Rational Security


The “Live Action Rational Security” Edition

This week, Quinta and Scott were joined by RatSec 1.0 host emeritus Benjamin Wittes to talk through the week's big national security news stories, including: 

  • “Sharing is Caring.” Earlier this week, an unnamed senior U.S. official indicated that the United States is providing targeting information to Ukrainian forces–only to have other officials walk back that assertion almost immediately. What is actually happening? And why is the Biden administration so paranoid about discussing it openly?
  • “The Chief’s Thief.” Recent revelations have shown that former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows played an integral role in leading efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 elections in the lead up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. But the Justice Department still has taken no steps toward prosecuting him for contempt of Congress for refusing to fully comply with the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation. What should we make of Meadows? And what should be done about him?
  • “Trolling Alone.” Incidents of harassment and hostility are an increasingly commonplace feature of our political discourse, particularly for public officials working on hot button issues. What should we make of this breakdown in civility? What causes it? And where may it lead?

For object lessons, Quinta passed along Susan Dominus's eye-opening piece on “The Nightmare of Being a Surrogate Mother in the Ukraine War.” Scott recommended NASA's amazing virtual tour of the solar system to all his fellow stargazers (as well as astronomer Paul Byrne's amazing Twitter account). And Ben announced a new podcast experiment he is launching: live discussions with Ukrainians living on the front lines.

Plus here are a few other stories we mentioned or recommended:

  • Politico’s piece on the Jan. 6 committee’s focus on junior aides and staff;
  • Frank Michelman’s classic law review article “Law’s Republic”;
  • Radiolab’s piece on Israel and the global surrogacy industry, “Birthstory

Be sure to visit our show page at www.lawfareblog.com and to follow us on Twitter at @RatlSecurity

We lightly edited and re-posted this episode to eliminate an offensive term that one of our co-hosts used inadvertently. For an explanation and apology, see his Tweet thread here.

More Episodes


The “Small World After All” Edition

This week, Alan, Quinta, Scott, and favorite guest Lawfare executive editor Natalie Orpett got together to discuss the week's big national security news,including:“Another One Bites the Dust.” This past weekend, an American drone strike successfully killed yet another major terrorist leader—this time al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri—in downtown Kabul, while apparently avoiding any civilian casualties or significant collateral damage. What does the strike tell us about the Biden administration's counterterrorism strategy and the role it plays in his broader global agenda?“Maybe He Just Mixed Up His St. Petersburgs.” In Florida, the Justice Department has indicted Russian agent Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov for engaging in an array of political activities on behalf of fringe political candidates and organizations, with the alleged goal of promoting political instability at the Russian government's behest. What light does this indictment shed on Russian interference in American politics?“The Bully Cockpit.” Over reported objections from the Biden administration, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has flown to Taiwan, making her the most senior U.S. official to visit the hotly contested island in more than two decades and raising China's ire at what many say is a sensitive moment. Is her trip helpful or foolhardy? And what does it tell us about Congress's role in U.S. foreign relations?For object lessons, Alan urged readers check out a recent Russian propaganda video, but made clear he did not endorse it. Quinta recommended Annie Lowrey's recent Atlantic article on her difficult pregnancy experiences and what they mean in a post-Dobbs world, "American Motherhood." Scott made two very different pop culture recommendations: the intense food freak drama The Bear and the delightful surf documentary satire with penguins Surf's Up. And Natalie recommended one of her favorite cookbooks, The Immigrant Cookbook, which feature recipes and compelling stories from new and first-generation Americans.

The “Alandectomy” Edition

This week, most of Alan, Quinta, Scott, and co-host emeritus Ben Wittes got together to discuss the week's big national security news,including:“It’s Over, but Don’t Leave Before the Mid-Credits Sequence.” The Jan. 6 committee held its final primetime hearing this past Thursday, focused on Trump’s inaction in ending the riot on Jan. 6. But it’s suggested more may be coming. What has the committee accomplished and what is yet to come?“Oh, HIMARS.” The war in Ukraine has become a slow and difficult grind, as Russian forces backed by heavy artillery have made slow but steady progress towards their revised goal of controlling the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. But Ukraine recently received what it claims is a game changer—the HIMARS rocket system—and wants the United States to give it more. What does this tell us about the dynamics around its import for Ukraine, the risks of escalation, and where the conflict may be headed in this new phase?“Orange is the New Three Stupid Shirt Collars Right On Top of Each Other for No Goddamn Reason.” Steve Bannon is going to jail, after being found guilty of contempt of Congress—and assuming that the conviction holds up on appeal. What will his conviction mean for the Jan. 6 investigation and future inquiries?For object lessons, Alan recommended arecent episodeofLawfare's own dailyLawfare Podcastfocused onMoore v. Harperand the implications of independent state legislature doctrine. Quinta urged listeners to check out Isaac Chotiner'swithering new interviewwith Alan Dershowitz regarding his cancellation by his neighbors on Martha's Vineyard. Scott passed along a new favorite cocktail with a name very appropriate for the modern era, thePalpable Apathy. And Ben urged folks to check out his latest 3D printing experiment: ababy HIMARS, ready to be shipped to Ukraine.Be sure to visit ourshowpage atwww.lawfareblog.comand to follow us on Twitter at@RatlSecurity.And RationalSecuritylisteners can get a committed ad-free feedby becoming a Lawfare material supporter atwww.patreon.com/lawfare!

The “This Edition is Too Damn Early” Edition

This week, Alan, Quinta, and Scott got together for another early morning session to hashthrough the week's big national security news,including:“Stuck in the Middle (East) with You.” As President Biden ends his trip to the Middle East having re-engaged the Gulf countries and recommitted to preventing Iran from securing a nuclear weapon—including by force, if necessary—Russian President Vladimir Putin is kicking off his own visit to deepen ties with Tehran and negotiate with Turkey. What does this mean for regional security, the lagging Iran nuclear talks, and the U.S. pivot to Asia?“Qualified Incredulity.” The Justice Department has finally weighed in on former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’s arguments that executive privilege prevents the Jan. 6 committee from compelling his testimony. And while it didn’t back his position, it was more friendly to his general position than one might expect. What should we make of its approach?“Georgia on My ASS.” Prosecutors from the Peach State are proving a lot less cautious about investigating misconduct following the 2020 elections than the Justice Department, to the point that they may soon begin indicting associates of President Trump. What explains this different approach and where might it lead?As for object lessons, Alan recommended aNew Yorkerarticle on "The Haves and the Have Yachts." Quinta endorsed arecent episode ofRadiolabon the fascinating human story behind the famous Daubert legal standard. And Scott encouraged independent film fans to check out the work of his friends atThe Sac Chich Project, an independent film collective, and consider lending them some support.