World Affairs Councils Podcast
KNOW NOW: Joe Cirincione on Global Nuclear Threats

KNOW NOW: Joe Cirincione on Global Nuclear Threats

June 13, 2019

There is a high risk that someone will use, by accident or design, one or more of the 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. Many thought such threats ended with the Cold War, but they remain an ongoing nightmare. Author of the books Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too LateBomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons and Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats, Joe Cirincione is one of the leading experts in the country on U.S. nuclear weapons. Join Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, as he discusses the major nuclear weapons threats the world faces today and the debate over the best policies to counter them with Tennessee WAC's Patrick Ryan. 

KNOW NOW: The Honorable Fran Ulmer on After the Arctic Ice Melts

KNOW NOW: The Honorable Fran Ulmer on After the Arctic Ice Melts

May 13, 2019

The Arctic has been warming almost twice as quickly as the rest of the planet and its effects can be felt worldwide. Research thus far shows the warming Arctic impacts weather patterns as far away as mid-latitude areas like California by weakening the jet stream. Colder water in the Pacific Northwest is becoming more acidic and unstable for farming shellfish, while melting permafrost and coastal erosion in Alaska is causing infrastructure collapse and loss of biodiversity. Join the World Affairs Councils of America and former Lt. Gov and Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission Fran Ulmer for a conversation about the arctic, climate change, and the intersections of environmental science and policy.

Read more about Hon. Fran Ulmer

Cover to Cover: Author and Journalist Beth Gardiner on Our Modern-Day Plague.

Cover to Cover: Author and Journalist Beth Gardiner on Our Modern-Day Plague.

May 1, 2019

Air pollution prematurely kills seven million people every year, including more than one hundred thousand Americans. It is strongly linked to strokes, heart attacks, many kinds of cancer, dementia, and premature birth, among other ailments. In Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution, Beth Gardiner travels the world to tell the story of this modern-day plague, taking readers from the halls of power in Washington and the diesel-fogged London streets she walks with her daughter to Poland’s coal heartland and India’s gasping capital. In a gripping narrative that’s alive with powerful voices and personalities, she exposes the political decisions and economic forces that have kept so many of us breathing dirty air. This is a moving, up-close look at the human toll, where we meet the scientists who have transformed our understanding of pollution’s effects on the body and the ordinary people fighting for a cleaner future.

In the United States, air is far cleaner than it once was. But progress has failed to keep up with the science, which tells us that even today’s lower pollution levels are doing real damage. And as the Trump administration rips up the regulations that have brought us where we are, decades of gains are now at risk. Elsewhere, the problem is far worse, and choking nations like China are scrambling to replicate the achievements of an American agency—the EPA—that until recently was the envy of the world.

KNOW NOW: Documentary photographer, Greg Constantine, on the ethics of photographing war and atrocity.

KNOW NOW: Documentary photographer, Greg Constantine, on the ethics of photographing war and atrocity.

May 1, 2019

Photojournalism often succeeds where words fail. From powerful, iconic, and polarizing images, like Nick Ut's Vietnam-era "Napalm Girl" to three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi lying face down on a sandy beach in Turkey - these images tell stories with vivid urgency. Constantine, author of the Exiled to Nowhere book and exhibit, discusses the challenges and ethical implications of documenting war and atrocity with WorldOregon's Tim DuRoche.

Constantine has spent much of the past fifteen years living and working in Asia. In 2005, he began work on his long-term project, Nowhere People. Constantine has spent the past 10 years documenting stateless communities in eighteen countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Serbia, Italy, Iraq, Kuwait, and Lebanon. His work has been featured in various publications including the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneNewsweekThe AtlanticThe New RepublicCNN, and Al-Jazeera.

KNOW NOW: Her Excellency Lolwah R M Al-Khater on the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue and Qatar’s Foreign Policy

KNOW NOW: Her Excellency Lolwah R M Al-Khater on the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue and Qatar’s Foreign Policy

April 3, 2019

Appointed by His Excellency Mohammad Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Before her appointment as the Spokesperson, H.E. Lolwah joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Minister Plenipotentiary. She also served as the Director of Planning and Quality at Qatar Tourism Authority and as a Research Project Manager at Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development.

Her Excellency will provide an update on the U.S.-Qatar strategic dialogue and Qatar's foreign policy.

Amb. William J. Burns on “The Back Channel”

Amb. William J. Burns on “The Back Channel”

April 3, 2019

Over the course of more than three decades as an American diplomat, William J. Burns played a central role in the most consequential diplomatic episodes of his time—from the bloodless end of the Cold War to the collapse of post–Cold War relations with Putin’s Russia, from post–9/11 tumult in the Middle East to the secret nuclear talks with Iran.

In The Back Channel, Burns recounts, with novelistic detail and incisive analysis, some of the seminal moments of his career. Drawing on a trove of newly declassified cables and memos, he gives readers a rare inside look at American diplomacy in action. His dispatches from war-torn Chechnya and Qaddafi’s bizarre camp in the Libyan desert and his warnings of the “Perfect Storm” that would be unleashed by the Iraq War will reshape our understanding of history—and inform the policy debates of the future. Burns sketches the contours of effective American leadership in a world that resembles neither the zero-sum Cold War contest of his early years as a diplomat nor the “unipolar moment” of American primacy that followed.

Ultimately, The Back Channel is an eloquent, deeply informed, and timely story of a life spent in service of American interests abroad. It is also a powerful reminder, in a time of great turmoil, of the enduring importance of diplomacy.

Thomas Bollyky on “Plagues and the Paradox of Progress”

Thomas Bollyky on “Plagues and the Paradox of Progress”

February 11, 2019

Council on Foreign Relations' Thomas J. Bollyky 

Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World Is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways

Plagues and parasites have played a central role in world affairs, shaping the evolution of the modern state, the growth of cities, and the disparate fortunes of national economies. This book tells that story, but it is not about the resurgence of pestilence. It is the story of its decline. For the first time in recorded history, virus, bacteria, and other infectious diseases are not the leading cause of death or disability in any region of the world. People are living longer, and fewer mothers are giving birth to many children in the hopes that some might survive. And yet, the news is not all good. Recent reductions in infectious disease have not been accompanied by the same improvements in income, job opportunities, and governance that occurred with these changes in wealthier countries decades ago. There have also been unintended consequences. In this book, Thomas Bollyky explores the paradox in our fight against infectious disease: the world is getting healthier in ways that should make us worry.

Bollyky interweaves a grand historical narrative about the rise and fall of plagues in human societies with contemporary case studies of the consequences. Bollyky visits Dhaka—one of the most densely populated places on the planet—to show how low-cost health tools helped enable the phenomenon of poor world megacities. He visits China and Kenya to illustrate how dramatic declines in plagues have affected national economies. Bollyky traces the role of infectious disease in the migrations from Ireland before the potato famine and to Europe from Africa and elsewhere today.

Historic health achievements are remaking a world that is both worrisome and full of opportunities. Whether the peril or promise of that progress prevails, Bollyky explains, depends on what we do next.

Read more from Bollyky here:

Foreign Affairs: Health Without Wealth - The Worrying Paradox of Modern Medical Miracles 

Financial Times

Francis Fukuyama on “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment”

Francis Fukuyama on “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment”

January 29, 2019

In 2014, Francis Fukuyama wrote that American institutions were in decay, as the state was progressively captured by powerful interest groups. Two years later, his predictions were borne out by the rise to power of a series of political outsiders whose economic nationalism and authoritarian tendencies threatened to destabilize the entire international order. These populist nationalists seek direct charismatic connection to “the people,” who are usually defined in narrow identity terms that offer an irresistible call to an in-group and exclude large parts of the population as a whole.

Demand for recognition of one’s identity is a master concept that unifies much of what is going on in world politics today. The universal recognition on which liberal democracy is based has been increasingly challenged by narrower forms of recognition based on nation, religion, sect, race, ethnicity, or gender, which have resulted in anti-immigrant populism, the upsurge of politicized Islam, the fractious “identity liberalism” of college campuses, and the emergence of white nationalism. Populist nationalism, said to be rooted in economic motivation, actually springs from the demand for recognition and therefore cannot simply be satisfied by economic means. The demand for identity cannot be transcended; we must begin to shape identity in a way that supports rather than undermines democracy.

Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment is an urgent and necessary book—a sharp warning that unless we forge a universal understanding of human dignity, we will doom ourselves to continuing conflict. 

Stephen Tankel on “With Us and Against Us”

Stephen Tankel on “With Us and Against Us”

January 10, 2019

December's Cover to Cover featured a conversation with Stephen Tankel, professor at American University and adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, on his new book, With Us and Against Us: How America's Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror.

Tankel analyzes the factors that shape counterterrorism cooperation, examining the ways partner nations aid international efforts, as well as the ways they encumber and impede effective action. It offers a policy-relevant toolkit for improving counterterrorism cooperation, devising strategies for mitigating risks, and getting the most out of difficult partnerships.

Valerie Plame on KNOW NOW with SFCIR’s Executive Director Sandy Campbell

Valerie Plame on KNOW NOW with SFCIR’s Executive Director Sandy Campbell

October 26, 2018

A former career covert CIA operations officer, Valerie Plame worked to protect America’s national security and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons. During her career with the CIA, Valerie managed top-secret covert programs designed to keep terrorists and rogue nation states from acquiring nuclear weapons. This involved decision making at senior levels, recruiting foreign assets, deploying resources around the world, managing multi-million dollar budgets, briefing US policy-makers, and demonstrating consistently solid judgment in a field where mistakes could prove disastrous to national security. She was also involved in covert cyber operations and counterterrorism efforts in Europe and the Middle East.

Valerie sits on the boards of Global Data Security, a cyber security company that safeguards digital data streaming and extends that protection to email and attachments, and Starling Trust, a predictive behavioral analytics company that interprets and forecasts behavioral trends. She also serves on the nonprofit boards of Global Zero the United Way of Santa Fe County, and Postpartum Support International. Valerie is affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute, a trans-disciplinary scientific think tank created by two Nobel Prize winners to address the most compelling and complex problems in the world today.