The best foreign policy podcast episodes of 2021


Foreign police Last year’s podcasts touched on some of the world’s biggest issues, but one issue, climate change, has come up several times. It has resurfaced in discussions of diplomacy and debates on the economy. This was the first issue we touched on in our podcast on how to build a better world after COVID-19. And that’s the subject of our current show, Heat of the moment.

Climate change is notoriously difficult to cover. How do you express the scale of the problem and the overwhelming failure of policy makers to solve it properly without causing listeners to disconnect? We’re tackling climate change the same way we tackle most things on our podcasts: by telling the stories of individuals whose lives intersect with the biggest issues of our time.

In an episode on Negotiators this year, a former Buddhist monk described leaving his monastery because he felt he was not doing enough to save the planet, helping to negotiate an international climate agreement. In a show highlighting women entrepreneurs, a Nigerian herder told us about the growing impact of regional droughts on her cattle ranching business.

Foreign police Last year’s podcasts touched on some of the world’s biggest issues, but one issue, climate change, has come up several times. It has resurfaced in discussions of diplomacy and debates on the economy. This was the first issue we touched on in our podcast on how to build a better world after COVID-19. And that’s the subject of our current show, Heat of the moment.

Climate change is notoriously difficult to cover. How do you express the scale of the problem and the decision-makers? the overwhelming failure to approach it properly without listeners going offline? We’re tackling climate change the same way we tackle most things on our podcasts: by telling the stories of individuals whose lives intersect with the biggest issues of our time.

In an episode on Negotiators this year, a former Buddhist monk described leaving his monastery because he felt he was not doing enough to save the planet, helping to negotiate an international climate agreement. In a show highlighting women entrepreneurs, a Nigerian herder told us about the growing impact of regional droughts on her cattle ranching business.

Our most popular show, I spy, also took a similar approach, highlighting little real-life spy stories that shed light on larger events. In season three, an FBI agent described the bond he formed with ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein over months of questioning. And a British agent told us about Sinn Fein’s infiltration into Northern Ireland to help push the group towards diplomacy.

We asked our podcast team to choose the five episodes they liked the most in 2021. Here’s what they said.


1. La Cassandre, part 1 and part 2

I spy, Season 3, Episodes 7 and 8

CIA Officer Frank Snepp was one of the last Americans to leave Saigon, Vietnam, in 1975, in a helicopter that took off from the roof of the US Embassy. In this two-part story, Snepp described the frantic last weeks of the Vietnam War and the allies the United States left behind. The story evokes the chaos and calamity of a more recent withdrawal: that carried out by US troops from Afghanistan last August.


2. Inside the secret talks that led to an exchange of American prisoners with Iran

Negotiators, Season 1, Episode 4


ANUJ SHRESTHA illustration for foreign policy

This show features diplomats, mediators and convenience stores describing their most dramatic negotiations. In episode 4, Mickey Bergman, who excels in hostage negotiations, tells Foreign police on his efforts to secure the release of Americans imprisoned in Iran in recent years. His talks with Iranian officials have been quite difficult, but negotiating with the US government has at times been even more difficult.


3. Should we be worried about the great resignation?

Ones and Tooze, Episode 10

In every episode of this show, columnist Adam Tooze and associate editor Cameron Abadi discuss two data points that explain the world. One of their recent episodes, devoted to understanding why Americans are quitting their jobs these days, also includes a surprisingly moving conversation about COVID-19 and the economy of death.


4. Bernice King on racial justice

Global restart, Season 1, Episode 8

This show begins with a question: What if world leaders could turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity, an opportunity to tackle not only global healthcare, but other big issues around the world? Episode 8 features a fascinating conversation with Bernice King, daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., about the ongoing challenge of achieving racial justice in the United States and around the world.


5. Olympic judokas fight for women in Afghanistan

The long game, Season 1, Episode 1

In this show, we spotlight athletes who have shown courage and conviction not only on the pitch but also off. Episode 1 tells the story of an Afghan woman who competed in Olympic judoka competitions in 2004, only to face gender discrimination and death threats in her home.

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