Trending Globally: Politics and Policy

Trending Globally: Politics & Policy

An award-winning podcast from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, exploring today's biggest global challenges with the world's leading experts. Listen every other week by subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts.

Can We Make Social Media Safe for Democracy?
08-06-2022
Can We Make Social Media Safe for Democracy?
For many politicians, policymakers, and voters, the 2016 election of Donald Trump was a shocking lesson in the massive role tech companies, like Facebook and Twitter, play in our politics.  Since then, their role has only gotten bigger. And as our guest on this episode of Trending Globally explains: that’s a huge problem for democracies around the world.  Frances Haugen worked as a product manager in Facebook’s Civic Integrity Department from 2019-2021. While there she saw firsthand how Facebook’s algorithms are designed to maximize user engagement at all costs, with disastrous effects. In 2021 Frances anonymously leaked tens of thousands of internal documents to The Wall Street Journal, and became known as the ‘Facebook Whistleblower.’ Since then she’s testified before Congress, and helped start a global movement to better understand and regulate ‘Big Tech.’ On this episode of Trending Globally, political economist and Rhodes Center Director Mark Blyth talks with Frances about the problems tech giants like Facebook pose to our politics, and what we can do to fix them.  This episode was originally broadcast on the Rhodes Center Podcast, another show from the Watson Institute. If you enjoy this interview, be sure to subscribe to the Rhodes Center Podcast for more just like it.  (Find transcripts and more information about all our episodes on our website. ) (Learn more about the Watson Institutes other podcasts).  (Read the Wall Street Journal’s expose on Facebook.)
Will America Ever Learn from the Mistakes of its ‘Forever Wars’?
11-05-2022
Will America Ever Learn from the Mistakes of its ‘Forever Wars’?
Last August, the United States pulled out of Afghanistan, ending its longest-ever military engagement. For a moment, it seemed like the US might be entering a period defined more by its domestic agenda than its international entanglements.  But then, of course, Russia invaded Ukraine. The US is getting more involved by the day in this new conflict, and Americans are once again debating what role their military should play in the world.  One central question hovering over this debate: as we try to support Ukraine and its people, can we avoid making the same mistakes we made when intervening in Afghanistan and Iraq?  Watson Senior Fellow Richard Boucher thinks it’s possible. But first, we need to make sure we’re learning the right lessons. And doing that requires looking back even further in our history than Afghanistan. As Richard explains, understanding how the “Vietnam generation” ended up leading the charge into Afghanistan and Iraq has a lot to teach us about the lessons we should take from past conflicts, and why it can be so difficult to learn them the first time around.  From 2006 until 2009, Richard Boucher served as the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, where he played a leading role in defining American strategy and diplomacy in Afghanistan. Before that he was the longest-serving Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs in American history. You can find more of his analysis and insights (on his blog).  (Learn more about the Watson Institute’s other podcasts).
Debating Progressive Public Policy with Glenn Loury and Briahna Joy Gray
27-04-2022
Debating Progressive Public Policy with Glenn Loury and Briahna Joy Gray
On this episode, Trending Globally was thrilled to welcome a special guest host: Glenn Loury, professor of economics at the Watson Institute. In addition to being a celebrated economist, Loury is also one of America’s most insightful and incisive thinkers on race and public policy.  His guest on this episode, Briahna Joy Gray, is a progressive writer and commentator, and former National Press Secretary for the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign. Glenn and Briahna discussed some of the Left’s most prized policy ambitions, including student debt relief, Medicare-for-all, and increasing taxes on America’s wealthiest citizens.  Neither Glenn nor Briahna’s political views fall neatly into America’s two main political parties, so while they don’t see eye to eye on most of the issues, the resulting conversation strays from typical partisan talking points. Instead, you’ll hear two independent thinkers respectfully debating America’s biggest policy problems, sometimes taking positions that cut across the partisan grain. Hopefully it will help you see some of America’s most long-standing political dilemmas in a new light.  Briahna is the host of the podcast ‘ (Bad Faith),’ and Glenn is the host of his own podcast, ‘ (The Glenn Show).’ Their conversation was edited down for this episode of Trending Globally, but you’ll be able to hear the full, unedited version on each of those podcasts soon. You can find them wherever you listen to podcasts.  (Find more conversations like this on Glenn Loury’s Substack.)
Earth Day Special: What the War in Ukraine Means for a Green Energy Transition
21-04-2022
Earth Day Special: What the War in Ukraine Means for a Green Energy Transition
This year, Earth Day marks the beginning of the ninth week of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A geopolitical and military crisis that quickly transformed into an energy crisis, this conflict will have far-reaching repercussions for both humanity and our climate. On this episode, Sarah Baldwin ’87 and Dan Richards talk with experts on the politics, economics, and science of fossil fuel about the relationship between war, technological change, and climate change.  Sarah talks with Jeff Colgan, political scientist and director of the Climate Solutions Lab at Watson, about how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (and the resulting sanctions imposed upon  them) have altered the global fossil fuel market. They also discuss what Jeff sees as the two different ways this crisis could impact our fight against climate change: one that will leave you hopeful, while the other…less so.  In the second half we highlight the work of Deborah Gordon, a senior fellow at Watson and an expert on both the policies and technologies that undergird the fossil fuel industry. In her book ‘No Standard Oil,’ Deborah corrects the flawed assumptions many of us have regarding the fossil fuel industry, and how these assumptions get in the way of finding a realistic way to fight the worst effects of global climate change.  Learn more about and purchase Deborah Gordon’s book, (No Standard Oil:) (Managing Abundant Petroleum in a Warming World). Learn more about and purchase Jeff Colgan’s book, (Petro-Aggression: When Oil Causes War.) (Learn more about the Watson Institute’s other podcasts).
Fiona Hill on Russia, the US, Economic Decline, and Demagoguery
16-03-2022
Fiona Hill on Russia, the US, Economic Decline, and Demagoguery
Fiona Hill became a household name in 2019, as a witness during President Trump’s first impeachment hearing. But before all that, she was an intelligence analyst specializing in Russia and Europe for Presidents Obama and Bush. And she watched closely as economic stagnation and inequality in Russia fueled populism and authoritarianism.  As her new book explains, a similar trajectory has been playing out in her birthplace in the North of England, and in her new home – the United States.  The book, titled ‘There Is Nothing For You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century,’ combines a personal history with a global history, and in the process explains the social and economic forces that lead to anti-democratic movements.   This episode was originally broadcast on the Rhodes Center Podcast, another show from the Watson Institute that’s hosted by political economist Mark Blyth. It was recorded in late February, so some references to the conflict in Ukraine may be a little out of date by the time you’re listening to this. But regardless of where this conflict stands as you hear this, Fiona’s analysis of what brought Russia, the UK, and the US to this troubling reality is as timely as ever.   (Watch a recording of the talk Fiona gave to students on our YouTube Channel.) (Learn more about and purchase Fiona’s book).  (Recent analyses on the conflict in Ukraine from other experts at the Watson Institute).
The Fight for Democracy in Nicaragua
02-03-2022
The Fight for Democracy in Nicaragua
This past November, Daniel Ortega was reelected as president of Nicaragua. He ensured his victory by imprisoning his political opponents and launching the largest crackdown on political dissent in the country in decades. This was just the most recent step in his multi-decade effort to transform Nicaragua from a budding democracy into an authoritarian regime.  What can’t be forgotten is that just one year ago this horrific turn didn’t seem inevitable. On this episode, Dan Richards talks with two experts on the subject: one is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute, the other an activist in Nicaraguan politics who is currently living in exile. They explain how Nicaragua got to its current state of extreme repression, and what might be done to change it.   This is also a story with a special connection to the Watson Institute, which hosted a conference in 2019 marking the (40th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution). Both of the guests on this episode were at that conference, as were multiple activists who are currently imprisoned in Nicaragua.  For more context on this crisis you can listen to the Watson Institute’s limited podcast series Revolution Revisited, which told the story of the Sandinista Revolution from the people who lived it.  (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) Guests on this episode: Stephen Kinzer: Watson Institute Senior fellow in international and public affairs, and author of (Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua). Luis Carrión: Political activist and democracy advocate, and former senior member of the Sandinista National Liberation Front.
For the US Military, Fossil Fuel is the ‘Lifeblood.’ Here's What that Means for the Planet.
19-01-2022
For the US Military, Fossil Fuel is the ‘Lifeblood.’ Here's What that Means for the Planet.
The B-2 Spirit, known as the ‘Stealth Bomber,’ is one of the most advanced aircrafts in the US military. It has a fuel efficiency of about 4.2 gallons per mile. (That’s not a typo; it’s less than one mile per gallon.) Burning a full tank of gas in a B-2 releases roughly 250 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s more than 50 times what the average car releases in an entire year.  And that’s just for one trip, for one plane in the US military – the world’s largest institutional consumer of fossil fuel.  “The size of that consumption is kind of hard to get your head around,” says Neta Crawford on this episode of Trending Globally.  Neta Crawford is a professor of political science at Boston University and co-founder of the Costs of War project, which is housed at the Watson Institute. The project works to uncover the financial, human, political, and environmental costs of America’s post-9/11 wars. This year Trending Globally has teamed up with the Costs of War project to explore what they’ve found. On this episode you’ll hear from Neta Crawford on her groundbreaking work calculating the size and scope of the US military’s carbon footprint. In the process of uncovering the extent of the military’s fuel consumption and carbon emissions, she also traces the long and complex relationship between national security, fossil fuels, and climate change.  (Learn more about Neta Crawford’s work. ) (Learn more about the Costs of War Project.) (Learn more about the Watson Institute’s other podcasts.)
The Politics and Policy of Righting Historical Wrongs with Amb. Keith Harper
15-12-2021
The Politics and Policy of Righting Historical Wrongs with Amb. Keith Harper
In 1996, Keith Harper began to work on a lawsuit against the US government. It was a class action suit filed by Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Confederacy in Montana. She claimed something that many people had long known to be true, but that had never been directly addressed in the US legal system: the US government owed many, many Native Americans a lot of money. Keith Harper - who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation - became a lead prosecutor for the plaintiff class, which grew to include hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. The case, known as Cobell v. Salazar, became one of the largest class action suits in US history. It awarded a total of $3.4 billion dollars to Native Americans across the country.  But as Keith explained to Sarah on this week’s episode of Trending Globally:  “It was an important milestone. But we should recognize, it was a mere measure of justice, and not full justice.” Keith would go on to serve as the US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council under President Obama starting in 2014. He was the first Native American ever to be appointed to an ambassadorship.  This year he’s serving as a senior fellow at the Watson Institute, and on this episode we explore both the groundbreaking case Cobell v. Salazar and what Keith sees as the relationship between Native American rights, international law, and human rights more broadly.  (Learn more about the Watson Institute’s other podcasts. )