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War on the Rocks

Great discussions with security, defense, and foreign policy experts recorded over drinks.
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Now displaying: 2013
Dec 24, 2013
JM Berger, Will McCants, and Clint Watts sat down with Ryan Evans at the Jefferson Hotel to talk about a range of subjects related to counter-terrorism. What could be more appropriate for Christmas? Have a listen!   Image: Department of Defense
Dec 18, 2013
This is the first of a two-part podcast set on the concept, and uses, of Strategic Intelligence.  In this episode, Tom and I lay out the actual, social function of Strategic Intelligence and look at it place in the long history of divination.  Strategic surprise, or intelligence failures, often are neither: a surprise or a `failure``, at least on the part of Intelligence Agencies.  What they often are is a breakdown in communications between the players involved; a breakdown that is often facilitated by a gross misunderstanding of what Strategic Intelligence can and cannot do. In the second segment, we sit down for a long discussion with Steven Strang, Director of Research and Innovation at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Steven is one of the top people in Canada when it comes to understanding how certain groups, mainly terrorists, communicate to their audiences and how this communication can, and should be interpreted by Intelligence agencies.  Steven has also trained many of the analysts working in the various Canadian agencies, and has presented world wide. For the full show notes for this podcast, check out brokenmirrors.ca Image: Jef Poskanzer Flickr
Dec 10, 2013
Last night, I sat down to talk nuclear strategy with William Rosenau of the Center for Naval Analysis, defense analyst Elbridge Colby, Robert Zarate of the Foreign Policy Initiative, and Stanley Orman – a former nuclear arms wizard who saved the U.S. and U.K. nuclear arsenals from corrosion in the 1960s.  It was a fascinating discussion during which I learned a great deal about nuclear arms, the Cold War, and giants of strategy like Thomas Schelling, Herman Kahn, and Albert Wohlstetter. Have a listen and read Stanley’s new book, An Uncivil Civil Servant.   Ryan Evans is the assistant director of the Center for the National Interest and the editor-in-chief of War on the Rocks.    Image:  Free Grunge Textures, Flickr
Nov 7, 2013
Editor's Note: We are pleased to feature this talk by Sir Lawrence Freedman, which took place this week at the British Embassy in Washington, DC.  Special thanks to the King's College London Alumni Office and the British Embassy.  The event was a part of Principal Rick Trainor's final tour of the United States before he ends his 10 year tenure at King's.    Sir Lawrence Freedman has been Professor of War Studies at King’s College London since 1982. He became head of the School of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s in 2000 and was appointed Vice-Principal in 2003.   Photo Credit: Cecil Stoughton, White House, 29 December 1962. President Kennedy is presented the flag of the 2506 Cuban Invasion Brigade. Miami, Florida, Orange Bowl Stadium.
Oct 31, 2013
"Nil terribile nisi ipse timor" In this episode, Tom Quiggin and I take a hard, realist look at the concept, and tactic, of terrorism.  In the first segment, we look at how the tactic of terrorism is structured, and how it can, and has, been employed.  At the strategic level, terrorist attacks are both rational and embedded within a narrative that supports and justifies them. In the second segment, we look at the operational processes of a terrorist campaign.  In particular, we look at how the responses to terrorist attacks can actually serve the purposes of the group using the tactics of terrorism. In the third segment, we talk with Mubin Shaik who helped to crack one of the major domestic terrorist plots in Canada (the Toronto 18), and is now involved in studying and working in the area of deradicalization. For the full show notes for this podcast, check out brokenmirrors.ca. Marc Tyrrell is an anthropologist teaching at the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada). He is a Senior Research Fellow with the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies.
Oct 4, 2013
In this podcast, we take a look at a rarely discussed, structural vulnerability in advanced societies: the payments and settlements system. We first put this system in the historical context of economic warfare, then look at some potential forms of attacks, followed by a discussion with Michelle Couturier about possible local defensive measures. The vulnerability of the advanced economies to economic warfare attacks is increasing as we use primarily fiat currencies, the largest part of which exist in digital formats only with little to no reserves. At the same time, we have allowed the functioning of our local, national and international economies to migrate over at a complex network of computer systems of dubious heritage and stability. The central nervous system of our economy is now the international payments and settlements which is jointly run by a series of Central Banks and Financial Institutes. We focus the discussion on a simple proposition: what bankers are allowing to happen (consciously or not) at Central Banks and Financial Institutions (FIs) is far more fearsome than what terrorists have planned in the past. A failure of their jointly operated payments and settlements system would do more systemic damage to the advanced economies than any terrorist attack has done to date. This failure could result from an exterior attack by a state or group, an insider threat, or from technical failures in an overly complex system. For the full show notes for this podcast, and accompanying papers, check out brokenmirrors.ca.   Photo Credit: Mike Gifford, Flickr.  
Sep 25, 2013
Last night, some of  Washington's finest national security minds met me at the cabinet room in the Jefferson Hotel bar to talk shop.  Elbridge Colby, William Rosenau, and Afshon Ostovar - all of the Center for Naval Analyses - were joined by surprise guests ("surprise" because they didn't know they were meeting me for a podcast) Brian Fishman of the New America Foundation and Bill Braniff, the executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). We talked about President Obama's and President Rouhani's speeches at the United Nations, whether or not Rouhani's election means there is a real opening on the Iranian nuclear program, the Syrian civil war, why the attack in Nairobi has gotten so much more press than the church attack in Pakistan, and what the Elizabeth O'Bagy PhD scandal says about the think tank sector's ability to "self-police." Photo Credit: B Rosen, Flickr
Sep 3, 2013
Editor's Note:  War on the Rocks is proud to start featuring podcasts from its Canadian affiliate, Broken Mirrors. In this inaugural episode of Broken Mirrors, Marc Tyrrell and Tom Quiggin (me) introduce the podcast's foundations and discuss Canada/US relations. They then sit down with Ian MacLeod of the Ottawa Citizen and engage in a freewheeling discussion on intelligence and national security in terms of changes in journalism, the effects of technology, and the Snowden Affair (just because everyone else is focus only on Syria, it doesn't mean Canada has to be!). Why 'Broken Mirrors'? The number one problem with intelligence agencies and think tanks is 'mirror imaging.' We want to 'break those mirrors' - a good WOTR tradition - by taking a unique Canadian perspective on the issues. What is a 'Canadian perspective'?  Three values are at the core of our Canadians viewpoint: 'civil discourse' (including the concept of a 'loyal opposition'), bridging the gap between theory and practice, and an abandonment of rhetoric. Each monthly Broken Mirrors podcast on War On The Rocks will be split into three segments: strategic, operational, and tactical/current. In the first segment on this episode, Marc and Tom talk about what Canadians bring to the debate. In the second segment, we sit with Ian MacLeod who has 30 year’s experience as a reporter in the intelligence, national security, military and terrorism fields. The discussion occurs over several glasses of wine. In the third segment, Tom’s risk assessment looks at what damage has occurred as a result of the Snowden revelations. As philosophical realists (Marc is also a self-proclaimed 'Baconian Empiricist'), we want this series to apply the best technical practices from the broadcast community. We are blessed by our genius in-house producer Tim Reilly, who also has a background in national security. By using high end production values – ‘podcast best practices-  we aim to bring into the WORT community those that tend not to look at national security issues in detail. The idea of a reasoned and detailed discussion of particular issues is, as Ian notes, rapidly disappearing from the print world. We believe that our podcasts will deal both with the most important points as well as the in-depth issues giving the listener the 'fly-on-the-wall' perspective that is the hallmark of War On The Rocks podcasts.  Many people don't want to listen to a two hour podcast, so we are releasing the edited version (30 to 45 minutes) through War On The Rocks.  The extended material can be found on our site at brokenmirrors.ca. So, that's the story behind the 'Broken Mirrors' podcasts. Sit back, grab a drink, and enjoy
Aug 28, 2013
Last night, Eli Lake of the Daily Beast and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a WOTR contributor, joined Senior Editor Mark Stout and me at the Jefferson Hotel, where we discussed some of the more pressing issues in foreign and security policy over drinks in one of their luxurious Cabinet Rooms: The impending attack on Syria and what this says about President Obama's foreign policy. Is there an Obama doctrine? Does the government keep too many secrets? Why? Since we had a journalist and a former CIA analyst at the table, this was a fun one. Good times were had by all. Have a listen.
Aug 19, 2013
On Friday, I sat down for a great talk over drinks with Raffaello Pantucci, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, and Robin Simcox, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society.  I got to hear their insights into a number of emerging and evolving challenges in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and more.  Once again, we were at the fantastic American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London.  Enjoy!     Photo Credit: Grant Williamson
Aug 1, 2013
Last Thursday I invited Emile Simpson and Kathleen McInnis to join me at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London to talk about Emile's book, "War from the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics." After navigating the impressive drinks menu (priorities), we had a great discussion about Afghanistan, COIN, and the changing face of warfare. Have a listen!   Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk
Jul 31, 2013
This is Part Two of my session with Lieutenant Colonel Brian A. Payne and David Kasten of the U.S. Army Irregular Warfare Center (AIWC) at the Jefferson Hotel bar here in Washington, DC.   Did you listen to Part One?  If not, you missed out on bands in Haiti, coffee in Bosnia, training for human based skills, and lessons learned in war and over BBQ. In Part Two, Brian, David, and I talk 9/11 and everything (war) that came after.  Tune in for your counter-insurgency fix. Does COIN have a future in the Army? Tune in. Nothing Brian and David say here represents the opinions of the AIWC, the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense or anyone else.       Photo Credit: Cameron Russel
Jul 29, 2013
I recently sat down with Lieutenant Colonel Brian A. Payne and David Kasten of the U.S. Army Irregular Warfare Center (AIWC) at the Jefferson Hotel bar here in Washington, DC.  This is part one of that conversation.  Brian is the Director of AWIC and David is its Chief of Interagency Coordination. Our guests show that irregular warfare was a dominant feature of American wars long before 9/11. It was a really fascinating conversation full of thoughtful analysis and war stories - over drinks of course. We hear everything from Brian's tactical response to a village band in Haiti to David not joining the French Foreign Legion and becoming a sniper instead. Listen! Needless to say, none of the views expressed by Brian and David represent the opinions of the U.S. Army, Department of Defense, or any part of the U.S. government.
Jul 8, 2013
The other day, I sat down with War on the Rocks contributors Bill Rosenau, Will McCants, and Afshon Ostovar - all of the Strategic Studies Center at the Center for Naval Analyses - for a conversation that ranged widely from Syria to Snowden to the think tank industry. We were hosted by the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, DC. Listen here:
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