Full story - May 18, 2020
A view of a test missile launch with an American flag flying
The US spends billions and billions of dollars on defense, but the novel coronavirus slipped silently and invisibly across US borders and even onto military aircraft carriers. One could say the US was preparing for World War III when it got hammered by World War C — the coronavirus. 
Full episode - May 18, 2020
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. ADDITIONAL READING: Getting to Less, Foreign Affairs. The Lessons of Y2K, 20 Years Later, Washington Post. Nuclear Spending vs. Healthcare, ICAN.
Full episode - May 04, 2020
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.
Full episode - January 08, 2020
Last night it looked like we were headed for war. Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two military bases in Iraq in response to US escalation in the region. How worried should we be? And, now that we know that President Trump is willing to take the most extreme option offered (ie: killing Iranian Gen. Soleimani with a drone) should we be even more concerned about his authority to launch nukes? — Things That Go Boom is a production of PRX and Inkstick Media. This episode was produced by Ruth Morris and written by Laicie Heeley. Darien Schulman composed our music. A special thanks to the Carnegie Corporation of New York for their support. For more information, visit us at https://inkstickmedia.com/.
Full episode - July 08, 2019
When we left off with our second season, there were... a few things happening with Iran… And Amb. William Burns has a unique perspective -- he's been down this road with Iran before, as one of the architects of the 2015 nuclear deal. We ask Burns for a gut check on the current situation, from Iran's threats to ramp up uranium enrichment, to the fallout from President Trump's 'exchange of love letters' with North Korea. He also shares some of the lessons from "the most depressing brainstorming session" of his career. William Burns served five presidents and retired as the State Department's No. 2 official. Today he’s the head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in Washington, DC. His book is “The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal.”
Full episode - June 24, 2019
The first clue something was wrong came in the form of an alert on Yegi Rezaian’s phone. Where I grew up,” she says, “these things don’t happen by accident.” Within hours, Yegi and her husband, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, found themselves in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. And interrogations quickly turned surreal. Jason’s captors seemed convinced his Kickstarter campaign to bring avocados to Iran was some kind of spycraft. So… it took some time before they came to realize that, one of the reasons they were arrested… and, one of the reasons that Jason would spend the next 544 days in prison… Was the Iran deal. In our final episode of the season, we look at collateral damage. Because when the US entered the Iran deal, and when President Trump pulled out, it kicked off a whole series of international events with consequences we’re still feeling today.
Full episode - June 17, 2019
If you want to know how sanctions are playing out in Iran — look no further than the classified ads. You’ll find folks selling unused cosmetics, pets, and… something even more unusual. But you might also come across people like Alireza Jahromi, an entrepreneur with a chain of trendy burger joints. He says sanctions are like a tsunami— destructive. But if you know how to surf, you grab your board and paddle out. And he says Iran, metaphorically speaking, is a country of surfers. On this episode, we ask if US policymakers may have underestimated Iranian resiliency and whether President Trump’s suffocating sanctions are likely to lead to new nuclear negotiations, or just reinforce a bitter feud.
Full episode - June 10, 2019
money illustration
Is our foreign policy for sale?
Full episode - June 03, 2019
Before they were enemies, the US and Iran used to have a thing. In fact, we started their nuclear program.
Full episode - May 29, 2019
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Diplomacy isn't glamorous, it’s grueling. But when it works, it can stop a war.