Who are you?

I’m Andy Gawthorpe, host of the podcast America Explained. I’m my day job I teach about U.S. politics and history at Leiden University in The Netherlands. Apart from this I’ve done all sorts of stuff - I was a civil servant in the UK Cabinet Office, an international security researcher at Harvard, a consultant for private companies trying to understand American foreign policy, an academic who taught British military officers, and a pundit everywhere from Foreign Affairs and Stars and Stripes to The Scranton Times Tribune (hey, I’ve gotta try to get the president’s attention somehow).

What is the point of your Substack?

Simple - my Substack is aimed at an international audience who want to understand the big issues in American politics and foreign policy, either because that’s something they need to do professionally, because they’re a student, or for whatever other reason. That’s the point of my podcast, too, but half of my listeners are still in the United States - so this newsletter also should appeal to Americans who want an outsider perspective.

Why should I subscribe?

Because I deliver only the content you need, and nothing more.

Let me explain. It’s my job to keep up with the news, but nowadays it’s like drinking from a firehose. I get, every day, upwards of ten newsletters into my email. It’s too much, and if being an expert on the United States wasn’t the point of my professional life, it would be insane.

The reason for this is that content creators - podcasters and Substack writers - get told that if they want an audience, they need to be “consistent”. That means getting into your audience’s inbox every day to remind them you exist and demonstrate that you’re delivering value for them.

But all too often, the opposite happens. Most people don’t actually have something valuable to say every day or even every week. And often, there just isn’t enough going on in the news to justify that volume of content. Readers are left wading through a sea of information they barely care about - or, worse, the creator has to inflate the importance or danger of a particular issue in order to justify why their readers should care. The result isn’t added value, it’s wasted time.

America Explained is different. I call it an irregular Substack because beyond one long monthly post, it doesn’t have a regular schedule. It will go out more than once a month, but it’ll only go out when something is happening to justify it. Unlike me, your life probably isn’t consumed by a passion for understanding U.S. foreign policy and politics. But you still care. That’s why you need someone you trust to do triage and send you deep-dive analysis on the really important stuff in the news, when and only when you need it.

“Hang on,” I can hear you saying. “Is this guy serious? His promise to get me to subscribe is less content?”

Yes, I’m serious. But I don’t think you want less content - I just think you want content that scales with the actual salience and importance of the current issues in U.S. politics and foreign policy. Sometimes that will be a couple of post a week. Sometimes less. The point is, I won’t waste your time.

And I also want to be responsive to what my readers find interesting. This is going to be a community - I want reader questions and comments, which I will answer, and which I will use as part of the inspiration for posts. That means you get to shape how this thing grows.