Hugh Gusterson

Hugh Gusterson

Articles by Hugh Gusterson

13 October 2011

Death by drone

Hugh Gusterson

Anwar al-Awlaki was clearly not a nice person, but the manner in which he was killed on September 30 should trouble us all, regardless of our political orientation. Awlaki, a US citizen who once lived in Northern Virginia, was a Muslim cleric who took up residence in Yemen, where he incited anti-US sentiment -- until he was executed by a drone.

8 September 2011

The costs of war

Hugh Gusterson

Military responses to problems have a way of creating all sorts of new problems. The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy offers an opportunity to reflect on the costs and benefits of the wars the United States initiated against Iraq and Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks. A comprehensive new study, "Costs of War," sponsored by Brown University (and with which I have been affiliated) suggests that the costs have been wildly out of proportion to  the benefits.

1 September 2011

The human element

Hugh Gusterson

The discussions about the safety of nuclear reactors in the new post-Fukushima world have focused on technical questions: Is it possible to make reactors earthquake-proof? What is the best way to ensure that spent fuel remains safe? What is the optimal design for coolant systems? Can reactors be made "inherently safe"?

10 August 2011

An appreciation: The Republican senator who opposed nuclear arms

Hugh Gusterson

"If you've been in a war, you cannot but have your views altered. The devastation, the terrible devastation, is not something one ever forgets."
- Mark Hatfield, 1986

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.