Pacific Pundit

Welcome to Pacific Pundit, a podcast on Asian geopolitics, foreign policy, and history hosted by Van Jackson. We're here to make sense of the world's most important region, and America's role in it.
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Pacific Pundit


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Now displaying: 2017
Aug 30, 2017
In this episode, we talk about the various ways conspiratorial thinking has encroached on the Asia-Pacific and US foreign policy.  We explore a number of recent developments ripe for competing explanations, including the surprising centrality of East Asia in Steve Bannon's nativist worldview and why Singapore recently expelled political scientist Huang Jing.  In our history segment, we introduce the greatest conspiracy in the history of East Asia--a memorandum between William Howard Taft and Japan's Katsura Taro in 1905.  We also discuss a tandem pair of recommended readings; one about the "paranoid style" in American politics, and the other a leaked memo from the National Security Council that embodies such paranoia.
Music: Carl Ranson Vorpahl. Producer: Tre Hester.
Aug 9, 2017

Don't call it a comeback! In this episode of "Pacific Pundit," we explain the many perils of preventive attacks against North Korea. Our history segment discusses the crazy options the U.S. considered to prevent China from going nuclear in the 1960s. In a satirical role play with Mira Rapp-Hooper (Yale's Paul Tsai China Center and the Center for a New American Security), we walk through every argument that war hawks might make in favor of bombing North Korea. We also discuss research that highlights the theories and risks of preventive attacks against North Korea, and urges making the avoidance of nuclear conflict the foremost policy goal for the Korean Peninsula.

Music: Carl Ranson Vorpahl; Producer: Tre Hester

Apr 20, 2017

In this episode, we explain how the Pentagon gets coercion wrong, what hip-hop tells us about deterrence, and why it all matters.  Our history segment recalls Operation Rolling Thunder, the failed bombing campaign of North Vietnam.  And in an interview with Matt Fuhrmann (Stanford University, Texas A&M University), we discuss his new co-authored book (with Todd Sescher), Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy, and how unhelpful nuclear weapons are for coercion. 

Music: Carl Ranson Vorpahl

Producer: Tre Hester

Mar 7, 2017

In this episode of Pacific Pundit, we debate whether grand strategy under Trump is possible, and the role that his new national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, will play. Our history segment recalls the national security policy processes Henry Kissinger ran during the Nixon administration. Next, in a wide ranging conversation with Hal Brands (of the School of Advanced International Studies), we talk about what grand strategy is good for, and why Trump’s “operational code” on foreign policy is scary as hell. We also introduce two pieces of scholarly commentary explaining why “Trump won’t get the best deals,” and how loose and inconsistent presidential rhetoric is feeding the worst predatory excesses of international anarchy.

Production: Tre Hester.

Music: Carl Ranson Vorpahl.​

Jan 26, 2017

In this episode of Pacific Pundit, we think through the implications of President Trump’s words and deeds for the US “One China” policy.  Our historical segment explores Henry Kissinger’s negotiation with China’s Chou Enlai to establish the Shanghai Communique—the foundation of modern U.S. relations with China.  In expert interviews, we get Mira Rapp Hooper (Center for a New American Security) and Dean Cheng (The Heritage Foundation) to weigh in with advice on how to navigate China-Taiwan relations during the Trump administration.  And in a recently declassified National Intelligence Estimate from 1999, we discover what the CIA believed China’s “red lines” were for Taiwan. 

Music and production by Tre Hester.  ​