Rank #1: I Started My Career as a Journalist Covering John Bolton. Here is What I have Learned (special episode)
I got my start in journalism covering John Bolton when he was the US Ambassador to the United Nations. At the time, I was a reporter for the political monthly The American Prospect. I sometimes quip that I owe my career to Bolton because covering his time at the UN was my entry point into covering the United Nations more broadly.
My reporting at the time culminated in a cover story that was published in January 2006 that detailed Bolton's tenure thus far at the UN and broke a few scoops about his conduct.
In this special episode of the podcast I am going to share a few anecdotes from my reporting at the time that might shed some light on how he will conduct himself as the National Security Advisor to Donald Trump. I’ll also survey some key issues around the world, including North Korea, Iran, Trans-Atlantic Relations and the United Nations to see what Bolton’s past interactions with these issues might suggest for the future of US policy. I’ll also explain the position of National Security Advisor to help you understand where, exactly, Bolton will fit in in the bureaucratic politics of US foreign policy making.
That this is a different kind of Global Dispatches episode. This podcast is typically an interview-based show in which I have conversations with experts about topical issues, or I have longer discussions with people who have had interesting careers in foreign policy. In these conversations, I’ll occasionally interject my own views. But for the most the other person is talking.
But this time around, I am something of the expert. And I think other people see me as such, based on my past reporting. I was on BBC’s Nightly News program last Friday after the news about Bolton broke. And I also had a piece up on The Daily Beast.
So this episode is just me talking.
My Iran Deal episode with Spencer Ackerman
Rank #2: A Crisis in Cameroon is Getting Worse
There is an escalating humanitarian crisis in Cameroon where more than half a million people have been displaced by conflict.This conflict erupted in earnest in late 2017 and early 2018 in a series of attacks and reprisals between Anglophone separatists and the French dominated government. In international affairs circles, this is known as the "Anglophone Crisis" in Cameroon. As my guest today, Jan Egeland says, when hundreds of thousands of civilians are displaced, it usually sets off international alarm bells. But this is not the case with Cameroon. There is virtually no international mediation, very little media attention, and the humanitarian response has been woefully inadequate. Jan Egeland is the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, a large humanitarian relief organization. He has spent his career in humanitarian affairs, including serving as an under secretary general of the United Nations and as a humanitarian relief advisor for the UN in Syria. He is one of the world's most high profile humanitarian relief experts and he is sounding the alarm on this crisis. He recently returned from a fact finding trip to the crisis affected regions of Cameroon and a few days after we recorded this conversation, he's briefing the Security Council on this humanitarian crisis. You can consider this conversation a preview and extended version of the message he'll be sending to the Security Council. This episode does a good job explaining what is driving this crisis. However, if you want a deeper explanation of the origins of the Anglophone crisis, I will point you to a podcast episode from January 2018, recorded just as this crisis was erupting, that goes more in depth into the historical roots of the anglophone crisis. Also, if you want to learn more about Jan Egeland himself, I'll point you to episode number 52 of Global Dispatches, from back in 2015 in which Jan Egeland discusses his life and career in more detail. Support the show. Become a Premium Subscriber. Unlock Rewards
Rank #3: Japan and South Korea Are Locked in A Bitter Dispute With Global Implications
Japan and South Korea are in the throws of a dispute - and its getting worse. What was a trade war escalated to the security realm last month when the South Korean government announced that it was pulling out of a key intelligence sharing agreement with Tokyo. This agreement enabled the real-time sharing of key intelligence as it related to common threats, including from North Korea.
Needless to say, amid a growing threat from North Korea, which is regularly testing missiles that could reach both countries, this dispute between South Korea and Japan poses a big risk for international security.
So why are two key US allies that share a common adversary at such loggerheads? And what does a frayed relationship between Seoul and Tokyo mean for regional security and international relations more broadly?
On the line with me to answer these questions and more is Andrew Yeo, associate professor of politics at the Catholic University of America. We kick off talking through the World War Two era origins of this conflict before having a longer conversation about the global implications of a dispute between Japan and South Korea.
If you have twenty minutes and want to learn why historical grievances have become hyper-relevant in East Asia -- and why relations are poised to get worse between these two countries, have a listen.People often ask me what podcasts I most enjoy listening to and top of the list for me is "First Person" from Foreign Policy magazine. The host, Sarah Wildman, is someone I have gotten to know over the years and whose work I have long admired. Each week she draws out from one guest a personal story or narrative that has some broader global significance.It's a great show and if you are fan of Global Dispatches, you'll certain enjoy First Person.First Person Homepage Apple Podcasts Spotify
Rank #4: CNN's Clarissa Ward Spent 36 Hours With the Taliban. This is What She Learned
I caught up with CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward not long after she returned from reporting inside Taliban controlled territory in Afghanistan. She is one of the only western journalists to access Taliban territory to see what life is like under their control. She interviewed both civilians and Taliban officials and is on the Global Dispatches podcast to discuss her reporting.
We kick off discussing the story behind her story: that is, how an unprecedented reporting project like this can be carried out in a volatile security environment? We also discuss how she and her team navigated gender dynamics inherent in a female journalist interviewing Taliban officials. We then talk through some of her key findings about how the Taliban have evolved over the last 17 years.
Her report comes at a vital time as the US and Taliban officials are negotiating face to face, and as Clarissa Ward explains, the fact of those ongoing negotiations helps provide some context for her reporting.
Rank #5: Will The Yellow Vest Protest in France Bring Down Emmanuel Macron--and Europe With Him?
A protest movement in France known as the Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests, has become a political crisis for French President Emmanuel Macron. The protest movement began over a hike in a fuel tax, but has grown into something much more and is now threatening to further weaken Macron, who was already deeply unpopular in France.On the line with me to discuss the origins of this movement and its political significance both in France and throughout Europe is Arthur Goldhammer, a senior affiliate with the Center for European Studies at Harvard University. He is also a translator of French works into english. If you are one of the many people who read Thomas Picketty's book Capitalism in the 20th Century, you read Art Goldhammer's translation. We kick off discussing the origins of this protest movement, then have a wider discussion about the roots of Macron's unpopularity in France and the implications of his unpopularity for Europe, the European Project and liberal democracy more broadly. Become a premium subscriber!
Rank #6: American Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump
Donald Trump will become president and commander-in-chief in January. I am pledging to you right now that I will dedicate myself and dedicate this podcast to helping you make sense of foreign policy and world affairs in the era of Trump.To that end, I caught up with Heather Hurlburt of the New America Foundation. Heather and I have a pretty wide ranging discussion about the implications of a Trump presidency for American alliances, for Syria, for the Iran nuclear deal and for the lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. We kick off discussing the kinds of personnel choices that President Elect Trump must take in the coming weeks which will be a very early sign of what kind of foreign policy president he will be.
Rank #7: What Happens if the International Criminal Court Investigates American War Crimes in Afghanistan?
Rank #8: Understanding the Gaza Protests
It's been a tumultuous week in Israel and Palestine. On the same day that the United States formally opened its embassy in Jerusalem, dozens of Palestinians were shot to death by Israeli soldiers along the border between Gaza and Israel.That incident along the border fence was part of a broader Palestinian protest movement that has gained steam in recent months. The movement is known as the Great Return March. In it, Gazan protesters approach and seek to breach the border fence that separates Gaza from Israel -- ostensibly to return to lands that were expropriated by Israel during the country's founding as a jewish state. Clashes have ensued, including the shooting deaths of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers. On the line with me to help put this latest protest movement in context is Yousef Munuyyer. Yousef brings a unique perspective to this issue. He is the executive director of the US Campaign Palestinian rights. He is also and Israeli citizen, and American citizen and a Palestinian. Yousef explains why this protest movement is unique and resonates deeply beyond Gaza. We also discuss the complex issue of the the "Right to Return" before turning to a conversation about how the Israel-Palestine issue is interpreted through domestic American politics. This conversation is a helpful explanation of what these Gaza protests are all about--and how they may evolve.
Rank #9: Can North Korea Be Stopped?
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Rank #10: Libya is Lurching Toward a Full Scale Civil War
Rank #11: How Fear Distorts U.S. Foreign Policy
The world has never been safer, wealthier or healthier. So why is it that our foreign policy is dominated by fear and inflated perceptions of threats that can harm us?My guest today, Michael Cohen, and co-author Micah Zenko seek to answer that question in their new book Clear and Present Safety: The World Has Never Been Better and Why That Matters to Americans. The book makes the convincing argument that fear mongering has distorted US foreign policy and distracted us from recognizing impressive gains in human development. This is a very refreshing conversation. One trend that Cohen and Zenko identify an define is something they call the Threat-Industrial-Complex and we spend a good deal of time discussing how that serves to shape US foreign policy priorities. If you have 20 minutes and want a good corrective on US foreign policy, have a listen. Support the show and become a premium subscriber!
Rank #12: A Revolution in Sudan
Some truly remarkable events are unfolding in Sudan, where protesters have secured the ouster of longtime ruler Omar al Bashir. After nearly thirty years as an authoritarian president and dictator, he was deposed in coup on April 11.
But the protesters have not dispersed and are rallying against the cadre of military officials who have assumed control.On the line with me to discuss these events is Payton Knopf. He is a former US diplomat and UN official who has worked on Sudan issues for many years. He is currently an advisor to the US Institute for Peace We kick off discussing the events that lead to the ouster of al Bashir. But we don't dwell too much on that because I actually did a whole other episode about the protest movement and about al Bashir; I published that episode in January, just a few weeks after these protests began. Rather, we spend the bulk of the conversation discussing this unfolding and fluid situation. Payton Knopf explains who these military rulers of Sudan are--and why it is significant that some of them have trained and deployed militias to Yemen and Libya. We also discuss the implications of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for al Bashir and the unfolding geo-political dynamic that may influence how this political crisis is resolved. Before we start, I have a question for you all. One dynamic I have noticed having done this show for so long is how I, as a, journalist often bring you stories from parts of the world less covered by mainstream outlets or on topics that are globally important but really don't get much coverage--but then you, as a listener have taken some concrete action based on what you have heard. This action could be something as direct as buying the book of the author I interviewed or using your professional connections to follow up on an idea or issue raised in the show. I hear stories of this real world impact from time to time, but I would really love to collect them. So, could you please email me and let me know if an episode inspired you to take some real world action--whatever that may be? These stories of impact are very valuable to me so thank you in advance, You can send me an email using the contact button on Global Dispatches Podcast.com. I'll also post a link to my email in the description field of the podcast if you are listening on your phone. Email me!
Rank #13: How to Fix a Broken Humanitarian System -- The World Humanitarian Summit Has Some Ideas
The international humanitarian system is stretched beyond capacity. In fact, it's fair to say it is broken.
The inability of the international community to confront multiple manmade and natural disasters, like the crisis in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, ebola in west Africa and the earthquake in Nepal is a profound contributor to insecurity around the world.There are more people displaced around the world than there has been at any time since World War Two; donors are not committing enough money to provide for the basic needs of people affected by sudden crises, and the international community is not doing a sufficient job of preventing the outbreak of conflict, ending current conflicts, or mitigating the effects of natural disasters.
These failures and proposed solutions to these ongoing challenges are the subject of the first ever World Humanitarian Summit, which kicks off in Istanbul in mid May. This is a UN backed affair, which includes participation of member states, civil society and the private sector. And one participant is on the line with me today to discuss some of the problems and solutions that this conference hopes to address.
Shannon Scribner is Oxfam America's Humanitarian Policy Manager, and in this conversation she offers an insightful preview of what to expect from this conference, some of the more controversial debates about the role of humanitarian relief and international development that this conference has already sparked, and how a first-ever world humanitarian summit can help mend a broken humanitarian system.
Rank #14: After Brussels, A Disasterous Deal for Refugees
The attacks in Brussels this week are accelerating an already heated conversation in Europe about the unrelenting movement of refugee from the Middle East to the continent.The attacks on Tuesday came just days after the EU sealed a highly controversial agreement with Turkey in which refugees arriving to the greek islands would be expelled back to Turkey.
This agreement is highly maligned by the United Nations and refugee advocates for reasons I discuss with a UN official and a refugee advocate. This episode is in two parts. First, I speak with Melissa Flemming, a spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency, also known as UNHCR. She offers a grounds eye view of how this new deal is affecting the work of the UN Refugee Agency on the Greek Islands and explains why UNHCR is refusing to collaborate in the implementation of this agreement.
Next, I speak with Michel Gabaudan, president of Refugees International, who discusses the details of the deal and does a good job of putting it in a larger context of global refugee policy.
Rank #15: "It's Really Worrying Right Now." An Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is Not Under Control
The second worst Ebola outbreak in history is currently unfolding in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since August last year there have been nearly 1,000 confirmed cases and over 600 deaths.
The DRC is a very large country and these cases are so far confined to the eastern part of the country. This is also the region of the Democratic Republic of Congo that has long been mired in conflict and insecurity. In recent weeks, Ebola treatment centers have been attacked forcing medical staff to suspend operations. Meanwhile, new ebola cases are confirmed on a nearly daily basis.
On the line to discuss is Karin Huster, the field coordinator for Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Border in the DRC. She spoke to me from the city of Goma, the largest city in the eastern part of the DRC. We kick off discussing recent attacks on two Ebola treatment centers run by Doctors Without Borders, and then have a longer conversation about the trajectory of this outbreak and what can be done to halt its spread.
One thing that comes though in this conversation is that this outbreak is not under control. Karin Huster explains why the current strategy has not be able to stop the transmission of Ebola and explains how this outbreak can be halted.
The Ebola outbreak in DRC has fallen from the headlines. This episode provides you with a grounds-eye view of why this outbreak continues to fester.
Quick note before we begin. If you are listening to this show contemporaneously, I wanted to let you know that we have some available slots for advertising. This is a great way to get your message in front of tens of thousands of global affairs professionals, including leaders at the UN, the NGO community, government, academia and think tanks. Send me an email using the contact button on globaldispatchespodcast.com and I can tell you about our rates, availability and impact.
Rank #16: What Russia Wants
Russia has successfully influenced the election here in the United States in its favor. It's side is winning the war in Syria. Crimea looks like it will remain in Russia for the foreseeable future and the NATO alliance may become weakened when Donald Trump takes office.
This is pretty much springtime for Putin in Moscow. But what are Russia's grander ambitions? Why did they hack the US election? What do they want from the Middle East? From Europe and China? I put these questions and more to James Goldgeier, a Russia expert and the Dean of the School of International Studies at American University. James describes some of Putin's near term and longer term strategic goals and how a less contentious relationship with the USA--one not based on values, but on individual transactions -- may reshape Russian foreign policy and international affairs more broadly.
Rank #17: The View From Europe
Rank #18: What the Kurdish Independence Referendum Means for the Middle East
People in Kurdish region of Iraq have voted overwhelmingly for independence in a popular referendum that took place in late September. No country in the region wanted this referendum to happen--and neither did the United States, with whom the Kurds have been a longtime ally. Soon after the results were announced, the Iraqi government and other countries in the region like Turkey and Iran threatened retaliatory measures.The implications of this referendum and its fallout are still unfolding, and here to help me make sense of what this referendum was all about and how it may impact the political and diplomatic dynamic of the region is Morgan Kaplan. He is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies and the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University. We discuss why this referendum was so politically significant and how it may affect the future shape of the Middle East. Become a premium subscriber to unlock bonus episodes, earn other rewards, and support the show!
Rank #19: The Conflict in Syria Enters a New Phase
The conflict in Syria has entered a new phase. ISIS has been defeated, yet in many ways the war is metastasizing.
In places like Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, the war is as brutal as ever. After days of extremely heavy bombing, the UN secretary general called Ghouta "hell on earth." Meanwhile, in another part of Syria, in the northern town of Afrin, you have a situation where the US-backed Kurdish forces that were instrumental in defeating ISIS are now under attack by America's NATO ally, Turkey. Meanwhile, in recent weeks, an Israeli fighter jet was downed over the country and the United States reportedly killed dozens of Russian mercenaries in a bombing. On the line with me to help put what is happening in Syria in the broader context of the trajectory of this nearly seven year old conflict is Raed Jarrar who is the Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa for Amnesty International, USA.
We kick off discussing the situation in Ghouta which is setting off international alarm bells as an ongoing mass atrocity event. We then discuss some of the broader trends of the conflict and what advocacy organizations like Amnesty are doing to keep pressure on the international community to reduce the toll this conflict is taking on civilian populations. Overall, this conversation serves as a helpful explanation of how the Syria conflict has evolved over the last several months and where it may be heading.
Rank #20: Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar
Nearly 400,000 ethnic Rohingya have fled Myanmar across the border to Bangladesh. By the time you listen to this, that number will almost surely be much higher.Since late August, security forces from the government of Myanmar (also called Burma) have attacked villages and towns in a seemingly coordinated fashion to create a massive displacement crisis. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described what is happening a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” On the line with me to discuss this current crisis is John Sifton, the advocacy director Human Rights Watch-Asia. We spoke just after he got off the phone with his colleagues on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border who have witnessed profound scenes of destruction. John also describes satellite imagery he's reviewed that depicts towns, villages and neighborhoods being burned to the ground. John gives a useful background on the plight of the Rohingya population in Burma and explains why Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi,the de-facto leader of the country, has been such a disappointment and unable or unwilling to stop this onslaught against a minority community in her country. John also offers some good suggestions on how the international community might best respond to this unfolding crisis. If you are regular listener to the show, you know that I have done several episodes on this issue--which is one of those under-the-radar global issues that I like to highlight on the podcast. Now, of course the situation is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Become a premium subscriber to unlock bonus episodes, earn other rewards, and support the show!