Brought to you by the Texas National Security Review, this podcast features lectures, interviews, and panel discussions at the University of Texas.
Cyber Security is Only Partly Cloudy
With the release of the Pandora Papers, news reports are filled with stories derived from computer files once thought to be hidden from public scrutiny. While the source of the Pandora Papers leak isn't yet known, the pattern of leaked computer files shaping international relations has become increasingly common as information migrates to "the cloud." In addition to the Pandora Papers, the release of the Panama Papers revealed banking secrets of many international leaders, frequently suggesting involvement in activities they would have preferred not be made public. James Shires discussed the political role of "hack and leak" operations, many of which involve cloud-based data, in his article in Vol. 3/Iss. 4 of Texas National Security Review (our special issue on cyber competition). In this week's episode of Horns of a Dilemma, Christina Morillo, a cyber security expert with substantial experience in the private sector, discusses the nuts and bolts of cloud security. While the discussion is a bit more technically detailed than many episodes of the podcast, listeners will find that having a better understanding of how cloud security works will help them better to understand the context in which events like the release of the Pandora Papers, hack and leak operations, and even cloud-based attacks on computer control and data acquisition systems all take place. This talk was sponsored by the Strauss Center at the University of Texas, Austin, and hosted by Wendy Nather, a senior cyber security fellow at the Strauss Center.
Refuge and Reconciliation
In the wake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, much attention has focused on the fate of Afghan citizens who risked their lives to aid U.S. forces. The hastily organized evacuation of Afghan refugees has frequently drawn unfavorable comparison to the evacuation and resettlement of Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon in 1975. As the guest in this week's podcast demonstrates, however, the story of how the United States came to accept Vietnamese refugees is far more nuanced than many comparisons suggest. Professor Amanda Demmer is the author of After Saigon’s Fall: Refugees and U.S.-Vietnamese Relations, 1975-2000, published this year by Cambridge University Press. In the book, and in her talk, Demmer describes how the process of accepting refugees following the war in Vietnam both shaped and was shaped by significant movements in domestic and international politics, including a re-assertion of Congressional power in foreign relations, changing domestic and international norms regarding refugees, and an interlocking of humanitarian and human rights narratives. Ultimately, Demmer argues, understanding the story of refugees is central to understanding the normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam. This talk was sponsored by the Clements Center at the University of Texas, Austin, and was hosted by Mark Lawrence, an associate professor of history at the University of Texas, Austin, and director of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.
Isn't it Grand?
Grand strategy can be a vexing term. While many people understand grand strategy to be an important expression of the way in which countries wield their power, there can often be confusion as to exactly what the term "grand strategy" encompasses. (For listeners eager to explore more on this, Vol. 2, Iss. 1 of Texas National Security Review contains three excellent scholarly articles on grand strategy.) In this episode of Horns of Dilemma, we hear from a collection of authors and editors who are part of a recent book project arguing for a more capacious understanding of grand strategy. Rethinking American Grand Strategy, published by Oxford University Press this past spring, contains a collection of essays looking at different frameworks, narratives, figures, and approaches to grand strategy. Two of the editors of the volume — Chris Nichols and Andrew Preston — are joined by three authors — Adriane Lentz-Smith, Charlie Edel, and Will Inboden — to discuss the book and their contributions to it. This event was sponsored by the Clements Center at the University of Texas, Austin, and hosted by Professor Jeremy Suri of the University of Texas, Austin.
Defending Democracy – Inside the Senate Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election
The 2016 presidential election was a milestone in modern American politics, not only for the surprising victory of a candidate whom many pundits and observers had considered unlikely to win, but also for the degree to which foreign powers attempted to influence the electoral process and outcome. In this week’s Horns of a Dilemma, we hear from Emily Harding, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and formerly the deputy staff director for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Harding details the committee’s broad-reaching bipartisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. She discusses interactions with the concurrent FBI investigation, as well as the ways in which the outcomes of the Senate investigation helped to make the 2018 midterm elections and 2020 presidential election more secure against the types of interference that occurred in 2016. This talk was jointly sponsored by the Clements Center for National Security and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas, Austin. The talk was delivered outdoors due to COVID mitigation policies, so listeners will notice some wind noise, which we have done our best to minimize in post-production.
MAD COWs and Practical Wisdom
In the 1950s, researchers at the RAND Corporation ran two different wargames exploring questions of nuclear strategy. Both were named the Cold War Game, known to the participants as COW. One, run by the Mathematics Analysis Division (MAD), abstracted questions of the ethics of nuclear war in order to seek reproducible results. The other, run by the Social Sciences Division (SSD), reflected concerns over the ethics and implications of nuclear weapons, resulting in less-certain outcomes. The history of these games sheds light not only on nuclear strategy, but also on the balance between logic and emotion in national security decision-making. Doyle Hodges, executive editor of the Texas National Security Review (TNSR), talks with John R. Emery, the author of Moral Choices Without Moral Language: 1950s Political-Military Wargaming at the RAND Corporation, which appears in Vol 4/Iss 4 of TNSR. This issue is a special issue dedicated to the legacy of Janne Nolan, a founding member of the TNSR editorial board who passed away in 2019.
Insurgency is Easier than Governing: The Future of the Taliban in Afghanistan
With the fall of President Ashraf Ghani's government and the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces, most of Afghanistan is now under the control of the Taliban. In this episode of Horns of a Dilemma, we are joined by Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and the director of the Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors at Brookings, and by Scott R. Anderson, a visiting fellow in governance studies at Brookings, a senior editor and counsel for Lawfare, and a senior fellow with the National Security Law Program at Columbia Law School. Felbab-Brown and Anderson discuss the outlook for the Taliban as they seek to shift from insurgency to governance. The discussion covers questions of formal legal recognition, as well as questions of legitimacy and capacity for governance. Our guests explain why exercising power as the government of Afghanistan is likely to be more challenging for the Taliban than defeating the previous government was. As Dr. Felbab-Brown observed, "it's much easier to be an insurgent than a governor."