Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Ukraine

The Midterm Elections Don’t Matter

As the midterm elections approach, the political class is working very hard to increase voter turnout. President Biden has given a big speech accusing the Republicans of posing a grave threat to democracy. We are inundated with political ads in which the Democrats accuse the Republicans of plotting to ban abortion and the Republicans accuse the Democrats of causing inflation. None of the arguments offered by either side have much to do with reality, and it is increasingly difficult to find anyone who will even make a sincere effort to discuss what’s going on without incorporating distorted partisan messaging. If we look at the issues, it’s clear that the composition of Congress is not going to make much difference over the next two years.

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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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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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