Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Favorite National Security Podcast: Bombshell

I only listen to one* national security/IR podcast on a regular basis: Bombshell.  Why? Well, Erin Simpson might hurt me if I didn't.  Ok, maybe not but you can never be sure.  Seriously, these three woman provide sharp perspectives on US foreign policy/national security issues based on real experience in the policy world and with no b.s.  The three women are:
  • Erin Simpson, who used to run Caerus, a DC consulting firm and previously served as a consultant to ISAF, and now runs Archer Avenue Consulting.  I met her long ago when I was a Council on Foreign Relations International Fellow and she was a Term member.  We re-met via twitterfight club and having lots of common friends in the twitter universe.  She is very critical of my clothing choices, and we used to compete about who is more narcissistic before Trump came along.
  • Loren DeJonge Schulman  is Deputy Director of Studies and the Leon E. Panetta Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.  She served as Senior Advisor to National Security Adviser Susan Rice.  Before that she was Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for International Security Affairs. I have only met her on twitter, but really appreciate the insights she has had about how the NSC works.  I might have ended up on the NSC in 2001 if Condoleezza Rice was more cooperative with CFR, so Loren's insights on NSC are glimpses into what might have been.
  • Radha Iyengar works at RAND as a senior economist and previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff to the DepSec of Energy.  She previously worked on the NSC on Defense, Personnel, Readiness and Partnerships and as policy adviser to ASD of Special Ops and Low Intensity Conflict.  She also prof-ed at LSE.
Each week, the women go through a series of segments and have one guest.  The guests thus far have always been women, and, I assume, always will be (the title of the podcast is Bombshells, duh).  Which is great since despite general underrepresentation in government, there are plenty of super-sharp women who have significant experience, expertise and insights, and these women tend not to get as much media attention as the men.

The podcast is quite clever in moving along the segments quickly without any one of them being rushed but with me wanting more of each. They discuss:
  • the booze they are drinking (here I am just a padawan, and they are masters).  
  • things that are still things. Latest issue was the unmasking stuff.  They provide much clarity quickly on this stuff, clearing away the b.s. 
  • the guest with a heap of intro icebreaking questions (best meal while traveling, book they re-read the most, what fan club have you belonged to, twitter crush, favorite museum, favorite statistical distribution) and then talk about the current issue that this woman has much insight on.
  • fashion advice for Jared Kushner (ok, not a regular segment).
  • a pop culture segment, so this week they talked about favorite spy novels.
 The Syria discussion emphasized something that Americans take for granted--the US has limited skin in the game and thus limited leverage.  This is a common problem that American foreign policy just has not grokked.  

Erin, Loren and Radha are just very smart, funny, and insightful.  They use their experiences to get folks inside the policy process. Even though I had a year in DC and spent plenty of time at the meetings that are several layers below the PC's and the DC's, there is much I didn't see or experience.  These podcasts get you inside those rooms and also provide perspectives we don't hear enough because journalists and other media types tend to go the top of the rolodex where the boys are. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is biweekly so far, so it will not fill up your ipod unlike some other podcasts that proliferate so much that I have given up on following the subsequent franchisees (that would be Crooked Media's spinoffs).

*  Why don't I listen to more than this one national security podcast?  Because I don't want to be thinking about my business whenever I am listening to a podcast--which is when I am driving, cooking, doing the dishes, errands around the house, etc.  I listen to sports and entertainment stuff most of the time with Doug Loves Movies, The Moth, some Ringer and some ESPN, and Sepinwall's new one--TV Avalanche. 

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