This is Bombshell, a bi-weekly podcast coming to you from Washington insiders to dissect today’s foreign policy crises and tomorrow’s security challenges. We’ll talk military strategy, White House mayhem, and the best cocktails known to (wo)man. Brought to you by War on the Rocks.
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Jan 12, 2018
Bombshell returns from a long winter's nap for its first 2018 episode and first test run of a brand new set of Bombshell questions! Christy Abizaid joins us to talk Pakistan and the joys of Austin, TX, and we talk protests in Iran and what happens when South Korea hears that hotline bling.  Yet another White House shuffle could be in the works, and we eagerly anticipate the arrival of a new defense strategy.  Finally, hyperspace ramming and Nazi uncles get the attention you'd expect from us in pop culture.  Bonus: expect news about a Bombshell anniversary party soon!
After we recorded, we learned that one of the first friends of the pod, Shawn Brimley, passed away. Shawn will be remembered as a brilliant scholar and great friend and colleague, but he was first and foremost a wonderful husband and dad. You can contribute to an education fund set up for his children.
Theme Song: Future Teens – Jennifer Lawrence
Produced by Tre Hester
Image: Sgt. Lucas Hopkins, U.S. Marine Corps
Episode Reading:
Dec 19, 2017
Loren, Radha, and Erin traveled to Maxwell AFB for a special live year in review episode at the Air Command and Staff College. Come for their thoughts on the biggest national security stories of the year and stay for an extended Q&A with ACSC students (starting around 39:00). Plus, bonus Star Wars commentary.
Dec 13, 2017
This week Susanna Blume joins to tell us how the sausage is made on Capitol Hill - the defense budget, continuing resolutions, and other congressional hijinks. And Radha returns from maternity leave! Then we wade through the president's Jerusalem announcement and recent Brexit breakthroughs, before dissecting the new National Security Strategy. And of course we discuss Season 2 of "The Crown" - and our new gift guide!
Episode Reading:
Nov 29, 2017

This week on Bombshell we talk with Mieke Eoyang about, well, basically everything. We take a rapid fire tour of political dramas in Zimbabwe, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. Stop for a bit to bask in the crazy sunshine of Turkish plots and then return to the United States just to ask: Exactly how many troops do we have overseas? Then just for kicks, we debate what a lawful order for a nuclear first strike would look like. We wrap up with Mieke's Twitter conversation with John Cusack and Erin's dream for a Master and Commander sequel.

Produced by Tre Hester

Theme: Future Teens - Jennifer Lawrence 

Episode Reading

Nov 15, 2017

This week on Bombshell, Quinta Jurecic of Lawfare (and Washington Post!) fame joins us to break down the Mueller investigation, AUMF debate, and whether Mike Flynn is really a character from a Coen Brothers' movie. We also discuss the president's trip to Asia and do our best to understand the drama in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, which is all happening without the benefit of a functioning State Department. Quinta confesses her love of James Comey's Twitter account, while Erin and Loren do their best cosplay courtesy of Rag and Bone.

Theme Song: Future Teens - Jennifer Lawrence
Produced by Tre Hester

Episode Reading:

Nov 1, 2017

This week on Bombshell, Alice Hunt Friend joins us to talk all things Africa and civ-mil. We dive into U.S. operations in Niger and the Kenyan elections reboot. Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping get new mandates while preparing for the president’s big trip to Asia, along with the rest of us. And we all wait for the fallout from the Mueller indictments.

Produced by Tre Hester

Music: Lovira, All Things Considered

Episode Reading:

Oct 18, 2017

This week on Bombshell, special guest Elizabeth Rosenberg explains the art of unmaking the Iran deal and the consequences of the Trump administration's Iran 'strategy.' Foreign relations are keeping us busy with a tinderbox in Kirkuk at the worst possible time, and a new lens on the Pentagon's under-scrutinized advise and assist efforts in Africa that resulted in four soldier's killed in an ambush this month. Mattis and the White House are sending mixed signals on transparency and democratic accountability on the Hill and in the press (what else is new?). Erin, Radha, and Loren are as usual looking out for budget deals, new and potentially harmful MAVNI guidelines, and Trump appointees. And yeah. Us too.


Produced by Tre Hester. 

Music: Future Teens-Jennifer Lawrence 

Episode Reading: 

Oct 4, 2017

This week, the Bombshell squad goes shoulder to shoulder into the fray of referenda for the Iraqi Kurds and the Catalans in Spain, alongside a recap of the German general election.  Like many women have before us, we ask "Why Chad?" and explore the merits of the new Trump travel ban. We wonder if it was painful for Secretary Tillerson to get cut off at the knees over North Korea, and contemplate the interagency fun of  the Puerto Rico relief efforts.  Finally, we spend some quality time pondering the existential crises brought on by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's Vietnam documentary on PBS - and also our love of Ross Poldark.


Episode Reading:

Producer: Tre Hester, Music: Future Teens - Jennifer Lawrence 

Sep 20, 2017

Erin, Radha, and Loren get the band back together and invite Laura Rosenberger to dish about the launch of the Alliance for Security Democracy (her new project aimed at countering Russian efforts to undermine democratic institutions), her love of the Steelers, and our open invitation to military listeners to help us land on a carrier. Then it's Groundhog Day in Keeping of Foreign Relations, with new antics and new histrionics around North Korea and Iran, and White House mayhem heads to New York for the U.N General Assembly. Finally, we look forward to the NDAA and the Red Sparrow movie.

Episode Reading:

Produced by Tre Hester Music: Lovira, All Things Considered

Sep 6, 2017

This week, Bombshell bids farewell to summer with our final distributed ops episode, closing out what has been a nice, quiet August (ha. ha). Afghanistan is, as usual, still a thing, but this time President Trump - or his teleprompter - actually gave us some thoughts on the matter. We lament waking up to a nuclear test in North Korea and the latest chapters in the Kenyan election and China-India border disputes, and drill down on how everything became about readiness and readiness became about everything: the Seventh Fleet, the Army, DACA, you name it. Finally, we give our take on John Kelly's efforts at discipline in the West Wing and the continuing parade of White House departures, as well as views on Back to School reading and "book dates" with your partner.


Back to School Reading:

The Alice Network, Kate Quinn

Aug 22, 2017

This week the Bombshell crew preps for the eclipse from opposite corners of the world to ask why we haven't all perished in the Fire and the Fury (alternate title for our next romance novel). Along with North Korea we talk India-China donnybrooks, military 'options' in Venezuela, and are somehow not overwhelmed by all the mayhem emanating from the White House. We go once more with feeling in Afghanistan, ask what Bannon's departure will mean for foreign policy, and debate the Chiefs subtweets on Charlottesville. Loren heads off to Porto, Radha chases the totality, and Erin enjoys the second order effects of good cocktails.


 Produced by Tre Hester Music: Lovira, All Things Considered

Aug 8, 2017

This week on Bombshell, we each dial in from parts-unknown to compare our drinking habits to the Queen of England. We also discuss new North Korean sanctions, whether anyone sent flowers to the new Pakistani Prime Minister, and what on earth is happening in Venezuela. White House mayhem is dialed to eleven and we dissect leaks, tweets, and the new sheriff in town. Finally Loren and Radha confess their love of spoilers because they’re obviously insane control freaks.

Episode Reading:

Jul 25, 2017

Susan Hennessey of Lawfare and Rational Security fame joins Radha and Erin to wade through recertifying the Iran deal, social media shenanigans in the Persian Gulf, and whither the new Russia sanctions. Also on tap: all the leaks! and how we forgot about our $1 billion in foreign loans. Radha swoons over a baby hippo and Erin begs Loren to return so we can talk about Jon and Sansa.


Jul 12, 2017

Special guest Amy Shafer joins us for the full show and highlights her fabulous research on the civil-military divide in America (and dishes on the Air Force Tops in Blue). Then we celebrate the liberation of Mosul, walk through the North Korean missile test, and wonder what exactly happened at the G20 meetings. Also on the table: Whither our Afghan strategy? And Erin gets giddy over space marines. Stick around for our “Game of Thrones” preview!*

*By which we mean fan-girl shouts of joy and anticipation.


Jun 30, 2017

A special LIVE episode from the CNAS annual conference. We pour some French 75s and talk to Karen Attiah and Jia Lynn Yang from The Washington Post about national security in a time of distraction. Then we dive into the Modi visit, late night Syria shots, and Defense Department recruiting and personnel issues. We wrap up with questions from the audience and a blast from the past: how not to dress like an Army colonel.

Music: “Jennifer Lawrence,” by Future Teens; Produced by Tré Hester


Jun 21, 2017

How do you solve a problem like Qatar? This week over Pimms Cups, we talk with Mara Karlin about all the Middle East dramas (and why she loves the SAIS cult). We lament the State Dept budget and UK politics, pay tribute to the USS Fitzgerald, and wonder if we’ll ever have a strategy in Afghanistan or Syria. Finally, American Gods, the Manic Pixie Dream S2 of Band of Brothers, and Fidget Spinners.


Jun 7, 2017

This week we go it alone to focus on your questions! We force Radha and Loren to actually define their true loves of process and staffing, all while drinking delicious white sangria. Plus, what’s a wonk? Then we dig into the president’s whirlwind trip, upcoming U.K. elections and Erin and Radha's obsession with measurement error, how to make decisions on major international agreements after a Frenchman shakes your hand too hard, and whether the world is really as zero-sum as reality TV.


Music: "Jennifer Lawrence," by Future Teens; Produced by Tré Hester

May 24, 2017

This week we trek out to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis for a geek field trip of epic proportions (three words: Jack Ryan's couch). We drink some rum and Claude Berube's scotch, and ring up former Under Secretary of the Navy Janine Davidson to talk about service secretaries, readiness, and why there is no Santa Claus. Then we dive into the Iranian elections, Syrian proxy war(s), our many desires for special counsels and other investigations, good skin care, and the defense budget. Finally, a short tour of the best of Navy pop culture. Sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!

Episode Reading

May 10, 2017

This week on Bombshell, we say nothing about Jim Comey! We recorded Monday and who could have guessed we'd be here today? Instead, we discuss recent casualties in Afghanistan and Somalia, check in on Venezuela and the French elections, and talk about the many ways one does and does not talk to friendly dictators. We also do our part to keep Costco margaritas in business. And then, in honor of Mother’s Day, we talk to our moms. You should too (your moms, not ours).

Episode Reading:




Apr 26, 2017

This week on "Bombshell," we dissect Trump’s first 100 days: whither America First, Axis of Adults (or just the big kids table?), budget shenanigans, and delegating all the things. But first, Mira Rapp-Hooper joins us to walk through the state of play on the Korean Peninsula (and reveals where you can get literal bombshells made into knives). And then Loren and Erin confess why all we want in life is Mara Jade back in the Star Wars canon.

Want to meet the Bombshell crew in person? Click here!

Apr 12, 2017

This week on Bombshell we take a long look at Syria with special guest Melissa Dalton: what happened, what questions to ask, what hot takes to avoid, and where to go from here. And then we drink a lot. Also on the table: Devin Nunes and the Great Unmasking, reading tea-leaves in the National Security Council staff and membership, Jared Kushner's Wes Anderson adventure, how one dresses to go to war, and a few of our favorite spy novels.


Mar 29, 2017

This week on "Bombshell," Kelly Magsamen joins us to talk about Sec Tillerson’s Asia visit, the upcoming Trump-Xi soiree, and North Korean chicanery. We also discuss splitting the check with NATO, attacks on civil servants, whether the Defense Department deserves a bonus (and how to spend it), and why we love Christine Fox. We also answer questions from the audience and reveal our favorite bourbon bars in DC.


Note: Please excuse some minor, intermittent cell phone interference in this episode. That's on us and it won't happen again!

Mar 15, 2017

This week Radha, Loren, and Erin drink hot toddies and reluctantly dig into the newest Marine Corps scandal. They also explore growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and Europe with a brief "missiles: big, medium, and small" explainer; debate the wisdom of loosening counter-terrorism policies while gutting American soft power (aka, Is it always a good time to kill bad guys?); and exorcise the bogeyman of the deep state. Stick around for pop culture digestif.


Marine Scandal as reported byTask and Purpose in 2014

Paul Szoldra on the Marine scandal in Business Insider

NYT on Chinese response to South Korea

Hayes Brown on Turkey and the Netherlands in Buzzfeed (see also Michael Crowley)

Loren Schulman on the Deep State in Politico (see also David Remnick)

Erin Simpson and Max Fisher on Trump’s use of force

On Get Out and Slavery

On How Buffy Transformed TV

Music: “Jennifer Lawrence,” by Future Teens

Produced by Tré Hester

Mar 1, 2017

This week, Loren, Radha, and Erin discuss the North Korean assassination (beware the perfume lady) and take questions from listeners (what is inter-service rivalry anyway?). Kori Schake joins to dissect the defense budget, H.R. McMaster's challenges at the National Security Council, Thucydides, and why she hates Moneyball.

Music: “Jennifer Lawrence,” by Future Teens

Produced by Tré Hester

Feb 15, 2017

Join us for another round of "Keeping up Foreign Relations" and "White House mayhem." We tackle the Yemen raid, North Korea, Afghanistan, NatSec staffing, and the hiring freeze. Special guest Julie Smith weighs in on Russian intrigue and the future of NATO. Stick around for our latest pop-culture diversions.

Music: “Jennifer Lawrence,” by Future Teens

Produced by Tré Hester

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