health at Harvard. Stern is the coauthor with J.M. Berger of ISIS: The State of Terror, and the author of My War Criminal: Personal Encounters with an Architect of Genocide (forthcoming January 2020), DENIAL: A Memoir of Terror, TERROR IN THE NAME OF GOD: Why Religious Militants Kill.  Stern served on President Clinton’s National Security Council Staff in 1994-95.  She was included among seven “thinkers” in Time Magazine’s 2001 series profiling 100 innovators.  She was selected as a Guggenheim Fellow in 2009, a World Economic Forum Fellow from 2002-2004, an International Affairs Fellow in 1994, and elected to Sigma Xi, an engineering honors society, in 1986.  Stern advises a number of government agencies on issues related to terrorism. She has a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in chemistry, a master’s degree from MIT in technology policy, and a doctorate from Harvard University in public policy.  She is a 2016 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis.