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.
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.
Richard Haass Is Unhappy
Chris, Melanie, and Zack return to discuss Richard Haass’s critique of “Washington’s new flawed foreign policy consensus.” The Council on Foreign Relations president laments the bipartisan turn away from the mostly internationalist spirit that has informed U.S. foreign policy since the end of the World War II.
Is he right? Does such a consensus exist? And does that explain why successive U.S. presidents seem so skeptical of internationalism? The three also try to discern what Haass favors as an alternative, but conclude that dissatisfaction with the current direction of U.S. foreign policy doesn’t easily translate into specific and implantable policies.
Grievances for Katherine Tai for an underwhelming speech on U.S. trade policy, for Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley for holding up ambassadorial appointments, and to those who harassed Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — in the restroom! — for being … jerks.
Attagirl to Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa who braved abuse and intimidation for uncovering corruption and misrule in the Philippines and elsewhere. Chris gives a shout out to Reps. Jim McGovern and Peter Meijer for introducing legislation to rein in executive power, and Melanie praises the developers at GlaxoSmithKline for their life-saving new malaria vaccine. She also gives a special shout out to her nephew Zack and his Utah state champion golf team at Long Peak High School.
Richard Haass, “The Age of America First: Washington’s Flawed New Foreign Policy Consensus,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2021, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2021-09-29/biden-trump-age-america-first.
Richard Haass, “What Mike Pompeo doesn’t understand about China, Richard Nixon and U.S. foreign policy,” Washington Post, July 25, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/25/what-mike-pompeo-doesnt-understand-about-china-richard-nixon-us-foreign-policy/.
New American Engagement Initiative Annual Student Competition, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/programs/scowcroft-center-for-strategy-and-security/new-american-engagement-initiative/naei-annual-student-competition/.
New American Engagement Initiative Future Foreign Policy series with Rep. Joaquin Castro, Monday, Oct. 18 at 3:30 pm, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/future-foreign-policy-series-featuring-rep-joaquin-castro/.
“America is shorthanded in foreign affairs. Thanks, Ted Cruz,” Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/10/america-is-shorthanded-foreign-affairs-thanks-ted-cruz/.
Ankit Panda Twitter, https://twitter.com/nktpnd/status/1447366126447570946?s=12.
Apoorva Mandavilli, "A 'Historic Event': First Malaria Vaccine Approved by WHO," New York Times, Oct. 6, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/06/health/malaria-vaccine-who.html.
Connor O’Brien, “Lawmakers aim for blockbuster overhaul of war powers, arms sales,” POLITICO, Sept. 30, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/30/war-powers-act-bipartisan-overhaul-514794.
Dina Smeltz, Ivo Daalder, Karl Friedhoff, Craig Kafura, and Emily Sullivan, "A Foreign Policy for the Middle Class--What Americans Think," Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Oct. 2021, https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/2021-10/ccs2021_fpmc_0.pdf.
Peggy Noonan, "Progressives Hold the Capital Captive," Wall Street Journal, Oct. 7, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-progressives-aoc-squad-sinema-reconciliation-infrastructure-lbj-approval-polling-11633643510.
Tyler Haslam, "High School Golf: Kihei Akina Leads Lone Peak Knights to 8th State Title in 9 Years," Deseret News, Oct. 5, 2021, https://www.deseret.com/2021/10/5/22708095/high-school-golf-kihei-akina-leads-lone-peak-knighs-to-8th-state-title-in-9-years-6a-uhsaa.
Much Ado About AUKUS
Zack and Melanie are joined by Adam Mount, senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, to discuss the AUKUS security agreement between Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. What does the pact say about these countries' assessment of the influence and ambition of China in the Indo-Pacific? France, which had an agreement to provide Australia with conventionally-powered submarines, was dropped in favor of the United States and United Kingdom helping Australia to develop nuclear-propelled submarines. Can AUKUS members repair their relationships with France? The deal provides a framework for cooperation between the countries on sharing information related to cyber, AI, quantum computing, and other technology. How might this arrangement affect national security as well as societies in the coming decades? Finally, should we be concerned about proliferation?
Zack wishes the administration would be more forthright about how it worked to secure the return of hostages from China, Adam is unhappy with the departure of an important voice on nuclear issues from the Pentagon, and Melanie is happy it’s finally autumn!
Andrew S. Erickson, “Australia Badly Needs Nuclear Submarines,” Foreign Policy, Sept. 20, 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/09/20/australia-aukus-nuclear-submarines-china/.
Ashley Townshend, “Far From Breaking with the Past, AUKUS Advances Australia’s Commitment to Collective Defence,” The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Sept. 24, 2021, https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/far-from-breaking-with-the-past-aukus-advances-australias-commitment-to-collective-defence/.
Caitlin Talmadge, "Don't Sink the Nuclear Submarine Deal," Foreign Affairs, Sept. 27, 2021, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2021-09-27/dont-sink-nuclear-submarine-deal.
Daniel Baer, “Sub Snub Has Paris in a Tizzy over AUKUS,” Foreign Policy, Sept. 17, 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/09/17/aukus-france-submarines-australia/.
Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, https://www.gcnuclearpolicy.org/.
James M. Acton, “Why the AUKUS Submarine Deal Is Bad for Nonproliferation—And What to Do About It,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Sept. 21, 2021, https://carnegieendowment.org/2021/09/21/why-aukus-submarine-deal-is-bad-for-nonproliferation-and-what-to-do-about-it-pub-85399.
IPA Talent Exchange Program, Partnership for Public Service, https://ourpublicservice.org/ipa-talent-exchange/.
Jen Psaki, "Press Briefing by Press Secretary," The White House, Sept. 27, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2021/09/27/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-jen-psaki-september-27-2021/.
Josh Zumbrun, “World Bank Cancels Flagship ‘Doing Business’ Report After Investigation,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 16, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/world-bank-cancels-flagship-doing-business-report-after-investigation-11631811663.
Lindsay Hughes, “Does Australia Need Nuclear-Powered Submarines and a Nuclear-Power Sector?”, Future Directions International, Feb. 25, 2021, https://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/does-australia-need-nuclear-powered-submarines-and-a-nuclear-power-sector/.
A Tale of Two Biden Doctrines
Chris, Melanie, and Zack debate whether there is a "Biden doctrine" and if so, what exactly it is. They identify two separate threads in Biden's thinking and that of his team — one idealist vision for global democracy, and a second more pragmatic and restrained approach. These diverging views do not, at the moment, appear to have yet been resolved. Chris also questions George W. Bush on the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, Melanie weighs in on the Met Gala, and Zack supports expanding Selective Service registration.
Brian O’Toole, “Biden’s Empty Posts are a National Security Problem,” Atlantic Council, August 10, 2021, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/bidens-empty-posts-are-a-national-security-problem/.
Danielle L. Lupton, "Biden Has a Narrow Window to Restore U.S. Credibility," Foreign Affairs, Feb. 8, 2021, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2021-02-08/biden-has-narrow-window-restore-us-credibility.
Dominic Tierney, “In Search of the Biden Doctrine,” FPRI, November 9, 2021, https://www.fpri.org/article/2020/11/in-search-of-the-biden-doctrine/.
Evan Montgomery, "Credibility Controversies: The Implications of Afghanistan for the Indo-Pacific," War on the Rocks, Sept. 7, 2021, https://warontherocks.com/2021/09/credibility-controversies-the-implications-of-afghanistan-for-the-indo-pacific/.
Hal Brands, "The Emerging Biden Doctrine," Foreign Affairs, June 29, 2021, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2021-06-29/emerging-biden-doctrine.
Helene Cooper, Lara Jakes, Michael D. Shear, and Michael Crowley, "In Afghan Withdrawal, a Biden Doctrine Surfaces," New York Times, Sept. 4, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/04/us/politics/biden-doctrine-afghanistan-foreign-policy.html.
Jay Hancock, “Military expected to be used sparingly,” Baltimore Sun, December 17, 2000, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-2000-12-17-0012170148-story.html.
Jada Yuan, “The Met Gala is Full of Rich People. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wore a Dress with a Message: ‘Tax the Rich,’” Washington Post, Sept. 14, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/09/14/aoc-met-gala-tax-rich-dress/.
Joe Biden, "Remarks by President Biden on the End of the War in Afghanistan," The White House, Aug. 31, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/08/31/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-end-of-the-war-in-afghanistan/.
Joe Biden, "Why America Must Lead Again," Foreign Affairs, March/April 2020, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-01-23/why-america-must-lead-again.
Joshua Shifrinson and Stephen Wertheim, "Biden the Realist," Foreign Affairs, Sept. 9, 2021, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2021-09-09/biden-realist.
Joshua D. Kertzer, "American Credibility After Afghanistan," Foreign Affairs, Sept. 2, 2021, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2021-09-02/american-credibility-after-afghanistan.
New American Engagement Initiative, Annual Student Competition, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/programs/scowcroft-center-for-strategy-and-security/new-american-engagement-initiative/naei-annual-student-competition/.
Peter Dombrowski and John Glaser, “A Distracted Grand Strategy,” Power Problems, Sept. 7, 2021, https://www.cato.org/multimedia/power-problems/distracted-grand-strategy.
Scott Lincicome, “US Regulators Are Failing the (Rapid) Test,” CATO, Sept. 1, 2021, https://www.cato.org/commentary/us-regulators-are-failing-rapid-test.
Task Force on U.S.-China Policy, "China's New Direction: Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Policy," Asia Society and U.C. San Diego, September 2021, https://china.ucsd.edu/_files/2021-china-new-direction-report.pdf.
Thomas Wright, "Joe Biden Worries That China Might Win," The Atlantic, June 9, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2021/06/joe-biden-foreign-policy/619130/.
Impartial, Intelligent, Hard on Everyone
Zach, Melanie, and Chris (the typical hosts), are excellent. Both the topics they choose and the depth they go into in analyzing and arguing their positions amongst one another are remarkably thorough and engaging. My eyes don’t glaze over at any time within an episode. Refreshingly, they are about as politically-center as you can get, so you never get the feeling that they only ever pull for one side. Their discussions never feel preachy or even unanimous, so you the listener get to listen to a variety of viewpoints to inform and create your own opinion of things. War on the Rocks, please keep this show apolitical, or at least as it currently is, as it challenges me to re-evaluate my own opinions despite my own biases.
The three democrats (with a small d)
For once, I would like to find a podcast that talks about foreign policy that actually supports different political parties. The host are all vehemently anti-conservative and the show lacks credibility because of it. It’s almost like MSNBC. I listen to the show to see what the liberal realist, idealist, etc point of view is.
Crew, I am a Marine who recently returned from the Kabul evacuation. I’m interested in sending you a response to your recent Afghanistan episode via email. Do you have an email address for the show?