Hugh Gusterson

Hugh Gusterson

Articles by Hugh Gusterson

16 March 2011

The lessons of Fukushima

Hugh Gusterson

As an anthropologist, I am always interested in what humans learn from their mistakes. Can humans change their behavior, thereby improving their chances of survival, not just through natural selection, but also through cultural learning? Or are we hardwired to repeat our mistakes over and over, like humanoid lemmings?

More to the point, what lessons will we learn from the nuclear accident at Fukushima, an accident thought to be impossible just two weeks ago?

29 October 2010

An open letter to the Tea Party

Hugh Gusterson

Congratulations to your movement for so quickly and fundamentally shifting the political debate in the United States. You have put a vital issue on the national agenda: the increasing share of our wealth as a nation that has been commandeered by the government, and the resulting budget deficits that are like a massive iceberg toward which our economic ship of state drifts at its peril.

3 August 2010

Now showing: Countdown to Zero

Hugh Gusterson

Great historical changes begin as the quixotic obsessions of a vanguard of idealists who are seen as dangerous radicals or ideological deviants by many of their contemporaries. Think of the first advocates of the abolition of slavery, the first suffragettes, and the first gay rights activists.

9 July 2010

The olive branch in the West Bank

Hugh Gusterson

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, was recently quoted as saying that relations between the U.S. and Israel were undergoing a "tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart." If the quote is accurate, which Oren later disputed, it is surely an overstatement.

1 July 2010

Against counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

Hugh Gusterson

It says something about American politics that Gen. Stanley McChrystal was not fired because U.S. casualties in Afghanistan are running at record levels, because the much vaunted Marja initiative has failed, or because the Kandahar offensive is already in trouble during its preliminary rollout. No, he was fired because he and his team embarrassed the White House with carelessly frank talk to a journalist. "This is a change in personnel, but not a change in policy," said President Barack Obama in announcing General McChrystal's dismissal.

4 March 2010

Do professional ethics matter in war?

Hugh Gusterson

What happens when the U.S. military decides that an academic discipline's professional ethics code is a nuisance?

That is the situation in which anthropology now finds itself.

20 January 2010

An American suicide bomber?

Hugh Gusterson

"As for the Taliban fighters, they not only don't cherish life, they expend it freely in suicide bombings. It's difficult to imagine an American suicide bomber," Washington Post pundit Richard Cohen opined in a recent column.

1 December 2009

Afghanistan: Vietnam all over again

Hugh Gusterson

"Today they are ringing the bells; tomorrow they will be wringing their hands," Sir Robert Walpole.

We don't know the intimate details of the discussions in President Barack Obama's recent war councils, so it's impossible to know what the chess-player-in-chief is thinking as he sends 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. We only know what he is telling us.

12 October 2009

How to get out of Afghanistan

Hugh Gusterson

It's nice to hear from readers of this column, even if they ask pointed questions. Anne Winterfield, a graduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, read my recent article on the futility of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and called me up with a question about the last sentence of that article: "Say our job is done now, Mr.

29 September 2009

The shared sins of Soviet and U.S. nuclear testing

Hugh Gusterson

Gerald Sperling's new film, Silent Bombs: All for the Motherland, recounts the effects of decades of nuclear testing on Kazakh villagers near the Soviet nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk. The film is at once very particular to Kazakhstan, the exotic ambience of which is evoked with a sad lyricism, and, in a disturbing way, generic to the nuclear age. It evokes something that is simultaneously strange and familiar.