Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Civil War

Brexiteers are European Confederates

The murder of British MP Jo Cox at the hands of a Brexiteer has me thinking about my own country’s long and storied history of political violence. Most famously, my country ripped itself apart in a civil war over slavery. Of course, that’s not the way the supporters of the Confederate States of America (CSA) framed the conflict in their own minds. To them the civil war was a question of sovereignty. It’s easy to forget, especially if you’re from overseas, but the United States has always had a strong anti-federalist current which views the individual US states as genuinely sovereign entities, each participating in the federation on a voluntary, and ultimately revocable basis. This surfaces even today–during the 2014 midterm elections, US senate candidate Joni Ernst made open appeals to the concept of “nullification”, which holds that because the US states are sovereign they can invalidate federal law:

You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right…we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.

Ernst won that election by 9 points–she is a sitting US senator. US Presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee made similar appeals during the Republican primaries, alleging that the states could nullify the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling. Increasingly the arguments we’re seeing for Brexit look an awful lot like American state sovereignty arguments. It may sound like an extreme comparison, but the parallels are remarkably strong.

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What the Arab Spring Teaches Us About Armed Rebellion

Horrible things have been happening to Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Syria’s largest city. Large parts of the old city has been destroyed, though not for the first time–the city was sacked as recently as 1440 by Tamerlane, a vicious Mongol conqueror who is estimated to have killed 5% of the world’s people. All told, the Syrian Civil War has killed more than 270,000 people, creating more than 4 million refugees and displacing 7.6 million. These high losses have not resulted in any constructive political change in Syria–Bashar al-Assad’s faction remains the strongest in the country. The conflict has made no one better off aside from the Islamic State, which has used the chaos to carve out a slice of territory for itself:

Syria and Iraq 5 May 2016

The Syrian government is red, the Iraqi government is purple, the rebels are green, Islamic State is black, and the Kurds are orange. When the Syrian Civil War started, a lot of people in the west were excited by the possibility of overthrowing the Assad regime and creating a new democracy in the Middle East. Instead we have a bloody power vacuum filled in which the only winners are terrorist organizations. What’s interesting about this is that Syria is not an isolated case–the Arab Spring revolutions that turned violent all went so badly, while those that remained peaceful sometimes achieved meaningful results.

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Hillary Clinton is like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games

When I watched the third democratic debate, I was amused and horrified with the way Hillary Clinton defended the decision to intervene in Libya:

…we have to continue to do what is necessary when someone like Gadhafi, a despot with American blood on his hands, is overturned.

This is precisely the same way that George W. Bush continues to defend the Iraq War:

One thing is certain: The Iraqi people, the United States and the world are better off without Saddam Hussein in power

On these accounts, overthrowing dictators is the right decision because dictators are bad, and we should get rid of bad people. This reminds me way too much of the plot of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2Spoilers for that movie follow, if you care about such things.

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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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Hey, Whatever Happened to Libya?

As the United States once again intervenes militarily in a Middle Eastern civil war (this time in Syria and Iraq), I am reminded of the 2011 western intervention into the Libyan Civil War. Remember three years ago when the western states decided to help Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi’s government? We almost never hear anything about what’s going on in Libya these days. What happened there? 2011 was about a year before I started up this blog, but I remember being vitriolically opposed to the intervention there. How did it turn out? Let’s investigate.

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