Burn the Boats

When Failure is Not an Option

Host, Ken Harbaugh, interviews political leaders, influencers, and other history makers about the choices we confront when failure is not an option. Choices like Alexander the Great made when he landed his troops on the shores of Persia and ordered his men to burn their boats.

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Latest Episode

Dan Barkhuff: A Tribe to Compete with Trumpism

Dan Barkhuff, former Navy Seal and founder of Veterans for Responsible Leadership, talks about fighting Trumpism and the importance of belonging.

Veterans for Responsible Leadership is an organization founded to help fight Trump and to serve as a tribe to compete with the white nationalism of Trumpism. In addition to founding VFRL, Dan Barkhuff is an ex-Navy SEAL, emergency medicine physician, and star of two viral videos from the Lincoln Project: “Betrayed” and “Conservative”.

Find Dan on Twitter at @DBarkhuff and Veterans for Responsible Leadership at @VetsForRL.

Recent Episodes

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Steve Schmidt: Fighting an Autocratic Coalition

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:33
Steve Schmidt, longtime Republican political strategist and co-founder of The Lincoln Project, comes on Burn the Boats to talk about his work fighting Trump and Trumpism.
Listen to Steve Schmidt: Fighting an Autocratic Coalition

Mike Howard: Keeping America Secure from the CIA to Microsoft

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:32
Mike Howard, a veteran in the security and protection field, comes on Burn the Boats to talk about his 22 year career with the CIA and the years he spent as Chief Security Officer at Microsoft.
Listen to Mike Howard: Keeping America Secure from the CIA to Microsoft

Rerun: Max Rose and Ali Soufan on White Supremacist Terrorism

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:31.5
This rerun from July 2020 features former congressman Max Rose and counterterrorism expert Ali Soufan talking about their work addressing the threat of transnational violent white supremacist groups in the United States and across the world.
Listen to Rerun: Max Rose and Ali Soufan on White Supremacist Terrorism

Sen. Sherrod Brown: The Dignity of Work and Hope in Politics

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:31
Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio talks about the dignity of work, his Senate desk 88, and the role of both fear and hope in politics.
Listen to Sen. Sherrod Brown: The Dignity of Work and Hope in Politics

More about the name of the show...

In 334 BC, Alexander the Great led Greek troops across the Dardanelles Straits and into Asia Minor, landing on the shores of Persia. He hoped to finally vanquish his greatest enemy, Darius III - the King of Persia. But Alexander was badly outnumbered. The Persian army assembled to attack and Alexander’s troops began to speak openly of retreat. So he gave an order: "Burn the Boats." He told his men, “we either return home in Persian ships, or we die here.” There would be no turning back.

By burning his boats, Alexander hoped to galvanize and motivate his troops. They needed to fully commit to defeating Darius and the Persians. There was no other way - failure was not an option.

This podcast explores decisions our guests made when they fully committed to something because failure was not an option.

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The Team

Ken Harbaugh

The Host
A former US Navy Pilot & past president of Team Rubicon Global; served as a commentator for NPR; a host on Crooked Media; & a contributor to The NY Times & The Atlantic.

Isabel Robertson

Senior Producer
Producer, writer, & researcher based in CLE. She's worked on StoryCorps, Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me, and The Intercept. She serves on the ACLU-OH Board of Directors.

Sean Rule-Hoffman

Engineer
Sean hails from Orange Village, OH. He earned a degree in Music Technology with a minor in Electronic Media and Film from Capital University in Columbus, OH.