A weekly discussion of national security and foreign policy matters hosted by Shane Harris of the Washington Post and featuring Brookings scholars Tamara Cofman Wittes, Benjamin Wittes, and Susan Hennessey.
The "So Not-Nice They Impeached Him Twice" Edition
The House impeaches President Trump—again—for his role in stoking an attack on the Capitol. President-elect Biden announces more national security appointments, including his nominee to lead the CIA. And Mike Pompeo breaks some diplomatic furniture on the way out the door.
"The Peaceless Transition of Power" Edition
A normally procedural session of Congress dissolves as protestors descend on Washington and occupy the Capitol. A new crackdown on pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong will complicate the incoming Biden administration’s approach to China. And how will a (barely) Democrat-controlled Senate affect Biden’s national security agenda?
The "F--- This Year" Edition
President Trump issues another round of pardons, raising expectations that his family members and maybe Trump himself will be next. As 2020 comes to a merciful close, we’ll take a look back at the big national security stories that didn’t get enough attention. And we’ll talk about what we’ve got our eyes on for 2021, besides a triumphant return to the actual Jungle Studio.
The "Disbarred" Edition
Attorney General Bill Barr exits the stage. Did he leave before Trump could fire him? A massive computer hack attributed to Russian intelligence may have exposed dozens of companies and government agencies. And in the face of that and other Russian threats, how is a Biden administration likely to change U.S. policy towards Moscow?
The "Stocking the Cabinet" Edition
President-elect Biden continues building his Cabinet, but his pick for defense secretary leaves some supporters cold. Administration officials drag their feet on the transition as Trump’s lawyers mount increasingly absurd and dangerous efforts to overturn the election. And the White House tries to rally support for a controversial weapons sale to the United Arab Emirates as the Gulf Arab states look ahead to a Biden administration that may be more skeptical of close ties.
The "You Get a Pardon and You Get a Pardon!” Edition
A top Iranian nuclear scientist is assassinated. Everyone gets pardons this Christmas! And the attorney general takes steps to ensure the investigation of the Russia probe continues in the Biden administration. Plus, the gang welcomes special guest Noah Efron of "The Promised Podcast."
Customer ReviewsSee All
Always manages to combine humour and expertise when discussing a range of national security issues and generally distinguishes between insider knowledge and speculation.
Smart analysis delivered with warmth and style. One of the best podcasts around.
Not quite as rational as it pretends to be
This is still a great podcast, but only when it stays inside its own running lane. When it comes to dissecting issues about national security, intelligence, Russia and the Middle East, RatSec has few equals. Or, so I thought, until now.
That’s because, when it strays into other areas that you, the listener, may have some experience or expertise in, you might find it more than a little disappointing. A good example is the recent ‘Contact Tracing’ edition when Ben Wittes joined Trump in disparaging the WHO for not being more critical of China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. Luckily, Susan Hennessey stepped in to point out that the WHO is constrained in what it can say because, in the field, it can only operate with the agreement of the host nation. Unfortunately, and this is putting it as politely as I can, Wittes then demonstrated intellectual resistance to her gentle rebuttal. Hell, no, he doesn’t deserve that. He mansplained and doubled down on his original claim.
I’d love to know how, if Wittes were tasked with a life-saving mission inside a nation notorious for it’s sensitivity to losing face, he would handle the host government. Would he criticise it and be kicked out, leaving the afflicted to their fate? Or would he be conscious of his vital mission and ensure his host’s co-operation by being diplomatic in his public statements? The WHO always takes the latter approach because lives matter more.
This example demonstrates a wider point: that relying upon the opinions of policy wonks with little experience out in the field is not always the greatest idea. If Trump’s cluelessness about how constrained the WHO is in operating inside a host nation is inexcusable, what then can we make of Witte’s ignorance and unwillingness to inform himself? He is not alone in this. Most of us are vulnerable to the temptation to bloviate about issues where we are ill-informed. It’s just damned disappointing that it has happened on RatSec.