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The Modern War Institute podcast is the flagship podcast of the Modern War Institute at West Point. Featured guests include senior military and defense leaders, scholars, and others who discuss the most important issues related to modern conflict.

The Modern War Institute podcast is the flagship podcast of the Modern War Institute at West Point. Featured guests include senior military and defense 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. Featured guests include senior military and defense leaders, scholars, and others who discuss the most important issues related to modern conflict.




What Should We Make of the Protests in Iran?

Since the middle of September, when an Iranian woman died after being detained in Tehran for improperly wearing her headscarf, protests have gripped the country. But what sets them apart from previous periods of demonstrations against the Iranian regime? Will that regime manage to weather the storm and bring the protests to an end as it has in the past? And what are the possible outcomes if the movement not only maintains its momentum but gathers strength? Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran...


Data and the Battlefield

This episode examines how special operations forces are integrating high-tech tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize their operations. Dr. Richard Shultz of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Gen. Richard Clarke, commander of US Special Operations Command, join the podcast to trace the history of US special operations forces' efforts in Iraq to adapt to the counterterrorism fight there, explain how these forces made use of data to enable a remarkably...


What Kind of Leader Will Al-Qaeda Choose Next?

The recent death of Ayman al-Zawahiri marks a rare inflection point for a terrorist organization that has had just two leaders in the more than three decades of its existence. Forecasting its future trajectory—and developing counterterrorism policy—will depend on what type of leader emerges as Zawahiri's successor. Dr. Tricia Bacon and Dr. Elizabeth Grimm are the authors of a new book, Terror in Transition: Leadership and Succession in Terrorist Organizations. They join this episode to...


On the Streets: Irregular Warfare in an Urban World

How are demographic and economic shifts increasing the importance of urban centers around the globe? What does this mean for military forces? To what extent do the local politics of a city complicate military operations there—specifically irregular warfare activities? When conflict between an insurgency and government forces enters a city, does the terrain inherently favor one side over the other? This special episode addresses these questions as it brings together two of the Modern War...


Just How Crowded Is The Space Domain?

As the US Space Force nears its third birthday, John Amble is joined by Dr. Moriba Jah on this episode to explore just how crowded the space domain is—especially with the surprising amount of detritus created over more than six decades of the Space Age. Dr. Jah is an aerospace engineer who has worked for NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory. He is now an associate professor at the University of Texas, where he monitors space and works to track thousands of objects—a number that...

Why Cohesion Matters

The term "cohesion" features prominently in discussions of military effectiveness, especially at the small-unit level. We all know intuitively what it means, but understanding how to develop and nurture it in practice is a challenge. That's even more true as technological advancement continues to make constant connectivity with the outside world easier, even from a battlefield. How do soldiers' stresses from home impact cohesion? What about when soldiers no longer process shared traumatic...


The British Army and the Post-9/11 Wars

This episode features a discussion with Simon Akam, author of the book The Changing of the Guard: The British Army Since 9/11. The book tells the story of nearly two decades of the service's experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Critical of the British Army's leadership at times, it aims to jumpstart an honest conversation about the those wars, the service's performance in them, the relationship between the UK military and the British people, and more. It's an insightful, thought-provoking...


Far-Right Extremism and the War in Ukraine since 2014

How have European far-right extremists responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? How has the Russian government leveraged the Russian far right in service of its objectives in the war? And how should we understand the role of Ukraine's well-known Azov regiment? These questions all revolve around the complicated intersection of far-right politics, foreign fighter mobilization, and war. Exploring them requires a nuanced understanding of context that extends back much earlier than Russia's...


Competition, Conflict, and Cyber

How does cyberspace differ from the other warfighting domains—land, sea, air, and space? What challenges do those differences pose? Does cyber require unique approaches to talent manage to ensure the US military can recruit, promote, and retain the talent it needs? What resources are needed to effectively compete in cyberspace, and are those different from the resources necessary for a conflict scenario? How would the cyber dimension of a modern war play out, and are there lessons from the...


Finding Opportunity in a Competitive Strategic Environment

When the idea of great power competition began to gain traction with the publication of the 2017 National Security Strategy and the 2018 National Defense Strategy, it was in some ways less a strategy than a conceptual outline of one. Amid subsequent efforts to build out a more robust competitive framework around the idea, a vital question has taken shape: How should the US policy community develop a strategy that identifies and pursues opportunities in an increasingly competitive...


Adapting During War

What are the hallmarks of an adaptable military force? What types of leaders best create cultures of adaptability in their formations? How do such forces employ rapidly changing technologies? And how does doctrine drive or limit adaptation? Dr. Nora Bensahel and retired Lt. Gen. Dave Barno—authors of the book Adaptation Under Fire: How Militaries Change in Wartime—join this episode to discuss these questions and more. The episode was originally recorded and released in early 2021, and...


On War and Sanctions

While Ukrainian forces have fought to defend against Russia's invasion since February, the war's conduct has been influenced by international involvement—namely, the supply of weapons and equipment Ukraine has received from its foreign supporters. But as the United States, its European allies, and other countries around the world have offered military assistance, they have also been active on another front: putting in place a massive sanctions regime targeting Russia. That's the subject this...


Amphibious Operations and the Future of War

The war in Ukraine has been playing out in—and across—all domains. So it is perhaps surprising that Russia's invasion plan held almost no role for the type of operation designed to bridge two of those domains. There has been little sign that Russia sought to employ amphibious operations to gain a foothold in the south of the country—despite Ukraine's long Black Sea coast. Is this an indicator that such operations are a relic of the past? Or is it an anomaly? To help understand those...


And Then There Were 32? Finland, Sweden, and NATO

The decisions by the governments of Sweden and Finland to apply to join NATO mark 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 this particular moment? To unpack those...


Bayraktar (Story of a Drone)

Almost every listener will be familiar with the Turkish-made TB-2 Bayraktar drone. Most will have seen the many reports of its operational effectiveness in the hands of Ukrainian forces defending against Russia's invasion of their country. But beyond that media coverage, the story of the drone's development, its particular capabilities, and its performance not just in Ukraine but in other recent conflict, as well, is an interesting one. To discuss these topics and explore the broader...


When Frozen Conflicts Turn Hot: Learning from Nagorno-Karabakh

The ongoing war in Ukraine is giving observers a chance to forecast how future conflicts will take shape. Drones, advanced sensors, and other technologies are playing impactful roles in the fight. At the same time, artillery is demonstrating its enduring relevance in large-scale combat, air defense is reemerging as a criticial capability, and basic concepts like effective camouflage are proving to be as important as they are fundamental. Many, if not all, of these trends were on display more...


Breaking Down the Hypersonic Missile Threat

Hypersonic missiles have become an increasingly frequent focus of defense and security discussions in recent years and the subject of growing public attention. But what truly sets them apart, beyond just velocity, from existing missile technology? Do they represent a game changer on the strategic landscape, or are they better understood as just an evolutionary step in missile development? What implications do they have from a defense perspective? To address those questions, John Amble is...


The Future of European Defense

This episode features a discussion with retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges. He served until 2017 as the commanding general of US Army Europe and now holds the pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis. The discussion was originally recorded in the spring of 2021, and the strategic landscape has been dramatically transformed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But as the war in Ukraine unfolds, this conversation offers some exceptionally important broader context...


Understanding No-Fly Zones

This episode of the MWI Podcast tackles the topic of no-fly zones. Almost immediately after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy began calling for a no-fly zone to be implemented over his country to negate the effects of Russian airpower. It’s a call that NATO leaders have resisted. To discuss why, and to offer a very unique perspective on what putting a no-fly zone in place actually entails, John Amble is joined by retired US Air Force Colonel Mike...


Germany, NATO, and the Ukraine Crisis

In recent weeks there has been a considerable amoung of questioning in public debate in the United States about Germany and—when it has been stated most bluntly—how reliable Germany is as an ally. The reason this is all being raised now is because of the Ukraine crisis. On a few very high-profile issues, Germany—according to this line of questioning—seems hesitant to cooperate fully with NATO partners in supporting Ukraine against the threat of Russian aggression. But the reality is much...