Doctoral Student Focus | CDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, USN, DOL

Youssef Aboul-Enein

“I found the right fit not just financially and geographically, but also with a program where I can balance my new post-military professional career with study.”

CDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, USN, DOL


  • Organizational Leadership (Doctorate)


  • Education

CDR Youssef Aboul-Enein is one of the most talented and notable students in Hood College’s Doctoral Program in Organizational Leadership (DOL) program. He has retired from his position as a U.S. Navy commander with 28 years on active duty and is also a contract instructor at the Joint Military Intelligence Training Center. Aboul-Enein has earned a master’s in business administration, a master’s in strategic intelligence and a master’s in resource strategy and national security, teaching at both the National Intelligence University and the National Defense University. His research has been prominently featured in recent news articles and interviews.

Why did you choose Hood College and this program?

I was retiring from active duty and searching for the right fit. I found it in Hood College through my son Omar, who is an alumni of the Hood Graduate School, earning his master’s in computer science in 2021.

While driving Omar to classes and taking him to dinner, he pointed out that Hood had a doctoral program. I met with Dr. Kathleen Bands several times, and the rest is history. I found the right fit not just financially and geographically, but also with a program where I can balance my new post-military professional career with study.

In addition, the DOL program offers such flexibility that I can explore the dissertation topic I am passionate about with Dr. Bands and now Dr. Nisha Manikoth. My dissertation will focus on one of Saddam Hussein’s generals who taught military leadership, strategy and tactics to a generation of Iraqi officers. I want to expose his ideas on military affairs to a new generation of America’s military leaders.

It is a real bonus that Hood College is minutes from several facilities and organizations important to me as a veteran. This includes Fort Detrick, a full-service military base as well as my American Legion Post Number 11, which is in a historic building (founded after World War I) that has an entire top floor reading room and library where I can read, write and contemplate my dissertation.

Tell us about the recent U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings Podcast you were a part of and the increase of attention towards your book.

I am the author and co-author of seven books as well as hundreds of essays and book reviews in military publications on the Middle East and counterterrorism. When President Biden announced the killing of the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri on July 31, within 24 hours I found myself being quoted and cited by various syndicated columnists online. My very first book was a 2004 monograph on Ayman al-Zawahiri. It turns out that is what the media seized upon. I guess just like there was a hunger right after 9/11 for material on al-Qaeda and its leadership, the killing of Zawahiri re-stimulated interest in my work.

Among security circles, two of my books which I am best known for are Militant Islamist Ideology and Middle East 101. The first book made the list of the top 150 most influential books on terrorism by the peer-reviewed journal Perspectives on Terrorism, and the second book was designated essential summer reading in 2020 by the Military Officer’s Association of America magazine, Military Officer.

It was natural that I accepted an invitation from my publisher, Naval Institute Proceedings, which has played an important part in my life not only as an author, but also as a strategic thinker. The editor-in-chief Bill Hamblet and I spent more than 40 minutes discussing who Zawahiri was, the tensions between al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliates, the generational struggle among al-Qaeda leaders, the current Taliban regime and what a post-Zawahiri al-Qaeda will look like in the future.

How has Hood College helped you in your career?

Where do I begin? I am finishing my first of four academic years of the DOL program. First and foremost, rarely does someone my age retire from a career and have the liberty to think deeply about the shape of their second career going forward. I love teaching and have trained thousands of troops with orders to the Middle East and Africa. I continue this work as a contractor, teaching the future men and women of the intelligence community the nuances of the region and how to use structured analytic thinking to interpret global complexities.

Just this summer, I completed two courses in managing human capital and strategic communication with Dr. Manikoth and Dr. Lisa Littlefield respectively. The first course heightened my sensitivity to inter-generational leadership, recruitment and retention. This led me to take back to my current position enhancing sensitivity to inter-generational dynamics in training and education in the defense intelligence enterprise.

Dr. Littlefield’s class was very opportune, and in a complete coincidence, the Naval Institute Proceedings podcast occurred while I was enrolled in her class. She provided us with a worksheet to structure our remarks that I utilized to think about this month’s interview.

In Dr. Karen Hoffman’s ethics class last semester, I really enjoyed the intellectual duel on the ideas of Kant and Bentham, while tying it to Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus. It took me back to discussions with NATO and North African officers in joint meetings at the officer’s club, where the topic turned to German philosophy and French existentialism over a fine meal. Our Hood librarian Dr. Marcella Genz helped prepare me for one of my courses on warning analysis. Then there is my cohort, who have offered such compassion, debate, perspective and authenticity, who are a tremendous help in my transition into the civilian world. Hood just works for me on so many levels.

Any other information/fun facts that you would like to add?

Indeed, aside from my son Omar, who is a federal researcher at NIST working on advanced robotics and machine learning, I have a daughter who is a federal nurse at the National Institutes of Health, and my son-in-law is a federal auditor for the Department of Health and Human Services.

I enjoy gentle aerobics and yoga upon my retirement from active duty. I have re-ignited my passion in stamp collecting, focusing on collecting postage stamps from the Egyptian monarchy 1866 to 1952, or from the reign of Khedive Ismail Pasha, who inaugurated the Suez Canal to King Farouk I. My wife of three decades, a retired math and science teacher, enjoys collecting Americana. One of my gifts to her was a signed rare edition of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.


Inspired by Youssef’s story to #GOFURTHER in your educational & career pursuits? Learn more about Hood College’s Doctorate of Organizational Leadership by clicking here.