Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Al Qaeda

How to Usefully Distinguish Terrorism From Other Forms of Violence

I’ve noticed there’s been a bit of an uptick in think-pieces about what counts as “terrorism”. These tend to be built around a common observation that white mass murderers tend not to get the “terrorist” label and that the Trump administration reacts very differently to mass violence when the perpetrator is Muslim, an immigrant, a refugee, or a close relative thereof. Perhaps the most strident example is Matthew Walther’s piece in The Week in which he claims that there is “no such thing” as terrorism. It’s the return of a conversation we saw in 2015 and which has tended to repeat whenever some high profile mass violence occurs. This debate results from a lack of clarity in the way we think about violence. Let’s fix this.

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Yemen: The American Catastrophe No One is Talking About

Everyone knows about what a mess Iraq and Syria are. Libya is still a disaster, but even that country once had our attention. This is a story about Yemen. Remember Yemen? It’s the box-like country on the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula:

Yemen is in the grip of a civil war that has now killed over 4,300 people. It’s an omnishambles. Let me tell you the horrible story of how we turned this country into the war-torn dystopia it now most assuredly is.

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Why ISIS is Beheading Americans and What We Can Do About It

Two American journalists have now been beheaded by the Islamic State–James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Vice President Joe Biden has already declared that he wants to follow ISIS to “the gates of hell.” But why is ISIS doing this, and what should the United States do about it?

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What Happens if ISIS Wins in Iraq?

Those arguing for US military action in Iraq to stop the advance of ISIS/ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria/Iraq and the Levant) frequently claim that if the United States does not take action and ISIS prevails, Iraq will become a launching pad for terrorist attacks against the United States. This argument frequently gets run whenever anyone wants to intervene in a Middle Eastern country, but does it really stand up? Let’s investigate.

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Extending the War on Terror

Back in 2011 when Osama bin Laden was killed, I was excited. This isn’t to say that I thought bin Laden’s execution and subsequent dumping into the sea were optimal–I would have preferred to see him captured and put on trial. No, my excitement stemmed from my belief that once bin Laden was captured the Obama administration would have an excuse to bring the war on terror to an end. See, in 2011 I still had some last vestiges of confidence in the judgement of Barack Obama, vestiges that, sadly, have since proven themselves grievously misplaced. What’s the trouble now? The Pentagon has given a straight answer to the question of how long it expects the war on terror to last. What answer did it give? Michael Sheehan, assistant secretary for special operations at the defence department, said:

I think it’s at least 10 to 20 years

Oh my.

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