Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: War

Nord Stream Deflections

A journalist has alleged that the United States sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines. The United States has suggested that Russia blew up the pipeline, but it has not provided evidence to substantiate this claim. The attack on the pipeline makes it much harder for the European Union to import gas from Russia, making the EU more dependent on expensive liquified natural gas from North America. By removing the prospect of resuming Russian gas imports in the near-term, the attack on the pipeline gives the EU less reason to seek a swift end to the war in Ukraine. It diminishes Russian leverage. The American narrative – that Russia destroyed the pipeline to deny Europe gas – doesn’t make a lot of sense. Russia controls the tap. It can turn the gas on and off as it pleases. The sabotage destroys Russia’s capacity to turn the gas back on, and therefore it takes away Russia’s diplomatic option to offer to turn the gas back on as part of a settlement.

Given these facts and the absence of conclusive evidence as to who is responsible for the attack, it is reasonable to question the US government’s narrative and to demand the US government provide evidence to support its account of what happened. The journalist is just one of many people who have asked questions about Nord Stream. But a funny thing has happened. Instead of discussing the issues at hand – the pipeline, the energy crisis, the war – media outlets are increasingly focused on the journalist’s character. He’s accused of being a crank, a conspiracy theorist, a crazy person. Those who think it’s important to question the US government’s narrative have increasingly become preoccupied with defending the journalist. Many people now know the journalist’s name and can tell you all sorts of things about the journalist’s career. But what does this have to do with anything?

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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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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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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.┬áIt’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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Everyone Missed the Point of Charlottesville

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been digesting the narratives swirling after the tragic violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’ve waited to write about it because I noticed that so many people’s emotions were running so high, even people who usually seem pretty level-headed to me. Nearly all the reactions I’ve seen have left me dissatisfied. This will take a minute to unpack, but I promise you it’s worth it. Read the rest of this entry »