24 episodes

Stories about the ins, outs, and whathaveyous of what keeps us safe. Hosted by Laicie Heeley. Things That Go Boom takes an unconventional look at critical global and national security issues -- so grab a beer and buckle up. It gets bumpy.

Things That Go Boom PRX

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Stories about the ins, outs, and whathaveyous of what keeps us safe. Hosted by Laicie Heeley. Things That Go Boom takes an unconventional look at critical global and national security issues -- so grab a beer and buckle up. It gets bumpy.

    After the Apocalypse

    After the Apocalypse

    Can the country rebound from the social, cultural, and economic toll of COVID-19? Now we know what happens while we’re sleeping; have we woken up? And what will it take to right the ship?

    GUESTS: Gigi Kwik Gronvall, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Sherri Goodman, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security and a Senior Fellow at the Wilson Center and the Center for Climate Security; Travis L. Adkins, lecturer of African and Security Studies at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University; Marissa Conway, Co-founder of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy.

    ADDITIONAL READING:

    Foreign Policy Begins at Home, Council on Foreign Relations.

    At the Intersection of Domestic and Foreign Policy, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    Is American Foreign Policy the Key to Economic Growth?, The Washington Post.

    The Legacy of American Racism at Home and Abroad, Foreign Policy.

    The Scientific Response to COVID-19 and Lessons for Security, Survival.

    • 31 min
    Future Wars

    Future Wars

    Why did the US Naval Academy reinstate celestial navigation as part of its curriculum a few years ago? Well, you can’t hack a sextant.

    In this episode, we look at some of the vulnerabilities that come with an over-reliance on high-tech defense systems. Our guests are Peter Singer and August Cole — national security experts who have taken to writing futuristic techno-thrillers to sound a few alarms. Among their warnings: The opening battles of WWIII won’t happen on a battlefield, and they will probably be silent.

    GUESTS: Peter Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America; August Cole, non-resident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council.

    ADDITIONAL READING:

    Burn-In, Forbes.

    Ghost Fleet, The Diplomat.

    China Uses AI To Enhance Totalitarian Control, The Atlantic.

    • 26 min
    Inner Decay

    Inner Decay

    Disinformation and misinformation have been blurring the line between fantasy and reality since the start of communication itself. But over the last decade, they’ve posed an increasing threat to democracy in the United States, with the 2016 presidential election becoming a major flashpoint in Americans’ understanding of the consequences of fake news. The false information flooding the internet and spreading like wildfire on social media pose risks not just to national and election security, but even to our health and safety.

    With its bots, troll farms, and vested interest in certain election outcomes, Russia has become America’s public disinformation enemy. But experts say that the power of foreign actors to sow discord rests, first and foremost, right here at home, and the solution may be different than you think.

    GUESTS: Mike Mazarr, Senior Political Scientist at RAND Corporation; Cindy Otis, Author, Former CIA Analyst, and disinformation investigations manager; Camille Stewart, Head of Security Policy for Google Play and Android; Russell Jeung, Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University

    ADDITIONAL READING:

    True or False: A CIA Analyst's Guide to Spotting Fake News, Cindy Otis.

    Vote and Die: Covering Voter Suppression during the Coronavirus Pandemic, Nieman Foundation.

    Combating Disinformation and Foreign Interference in Democracies: Lessons From Europe, Margaret L. Taylor.

    • 28 min
    Democracy! (Yawn)

    Democracy! (Yawn)

    As the US reckons with systemic racism and a less-than-democratic past, China is doubling down on its authoritarian ways. Meanwhile, research on the health of democracy from across the globe indicates the patient is not well.

    We trace China’s rise from the 1990s, when American pop music held a place alongside patriotic education, to its more recent political assertiveness-- not to mention its chokehold on civil rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. As China moves to assert itself on the world stage, is democracy losing?

    GUESTS: Connie Mei Pickart, writer and educator; Yascha Mounk, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University and senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund

    ADDITIONAL READING:

    How the World Views American-Style Democracy, Eurasia Group Foundation.

    Nationalism Ruined My Chinese Friendships, Connie Mei Pickart.

    In Hong Kong, Defiance Gone Quiet, The New York Times.

    • 26 min
    This Is Not a Drill

    This Is Not a Drill

    Are we in the middle of a new Cold War? Or have we rewritten the game? With old nuclear arms treaties expiring, and no new ones being signed, are we adapting to the times or playing with fire?

    In this episode, we look at the past and present of civil defense and nuclear arms control and ask what we can do — as individuals and as a nation — to prevent the existential threat of nuclear war.

    GUESTS: Alex Wellerstein, professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology and historian of nuclear weapons; Alexandra Bell, Senior Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation.

    ADDITIONAL READING:

    NUKEMAP.

    Trump Will Withdraw From Open Skies Treaty, New York Times.

    Time Running Out on the Last US-Russia Nuclear Arms Treaty, Defense News.

    Will Donald Trump Resume Nuclear Testing?, The Economist.

    • 31 min
    So You Want Your Own Army?

    So You Want Your Own Army?

    After almost a decade in prison, Yevgeny Prigozhin was released into a new world. Gorbachev gave his last speech as leader of the Soviet Union; the Communist Party was outlawed. Soon, gangs were violently extorting new business owners and the murder rate doubled. But Prigozhin was comfortable with chaos. He started a hot dog stand and climbed his way up into the highest echelons of power… then decided to diversify.

    In this episode, we look at a Russian businessman who takes on a new game, war in the shadows, and how we prepare for what we can't see.

    GUESTS: Anastasia Gorshkova, Russian Journalist; Sean McFate, Georgetown, Author, Former Mercenary

    ADDITIONAL READING:

    Putin’s Kleptocracy, Karen Dawisha.

    The Future is History, Masha Gessen.

    The New Rules of War, Sean McFate.

    • 25 min

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