Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Ukraine

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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Impeachment is a Mistake

Remember 2017? President Trump tried to repeal and replace Obamacare. Over the summer, the Senate debated various permutations of healthcare legislation, and Trump’s approval rating sagged. When the House leadership introduced their first plan, on March 6th, Trump’s approval rating was 44%. When the Senate defeated even the “skinny repeal” bill on July 28th, Trump’s approval rating had been reduced to 38%. From there, the president turned to cutting taxes for rich people. When the tax legislation was first introduced, on November 2nd, Trump’s approval rating remained 38%. When the Senate passed the legislation under budget reconciliation a month later, Trump’s approval figure sagged as low as 36%. Over the course of that year, Trump had lost about 18% of his approval, and he’d lost that approval betraying his core supporters on issues that mattered to them. He had tried to take their healthcare away, and he had taken their money and handed it to rich people. Many Americans who voted for Trump could see that this stuff was not cool. The opposition was making real progress.

Then, everything changed. By February of 2018, Trump’s approval rating was back over 40%. A year later, it was 42%, and as I write this Trump’s approval rating is over 43%. Virtually all of the progress the opposition made in the first year of the Trump presidency has been rolled back. What happened? We stopped talking about issues and started talking about the culture war and character issues. Let me show you the steps.

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Why Every President Tries to Make Nice With Russia and Why It Never Works

One of the things I find odd about the way the press is covering the Trump/Putin relationship is how devoid of context and historical memory it is. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, four new presidents have come to power, and each has tried to create a good relationship with Russia. Bill Clinton was briefly successful, but the way Clinton used his success poisoned the well and made it very difficult for his successors to replicate his performance. Today I’ll tell you the story of how America has tried to turn Russia into an ally and why this effort has yet to succeed.

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When it Comes to Sanctions, Both Democrats and Trump are Inconsistent

Toward the end of his presidency, Barack Obama began relaxing economic sanctions on Cuba. The argument was simple–the sanctions had been in place half a century, but there was no hard evidence that they were affecting Cuban policy or seriously encouraging regime change. It seemed to many that the sanctions just made ordinary Cubans worse off and enabled the Castro regime to blame America for economic setbacks. Why not flood Cuba with American goods and American culture instead, and try to win the Cuban people over with goodies? The Trump administration never liked this idea, and it immediately set about reinstating the barriers. But now many of the same people who enthusiastically supported Obama’s efforts to change policy on Cuba–including many Senate Democrats–are calling for Trump to perpetuate and intensify sanctions against Russia, and Trump is reluctant to go along. This is intellectually inconsistent–on both sides. It reveals that when it comes to sanctions, both the Democrats and Trump are more interested in scoring political points at home than they are in having a coherent foreign policy.

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