The Burn Bag Podcast

Launched in the summer of 2020, The Burn Bag Podcast is a weekly national security and foreign policy oriented podcast that aims to break down some of the most pressing security challenges of today’s world with the people who have worked and lived them. Every Monday, you can listen to a new conversation with a leading policy practitioner, thinker, or leader, that will make these important issues accessible to everyone who wants to know more — no expertise required.

In July 2020, A’ndre Gonawela and Ryan Rosenthal, former classmates at the University of Michigan, launched The Burn Bag Podcast with the keen mentorship of former NSC Senior Director Javed Ali. What was initially intended to be a hobbyist platform through which A’ndre and Ryan could muse about global news events that weren’t necessarily at the forefront of mainstream public discourse soon became something more.

Many people aren’t aware of the pressing issues in foreign policy and national security. They simply don’t understand why certain events are important, or how they matter to the United States — especially if they aren’t academically or professionally involved in the policy domain. This is due to no fault of their own — rather, it is imperative that foreign policymakers and security officials communicate their work in an attainable manner. Understanding foreign policy should not be exclusive to those who are professionally invested in the field — it should be accessible to all. A’ndre, Ryan, and Javed realized that The Burn Bag Podcast was an opportunity to make these issues accessible to a broader population, through a unique approach.

In each episode, A’ndre and Ryan open up a “burn bag” with a leading expert, practitioner, or thinker to understand and dissect a particular issue area in a way that’s accessible to everyone, whether they’ve spent decades in the policy arena working on emerging technologies or even if they’re a medical student who’s just trying to figure out how to navigate and understand the thousands of news events that are happening everyday. The Burn Bag Podcast breaks down these issues and topics, providing a foundational basis for why a particular issue came to be, a brief overview of the issue as it stands today, how a guest’s career has grappled with the issue, and why the issue matters today.

Since launching in July, The Burn Bag Podcast has been privileged to have been joined by many distinguished guests, which have included:

  • General (Ret.) David Petraeus
  • General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal
  • Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell
  • President of the Council on Foreign Relations Dr. Richard Haass
  • President of the Brookings Institution General (Ret.) John Allen
  • Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin
  • Professor Stephen Walt
  • Admiral (Ret.) James Stavridis
  • Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer
  • Ambassador Tom Shannon
  • Former Principal Deputy DNI Sue Gordon
  • Former NSA Director Admiral (Ret.) Mike Rogers
  • Former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers
  • Peter Bergen
  • and more…

A’ndre Gonawela and Ryan Rosenthal currently serve as co-hosts, co-producers, and co-founders of the podcast, while Javed Ali is Executive Director. Sarah Fernandes serves as Communications Director, and Will Solmssen serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Newsletter.

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