Hugh Gusterson

Hugh Gusterson

Articles by Hugh Gusterson

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.

21 September 2009

Why the war in Afghanistan cannot be won

Hugh Gusterson

A number of commentators have remarked of late on the ominous parallels between the situation in Afghanistan today and the quagmire in Vietnam in the 1960s:

12 August 2009

Thinking creatively about the North Korean stalemate

Hugh Gusterson

We all know the saying that you can't be a little bit pregnant--either you are or you aren't. According to Henry Kissinger, getting nuclear weapons is like getting pregnant. In a Washington Post op-ed published on Nagasaki Day, Kissinger wrote, "The root cause of our decade-old controversy with Pyongyang is that there is no middle ground between North Korea being a nuclear-weapons state and a state without nuclear weapons."

5 August 2009

Hiroshima and the power of pictures

Hugh Gusterson

Sixty-four years ago this week the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by atomic bombs. Whether we endorse or condemn the bombings, how do we grasp the enormity of the destruction that befell those two unfortunate Japanese cities? The last survivors of the bombings are passing into history, taking with them the power of their living witness. But for me, the full force of the bombings has always come from pictures more than words.