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Net Assessment

English, News, 1 season, 118 episodes, 4 days, 15 hours, 46 minutes
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.
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Unraveling China’s Plans for the Middle East

Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss the nature and extent of China’s engagement in the Middle East. Should the United States be concerned about China’s growing involvement in Middle Eastern affairs? If so, what can and should be done about it? Perhaps just as importantly, what should not be done? Grievances for those who dreamed up the Gaza Pier debacle, Sen. Roger Wicker for his supposed “generational” commitment to growing the Pentagon’s budget, and for Canadian parliamentarians who are just a little bit too close to nefarious foreign actors (“semi-witting” accomplices?). Attapeople to the Philippines’s President Bongbong Marcos and to the 12 jurors in Manhattan. This episode's reading.    
6/6/202457 minutes, 21 seconds
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On China: To Win or Not To Win

Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate Matt Pottinger and Mike Gallagher’s recent article about U.S. strategy toward China. They disagree about the Biden administration’s approach and whether the United States needs a final objective. Melanie questions those expressing condolences for the “Butcher of Tehran,” Chris cautions against a major security deal with Saudi Arabia, and Zack commends Tsai Ing-wen on eight years of steady leadership on cross-Strait issues. This episode's reading.
5/23/20241 hour, 22 seconds
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Debating the Future of the Russo-Ukrainian War

With American military and economic help on the way to Kyiv, Chris, Zack and Melanie discuss the Russo-Ukrainian war. Will the new American aid package make a difference in the outcome of the conflict? What should be Ukraine’s strategy going forward? What, if anything, can Ukraine and its partners realistically do to get Russia to make meaningful concessions at the negotiating table? Chris has a very proud attaboy for his son who is graduating from college and moving into the real world, Zack questions the effectiveness of a protest in Washington, D.C., and Melanie criticizes Greenpeace for a very bad idea that could have devastating consequences. This episode's reading.
5/9/202458 minutes, 39 seconds
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Countering Foreign Media Manipulation. Or Not.

Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss Gavin Wilde’s recent article in the Texas National Security Review on foreign media manipulation. How vulnerable are citizens of democracies to manipulation through social media? Is a more open and less hierarchical media space a national security threat? And what, if anything, should policymakers in democracies do about this issue? Grievances for China blocking popular apps, Marjorie Taylor Green for her shenanigans surrounding the foreign aid vote, and to the F-35, the gift that keeps on giving (to the tune of $2 trillion); Attas for Samuel Charap and Sergey Radchenko for an important article on Ukraine, to Mike Johnson for taking a principled stand on the foreign aid bill, and to the first Australian officers to participate in AUKUS nuclear submarine training. This episode's reading.
4/25/20241 hour, 2 minutes, 7 seconds
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America's Report Card in Southeast Asia

Chris, Melanie, and Zack debate the 2024 ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute State of Southeast Asia Survey, in which regional experts assess power trends and perceptions among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The report yields some warning signs for the United States in the region, suggesting that the Biden team has much more work to do in Southeast Asia. Chris and Melanie worry about American shipbuilding while Zack commends and critiques American and Japanese leaders for announcements connected to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's visit to Washington. This episode's reading.
4/11/20241 hour, 8 minutes, 27 seconds
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The 2024 Annual Threat Assessment

Chris, Zack, and Melanie sit down to talk about the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment, created by the U.S. intelligence agencies. The report focuses on state actors and transnational issues that could be challenges to the United States in the coming year. What major threats does the United States face in the next year? What are we too worried about? What should we be concerned about that we aren’t paying attention to? With so many challenges, where should our focus be? Zack congratulates contributors to the new BlueBlaze newsletter, Chris commends the Veterans Studies Association, and Melanie wonders why New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is still in Congress and getting classified briefings. This episode's reading.
3/28/20241 hour, 5 minutes, 56 seconds
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Competing for Influence in Latin America

Chris, Melanie and Zack take a close look at the United States’ relationship with countries in Latin America. Why has the United States neglected Latin America in the last several decades? Should the United States government up its game in order to compete for influence with China in its own hemisphere? And, if so, how? And will improving U.S. ties in the region help to alleviate the immigration situation on the southern border? Grievances for Donald Trump's love for TikTok, Americans ignoring Haiti, and Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz who can't get along. Attas to Sen Roger Wicker for noting for months that there won't be enough money for shipbuilding — and being right!; to the members of the House who voted to compel TikTok to divest from Bytedance; and to Sen. Bernie Sanders and five other senators for calling for a new Truman Commission to root out wartime profiteering. This episode's reading:
3/14/20241 hour, 58 seconds
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Are the U.S. and Europe Never Ever Getting Back Together?

Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss an article on the concept of unbalanced multipolarity by Emma Ashford and Evan Cooper. They debate what might happen if the United States pulls back from its leadership role in Europe and the rest of the world. Would America’s absence lead to global or regional disorder? Would allies step up to take some of the burden off Washington? Or would competing regional blocs emerge? Melanie laments the lack of progress on funding the Compacts of Free Association, Chris criticizes a publication decision by the New York Times, and Zack questions JD Vance’s approach to addressing defense industry shortfalls. Full episode reading.
2/29/20241 hour, 3 minutes, 36 seconds
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Debating the New National Defense Industrial Strategy

Chris, Zack, and Melanie sat down to talk about the new National Defense Industrial Strategy. Is this document really a strategy? What are the biggest problems we need to fix with respect to our defense industrial base? Considering the state of where we are now, is it even possible to get our industrial house in order in the near term to deter or prevail in a conflict with an adversary? Chris has a grievance for those who couldn’t believe Donald Trump’s recent NATO comments (where have they been for the last eight years?), Zack thanks Rep. Mike Gallagher for his service, and Melanie is unhappy with the response to legislators trying to come to an agreement on the difficult issue of immigration reform. This episode's reading.
2/15/20241 hour, 6 minutes, 54 seconds
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Rating the Top Threats to U.S. National Security

Chris, Melanie and Zack review the Council on Foreign Relations’ annual Preventive Priorities Survey, which asked foreign policy experts to rank 30 current and possible future conflicts relative to their likelihood and impact on U.S. national interests. The leading threat, according to these experts, was of political violence or domestic terrorism in the United States associated with the 2024 presidential election. Other leading threats were the possibility of a wider war in the Middle East arising out of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and of continued migration from Central America and Mexico. The three consider these, as well as others that fell farther down the list, and asked, how can these be prioritized? What is being done to stop them? And what is the broader value in engaging in these ranking exercises in the first place? Grievances for the Biden administration’s short-sighted new regulations on liquified natural gas, U.S. Middle East policy (does it make sense to anyone?), and the way our broken politics manages to infect even an all-American love story like Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. Can we just give it a rest? Attaboys to Navy Comptroller and friend-of-War of the Rocks Russell Rumbaugh, and Capt. Chris “Chowda” Hill, the commanding officer of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), and to the show for reaching 1 million downloads. This episode's reading.
2/1/20241 hour, 5 minutes, 47 seconds
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Global Disorder and Houthi Strikes

Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate whether the international order is fraying and if so, what to do about it. They focus in particular on the recent Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, and discuss how the United States should respond. Melanie questions Liz Truss's support of expedited defense exports to China and Chris laments the lack of communication around Lloyd Austin's delegation of authority while Zack makes Chris a job offer he can refuse.
1/18/20241 hour, 1 minute, 20 seconds
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Entrapment, Entanglement, and the Debate about U.S. Alliances

Chris, Zack, and Melanie ring in the new year with a discussion on whether or not "The U.S. Needs More Foreign Entanglements," as writer Andreas Kluth argues. What, exactly, is an entangling alliance? How should the United States manage relationships with some of our more tricky partners? Is it politically possible to extricate ourselves from relationships that no longer serve American interests?   Besides giving the usual grievances and attaboys, the gang looks ahead in 2024. Chris would like to see more coverage of the positive aspects of AI, Melanie is keeping eyes on the new Argentine President Milei as he sets about trying to reform the economic and political systems, and Zack is pessimistic about the upcoming presidential election.   This episode's reading.
1/4/20241 hour, 13 minutes, 20 seconds
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The New Washington Consensus

On this show, Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss the so-called “new Washington Consensus” – a reaction to decades of trade liberalization and free market economics that, some warn, has undermined national security and left the United States and others vulnerable to economic coercion. In a recent article, Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman spell out the rationale behind new restrictions on foreign trade and investment and warn that “nothing less than a transformation of the U.S. government” is necessary to ensure that measures taken to protect our security don’t also weaken the global economy. Grievances for the impenetrable National Defense Authorization Act, Venezuela’s land grab, and Sen. Rick Scott’s ploy to designate garlic -- yes, garlic -- as vital to U.S. national security. Attapeople in this holiday season to those who deliver our packages, to Congress for delivering the National Defense Authorization Act, and to Finland for promising to deliver more munitions in 2024.   This episode's reading.
12/19/202357 minutes, 21 seconds
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Dysfunction in Washington

Net Assessment is back! Chris, Melanie, and Zack return after a hiatus and start by debating a recent article entitled “The Dysfunctional Superpower” by Robert Gates. They agree that Washington is deeply dysfunctional, but disagree about what can be done to overcome political obstacles and the degree to which this dysfunction gives Russia and China an edge. Chris questions additional inflation adjustments for fixed price defense contracts, Melanie criticizes the United Nations' unwillingness to recognize sexual violence in Gaza, and Zack welcomes new colleague Todd Harrison to the American Enterprise Institute.   This episode's reading. 
12/11/202352 minutes, 55 seconds
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Is Washington Making a Bad Bet on India?

Chris, Zack, and Melanie get together to discuss Ashley Tellis’s newest article, “America’s Bad Bet on India.” Tellis argues that if America thinks India will fight on its side in a conflict with China, “Washington’s expectations of India are misplaced….New Delhi will never involve itself in any U.S. confrontation with Beijing that does not directly threaten its own security.” Should the United States expect the world’s largest democracy to come to its aid if there is a conflict with China over Taiwan? What does New Delhi want out of its relationship with Washington? Will India’s democratic backsliding affect its relationship with the United States? Chris has a shoutout for Dr. Jennifer Lind for an article well done, Zack has complaints about the overreaction to news of Cuba possibly hosting a Chinese spy base, and Melanie congratulates War on the Rocks friend Will Inboden on his new post.   Episode Reading:
6/29/202352 minutes, 45 seconds
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Is Washington Making a Bad Bet on India?

Chris, Zack, and Melanie get together to discuss Ashley Tellis’s newest article, “America’s Bad Bet on India.” Tellis argues that if America thinks India will fight on its side in a conflict with China, “Washington’s expectations of India are misplaced….New Delhi will never involve itself in any U.S. confrontation with Beijing that does not directly threaten its own security.” Should the United States expect the world’s largest democracy to come to its aid if there is a conflict with China over Taiwan? What does New Delhi want out of its relationship with Washington? Will India’s democratic backsliding affect its relationship with the United States? Chris has a shoutout for Dr. Jennifer Lind for an article well done, Zack has complaints about the overreaction to news of Cuba possibly hosting a Chinese spy base, and Melanie congratulates War on the Rocks friend Will Inboden on his new post.  
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Paying the Costs of Competition

Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss a recent article by Rosella Cappella Zielinski and Samuel Gerstle in the Texas National Security Review. Zielinski and Gerstle explain why the United States should fund the defense budget with higher taxes, not more debt, while conceding that this will be a tough sell for a country trying to maintain the status quo, as opposed to rising powers like China that are trying to upset it. Are they right? Must taxes be raised in the United States to pay for competition with China? If so, can the Biden administration and Congress craft a message that will resonate with the public? Or is there another way to produce the money that will go for long-term defense? Grievances for Jake Sullivan’s speech at the Brookings Institute, yet the latest sign of the Biden administration’s protectionist turn; NATO’s plan to expand to the Indo-Pacific; and Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) for blocking military promotions. Shoutouts to the Australian government for their new Defence Strategic Review and a remembrance of Allen Gyngell, the noted Australian security expert, who recently passed away.   Episode Reading:
5/11/202359 minutes, 44 seconds
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Multipolarity: What Is It Good For?

Chris, Melanie, and Zack debate whether the world is multipolar and discuss what the United States can do to win support for its preferred policies, particularly in the Global South. They disagree on multipolarity but agree that Washington must pay more attention to non-aligned countries in the months and years ahead. Chris gives a backhanded attaboy to China’s ambassador to France, Melanie commends Elon Musk for SpaceX's Starship launch, and Zack criticizes him for Twitter's labeling of state-affiliated media.   Episode Reading:
4/27/202357 minutes, 32 seconds
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Technology, Defense, and American-Chinese Competition

Chris, Zack, and Melanie sit down to talk about a new article by Eric Schmidt on whether the United States can win an innovation race with China. Where is the United States ahead and where is it behind in the tech competition? How should the U.S. government work with private enterprise to maximize defense innovation and procurement? Can the United States overcome obstacles, many self-imposed, to accelerate and sharpen innovative enterprises? Chris congratulates Dr. Elizabeth Samet for a book well done, Zack is unhappy about possible leaks of American intelligence assessments about the Ukraine war, and Melanie congratulates Congress for doing its job.   Episode Reading:
4/13/202359 minutes, 1 second
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Better Burden Sharing With Allies

Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss several recent articles focused on alliance burden sharing. Should America want Europe to be dependent on it for Europe’s defense? Is the leverage the United States obtains over European allies because of their dependence worth the cost? Is it even possible for Europe to have collective defense? Should the American public accept that U.S citizens will have to defend Europe because European governments won’t defend themselves? Will the United States inevitably be drawn into intra-European fights? Grievances toward the U.S. mission in Syria, the Biden administration’s next Summit of Democracies, and Tik Tok. Attas for Gen. Mark Milley, Israeli citizens protesting a judicial reform proposal that lacks wide popular support, and to a group of Ukrainians who have just completed training in Oklahoma on the Patriot air defense system. Episode Reading:
3/30/202358 minutes, 23 seconds
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Is AUKUS Flawed By Design?

Is AUKUS flawed by design? Chris, Melanie, and Zack debate the AUKUS deal, particularly the newly announced plan for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. Is this the best way to get a critical capability in Australian hands? Does it make sense from a cost or capability perspective? And should the United States be worried about selling Virginia-class submarines in the 2030s, right at the moment of greatest need? In addition, Chris commends Europe for stepping up, Melanie critiques President Biden’s execution of the CHIPS Act, and Zack warns about underinvestment in Asia.   This episode's reading:
3/15/202356 minutes, 24 seconds
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Turkey's More Independent Foreign Policy

Chris and Melanie sit down with Aaron Stein, chief content officer at War on the Rocks and co-author of a new report on Turkey’s new, more independent foreign policy. Why has Ankara changed its foreign policy course over the last few decades? What does this foreign policy mean for United States interests? How should Turkey’s NATO allies respond when it seems to act against the alliance? What might the upcoming elections mean for the Turkish-U.S. relationship? Chris is unhappy with some defenses of the Iraq invasion, Aaron praises those who worked so hard out of the spotlight to evacuate people safely from Afghanistan, and Melanie is impressed with some journalism at the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This episode's reading:
3/2/20231 hour, 7 minutes, 13 seconds
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One Year of War in Ukraine

Melanie, Zack, and Chris, survey the course of Russia’s brutal war of aggression in Ukraine at the one-year point, with a focus on a recent paper by RAND’s Samuel Charap and Miranda Priebe. How did we get here? What key assumptions have been tested? And what does that mean for the future? How do U.S. and Ukrainian interests in this war align or conflict? Does a long war serve anyone’s interest? And what are the prospects that this war will end any time soon? Grievances for China’s mishandling of the balloon fiasco, and to Disney for bowing to the Chinese Communist Party’s implicit censorship. Attapeople to those negotiating a new Compact of Free Association with countries in the South Pacific, for the few smart voices trying to dial down the hysteria over balloons, and to those members of Congress hoping to repeal the 2002 Iraq war AUMF. This Episode's Reading:
2/16/20231 hour, 3 minutes, 33 seconds
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Learning Lessons from Ukraine: Is Defense Dominant?

Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate Frank Hoffman’s recent article in War on the Rocks about the broader implications of Russia’s war in Ukraine. They discuss whether defensive systems are dominant and how long Russia will take to recapitalize its forces, as well as what this means for future conflicts and U.S. posture globally. Chris warns that the United States is not learning from past conflicts, Melanie welcomes continued support for Hong Kongers, and Zack laments Turkey’s renewed opposition to Sweden’s entry into NATO. Episode Reading:
2/2/20231 hour, 29 seconds
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Looking Back at President Biden's Foreign Policy

Chris, Zack, and Melanie get together to talk about a new assessment of President Biden’s foreign policy two years into his administration. Using “A Better Biden Doctrine” by Stephen Wertheim and Matthew Duss as the foundation, the team looks at how well Biden has kept the foreign policy promises he made on the campaign trail, whether he has made incremental or fundamental changes, and what he might be able to accomplish in the next two years. They also consider what policies progressives might hope are given more attention the rest of this term. Chris and Zack have complaints about negligent handling of classified materials by high level officials and the excuses for it, and Melanie gives a shout out to Canada for some new defense initiatives. Episode Reading:
1/19/20231 hour, 2 minutes, 45 seconds
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Debating the Defense of Taiwan

Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss whether it is possible, and wise, to try to stave off a conflict with China over Taiwan — possibly for a very long time. A recent article by Jude Blanchette and Ryan Hass urges policymakers to find ways to forestall conflict. But is it a mistake to presume that conflict with China is avoidable? Should the United States make peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait the government's overarching goal, or should Washington agree that at some point there will be military conflict, and do everything possible to prepare for that now? Or is there a bipartisan consensus in Washington that cannot be contained pushing for confrontation with China in general, and especially over Taiwan? Attapeople to outgoing members of Congress Elaine Luria and Peter Meijer, and to Taiwan for offering effective COVID vaccines to China. Grievances for China’s reckless and shortsighted COVID-19 policy, for Tik Tok spying on people, and for the Navy’s troubled littoral combat ship. Episode Reading:
1/5/20231 hour, 1 minute, 43 seconds
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The Risks of Nuclear Proliferation in Asia

Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate nuclear proliferation in Northeast Asia. Are Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling, North Korea’s advancing capabilities, and China’s nuclear modernization program likely to spur additional nuclear proliferation? How satisfied are South Korea and Japan with current U.S. nuclear extended deterrence guarantees? And what should policymakers in Washington do in response to questions about the U.S. nuclear umbrella? In their last show of 2022, Chris says goodbye to Twitter (at least for now). Melanie asks for a more serious debate about immigration. And Zack commends the work and collegiality of the think tank community. This episode's reading:
12/22/20221 hour, 6 minutes, 9 seconds
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Making Hard National Security Choices

Chris, Zack, and Melanie sit down to discuss Richard Fontaine's recent Foreign Affairs article on prioritizing national security threats. Why is it so hard for those in charge of the nation’s security to pick and stick to the most important national security priorities? How should the United States determine where scarce resources are allocated? If China is the nation’s main challenge, can the United States continue to expend resources at the current rate in Ukraine? Chris is concerned about people who are hoping a new civil war starts in Afghanistan, Zack is dismayed at those insisting that the United States openly side with those in China protesting the government’s lockdown and other policies, and Melanie has an attaboy for Dr. John Hamre, recipient of the Reagan Foundation’s Peace Through Strength award. This episode's reading:
12/8/202259 minutes, 51 seconds
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Why The United States No Longer Leads on Free Trade

Chris, Melanie, and Zack try to understand the U.S. government’s approach to global trade. Two successive presidential administrations have turned their backs on trade liberalization, and there is little enthusiasm in Congress for free trade – and a fair amount of outright hostility. For all the talk of “friendshoring” and building resilient supply chains, Washington's allies and partners seem mostly concerned about rising protectionism in the United States. If Washington is no longer leading the world on trade, who is? Or who will? Or is the United States trying to lead toward a particular type of trade, one that doesn’t benefit revisionist autocrats? And will that fly? Grievances for Joe Biden’s granddaughter, for getting married at the White House when the APEC summit was going on, to Ukraine and its supporters for falsely claiming an errant missile that landed in Poland was a deliberate Russian attack, and to incoming House Republicans planning a series of hearings designed to score political points. Attapeople for recent authors Will Inboden for his new book on Ronald Reagan, and Arthur Ross award winners Carter Malkasian and Mary Elise Sarotte, and an Atta Vice President to Kamala Harris for her planned trip to the Philippines. Episode Reading:
11/28/20221 hour, 1 minute, 55 seconds
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Debating the National Defense Strategy

Is the National Defense Strategy actually a strategy? Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate the Biden administration’s recently released National Defense Strategy. Do integrated deterrence, campaign, and enduring advantage add up to more than the sum of their parts? Does the unclassified version of the National Defense Strategy make any hard choices to connect ends and means? Melanie commends those U.S. service members who evacuated thousands of people from Afghanistan. Chris complains about incessant political advertisements ahead of the midterm elections. And Zack thanks his teammates from the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Episode Reading:
11/10/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 3 seconds
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Assessing the National Security Strategy

Chris, Zack, and Melanie sit down to talk about the recently-released Biden-Harris National Security Strategy. Several months delayed, the document recognizes that the United States is in an intense competition with China and asserts that Washington will look for ways to cooperate with both allies and adversaries on important global challenges such as climate change. Does the NSS assess the threat environment correctly? How will the United States manage both competition and cooperation with adversaries? Is the U.S. doing what it must to “outmaneuver” China during this “decisive decade”? Chris is bothered that it is hard to have an honest debate about what the United States is doing in Ukraine, Zack discusses the legacy of Ash Carter, and Melanie is appalled that American military pilots have been selling their services to the Chinese military. Episode Reading:
10/28/20221 hour, 8 minutes, 7 seconds
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Searching for the Elusive Rules-Based Order

Chris, Zack, and special guest host Rachel Hoff of the Ronald Reagan Institute, explore the recent article by Dani Rodrik and Stephen Walt “How to Build a Better Order: Limiting Great Power Rivalry in an Anarchic World." Rodrik and Walt propose a framework — or “meta-regime” — that affirms well-established norms of international behavior (as enshrined in the U.N. Charter, for example), while also preserving space for states to act unilaterally or multilaterally, but ideally in ways that do not increase the risk of conflict. But is it even realistic to speak of a rules-based order? And should we want one? Some Americans chafe at the notion of constraints on U.S. power. And what are the actual prospects for international cooperation at all, given the increasingly competitive nature of the U.S.-China relationship? Grievances for Joe Biden’s talk of nuclear Armageddon, and toward the Saudis for colluding with the Russians (and others) to raise gas prices – and maybe help Republicans in the mid-term elections. An atta-secretary to Lloyd Austin for his plan to remove the names of violent insurrectionists from U.S. military bases. And, in a first, Zack praises Chris Preble … for convincing the Biden administration to finally release the National Security Strategy. We’re sure that’s what did it. This episode's reading:
10/13/202259 minutes, 46 seconds
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Military Lessons from the War in Ukraine

The Net Assessment crew discusses possible military lessons from the war in Ukraine. It is too early to take away any definitive lessons from the war, but it is possible to start identifying and asking some key questions. Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate recent work by Rob Lee and others about why Russia’s army, air force, and cyber capabilities have proven so ineffective. Chris also asks why the National Security Strategy still isn’t published. Zack suggests the world should encourage and welcome Russian men fleeing conscription. And Melanie commends women in Iran for standing up for their rights. This episode's reading:
9/29/20221 hour, 7 minutes, 49 seconds
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Galvanizing America's Defense Industrial Policy

This week, Chris, Zack, and Melanie talk about a new report, “Rebuild: Toolkit for a New American Industrial Policy,” from the Center for a New American Security. The United States government has a number of ways to intervene in the economy to advance the national interest. The use of tariffs and the Defense Production Act by the last two administrations, as well as passage of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act, are measures that some argue will help the United States compete more aggressively with China. Should the United States have an industrial policy? What objectives should an industrial policy serve, and how is that determined? How would such a policy be implemented? Zack gives a shoutout to the Institute for the Study of War for helping us better understand the war in Ukraine, Chris praises Cornell University Press executive editor Roger Haydon on his retirement, and Melanie suggests a good read on how the United States and Taiwan can best prepare the island for a Chinese invasion. This episode's reading:
9/15/202254 minutes, 19 seconds
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Not Their Plane to Land: Generals Thwarting the Chain of Command?

Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss Doyle Hodges’ recent article scrutinizing Gen. Mark Milley’s behavior in the waning months of the Trump administration. Journalists have rendered a relatively favorable treatment of Milley’s insubordination, but Hodges questions the long-term implications for civil-military relations. Should senior military officers be expected to follow lawful orders, even if they are morally objectionable? Or is resignation the only proper response when those in uniform cannot faithfully execute an order? And is the problem of civil-military relations unique to the Trump administration or does the Milley case portend a future in which the military’s standing is filtered through the same partisan lenses that inflict our politics across the board? Grievances for two former Pennsylvania judges who sentenced juveniles to for-profit prisons (and got rich), toward India for joining Russia’s military exercises, and to President Joe Biden abusing his authority to relieve student debt. Atta-people to the Ukrainian military for its first major counter-offensive of the war with Russia, to Clayton Forrester and all others behind the decision to re-introduce wolves to Yellowstone National Park, and to all those behind an important essay series exploring the future of airpower. This episode's reading:
9/1/202258 minutes, 55 seconds
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Is U.S. Support to Taiwan Substantive or Symbolic?

Melanie and Zack are joined by the RAND Corporation’s Mike Mazarr for a discussion about Taiwan. They examine an article by Matt Turpin for the Aspen Institute and debate what is driving increased tensions, and why both the United States and China blame the other for changing the status quo. Melanie calls out onerous education requirements for daycare providers, Mike pleads for deeper discussion of first principles in national security, and Zack gives an attaboy to Bill Russell. Episode reading:
8/18/20221 hour, 8 minutes, 41 seconds
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Is NATO's Vision for Its Future Right?

Chris, Zack, and Melanie sit down to talk about the NATO’s new 2022 Strategic Concept, the first update since 2010. A lot has changed since then. What does the new concept get right or wrong? What missions should NATO be focused on at this time? Is the United States a sucker for continuing to carry so much of the burden of European security, or is it in our interest to do so? Can we even have an honest debate about this? Zack turns his CHIPS Act grievance into congratulations, Chris hates politicians crafting legislation merely to score points against the other side while veterans in need of care suffer, and Melanie piles another complaint on the ACLU. For episode reading:
8/4/202258 minutes, 19 seconds
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Active Denial or In Denial?

Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate the Quincy Institute’s new report on U.S. defense strategy in Asia. They applaud the report for presenting a detailed plan and for highlighting the areas of both agreement and disagreement among the authors. They question the political feasibility of the strategy and whether it is sufficient to address the challenges that China poses. Zack remembers Shinzo Abe for his vision, Chris criticizes Joe Biden for a fist-bump, and Melanie commends the Webb telescope’s incredible images. For episode reading, click here:
7/21/20221 hour, 7 minutes, 27 seconds
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An Energy Strategy to Defeat Russia?

Chris, Melanie, and Zack consider the economic measures taken by the United States and Europe to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, especially those pertaining to oil and natural gas. To what extent are these policies responsible for rising gasoline prices? Can other measures be taken to replace Russian oil on the global market? Or should Western governments also employ demand restrictions, including possibly compulsory measures to discourage or prevent energy usage? And what political price should democratically elected governments be willing to pay in order to affirm the moral and strategic imperative of defeating Russia’s aggression against Ukraine? Grievances for Columbia’s Jeffrey Sachs who claimed that COVID originated in a U.S. lab, for super-virtuous people who take to Twitter on the Fourth of July to talk about how horrible the United States is, and toward self-absorbed TikTokers known as “Gentleminions.” Attapeople to FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) and to the Quincy Institute for a smart report on defending Asia, and an atta-thing for all the ways that computers make our lives better (until they kill us). Episode reading at:
7/7/20221 hour, 7 minutes, 23 seconds
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Is Biden's Approach to Latin America a Problem?

Chris, Melanie, and Zack take a look at the Summit of the Americas, which was held in Los Angeles at the beginning of June. By all accounts, the summit was poorly organized, and attending leaders were unimpressed with the lack of consultation before the event and with the initiatives set forth by the United States during the conference. The heads-of-state of several countries, including Mexico and Guatemala, refused to attend in solidarity with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, which were not invited because the U.S. government considers them to be led by autocratic regimes. Does the planning and execution of the summit tell us anything about the Biden administration’s foreign policy more broadly? What should our policies towards Central and South American countries be? What is the connection between the administration’s domestic and foreign policies? Are President Joe Biden and his team unwilling to make hard choices in foreign policy because the decisions will be unpopular with important domestic constituencies? Chris is appalled by the Texas GOP’s new platform, Zack is grateful that the COVID-19 vaccine for small children has finally been approved, and Melanie wishes Democrats would stop boosting “Stop the Steal” candidates across the country. Episode Reading:
6/23/20221 hour, 12 minutes, 26 seconds
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Musings on Competition in the Pacific

On the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the crew discussed the Pacific Islands. Beijing has sought, but thus far failed, to strike a deal with 10 of the islands. Meanwhile, U.S. leaders are promising to devote more time and attention to the region. What is at stake? Can U.S. leaders deliver on their promises to the region? Chris also calls out U.S. political leaders for lack of action to protect the American people against gun violence, Melanie recognizes Queen Elizabeth for her many decades of leadership, and Zack hopes for good news on COVID-19 vaccinations for kids under five. This episode's reading can be found here:
6/9/20221 hour, 3 minutes, 57 seconds
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Debating Sweden and Finland’s Entry into NATO

Chris, Melanie, and Zack consider Finland and Sweden’s applications to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Is a larger NATO necessarily a more effective alliance? And what are the practical implications of defending these two countries from an apparently revanchist Russia? What does this mean for the future of European strategic autonomy? And does this signal a hardening of the old Cold War lines of West versus East, or, in this case, all of Europe versus Russia? Atta-peoples go out to the fact checkers, Australia’s Labor Party, and Rep. Mike Gallagher for waging war on military acronyms. Gripes and grievances for baby formula shortages, the Biden administration’s stinginess toward Asian allies, and (lobbyist) Gil Garcetti. For episode reading, go to:
5/27/20221 hour, 5 minutes, 31 seconds
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Threats From Out of This World

Zack, Chris, and Melanie get together to discuss the latest Space Threat Assessment report from the Aerospace Security Project at CSIS. People all over the world are ever-more dependent on assets in space for normal activity in their daily lives, but there are few rules of the road in place to manage space behavior. Will it be possible to develop a system of cooperation that allows for freedom of movement in space but also protects the economic and national security of all countries? Should we be concerned about the rapid growth of private satellites and related equipment in space? Secretary of Defense Austin said that “Space is already an area of great power competition.” Given the interests of China, Russia, and the United States in space, are we heading into a space arms race? Chris has an attaboy for a thrilling victory at the Kentucky Derby, Zack remembers a friend who has departed too soon, and Melanie doubles down on America. Episode Reading:
5/12/20221 hour, 6 minutes, 58 seconds
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A Strategy-Budget Mismatch?

Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate the National Defense Strategy — at least the unclassified details that are currently available. Does the professed strategy align with the budget? What, if anything, appears to be new and different in the Biden team’s approach? And what does it say that strategy documents are being rewritten but budget decisions have already been made? Chris laments student loan forgiveness. Melanie thanks some departed leaders. And Zack congratulates academics heading into government service.
4/29/20221 hour, 8 minutes, 54 seconds
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Keeping the Right Secrets Secret

Chris and Zack are joined by special guest co-host, Emily Harding of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The three review the Biden administration's latest responses to the crisis in Ukraine before turning to the issue of information security, both in the U.S. government and in the private sector. What information is, and should be, classified? And are we striking the right balance between keeping government secrets secret, and ensuring that private information about customers and users is well protected? Emily has a grievance about the apparent poisoning of Ukrainian peace negotiators and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, and the subsequent response by U.S. officials who seemed to cast doubt on the story. For the second show in a row, Zack has a grievance toward Chris, and Chris is cold and cranky because his March Madness bracket was busted after the first weekend. Attapeople to the U.S. intelligence community for strategically releasing information that reset the terms of the debate over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Emily gives a shout-out to working mother and Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson for being an inspiration to other working moms. And Chris praises his colleagues Emma Ashford and Kelly Grieco. For this episode's reading, check out:
3/31/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 43 seconds
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Russia’s War in Ukraine: How Does this End?

Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. They explain what has been surprising to each of them thus far in the conflict. Why has Russia struggled so mightily? Why has Ukraine fought so effectively? And why have the United States, Europe, and other democracies been so united? Most importantly, what are possible pathways to end the war? Chris commends all those helping Ukrainian refugees in these desperate times, Melanie gives attagirls to her mom and sister, and Zack has a grievance with the now-unretired Tom Brady. For episode reading, go to:
3/22/20221 hour, 4 minutes, 42 seconds
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Putin’s Taunt: What Are You Going To Do About It?

On a somber day, Chris, Melanie, Zack, ponder the implications of the war in Ukraine. What, if any, lessons should we take away from the inability to deter Vladimir Putin from attacking Ukraine? With the war now raging, what measures should be employed to help the Ukrainians and complicate Russian war aims — and what should be held back? What are the escalation risks? Are broad-based economic sanctions likely to be effective, and under what circumstances might they be lifted? And what does the post-Ukraine world look like, especially in terms of Europe’s defense posture? A grievance for the second show in a row toward Vladimir Putin (obviously), and to those in the Twitterverse attempting to use the crisis as an opportunity to score ideological points. Melanie scolds those Republicans who attended a white nationalist conference and talks about what they mean for of House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy. A hearty attaboy to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who has shown remarkable courage and resolve under pressure, to Kenya’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Martin Kimani, for an inspiring speech criticizing Russia’s attempt to redraw borders by force, and to international sports leagues for shunning Russia. For this episode's reading, check out:
3/3/20221 hour, 13 minutes, 45 seconds
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The Pacific is Not So Pacific

Melanie, Chris, and Zack sit down to talk about the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which was released last week as the national security advisor was warning of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine. Why did the administration push to get this report out so quickly? Is there anything new here, or does it just continue the policies of the last few administrations? Why the lack of direct focus on China, which is causing so much trouble in the region? What does “integrated deterrence,” which is the foundation of the security piece of the strategy, mean? Will crises in Ukraine and elsewhere distract the Biden national security team from accomplishing its objectives in the Indo-Pacific? Chris has some problems with Vladmir Putin, Zack has some kind words for a departing colleague, and Melanie thanks Rep. Luria for pushing back on incomprehensible military jargon. For this episode's reading, check out
2/17/20221 hour, 6 minutes, 27 seconds
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The Biden Doctrine: Muddling Through?

As observers in Washington look back at the Biden administration’s first year and prepare for its forthcoming national security and defense strategies, the Net Assessment crew debates the virtues of muddling through. Does the Biden team have a grand plan? Does it need one? And are errors of omission worse than those of commission? Chris, Melanie, and Zack debate recent articles on muddling through by Josh Rovner, Richard Fontaine, and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Chris gives an attaboy to Tom Brady, since he hasn’t won enough already. Melanie issues both a grievance and an attaboy to Newt Gingrich. And Zack hails the wonders of easily available satellite imagery. Links:  Joshua Rovner, “How Long can Biden Muddle Through on China?” War on the Rocks, Jan. 26, 2022,  Richard Fontaine, “The Case Against Foreign Policy Solutionism,” Foreign Affairs, Feb. 8, 2021,  Richard Fontaine, “Washington’s Missing China Strategy,” Foreign Affairs, Jan. 14, 2022,  Anne-Marie Slaughter, “It’s Time to Get Honest About the Biden Doctrine,” New York Times, Nov. 12, 2021,  Amy B. Zegart, Spies, Lies, and Algorithms (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2022), Stacie L. Pettyjohn, "Spiking the Problem: Developing a Resilient Posture in the Indo-Pacific with Passive Defenses," War on the Rocks, Jan. 10, 2022.   Dustin Walker, “The Pentagon is in Desperate Need of an Intervention from the Top,” War on the Rocks, Jan. 27, 2022.  Joe DiPaolo, " Newt Gingrich Says January 6 Committee Members 'Face a Real Risk of Jail' if Republicans Win the House," Mediaite, Jan. 23, 2022.  Liz Harrington, Tweet, Jan. 30, 2022.  Newt Gingrich, Tweet, Jan. 26, 2022.  The Hill, Tweet, Jan. 26, 2022.  Stephen Breyer, "Why Regulation Rarely Achieves the Goals It Is Designed to Serve," PBS Commanding Heights (no date). Jeff Darlington and Adam Schefter, “Tom Brady retiring after 22 seasons, seven Super Bowl wins with New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, sources say,” ESPN, Jan. 29, 2022,  Dustin Volz, “Vast Troves of Classified Info Undermine National Security, Spy Chief Says,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 27, 2022,  Oona Hathaway, “Keeping the Wrong Secrets: How Washington Misses the Real Security Threat,” Foreign Affairs (January-February 2022),  Patrick G. Eddington and Christopher A. Preble, “Bad Idea: Overclassification,” Defense360, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Dec. 6, 2019,  Mathew Burrows and Evan Cooper, “Engagement Reframed #1: Vaccinate the world,” New American Engagement Initiative, Feb. 1, 2022,
2/3/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 27 seconds
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Grading the Biden Team’s Foreign Policy

The Net Assessment crew assesses President Joe Biden’s foreign policy in his administration’s first year. There appear to have been more failures than successes, and Chris, Melanie, and Zack debated why that might be. But, as Frank Gavin explains in the lead essay at the Texas National Security Review, a bit of perspective is in order. Crafting and executing foreign policy is difficult, even for a seasoned hand like Biden. To the extent that the promise of his approach to the world hasn’t lived up to reality, how much of that can be tied to his vision (is there one?), how much to poor execution, and how much to other factors over which the president has no control? Zack is annoyed with all the talk of a looming civil war in the United States, and Melanie gripes about the New York Times’ coverage of a transplant patient who was the recipient of a pig’s heart. Chris (with an assist from Melanie) faults newly-inaugurated Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin for wanting to make it easier to spend taxpayer money on a new stadium for the Washington Football Team. Attaboys to one of the first Tuskegee Airman, Gen. Charles McGee, who passed away at the age of 102, and to Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota for standing up to Trump.   Links:  Quick! Get your free COVID-19 tests!  Frank Gavin, “How Are They doing?” Texas National Security Review, Vol. 5, Iss. 1, Winter 2021/2022.  Mike Sweeney, “NATO, Diplomacy, and the Ukraine Crisis,” Wavell Room, Jan. 10, 2022.  David Leonhardt and Ashley Wu, “Good Morning. We look at Omicron’s toll in New York and Seattle, two cities with timely data,” The Morning, New York Times, Jan. 11, 2022.  Daniel W. Drezner, “The Policy Gap in the Indo-Pacific,” Washington Post, Jan. 12, 2022.  Anjali Dayal, Alexandra Stark, and Megan A. Stewart, “Warnings of ‘Civil War’ Risk Harming Efforts Against Political Violence,” War on the Rocks, Jan. 18, 2022,  Harrison Smith, “Charles McGee, Tuskegee Airman who fought in three wars, dies at 102,” Washington Post, Jan. 17, 2022, Alex Tabarrok, Twitter, January 13, 2022. Mary Clare Jalonik, “Rounds Dismisses Trump Criticism for Saying He Lost Election,” Associated Press, Jan. 10, 2022.  Richard Fontaine, “Washington's Missing China Strategy,” Foreign Affairs, Jan. 14, 2022. 
1/20/20221 hour, 1 minute, 9 seconds
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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. Links: 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,, 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, “Future Foreign Policy series featuring Ambassador Robert Zoellick,” New American Engagement Initiative, Jan. 19, 2022, 12:00 p.m. ET,
1/7/20221 hour, 9 minutes, 35 seconds
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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. Links: Jim Garamone, “Biden Approves Global Posture Review Recommendations,” DOD News, Nov. 29, 2021, U.S. Marine Corps, “A Concept for Stand-In Forces,” December 2021, Robert O. Work, “A Slavish Devotion to Forward Presence Has Nearly Broken the U.S. Navy,” Proceedings, December 2021, Bryan McGrath, “What Is The Navy For?,” The Conservative Wahoo, Dec. 1, 2021, Mara Karlin, The Inheritance: America’s Military After Two Decades of War (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2021), Christopher A. Preble, “The Cold War Navy in the Post War World,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 195, Aug. 2, 1993, “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.     
12/23/202158 minutes, 13 seconds
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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. Links: Commandant of the Marine Corps Issues Talent Management 2030 Plan, November 3, 2021, Gen. David H. Berger, “A Concept for Stand-In Forces,” Proceedings, November 2021, Zoe Poindexter, “Amazon's consumer chief says hiring remains a "challenge" in "very tight" labor market,” CBS News, Nov. 28, 2021, “Support for drafting women to the military has decreased since 2016 years,” Ipsos, Aug. 2, 2021, Connor O’Brien, “Lawmakers drop proposal to add women to the draft as defense bill headaches mount,” POLITICO, Dec. 6, 2021, Christina Goldbaum, “Facing Economic Collapse, Afghanistan Is Gripped by Starvation,” New York Times, Dec. 4, 2021, Laurel Miller, Twitter, 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, NAEI Student Competition, Scott Bixby and Adam Rawnsley, “Actually, Kamala is Right: Bluetooth is a Risk,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 7, 2021, Callie Patteson, “Pete Buttigieg Slammed for Urging Electric Car Buying to Counter Gas Prices,” New York Post, Nov. 29, 2021, “Biden is Hiking Lumber Tariffs at the Wrong Time,” Washington Post, Dec. 2, 2021, Jen Spindel and Robert Ralston, “Congress Might Require Women to Register for the Draft. Where Do Republicans and Democrats Stand?”, Washington Post, Nov. 15, 2021. Christopher Preble, “Don’t Make Everyone Register for the Draft. Just End Draft Registration for Everyone,” Washington Post, Feb. 5, 2016, Congressional Executive Commission on China, “Hearing on How China Uses Economic Coercion to Silence Critics and Achieve its Political Aims Globally,” Dec. 7, 2021, NASA Astronaut Candidate Christopher L. Williams, NASA, December 2021,
12/10/20211 hour, 4 minutes, 39 seconds
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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. Links: 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, 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, Berkeley Lovelace, Jr., “Pfizer says its Covid pill with HIV drug cuts the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%,” CNBC, Nov. 5, 2021, David Auerswald, “A U.S. Security Strategy for the Arctic,” War on the Rocks, May 27, 2021, Frank Jordans, “Vaccine maker BioNTech to use mRNA tech to target malaria,” Associated Press, July 26, 2021, Future Foreign Policy Series: Reinvigorating US diplomacy, New American Engagement Initiative, Nov. 29, 2021, NAEI Annual Student Competition, Rebecca Hersman and Eric Brewer, Deep Dive Debrief: Strategic Stability and Competition in the Arctic, Jan. 6, 2021, Steve Contorno, “Florida Special Session begins as DeSantis Continues Battle against Vaccine Mandates,” CNN, Nov. 15, 2021, "Taiwan," Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Oct. 25, 2021, Will Quinn, Tweet thread, Nov. 11, 2021, "WTA says Peng Shuai's call with Olympic officials does not alleviate concerns about her well-being," ESPN, Nov. 22, 2021, 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,
11/24/202156 minutes, 26 seconds
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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. Links: Richard Haass, "The Age of America First," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2021, Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan, "The New Concert of Powers," Foreign Affairs, March 23, 2021,  Richard Haass, "American Support for Taiwan Must Be Unambiguous," Foreign Affairs, Sept. 2, 2020, Richard Haass, "How the United States Should Use Military Force," Cosmos Journal, 1996,   Donnie O'Sullivan, "Republican Congressman Posts Video Depicting Violence against Ocasio-Corez and Biden," CNN, Nov. 8, 2021, Jonathan Beale and Tony Smith, "HMS Queen Elizabeth: Life on Board Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier," BBC, Nov. 5, 2021, 
11/12/20211 hour, 6 minutes, 57 seconds
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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. Links: Madeleine K. Albright, “The Coming Democratic Revival,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2021, “As Sudan's Government Wobbles, Coups are Making a Comeback,” The Economist, Oct. 25, 2021,  Caitlyn Byrd, “SC's Nancy Mace Joins Democrats in Vote to Hold Steven Bannon in Contempt of Congress,” Oct. 21, 2021,  Jack Norton, Twitter, Oct. 25, 2021,  Jane Street, Twitter, Oct. 19, 2021, Joseph R. Biden Jr., “Not So Deft On Taiwan,” Washington Post, May 2, 2001, Josh Rudolph, “Regulating the Enablers,” Alliance for Securing Democracy, Sept. 2021, Michael Cohen, “The Foreign Policy ‘Credibility’ Argument Is, Well, Not Credible,” The New Republic, Oct. 18, 2021, NAEI Annual Student Competition, Atlantic Council, Pew Research Center, “Citizens in Advanced Economies Want Significant Changes to Their Political Systems,” October 2021, “SFRC Approves 33 Critical Foreign Policy Nominations,” United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Oct. 19, 2021, Steven F. Knott, American Foreign Policy to 1899: Core Documents (Ashland, OH: Ashbrook Center, 2021),  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,
10/29/20211 hour, 3 minutes, 9 seconds
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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. Links: Richard Haass, “The Age of America First: Washington’s Flawed New Foreign Policy Consensus,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2021, Richard Haass, “What Mike Pompeo doesn’t understand about China, Richard Nixon and U.S. foreign policy,” Washington Post, July 25, 2020,   New American Engagement Initiative Annual Student Competition, New American Engagement Initiative Future Foreign Policy series with Rep. Joaquin Castro, Monday, Oct. 18 at 3:30 pm, “America is shorthanded in foreign affairs. Thanks, Ted Cruz,” Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2021, Ankit Panda Twitter, Apoorva Mandavilli, "A 'Historic Event': First Malaria Vaccine Approved by WHO," New York Times, Oct. 6, 2021,  Connor O’Brien, “Lawmakers aim for blockbuster overhaul of war powers, arms sales,” POLITICO, Sept. 30, 2021, 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, Peggy Noonan, "Progressives Hold the Capital Captive," Wall Street Journal, Oct. 7, 2021,  Tyler Haslam, "High School Golf: Kihei Akina Leads Lone Peak Knights to 8th State Title in 9 Years," Deseret News, Oct. 5, 2021,   
10/15/20211 hour, 1 minute, 12 seconds
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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! Links: Andrew S. Erickson, “Australia Badly Needs Nuclear Submarines,” Foreign Policy, Sept. 20, 2021, 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,   Caitlin Talmadge, "Don't Sink the Nuclear Submarine Deal," Foreign Affairs, Sept. 27, 2021, Daniel Baer, “Sub Snub Has Paris in a Tizzy over AUKUS,” Foreign Policy, Sept. 17, 2021, Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, 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, IPA Talent Exchange Program, Partnership for Public Service, Jen Psaki, "Press Briefing by Press Secretary," The White House, Sept. 27, 2021, Josh Zumbrun, “World Bank Cancels Flagship ‘Doing Business’ Report After Investigation,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 16, 2021, Lindsay Hughes, “Does Australia Need Nuclear-Powered Submarines and a Nuclear-Power Sector?”, Future Directions International, Feb. 25, 2021,
9/30/202153 minutes, 29 seconds
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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, Danielle L. Lupton, "Biden Has a Narrow Window to Restore U.S. Credibility," Foreign Affairs, Feb. 8, 2021, Dominic Tierney, “In Search of the Biden Doctrine,” FPRI, November 9, 2021, Evan Montgomery, "Credibility Controversies: The Implications of Afghanistan for the Indo-Pacific," War on the Rocks, Sept. 7, 2021, Hal Brands, "The Emerging Biden Doctrine," Foreign Affairs, June 29, 2021, Helene Cooper, Lara Jakes, Michael D. Shear, and Michael Crowley, "In Afghan Withdrawal, a Biden Doctrine Surfaces," New York Times, Sept. 4, 2021, Jay Hancock, “Military expected to be used sparingly,” Baltimore Sun, December 17, 2000, 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,  Joe Biden, "Remarks by President Biden on the End of the War in Afghanistan," The White House, Aug. 31, 2021, Joe Biden, "Why America Must Lead Again," Foreign Affairs, March/April 2020, Joshua Shifrinson and Stephen Wertheim, "Biden the Realist," Foreign Affairs, Sept. 9, 2021, Joshua D. Kertzer, "American Credibility After Afghanistan," Foreign Affairs, Sept. 2, 2021, New American Engagement Initiative, Annual Student Competition, Peter Dombrowski and John Glaser, “A Distracted Grand Strategy,” Power Problems, Sept. 7, 2021, Scott Lincicome, “US Regulators Are Failing the (Rapid) Test,” CATO, Sept. 1, 2021, 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, Thomas Wright, "Joe Biden Worries That China Might Win," The Atlantic, June 9, 2021,
9/16/20211 hour, 1 minute, 19 seconds
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Did Anyone Win the ‘Global War on Terror’?

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss Daniel Byman’s article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, “The Good Enough Doctrine: Learning to Live with Terrorism.” Byman surveys the various aspects of the “Global War on Terror” and concludes that, on balance, the United States and others have achieved a level of effort that is both strategically and politically feasible. But can we actually tolerate some level of risk from terrorism in the same way that we tolerate other dangers, from pandemics to severe weather events, or will political leaders always resort to maximalist promises to eliminate terrorism permanently? Was it inevitable that the Global War on Terror would amplify xenophobia and nativism, and what else can we learn from the efforts of the past 20 years? Grievances for critics of the "Blob,” special scorn for Sen. Chris Murphy, and "attapeople" to U.S. military personnel for their enormous sacrifices in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and to those civilians who are now helping to resettle Afghan refugees, as well as those displaced from other disasters.   Daniel Byman’s “The Good Enough Doctrine: Learning to Live with Terrorism,” Foreign Affairs, September/October 2021, Richard Stevenson, “Bush Faults Kerry on Terrorism Remarks,” New York Times, Oct. 12, 2004, Christopher Preble, “We Are Terrorized: Why US Counterterrorism Policy Is Failing, and Why It Can’t Be Easily Fixed,” War on the Rocks, Jan. 8, 2016, Bill McCarthy, “Charlie Kirk baselessly claims Biden intentionally let Afghanistan fall to alter US population,” Politifact, Aug. 19, 2021, Jordan Mendoza, “Want to donate or volunteer to assist those affected by Hurricane Ida? Here's how to help,” USA Today, Aug. 30, 2021, “How to Help Afghan Refugees and the Relief Effort,” New York Times, Aug. 20, 2021, “Future Foreign Policy series: Congress and AUMF repeal,” New American Engagement Initiative, Atlantic Council, Sept. 16, 2021, Tanisha M. Fazal, "The Case for Complacency," Foreign Affairs, September/October 2021, Joe Biden, "Remarks on the End of the War in Afghanistan," The White House, Aug. 31, 2021, Darren Lim, Zack Cooper, and Ashley Feng, “Trust and Diversify: A Geoeconomic Strategy for the Australia-US Alliance,” US Studies Centre, Sept. 2, 2021, Susanna Patton and Ashley Townshend, “Kamala Harris's Asia Trip Can't Fix Biden's Troubled Indo-Pacific Strategy,” Foreign Policy, Aug. 24, 2021, Elliot Ackerman, “What the War on Terror Cost America,” Foreign Affairs, Aug. 27, 2021, Michael McKinley, “We All Lost Afghanistan,” Foreign Affairs, Aug. 16, 2021,  Jeffrey A. Singer, “Society Will Never Be Free of COVID-19--It's Time to Embrace Harm Reduction,” Cato, Aug. 26, 2021,   
9/3/20211 hour, 5 minutes, 34 seconds
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Afghanistan Debacle

Chris, Zack, and Melanie talk about the Biden administration’s disastrous military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Whose fault is this debacle? What is the manner of our exit doing to America’s credibility, with friends and adversaries alike, around the world? In a year, is anyone going to remember or care what has happened in the last several weeks? Have we learned any lessons from our two decades in Afghanistan, and will there be any accountability for bad decisions made along the way? Zack pushes back on comments made by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan about the withdrawal, Chris calls out the administration’s unwillingness to accept more refugees, and Melanie is grateful for those taking the lead on helping to get refugees settled into new homes.   Gideon Rachman, “Joe Biden’s Credibility Has Been Shredded in Afghanistan,” Financial Times, August 13, 2021, Fred Kagan, “Biden Could Have Stopped the Taliban. He Chose Not To,” New York Times, August 12, 2021, Joe Biden, “Statement by President Joe Biden on Afghanistan, White House, August 14, 2021, Greg Jaffe, “From Hubris to Humiliation: America’s Warrior Class Contends with the Abject Failure of Its Afghanistan Project,” Washington Post, August 14, 2021, Susannah George, “Afghanistan’s Military Collapse: Illicit Deals with the Taliban and Mass Desertions,” Washington Post, August 15, 2021, David E. Sanger and Helene Cooper, “Taliban Sweep in Afghanistan Follows Years of US Miscalculations,” New York Times, August 14, 2021,  “An incoherent strategy doomed the 20-year US mission in Afghanistan, watchdog says as US withdraws,” CNN Politics, "Afghans have broken 'shackles of slavery', says Pak PM Imran Khan after Taliban seize power," Times of India, August 16, 2021, "Last Days in Vietnam: Who Goes? And Who Gets Left Behind?,", April 28, 2015,
8/20/20211 hour, 5 minutes, 39 seconds
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(Dis)Integrated Deterrence?

Chris, Melanie, and Zack debate the Pentagon's new concept of "integrated deterrence" and try to divine its meaning and importance. They struggle to differentiate the concept from existing theories of deterrence and conclude that this phrase seems better suited to identifying a problem, rather than describing a solution. Chris encourages listeners to use the Defense Futures Simulator, Melanie applauds Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya for her courage, and Zack commends Lloyd Austin and his team for a successful first trip to Southeast Asia. Links: Oren Liebermann, "Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin lays out vision of future in first major speech," CNN, May 1, 2021, Jim Garamone, "Official Talks DOD Policy Role in Chinese Pacing Threat, Integrated Deterrence," DOD News, June 2, 2021, Lloyd Austin, "Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Participates in Fullerton Lecture Series in Singapore," U.S. Department of Defense, July 27, 2021, Kurt Campbell, "The Changing China Debate," Chatham House, August 20, 2020, Babie Latza Nadeau, "D.C. Mayor Muriel Boswer Snubs Her Mask Mandate Within First 24 Hours: Report," Daily Beast, August 1, 2021, Emma Ashford and Erica Borghard, “A mom’s guide to coercion and deterrence,” New Atlanticist, Atlantic Council, March 16, 2021,  Erica Borghard, Reality Check #3, “The Uses and Abuses of Deterrence,” New American Engagement Policy Brief, Atlantic Council, March 1, 2021,  War on the Rocks Defense Futures Simulator, Ellen Knickmeyer, Lolita C, Baldor, and Matthew Lee, "'Welcome Home': Evacuation Flight Brings 200 Afghans to US,", July 30, 2021,  Dustin Jones and Joe Hernandez, "Belarusian Sprinter Granted Polish Humanitarian Visa after Refusing Flight Home," NPR, August 3, 2021,  Brad Roberts, "On the Need for a Blue Theory of Victory," War on the Rocks, September 17, 2021, 
8/5/202155 minutes, 25 seconds
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Solving the Navy’s Strategic Bankruptcy

Special guest Chris Dougherty joins Chris and Melanie to discuss his recent War on the Rocks article, “Gradually and then Suddenly: Explaining the Navy’s Strategic Bankruptcy.” Dougherty notes that “a series of decisions (and indecisions) decades in the making have backed the Navy into a budget and force-planning corner,” and he describes the competing interests that drive different (and rarely complementary) force requirements. What decisions are most needed in order to get the Navy back on the right track? And what practical steps can be taken now and in the near future to close the gap between the many demands on the Navy, and the Navy’s capacity to meet those demands? Chris Preble is mad at people who spread malicious misinformation, Melanie laments the decline of human civilization as reflected in the Associated Press’ wrong-headed decision about the plural possessive, and Chris Dougherty gripes about people who gripe about the 2018 National Defense Strategy (but don’t know what they’re talking about). Shoutouts for the Cuban people, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Wally Funk, and Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps.   Links Christopher Dougherty, “Gradually and then Suddenly: Explaining the Navy’s Strategic Bankruptcy,” War on the Rocks, June 30, 2021  Andrew Restuccia and Sarah E. Needleman, “Biden’s Facebook Attack Followed Months of Frustration Inside White House,” Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2021  Colleen Sinclair, “10 ways to spot online misinformation,” The Conversation, March 27, 2020 (Updated September 17, 2020)
7/22/202154 minutes, 13 seconds
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Solving the Russia Riddle

Chris, Zack, and Melanie get together to talk about Samuel Charap's article, "Expanding the Scope for Statecraft in US-Russia Policy." Does the United States need to "gird itself for sustained competition" with Russia? What kind of leverage does the United States have in negotiating with Putin? How can the United States best work with allies who have very different interests and challenges when it comes to dealing with Russia? Chris gives a shout out to those who push this country to be better, Zack thanks the Republicans who bravely voted for a 1/6 committee, and Melanie praises some defenders of capitalism.    Links Samuel Charap, “Expanding the Scope for Statecraft in US Russia Policy,” War on the Rocks, May 14, 2021 David M. Herszenhorn, "Summit Exposes Stark Clash of EU Views on Russia," Politico, June 25, 2021 Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch, "Russia Policy Puts Biden Under Pressure Across Europe," Foreign Policy, June 25, 2021 Timothy Frye, "The Perilous Bargains that Keep Putin in Power," Foreign Affairs, April 2021 Xi Jinping, "Speech at a Ceremony Marking the Centenary of the Communist Party of China," CGTN, July 01, 2021 Kristin Wilson and Clare Foran, "Only Two House Republicans Vote for the January 6 Select Committee," CNN, June 30, 2021 A. Wess Mitchell, "Biden Is Falling Into the Same Trap With Europe as Obama," Foreign Policy, June 30, 2021 “Slow Burn: The Road to the Iraq War,” Slate Podcast “Rep. Adam Kinzinger on the Moral Failture of Republicans and the Big Lie,” New York Times, July 05, 2021
7/8/202154 minutes, 26 seconds
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Learning from SolarWinds

Chris, Melanie, and Zack dig into Marcus Willett’s “Lessons of the SolarWinds Hack” in the latest issue of Survival. They explore the distinction between cyber espionage and cyber defense (Was it an attack? Or a hack? Does it matter?), consider the implications of the offense-defense balance (Is 100 percent defense feasible?), and review possible global norms that can be put in place to limit the harm caused by malicious cyber actors. Melanie and Chris both have grievances toward members of Congress who are reluctant to revisit old Authorizations for Use of Military Force , and Zack gripes about Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s absurd op-ed in the Washington Post. And this week’s attafolks were all in the family: Zack welcomed a new niece named Marlowe; Melanie cheered her amazing older brother, David, a renowned physician and educator at the Mayo Clinic; and Chris gives a shout out to his daughter Katelyn —- and all members of the Class of 2021.     Marcus Willette, “Lessons of the SolarWinds Hack,” IISS, March 31, 2021   Trey Herr, et al “Broken Trust: Lessons from Sunburst,” Cyber Statecraft Initiative, Atlantic Council Stephen Miles, Twitter, June 21, 2021 Dmitri Alperovitchand Ian Ward, "How Should the U.S. Respond to the SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange Hacks?," Lawfare, March 12, 2021 "Critical Infrastructure Sectors," S. Department of Homeland Security Imran Khan, "Pakistan is Ready to be a Partner for Peace in Afghanistan, but We Will Not Host US Bases," Washington Post, June 21, 2021
6/24/202157 minutes, 11 seconds
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Taiwan: Middle Path or Muddled Strategy?

The Net Assessment team debates Patrick Porter and Michael Mazarr's recent study on "Countering China's Adventurism Over Taiwan: A Third Way" written for the Lowy Institute. Chris, Melanie, and Zack agree that the study is thought provoking and well argued, but disagree about whether it is ultimately convincing. Nonetheless, Porter and Mazarr have made a real contribution by helping to clarify the assumptions that underlie different approaches to the Taiwan. Chris gives a shout out to the Bridging the Gap effort, Melanie complains about John Cena and Bing, and Zack commends his former colleague Ari Tabatabai.   Links Patrick Porter and Michael Mazarr, "Countering China's Adventurism Over Taiwan: A Third Way," Lowy Institute, May 20, 2021 Irene Braam and Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, "Transatlantic Trends 2021," German Marshall Fund of the United States and Bertelsmann Foundation, June 2021 Oriana Skylar Mastro, "The Taiwan Temptation," Foreign Affairs, July/August 2021 Charles L. Glaser, "Washington Is Avoiding the Tough Questions on Taiwan and China," Foreign Affairs, April 28, 2021 Ariane M. Tabatabai, No Conquest, No Defeat: Iran's National Security Strategy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020),  Dustin Walker, "Congress Should Rewrite the Pentagon's Pacific Deterrence Budget Request," Defense News, June 2, 2021 Joe Biden, “My Trip to Europe Is about America Rallying the World’s Democracies,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2021 Martin Pengelly, “Biden Trumpets Democracy in Post Op-ed – As Threats Spread at Home,” The Guardian, June 6, 2021 Bridging the Gap “Future Foreign Policy: Global Perceptions of the United States, Featuring Caroline Gray,” June 16, 2021, Noon EDT Tom Karako, “Sing, Missile Muse, of Gods and Heroes: America’s Most Fearsome Weapons Need Better Names,” War on the Rocks, June 7, 2021 Jill Disis, “‘F9’ Star John Cena Says He Loves China After Taiwan Remark Stokes Anger,” CNN, May 25, 2021 Elizabeth Braw, “Spying on Allies is Normal. Also Smart,” Politico EU, June 4, 2021. Syaru Shirley Lin, “It’s Not Just China: Population, Power Generation, Political Polarization, and Parochialism are Also Long-Term Threats to Taiwan’s Success and Survival,” PRC Leader, June 1, 2021 “China’s Growing Military Confidence Puts Taiwan at Risk,” Economist, May 1, 2021 Blake Herzinger, “US Ditching Taiwan Commitments is a Dead-End Idea,” Foreign Policy, May 3, 2021 Paul Mozur, “Microsoft’s Bing Briefly Blocked ‘Tank Man’ on Anniversary of Tiananmen Anniversary,” New York Times, June 5, 2021
6/10/202158 minutes, 12 seconds
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Middle Class Foreign Policy

Using Charles Kupchan and Peter Trubowitz's Foreign Affairs article "Why an Internationalist Foreign Policy Needs a Stronger Domestic Foundation" as a basis for discussion, Chris, Zack, and Melanie sit down to talk about President Joe Biden's "foreign policy for the middle class." Who, exactly, is in the "middle class"? Are certain positions on foreign policy pro- or anti-middle class? Is there a connection between the domestic programs the administration is pushing and a better foreign policy? Is it possible to evaluate whether our foreign policy is working for the average American? Zack gives a shoutout to people who can disagree on important issues and still be friends, Melanie wishes the people who make the rules would follow them, and Chris praises two scholars for a new report on Taiwan.   Links Daniel Drezner, "Real Talk about a Foreign Policy for the Middle Class," Washington Post, May 20, 2021 Charles A. Kupchan and Peter L. Trubowitz, "Why an Internationalist Foreign Policy Needs a Stronger Domestic Foundation," Foreign Affairs, May/June 2021 Salman Ahmed, Wendy Cutler, et al., "Making Foreign Policy Work Better for the Middle Class," Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 23, 2020 Jake Sullivan, "What Donald Trump and Dick Cheney Got Wrong about America," The Atlantic, December 13, 2018 Antony Blinken, "A Foreign Policy for the American People," U.S. Department of State, March 3, 2021 Kirk Siegler, "Why Support for Refugees in Higher Than You Might Think in Parts of 'Trump Country,' NPR, May 11, 2021 Brian Slodysko, "As Pandemic Spread Pain and Panic, Congressman Chased Profit," AP, May 21, 2021 Mackenzie Eaglen and Dov S. Zakheim, "The White House Should Show Their Cards Earlier: Reveal the Defense Budget Passback Guidance," War on the Rocks, May 21, 2021 Dan Baer, "Tracking Biden's Progress on a Foreign Policy for the Middle Class," Carnegie Endowment, April 6, 2021 Patrick Porter and Michael Mazarr, “Countering China’s Adventurism over Taiwan: A Third Way,” Lowy Institute, May 20, 2021 Craig Hooper, “Despite Promises, USS Ford Heads to Shock Trials With 4 Broken Elevators,” Forbes, May 13, 2021
5/27/202153 minutes, 20 seconds
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Building a New Defense Strategy

Chris, Melanie, and Zack, discuss Frank Hoffman’s recent War on the Rocks essay, “U.S. Defense Strategy after the Pandemic,” which makes the case for adjusting U.S. strategic objectives in light of flat or declining Pentagon budgets over the next few years. While the Pentagon might intend “to implement the 2018 National Defense Strategy as if the pandemic and recession never happened,” Hoffman explains, we “should evaluate US national security strategy under much more austere defense spending scenarios.” And now we can. As it happens, War on the Rocks, in partnership with the American Enterprise Institute and Center for Strategic & International Security, has just rolled out a clever online budgeting tool that allows users to design their own defense strategies according to a wide range of criteria. Be sure to check it out. Grievances include gun violence and big bugs (cicadas), and for Joe Biden wanting to take away drug maker patents. Shout outs to Liz Cheney, the G-7’s proper stance on Taiwan, and the World Health Organization and think-tank transparency — and a special attaboy for Producer Tre, the hardest working dude in the podcast universe.   Links Frank Hoffman, “US Defense Strategy after the Pandemic,” War on the Rocks, April 20, 2021 Caroline Multerer, “#100: Create an Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the Department of Homeland Security,” Atlantic Council, April 29, 2021 Eli Clifton and Ben Freeman, “Restoring Trust in the Think Tank Sector,” Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, May 10, 2021 Defense Futures Matthew Lesh, "'Stakeholder Capitalism' Caused the Oxford Vaccine Debacle," Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2021 Afshin Molavi, "Globalization in a Needle," Substack, April 30, 2021 Robert Work, "Storm Clouds Ahead: Musings about the 2022 Defense Budget," War on the Rocks, March 30, 2021 Charles Q. Brown, Jr. and Gen. David H. Berger, "Redefine Readiness or Lose," War on the Rocks, March 15, 2021 Nike Ching, "G-7 Countries Back Taiwan's Observer Status in World Health Assembly," VOA News, May 5, 2021
5/13/202149 minutes, 33 seconds
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Mission Accomplished in Afghanistan?

Chris, Melanie, and Zack debate the wisdom of President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan. They discuss the argument made by Meghan O'Sullivan and Richard Haass that the Biden administration should have kept a small force in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, but question whether that would have been sufficient to accomplish U.S. objectives. Chris also issues a warning to virtue signalers, Zack calls for more virtue signaling with India, and Melanie is aggrieved by the election of Iran to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.   Meghan L. O'Sullivan and Richard Haass, "It's Wrong to Pull Troops Out of Afghanistan. But We Can Minimize the Damage." Washington Post, April 16, 2021 Richard Fontaine, "The Case Against Foreign Policy Solutionism," Foreign Affairs, February 8, 2021 Eliot A. Cohen, "Exit Strategy," The Atlantic, April 13, 2021 Afghanistan Study Group, "A Pathway for Peace in Afghanistan," United States Institute of Peace, February 3, 2021 Soner Cagaptay, "Biden Recognizing the Armenian Genocide Shows How Far Turkey and Erdogan Have Fallen," NBC News, April 24, 2021 Stephen Wertheim, “Biden Just Made a Historic Break with the Logic of Forever War,” Foreign Policy, April 16, 2021 Oren Liebermann, Ellie Kaufman and Devan Cole, “Nearly 40% of Marines Have Declined Covid-19 Vaccine,” CNN, April 10, 2021 Senior Fellow, New American Engagement Initiative, Atlantic Council Robert Manning, “Reality Check #5: Learning to Live with a Nuclear North Korea,” New American Engagement Initiative, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council, April 26, 2021 Joe Biden, "Remarks by President Biden on the Way Forward in Afghanistan," White House, April 14, 2021 Michael Crowley, "Biden Officials Place Hope in Taliban's Desire for Legitimacy and Money," New York Times, April 23, 2021 "UK Parliament Declares Genocide in China's Xinjiang; Beijing Condemns Move," Reuters, April 23, 2021 Michael Lipin, Ramin Haghjoo, "Iran's Election to UN Women's Body Draws Outrage from Rights Activists, US Silence," VOA News, April 24, 2021 John Bew, Citizen Clem, (London: Riverrun, 2016) Future Foreign Policy Series: Featuring Wendy Cutler on US Trade Policy, May 17, 2021, 12:00PM, Atlantic Council (via Zoom)
4/29/202156 minutes, 43 seconds
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Democracy and Grand Strategy

Chris, Zack, and Melanie discuss Hal Brands and Charles Edel’s article “A Grand Strategy of Democratic Solidarity.” Is it possible, and is it wise, to construct a grand strategy of democratic solidarity to counter China and Russia? How might the United States and other countries implement this strategy in practice?  Should President Joe Biden host a “summit for democracies,” or would that cause more problems than it would solve?   Melanie criticizes Biden’s infrastructure plan, Zack praises Congress for bipartisan work on the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, and Chris has some tender words for his daughter, Katelyn, as she finishes her time in high school just as she’s spent the last few years — enjoying every moment.   Links Hal Brands and Charles Edel, “A Grand Strategy of Democratic Solidarity,” Washington Quarterly, March 23, 2021 Kori Schake, “The US Doesn’t Know How to Treat Its Allies,” The Atlantic, March 28, 2021 Brian Reidl, “Biden’s Infrastructure Proposal is a Giant Boondoggle,” The Dispatch, April 5, 2021 Michael Wood, Tweet, April 11, 2021 “Strategic Competition Act of 2021,”  U.S. Senate Foreign Relation Committee, April 8, 2021 James Goldgeier and Bruce W. Jentleson, "A Democracy Summit Is Not What the Doctor Ordered," Foreign Affairs, December 14, 2020 Graham Brookie, Tweet, April 11, 2021 “Sharp Partisan Divides in Foreign Policy Priorities,” Pew Research Center, February 23, 2021 Christopher Preble, “Covert Wars, To What End?” War on the Rocks, August 7, 2019 Ted Galen Carpenter and Malou Innocent, Perilous Partners: The Benefits and Pitfalls of America’s Alliances with Authoritarian Regimes (Cato Institute, 2015)
4/15/202147 minutes, 3 seconds
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Busting Myths About China

Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss the recent War on the Rocks article "Beyond Colossus or Collapse: Five Myths Driving American Debates about China." Authors Evan Medeiros and Jude Blanchette tee up key myths surrounding China’s economic growth and foreign policy, and the success or failure of the U.S. strategy of engagement with China. The hosts scrutinize which myths are most widely believed, and which should not be guiding American policy. But they also consider which beliefs are actually true, and which are most important to current and future U.S. policy. A second “attagirl” in a row for Melanie’s niece Sophie, and an “attapeople” to those recently admitted to grad school. Zack has a grievance with the Chinese Communist Party, Melanie gripes about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s selective outrage over insults on social media, and Chris explains that a ship stuck in the Suez Canal is mostly a problem because of all the bad memes it generates.   Links Evan Medeiros and Jude Blanchette, “Beyond Colossus or Collapse: Five Myths Driving American Debates about China,” War on the Rocks, March 19, 2021 Joint Statement on the WHO-Convened Covid-19 Origins Study, U.S. State Department, March 30, 2021  Javier C. Hernandez, "WHO Inquiry on the Pandemic's Origin: What We Know," New York Times, March 30, 2o21 Elizabeth Warren, Tweet, March 25, 2021 Thomas Shugart, "Trends, Timelines, and Uncertainty: An Assessment of the State of Cross-Strait Deterrence," U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, February 18, 2021 Daniel Drezner, “Searching for Signs of Intelligent Symbolism in the Suez Canal,"The Washington Post Richard Betts, “The Delusion of Impartial Intervention," Foreign Affairs, November 1994 Nicholas Eberstadt, "China's Demographic Outlook to 2040 and Its Implications," American Enterprise Institute, January 2019 Scott Kennedy, Bonnie Glaser, Jude Blanchette, and Matthew Goodman, "We Stand with MERICS," Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 26, 2021
4/1/202153 minutes, 19 seconds
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A Podcast for the Middle Class

Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate the Joe Biden administration's Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. They commend the administration for issuing the document so early into its tenure, but have questions about the specifics. In particular, the document promises to execute a foreign policy for the middle class, but what this means in practice is less clear. Melanie expresses concern about the vaccine rollout in Europe, Zack congratulates the Quad for its vaccine initiative, and all agree about the need for forthright debate of foreign policy and security issues in the think tank community. Links "Interim National Security Strategic Guidance," The White House, March 2021 "Fact Sheet: The Quad Summit," The White House, March 12, 2021 Salman Ahmed et al., "Making US Foreign Policy Work Better for the Middle Class," Carnegie Endowment, September 23, 2020 Hal Brands and Zack Cooper, "US-Chinese Rivalry is a Battle Over Values," Foreign Affairs, March 16, 2021 Dan Lamothe, “Army Reviewing Investigation Into Michael Flynn's Dealings with Russia, Foreign Firm,” Washington Post, March 12, 2021 Thomas Escritt and Stephanie Nebehay, "Germany, Italy, France Suspend AstraZeneca Shots Amid Safety Fears, Disrupting EU Vaccinations," Reuters, March 15, 2021 Sheena Greitins, Tweet, March 14, 2021 Anthony Blinken, “Secretary of State Antony Blinken Speech on Foreign Policy,” Rev, March 3, 2021 Joe Biden, “Remarks on America's Place in the World,” The White House, February 4, 2021 "Biden must Learn the Right Lesson from Globalization," Washington Post, March 6, 2021
3/18/202151 minutes, 58 seconds
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The Color of Money

Chris, Zack, and Melanie sit down to discuss U.S. sanctions programs and how to make them more effective. In a recent War on the Rocks article focused on sanctions, Edward Fishman argues that the United States needs to take a hard look at our economic statecraft. Why have sanctions become the go-to answer to so many foreign policy problems? When should they be used, and when are they least effective? Does the United States have the institutional framework necessary for regular sanctions reviews and reform? Will Joe Biden’s team approach sanctions differently than previous administrations? Chris has thoughts on how members of Congress reacted to Biden’s strikes in Syria, Zack takes a principled position on one of Biden’s nominees, and Melanie welcomes her 13th niece to the world.   Links Edward Fishman, “Make Russia Sanctions Great Again,” War on the Rocks, October 23, 2020 Constance Grady, “How Dolly Parton Became a Secular American Saint,” Vox, February 26, 2021 “US Sanctions 23 Actors with Ties to Venezuelan Oil,” VOA News, January 19, 2021 Peter E. Harrell, “Here’s How Trump Can Make Better Use of Corporate Sanctions,” Foreign Policy, February 5, 2019 Natasha Bertrand, “Biden Readies His First Major Penalties on Russia,” Politico, February 22, 2021 Elizabeth Rosenberg, Peter, Harrell, and Ashley Feng, "A New Arsenal for Competition," Center for a New American Security, April 24, 2020 Eric B. Lorber, "Securing American Interests: A New Era of Economic Power," Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, February 2017 Juan Zarate, Treasury's War (New York: PublicAffairs, 2013) Josh Rudolph, "Treasury's War on Corruption," Alliance for Securing Democracy, December 22, 2020 Hugh Hewitt, "The GOP should Forgive Neera Tanden," Washington Post, February 20, 2021 Gordon Lubold, Michael R. Gordon, and Andrew Jeong, "US, South Korea Near a Deal Over Cost of U.S. Forces on Peninsula," Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2021 Erica Borghard, “Reality Check #2: Economic Sanctions Should Not always Be the Go-To Foreign Policy Tool,” New American Engagement Initiative, Atlantic Council, February 22, 2021 Erica Borghard, “Reality Check #3: The Uses and Abuses of Deterrence,” New American Engagement Initiative, Atlantic Council, March 1, 2021
3/4/202153 minutes, 4 seconds
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Should Europe Defend Itself?

Chris, Melanie, and Zack wade into the long-running debate on whether Europe can defend itself (chiefly from Russia), and how hard it should try. In a recent article, Barry Posen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concludes that Europe is capable of conducting major military operations against a potential Russian attack, and that these capabilities serve as an important deterrent. But others doubt that Europe will ever be able to stand on its own without substantial support from the United States. The ultimate unknown, however, might revolve around how much autonomy the United States is willing to grant to key NATO allies — and how much autonomy they will demand in exchange for greater burden sharing. Zack offers up an atta-doctor/atta-deputy secretary of defense to newly confirmed Kath Hicks, while Chris praises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for showing the way on how schools can reopen. Melanie has a grievance against those who just can’t get along with others, even when they perform random acts of kindness, and Zack throws shade on people who refuse to put their names on major publications.   Links Barry R. Posen, “Europe Can Defend Itself,” IISS, December 3, 2020 Jeffrey Lightfoot and Olivier-Rémy Bel, “Sovereign Solidarity: France, the US, and Alliances in a Post-COVID World,” Future Europe Initiative, Atlantic Council, November 11, 2020 Adam Weinstein, “What the Afghanistan Study Group Final Report Missed,” Inkstick, February 11, 2021 Laura Meckler, “CDC Defends School Guidelines as Advocates Say They Make It too Hard to Reopen,” Washington Post, February 14, 2021 Evan Braden Montgomery, In the Hegemon's Shadow: Leading States and the Rise of Regional Powers (Cornell University Press, 2016) Joe Gould, "Senate confirms Hicks as DOD's No. 2," Defense News, February 8, 2021 Anonymous, "To Counter China's Rise, the U.S. Should Focus on Xi," Politico, January 28, 2021 Virginia Heffernan, “What Can You Do about the Trumpites Next Door?”, Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2021 Our World in Data, Coronavirus Vaccinations by Country “Americans and Germans Differ in Their Views of Each Other and the World,” Pew Research, March 9, 2020 Hans Van Der Burchard and America Hernandez, “US-German Tensions Over Russia-Backed Nord Stream 2 Pipeline,” Politico, January 21, 2021 “What Would Happen if America Left Europe to Fend for Itself?”, The Economist, March 14, 2019
2/18/202148 minutes, 10 seconds
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Primacy Anxiety

Chris, Melanie, and Zack debate whether the United States should pursue primacy. They discuss the Donald Trump administration's "Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific," and compare some of its recommendations with Stephen Wertheim’s recent article on "Delusions of Dominance." They agree that the United States needs to have a national debate to match American resources and objectives, but disagree on how to adjust both elements. Chris both complements and questions the Joe Biden administration for actions during its first weeks in office. Melanie raises a multitude of concerns about Andrew Cuomo. And Zack supports Republicans facing political costs for votes of conscience.   Links Stephen Wertheim, "Delusions of Dominance," Foreign Affairs, January 25, 2021 "House Republican Reckoning," The Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2021 Ilan Ben-Meir, "That Time Trump Spent Nearly $100,000 On an Ad Criticizing U.S. Foreign Policy in 1987," BuzzFeed News, July 10, 2015 Daniel J. Ikenson, “Inauguration Day Feels Like Groundhog Day for Buy American,” Cato Institute, January 20, 2021 Jonah Shepp, “America Is Complicit in Yemen Atrocities. Biden Says That Ends Now,” New York Magazine, January 22, 2021 John Glaser, Christopher A. Preble, A. Trevor Thrall, Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America's Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse (and How We Can Recover), (Cato Institute, 2019)
2/4/202153 minutes, 23 seconds
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Six Blind Men, the Elephant, and the Defense Budget

Chris, Zack, and Melanie sit down to discuss Thomas Spoehr’s article “The Six Blind Men and the Elephant: Differing Views on the U.S. Defense Budget.” How should we assess whether the defense budget is adequate (or excessive) for its purposes? Do we ask our military to fulfill too many purposes? Will the new Congress and administration be willing to make politically unpopular cuts, even if those changes might result in long-term savings and enhanced effectiveness? If being $27 trillion in debt isn’t slowing our spending on either defense or domestic priorities, will anything? The gang has a lightning round on the good, the bad, and the ugly in the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Finally, Chris praises José Andrés for stepping up to feed the hungry, Melanie is frustrated with how Democrats handled former President Donald Trump’s impeachment, and Zack has warm wishes for those entering the Joe Biden administration.    Links Thomas Spoehr, “The Six Blind Men and the Elephant: Differing Views on the US Defense Budget,” War on the Rocks, January 14, 2021 Kelsey Vlamis, "Pelosi Says Democrats Will Move to Impeach Trump This Week if Pence Doesn't Respond to Calls to Invoke the 25th Amendment," Business Insider, January 12, 2021 Connor O’Brien, “On Defense Spending, a Democratic Brawl is Brewing,” Politico, October 28, 2020 Janelle Griffith, “Texas School District Opens Free Grocery Store to Help Disadvantaged Students,” Today, January 4, 2021 Sydney Freedberg, “NDAA: Conference Cuts New Army Tech, Pluses Up Old,” Breaking Defense, December 4, 2020 “Defense Strategy: Revised Analytic Approach Needed to Support Force Structure Decision-Making,” GAO, March 14, 2019 "America's Strategic Choices: Defense Spending in a Post-COVID-19 World," Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and Ronald Reagan Institute, January 2021 "Getting to Less - Exploring the Press for Less in America's Defense Commitments," CSIS, February 6, 2020 Rebecca Speare-Cole, "3 or 4 Republicans Don't Think Joe Biden Won Election Legitimately: Poll," Newsweek, January 18, 2021 “The Militarized Budget 2020,” National Priorities Project, June 22, 2020 'First Platoon' Examines How War On Terror Birthed Military Biometrics ID System, NPR, January 14, 2021 “Feeding an Army in D.C.: Chef José Andrés Steps in to Help Feed Huge Influx of National Guard,” Los Angeles Times on MSN, January 17, 2021 Donate: World Central Kitchen Restaurant Employee Relief Fund
1/21/202147 minutes, 11 seconds
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Capitol Breach and Cold War Lessons for Sino-U.S. Ties

Chris, Melanie, and Zack begin the show with a sober look at the events of Jan. 6, when a pro-President Donald Trump mob ransacked the Capitol and drove legislators from both chambers. In the ensuing chaos, four people lost their lives. How did this happen? And what can possibly be done to set things right? All three hosts agree that it begins with holding the enablers accountable. But, tragically, our political system today punishes those who stand on principle and facts, and rewards demagogues peddling falsehoods. With that out of the way, the three discuss Amb. (ret.) Michael McFaul’s analysis of the Cold War’s lessons for policy toward China. In the end, McFaul urges U.S. policymakers to adopt a “complicated, nuanced path” toward China, combining “sustained confrontation and cooperation, containment and engagement, [and] isolation and integration.” But can the United States actually execute such a sophisticated strategy? Or do American domestic politics drive us toward extremes and overreach? Shout outs for the Washington Football Team and a Twitter sensation who makes old pictures even more beautiful. Zack and Chris bash Trump and his Republican enablers. Links Michael McFaul, “Cold War Lessons and Fallacies for US-China Relations Today,” The Washington Quarterly, December 11, 2020 “Pentagon Insists US Military Will Only Interfere in Foreign Elections,” Duffle Blog, January 4, 2021 Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick, “More GOP Lawmakers Enlist in Trump Effort to Undo Biden Win,” Associated Press, January 2, 2021 Michael McFaul, "Xi Jinping is Not Stalin," Foreign Affairs, August 10, 2020 Lauren Tarshis, I Survived the Battle of D-Day, (Scholastic, 2019) Marina Amaral, Tweet, January 04, 2020 “Could China Seize and Occupy Taiwan Militarily?” Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 26, 2020 Amy Gardner and Paulina Firozi, “Here’s the full transcript and audio of the call between Trump and Raffensperger,” The Washington Post, January 5, 2021 Yuval Levin, “Failures of Leadership in a Populist Age,” National Review, January 4, 2021 Odd Arne Westad, “The Sources of Chinese Conduct: Are Washington and Beijing Fighting a New Cold War?” Foreign Affairs, (September/October 2019) "Abraham Lincoln’s Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois," Libertarianism, January, 27, 1838  
1/8/20211 hour, 21 seconds
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Net Assessment Goes to the Movies

Chris, Melanie, and Zack end the year with a special episode of Net Assessment where they do a deep dive into their favorite films and television series. They discuss their favorite spy movie, World War II film, a movie that inspired their career, and one that is good for teaching.   Chris No Way Out A Bridge Too Far Holland’s Opus Crimson Tide Melanie The Bureau Band of Brothers Law and Order Glory Black Hawk Down Zack Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Saving Private Ryan Clear and Present Danger Thirteen Days Dr. Strangelove
12/31/202054 minutes, 31 seconds
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2020 Vision

Melanie, Chris, and Zack wrap up 2020 by reviewing developments over the last year and debating what might happen in 2021. They disagree over the wisdom of Lloyd Austin's nomination for secretary of defense, and discuss which of Donald Trump's foreign policy decisions were the best and worst over the last year. Each also highlights their favorite books and articles, and notes profiles in both courage and cowardice.  Links Eugene Gholz, Benjamin Friedman, and Enea Gjoza, “Defensive Defense: A Better Way to Protect US Allies in Asia,” Washington Quarterly, Winter 2020. Jim Golby, "Sorry, Gen. Lloyd Austin. A Recently Retired General Should Not Be Secretary of Defense," New York Times, December 7, 2020 Kishore Mahbubani, Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy, (Public Affairs, 2020) Ana Swanson, “With Americans Stuck at Home, Trade with China Roars Back,” New York Times, December 14, 2020 Alex Ward, “The Single Biggest Foreign Policy Decision Joe Biden Faces,” Vox, December 14, 2020 Joe Biden, “Why I Chose Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense,” The Atlantic, December 8, 2020 Australian Government Department of Defense, "2020 Defense Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan," July 2020
12/17/202057 minutes, 42 seconds
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Can Biden Bring Intelligence Back?

Chris, Zack, and Melanie get together to discuss Joshua Rovner’s recent War on the Rocks article, “Intelligence in the Biden Administration.” Rover argues that President-elect Joe Biden should immediately rebuild relations with the intelligence agencies. How can he go about doing that in difficult political circumstances and after years of them being treated with contempt during the Donald Trump administration? What role does Congress have in ensuring our intelligence agencies are functioning properly? How will Biden use the intelligence community to enhance U.S. security and prosperity? The crew also wonders why, with other national security team members in place, Biden has not yet named a secretary of defense. Finally, Chris surprises us with a promise to make a holiday dessert, Melanie has some praise for those working on vaccines, and Zack gives a shout out to the Bombshell podcast hosts as their amazing show ends.    Links Joshua Rovner, "Intelligence in the Biden Administration," War on the Rocks, November 25, 2020 Robert Jervis, "Why Intelligence and Policymakers Clash," Political Science Quarterly, November 02, 2010 Samantha Lee, "Moderna's Groundbreaking Coronavirus Vaccine Was Designed in Just Two Days," Business Insider, November 26, 2020 Rosa Brooks, "It's Time for a Woman to Run the Defense Department," The New York Times, November 30, 2020 Christopher Krebs, "Trump fired me for saying this, but I'll say it again: The election wasn't rigged," The Washington Post, December 1, 2020 Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, "Pentagon Purges Leading Advisors From Defense Policy Board," Foreign Policy, November 25, 2020 Zack Cooper, "Bad Ideas Series: 'Great Power Competition' Terminology," Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 1, 2020 Brad Stapleton, “The Problem with the Light Footprint: Shifting Tactics in Lieu of Strategy,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 792, June 7, 2016 Paul R. Pillar, “Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006
12/3/202049 minutes, 13 seconds
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How Do Americans Want to Engage the World?

The crew convenes for the first show after Joe Biden’s election victory to consider how Americans want to engage with the rest of the world, and whether the incoming Biden administration will be able to heal the nation’s wounds while also restoring U.S. global leadership. Does an inward focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, a sluggish economy, and racial tensions necessarily mean that the United States will neglect the wider world? Or can it lead by example, proving that by solving its own problems it can help solve global problems as well? And in our polarized political environment, does it even make sense to talk about “Americans” as a unified whole? Or do differences between Republicans and Democrats, young and old, or rich and poor, prevent U.S. policymakers from crafting and executing a consistent and coherent approach to the world? Grievances abound for Republican elected officials’ collective unwillingness to acknowledge Biden’s victory, and attaboys to the American people for turning out to vote in historic numbers, and to the media for covering the vote-counting carefully and cautiously. And Melanie offers a heartfelt attagirl to her beloved niece Miri who is fighting a serious disease with grace and spirit. (Be warned: It’s a tear-jerker!)   Links: Jonathan Monten, Joshua Busby, Joshua D. Kertzer, Dina Smeltz, and Jordan Tama, "Americans Want to Engage the World," Foreign Affairs, November 3, 2020 Dina Smeltz, Ivo H. Daalder, Karl Friedhoff, Craig Kafura, and Brendan Helm, “Divided We Stand: Democrats and Republicans Diverge on US Foreign Policy,” Chicago Council on Global Affairs, September 17, 2020 Mark Hannah and Caroline Gray, "Diplomacy & Restraint the Worldview of American Voters," Eurasia Group Foundation, September 2020 “About Those Polls…,” The Daily, November 12, 2020 Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, Maggie Astor and Peter Baker, “Republicans Are Split over Whether to Call the Election Over,” New York Times, November 8, 2020 Kaelen Deese, “Hogan Congratulates Biden, Harris on Election Victory: 'Everyone Should Want Our President to Succeed,'” The Hill, November 7, 2020 Christopher Preble, “The Biden Administration Can Both Look Inward and Provide Leadership on the Global Stage,” Atlantic Council, November 9, 2020 Aaron Mehta, "Where President-Elect Joe Biden Stands on National Security Issues," Defense News, November 8, 2020 Elisabeth Braw, "Defense Spending and What We Can Learn from Sweden," On the Cusp Podcast, November 2, 2020 Myhre Syndrome
11/12/202059 minutes, 1 second
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To Infinity and Beyond: Battle Force 2045

Bryan McGrath rejoins the Net Assessment team to discuss the U.S. Navy's Battle Force 2045 proposal. Bryan, Melanie, Chris, and Zack agree that the proposed 500 ship force is a fantasy that will not be fully funded. But they express optimism that these plans will provide useful starting points for deeper thinking about the Navy's future force. Chris launches an email etiquette crusade, Zack complains about sexism in defense reporting, Bryan commends the name of the Navy's first guided missile frigate, and Melanie urges everyone to vote.   Links "Secretary of Defense Remarks at CSBA on the NDS and Future Defense Modernization Priorities," Department of Defense, October 6, 2020 Megan Eckstein, "SECDEF Esper Calls for 500-Ship Fleet by 2045, With 3 SSNs a Year and Light Carriers Supplementing CVNS," USNI News, October 6, 2020 Bryan McGrath, "Deterring War, Conducting War, Ending War: What Seapower Does," CDR Salamander Blog, August 26, 2020 Bryan McGrath, Twitter, October 16, 20 Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, "A Trump Victory May Push His Defense Secretary Out an Open Door," New York Times, October 23, 2020 David B. Larter, "S. State Department to Allow Sale of Hundreds of Anti-Ship Missiles to Taiwan Amid Diplomatic Row," Defense News, October 26, 2020 Brandon Valeriano, Twitter, October 18, 2020 Harlan Ullman, “Battle Force 2045 Raises Important Questions,” US Naval Institute Proceedings, October 2020 Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, October 7, 2020 Ronald O’Rourke and Michael Moodie, “S. Role in the World: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, Updated August 26, 2020 Mark Montgomery, "Is Esper's New Plan for the Navy Enough for the Indo-Pacific?", War on the Rocks, October 21, 2020 Emily Oster, "Schools Aren't Super-Spreaders," Atlantic, October 9, 2020 Jay Nordlinger, "Trump and Dictators," National Review, October 20, 2020
10/29/202058 minutes, 28 seconds
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We Need to Talk About Nukes

Chris, Zack, and Melanie get together to talk about U.S. nuclear policy. Should the United States have a "no first use" policy? If so, would that affect choices our allies and partners, as well as adversaries, might make? Has the volatile presidency of Donald Trump shown that more checks are needed in the nuclear weapons launch process?   Chris gives a shout out to those Americans already waiting in long lines to vote, Zack applauds Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley for clearly stating that the military has no place in resolving the outcome of an election, and Melanie is happy to see an increasing number of countries condemning the human rights atrocities in China.   Links William J. Perry and Tom Z. Collina, "Who Can We Trust with the Nuclear Button? No One," New York Times, June 22, 2020 Masakatsu Ota, "Japanese Nuclear Policy After Hiroshima, After Abe, and After Nov. 3," War on the Rocks, September 14, 2020 Christianna Silva, " Mark Milley Says The Military Has 'No Role' In Elections," NPR, October 11, 2020 “Emma Ashford and Erica Borghard Join the Atlantic Council,“ Atlantic Council, October 5, 2020 Julia Jones, “Inside the Plot to Kidnap Gov. Whitmer,” CNN, October 11, 2020 Jason Morris, Nick Valencia, Annie Grayer and Marshall Cohen, “Massive Lines Mar Start of In-Person Early Voting in Georgia,” CNN, October 13, 2020
10/15/202052 minutes, 45 seconds
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Understanding America’s Declining Global Influence

Why is America’s global influence in decline? And what can be done to get it back? In a recent study, the RAND Corporation’s James Dobbins, Gabrielle Tarini, and Ali Wyne, trace the former unipolar power’s struggles to several factors, but point chiefly to "the classic cycle of hubris followed by nemesis." A sequence of "success, overconfidence, overstretch, failure, and retreat," they write, explains how "domestic politics, foreign policy, and external events interacted to diminish American influence." Chris, Melanie, and Zack appreciated the effort, but had some questions. The study’s attempt to score American successes and failures dating back to 1945 falls flat, but the global public’s reactions to these efforts isn’t in dispute: the United States isn’t trusted to solve the world’s problems, and many worry that it is making things worse. What can be done to reinvigorate Americans’ global engagement, and win back the trust of allies and partners? And who will take the lead in getting us back on track? Zack praises FBI director Chris Wray for doing his job, and Chris and Melanie give shout outs to acts of human decency.   Links: James Dobbins, Gabrielle Tarini, Ali Wyne, “The Lost Generation in American Foreign Policy,” RAND, September 2020 Dina Smeltz, Ivo H. Daalder, Karl Friedhoff, Craig Kafura, and Brendan Helm, "Divided We Stand," Chicago Council on Global Affairs, September 17, 2020 "US election: Trump Won't Commit to Peaceful Transfer of Power," BBC News, September 24, 2020 Devlin Barrett, "FBI Director Affirms Russia’s Aim to ‘Denigrate’ Biden Ahead of Election," The Washington Post, September 17, 2020 Eliott C. McLaughlin, “Portland Protests Remain Largely Peaceful Until Night Falls and Police are Targeted, Authorities Say,” CNN, September 28, 2020 Ryan Bergeron, “A 72-Year-Old Woman was Quietly Living in a Dilapidated House. Then an Electrician Sparked a Community to Help Her Rebuild,” CNN, September 24, 2020 “Unsung Heroes 2020,” The Atlantic Council Scott Lincicome, "It's Time We Had a Talk about Tariffs," The Dispatch, September 29, 2020
10/1/202055 minutes, 33 seconds
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The Revenge of Ideology

Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate the role of ideology in American foreign policy. Bridge Colby and Robert Kaplan have recently argued that the United States should avoid making the competition with China overly ideological, but Zack suggests that this will be easier said than done. Chris worries about the difficulty of emphasizing ideology when the United States isn't practicing what it preaches. Melanie notes the importance of alliance building for managing foreign threats, which has major implications for the role of ideology. She also talks about a quintessential Net Assessment topic: forestry practices.    Links: Elbridge Colby and Robert D. Kaplan, “The Ideology Delusion,” Foreign Affairs, September 4, 2020 Kori Schake, Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017) Aaron Friedberg, “Competing with China,” Survival, June 01, 2018 Jessica Chen Weiss, “An Ideological Contest in U.S.-China Relations? Assessing China’s Defense of Autocracy,” SSRN, July 30, 2019 “A Special Conversation with Zack Cooper and Laura Rosenberger,” Biden Institute, September 21, 2020 Fareed Zakaria, “We Need to Prepare for This 'Deeply Worrying' Scenario on Election Day,” CNN, September 13, 2020 Christina Morales and Allyson Waller, “A Gender-Reveal Celebration Is Blamed for a Wildfire. It Isn’t the First Time” New York Times, September 7, 2020 Elizabeth Weil, "They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won't Anybody Listen?" ProPublica, August 28, 2020 Delilah Friedler, "California's Wildfire Policy Totally Backfired. Native Communities Know How to Fix It," Mother Jones, November 2019 Alessio Patalano, "What Is China's Strategy in the Senkaku Islands?", War on the Rocks, September 10, 2020 Aaron Friedberg, "Getting the China Challenge Right," American Interest, January 10, 2019 Stephen Walt, "Everyone Misunderstands the Reason for the US-China Cold War," Foreign Policy, June 30, 2020 Yashar Ali, Tweet, September 13, 2020
9/17/202056 minutes, 37 seconds
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The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be

Zack, Chris, and Melanie get together to talk about what American foreign policy might look like after Jan. 20, 2021. Would President Joe Biden seek a restoration of Obama administration policies, or will he stake out his own doctrine? What will the economic side of America’s foreign policy look like in a second Trump or first Biden administration? Can America’s relationships with allies survive another Trump term? Would a Biden administration be able to repair partnerships that have suffered damage in the last four years? Where would human rights fit in a Biden agenda? Who might the important players be in each administration?   Chris issues a plea for calm and unity, Zack has some kind thoughts for outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Melanie gives an attaboy to Africa for eradicating wild polio.     Links David A. Wemer, “Adviser on Biden’s Foreign Policy: Start at Home and Repair Alliances,” Elections 2020, Atlantic Council, August 21, 2020 Emma Ashford, “Biden Wants to Return to a ‘Normal’ Foreign Policy. That’s the Problem,” New York Times, August 25, 2020 Mark Johnson, Annysa Johnson, Talis Shelbourne, “Juxtaposition of Two Videos from Kenosha: A Black Man Gets Shot Seven Times from Behind; A White Teen with a Gun Walks Past Police,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 29, 2020 Susan Eisenhower, “My Grandfather Led by Building Trust among Troops and, Later, the Public,” Dallas Morning News, August 30, 2020 “Should Europe Go its Own Way?” Atlantic Council, September 17, 2020 John Sipher, “Trump Creates His Own ‘Deep State’,” New York Times, September 1, 2020 “An Inside Look at the Department of Defense’s China Military Power Report,” American Enterprise Institute, September 1, 2020 Joe Biden, "Joe Biden Answers Our Foreign Policy Questions," Council on Foreign Relations, August 1, 2019 Akbar Shahid Ahmed, "Democrats are Walking a Fine Line on the Election's Main Foreign Policy Issue: China," Huffington Post, August 22, 2020 Alex Ward, "'America First, but on Steroids': What Trump's Second Term Foreign Policy Might Look Like," Vox, August 26, 2020 Emma Ashford, "Biden Wants to Return to a 'Normal' Foreign Policy. That's the Problem," New York Times, August 25, 2020 Van Jackson, "Biden's China Policy Can't Help but be Incoherent," Foreign Policy, August 13, 2020 Kori Schake, "Biden's Bad Foreign Policy Ideas," The Atlantic, June 7, 2020 “The Future of Grand Strategy in A Post-COVID World,” Institute for Peace and Diplomacy, September 9, 2020 Joe Biden, "Why America Must Lead Again," Foreign Affairs, January 23, 2020
9/3/202050 minutes, 12 seconds
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Time to Rethink U.S. Policy Toward Putin’s Russia?

Chris, Melanie, and Zack discuss the renewed debate over the present and future of U.S.-Russian relations. Two competing open letters make the case for or against the status quo, which is increasingly characterized by deep suspicion and rising tension. Is Vladimir Putin to blame? Or do the roots of U.S.-Russian enmity run deeper? Are constructive diplomatic relations impossible so long as Putin is in charge? Or should U.S. policymakers look past Putin’s many offenses in the interest of reducing the risk of conflict? The crew give a special attaboy to Brent Scowcroft, who died earlier this month. Scowcroft was national security advisor to two U.S. presidents and counselor to at least four others. Zack also praises the protesters in Belarus and Melanie gives a special shout out to Polish filmmaker Agniezska Holland for “Mr. Jones,” a film about a young journalist who blew the lid off the Holodomor, the manmade famine in Ukraine which killed millions in the early 1930s.   Links Rose Gottemoeller, Thomas Graham, Fiona Hill, et al, “It’s Time to Rethink Our Russia Policy,” POLITICO, August 5, 2020 David J. Kramer, et al, “No, Now Is Not the Time for Another Russia Reset,” POLITICO, August 11, 2020 Lydia Saad, “Majority of Americans Now Consider Russia a Critical Threat,” Gallup, February 27, 2019 Adam Taylor, “More Russians Are Sure of the U.S. Meddling in Their Politics than the Other Way Around, Poll Finds,” Washington Post, February 7, 2018 Frederick Kempe and Jeffrey Lightfoot, “The Legacy Brent Scowcroft Leaves Behind,” Atlantic Council, August 7, 2020 Jacob Heilbrunn, “A Tribute to Brent Scowcroft,” The National Interest, August 7, 2020 Bartholomew Sparrow and Doyle Hodges, “Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security,” Horns of a Dilemma, August 14, 2020 Josh Rudolph and Thomas Morley, "Covert Foreign Money: Financial Loopholes Exploited by Authoritarians to Fund Political Interference in Democracies," Alliance for Securing Democracy, 2020 Scott Neuman, "Belarus Factory Workers Walk Out, Joining Mass Protests Calling for President to Quit," National Public Radio, August 17, 2020 Robert M. Gates, "The Scowcroft Model," Foreign Affairs, August 13, 2020,  Elizabeth Rosenberg and Jordan Tama, "Strengthening the Economic Arsenal," Center for a New American Security, December 16, 2019 Ryan Goodman and Asha Rangappa, "How Sen. Ron Johnson's Investigation Became an Enabler of Russian Disinformation: Part I," Just Security, August 11, 2020
8/20/202055 minutes, 27 seconds
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Deterring by Denial in Asia

Melanie, Chris, and Zack debate Michèle Flournoy’s recent Foreign Affairs article about how to prevent war in Asia by reinforcing deterrence against China. They discuss the importance of senior Democrats placing renewed emphasis on Asia, and ask what this might mean in light of the likely downward pressure on the defense budget. Chris asks whether the strategy is too reliant on U.S. power projection rather than allied anti-access/area denial capabilities. Melanie questions why the United States hasn’t adjusted more quickly to focus on Asia. And Zack notes that some U.S. allies are making important defense strategy shifts, partially prompted by fears of U.S. disengagement.   Links Michèle Flournoy, “How to Prevent a War in Asia: The Erosion of American Deterrence Raises the Risk of Chinese Miscalculation,” Foreign Affairs, June 18, 2020 Heather Conley and Kathleen Hicks, “Pentagon action to withdraw from Germany benefits our adversaries,” The Hill, Aug. 4, 2020 Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, and Reid J. Epstein, “Trump Floats an Election Delay, and Republicans Shoot It Down,” The New York Times, July 30, 2020 Eugene Gholz, Benjamin Friedman, and Enea Gjoza, "Defensive Defense: A Better Way to Protect US Allies in Asia," Washington Quarterly, Winter 2020 Steven Erlanger, “Turkish Aggression Is NATO’s ‘Elephant in the Room,’” New York Times, Aug. 3, 2020 Patrick Chevallereau, “The Worm Is in the Fruit: A Rising Strategic Foe Inside NATO,” RUSI, July 31, 2020 Patrick Porter, The False Promise of Liberal Order: Nostalgia, Delusion and the Rise of Trump (Polity, 2020)
8/6/202050 minutes, 27 seconds
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Money and Might

The 2017 National Security Strategy states that “economic security is national security.” Chris, Zack, and Melanie get together to discuss how the United States might strengthen and use its economic power in an increasingly competitive and connected world to enhance our national security. They ask if our political leadership is capable of defining goals and assessing means to achieve them, how much the government (taxpayers) should support technological research, and what benefits and risks that might carry. Can we prevent public investments in domestic innovation from being a source of cronyism and inefficiency? What criteria should we use to determine how resources are distributed, and what should we expect in return? Any successful agenda will require domestic and international action. Do we have the political will to make smart reforms to laws and regulations, or will entrenched interests and stale systems stop even incremental changes? How can we manage international partnerships in a way that will promote American prosperity and security? Chris has a grievance for over regulation, Zack applauds David Stilwell for setting forth a new U.S.-South China Sea policy, and Melanie criticizes the administration for its campaign to undermine Dr. Fauci.   Links David H. McCormick, Charles E. Luftig, James M. Cunningham, “Economic Might, National Security, and the Future of American Statecraft,” Texas National Security Review, Summer 2020 Elizabeth Rosenberg, Peter E. Harrell, and Ashley Feng, "A New Arsenal for Competition," CNAS, April 24, 2020 Juan Zarate, Treasury's War (New York, PublicAffairs, 2013) Mike Pompeo, "S. Position on Maritime Claims in the South China Sea," U.S. Department of State, July 13, 2020 Michael R. Gordon and Gordon Lubold, "Trump Administration Weighs Troop Cut in South Korea," The Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2020 Zack Cooper, "Five Asia-Related Items to Watch in the National Defense Authorization Act," AEIdeas, July 15, 2020 Chloe Melas, “6-Year Old Wyoming Boy Praised for Saving Sister from Dog Attack,” East Idaho News, July 16, 2020 Michael Shear and Noah Weiland, “Fauci Back at the White House, a Day After Trump Aides Tried to Undermine Him,” New York Times, July 13, 2020 Zack Cooper and Bonnie S. Glaser, “What Options are on the Table in the South China Sea?” War on the Rocks, July 22, 2020
7/23/202052 minutes, 15 seconds
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COVID-19 and U.S. Global Leadership

Melanie, Zack, and Chris unpack why the United States has failed to contain the novel coronavirus. Most blame poor leadership in the United States — from the White House to public health officials and down to key figures in the media during the earliest stages of the disease. A more focused effort, sooner, as was implemented in many other developed countries, might have worked. But some see a deeper problem — American exceptionalism, especially an unwillingness to learn from the others’ approaches. If the United States does not turn things around soon, and demonstrate its capacity for solving the pandemic, will U.S. allies and partners be as willing to follow its leadership on a range of other problems? What will be the lasting effects of COVID-19 on the global order, and America’s place in it? Grievances are aired for Tucker Carlson, the House Armed Service Committee, and the Russians — and the Americans who excuse or ignore their behavior. Zack praises the Washington professional football team for its impending name change, and Chris praises the House and Senate Armed Services Committees for planning to do the same for U.S. military bases. Melanie gives a shout out to the Australians for a serious defense strategy and offers warm and heartfelt congratulations to her niece Kaylee for getting accepted to a top medical school — and to her mom (Melanie’s sister) for helping to set up her three daughters for success.   Links   Jeremy Konyndyk, “Exceptionalism Is Killing Americans: An Insular Political Culture Failed the Test of the Pandemic,” Foreign Affairs, June 8, 2020 Farhad Manjoo, “The World Builds a Wall to Keep America Out,” New York Times, July 1, 2020 Rebecca Kheel, “House Panel Approves $740.5B Defense Policy Bill,” The Hill, July 1, 2020 Jeff Cox, “The Coronavirus Will Cost the Economy Nearly $8 Trillion, Congressional Budget Office Says,” CNBC, July 1, 2020 Rebecca Kheel, “House Armed Services Votes to Make Pentagon Rename Confederate-Named Bases in a Year,” The Hill, July 1, 2020 Sam LaGrone, “Senate Bill to Purge Confederate Names from U.S. Military Could Affect Two Navy Ships,” USNI News, June 12, 2020 “Challenging Convention: Charting a New Course for the New American Engagement Initiative,” Atlantic Council, July 9, 2020 James Fallows, "The Three Weeks that Changed Everything," The Atlantic, June 29, 2020 Stephen Grey, Andrew Macaskill, Ryan McNeill, Steve Stecklow, and Tommy Wilkes, "Into the Fog: How Britain Lost Track of the Coronavirus," Reuters, June 29, 2020 Shalini Ramachandran, Laura Kusisto, and Katie Honan, "How New York's Coronavirus Response Made the Pandemic Worse," Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2020 Chloe Taylor, "Belgium Had the Worst Response to the Coronavirus Crisis among OECD Countries, EIU Says," CNBC, June 17, 2020 Eric A. Feldman, "Did Japan's Lenient Lockdown Conquer the Cornavirus?", The Reg Review, June 10, 2020 William Sposato, "Japan's Halfhearted Coronavirus Measures are Working Anyway," Foreign Policy, May 14, 2020 Lance Williams et al, "California Halted Reserve of Ventilators, Masks, Mobile Hospitals," Reveal News, March 27, 2020 Megan Molteni, "How Masks Went from Don't Wear to Must Have," Wired, July 2, 2020 Paul Krugman, "How America Lost the War on Covid-19," New York Times, July 6, 2020 Kyle Mizokami, "The Air Force Names Its New Jet After the Tuskegee Airmen," Popular Mechanics, September 19, 2019 Charlie Savage, Mujib Mashal, Rukmini Callimachi, Eric Schmitt, and Adam Goldman, "Suspicions of Russian Bounties Were Bolstered by Data on Financial Transfers," New York Times, June 30, 2020 Arizona State University, "The Pandemic Dialogues: Great Power Competition and the Case of China"
7/9/202046 minutes, 45 seconds
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America's Foreign Policy Consensus: Blob's Your Uncle?

The Cato Institute's Emma Ashford joins Melanie and Zack to discuss her recent article on how to "Build a Better Blob." They debate whether the foreign policy community is hostile to non-mainstream thinking, or just to non-experts. Emma outlines why the foreign policy community needs to embrace many forms of diversity (and why we all need to wear face masks). Melanie calls out Michael Pack, the new director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, for appearing committed to dismantling his own organization. And Zack questions National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien's recent op-ed on withdrawing U.S. troops from Germany.   Links Emma Ashford, "Build a Better Blob," Foreign Affairs, May 29, 2020 Susan Glasser, “Trump Takes on the Blob,” Politico Magazine, March/April 2020 Emma Ashford, “Stay Home, Save the World,” Instick, April 13, 2020 Paul Farhi, “After Departure of Voice of America Editors, New Trump-Appointed Overseer Fires Heads of Four Sister Organizations,” Washington Post, June 18, 2020 Will Saletan,Tweet, June 5, 2020 Tom Cotton, "Send in the Troops," New York Times, June 3, 2020 Alan Hawkes, Tweet, June, 22, 2020 Hal Brands, Peter Feaver, and William Inboden, "In Defense of the Blob," Foreign Affairs, April 29, 2020 Robert Jervis "Liberalism, the Blob, and American Foreign Policy: Evidence and Methodology," Security Studies, 2020 Mira Rapp-Hooper, Shields of the Republic (Harvard University Press, 2020) Robert O'Brien, "Why the U.S. Is Moving Troops Out of Germany," Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2020
6/25/202051 minutes, 37 seconds
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Sources of American Power

Chris, Zack, and Melanie get together to talk about former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates’s Foreign Affairs article, “The United States Must Recover the Full Range of Its Power.” Against the backdrop of domestic and worldwide protests spurred by the murder of George Floyd, they ask whether we rely too much on the military to carry out America’s foreign policy goals. If so, why? Are we willing to establish criteria for when force should be used? Is it time to reassess the design of our national security bureaucracies? Do Gates’s calls for stronger American leadership ultimately undermine or enhance his hopes for a more diplomatic foreign policy? The gang also reviews the Netflix original Space Force and Chris gives a shout out to all the high school, college, and other graduates experiencing the big day virtually (including his son!). Finally, Zack congratulates Gen. Charles Brown on his unanimous confirmation as chief of staff of the Air Force and thanks him for sharing his personal experiences with discrimination and challenging us to be better.   Links Bob Gates, “The United States Must Recover the Full Range of Its Power,” Foreign Affairs, June 2, 2020 David H. McCormick, Charles E. Luftig, and James M. Cunningham, “Economic Might, National Security, and the Future of American Statecraft,” Texas National Security Review, Summer 2020 Robert Gates, “Landon Lecture,” Kansas State University, November 26, 2007 Emma Ashford, “Build a Better Blob,” Foreign Affairs, May 29, 2020 Edward Fishman, “How to Fix America’s Failing Sanctions Policy,” Lawfare, June 4, 2020 Kaleth O. Wright, Tweet, June 01, 2020 Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., "What I'm Thinking About," June 5, 2020 "CSAF/CMSAF Dialogue on Race," June 4, 2020 "America's Top Brass Break with Donald Trump," The Economist, June 6, 2020 Mike Mullen, "I Cannot Remain Silent," The Atlantic, June 2, 2020 Richard Immerman and Jeffrey Engel, Fourteen Points for the Twenty-First Century: A Renewed Appeal for Cooperative Internationalism, (University Press of Kentucky, 2020) Chris Cioffi, “McConnell Sets Vote for Trump Media Agency Pick, Who Has Ties to Steve Bannon,” Roll Call, June 4, 2020            Colbert King, “Trump’s attack on the VOA reeks of McCarthyism,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020
6/11/202047 minutes, 5 seconds
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Big Trouble in a Little China Strategy?

Chris and Melanie welcome Zack Cooper as the new co-host of Net Assessment. They discuss the White House's new China strategy and debate whether the strategy matches President Trump's own views on U.S.-China relations. Chris points out the hubris of U.S. leaders stating that they "do not exclude China" from America's regional strategy, as if China's regional role is up to U.S. leaders. Zack points out the tension between calling out numerous Communist Party transgressions but accepting that the Party will remain in power indefinitely. Melanie calls out President Trump and expresses skepticism about Bob Zoellick's recent critique of "new cold warriors." Chris praises his Cato Institute colleagues and announces that he will co-directing the New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council.   Links "US Strategic Approach to the People's Republic of China," White House, 2020 Robert B. Zoellick, "The US Doesn't Need a New Cold War," Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2020 "Hong Kong Security Law: Carrie Lam Dismisses Concerns Over Human Rights," BBC, May 26, 2020 Adam Rosenberg, "Republican Governor Wants You To Stop Politicizing Wearing A Damn Mask," Mashable, May 24, 2020 William Ruger, Tweet, May 22, 2020 Alex Isenstadt, “GOP Memo Urges Anti-China Assault Over Coronavirus,” Politico, April 24, 2020 Jon Lee Anderson, “The Coronavirus Hits Brazil Hard, But Jair Bolsonaro Is Unrepentant,” New Yorker, May 22, 2020 “Trump's Brazil Travel Ban Begins Tuesday,” VOA News, May 26, 2020 Yuval Levin,A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream, (Basic Books, 2020) Chris Brose, "The End of America's Military Primacy," Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2020 Ishaan Tharoor, "Is A US-China Cold War Already Underway?", Washington Post, May 15, 2020
5/28/202050 minutes, 49 seconds
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The End of the World as We Know It?

Zack Cooper joins Melanie and Chris for a discussion of the post-COVID-19 international order. The struggle in both the United States and China to overcome the economic and health effects of the pandemic have called into question each country’s capacity for leadership. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd doubts that middle-tier powers will be able to fill that gap and deal with global challenges. But other signs suggest productive multilateral approaches, including some that barely involve Washington or Beijing. With the two leading powers increasingly locked in a zero-competition, will other countries demonstrate the continued value of cooperation? Melanie showers praise on country music legend and philanthropist Dolly Parton and throws shade on E.U. diplomats for abetting Chinese misinformation. Chris hopes a failed coup plotter’s 15 minutes of fame are up. And offer a brief remembrance for Jerry Stiller, the immortal voice of “and now, for the airing of grievances….” Links Kevin Rudd, “The Coming Post-COVID Anarchy,” Foreign Affairs, May 6, 2020 “Kevin Rudd on America, China and saving the WHO,” The Economist, April 11, 2020 David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, "US to Accuse China of Trying to Hack Vaccine Data, As Virus Redirects Cyberattacks" New York Times, May 10, 2020 Jerry Dunleavy, "Crime Against Humanity," Washington Examiner, April 24, 2020 Michael Birnbaum, "Beijing Censors Reference to China's Role in Outbreak in EU-Penned Op-Ed, Putting Bloc on Defensive,” The Age, May 7, 2020 Adam Rawnsley, "Dolly Parton is Backing Research into Promising Covid Treatment," The Daily Beast, May 6, 2020 Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "At Senate Hearing, Government Experts Paint Bleak Picture of the Pandemic," New York Times, May 12, 2020 Su-Lin Tan, "China's Restrictions on Australian Beef, Barley Seen as Retaliation for Support of Coronavirus Investigation," South China Morning Post, May 12, 2020 Damien Cave and Isabella Kwai, “China Is Defensive. The U.S. Is Absent. Can the Rest of the World Fill the Void?” New York Times, May 11, 2020 Peter Keepnews, “Jerry Stiller, Comedian with Enduring Appeal, Is Dead at 92,” New York Times, May 11, 2020 Brendan Rittenhouse Green, Cato Institute Christopher Fettweis, Cato Institute Joshua Rovner, Cato Institute
5/14/202050 minutes, 55 seconds
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Pathogen to War

Chris and Melanie are joined by Zack Cooper of the American Enterprise Institute to discuss Mark Hannah's recent War on the Rocks article "Stop Declaring War on a Virus." They discuss why ubiquitous use of the war metaphor might affect how we deal with the coronavirus pandemic, if America's focus on defense is to blame for our less-than-stellar handling of the health crisis, and how political leaders can use the rhetorical framework of war to rapidly increase government power with little oversight. Chris explains why social distancing (at this point) doesn't violate libertarian principles, Zack denounces China's threat of economic retaliation if Australia continues to push for an investigation into the origins of the pandemic, and Melanie has some praise for the Commandant of the Marine Corps.    Links   Mark Hannah, "Stop Declaring War on a Virus," War on the Rocks, April 17, 2020 Derrick Bryson Taylor, "Marine Corps Bans Public Display of Confederate Flag," April 23, 2020 Rob Thompson, Tweets, April 1, 2020 Rym Momtaz, "Inside Emmanuel Macron's Coronovirus War," Politico Europe, April 12, 2020 Mary McCord, "Trump's 'LIBERATE MICHIGAN'" Tweets Incite Insurrection. That's Illegal," Washington Post, April 17, 2020,  Emily Nussbuam, Tweet, April 26, 2020 Edward Wong, Tweet, April 27, 2020 Aila Slisco, “Leader of North Carolina Protests Against Stay-at-Home Tests Positive for Coronavirus” Newsweek, April 27, 2020 Pam Belluck, “32 Days on a Ventilator: One Covid Patient’s Fight to Breathe Again,” New York Times, April 26, 2020 Mark Hannah and Caroline Gray, "Global Views of American Democracy," Eurasia Group Foundation, April 2020 M. Tang et al., "The State of Southeast Asia: 2020," ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, 2020 Amelia Lucas, “Kegs Are Going Bad As Coronavirus Keeps Restaurants Closed. Boston Beer Has a Solution,” CNBC, April 24, 2020
4/30/202050 minutes, 53 seconds
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COVID-19 and the Future of Global Trade

The coronavirus pandemic has severely disrupted the global economy, and its impact is likely to last for many months. But some foresee (and are hoping for) permanent changes to global trade: They want businesses to restructure their supply chains and bring more operations back home, thereby reducing dependence upon foreign workers and potential vulnerability to pressure from foreign governments. Some are even willing to pay companies’ relocation costs. In the post-COVID-19 world, will business leaders reconsider the trade-offs between efficiency and resilience against major supply disruptions? How are governments’ responses to the pandemic likely to influence these decisions? And what are the national security implications? Ben Jensen again joins Chris and Melanie to discuss these and other questions. In the grievances and attaboys portion of the show, the trio showers praise on those men and women working to solve the COVID-19 problem and showing random acts of kindness toward their fellow humans, while throwing shade on those who often seem to be standing in the way.   Links Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman, “Will the Coronavirus End Globalization as We Know It?” Foreign Affairs, March 16, 2020 David Henderson, “Liberation From Lockdown Now,” American Institute for Economic Research, April 13, 2020 Justin Amash, Twitter, April 11, 2020 Helen Davidson, “Senior WHO Adviser Appears to Dodge Question on Taiwan’s Covid-19 Response,” Guardian, March 30, 2020 Melanie Conklin, “Chinese Government Asks Wisconsin Senator for a Commendation,” Wisconsin Examiner, April 10, 2020 Michael Birnbaum and Terrence McCoy, “As Leaders Seize Powers to Fight Coronavirus, Fear Grows for Democracy,” Washington Post, April 12, 2020 Jenni Marsh, “Beijing Faces a Diplomatic Crisis after Reports of Mistreatment of Africans in China Causes Outrage,” CNN, April 13, 2020
4/16/202052 minutes, 20 seconds
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The Meaning of Public Service

Chris and Melanie sit down with Mark Cancian of CSIS to discuss the final report of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. They discuss what public service is, what role the government should play in encouraging it, and how COVID-19 and the response to it might affect what opportunities people see for service. Looking at military service specifically, they consider possible reforms to the Selective Service System and take up the commission's recommendation that women be required to register for the draft. Finally, Chris is making progress on a new book, Mark applauds the president for talking about COVID-19 and risks we may have to learn to deal with, and Melanie is grateful for the spontaneous public service we see from so many people during this difficult time.   Links "Most Women Oppose Having to Register for the Draft," Rasmussen Reports, February 10, 2016 Christopher Preble, "Don’t Make Women Register for the Draft. Just End Draft Registration for Everyone," Washington Post, February 5, 2016 “Poll: Include Women in U.S. Military Drafts,” Sachs Media Group, June 21, 2013
4/2/202046 minutes, 25 seconds
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Defending U.S. Interests in Cyberspace

Amidst the deepening Coronavirus crisis, Melanie and Chris discuss another type of invisible danger: the threats posed by both state and non-state actors in cyberspace. They’re joined by the Marine Corps University’s Benjamin Jensen, senior research director and lead writer for the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which issued its report earlier this month. Ben offers an insider’s perspective on how the commission approached its work, and outlines its key findings. What strategies should the United States employ to reduce its vulnerability to cyber threats? And what must the U.S. government and private sector do to implement these strategies? Melanie delivers a heartfelt attagirl to her amazing mom; Ben praises Solarium Commission chairmen Sen. Angus King and Rep. Mike Gallagher; and Chris offers thanks to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.   Links Cyberspace Solarium Commission Report, March 2020,  “Tracking the Coronavirus,”  “The Ultimate Guide to Oregon Women's Basketball Star Sabrina Ionescu,” ESPN, February 29, 2020 James Fallows, “2020 Time Capsule #2: The Exceptional Dr. Fauci,” The Atlantic, March 13, 2020 Brandon Valeriano and Benjamin Jensen, “The Myth of the Cyber Offense: The Case for Restraint,” Cato, January 15, 2019
3/19/202052 minutes, 18 seconds
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Why Is America Leaving Afghanistan Now?

The Net Assessment crew is back to discuss Carter Malkasian’s Foreign Affairs article, “How the Good War Went Bad: America’s Slow-Motion Failure in Afghanistan.” In this episode, Melanie and Chris are joined by Chris Brose, head of strategy at Anduril Industries. The trio dissect whether this peace deal is better than any other deal the United States could have struck in the past 18 years of fighting, and how much confidence the United States can have in the agreement. Are there facts on the battlefield that have made this agreement possible or is America just tired of fighting the war in Afghanistan? Also, Chris P. gives an attaboy to Mayor Pete, Chris B. tips his hat to Joe Biden, and Melanie gives a shout out to modern medicine.   Links Carter Malkasian, “How the Good War Went Bad: America’s Slow-Motion Failure in Afghanistan,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2020 John Glaser and John Mueller, “Overcoming Inertia: Why It’s Time to End the War in Afghanistan,” Cato, August 13, 2019 Lauren Egan, “Trump Calls Coronavirus Democrats' 'New Hoax,'” NBC News, February 28, 2020 Frank Bruni, “Mayor Pete Flew Sky High,” New York Times, March 1, 2020 Michele Flournoy and Stephen Hadley, "The US Deal with the Taliban is an Important First Step," Washington Post, February 29, 2020 Mark Esper, "This is Our Chance to Bring Troops Home from Afghanistan for Good," Washington Post, February 29, 2020 Ari Levy and Alex Sherman, "Vox Media to Cut Hundreds of Freelance Jobs Ahead of Changes in California Gig Economy Laws," Washington Post, December 16 ,2019 Katy Grimes, "California's AB5 Kills off 40-Year Lake Tahoe Music Festival," California Globe, March 1, 2020 Jeremy Brown, "The Coronavirus is No 1918 Pandemic," Atlantic, March 3, 2020
3/5/202049 minutes, 8 seconds
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Show Me the Money

In this episode, Chris and Melanie are joined by Thomas Spoehr of the Heritage Foundation to talk about President Trump's FY2021 defense budget request: What's good in this budget, what's really bad, and what surprised them the most. Chris presses the issue of hearings on Afghanistan, Melanie recommends a new book on the presidency, and Thomas applauds a celebration of Washington's birthday.   Links "President's Budget FY 2021," White House, February 10, 2020 "Defense Budget Overview: Irreversible Implementation of the National Defense Strategy," Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, February 2020 Aaron Mehta, "Here's How Much Money the Pentagon Found through Internal Savings and Where It's Going," Defense News, February 6, 2020 David Larter, "As China Continues Rapid Naval Expansion, the US Navy Begins Stockpiling Ship-Killing Missiles," Defense News, February 11, 2020 Andrew Taylor, "Trump's $4.8 Trillion Budget Proposal Revisits Rejected Cuts," AP News, February 10, 2020 Marcus Weisgerber, "DOD's 2021 Budget Would Trim Arsenal, Shift Funds to Arms Development," Defense One, February 10, 2020 Stephen F. Knott, The Lost Soul of the American Presidency, (University of Kansas Press, 2019) Ashley Townsend, Brendan Thomas-Noone, and Matilda Steward, "Averting Crisis: American Strategy Military Spending, and Collective Defense in the Indo-Pacific," United States Studies Centre, August 19, 2019 Thomas Spoehr, “Why the US Navy Needs At Least 355 Ships,” National Interest, February 11, 2020
2/20/202049 minutes, 48 seconds
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Debating the AUMFs

Special guest Alice Hunt Friend joins Melanie and Chris for a very timely discussion about the possible repeal of the Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs) that presidents have used to justify a range of military operations since 9/11. A few members of Congress have been pushing to repeal these AUMFs for years, and even some reliably conservative voices now support such a move in the interest of restoring the proper balance between the legislative and executive branches on the critical question of war and peace. But most House and Senate Republicans oppose repeal. Would they change their tune with a Democrat in the White House? Or is there a partisan divide on the president’s war powers, with Republicans more inclined to defer to the chief executive and Democrats more inclined to rein in such power? Alice gives a shout out to SOCOM and throws shade on U.S. policy toward Libya, while Melanie dishes on former SEAL Eddie Gallagher. Chris doesn’t like Sen. Tom Cotton’s comments on China and the coronavirus, but he does like puppies!   Links Charles Stimson, "Why Repealing the 1991 and 2002 Iraq War Authorizations Is Sound Policy" Heritage Foundation, January 6, 2020 Kevin Williamson, "Repeal the AUMF," National Review, January 5, 2020 Elaine Luria and Max Rose, “Why We Voted Against the War Powers Resolution,” New York Times, January 11, 2020 Megan Thielking and Lev Facher, “Health Experts Warn China Travel Ban Would Hinder Coronavirus Response,” STAT, January 31, 2020 Adam Taylor, “China’s Coronavirus Has No Links to Weapons Research, Experts Say,” Washington Post, January 29, 2020 Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl XVI” Andrew Dyer, "Retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher Strikes Back at SEALs Who Testified Against Him," San Diego Union-Tribune, January 28, 2020 Gene Healy and John Glaser, "Repeal, Don't Replace, Trump's War Powers," New York Times, April 17, 2018 Matthew Rosenberg, "Faulty Iowa App was Part of Push to Restore Democrats' Digital Edge," New York Times, February 4, 2020 Noah Rothman, "Iowa in the Age of Mistrust," Commentary, February 4, 2020
2/6/202050 minutes, 9 seconds
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Trying Hard to be Good?

Chris Brose of Anduril Industries joins Chris and Melanie to talk about Joseph Nye’s Texas National Security Review article, “What is a Moral Foreign Policy?” Should morality be taken into consideration when making foreign policy? How should we assess whether or not a president’s foreign policy is moral? Does using the language of morality make our foreign policy more or less clear? Do people in other countries view our foreign policy as moral? Should perception matter at home or abroad? Also, Chris Preble gets another opportunity to stick it to Saudi Arabia, Melanie shows some love for history, and Chris Brose recognizes the excellent work of some friends.   Links Joseph S. Nye Jr., “What is a Moral Foreign Policy?” Texas National Security Review, November 2019 Joe Heim, "National Archives Exhibit Blurs Images Critical of President Trump," Washington Post, January 17, 2020 Craig Whitlock, "Afghan War Plagued by 'Mendacity' and Lies, Inspector General Tells Congress," Washington Post, January 15, 2020 Barack Obama, Presidential Study Directive 10, White House, August 4, 2011 Rahul Sagar, "Rediscovering Indian Thought: How a Scholar Built a Database of Pre-Independence Magazines," Scroll, November 24, 2019 "War with Iraq Is not in America's National Interest," New York Times, September 26, 2002 Marc Fisher and Steven Zeitchik, “Saudi Crown Prince Implicated in Hack of Jeff Bezos’s Phone, U.N. Report Will Say,” Washington Post, January 21, 2020 Heritage Pride Productions' Elf: The Musical,  January 23, 24, and 25th “The Future of Progressive Foreign Policy: 2020 and Beyond,” Cato Policy Forum, January 28th, 5:00 PM "Is War Over?” Cato Policy Forum, February 6th, 12:00 PM
1/23/202044 minutes, 47 seconds
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Is America’s China Strategy Working?

After a long holiday hiatus, Hudson’s Patrick Cronin joins Melanie and Chris in a spirited discussion of U.S. policy toward China. How is this competition like the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and what’s different? What aspects of China’s behavior are most worrisome? What steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of conflict? Or is a clash, even if it is mostly non-military in nature, inevitable? Patrick gives a shout out to the heroic men and women fighting wildfires in Australia, Melanie expresses her appreciation for Ricky Gervais, and Chris offers kudos to the U.S. press corps. Links: Fareed Zakaria, "The New China Scare: Why America Shouldn’t Panic About Its Latest Challenger" Foreign Affairs, January/February 2020 Christopher Preble, “A Useful Corrective to China Fearmongering,” Cato, December 6, 2019 Christopher A. Preble, “NDAA 2020: Congress Neglects Its Responsibility Once Again,” Cato, December 10, 2019 Salvador Rizzo, "Anatomy of a Trump Rally: 67 Percent of Claims Are False or Lacking Evidence," Washington Post, January 7, 2020 “In 1,055 Days, President Trump Has Made 15,413 False or Misleading Claims,” Washington Post, December 10, 2019 Jordan Hoffman, "No One Knows Where Mike Pence Got His Soleimani 'Facts' From," Vanity Fair, January 4, 2020 John Hudson, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris, and Dan Lemothe, "Killing of Soleimani Follows Long Push From Pompeo For Aggressive Action Against Iran, but Airstrike Brings Serious Risks," Washington Post, January 5, 2020 Richard Fontaine, “Great Power Competition is Washington’s Top Priority, but Not the Public’s,” Foreign Affairs, September 11, 2019 Nils Gilman, “China, Capitalism, and the New Cold War,” American Interest, November 18, 2019 Justin Rohrlich, “A Chinese Tourist Accused of Espionage is the Latest Example of a Growing Threat to US Security,” Quartz, January 5, 2020 Josh Blackman, Tweets, January 6, 2020 Ricky Gervais, 2020 Golden Globes, January 5, 2020 Patrick M. Cronin and Ryan Neuhard, “Total Competition: The China Challenge in the South China Sea,” Center for a New American Security, January 9, 2020 Ann Lee, “The Real Target of the US Assassination of the Iranian Military Leader Qassem Soleimani-China,” South China Morning Post, January 8, 2020 Heritage Pride Productions' “Elf: The Musical,” January 23, 24, and 25th “The Future of Progressive Foreign Policy: 2020 and Beyond,” Cato Policy Forum, January 28, 2020
1/9/202048 minutes, 17 seconds
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The Looming End of Pax Americana?

The Net Assessment crew is back and this week they are breaking down an article written by Brian Stewart in Quillette titled, "Tensions in NATO and the Looming End of Pax Americana." Is NATO worth American attention and money? Why don't the Europeans just get their act together? The crew discusses what threat NATO is designed to counter and whether it should forget about Russia and focus on terrorism. Also, Bryan has a grievance with attorney general Bill Barr, Melanie takes issue with the Danish Atlantic Council, and Chris gives an attaboy to the students at the University of California, Washington Center. Join Melanie, Chris, and Bryan as they dive once more into the breach.   Links Brian Stewart, "Tensions in NATO and the Looming End of Pax Americana," Quillette, December 5, 2019 Bret Stephens, "NATO is Full of Freeloaders. But It's How We Defend the Free World," New York Times, December 5, 2019 "Emmanuel Macron in His Own Words," Economist, November 7, 2019 Katie Benner, "Barr and Durham Publicly, Disagree with Horowitz Report on Russian Inquiry," New York Times, December 12, 2019 Ben Werner, "CNO Gilday Releases New, Simplified Command Guidance to Fleet," USNI News, December 4, 2019 Christopher Preble, "Cops of the World No More," CATO, January 30, 2015 Craig Whitlock, “At War with the Truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019 James Laporta, "Afghan War Report Enrages Veterans and Gold Star Families: Even as More of Us Died, They Lied," Newsweek, December 9, 2019 Jonah Schepp, "A NATO Summit to End All NATO Summits," New York Magazine, December 5, 2019 Mariel Padilla, "NATO Conference is Canceled after US Ambassador Barred a Trump Critic," New York Times, December 8, 2019 "The Day Will Come," Netflix Orlando Parfitt, "The Day Will Come' Claims Top Prize at Denmark's Robert Awards," Screen Daily, February 6, 2017
12/12/201953 minutes, 32 seconds
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Can Bryan Pass the Turing Test?

Chris, Bryan, and Melanie talk about the Interim Report issued by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence last week. What kinds of expectations should we have about AI being used for national security purposes? What kind of investments should be made in this technology, and where will the money come from? What about concerns that AI developed by American companies or the United States government might be used by authoritarian regimes to violate their citizens' human rights? Can we continue to reap the benefits of research collaboration with people from other countries, particularly China, and still protect national security secrets? Finally, Bryan tells us of his exploits in Italy, Chris gives a heartfelt appreciation to a friend and colleague, and Melanie looks forward to some long-awaited playtime with her nephews.   Links National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, Interim Report, November 2019 Jacey Fortin, “Uber C.E.O. Backtracks After Comparing Khashoggi’s Killing to an Accident,” New York Times, November 11, 2019 Andrew Bacevich, “The Berlin Wall Fell and the U.S. learned the Wrong Lessons. It Got Us Donald Trump,” Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2019 Christopher Preble, John Glaser, and A. Trevor Thrall, Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America's Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse, (Cato Institute, 2019) Robert Work and Eric Schmidt, "In Search of Ideas: The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence Wants You," War on the Rocks, July 18, 2019 Ilanit Chernick, "Holocaust Survivors Reunite with Rescuer at Yad Vashem," November 3, 2019, Jerusalem Post "Holocaust Survivor Reunited with a Baby He Saved During World War II," BBC, November 8, 2019 Gina Kolata, "Vast Dragnet Targets Theft of Biomedical Secrets for China," New York Times, November 4, 2019 Melanie Marlow, Tweets, November 11, 2019 “Puffs,” Heritage Pride Productions, November 14-15-16, and 21-22-23
11/14/201952 minutes, 4 seconds
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Strategy and Exit Strategies: Essential or Misleading?

Melanie, Chris, and guest host Claude Berube discuss the promise and pitfalls of exit strategies. When policymakers plan to embark on foreign wars, should they also prepare a plan for extricating the nation from these wars when they are completed? Is an exit strategy a vital component of strategy? Or do exit strategies create unreasonable expectations of easy victory? Can an exit strategy focus attention on a desired end state, and prevent mission creep? Or are prudent adjustments only possible when policymakers are not shackled to pre-war objectives? Chris congratulates New England Patriots’ coach Bill Bellichick on victory number 300, Melanie blasts Sean Duffy for questioning a decorated U.S. Army officer’s patriotism, and Claude delivers a Net Assessment first -- a heartfelt attadog for his beloved four-legged companion, Reagan.   Links David Kampf, "When Are Exit Strategies Viable?" War on the Rocks, October 14, 2019 Adam Wunische, "The Lost Art of Exiting a War," War on the Rocks, October 21, 2019 Devon Clements, "Bill Belichick Becomes 3rd NFL Head Coach Ever to Accumulate 300 Career Wins," Sports Illustrated, October 27, 2019 Christopher Preble, “New Rules for U.S. Military Intervention,” War on the Rocks, September 20, 2016 Richard Fontaine, “The Nonintervention Delusion: What War Is Good For,” Foreign Affairs, November-December 2019 Spencer Ackerman, “Baghdadi Is Dead. The War on Terror Will Create Another,” Daily Beast, October 28, 2019 Doug Bandow and Christopher Preble, “Lost in the Furor Over Syria: Alliances Are a Means, Not an End,” War on the Rocks, October 23, 2019 Ashley Feinberg, "This Sure Looks Like Mitt Romney's Secret Twitter Account," Slate, October 20, 2019 "Sean Duffy on CNN," CNN, October 29, 2019 Aaron Stein, "US Officials Ignored Trump on Syria and We are All Paying the Price," War on the Rocks, October 22, 2019 "The Weinberger Doctrine," Washington Post, November 30, 1984 Jason Whiteley, "No Exit, No Problem," Small Wars Journal, April 21, 2011 James Nolt, "Exit Strategy," World Policy," World Policy, February 23, 2017
10/31/201948 minutes, 50 seconds
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We Just Don’t Make Policy Like We Used To

Join Chris, Melanie, and Bryan as they dive into Professor Philip Zelikow’s recent article in the Texas National Security Review titled, “To Regain Policy Competence: The Software of American Problem Solving.” Has policymaking gotten worse, or is it a problem with implementation? Or is implementation part of the policymaking process? The gang also discusses whether there is a lack of professionalism in the education and training of future policymakers. This week's episode is a little wonky, but well worth the time.  At the end of the show, Bryan gives an attaboy for the first person to complete a marathon in under two hours, while Chris gives a shout out to his wife.   Links Philip Zelikow, "To Regain Policy Competence: The Software of American Public Problem-Solving," Texas National Security Review, September 2019 John Glaser, Christopher Preble, A. Trevor Thrall, Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America’s Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse (and How We Can Recover) (Cato Institute, 2019) Justin Logan, “Cult of the Irrelevant: National Security Eggheads & Academics,” American Conservative, June 12, 2019 Danielle Pletka, Tweet, October 13, 2019 Justin Logan, Tweet, October 13, 2019 Danielle Pletka, Tweet, October 13, 2019 Krista Preble, LinkedIn Alex Horton, "A Latina Novelist Spoke About White Privilege. Students Burned Her Book in Response," Washington Post, October 11, 2019 Tim Hains, "Beto O'Rourke: Churches That Oppose Same-Sex Marriage Should Lose Tax-Exempt Status," Real Clear Politics, October 11, 2019 Ryan Prior, "Farmers in Idaho Rallied to Harvest a Neighbor's Potatoes as a Deep Freeze Threatened to Ruin Them," CNN, October 11, 2019 Tariq Tahir, "Nobel Peace Prize 2019 – Greta Thunberg Snubbed as Award Given to Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed for Ending 20 Year Eritrea Conflict," Sun, October 11, 2019 Chris Stein, "Nobel Snub No Obstacle in Great Thunberg's Climate Quest," Yahoo News, October 11, 2019 Andrew Keh, "Eliud Kipchoge Breaks Two-Hour Marathon Barrier," New York Times, October 12, 2019 The Bulwark Podcast, "Bryan McGrath on Trump and American Exceptionalism," October 14, 2019
10/17/201955 minutes
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Syria: A Sad Tale

Bryan is celebrating the anniversary of our first episode on a beach, so this week, Chris and Melanie are joined by Tom Karako of CSIS. In this episode they discuss the Syria Study Group Report, which concludes that "the US can still influence the outcome of the Syrian war in a manner that protects US interests." Does America have interests in Syria? If so, can they be managed and protected, particularly with a president who seems uninterested in investing political capital and American resources there? How has the Syrian civil war affected Russia, Iran, and Turkey, and does that matter to America? Finally, is there anything the United States should do about the terrible humanitarian situation, the effects of which have spilled over to other countries? Tom tells us about taking his son to his first baseball game (go Nats!), Chris has a birthday wish for a former president, and Melanie both sticks it to and congratulates the press. We can't wait for Bryan to return and give us his review of the Downton Abbey movie!   Links "Syria Study Group Final Report," United States Institute of Peace, September 24, 2019 Josh Blackman, "When Is It Acceptable Journalistic Practice to Surface Old Social Media Posts?" Reason, September 27, 2019 Vance Serchuk, "Russia's Middle East Power Play," National Review, September 12, 2019 Michael Singh, Tweet, September 23, 2019 Trevor Thrall, “Resettling Syria’s Refugees Would Be Cheaper Than Widening the War,” Defense One, October 21, 2015 Alex Nowrasteh, “Terrorists by Immigration Status and Nationality: A Risk Analysis, 1975 – 2017,” Cato, May 7, 2019 Kareem Fahim, “In ‘60 Minutes’ Interview, Saudi Crown Prince Denies Ordering Khashoggi Killing,” Washington Post, September 29, 2019 Anna Massoglia, “Saudi Arabia Ramped Up Multi-Million Foreign Influence Operation After Khashoggi’s Death,” Open Secrets, October 2, 2019 Elizabeth Wolfe and Brian Ries, “Jimmy Carter, the Oldest Living Former US President, Is 95 Today,” CNN, October 1, 2019 Reis Thebault and Brittany Shammas, "Amber Guyger, Police Officer Who Shot a Man to Death in His Apartment, Found Guilty of Murder," Washington Post, October 1, 2019 Josh Blackman, "When is It Acceptable Journalistic Practice to 'Surface' Old Social Media Posts?" Reason, September 27, 2019 Jack Detsch, "Congress Aims to Restore Syria Stabilization Aid," Al-Monitor, September 18, 2019 Brett McGurk, "Hard Truths in Syria," Foreign Affairs, May 28, 2019 Eric Schmitt, "US Sees Rising Threat in the West from Qaeda Branch in Syria," New York Times, September 30, 2019 Brittany Shamas, "When Trump's Special Envoy to Ukraine Resigned, a Student Newspaper Beat Everyone to the Story," Washington Post, September 28, 2019 "Timeline: Syria's Eight Years of Fire and Blood," Reuters, March 16, 2019 Keith Pandolfi, "How to Refinish Woodwork," This Old House "Hypersonic," Merriam-Webster Events "NATO: The Dangerous Dinosaur," Cato Book Forum, October 18, 2019 "Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America’s Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse (and How We Can Recover)," Cato Book Forum, October 21, 2019
10/3/201953 minutes, 32 seconds
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What Can We Do About Terrorism?

What have we learned in the 18 years since 9/11? Chris, Melanie, and Bryan discuss whether counterterrorism policy takes account of academic research on the subject. Going forward, the goal should be to implement the most cost-effective policies — and over time, to calm public anxiety about terrorism. Bryan gives a shout out to a bipartisan duo of Net Assessment fans, Chris gripes about NFL officiating, and Melanie offers her appreciation of the Constitution via an unlikely source: former Vice President Joe Biden.   Links Khusrav Gaibulloev and Todd Sandler, "Six Things We've Learned About Terrorism Since 9/11," Washington Post, September 11, 2019 Khusrav Gaibulloev and Todd Sandler, "What We Have Learned about Terrorism since 9/11," Journal of Economic Literature, June, 2019 John Mueller and Mark Stewart, Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security, (Oxford, 2011) John Mueller and Mark Stewart, Are We Safe Enough? Measuring and Assessing Aviation Security, (Elsevier, 2018) Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner, "Step Back: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy from the Failed War on Terror," Cato, June 26, 2017 Scott Simon, "Edward Snowden Tells NPR: The Executive Branch Sort of Hacked the Constitution," NPR, September 12, 2019 Tom Schad, "As New Season Begins, NFL Coaches Still Trying to Sort Out Pass Interference Rule Changes," USA Today, September 5, 2019 Christopher Preble, “Covert Wars, to What End?" War on the Rocks, August 7, 2019 Austin Carson, "Recipient of the Georgetown University Lepgold Prize," Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago, September 4, 2019 Ari Cohn, Tweet, September 12, 2019 International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association, Tweet, August 19, 2019
9/19/201950 minutes, 29 seconds
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Mattispalooza: Deconstructing the Legacy of James Mattis

Join Chris, Melanie, and Bryan as they assess Jim Mattis' legacy as secretary of defense and the media splash he is making while promoting his new book. Mattis is a complicated character, and his reasons for entering the administration, for leaving the administration, and for coyly restraining his comments after leaving are similarly complicated. Although President Donald Trump's early affinity for having former generals in key positions in his administration has cooled, the debate over the role retired flag and general officers should play in America's national security political discourse rages on.   Links Jim Mattis, "Duty, Democracy and the Threat of Tribalism," Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2019 Jeffrey Goldberg, "The Man Who Couldn't Take It Anymore," Atlantic, October 2019 Issue Dan Lamothe and Greg Jaffe, "Emerging from His Silence, Mattis Faces Criticism for Trying to Take the 'Middle Road' on Trump," Washington Post, August 29, 2019 Jim Mattis and Bing West, Call Sing Chaos: Learning to Lead, (Random House, September 2019) Jim Mattis, "Letter from Secretary James Mattis," Defense, December 20, 2019 Mallory Hughes, "When a Boy with Autism was Overwhelmed on the First Day of School, Another Little Boy Held His Hand," CNN, August 27, 2019 Tyler Jost and Joshua D. Kertzer, “Armies and Influence: Public Deference to Foreign Policy Elites,” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, 2019, Hannah Natanson, “A Broken Bingo Machine Left Rhis D.C. Veterans’ Retirement Home Mourning. A 16-year-old girl decided to help” Washington Post, September 2, 2019 Stephen Wertheim, “The Quincy Institute Opposes America’s Endless Wars. Why Should that Be a Scandal?” Washington Post, August 30, 2018 The Human Costs of War: Assessing Civilian Casualties since 9/11, Policy Forum, Cato Institute, September 11, 2019 Ted Galen Carpenter, NATO: The Dangerous Dinosaur, Cato Institute, October 18, 2019
9/5/201950 minutes, 16 seconds
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Does Trump’s Trade War Spell the End of the Global Order?

This week the gang talks about President Trump’s trade policies and why trade wars can be bad and hard to win. Do we have a strategy for success, or is the president simply venting frustration through erratic policies? What is the endgame? How do America's economic policies, especially with regard to China, affect U.S. national security? Other highlights: Chris condemns Trump’s attempt to buy Greenland, Melanie finds a CEO worthy of immense respect, and Bryan explains why real British royalty isn’t as appealing as the Netflix version.   Links Chad P. Bown and Douglas A. Irwin, "Trump's Assault on the Global Trading System: And Why Decoupling from China Will Change Everything," Foreign Affairs, September 2019 Chad P. Bown and Melina Kolb, "Trump's Trade War Timeline: An Up-to-Date Guide," Peterson Institute for International Economics, August 13, 2019 Madeleine Kearns, "Royals, Climate Change, and Private Jets," National Review, August 19, 2019 Scott Lincicome, CATO Institute Simon Lester and Huan Zhu, "Closing Pandora's Box: The Growing Abuse of the National Security Rationale for Restricting Trade," CATO Institute, June 25, 2019 "Clashing over Commerce: A History of U.S. Trade Policy," Cato Institute, January 24, 2018 Pierre Lemieux, “Peter Navarro’s Conversion,” Regulation, Fall 2018 John Harwood, “Americans Overwhelmingly Support Free Trade as Concern Grows About Trump’s Economy: NBC/WSJ Poll,” CNBC, August 19, 2019 Scott Lincicome, "The ‘Protectionist Moment’ That Wasn’t: American Views on Trade and Globalization," Cato Institute, November 2, 2018 "Former Danish PM Lied About Iraq War Plans," Local, July 3, 2015 Tim Marcin, “Denmark to Trump: Seriously, Greenland Isn't for Sale,” Vice News, August 19, 2019 Maggie Fitzgerald, “Here’s What New Tariffs Will Cost the Average American Household,” CNBC, August 19, 2019 “Exploring the Militarization of US Foreign Policy,” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, August 31, 2019 “The Human Costs of War: Assessing Civilian Casualties since 9/11,” Cato Institute, September 11, 2019
8/21/201943 minutes, 49 seconds
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Explaining Mission Creep in Afghanistan

Special guest Rick Berger joins Bryan and Chris for a discussion of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the state of civil-military relations. The post-9/11 mission expanded from counterterrorism to nation-building, but this occurred, according to CSIS’s Mark Cancian, without a serious "discussion about the relationship between the desired end state and the military effort required to reach it." Bryan, Rick, and Chris disagree on whether that’s actually true — and whether it matters. Bryan gives kudos to National Review’s Kevin Williamson for making the case for independent thinking, Chris knocks CNN and the Democratic debaters for spending too little time on foreign policy, and Rick praises newly installed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper for his plan to beef up conventional deterrence in the Asia-Pacific.   Links   Mark F. Cancian, "Tell Me How This Ends: Military Advice, Strategic Goals, and the "Forever War" in Afghanistan," CSIS, July 10, 2019 Caroline Dorminey and Eric Gomez, "America's Nuclear Crossroads: A Forward-Looking Anthology," CATO Institute Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Julian E. Barnes, "S. Military Calls ISIS in Afghanistan a Threat to the West. Intelligence Officials Disagree," New York Times, August 2, 2019 Felix Tam and Anne Marie Roantree, "Trump Says It's Up to China to Deal with Hong Kong Riots," Reuters, August 2, 2019 "Interview with Kevin Williamson," C-Span, July 19, 2019 Max Boot, "The Case for American Empire," The Weekly Standard, October 15, 2001 Justin Logan and Christopher Preble, “Fatal Conceit,” National Review, August 12, 2010 Fred Kaplan, “Five Minutes to Explain the World,” Slate, August 1, 2019 Congressional Budget Office, "Funding for Overseas Contingency Operations and its Impact on Defense Spending," October 2018 Rick Berger, "Why Withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan Won’t Save Much Money," Defense One, February 26, 2019    
8/8/201946 minutes, 19 seconds
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Bold Strokes from the Commandant of the Marine Corps

Join Melanie, Chris, and Bryan as they discuss the recently released Commandant's Planning Guidance, a document from the new Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger that has taken the seapower community by storm. In the guidance, Berger slays at least five USMC sacred cows and provides a framework for integration between the Navy and the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy. Also, Chris has an issue with presidential tweeting and Bryan complains about the weather.    Links "Commandant of the Marine Corps Planning Guidance: 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps," Headquarters Marine Corps Taylor Dinerman, "Why Apollo 11 Matters," National Review, July 20, 2019 Michelle Basch, "Apollo 11 Tribute Features Stunning Projections Onto Washington Monument," WTOP, July 20, 2019 Elizabeth Janney, "Heat Advisory Issues for Maryland," Patch, June, 30, 2018 Robin Emmott, "Britain Wins Early European Support for Hormuz Naval Mission," Reuters, July 23, 2019 Chris Spargo, "Predatory Lender," Daily Mail, July 22, 2019 Kevin D. Williamson, "Trump’s Omar Comments Erode Our Sense of Citizenship," Yahoo, July 21, 2019 Joe Sestak, “We're to Blame for Escalating Tensions With Iran,” Des Moines Register, July 20, 2019 Daniel Larison, “Sestak’s Sensible Warning against War with Iran,” American Conservative, July 22, 2019 Donald Trump, Tweets, July 14, 2019     
7/25/201950 minutes, 3 seconds
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Is America Poised to Lose the Next War?

Bryan, Chris, and Melanie take on a new report by Chris Dougherty that argues that, unless America changes how it fights wars to more closely align with the priorities laid out in the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), it is in real danger of losing the next war to China or Russia. Has the thinking in the NDS become conventional wisdom? Is Dougherty's assessment overly pessimistic? Is there sufficient political will to follow through with expensive, long-term changes? Are American military planners up to the intellectual challenge? Finally, Bryan gives us the rundown on his much-anticipated staycation, Chris has some love for the U.S Women's Soccer Team, and Melanie hopes we can do a better job learning our history.   Links: Christopher M. Dougherty, "Why America Needs a New Way of War," CNAS, June 2019 Ellen Barry, "In Leak, U.K. Ambassador to U.S. Calls Trump Administration Inept and Clumsy," New York Times, July 07, 2019 Kate Sullivan, Zachary Cohen, and Jamie Crawford, "Admiral Set to Become Navy's Top Officer Retires Over Inappropriate Professional Relationship," CNN, July 07, 2019 Mike Gallagher, "Sate of Deterrence by Denial," Washington Quarterly, 2019 Bari Weiss, "San Francisco Will Spend $600,000 to Erase History," New York Times, June 28, 2019 Sarah Mervosh, "Principal Who Tried to Stay 'Politically Neutral' about Holocaust is Removed," New York Times, July 8, 2019 David Stout, “Janne E. Nolan, Principled Adviser on World Affairs, Is Dead at 67,” New York Times, July 8, 2019 Francis J. Gavin, “Remembering Janne,” War on the Rocks, July 2, 2019 Justin Amash, “Our Politics is in a Partisan Death Spiral. That’s Why I’m Leaving the GOP,” Washington Post, July 4, 2019  
7/10/201946 minutes, 4 seconds
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Deciphering the Trump Administration’s Iran Policy

Melanie, Bryan, and Chris discuss the Trump administration’s recent struggles to explain its policy toward Iran. What does President Donald Trump hope to achieve? What evidence is there that the policy of “maximum pressure” will succeed? Does the administration have the authority to launch military attacks against Iran, either under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) or under Article II of the Constitution? Or must they go to Congress for a new AUMF? And to what extent do various personnel decisions explain the frequent misalignment between Trump’s stated objectives and the actual results? This episode also includes praise for a belated effort to reclaim Congress’s war powers, while Harvard earns scorn for its counterproductive ploy to advance gender equality. There’s criticism, too, for short-sighted opponents of another round of military base closures. Links "Oversight of the Trump Administration's Iran Policy," S. House of Representative Committee on Foreign Affairs, June 19, 2019 Bret Stephens, "The Pirates of Tehran: If Iran Won't Change Its Behavior, We Should Sink Its Navy," New York Times, June 14, 2019 Andrew J. Bacevich, “Bret Stephens, Warmonger,” The American Conservative, June 18, 2019 Michael Bender and Gordon Lubold, "Trump Bucked National-Security Aides on Proposed Iran Attack," Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2019 “Dubious Legal Authority in the Push for War with Iran,” Cato Daily Podcast, June 20, 2019 “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” New York Times, September 5, 2018 Tom Vanden Brook and Kevin Johnson, "Shanahan Did Not Disclose Domestic Fight Before His 2017 Confirmation As Deputy Defense Secretary," USA Today, June 22, 2019 Jonathan Swam, Juliet Bartz, Alayna Treene, Orion Rummler, "Exclusive: Leaked Trump Vetting Docs," Axios, June 23, 2019 Nahal Toosi, “Trump Envoy Not Ruling Out Using Afghan War Law to Justify Iranian Strikes,” Politico, June 19, 2019 “House Votes to Repeal Authorization for the Use of Military Force,” The Week, June 19, 2019 Joe Gould, “US Senate Votes to Kill Saudi Arms Sales, Defying Trump Veto Threat,” Defense News, June 20, 2019 Harry Lewis, “Harvard’s Infantilizing Private Club Policy is Part of a Bigger Agenda,” Washington Post, June 24, 2019 “Treasury Targets Key Al-Qa’ida Funding and Support Network Using Iran as a Critical Transit Point,” US Department of the Treasury, July 28, 2011 Jeff Schogol, “The Pentagon Says Iran Killed More US Troops in Iraq than Previously Known,” Task and Purpose, April 4, 2019 George Will, The Conservative Sensibility, (Hachette Books, 2019) Peter Wehner, The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump, (HarperOne, 2019) Kingston Reif, Tweets, June 22, 2019 Chase Madar, Tweets, June 22, 2019 Sustainable Defense Task Force, Center for International Policy The John Hay Initiative Center for International Policy’s Sustainable Defense Task Force The Navy Yard in Philadelphia "The Tunnel," PBS "Black Mirror," Netflix Quillette  
6/27/201949 minutes, 6 seconds
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Is Realism Realistic?

Is the Trump administration pursuing a realist foreign policy? In a recent speech, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicates that it is, while Brett McGurk, in his article in Foreign Affairs, disagrees. Listen in to hear what Melanie, Chris, and Bryan think, as well as to hear Chris' views on Canadian sportsmanship.   Links Brett McGurk, "American Foreign Policy Adrift: Pompeo Is Calling for Realism-Trump Isn’t Delivering," Foreign Affairs, June 05, 2019 Khadrice Rollins, "Cheering for Injuries Didn't Start in Toronto, But That's Where It Should End," Sports Illustrated, June 11, 2019 William Smith, "Mike Pompeo: American Jacobin," American, May 28, 2019 Heather Hurlburt, "More Diplomacy, Less Intervention, but for What? Making Sense of the Grand Strategy Debate," Lawfare, June 07, 2019 Rick Atkinson, The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, (Henry Holt and Co, 2019) George Will, The Conservative Sensibility, (Hachette Books, 2019) Jennifer McDermott and Michelle R. Smith, "Naval War College Heads Reassigned Pending Investigation," Navy Times, June 11, 2019 Austin Ramzy "Hong Kong Leader, Carrie Lam, Says She Won't Back Down on Extradition Bill," New York Times, June 10, 2019 Michael R. Pompeo, "Remarks at the Claremont Institute 40th Anniversary Gala: A Foreign Policy From the Founding," S. Department of State, May 11, 2019 Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, "Trump Undercuts Bolton on North Korea and Iran," New York Times, May 27, 2019 David A. Graham, "Trump Sides with North Korea against the CIA," Atlantic, June 10, 2019 Eliana Johnson, "Pompeo and Bolton Tensions Escalate as Iran Debate Intensifies," Politico, May 17, 2019 Robert Costa, "'I Think You Mean That, Too: Trump's Aides Struggle to Defend, Explain His Foreign Policy Statements," Washington Post, March 6, 2019 Chris Dougherty, "Why America Needs a New Way of War," Center for a New American Century, June 12, 2019 Mike Benitez, "F-15X: The Strategic Blind Spot in the Air Force's Fighter Debate," War on the Rocks, June 3, 2019, Alexander Hamilton, "Federalist No. 70"     
6/14/201947 minutes, 22 seconds
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Hypersonic Weapons - Gimmick or Game Changer?

Chris is on a big adventure, so Bryan and Melanie are left alone to discuss hypersonic weapons and the challenges and opportunities they present for America's national security. Do they represent a "game-changer" for defense planners, or simply an incremental shift in technology? Will developing hypersonic weapons increase the likelihood of war? While the United States is beginning to invest in the offensive side of these weapons, is it doing enough to defend against a Chinese or Russian threat? Finally, Bryan gives his expert opinion on the series finale of Game of Thrones and Melanie shows some love for a public interest law firm working to help military families.     Links Jyri Raitasalo, "Hypersonic Weapons Are No Game-Changer," National Interest, January 5, 2019 Heather Venable and Clarence Abercrombie, "Muting the Hype Over Hypersonics: The Offense-Defense Balance in Historical Perspective," War on the Rocks, May 28, 2019 John Dolan, Richard Gallagher, and David Mann, "Hypersonic Weapons – A Threat to National Security," Real Clear Defense, April 23, 2019 Mary Kate Aylward, "Hypersonic Weapons: Revolutionary or Just New?" Army, August 15, 2018 Andrew Siddons, "McConnell Introduces Bill Making the legal Smoking Age 21," Roll Call, May 20, 2019 Ed Kilgore, "Military Brass Warn Trump Against Memorial Day Pardons for War Criminals," New York Magazine, May 22, 2019 Palko Karasz, "Iran Slams U.S. After Middle East Troop Buildup Is Announced," New York Time, May 25, 2019 Rónán Duffy, "Theresa May on the Brink As Andrea Leadsom Resigns from Government," The Journal, May 22, 2019 Alexander Smith, "European Parliament Elections: 5 Takeaways from the Results," NBC News, May 27, 2019 Audra D.S. Burch, David Gelles, and Emily S. Rueb, "Morehouse College Graduates' Student Loans to be Paid Off by Billionaire," New York Time, May 19, 2019 Institute for Justice Dan Mihalopoulos, Tweets, May 23, 2019 AP West Region, Tweets, May 27, 2019    
5/30/201943 minutes, 5 seconds
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A Failure of Leadership? Americans’ Views of U.S. Foreign Policy

Donald Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016 and then beat Hillary Clinton in the general election, in part, by pledging to focus on America’s domestic problems, including raising worker wages, solving the problem of unemployment and underemployment, and repairing the nation’s failing infrastructure. But he was hardly alone in taking this stance. The last four U.S. presidents were elected on promises to fight fewer foreign wars. Recent surveys show why such appeals are successful: The American people want to do more nation-building at home — and less of it abroad. Chris, Bryan, and guest co-host Rachel Hoff unpack the latest survey of U.S. public attitudes on foreign policy. Does Americans’ desire for a different form of global engagement, one that is less dependent upon U.S. military power, reflect a failure on the part of America’s foreign policy elite to explain the continued value of U.S. primacy? Or should those elites do more listening and less lecturing? Related, in the grievances portion of the podcast, Bryan and Chris disagree over whether war weariness is a sign of a mature foreign policy debate or rather evidence of Americans’ collective adolescence. Rachel offers attaboys to Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mike Gallagher, Bryan praises Larry Kudlow, and Chris gives kudos to Sen. Chris Murphy.   Links John Halpin, Brian Katulis, Peter Juul, Karl Agne, Jim Gerstein, and Nisha Jain, "America Adrift: How the U.S. Foreign Policy Debate Misses What Voters Really Want," Center for American Progress, May 05, 2019 David V. Gioe, "Make America Strategic Again," National Interest, April 17, 2019 Kyle Rempfer, "H.R. McMaster Says the Public is Fed A 'War-Weariness' Narrative That Hurts U.S. Strategy," Military Times, May 09, 2019 Sam Brodey, "White House Top Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow Undercuts Trump on Tariffs," Daily Beast, May 12, 2019 Chris Murphy, Twitter, May 13, 2019 Emma Ashford, Twitter, May 10, 2019 Loren DeJonge Shulman, Twitter, May 10, 2019 John Glaser, Christopher A. Preble, and A. Trevor Thrall, Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America's Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse (and How We Can Recover) (Cato Institute, Forthcoming 2019) "2018 National Defense Survey," Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, November 2018 2019 Nominees, The Cappies of the National Capital Area  
5/16/201949 minutes, 14 seconds