Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Genocide

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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Misconceptions: If the West Doesn’t Intervene in Country X, it’s “Being Complicit”

Iraq. Boko Haram. Israel/Palestine. Syria. Ukraine. Libya. Kony 2012. In every one of these cases, interventionists make the argument that if we do not offer material support to their faction of choice, we are “being complicit” in whatever violent awfulness happens in these places. This is claimed as if it were self-evident. It’s not. Read the rest of this entry »

Why States Commit Genocide

We have a very poor understanding of genocide. Genocide is the sort of thing we typically associate with chaotically evil people, people who “just want to watch the world burn” and have no respect or regard for human life. Those who commit genocide are viewed as irrational, irredeemably bad people. I am not convinced by this. This is not to say that I think genocide is defensible or morally justifiable, but I think there are rational, logical reasons that motivate states to commit genocide. I enjoy attempting to theorize rational explanations of seemingly wholly malevolent phenomenon–back in September, I offered a theory of why states sometimes deliberately target civilians in war. Today I’d like to offer a theory of genocide, one that I hope will help us to make better sense of the circumstances that promote genocide and understand how those circumstances might be avoided.

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The Isolationism Label

Lately I have found the internet awash in accusations that those who are opposed to US intervention in Syria are isolationists. These columnists are routinely comparing the Assad regime to the Third Reich and skeptical citizens to the members of the American isolationist movement of the late 30’s and early 40’s. This is a bad analogy. Here’s why.

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