If you want more than the usual media storylines about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and foreign policy in general, check out Conversations with History (website, iTunes, Youtube), a TV program from the Institute of International Studies at University of California, Berkeley. Harry Kreisler, host and producer of the program, is executive director of the Institute.
In most episodes, Kreisler interviews a prominent academic or journalist, and although the program sometimes ventures into science or literature, its main focus is on politics and international relations.
Kreisler is a perceptive and well-informed interviewer, although unfortunately he often fritters away the first 10 minutes chit chatting about his guest’s childhood and education before getting to the meat of the topic at hand.
Here is a summary of two recent episodes of interest:
The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, Guest: Edward Luttwak (Youtube).
Edward Luttwak, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington DC think tank, is the kind of guy who advises the US defense department on geopolitical strategy, but here he switches gears and plays historian, talking about his new book The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.
Luttwak argues that the Byzantine Empire lasted 800 years because it equipped and trained a superb army that it rarely used. Instead it relied mainly on diplomacy and guile, often succeeding in getting its enemies to fight each other. Maybe the Byzantines have something to teach us about strategy.
Leslie Gelb, former head of the Council on Foreign Relations, talks about his new book, Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy. Gelb argues that American policymakers fail when they become too ambitious and don’t consider the limits of American power. He talks about presidents Harry Truman and George H.W. Bush, and the ways they crafted successful foreign policies by taking a realistic view of what was achievable and what was not.