Power Problems

Cato Institute

About

Power Problems is a bi-weekly podcast from the Cato Institute. Host John Glaser offers a skeptical take on U.S. foreign policy, and discusses today’s big questions in international security with distinguished guests from across the political spectrum. Podcast Hashtag: #FPPowerProblems.

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174 episodes

The Will to Hegemony

Paul Poast, associate professor of political science at University of Chicago, discusses the concept of hegemony in international relations and puts forth several models to explain a state's willingness to take on the global responsibilities of a hegemon. He also explains hegemonic stability theory, analyzes the Biden administration's democracy vs autocracy rhetoric, and suggests the United States may be a hegemon in decline.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

49m
Feb 20
Elite Politics & the Hawkish Bias in US Foreign Policy

Elite politics shape and constrain democratic leaders in decisions about the use of force and tend to induce a hawkish bias into war-time foreign policy. So says Columbia University professor Elizabeth N. Saunders in her forthcoming book She explores how elite politics influenced presidential decisions in U.S. wars including Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond. She also discusses the problems of the public's rational ignorance of foreign policy and the tensions between an elite-centric foreign policy and democratic values, among other topics.  __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

1h 2m
Feb 06
Managing Instability in Europe, Asia, & the Middle East

Robert Manning, distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, discusses the increasing instability in the Middle East stemming from the ongoing Israel-Gaza war, Russia's war in Ukraine and the implications for the US role in the world, and rising US-China tensions over Taiwan. He also talks about the risks of emerging economic nationalism, middle powers, the US addiction to primacy and American exceptionalism, and the problems of trying to manage global politics from Washington.    SHOW NOTES __ __   * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

42m
Jan 23
Arms, Influence, and the Military Industrial Complex

William Hartung of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft explains the problem of retired military brass working for the arms industry and how this revolving door tends to militarize U.S. foreign policy. He also discusses China's military buildup and why it shouldn't automatically translate to bigger U.S. defense budgets. Other topics include the military industrial complex, Eisenhower's Farewell Address, the Pentagon's inability to pass an audit, and threat inflation, among others. SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

41m
Jan 09
The Middle East Is a Powder Keg. Washington Is Making It Worse

Renewed conflict in the Middle East increases the costs and risks of America's entanglement in the region, and despite the strategic case for retrenchment, there is no sign of a substantial change to U.S. foreign policy there. Jennifer Kavanaugh of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace discusses America's costly, security-first approach to the Middle East, the Biden administration's support for Israel, policy inertia and the reluctance to change posture, the risks of escalation, backlash, and overstretch, and why the use of force in U.S. foreign policy is increasingly ineffective.  SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

38m
Dec 26, 2023
The Economic War on China Is Self-Defeating

Weaponizing global supply chains is self-defeating and alters supply chain networks in ways that accelerate, rather than slow China’s rise. University of Connecticut assistant professor Miles Evers discusses how business-state relationships affect international relations. He also describes how economic coercion drives away potential allies and business, which allows China to innovate and increase its share of global trade despite US sanctions.   SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

49m
Dec 12, 2023
"Credibility" Is Not What You Think It Is

Common but unsound conceptions of credibility and reputation in international politics have persistently promoted unnecessary militarism and prevented the United States from shedding even unnecessary security commitments abroad. Boston College assistant professor Joshua Byun explains the concepts of reputation and credibility in international politics and uses survey data to undermine the conventional wisdom that a reputation for resolve is necessary for a country’s credibility. He also discusses the implications of situational resolve and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan on allies’ opinions of US credibility.   SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

44m
Nov 28, 2023
The Realism of Reinhold Niebuhr

Christopher Chivvis, director of the American Statecraft Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, discusses the work of renowned realist thinker Reinhold Niebuhr. He explores Niebuhr’s views on war, politics, and American Exceptionalism, and argues that Niebuhr's restraint-oriented ideas are just what is needed in contemporary debates about U.S. foreign and national security policy, particularly with respect to the rivalry with China.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

34m
Nov 14, 2023
Israel, Gaza, and America’s Broken Middle East Policy

Justin Logan, Cato’s director of defense and foreign policy studies, and Jon Hoffman, a foreign policy analyst at Cato, discuss the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas and the imperative of avoiding further U.S. entanglement in the Middle East. They talk about the deep problems with the Abraham Accords, Biden's misguided bid for a Saudi-Israeli normalization deal, how client states employ "reverse leverage" on their U.S. patron, whether Israel can avoid America's post-9/11 mistakes, and the prospects for a genuine change in U.S. policy towards this region, among other issues.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

46m
Oct 31, 2023
America Is Eroding the International Order

The U.S.'s frequent use of force abroad erodes the international order's most fundamental principles of sovereignty and non-intervention. Yale Law School professor Oona Hathaway discusses the erosion of domestic constraints on presidential war powers and the increasing official resort to untenable self-defense doctrines to justify its military actions under international law. She also explains why chipping away at the prohibition on the use of force undermines international order, among other topics. SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

43m
Oct 17, 2023
Human Psychology and Nuclear Brinkmanship

Rose McDermott, Professor of International Relations at Brown University, argues that dominant theories of nuclear brinkmanship lack a nuanced understanding of the crucial factor of human psychology. She discusses the psychology of political leaders, the rational actor model, Thomas Schelling's notion of "threats that leave something to chance," the psychology of revenge, the coercive utility of nuclear weapons, and why nuclear deterrence may not be as stable as many people think, among other topics.   __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

43m
Oct 03, 2023
Middling Powers & U.S. Decline

Many countries in the Global South would like a more advantageous position in the international order. Sarang Shidore, director of Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft’s Global South Program, discusses why these countries are dissatisfied, what changes they would like to see, and how Washington can respond. He also discusses China strategy in light of the Global South and the role of BRICS and the seemingly tepid response from the Global South in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.   SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

40m
Sep 19, 2023
Can the “Restraint Coalition” Endure?

Texas A&M associate professor John Schuessler discusses the different ideological pathways to a grand strategy of restraint. He examines realist, conservative, and progressive restrainers and speculates that the rise of great power competition will be a stress test for the survival of this coalition on foreign policy. He also discusses the foreign policy changes in the GOP and restraint differences over China policy, among other topics.   SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

45m
Sep 05, 2023
Tripwires, Public Opinion, & War

“Tripwire” forces are deployed overseas to bolster the credibility of America’s threats and promises. New research shows this key feature of U.S. foreign policy is misguided. Professors Paul Musgrave of University of Massachusetts Amherst and Steven Ward of University of Cambridge explain the logic of tripwires as a deterrent and showcase public opinion surveys that undermine that logic. SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

51m
Aug 22, 2023
The Perils of Being the World's Biggest Arms Trafficker

The United States sells arms to almost any country willing to pay for them, but many recipients are risky, unstable, undemocratic, and liable to misuse the weapons. Cato defense and foreign policy studies policy analyst Jordan Cohen explains why the U.S. government sells arms to risky countries, why it doesn't give the U.S. strategic leverage, the costs and consequences of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, the problem of cluster munitions, U.S. support for the Nigerian military (which recently executed a coup d'état), and how to reform U.S. arms sales policies.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

47m
Aug 08, 2023
Social Science, Think Tanks, & National Security Policy

Michael C. Desch, professor of international relations at University of Notre Dame, discusses the disconnect between political science scholarship and policymaking and offers solutions for how to bridge the gap.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

52m
Jul 25, 2023
India, the Swing State?

Sameer Lalwani, Senior Expert at the United States Institute for Peace, discusses India's place in global politics, the advantages and drawbacks of deepening U.S.-India relations, India's illiberal turn, Indian relations with Russia, Pakistan, and China, and related topics. He also discusses more restrained alternatives to U.S. naval strategy. SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

47m
Jul 11, 2023
The National Security Implications of Artificial Intelligence

CNAS adjunct senior fellow Elsa B. Kania breaks down the military and political implications of artificial intelligence. She discusses the scope of military applications, battlefield "singularity" and the speed of decision-making, human vs autonomous weapons systems, AI competition with China, public-private partnerships, governance of AI, and how AI should affect strategy, among other topics.   SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

36m
Jun 27, 2023
Nobody Wins in Ukraine

SHOW DESCRIPTION Christopher Layne, distinguished professor at Texas A&M University, provides historical context around the Russian invasion of Ukraine and questions direct U.S. intervention on Ukraine's behalf. He discusses the U.S. strategy in Europe following WWII and following the end of the Cold War, NATO expansion, tensions in U.S.-Russian nuclear policies, Russian perspectives and motivations, potential resolutions to the conflict, and what could exacerbate the war.   SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

44m
Jun 13, 2023
Managing China, Avoiding War

Quincy Institute director of East Asia, Michael D. Swaine explains how to manage the rise in China's power and influence through a restrained grand strategy, rather than through confrontation and primacy. He discusses Chinese diplomacy on the global stage, the problem with Washington's current strategy to contain and confront Beijing, how to alleviate the security dilemma, managing US alliances and altering US force posture in East Asia, and handling the problem of Taiwan, among other topics.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

55m
May 30, 2023
Market Adjustment and Foreign Policy Failure

Notre Dame associate professor Eugene Gholz discusses U.S. strategy, the low costs of neutrality in war, global oil markets and why the U.S. does too much militarily in the Middle East. He also advises a “defensive defense” strategy in East Asia, the ineffectiveness and overuse of economic sanctions, and decoupling from China.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

49m
May 16, 2023
Honor, Deterrence, and Peace

King’s College professor Richard Ned Lebow discusses his vast body of work on international politics. He talks about his cultural theory of international politics, Thucydides, realism, deterrence, Russia and the causes of the Ukraine war, and hegemonic stability theory, among other topics.  SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

54m
May 02, 2023
The Politics of the China Threat in East Asia

Japan has realized that they need to take more responsibility for their security in response to China’s rise, but there remain disagreements among U.S. allies about how to confront China. Dartmouth College professor Jennifer Lind discusses the threat environment in East Asia, Japan’s military spending and relations with its neighbors, and how collective narratives about historical baggage between countries can shape policy.    SHOW NOTES __ ____ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

47m
Apr 18, 2023
Chinese vs American Diplomacy in the Middle East

Trita Parsi, co-founder and executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, explains how China's impartial approach to diplomacy gives it an edge against America's more Manichean tendencies. He also discusses what US troops are doing in the unauthorized war in Syria, Beijing's diplomatic mediation of negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran -- and potentially between Ukraine and Russia, and what accounts for the slow pace of change in America's posture in the Middle East, among other topics.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

38m
Apr 04, 2023
Strategy, Restraint, and the Pursuit of Dominance

What can we learn from the great empires of history? Tulane professor and Cato adjunct scholar Christopher Fettweis is the author of . He discusses grand strategy, balancing means and ends, the wisdom of restraint, the temptation to overextend, and other lessons to draw from the history of empires.   SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

46m
Mar 21, 2023
Quantifying US Militarism

Over time, U.S. foreign policy has become increasingly activist, interventionist, and hostile despite facing fewer direct national security threats. These military interventions have also gradually become less connected to the national interest. Tufts University professor Monica Toft and Bridgewater State University assistant professor Sidita Kushi explain their quantitative research on US interventionism and explore alternative strategies.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

57m
Mar 07, 2023
After Ukraine, Does Europe Need the US Military?

The United States has sent a vast amount of aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion. Defense Priorities’ Rajan Menon and Daniel DePetris explain that while the war is likely to end in a negotiated agreement, neither side is motivated to negotiate right now. They also discuss the need for European defense autonomy.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

37m
Feb 21, 2023
Identity, Power, and the Struggle for Recognition

Michelle Murray, associate professor at Bard College, explains how states aspire to major power identity and status, how the struggle for recognition in world politics produces conflict, and the social dimensions of the security dilemma. She also discusses the history of US and German naval expansion in the 19th century, realism and constructivism, and how to avoid war with a rising China, among other topics.    SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

42m
Feb 07, 2023
The Changing U.S.-Pakistan Relationship

Ahsan Butt, associate professor at George Mason University, discusses the problems in Pakistani politics and government, the changes in U.S.-Pakistani relations since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban, India, and China. He also explains his theory of why the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.   __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

42m
Jan 24, 2023
Biden’s Foreign Policy Promises

Stephen Wertheim and Matt Duss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace analyze President Joe Biden’s foreign policy performance two years into his administration. They discuss US policies on Ukraine, Russia, on the use of economic sanctions, the war in Yemen, the stalled Iran deal, the politics of progressive foreign policy, and more. SHOW NOTES __ __ * Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy https://acast.com/privacy for more information.

45m
Jan 10, 2023