Cato Panel Appearance: “Old Right, New Right? What History Suggests about the Future of GOP Foreign Policy”

I am pleased to share that today, I made a panel appearance at the Cato Institute with Dr. Victoria Coates, moderated by Justin Logan, Director of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies. We discussed the current discord within the Republican Party’s positions on foreign policy, its past (my department), and what might come next.

In case you missed it, watch at either of the links below:

View on the Cato website: Old Right, New Right? What History Suggests about the Future of GOP Foreign Policy | Cato Institute

View on C-SPAN: Republican Party Foreign Policy Priorities |

Interview with Kyle Anzalone & Conflicts of Interest

I am pleased to share that was interviewed today on Conflicts of Interest with Kyle Analzone of and The Libertarian Institute.

We discussed some of my earlier work for as well as my recent piece with Give it a listen and a share.

Thank you Kyle for giving me the opportunity to share my work.

COI #273: Opposing America’s War in Ukraine guest Brandan P. Buck | The Libertarian Institute

New Op-Ed: “Bear Any Burden: Military Sacrifice and Rise of American Populism” was gracious enough to publish an essay that I’ve been working on, “Bear Any Burden: Military Sacrifice and Rise of American Populism.”

It argues that the economic, geographic, and racial disparities in military sacrifice during the Global War on Terrorism is the prime cause for modern American populism and the erosion of institutional trust in the United States. If you’d like to read more, the link is below:

Bear Any Burden: Military Sacrifice and Rise of American Populism – Original

I know that we are living in highly polarized times, and for many, this may be a controversial thesis. I merely ask that it be approached with an open mind.

Also linked below is a repository for the datasets and code used to generate the plots and calculate some of the statistics.

bbuck1/bear_any_burden (

First Op-Ed: “A Brief History of the ‘Isolationist’ Strawman”

History News Network just published my first op-ed entitled: “A Brief History of the ‘Isolationist’ Strawman.” It is a brief exploration of the myth of isolationism and its use in shrinking the range of acceptable foreign policy discourse over the last 80 years.

In the wake of Afghanistan’s recapture by the Taliban, it is imperative that we Americans reassess our foreign policy. To do so, we ought to reject the labels which have hitherto safeguarded a bloody, costly, unpopular yet enduring status quo.

Give it a read and a share:

A Brief History of the “Isolationist” Strawman | History News Network

Sometimes the Bad Guys Win

Like a lot of veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, I have been trying to process the collapse of the Afghan government and the return to power of the Taliban. As a historian (if I may be so bold as to call myself one) I understand that war is immensely complicated, and the reality of war never aligns neatly with the narratives which are formed for and by them

It has been tough. “What a waste” has been playing over and over in my head. I grew disillusioned with the war during my second string of deployments eight years ago, so I was somewhat prepared for this. But I didn’t think the collapse would be so quick and so catastrophic nor was I prepared for the human cost of our failure. All the lives lost, all the money spent, all the time wasted, and it was all for nothing. At the risk of sounding like a narcissist, I wrapped up the best years of my life in the war. I was 18 and in basic training on 9-11. I turned 21 at Bagram. I turned 30 in Kandahar. I spent six of the first 12 months of my relationship with my now wife deployed to Afghanistan. I’m glad that I came out alive and intact, but I cannot help but to ask, what was that all for?

I feel immense sorrow at times. During my first deployment, 2004-2005 there wasn’t much of a war to speak of.  Young, dumb, and full of testosterone we were all bummed by this. We wanted action. We wanted revenge for 9-11. Thankfully and in hindsight, we didn’t see much action, despite being an infantry unit. Most of the time things felt like a peacekeeping mission. What violence existed was confined to the heavily Pashtun areas and small in scale. The kids would all wave and yell tashakkuri, “thank you” in Pashto. Few women in the cities wore burkas. In this little town named Janda, I remember walking to the local roadside shop for cigarettes, soda, and bolani without body armor and while lightly armed…it was safer than some spots in D.C.  

And now all that peace is gone. Was that merely a lull? A mirage? I don’t know, I suppose that will be up to us historians to sort out.  By my second wave of deployments (2010-2013), Janda had become a hotbed of Taliban activity. I helped to capture a Taliban commander who was living in Janda…coincidently, I had photos of his house taken during my leisurely jaunts eight years prior. It was a puzzling juxtaposition of progress lost. 

I was perplexed by all this. It didn’t comport to the cartoon narrative I was indoctrinated with nor my liberal faith. Then I read report after report concerning the Taliban’s rural revival. In almost every instance, the impetus was the same. Just as in the mid-’90s, the locals wanted courts to mediate disputes, and security to stop the lawlessness. However brutal, the Taliban was preferable to bedlam and banditry. Nor did they want a western-backed government that was seen as corrupt and distant. And, of course, coercion was ever at play. It is hard to be brave and fight when the Taliban will kill your family, burn your house down, and chop your head off if you resisted…which they did.  

I tried to remain stoic in my duties. However, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t take a little pleasure in sending those kinds of people to hell.

It was clear to me by 2013 that there was no winning the war and that it was being waged surrounded by rampant waste, fraud, and abuse, at all levels and by our government and by our Afghan allies. My disillusionment with the war foreshadowed my political transformation to the libertarian right. I came to realize that no amount of American blood or treasure, no amount of central planning or support was going to prop up the Afghan government. President Biden was right…it was time to go.

Even if the war was ill-advised from the start, unjust, unwise, or we merely stayed too long, I am having a hard time coming to grips with how it ended. The tragedy of it all is just too difficult to conceptualize. I am thankful that my boy is only two because I don’t know how I would explain to him that sometimes the bad guys win.