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War on the Rocks


Discussions over drinks with security, defense, and foreign policy insiders and experts. The original War on the Rocks podcast series.

Discussions over drinks with security, defense, and foreign policy insiders and experts. The original War on the Rocks podcast series.


United States


Discussions over drinks with security, defense, and foreign policy insiders and experts. The original War on the Rocks podcast series.




Oh My, AI

Eric Schmidt of Google fame and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work join the show to talk about their work leading the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which released its final report earlier this year. They tackle a huge range of questions, to include when Ryan can finally replace his editors with an algorithm. Enjoy the show! And read the Final Report of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.


Great Power Cyber Party

Will we remember early 2021 as a key escalatory moment in offensive cyber operations? Three top experts join us to unpack the implications of two major recent cyber operations — the SolarWinds hack attributed to Russia and the Microsoft Exchange hack by China. What does it all mean? What should the United States do? What should it have done differently? Dmitri Alperovitch, Erica Borghard, and Jason Healey tackle these questions and more. Further reading: Dmitri Alperovitch and Ian Ward,...


Intelligence and the Biden Administration

After four...strange years, what can we expect from the Biden administration on the intelligence front? From key appointments to the strategic context, from insurrection to counter-intelligence, our guests have you covered. Carmen Medina, David Priess, and Mark Stout join Ryan for this episode


Lost at Sea

For many people, terms like “piracy,” “stowaway,” and “kidnapped” conjure up romantic visions influenced by the literature of Robert Louis Stevenson or C.S. Forester. But as this episode’s guests tell us, these terms actually have deadly serious meanings without much romance and with a great deal of grim reality to them. Doyle Hodges, executive editor of the Texas National Security Review, sits down with Ian Urbina, investigative reporter for the New York Times and author of, The Outlaw...


A Whole New World (Order)

Rebecca Lissner, Mira Rapp-Hooper, and Stephen Wertheim join Doyle Hodges, executive editor of the Texas National Security Review, to share their views on American foreign policy and international order. They have recently published two books on the subject: An Open World: How America Can Win the Contest for Twenty First Century Order, by Rebecca and Mira, and Stephen’s Tomorrow the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy.


Change or Die

The successful military is the one that adapts and innovates. Dave Barno, Nora Benhahel, and Frank Hoffman join Ryan to talk about how the U.S. military changes, or fails to do so. They have two new books on the subject between them: Adaptation under Fire: How Militaries Change in Wartime, by Dave and Nora is out now. And Mars Adapting: Military Change During War, by Frank, will be out soon. (This was recorded before the election results were projected)


Banks and Moulton on Military Might and the American Future

In this episode, two members of Congress from two sides of the aisle came together to deliver a message of consensus on the future of the American military. And they did so on the eve of the most contentious presidential election in living memory. Looking for an escape from the drama? Interested in the revolutionary steps the United States needs to take to maintain its military edge? Listen to this episode with Rep. Jim Banks and Rep. Seth Moulton, who c0-chaired the Future of Defense Task...


Introducing "A Most Terrible Weapon"

A Most Terrible Weapon is a podcast about the dawn of the nuclear age, hosted by Usha Sahay and produced by War on the Rocks, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. In each episode, Usha takes listeners on a journey into the early years of the Cold War, telling stories about the dilemmas nuclear weapons posed for American and Soviet leaders, and introducing a fascinating cast of characters who were all trying to prevent...


Airmen, Sailors, and the Schoolhouse

As a part of our exploration of national security learning, we had Joan Johnson-Freese of the Naval War College and Mark Conversino of Air University on the show. Tune into this rich and wide-ranging conversation on what's right and wrong with professional military education in the Navy and Air Force.


Learn Like a Marine

Soon-to-be retired Maj. Gen. William Mullen drops in on the pod to talk about the making of the Marine Corps' newest doctrine, Learning, and how he hopes it will change his beloved Corps. It's all about two words: lifelong learning.


Gearing up for Economic Statecraft

David McCormick, the CEO of Bridgewater Associates — the world's largest hedge fund, dropped in on the pod to talk about how the United States can prepare itself to compete in a new era in which, more than ever, economic security is national security. Speaking from decades of experience at the highest levels of industry and government, McCormick lays out what America needs to do from policy to innovation to government reorganization to immigration to talent management and beyond. He also...


The Army Grapples with Modernization and COVID-19: A Conversation with Jim McPherson

Undersecretary of the Army James E. McPherson chats with Ryan about how the Army is coping with COVID-19 — starting with the recruitment pipeline — and the challenges of modernization. He also tells us about his military journey: Jim started as a young man in the Army then later joined the Navy, and he retired as judge advocate general of that service. In the last few years, he was called back into public service as a civilian as Army general counsel. In March he was confirmed as and...


Lies Through Which We Tell the Truth

In this episode, Doyle Hodges, executive editor of the Texas National Security Review, chats wth three authors of recent fiction related to military security that explores questions of how technology, society, and the distance between people and violence affects our conception of war and security. Hodges is joined by Linda Nagata, author of The Last Good Man, a near-future science fiction novel that explores a private military company and what they are capable of doing when they use...


Are Good Allies Hard to Find?

Well, are they? Mira Rapp-Hooper, Paul Miller, and Emma Ashford dazzle us with a wide-ranging debate on America's alliances, in part through the lens of Mira's new book -- Shields of the Republic: The Triumph and Peril of America’s Alliances.


Scoping the Future of Education in National Security and Beyond

There's a revolution coming in education that promises to empower lifelong learners in the national security space. In the first of a series of special episodes, pick apart the technological, organizational, and -- most importantly -- cultural issues at play. What does it all boil down to? What kind of learning should count and how can you make sure it counts? To understand all this, Ryan spoke with Sae Schatz, the Director of the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative; retired Marine...


Is Cyber Half the Battle?

How do Russia and China view cyber operations? How is the American view of cyber operations changing and is it changing fast enough? What do advances in scholarship have to tell us about how and why cyber operations matter? What cocktails do we miss the most? This conversation with Erica Borghard, Ben Buchanan, and Fiona Cunningham has something for everyone.


Disarming Disinformation

In this episode of the War on the Rocks podcast, Doyle Hodges, executive editor of the Texas National Security Review, sits down with Jessica Brandt, head of policy and research for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, and Camille Francois, chief innovation officer at Graphika, to discuss disinformation. Disinformation has been prominent in the minds of many Americans since the 2016 election. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report on April 21 confirming Russian...


Gen. (ret.) Martin E. Dempsey on Following and Leading

Long-time listeners might remember that Martin E. Dempsey, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was a guest on our humble show back in early 2014. In the next phase of his career, Dempsey has become a writer or, as he prefers it, a storyteller. He has a book out — his second — called No Time For Spectators: The Lessons That Mattered Most From West Point To The West Wing. From its stories about Cold War Germany to working for President Obama, Ryan enjoyed the book a great deal. He spoke...


A Chat with the Commandant: Gen. David H. Berger on the Marine Corps' New Direction

As listeners of this podcast know, the Marine Corps is taking a new direction. The latest document to lay out this vision is Force Design 2030. The commandant, Gen. David H. Berger, aims to cut the size of the Marine Corps and let go of some legacy systems (most notably tanks) in order to -- in the words of a recent article in the Economist --- turn the Corps into "a commando-like infantry force with nimbler weapons: drone squadrons will double in number and rocket batteries will triple." In...


The Plague and the Peloponnesian War

As the world endures a pandemic, we look to a plague of the past: that which struck Athens early in the Peloponnesian War. And we do so with the aid of Neville Morley, professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Exeter. Where did the plague come from? How did it affect the war? How did it change Athenian society? We explore these questions and more in a fascinating extended conversation. Neville is the perfect guide for these matters, having written many books and articles...