Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Egypt

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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The Islamic State is Weak and Pathetic, and I Have the Numbers to Prove It

In my conversations with people around the internet since the Paris terrorist attack, it’s become increasingly clear to me that many people have a dramatically inflated understanding of the military strength and capabilities of the so-called Islamic State. So today I’d like to make it clear just how weak these people are, and how easy it would be for the surrounding Muslim states to destroy this organization even if the United States played only a minor logistical role.

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You Say You Want a Revolution, but What Kind?

So in light of recent writings about Russell Brand and Robert Webb, I’ve been thinking about the concept of revolution and the connotations it carries in our society. For the average person, I imagine the word “revolution” brings to mind first and foremost the kind of comprehensive, totalizing socio-economic and political change associated with Marxism. As a result, otherwise left-leaning people tend to harbor a deep skepticism about changes that go beyond which political party is in power or the enacting or repealing of various peripheral policies and laws. However, upon further reflection, I don’t think that all revolutions fit this stereotype. Indeed, the exclusive association of the term “revolution” with the conception of revolution used by Marxists is a significant obstacle to necessary, big-picture change.

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Not All Coups are Bad Coups

Well, Egypt has gone and had a coup d’etat (and no matter what Barack Obama or the Egyptian generals say, that’s certainly what it was). I cannot really say it surprises me–I had long since identified Mohamed Morsi as a bumbler. The other day I also identified the reasons behind opposition to Morsi, and those too seemed rather predictable and reasonable. The bit I now find interesting is the reaction in much of the media in the developed world. Despite Morsi’s efforts to put Islam at the center of Egyptian law, many in the developed world object to the Egyptian coup. What’s most fascinating is that this defense of Morsi’s government is based not on any policies or public goods the commentators have identified as having resulted from it, but on purely procedural grounds.

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Why Egypt is Going to Hell

Back in December, I said that Mohamed Morsi, the president of Egypt, was an inept bumbler. I seem to have been right about that, as Egypt has descended once more into instability and violence. There are widespread protests, the Muslim Brotherhood’s offices have been torched, and the military has given all parties a 48-hour deadline (there are about 24 hours left on that) before it intervenes in unspecified ways. The source of the anger against Morsi? His social conservatism and his efforts to put Islam at the center of Egyptian law. While it may be surprising just how fast the situation in Egypt has once again deteriorated, the deterioration was itself inevitable. Here’s why.

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