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The Burn Bag Podcast

Author: A'ndre Gonawela and Ryan Rosenthal

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The *hottest* national security and foreign policy podcast featuring conversations with leading policy practitioners, thinkers, and leaders. In each episode, we open up a 'burn bag' to breakdown some of the most pressing security challenges of today's world with the people who have worked and lived them.
88 Episodes
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In this week's episode, Javed Ali joins A'ndre and Ryan to discuss the ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline and the Biden Administration's domestic terrorism measures. They also address the recent escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Be sure to check out Javed's new op-ed on combating domestic terrorism.
In this week's episode, A'ndre and Ryan dissect the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with University of Michigan Professor Victor Lieberman. This episode provides a broad overview of the conflict itself, going back more than a 100 years and framing the conflict as not one between Muslims and Jews, but one between two rival nationalisms -- Zionism and Palestinian Nationalism. Professor Lieberman provides a timeline that goes back to the days of the Ottoman Empire and then into the British administered Mandatory Palestine, the demographic shifts that occurred in the region due to European anti-Semitism, and the political and armed conflicts leading up to creation of the State of Israel. Professor Lieberman digs into the wars between Israel and its Arab state neighbors, the nature of Palestinian political leadership, and the relationship between the goals of the Arab states and the goal of a Palestinian state.  Land, borders, and failures in diplomacy form a large bulk of the discussion, and Professor Lieberman rounds out the conversation with why he is cautiously pessimistic about any potential resolution to the conflict. The conversation aims to effectively and objectively cover the hundred year conflict in one hour, providing a primer that will help our audience formulate opinions on their own, given the issue's sensitive nature.  Professor Victor Lieberman teaches a popular course on the Arab-Israeli conflict at the University of Michigan, where he serves as the Raoul Wallenberg Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Asian and Comparative History. His effective and objective teaching style was rewarded with the Golden Apple Award in 2014 -- given to a professor for outstanding teaching, by the students.   
In this week's episode, A'ndre and Ryan provide an update on the COVID crisis in India, breakdown the protests in Colombia, and dig into the political situations in the United Kingdom and Israel.  They also discuss Facebook's Oversight Board and whether dogecoin is going to the moon. 
Welcome to the fifth installment of The Burn Bag Podcast's special collaboration with The Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Security and Strategy,  where we highlight contributions to the Scowcroft Center's "100 Ideas for the First 100 Days" project. The fifth episode in the series delves into two big ideas by Stephen Shapiro, and Lt. Col. Matthew Crouch and Clementine Starling. Stephen talks about why the U.S. Government's domestic intelligence operations need significant reform, and proposes the idea that there be a Deputy Director of National Intelligence who'd lead domestic coordination amongst the varying intelligence agencies. In the second idea, Lt. Col. Crouch and Clementine dig into why the U.S. needs to spearhead a multilateral security architecture in the Indo-Pacific, given the rise and bellicosity of China.
In this week's episode of The Burn Bag Podcast, A'ndre and Ryan speak to Professor Stephen Walt, a distinguished thinker in international relations who currently teaches at Harvard University. Professor Walt, a leading scholar and subscriber to the school of realism in international relations, spoke to us about the state of U.S. power in the world today, and on the idea of primacy (the U.S. being the 'first among equals') and why/how the U.S. can maintain it. This leads to a broader conversation on U.S. grand strategy and the viability of 'offshore balancing' versus hegemony. A discussion on U.S. alliances and the threats from China and Russia follows, wrapping with Professor Walt's thoughts on the post-COVID world order.Professor Walt is a regular contributor to Foreign Policy, and you can check out the litany of books and other publications he has here.
In this week's episode, A'ndre and Ryan breakdown President Biden's address to Congress, noting in particular the focus on China and strengthening democracy. They also discuss the status of Alexei Navalny and India's COVID crisis.
In this week's episode, A'ndre and Ryan talk with Nilanthi Samaranayake, director of the Strategy and Policy Analysis Program at the Center for Naval Analyses.  Nilanthi provides an overview of the Indian Ocean region, its strategic importance, and geopolitics. They also discuss the role of China in the region and how India and the United States can work to push back against Chinese influence. The conversation concludes with a broader discussion of U.S. strategy and then future of bilateral and multilateral relations with Indian Ocean powers.Click here to learn more about Nilanthi and her work.
In this week's episode, A'ndre and Ryan provide an update on  opposition politician Alexei Navalny and discuss the domestic political situation in Russia. They also talk about the implications of the U.S. withdrawal of Afghanistan,  President Biden's coming recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and potential progress in nuclear negotiations with Iran. UPDATE: Alexei Navalny ended his hunger strike and has received medical attention.
In this week's episode, we speak with Dr. John Ciorciari about his new book, “Sovereignty Sharing in Fragile States.” Dr. Ciorciari discusses what sovereignty sharing is, defining it as "consent-based agreements between a national government and international actors to share domestic authority," and he goes on to outline the governance challenges around the world that motivated him to write the book. Dr. Ciorciari explains the common denominators underlying state 'fragility', and why he chose to focus on the 'rule of law' in contextualizing his analysis in the book, and why 'rule of law' reform is very difficult in the international setting -- especially in establishing governmental institutions. Dr. Ciorciari describes incentives and downsides of sovereignty sharing for both host and donor country, whether U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan were sovereignty sharing situations, and how corruption and foreign policy have shaped sovereignty sharing.
In this week's episode, A'ndre and Ryan are joined by Javed Ali, Executive Producer and former NSC Senior Director for Counterterrorism. They discuss President Biden's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, new sanctions on Russia, the attack on Iran's nuclear facility, and competition with China. 
Welcome to the fourth installment of The Burn Bag Podcast's special collaboration with The Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Security and Strategy,  where we highlight contributions to the Scowcroft Center's "100 Ideas for the First 100 Days" project. The fourth episode in the series delves into two big ideas with Ash Jain and Ambassador Alexander Vershbow. First, Ash Jain speaks on why the United States needs to establish a D-10 — a group of democracies that would work together as a steering committee to address global challenges. Second, Ambassador Vershbow discusses how the United States may want to think about denuclearizing North Korea through a “parallel track” approach.
On this episode of the Burn Bag, we speak with Dr. Kennette Benedict, current Senior Advisor and former Executive Director and Publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, about nuclear weapons and the geopolitical policy challenges surrounding the "world's most dangerous technology." Dr. Benedict begins the conversation by giving us an overview of the origins of the atomic bomb, its usage against Japan, and how it affected war-fighting strategy and whether leaders ever actively thought about deploying the bomb after World War II. We then discuss what exactly a nuclear weapon is, and what U.S. nuclear capabilities look like in the present day. Dr. Benedict also provides us with her take on the how real the threat of nuclear war is today, and why substantial denuclearization is possible.You can check out more of Dr. Benedict's work here. 
In this week’s episode, A’ndre and Ryan talk about the Pape Report on January 6, violence in Northern Ireland, and the Ukraine/Russia situation. They also discuss Jordan’s monarchical infighting and political uncertainty in Singapore.
In the latest episode of The Burn Bag Podcast, we interview Glenn Gerstell, who as General Counsel, was the top lawyer at the National Security Agency between 2015 and 2020. We begin the conversation by getting Glenn's thoughts on why he believes that online disinformation is a national security threat, why cyber-propelled disinformation is very different from the spread of 'old-fashioned' propaganda, and whether the 2020 Election's disinformation was primarily bolstered by Russia or domestic actors. Glenn outlines approaches that we can take to address disinformation, and provides his own views on Section 230. We then move on into the SolarWinds hack and broader issues around cyber-espionage, and what the state of U.S. cyber-security is. We close out the conversation on the topic of grappling with privacy amidst concerns about domestic terror threats, and the clear lines that are drawn with regards to how the NSA conducts surveillance abroad. Glenn ends by talking about why the Intelligence Community needs to adapt, and how we can rethink our idea of what 'national security' is.You can check out more of Glenn's work here.
In this week's episode, A'ndre and Ryan talk about Alexei Navalny's hunger strike, Israeli politics, and the South China Sea. They also discuss the rise of ISIS in Mozambique, a growing spat between Egypt and Ethiopia over water, and Russia's aggressive moves on the Ukraine border.
On this week’s episode of The Burn Bag, we talk  counterintelligence with Bill Priestap, former Head of Counterintelligence at the FBI, and Holden Triplett, former Director of Counterintelligence on the National Security Council. Priestap and Triplett give an overview on counterintelligence, highlighting how it has changed over the past 20 years, and what types of operations the FBI has worked to respond to. They discuss the FBI’s role in thwarting espionage along with outlining what coordination looks like between the FBI and other agencies, such as the CIA in addressing these foreign threats. Priestap and Triplett highlight how extensive efforts are by foreign adversaries to recruit Americans to spy on their own country, and what the general threat of this has and does look like. Both dive into some modern day challenges, giving us a look at corporate espionage, the controversy behind Confucius Institutes, and developments around cyber-espionage. We wrap the episode with a discussion how we can address domestic threats, as evident in the January 6th insurrection and similar threats.
In this week's episode, A'ndre and Ryan talk about the cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal, North Korea's missile tests, and Taiwan's looming China threat. They also discuss Israel's political deadlock,  the economic crisis in Turkey, and Biden's border problem. 
Welcome to the third installment of The Burn Bag Podcast's special collaboration with The Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Security and Strategy,  where we highlight contributions to the Scowcroft Center's "100 Ideas for the First 100 Days" project. The third episode in the series delves into three big ideas with Robert Manning, Safa Shahwan Edwards, and James Danoy.  First, Robert Manning speaks on why we need to harness artificial intelligence for cooperation, in order to create a regulatory regime for the rapidly proliferating technology. Second, Safa Shahwan Edwards discusses why a cybersecurity alliance is necessary given the rise of digital governance and disruptive technologies. Lastly, James Danoy highlights why new perspectives on national security require that the Health and Human Services Department be made a permanent member of the intelligence community. 
On this week’s episode of the Burn Bag, we talk to Jonna Mendez, former CIA Chief of Disguise, about her work in the CIA. Mendez discusses her reasons for joining the agency, her time as an intelligence officer, and the history behind the Office of Technical Service (OTS). She analyzes the successes and failures of the products that the OTS produced and delves into the measures she and others had to take to thwart intelligence services in Russia, Cuba, and other areas where CIA assets were active. Jonna highlights the importance of human intelligence, revealing to us what the relationship was like between officer and agent, and speculates on how this form of intelligence may have changed given technological advances. We also chat to Jonna about the intricacies of the disguises she made, and why the "Tom Cruise peel" from Mission Impossible should be the "Jonna Mendez peel" -- as she details a famous meeting she had with President George H.W. Bush in which she demonstrated the efficacy of facial masks. We close the conversation with a discussion about the true story behind Academy Award winning movie Argo -- as Jonna talks about her late husband Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) and his role in the Canadian Caper operation during the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1980. Jonna will be releasing a new book, "In True Face", in the near future, and you can check out more of her work and her writing here.
In this week’s episode, A’ndre and Ryan recap the Quad meeting, discuss the Biden-Putin drama, and dissect the uptick in  migrants at the US southern border. They also talk about the recently released National Intelligence Council report on foreign threats to the 2020 election. 
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