Full episode - July 13, 2020
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.
Full episode - June 29, 2020
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.
Full story - June 24, 2020
US and Russian flags
Could great power competition lead the US down a path to nuclear war? Listen to the latest episode of the Things That Go Boom podcast, a co-production of PRX and InkStick Media.
Full story - June 16, 2020
A boy walks near a Soviet-era apartment building, with a tank in the foreground
War is getting sneakier. And mercenaries could be changing war in ways that the US might not be prepared for.
Full episode - June 15, 2020
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.
Full story - June 04, 2020
Chinese and US flags flutter
If the US can’t take care of itself in times of major crisis, how exactly is it supposed to “beat” China in global competition?
Full episode - June 01, 2020
If the US can’t build better airports or trains than China, or even take care of itself in times of major crisis like the coronavirus and the current civil strife, how exactly is it supposed to “beat” China in this global competition we’re in? We look back to see how China’s ascent snuck up on the US, and we ask if a zero-sum mentality is sleep-walking us to war.
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.