Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Russia

How the War in Ukraine Ends

Russia has moved ahead with annexing the occupied oblasts of Ukraine. This is a point of no return for the Putin regime. It is hard for the regime to maintain its legitimacy when it is trying and failing to invade a foreign country. The regime looks weak and incompetent, and with no real possibility of replacing the leadership through an election, there is no easy to way to restore confidence on short notice. But as difficult as that situation is, it is much harder for the regime to maintain its legitimacy when it is trying and failing to defend the territory the regime acknowledges as part of Russia. A Russian president who cannot successfully invade Ukraine is weak. A Russian president who cannot defend Russia is pathetic. The decision to annex the oblasts therefore sends a clear message–the Putin regime will defend the territory it now holds, or it will die trying.

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A Response to Adam Tooze’s Piece about John Mearsheimer

I ran across this piece by Adam Tooze about John Mearsheimer. Mearsheimer is the University of Chicago professor who gave this controversial talk about Ukraine, which has gone viral:

I was at University of Chicago for my MA in 2014, when John started giving this talk. I took his American Grand Strategy class. I sometimes call him “John” because in his lectures he often refers to himself in the third person by his first name. John describes himself as a “realist par excellence.”

Tooze is an economic historian. Online, he’s become increasingly prominent for his economic analysis. He was a reader at the University of Cambridge while I was doing my PhD there. He’s now at Columbia. I often read his stuff. I like both of these people, and I like both Chicago and Cambridge. I want to talk a little bit about how they relate to each other.

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What’s Really Going on in Ukraine

Most of the people writing about the Ukraine crisis are too busy trying to prove that they are on the right side to give decent analysis of it. They are worried about appearing too friendly to either Russia or the United States, and their career concerns are crippling their ability to say anything useful. Let’s talk about what’s really going on.

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How and Why Slavery Got Abolished

One of the things I find odd about the American discourse about slavery is how rarely Americans think about slavery as an institution which existed outside America. Not only did slavery exist in the ancient world in a pre-racialised way–in which many slaves were white, and many masters were people of colour–but it also existed in many other places during the period in which it existed in America. In many of these places, slavery was abolished not by violence but by ordinary politics. Yet this is rarely acknowledged or discussed, and it is increasingly common for Americans to frame our history largely in terms of the slavery question. We don’t often ask why slavery was more contentious in the United States than in other places. That’s what I want to think about with you today.

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A Critique of Sam Harris

Over at Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson and Eli Massey have written the critique of Sam Harris. Robinson offers a magisterial, detailed overview of the rhetorical sleights of hand Harris uses to give relatively weak, unoriginal positions the imprimatur of “science” and “reason”. I want to add something to this discussion–something Robinson touches on but which I want to stay with for a minute. There is a core problem with the way Harris thinks which necessarily generates bad takes on Islam and the Muslim world.

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