Modern War Institute-logo

Modern War Institute

News & Politics Podcasts

The Modern War Institute Podcast is the flagship podcast of the Modern War Institute at West Point, featuring discussions with guests including senior military leaders, scholars, and others who discuss the most important issues related to modern conflict.


United States


The Modern War Institute Podcast is the flagship podcast of the Modern War Institute at West Point, featuring discussions with guests including senior military leaders, scholars, and others who discuss the most important issues related to modern conflict.




Understanding Hamas: From Tactics to Strategy

This special episode of the MWI Podcast features the first installment of a three-part miniseries produced by the Irregular Warfare Initiative. The series focuses on irregular warfare in Israel and is hosted by Adam Darnley-Stuart. In the first episode, he speaks to renowned counterterrorism analyst Dr. Levi West about Hamas, its history, and its strategy. Dr. West offers nuanced insights into Hamas operations and the likelihood that the organization's tactics might be adopted by other groups around the world. The discussion explores the effects of the October 7 Hamas attacks and Israel's ongoing military response on the enduring friction between Israel and Iran, examines the broader impacts on the geopolitical environment, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the Irregular Warfare Podcast to hear the second and third parts of this timely series.


Shusha, the Battle that Won a War

Observers watched the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War closely, searching for indicators of the character of warfare on tomorrow's battlefields. The lessons extracted have covered advanced technology and unmanned platforms, proxy dynamics, the ongoing relevance of armor, and more. But some of the most important lessons have received much less attention. They center around the increasingly unavoidable importance of combat in cities and are drawn principally from the battle for the city of Shusha—a fight that arguably decided the outcome of the war. Listen as John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies at MWI, explains why.


What Was Hamas Thinking?

When Hamas fighters conducted a large-scale and deadly attack against Israel and its people on October 7, what was the group aiming to achieve? What were its strategic objectives? And what sort of Israeli response was it planning for? On this episode, John Amble speaks to Dr. Michele Groppi, a lecturer in the Defence Studies Department at King’s College London. Hamas's brutal attacks might have been tactically successful, but as Michele argues, they also might have actually exceeded what the group thought it would be able to accomplish. And that tactical success might prove to be a major strategic error, if Israel sets as the objective of any ground campaign in Gaza the complete organizational dismantling of Hamas and total destruction of its military capabilities.


Combined Arms in Gaza

As Israeli ground forces mobilize for what at this point appears to be a looming battle in Gaza to destroy Hamas military capability, this episode looks ahead at what form that battle will take. Liam Collins and John Spencer, two former Army officers with a a variety of combat experience and the authors of a book on urban warfare, join John Amble to explore the importance of employing combined arms—infantry, tanks, artillery, engineers, and other capabilities—when operating in urban areas like those that compose much of Gaza's territory. They describe why such an approach will be central to determining the shape of the battle and its outcome, as well as the challenges of operating in this fashion in complex and structurally dense cities.


The Battle of Mogadishu—Thirty Years On

Thirty years ago this week—on October 3, 1993—US special operations forces launched a mission in Mogadishu. It was part of Operation Gothic Serpent, which was aimed at capturing Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The mission was intended to be of a short duration. But things changed when, shortly after members of Task Force Ranger launched from their base, fighters on the ground began firing on US aircraft. The battle that ensued—which would later become the subject of journalist Mark Bowden’s book, Black Hawk Down, and subsequently a film of the same name—lasted well into the next day. In this episode, you'll hear three people who took part in that battle. Listen as they share their firsthand perspectives of the action over those two days, describing the challenges they faced, reflecting on what was required to overcome those challenges, and exploring the lessons the battle holds for future Army leaders.


History, Identity, and Russia's War in Ukraine

While Western leaders, media, and institutions have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its conduct of the ongoing war—characterizing it as a brutal act of naked aggression—to many Russians, their military forces are heroes, protecting the Russian nation, its place in the world, and its very identity. What explains this extraordinarily different perspective? This episode features a discussion with Dr. Jade McGlynn, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and author of two recently published books that combine to shed light on this question. As she explains, there is a complex set of layers through which the war is understood—layers composed of history, issues of identity, and national narratives. This means that, effectively, Russians are watching an entirely different war than those in the West.


Sweden, Finland, and NATO

The decisions by the governments of Sweden and Finland to apply to join NATO marked a major departure from both countries' longstanding policies of nonalignment. But how, specifically, will it affect these countries’ defense capabilities—and those of NATO? How much needs to be done to achieve interoperability? And most fundamentally, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine clearly triggered these decisions, why did both countries make this major decision at the particular moment they did? To unpack those questions and many more, John Amble is joined on this episode by Rasmus Hindren, the head of international relations at the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, a senior nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, and an experienced defense policy practitioner in his home country of Finland.


Securing NATO's Baltic Flank

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, the world has seen firsthand evidence of the threat posed by the revanchist state. Among those who perceive this threat most acutely are the three Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The fundamental facts of these states’ existence—their comparatively small size, proximity to Russia, and position on the northeastern flank of the NATO alliance—combine to make the threat both direct and real. But what can NATO do to deter Russian military aggression against the three countries in the future—and defend against that aggression should it occur? This episode tackles that question and features a discussion with Mark Cancian. A senior adviser with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, he is the author of a recently published report, “Repel, Don’t Expel: Strengthening NATO’s Defense and Deterrence in the Baltic States.” He joins the podcast to share some of the insights and conclusions featured in the report.


The Robotic Revolution is Here

This episode of the MWI Podcast features a conversation with August Cole, coauthor of a new book called Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution. It’s a techno-thriller and a work of fiction, but it is also based on deep research and allows readers to examine the types of technologies that will increasingly characterize the future—from everyday life to the conduct of war. In fact, the seemingly remarkable technologies featured in the book's plot are already emerging and in many cases already exist.


Inside Azovstal

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, one of its first targets was the city of Mariupol. Despite being outnumbered by—and less well equipped than—their adversaries, Ukrainian defenders held out for three months. As the Russian siege of the city intensified, Ukrainian forces defended a shrinking perimeter with a command post in the Azovstal steel plant. One of those Ukrainian defenders was Sergeant Arseniy Fedosiuk. MWI's John Spencer had the opportunity to speak to him about his experience in Mariupol, and you'll hear part of that discussion in this episode. The full conversation from which this episode is drawn will be released on Friday, July 21, as an episode of the Urban Warfare Project Podcast, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss the complete discussion with this phenomenal guest.


After the Wagner Mutiny, What Next for the War in Ukraine?

When Yevgeny Prighozin, the head of the Wagner Group, released a video on June 23 that criticized Russian leaders' management of the war in Ukraine, it was the first in a series of extraordinary events that played out with the world watching. One of those people watching closely as the private military company's forces entered the city of Rostov-on-Don and began an advance toward Moscow was retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges. A former commanding general of US Army Europe, he joins this episode to lend his extensive experience and nuanced understanding of Russia and European security to a discussion that aims to contextualize the remarkable recent events in Russia and explore how they will impact the ongoing war in Ukraine.


World Order in the Drone Age

In this episode, Paul Lushenko joins to discuss armed drones—in particular the impact their proliferation will have on global order. That's the subject of a new book for which he was a coeditor. Why do states—and nonstate actors—choose to use armed drones as weapons of war? How does that decision affect these actors' international reputations? How do questions of law and morality intersect when it comes to drones? And beyond impacting the character of warfare, to what extent will armed, networked, and unmanned platforms change geopolitical dynamics and balances of power? This episode tackles those questions and more.


How is Russia Adapting its Tactics in Ukraine?

When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, its ground forces were largely built around the battalion tactical group. Fifteen months on, and that organizational structure has been dramatically changed. Why? And what explains other examples of evolving Russian tactics? Dr. Jack Watling, a senior research fellow for land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute, joins this episode to address these questions and examine these adaptations. He recently coauthored a report, based on close and firsthand study of the war in Ukraine, that traces a number of the specific ways in which Russian tactics have changed over the course of the conflict. He describes those adaptations in this conversation—and explains their implications for Ukraine and its international supporters.


Change and Continuity: Tracing the Evolution of Turkish Statecraft

Turkey is in the middle of a presidential election, the closest challenge to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his twenty years in power. This offers an opportunity for a broad survey of the evolution of Turkish foreign policy, statecraft, and strategy during those two decades and an exploration of how these might continue to evolve going forward. This episode features a discussion with Dr. Ziya Meral, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and specialist in Turkish foreign policy. From the emergence of Turkey’s strong and growing defense industry to the challenges it must navigate amid tensions between NATO and Russia, this discussion offers a detailed look at Turkey’s position on a shifting regional and global strategic landscape.


Neuroscience, Neurotechnology, and the Future of War

How will the rapid pace of advancement in the fields of neuroscience and neurotechnology impact the changing character of warfare? Will they lead to the human brain becoming a battlespace as new scientific breakthroughs and novel technologies are weaponized? This episode features a discussion with a guest who argues that a convergence between neuroscience and the conduct of war is already occurring. Dr. James Giordano is the chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program at Georgetown University and codirector of the O’Neill-Pellegrino Program in Brain Science and Global Health Law and Policy in the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics. He describes what effects advances in brain science might have on the future of war.


Command in Modern War

Would Patton be an effective battlefield commander today? Do the characteristics of successful commanders generally remain constant over time? Or do they evolve alongside—and in response to—the changing character of warfare? And if they do change, what traits will commanders need on the battlefields of today and tomorrow? Dr. Anthony King, the author of the book Command: The Twenty-First-Century General, joins this episode to discuss these questions and more.


Russia and the Arctic Conundrum

Arctic geopolitics are characterized by features that set the region apart from others. Eveything from governance structures to the way Arctic states engage with one another to the way they tackle shared challenges and address disputes—these all look different in the Arctic than elsewhere. But Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine led to a disruption in Arctic engagement, with the seven other Arctic states suspending participation in Arctic Council activities for the duration of Russia's chairmanship of the organization. This raises important questions: Is a return to engagement and cooperation even possible in the future? And what are the long-term implications of halting engagement likely to be? To explore these tricky issues and better understand Russian, American, and other stakeholders' strategic interests in the region, John Amble is joined on this episode by Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan, codirector of MWI's Project 6633 and the author of a new book, Red Arctic: Russian Strategy Under Putin.


Can Taiwan Become a Poison Frog?

In this episode, John Amble speaks with Chris Dougherty of the Center for a New American Security. He and his colleagues have conducted a wargame that sought to identify what strategic options the United States and Taiwan have to deter a particular fait accompli move by China against Taiwan. What they concluded was that the best option is something they describe as “the poison frog strategy.” Listen as he describes what that entails, and why it's the most viable means of implementing deterrence against China.


How to Build an Effective Partner Military—and How Not To

After twenty years of America’s post-9/11 wars and the US military’s struggle to build capable and effective security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is an important discussion taking place about what role security force assistance should play for the United States in the very different strategic environment that is taking shape. Will it be a mission that we'll be required to do in order to compete with Russia and China? Or will it become tangential to our preparations for large-scale combat operations? And given the challenges we faced over the past two decades, what needs to happen to achieve better outcomes in the future? Will Reno, a professor at Northwestern University, and Franky Matisek, an Air Force officer and associate professor at the US Air Force Academy, have researched the topic deeply, including conducting hundreds of interviews in the field. They join this episode to discuss their findings.


Twelve Months of War

One year ago this week, Russian forces invaded Ukraine. Twelve months on, how should we think about the way the war has taken shape? What lessons about modern war should we be learning? What assumptions about the modern battlefield has the conflict challenged, and what assumptions has it reinforced? And what features will characterize the war in the months ahead? In this episode, John Amble is joined by retired Australian Army Major General Mick Ryan. With decades of military and leadership experience, he has been one of the sharpest and most insightful observers of the war in Ukraine. Listen as he describes his views of the conflict so far and illuminates what we might expect as the war enters its second year.