Welcome to the new and improved American Prestige.
In the summer of 2021, we started this podcast because we were exhausted by the mainstream media’s coverage of U.S. foreign policy and international affairs.
For the duration of our lifetimes (and for decades before that) the overwhelming majority of U.S. commentators, newspeople, and pundits have assumed that global peace and prosperity depend on what is euphemistically called U.S. global “leadership”—a fancy word for empire. Because the United States rules the world, the foreign policy elite has repeated ad infinitum, things are better off not only for Americans, but for everyone on Earth.
But history suggests otherwise. While U.S. “leadership” has been pretty good for Americans and Western Europeans, it has not been as good for the tens of millions of people in the Global South who have suffered due to foolish, quixotic, and outright malicious U.S. choices.
The litany of U.S.-led disasters is long. From Korea to Vietnam, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Libya to Syria to Yemen, U.S. foreign policymakers have made indefensible decisions that have resulted in the death and deracination of untold numbers.
This is not to say that the United States hasn’t accomplished anything. There hasn’t been another world war in the era of U.S. hegemony, and nuclear weapons have only been deployed twice in combat. Granted, it was the United States that deployed them, but … hey, we’re trying to find something nice to say.
On balance, we believe that the “American Century” that began in 1945 hasn’t lived up to its promise.
To begin working toward a new way of understanding how the United States should make foreign policy, and to begin thinking about how this country should interact with other powers and peoples, American Prestige brings together professionals, scholars, and experts to explore a diversity of issues relating to U.S. foreign and international affairs.
We pay particular attention to history, as we feel that, in a media environment focused on producing the next hot take, we must look at the past to understand how and why things are the way they are.
In essence, now is the time to fundamentally reconsider the U.S. role in the world and to start working toward creating a new, more equitable, and more democratic international order in which the United States is just one nation among many, and in which everyone’s—not only the powerful’s—voices are truly heard.
So, that’s what we’re about. But many of you (hopefully) have already listened to the show and already know what we do. What you may be wondering is why we’ve decided to start doing it at Substack. A big part of the answer comes down to one thing: time. The time it takes to produce and manage the show is time we can’t spend interacting with listeners and building our audience. Moving to Substack will streamline the things we do behind the scenes so that we can spend more time in front of them, with you.
What does that mean? Basically, it means more American Prestige. But, specifically, it’s going to mean weekly discussion threads, sometimes oriented toward the topic of a future episode but always driven by you. It’s going to mean video. We’re hoping it will mean more podcasting, though we’re still figuring out what form that might take. We’re going to need some time to make this transition and play around with our new space before we find our rhythm, but we’re confident that American Prestige’s best days are ahead of it.
While we’re discovering our new space, we hope to establish connections with other Substackers who are doing phenomenal work in similar areas. You may know that one of us already has a Substack newsletter, Foreign Exchanges, so that’s an obvious place to start. But there are many others, including Spencer Ackerman, Kelsey Atherton, Bob Wright, and the folks at BORDER/LINES, Discontents, and Discourse Blog. We’re pleased to be joining them here and are excited about the potential for collaboration.
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Now you know what we’re doing. The only other thing left to tell you is who we are.
JAKE ARON is a producer and musician based in Atlanta. In addition to podcast production, he performs as one half of the experimental pop duo Moloq. He also graduated with a degree in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies from Columbia University and is a lifelong student of the Arabic language.
DANIEL BESSNER is a historian, contributing editor at Jacobin, and a non-resident fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. His work has appeared in numerous venues, including The New York Times, The New Republic, The Nation, and elsewhere. He’s the author of Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual (Cornell University Press, 2018) and co-editor of The Decisionist Imagination: Sovereignty, Social Science, and Democracy in the Twentieth Century (Berghahn, 2019).
DEREK DAVISON has been studying and/or writing about international affairs for nearly twenty years. After obtaining degrees in Middle East Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago, he left academia and broke into journalism by covering the 2014 Ukraine crisis and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal talks for LobeLog, where he later served as editor. Around that time, he started a blog that later became a Patreon project and eventually evolved into the Substack newsletter (and occasional podcast) Foreign Exchanges.
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