Philip Zelikow has co-authored many books. He wrote a book with Ernest May on The Kennedy Tapes, and another with Joseph Nye and David C. King on Why People Don’t Trust Government. He wrote Germany Unified and Europe Transformed with Condoleezza Rice.
Prof. Zelikow's area of academic expertise is the creation and maintenance of, in his words, “public myths” or “public presumptions,” which he defines as “beliefs (1) thought to be true (although not necessarily known to be true with certainty), and (2) shared in common within the relevant political community." In his academic work and elsewhere he has taken a special interest in what he has called “‘searing’ or ‘molding’ events [that] take on ‘transcendent’ importance and, therefore, retain their power even as the experiencing generation passes from the scene. In the United States, beliefs about the formation of the nation and the Constitution remain powerful today, as do beliefs about slavery and the Civil War. World War II, Vietnam, and the civil rights struggle are more recent examples.” He has noted that “a history’s narrative power is typically linked to how readers relate to the actions of individuals in the history; if readers cannot make a connection to their own lives, then a history may fail to engage them at all” ("Thinking about Political History," Miller Center Report [Winter 1999], pp. 5-7).
In the November-December 1998 issue of Foreign Affairs, he co-authored an article entitled “Catastrophic Terrorism,” in which he speculated that if the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center had succeeded, “the resulting horror and chaos would have exceeded our ability to describe it. Such an act of catastrophic terrorism would be a watershed event in American history. It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented in peacetime and undermine America’s fundamental sense of security, as did the Soviet atomic bomb test in 1949. Like Pearl Harbor, the event would divide our past and future into a before and after. The United States might respond with draconian measures scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force. More violence could follow, either future terrorist attacks or U.S. counterattacks. Belatedly, Americans would judge their leaders negligent for not addressing terrorism more urgently.”
Philip Zelikow served on President Bush's transition team in 2000-2001. After George W. Bush took office, Zelikow was named to a position on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and worked on other task forces and commissions as well, including the National Commission on Federal Election Reform.