There is an adage, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” America’s foreign policy establishment has long relied on the country’s overwhelming military might, disregarding the complexity of the challenges we face, and neglecting the other tools in our national tool box.
In the None Of The Above podcast, EGF seeks alternative visions for American strength. With some of the money we currently spend on unnecessary weapons systems and vast networks of outmoded overseas military bases, what kinds of investments could we be making in education or infrastructure, or healthcare for veterans? How much of our national debt could we pay off, or what kinds of tax cuts could we offer American workers? How might we refocus on America’s vital national interests and recommit to engaging the public in the foreign policy decisions which affect their lives? In the current moment, what should America’s grand strategy and regional objectives be?
Unfortunately, as the United States confronts an ever-changing set of international challenges, our foreign policy leaders continue to offer the same old answers. In None Of The Above, EGF’s Mark Hannah asks leading global thinkers for new answers and new ideas to guide an America increasingly adrift in the world.
By portraying in vivid detail the choices our elected leaders are making on our behalf, putting those choices in historic context, and suggesting alternative, affirmative uses of American treasure and talent, we hope to pivot from a foreign policy seemingly driven by impulse to one driven by insight.
Episode 1: The Problem of Our Power
Our first episode confronts the paradox of America’s military might. As the Cato Institute’s Chris Preble sees it, exorbitant spending on national defense actually makes America less safe. We examine the historical roots and potential consequences of our outsized military industrial complex.
Episode 2: The Germany of Asia?
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un clearly have a complicated relationship. Former CIA analyst Sue Mi Terry makes the case for reunification of the Korean peninsula, and helps us understand what’s at stake in the ongoing U.S.—North Korea talks.
Episode 3: Engaging the Enemy
As the U.S. seeks a resolution to America’s longest war, we’re joined by Chris Kolenda, the first American to have both fought against—and then engaged in diplomatic talks with—the Taliban
Episode 4: The Art of the (Iran Nuclear) Deal
After the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and imposed the toughest ever sanctions against the Tehran, it seems to many that the president is seeking a pretext for war. Trump threatened “the official end of Iran” if the U.S. were provoked. The Iranian foreign minister condemned such “genocidal taunts,” and accused the U.S. of provocations. Trita Parsi, the author of several books on U.S.-Iranian relations, helps us make sense of the most recent tensions.
Episode 5: A Fitter Force
A new generation of military veterans who fought in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq confronts new challenges. News reports emphasize the trauma and loss associated with military service. But Kayla Williams, who served in Iraq and is now an advocate on veterans issues, explodes these myths and misconceptions as she shares both her personal experiences and professional expertise with war and its aftermath.
Episode 6: Of Hell and Hegemony
For decades, America has pursued a foreign policy of liberal hegemony: the idea that the U.S. should use its power to spread values like freedom and democracy, often by using military force. America’s foreign policy elite, whether in government, think tanks, media, or academia, have largely supported this strategy. But Harvard University’s Stephen Walt thinks America’s expansive global reach has harmed our national security—and our elites have not been held accountable for their preferred foreign policy’s devastating failures.
Episode 7: Power Passing
The United States and the United Kingdom have historically had a special relationship. Can this kind of enduring alliance be replicated, and if not, why not? As American hegemony wanes and China’s international influence rises, Kori Schake argues that shared values can propel common national interests and goals. And that these can endure even as countries’ relative power rises and falls.
Episode 8: Foreign Policy Adrift
What do the American people think about America’s role in the world? Many foreign policy experts assume the public just doesn’t care very much about international relations–or that average citizens are so uninformed that it’s not worth paying attention to their views. Brian Katulis upends these assumptions, discussing his new research that shows the public really does have important things to say about foreign policy.
Episode 9: Totalized War
What happens when the distinction between war and peace starts to disappear? Rosa Brooks, a law professor and former top Pentagon official, explores the causes and consequences of this alarming trend, and discusses its antecedents in other cultures. As the seemingly never-ending War on Terror is used to justify increasing government power and intrusions on civil liberties, are we sacrificing too much freedom in the name of security?
Episode 10: Deploying Empathy
Chances are, empathy is not the first thing you think about when you consider the ideal mix of skills and attributes of American soldiers. Yet the military is beginning to appreciate how their officers need to understand the interests, values, and experiences of people up and down the chain of command, and of their foreign partners as well.
Episode 11: The Footprint of Industrialized War
The Pentagon identifies climate change as a threat multiplier and links climate change to rising instability and insecurity around the globe. But what about the inverse? Murtaza Hussain, political and national security reporter for The Intercept, explores the forgotten costs to America’s endless wars: climate change. How does warfare contribute to and exacerbate the climate crisis? What are the ecological and health effects of industrialized war, and what can American society do to curb the climate emergency?
Episode 12: Profiting From War
America continues its unwavering devotion to Saudi Arabia, despite the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the humanitarian catastrophes in Yemen. What is behind this resolute support to America’s undemocratic ally in the Middle East? Bill Hartung dives into the history of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, U.S. arms sales, and just how much of the arms trade actually benefits America’s defense companies.
Episode 13: China Rising
The foreign policy establishment sees America locked in a fierce and strategic competition with China. With the ongoing trade war, the protests engulfing Hong Kong, and China’s rising geopolitical influence, are Washington’s fears and hardliner policies justified? Two China experts, Isaac Stone Fish and Stephen Orlins, join None Of The Above to discuss and debate Washington’s appropriate response to this rising power and offer new and divergent ways of thinking about the U.S.-China relationship.
Episode 14: Maximum Flexibility?
Nuclear weapons are the forgotten existential threat. Yet, they can alter the course of history in an afternoon. Leading nuclear policy expert, Joe Cirincione, joins Mark Hannah to discuss the dangers of a policy orientation geared toward maintaining, modernizing, and growing a large nuclear arsenal. According to Joe, proliferation of nuclear weapons in the U.S. makes us less safe as other countries rush to compete with this great power or develop new nuclear capabilities as a deterrent against U.S. intervention. How can the U.S. scale its nuclear capabilities back, and what’s at stake?
Episode 15: How to End an Empire
What does the end of the “American empire” look like? What are other tools America can invest in? Kate Kizer joins EGF’s Mark Hannah to explore the principles which drive progressive U.S. foreign policy. Kate dives into what those principles look like in practice: a human centered economy, ending America’s involvement in foreign conflicts humanely, and building policy around transnational, people-centered movements. How does America achieve this while maintaining its own national security? And what is the likelihood these policies will get implemented come 2021?
Episode 16: Peace, The Norm. War, The Exception.
As the Cold War ended, many in the national security establishment thought history had ended: American-style democracy and capitalism were triumphal and terminal. What implications would this have for U.S. foreign policy? Andrew Bacevich, the president of the newly launched Quincy Institute, observes how America has attempted to make the world in its image through coercion and excessive military power — and continues to do so today. This policy, Bacevich argues, has led to a series of military interventions that are often unjustified and counterproductive. How did U.S. foreign policy fail to learn from its history? And what are organizations such as the Quincy Institute going to do about this worrisome trend?
Episode 17: China Rising Part 2
In October, two China experts joined None Of The Above to discuss Washington’s response to the rise of China. Today’s episode digs deeper and unpacks the very notion of great power competition, and whether America requires this strategic framework to succeed as a global hegemon. Jacob Stokes and Ali Wyne sit down with Mark Hannah to evaluate Washington’s obsession with great power competition and the strategic purpose of America confronting a rival like China. Is America in the throes of a new Cold War? Or does the U.S.-China conflict distract from what will always be an entangled, complicated, yet necessary, relationship?
Episode 18: Changing The Status Quo
In an era of intense political polarization, how can we bring people together and effect political change? This week, actor and comedian Kal Penn joins None Of The Above to discuss how he got involved in public service and public engagement. He shares lessons learned from working on comprehensive immigration reform in the Obama White House, reflections on his cultural diplomacy work, and the inspiration behind his new series Sunnyside, which features one of the most diverse casts on television.