National security

Things That Go Boom

S4 E2 – The Blob

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In 1958, a movie about a man-eating, bloodcurdling mass from outer space introduced the world to “The Blob.” But in recent years, that term has taken on a whole new meaning among foreign policy professionals in Washington. What exactly defines this Blob can be as amorphous as the movie monster, so we reached out to three people to explain who exactly belongs in this group. The term, we learned, describes a perspective that transcends party lines and has remained relatively unchallenged for decades. In this episode, we’ll explore the moment that all changed, and the Blob came face-to-face with… the anti-Blob.

GUESTS: Ben Armbruster, Managing Editor of at The Quincy Institute; Emma Ashford, Senior Fellow at the New American Engagement Initiative in the Scowcroft Center of the Atlantic Council; Van Jackson, professor of International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington.


Build a Better Blob, Emma Ashford

The Blob Strikes Back, and Misses, Patrick Porter.

More, Less, or Different?, Jake Sullivan.

Policy Roundtable: The Future of Progressive Foreign Policy, Van Jackson.

Things That Go Boom

S4 E1 – Fee-fi-fo-fear

2020 has been a scary year. In an effort to get to the root of why we’re all feeling the way we are, the first thing we did was something we probably should have done a long time ago… we reached out to a psychiatrist. We also asked all of you — our listeners, our friends, our family — to tell us the answer to what might seem like a pretty simple question: How safe do you feel? But the answers didn’t feel simple at all.

GUESTS: Arash Javanbakht, MD; Bunmi Akinnusotu, Host of What in the World?; You guys!


Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals, Carol Cohn.

The Politics of Fear: How Fear Goes Tribal, Allowing Us To Be Manipulated, Arash Javanbakht.

When Mask-Wearing Rules in the 1918 Pandemic Faced Resistance, Becky Little.

As the 1918 Flu Emerged, Cover-Up and Denial Helped It Spread, Becky Little.

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S4 Trailer

Things That Go Boom will be back November 9th, and we’ll be there to hold your hand while you weep, or party, all the way to the inauguration, a coronavirus vaccine, an accidental nuclear war (?!) … and beyond.

In the meantime, go vote!

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Do you feel safe?

We know it’s been pretty much the craziest year, so for the first episode of Season 4, we want to hear from you about how you’re feeling. And since the show is all about the ins, outs, and what-have-yous of what keeps us safe, what we really want to know is: Do you feel safe? Why? Or why not?

Maybe, right now, you’re worried about coronavirus. Or climate change. Or maybe you’re wondering whatever happened to that North Korean nuclear weapon and… all the possible fire the fury. Tell us your story.

Record us a message using the voice app on your phone, and send it over to by this Saturday October 16. That’s

Let us listen for a change.

Things That Go Boom

S3 E8 (The Wrong 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.


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.

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S3 E7 (The Wrong Apocalypse) – Future Wars

Why did the U.S. Navy 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.


Burn-In, Forbes.

Ghost Fleet, The Diplomat.

China Uses AI To Enhance Totalitarian Control, The Atlantic.

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S3E1: World War C

The US spends more than $700 billion on defense every year, more than healthcare, education, and all the rest of our discretionary spending combined. And yet the coronavirus slipped silently and invisibly across our borders, and even onto our aircraft carriers. You could say we were preparing for World War III, when we got hammered by World War C.

This season we ask, “What else are we missing?”

GUESTS: Alden Wicker, Sustainable Fashion Journalist; Kathleen Hicks, CSIS; John Blocher, Dave Ahern, Mia Herrington, and Larry Rubin, who shared their personal views with us at Defense One 2020.


Getting to Less, Foreign Affairs.

The Lessons of Y2K, 20 Years Later, Washington Post.

Nuclear Spending vs. Healthcare, ICAN.

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S3 Trailer (The Wrong Apocalypse)

Could the rise of China and Russia spell the end of the US as the dominant world power? Are we on an irreversible path toward military confrontation? Are we prepared for life in a multilateral world?

Military spending is growing, and the Pentagon says it’s in service of something called “great power competition” — but are the biggest threats to US power military? Or, something else. 

This next season of Things That Go Boom will explore how our national security has refocused on threats that require traditional military might — things like carriers and fighter jets — at a time when some of the biggest threats to our security are silent, agile, economic, and even viral. We’ll ask if our main adversaries — Russia and China — are really a threat, and we’ll examine just how strong, or weak, a position the US holds in this new geopolitical reality.

document leaks
America Abroad

Document Leaks: The consequences of revealing secrets

Massive document leaks have led to the fall of world leaders and to new anti-corruption laws. But some leaks have put lives in danger. So what’s the limit to the public’s right to know?

Uganda Wildlife Authority
America Abroad

Poaching and Terrorism: The Race to Protect Wildlife and National Security

The illicit wildlife trade is now worth up to $20 billion a year. That’s double what it was just a few years ago — worth far more than the weapons trade and approaching the rate of human smuggling. This has attracted the attention of Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Lord’s Resistance Army and other terrorist groups, African militias, and Asian criminal syndicates — all looking to capitalize on this high-value, low-risk venture. And it flies in the face of US officials and law enforcement who, since 9/11, have been doing everything in their power to cut off revenue to the world’s terrorists. In this hour-long program, we look at poaching — once a conservation issue, but now a full-blown threat to national security.