Hosts Melanie Marlowe and Christopher Preble debate their way through some of the toughest and most contentious topics related to war, international relations, and strategy. This podcast is brought to you by War on the Rocks.
A Heavy Price to Pay?
Chris, Zack, and Melanie talk about the massing of Russian troops near Ukraine’s eastern border and the Biden administration’s efforts to deter Putin from invading Ukraine. What is Putin’s motivation for the actions of the last several months? Are the Biden team’s threats of crippling economic sanctions in the case of an invasion credible? How will the different interests of individual NATO allies affect what President Joe Biden is able to promise in upcoming discussions? Could our handling of this potential crisis make it more likely that China will try to take Taiwan? Chris has some thoughts on media coverage of Omicron, Zack wishes Donald Trump would stop praising leaders with authoritarian tendencies, and Melanie laments that the Biden administration has still not developed an economic strategy for Asia.
Josh Shifrinson and Stephen Wertheim, “Acting Too Aggressively on Ukraine May Endanger It—and Taiwan,” Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2021.
Kori Schake, “Russia’s Aggression in Ukraine Is Backfiring,” The Atlantic, Dec. 29, 2021.
“Purdue Sends Message to China,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17, 2021.
Yuka Hayashi, “US on Sidelines as China and Other Asia-Pacific Nations Launch Trade Pact,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 1, 2022.
Francis J. Gavin, “Is Team Biden Winning?”, Texas National Security Review, Dec. 30, 2021.
Andrew Kramer, Steven Erlanger, and David Sanger, “Russia Lays Out Demands for a Sweeping New Security Deal with NATO,” New York Times, December 17, 2021.
Michael Kofman and Andrea Kendall-Taylor, “The Myth of Russian Decline,” Foreign Affairs, Oct. 19, 2021.
Michael Crowley and Julian E. Barnes, “How Far Would Biden Go to Defend Ukraine Against Russia?”, New York Times, Nov. 25, 2021.
Sauli Niinisto, New Year’s Speech, Presidentti.fi, Jan. 1, 2022.
Michael Crowley, “Biden Stand on Ukraine is a Wider Test of US Credibility Abroad,” New York Times, Dec. 16, 2021.
Kylie Atwood, Jennifer Handssler, and Nicole Gaouette, “House Lawmakers Push Biden Administration to Do More to Deter Russian Aggression against Ukraine,” CNN, Dec. 14, 2021.
Mark Cancian, “What Would it Take to Defend Ukraine? Potentially, Billions of Dollars,” Breaking Defense, Dec. 7, 2021.
Jennifer Millman, “NY COVID Hospitalizations Top 2021 Surge Levels; Omicron Quintuples Risk of Breakthrough Cases,” NBC New York, Jan. 3, 2022, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/coronavirus/ny-covid-hospitalizations-top-2021-surge-levels-as-omicron-drives-95-of-cases/3476250/.
“Future Foreign Policy series featuring Ambassador Robert Zoellick,” New American Engagement Initiative, Jan. 19, 2022, 12:00 p.m. ET, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/ffp-series-featuring-ambassador-robert-zoellick/.
A Slavish Devotion to Presence?
Chris, Melanie, and Zack debate U.S. global posture. How can the National Defense Strategy bring resources and requirements into alignment? With the Defense Department having just completed its global posture review, is Bob Work right that the U.S. Navy needs to shed its attachment to presence? Is Bryan McGrath correct that the answer is more resources? Or can new approaches — like the Marine Corps’ A Concept for Stand-in Forces — square this circle? Chris and Zack hope their holiday presents will include a clear U.S. strategy on China. Melanie hopes for a nuclear power revolution. And all three wish listeners a happy holiday season.
Jim Garamone, “Biden Approves Global Posture Review Recommendations,” DOD News, Nov. 29, 2021, https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/2856053/biden-approves-global-posture-review-recommendations/.
U.S. Marine Corps, “A Concept for Stand-In Forces,” December 2021, https://www.hqmc.marines.mil/Portals/142/Users/183/35/4535/211201_A%20Concept%20for%20Stand-In%20Forces.pdf?ver=MFOzu2hs_IWHZlsOAkfZsQ%3d%3d.
Robert O. Work, “A Slavish Devotion to Forward Presence Has Nearly Broken the U.S. Navy,” Proceedings, December 2021, https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2021/december/slavish-devotion-forward-presence-has-nearly-broken-us-navy.
Bryan McGrath, “What Is The Navy For?,” The Conservative Wahoo, Dec. 1, 2021, https://conservativewahoo.substack.com/p/what-is-the-navy-for.
Mara Karlin, The Inheritance: America’s Military After Two Decades of War (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2021), https://www.brookings.edu/book/the-inheritance/.
Christopher A. Preble, “The Cold War Navy in the Post War World,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 195, Aug. 2, 1993, https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa195.pdf.
“The Discreet Charm of Nuclear Power,” The Economist, Nov. 13, 2021.
CDR Salamander, “The Global Posture Review: Strategic Vapor Lock,” Substack, Nov. 30, 2021.
Jack Detsch, “‘No Decisions, No Changes’: Pentagon Fails to Stick Asia Pivot,” Foreign Policy, Nov. 29, 2021.
Dan Lamothe, “After Extraordinary Sacrifice—and Years of Delay—Alwyn Cashe Gets His Medal of Honor,” Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2021.
Talent Management for a Modern Military
Chris, Melanie, and Zack explore how the U.S. military recruits and retains top performers. In the recently released Marine Corps’ talent management report, Marine Corps Commandant David H. Berger explains that the Corps “must bring into the service the right people with the right skill sets, measure their talents, and then match their skills to the duties they desire and are suited to perform.”
But military leaders realize that the competition for talent is fierce, and they must be willing to challenge long-standing assumptions to succeed. Can they? Will the right package of incentives — combined with the desire of a small but significant number of American men and women to serve in uniform — ensure that the U.S. military will have the right people, in the right place, at the right time? Or do we need to consider moving to a different model, including possibly one based on compulsory service for all able-bodied men and women?
Older and wiser Zack Cooper has a grievance with grad student Zack Cooper, Melanie throws shade on the Biden administration’s economic policies, and Chris faults those playing politics with the lives of millions of innocent men, women, and children in Afghanistan. Shout outs to NASA astronaut-candidate Chris Williams, to Vice President Kamala Harris for wearing wired instead of Bluetooth headphones, and to the Atlantic Council’s Mathew Burrows and Evan Cooper for a new report on U.S. efforts to promote democracy around the world.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Issues Talent Management 2030 Plan, November 3, 2021, https://www.marines.mil/News/Press-Releases/Press-Release-Display/Article/2831808/commandant-of-the-marine-corps-issues-talent-management-2030-plan/.
Gen. David H. Berger, “A Concept for Stand-In Forces,” Proceedings, November 2021, https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2021/november/concept-stand-forces.
Zoe Poindexter, “Amazon's consumer chief says hiring remains a "challenge" in "very tight" labor market,” CBS News, Nov. 28, 2021, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-hiring-dave-clark-labor-market-face-the-nation/?ftag=CNM-16-10abd6g.
“Support for drafting women to the military has decreased since 2016 years,” Ipsos, Aug. 2, 2021, https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/military-draft-women-support-2021.
Connor O’Brien, “Lawmakers drop proposal to add women to the draft as defense bill headaches mount,” POLITICO, Dec. 6, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/12/06/ndaa-women-draft-dropped-523829.
Christina Goldbaum, “Facing Economic Collapse, Afghanistan Is Gripped by Starvation,” New York Times, Dec. 4, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/04/world/asia/afghanistan-starvation-crisis.html.
Laurel Miller, Twitter, https://twitter.com/LaurelMillerICG/status/1467557958494175233?s=20
Mathew Burrows and Evan Cooper, “Assumption #4: The United States should prioritize the promotion of democracy around the world over other key US objectives,” Atlantic Council, Nov. 9, 2021, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/content-series/assumption-testing-series/assumption-4-the-united-states-should-prioritize-the-promotion-of-democracy-around-the-world-over-other-key-us-objectives/.
NAEI Student Competition, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/programs/scowcroft-center-for-strategy-and-security/new-american-engagement-initiative/naei-annual-student-competition/.
Scott Bixby and Adam Rawnsley, “Actually, Kamala is Right: Bluetooth is a Risk,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 7, 2021, https://www.thedailybeast.com/well-actually-vice-president-kamala-harris-is-right-bluetooth-is-a-risk.
Callie Patteson, “Pete Buttigieg Slammed for Urging Electric Car Buying to Counter Gas Prices,” New York Post, Nov. 29, 2021, https://nypost.com/2021/11/29/buttigieg-slammed-for-urging-electric-car-buying-to-counter-gas-prices/.
“Biden is Hiking Lumber Tariffs at the Wrong Time,” Washington Post, Dec. 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/
America and the Arctic: A Song of Fire and Ice
Chris, Zack, and Melanie get together to talk about ongoing developments in the Arctic. Climate change is causing flooding and environmental damage, but it is also providing new opportunities for navigation, mining, fishing, tourism, and defense. How can America’s national security and economic interests best be protected in the face of increasing Russian and Chinese activity there? How should we prioritize the region when we have other critical threats to address? Have we and our partners that border the Arctic missed chances for influence there that we cannot recover? Is it possible for the United States to strengthen its position there without appearing to encourage an arms race?
Chris wishes we could consider the merits of arguments instead of personally attacking those making them, Zack condemns the Chinese government’s treatment of Olympian Peng Shuai, and Melanie looks at the hypocrisy of governors who claim to support free markets but want to prohibit businesses from imposing vaccine mandates.
Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend, Partners, Competitors, or a Little of Both?: Russia and China in the Arctic, Center for a New American Security, March 2021, https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/partners-competitors-or-a-little-of-both.
Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Lawson W. Brigham, and Nick Lokker, Navigating Relations with Russia in the Arctic: A Roadmap for Stability, Center for a New American Security, Nov. 18, 2021, https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/navigating-relations-with-russia-in-the-arctic.
Berkeley Lovelace, Jr., “Pfizer says its Covid pill with HIV drug cuts the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%,” CNBC, Nov. 5, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/05/pfizer-says-its-covid-pill-with-hiv-drug-cuts-the-risk-of-hospitalization-or-death-by-89percent.html.
David Auerswald, “A U.S. Security Strategy for the Arctic,” War on the Rocks, May 27, 2021, https://warontherocks.com/2021/05/a-u-s-security-strategy-for-the-arctic/.
Frank Jordans, “Vaccine maker BioNTech to use mRNA tech to target malaria,” Associated Press, July 26, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/vaccine-maker-biontech-mrna-tech-target-malaria-79064005.
Future Foreign Policy Series: Reinvigorating US diplomacy, New American Engagement Initiative, Nov. 29, 2021, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/future-foreign-policy-series-reinvigorating-us-diplomacy/.
NAEI Annual Student Competition, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/programs/scowcroft-center-for-strategy-and-security/new-american-engagement-initiative/naei-annual-student-competition/.
Rebecca Hersman and Eric Brewer, Deep Dive Debrief: Strategic Stability and Competition in the Arctic, Jan. 6, 2021, https://www.csis.org/analysis/deep-dive-debrief-strategic-stability-and-competition-arctic.
Steve Contorno, “Florida Special Session begins as DeSantis Continues Battle against Vaccine Mandates,” CNN, Nov. 15, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/15/politics/desantis-florida-legislature-vaccine-mandates/index.html.
"Taiwan," Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Oct. 25, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y18-07g39g.
Will Quinn, Tweet thread, Nov. 11, 2021, https://twitter.com/wc_quinn/status/1458891500344029189?t=l7ugkXe7tuA75d7XbjYd5Q&s=15.
"WTA says Peng Shuai's call with Olympic officials does not alleviate concerns about her well-being," ESPN, Nov. 22, 2021, https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/32688106/wta-says-peng-shuai-call-olympic-officials-not-enough.
Zahra Ullah and Fred Pleitgen, “As the US and Russia Spar Over the Arctic, Putin Creates New Facts on the Ground,” CNN, May 21, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/21/europe/russia-arctic-military-intl-cmd/index.html.
Richard Haass Is Here!
Chris, Melanie, and Zack welcome Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, to Net Assessment. They discuss what the United States has gotten right and wrong the last few decades, focusing particularly on decisions about when to use force as well as U.S. policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, China, and trade. Chris demands an expanded college football playoff, Melanie is disgusted by a congressman's animated video depicting violence against a colleague, and Zack questions the wisdom of burning jet fuel to attend COP26.
Richard Haass, "The Age of America First," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2021, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2021-09-29/biden-trump-age-america-first.
Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan, "The New Concert of Powers," Foreign Affairs, March 23, 2021, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2021-03-23/new-concert-powers.
Richard Haass, "American Support for Taiwan Must Be Unambiguous," Foreign Affairs, Sept. 2, 2020, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/american-support-taiwan-must-be-unambiguous.
Richard Haass, "How the United States Should Use Military Force," Cosmos Journal, 1996, http://www.cosmosclub.org/journals/1996/haas.html.
Donnie O'Sullivan, "Republican Congressman Posts Video Depicting Violence against Ocasio-Corez and Biden," CNN, Nov. 8, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/09/politics/gosar-anime-video-violence-ocasio-cortez-biden/index.html.
Jonathan Beale and Tony Smith, "HMS Queen Elizabeth: Life on Board Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier," BBC, Nov. 5, 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-59170696.
Should Biden Be Pro-Democracy or Anti-Autocracy?
Chris, Melanie, and Zack debate Madeleine Albright's recent article on “The Coming Democratic Revival” in Foreign Affairs. They discuss whether the United States is in a position to promote democracy and push back against autocracy abroad, or whether it needs to focus primarily on its own democratic institutions and processes. Melanie commends Nancy Mace for holding Steve Bannon to account. Chris calls out President Joe Biden for his recent confusing statement on Taiwan. And Zack remembers Colin Powell for a life well lived.
Madeleine K. Albright, “The Coming Democratic Revival,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2021, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2021-10-19/madeleine-albright-coming-democratic-revival.
“As Sudan's Government Wobbles, Coups are Making a Comeback,” The Economist, Oct. 25, 2021, https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/10/25/as-sudans-government-wobbles-coups-are-making-a-comeback.
Caitlyn Byrd, “SC's Nancy Mace Joins Democrats in Vote to Hold Steven Bannon in Contempt of Congress,” Oct. 21, 2021, https://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/article255184472.html.
Jack Norton, Twitter, Oct. 25, 2021, https://twitter.com/JackNorton8064/status/1452525971442044930.
Jane Street, Twitter, Oct. 19, 2021, https://twitter.com/janestreet/status/1450608726352740355.
Joseph R. Biden Jr., “Not So Deft On Taiwan,” Washington Post, May 2, 2001, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/2001/05/02/not-so-deft-on-taiwan/2adf3075-ee98-4e70-9be0-5459ce1edd5d/.
Josh Rudolph, “Regulating the Enablers,” Alliance for Securing Democracy, Sept. 2021, https://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/regulating-the-enablers/.
Michael Cohen, “The Foreign Policy ‘Credibility’ Argument Is, Well, Not Credible,” The New Republic, Oct. 18, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/164039/foreign-policy-credibility-argument-afghanistan-withdrawal.
NAEI Annual Student Competition, Atlantic Council, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/programs/scowcroft-center-for-strategy-and-security/new-american-engagement-initiative/naei-annual-student-competition/.
Pew Research Center, “Citizens in Advanced Economies Want Significant Changes to Their Political Systems,” October 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2021/10/PG_2021.10.21_Democracy_FINAL.pdf.
“SFRC Approves 33 Critical Foreign Policy Nominations,” United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Oct. 19, 2021, https://www.foreign.senate.gov/press/chair/release/sfrc-approves-33-critical-foreign-policy-nominations-.
Steven F. Knott, American Foreign Policy to 1899: Core Documents (Ashland, OH: Ashbrook Center, 2021), https://teachingamericanhistory.org/product/american-foreign-policy-to-1899/.
Ted Galen Carpenter, “Biden and His Foreign Policy Team At Least Need to Get on the Same Page Regarding Taiwan,” Cato at Liberty Blog, Oct. 25, 2021, https://www.cato.org/blog/biden-foreign-policy-team-least-need-get-same-page-regarding-taiwan.
The hosts of the podcast highlight all aspects of war, intelligence and more in this can’t miss podcast! The hosts and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!
Gave it a try… oh well
Clearly anti-conservative and one sided. The moderators draw conclusions based on opinion without evidence and facts. Great format and idea tarnished by bias. Too bad.
Good variety of topics
I enjoy this podcast, but please get rid of the small talk at the beginning of each episode (do that before you start recording, or edit it out). I really don’t understand the point of it, other than maybe to illustrate that the co-hosts are real humans to anyone dumb enough to not realize that already. Just get to the point of the podcast, I end up having to fast forward through most of it.