Welcome to Foreign Exchanges!

World news, commentary, history, and more

Hello, and welcome to Foreign Exchanges, your new home for keeping track of the latest news from the exciting world of international currency trading!

Just kidding. I realize we’re starting out on April Fools Day, and I happen to be extraordinarily bad at pranks so consider that my nod to the day and let’s move on. Everything else in this post is genuine, I promise.

What is Foreign Exchanges?

What I’m actually hoping is that you’ll make this your new home for getting a handle on world news and US foreign policy. One of the things I've noticed over several years studying Islamic history and US foreign policy is that it's hard for most Americans to get a handle on what’s happening overseas. We have a media that, when it bothers to dig in to international affairs at all, usually does so in furtherance of the conventional DC wisdom. This makes it very easy for our foreign policy to be hijacked by forces that want perpetual war, a massive military state, and the continued forcible expansion of American empire.

Foreign Exchanges exists to try to change that. My nightly international news digests collect important stories from around the world and give them to you in an easily digestible format with the context and commentary—and let me forewarn you that I come at these issues from a left perspective and I’m not going to hide that—that you need to stay on top of what’s happening. I look for interesting perspectives on world events and US foreign policy and try to bring those perspectives to you along with my own take on those perspectives if I think it’s applicable. I also write occasional pieces about aspects of world history that I hope might familiarize people with other parts of the world (at the very least, I hope they’re interesting).

If people naturally fear the unknown, then the antidote to that is knowledge. If ignorance breeds apathy, then the solution is less ignorance. If we’re going to fight for a smarter foreign policy in Washington when we need to combat that ignorance. That's what I'm trying to achieve.

Who are you?

I’m Derek Davison. As I said above, I’ve spent several years studying US foreign policy and Islamic history, and it’s been my privilege to share what I know and my perspectives on world events for the past several years at and that’s the way it wasLobeLog, on Alhurra TV, on Newsy, and on a variety of podcasts like Chapo Trap House and The Michael Brooks Show. I’m bringing the work I’ve been doing at attwiw and Patreon for the past couple of years to Substack.

Why subscribe?

As those of you who followed me at my old site and/or at Patreon know, I produce a lot of material. Most of that is going to be available to paid subscribers only:

News Updates

These will come to your inbox just about every night (I do take Saturdays off). A couple of nights each week I’ll make them available to the public, but if you want to stay on top of the news the only way to do that will be to subscribe.

“Today in History” Posts

These posts, which will be available to the public, cover important events in Middle Eastern, North Africa, South Asian, and European history. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

Weekly “Ask Me Anything” Threads

Every Monday I’ll be posting a new “ask me anything” threat where subscribers can ask me about whatever’s on their mind and I’ll do my best to answer. Occasionally I might do that in a short audio segment, which is a nice segue to the next thing on this list.


At least once a week I’ll be putting out a podcast, which covers a broad range of topics from history to religion to current events. This will include interviews with a range of experts on subjects like extremism in West Africa, the political crisis in Venezuela, and the Orthodox Church. Subscribers will have full access to my backlog of podcasts, though please bear with me as I post them here because it will take some time to complete that project.

Subscriber Essays

Most weeks I’ll be writing an essay on a topic requested by one of my subscribers. These usually revolve around a historical topic (usually related to the Middle East) but I’m game for whatever is on your mind (within reason). As with the podcasts, I’ll be bringing my complete back catalogue of these essays over to Substack as quickly as possible, where they’ll be available to all subscribers.

Guest Commentaries

I’m always looking for other voices with other areas of expertise to contribute to the newsletter. Your subscriptions help make it possible for me to offer guest writers a little compensation for their time and effort. I’ve also got a catalogue of these posts that I’ll be bringing over to Substack eventually.

Why did you change the name?

If you’re new here then this question won’t really apply to you, but people who’ve followed me here to Substack from WordPress and/or Patreon might be wondering why I’m no longer calling this operation “and that’s the way it was.” The simple answer is that with a new site, where I’m hoping to grow a larger audience, it seemed like the right time to make a new start. But the new name doesn’t mean I’m changing anything on the content side. Let me be clear: if you liked “and that’s the way it was,” you can keep “and that’s the way it was,” just under a different name.

“Foreign Exchanges” captures what we’re doing around here on two levels. There’s the obvious level, what with all the world news and commentary. But there’s also the esoteric level. Maybe you’re familiar with the somewhat famous L. P. Hartley line: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” We deal with the past a fair amount here (enough that I think we can conclude he’s not entirely right—they don’t do things that differently) and so I think the name fits in that way as well. On a practical level, “Foreign Exchanges” is easier to say, easier to remember, and also lends itself to a much more intuitive url, so that’s all nice too.

That’s all I have to say by way of introduction. And if for some reason you decide you’d like to read it again someday, most of this post is pulling double duty as our “About” page so you can find it there. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you around here!