WhattheHELLis Going On?

MAKING SENSE OF THE WORLD

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WhattheHELL is this?

The American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka and Marc Thiessen address the questions we’re all asking in their podcast, “What the Hell Is Going On?” In conversational, informative and irreverent episodes, Pletka and Thiessen interview policymakers and experts, asking tough, probing questions about the most important foreign policy and security challenges facing the world today.

whotheHELL is Dany?

Danielle Pletka

is senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. A former senior professional staff member on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, she now writes regularly on national security matters with a special focus on Iran, Syria, Israel, and South Asia.

Written work

Dany is a contributor, coeditor, and coauthor of several books. She is the coeditor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (2008), the coauthor of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (2011), and the coauthor of “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (2012). She contributed the chapter “America in Decline” to the 2016 edited volume, “Debating the Obama Presidency.”

Media

A regular guest on television, Dany appears frequently on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Her broadcast appearances also include CBS News, CNN, C-Span, and MSNBC. She is also a frequent contributor to mainstream outlets, and has been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Atlantic, among other outlets.

whotheHELL is Marc?

Marc A. Thiessen

is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a columnist at The Washington Post, where he writes twice a week on politics, foreign affairs, and domestic policy. In 2018, the Post syndicated his column nationally and it was picked up by 178 newspapers, the most successful launch of a new syndicated column in Washington Post history.

Speechwriter

Marc served as a member of the White House senior staff under President George W. Bush, where he was chief speechwriter to the president and lead writer on two State of the Union addresses. Before that, Marc served as chief speechwriter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. His inside account of the CIA’s terrorist interrogation program, “Courting Disaster,” was a top-ten New York Times bestseller.

Media

Marc is a Fox News contributor and appears several times a week on programs including “The Story with Marth McCallum” and “Special Report with Bret Baier.” At AEI, Marc studies and writes about American presidential leadership, US foreign and defense policy issues, and contributes frequently to the AEIdeas blog.

HowtheHELL do I listen?

After visiting Moscow in 1988, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders praised the Soviet system and established a sister city relationship with his hometown of Burlington, Vermont. Throughout his time in office, Sanders regularly hobnobbed with and supported Communist, anti-American and anti-Israel leaders.

The UK recently announced that it would allow the Chinese telecom company Huawei to build portions of its new 5G network. The British decision shocked many US government officials, including President Trump, who had been advising against Huawei’s involvement due to national security concerns.

Last night, President Donald Trump delivered his third State of the Union address, touching on his administration’s foreign policy and domestic successes. Making history as the first speech delivered by a president who is about to be acquitted in an impeachment trial, Democrats responded contemptuously with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ending the night by publicly tearing up a copy of Trump’s speech.

Chinese officials have confirmed thousands of cases of the coronavirus as foreign governments continue to evacuate their citizens from the city of Wuhan, thought to be the disease’s point of origin. With multiple cases identified in America and stock prices plummeting, how worried should we be about the virus’s spread?

The Washington Post recently published the Afghanistan Papers, drawing parallels to the Vietnam War’s Pentagon Papers. Throughout the report, the Post alleges that the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations all lied to the public about America’s progress in the war in Afghanistan.

In a major rebuke to China, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen won a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election. Despite trailing in the polls mere months ago, record numbers came out to support Tsai in an effort to save the country’s democracy from becoming a second Hong Kong.

Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed by a US air strike in Baghdad last week, escalating tensions in the region and sparking an Iranian strike on two military bases in Iraq. Following the attack, President Trump announced new economic sanctions and said that America would no longer tolerate Iran’s campaign of terror.

Despite various domestic and foreign policy achievements, President Trump made a number of grave mistakes in 2019. He asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, used his emergency authority to circumvent Congress on the border wall, invited the Taliban to Camp David, and gave Turkey a greenlight to invade Syria and attack our Kurdish allies.

In his third year in office, President Donald Trump continued to deliver an extraordinary list of both domestic and foreign policy accomplishments. He delivered for the forgotten Americans, got NATO allies to cough up more money, stood with the people of Hong Kong, and ordered the operation that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

What does the Trump administration see as the largest foreign policy priority for the upcoming year? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined Dany and Marc to discuss national security challenges – and the Trump administration’s successes.

Last Thursday, Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party dominated the UK elections, earning a critical victory that will finally pave the way for Brexit. Breaking through the impermeable “Red Wall,” Johnson’s party emerged with 365 parliamentary seats—the largest Conservative win since 1987.

In 2018, US-backed forces in Syria annihilated a Russian platoon of mercenaries, killing hundreds after the Kremlin-supported private army tried to take an American position in Deir al-Zour. The Russian government denied knowledge of the shadowy group, which has been spotted sowing discord in Ukraine, Libya, and the Central African Republic, among other countries.

Iran is currently experiencing its deadliest political unrest since the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago. The regime in Tehran has already killed hundreds of civilians and arrested 7,000 people as anti-government protesters take to the streets to demonstrate against corruption and the country’s faltering economy.

The former President of Poland and founding Chairman of Solidarity Lech Walesa joined the podcast to discuss his experience with anti-government protests and offer advice to the people of Hong Kong. Promising to stand with demonstrators, Walesa states that he would be willing to go to Hong Kong and fight for the democratic ideals that […]

World leaders gathered in Germany last week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. But three decades after that momentous occasion, we are once again seeing the rise of socialism, a system of governance that put people in chains both politically and economically. […]

November 4th marked the 40-year anniversary of the Iranian hostage crisis, when a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans captive for 444 days. Four decades later, has the Islamic Republic of Iran changed its ways? And what role does the hostage nightmare continue to play in US-Iran relations?

Over the weekend, President Trump announced that the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed during a raid by US commandos in Syria’s Idlib province. And while Baghdadi’s death is a clear victory in the war on terror, eliminating the leader of ISIS will not eliminate the threat nor defeat the larger Salafi-jihadi movement. […]

WTH is going on with quid pro quos?
This for…what?

Danielle Pletka, Marc A. Thiessen, Lester Munson

Everyone in Washington set their hair on fire following White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s apparent admission of a quid pro quo for his assistance to Ukraine in his news conference last week. But are quid pro quos really that bad? (Depends on the quo.) Has the US government used them before? And shouldn’t foreign aid always be dependent on getting something that’s good for America in return?

President Trump recently withdrew US forces from northeastern Syria, greenlighting a Turkish offensive against Washington’s erstwhile Kurdish allies. Trump’s decision surprised many in Washington, including members of his own administration, who point out that pulling American troops not only undermines US alliance credibility, helps Russia, ISIS, and Iran, but also leaves the Kurds, a group that has been integral to the fight against ISIS, out to dry.

What the hell is going on with impeachment? Is President Trump about to be removed from office? Or will this backfire on the Democrats? As the impeachment inquiry drags on, new questions about Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders, the Bidens’ involvement in Ukraine, and the future of American politics continue to emerge.

Dany and Marc interviewed Congressman Michael Waltz to hear his unique perspective on the collapse of the US-Taliban talks, how the US can succeed in Afghanistan, and what Congress and the president are getting wrong about America’s fight in the region.

What the hell is going on in cyberspace? Could the United States defend itself from a Russian, Chinese, or Iranian cyberattack? As the world becomes increasingly dependent on technology, the US faces new cyber threats that could have catastrophic consequences for the global economy and US national security.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for strikes against two of Saudi Arabia’s largest oil facilities on September 14, but the US has said there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen, instead blaming Iran. So who’s really responsible? And should the US respond?

As the Trump administration and Taliban officials wrap up negotiations, many fear that a US withdrawal could return Afghanistan to the terrorist safe haven it was before the 9/11 attacks. General David Petraeus joined the show to discuss his time in the region and the importance of keeping troops on the ground.

Antisemitism is on the rise both in the US and abroad. What explains this renewed phenomenon? Dany and Marc interviewed the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum to discuss the rise of antisemitism today and the importance of remembering those who lost their lives in the Holocaust.

US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams joined Dany and Marc to explain the Trump administration’s strategy in Venezuela. The three also discuss how the country got to where it is today, the Chinese, Iranian, and Russian roles in the conflict, and the likelihood for success in the Norwegian-led negotiations.

WTH is going on in Hong Kong?
Is this the next Tiananmen?

Danielle Pletka, Marc A. Thiessen, Gordon Chang

How long will Beijing tolerate democratic rumblings from Hong Kong without a major crackdown? Could this be the next Tiananmen? Hong Kong expert Gordon Chang joined Dany and Marc to explain what’s going on.

What’s going on with the US-China trade war? And how is China’s manipulation of the global trading system hurting working-class Americans? Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) joins the show to discuss.

WTH is going on in the world?
With General Jack Keane

Danielle Pletka, Marc A. Thiessen, General Jack Keane

Numerous news outlets reported that President Trump called off a military strike on Iran because he saw General Jack Keane point out on television that it was possible that the country’s strike was a fluke. On this episode of the show, Gen. Keane discusses recent Iranian provocations and US cyber strategy.

What the hell is going on with Mexico? After threatening to impose tariffs, President Trump recently announced that he and the Mexican government reached an agreement to avert a US-Mexico trade war. On this episode, AEI’s Roger Noriega reviews the details of the new immigration deal.

What the hell is going on in North Korea? AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt discusses what might happen to someone who falls out of favor with the North Korean regime, the future of US–North Korea nuclear talks, and the likelihood of North Korean denuclearization.

WTH is going on in Iran?
Is the US headed for war?

Danielle Pletka, Marc A. Thiessen, Frederick W. Kagan

What the hell is going on in Iran? Fred Kagan joined the podcast to discuss current US-Iran tensions and recent attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.