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Portraits Paula Bock

George Hageman | The peaceful podcaster rides to fame on military might

Two surprising facts about George Hageman, creator of a military-history podcast that boasts 1.5 million downloads and 20,000 subscribers and briefly cracked iTunes' Top 100 list: First, Hageman is 16 years old, a Lakeside junior who, mostly for fun, produces weekly episodes about war animals, Roman fighting tactics, King Shaka Zulu, Clausewitz's Principles of War, Napoleon, military robotics, English long bowmen, the Chinese PLA threat and the fight for Iwo-Jima.

Second, Hageman is a pacifist.

"I can see how people would think I'm one big oxymoron," he says, adding that no matter how cool he thinks things like weapons and battles are, it doesn't mean he supports them. "Probably 75 percent of my listeners are Republicans," he notes, "and a lot of them are military veterans. I've toyed with the idea of making the last episode a completely opinionated piece, how I feel about the war, about politics. Maybe I'll have some influence."

Q. You want to work in the Defense Department, CIA or NSA? Is there a role for a pacifist?

A. I could be an analyst.

Q. Favorite military-history fun facts?

A. In Vietnam, there was a war dog that could hear mortar being slid into mortar tubes on distant hills; it would bark to warn U.S. soldiers to duck.

During Desert Storm, Iraqi soldiers attempted to surrender to an unmanned drone — the first time in history people have surrendered to a piece of plastic.

Check it out

George Hageman's Web site is at

This spring, when the Estonian government moved a statue of a Soviet soldier, thousands of Russian youths blocked the Estonia highway and Russian hackers took down the Estonian network. So Estonia was physically isolated and technically broken. NATO sent in its own hackers to fix the network. There was this fierce battle of firewalls. NATO essentially saved Estonia through virtual war. That's a new thing that we can have wars over networks and information.

Q. Is war getting less messy?

A. I'm sure the actual infantry to infantry is just as nasty as before. These civil wars in Sudan and Iraq are nasty. But maybe the general trend in huge military powerhouses is to let the machines do it.

Q. Have humans evolved in how they deal with conflict?

A. Theoretically (with the Geneva Conventions) we are more moral than before, but I don't know if we actually are in practice. When it comes down to it, war is the same now as it was then — just with different tools.