Ukraine, My Writing Process, Video Games, and More
Welcome to the first mailbag! Let’s dive right in.
What do you think of Beauchamp's piece here, advocating constructive solutions to what Israel should do? You've worried that smart liberals have been failing to provide solutions to Israel's problem other than the status quo — but Beauchamp has a solution that he argues for at length.
I was pretty unimpressed by that article. I know something about quantitative research in IR, having spent a lot of time working on this stuff in graduate school, and I can tell you with confidence that it is for the most part a classic case of scientism. Beauchamp talks about the professor who studied “460 terrorist groups to figure out what caused their collapse.” No one really studies that many terrorist groups in any depth. If you spent only one month studying each of 460 terrorist groups the process would take you almost 40 years before you could even begin writing or synthesizing what you found. More realistically what they do is they build a statistical model based on what graduate students read on a Wikipedia page, and then build a story around it. Who knows how accurate or complete the data is – it’s often surprising how limited our information is about many contemporary conflicts. Then they’ll carry out some kinds of statistical analyses that do not take adequate steps to deal with selection effects, because doing so is impossible. So if you find, for example, that governments that respected human rights were more likely to eliminate terrorism, it could be because that strategy worked, or because those terrorist groups were less formidable. A million other explanations are also possible.
Even with all that said, Beauchamp acknowledges that repression can work, it’s just that democracies tend not to be willing to do what it takes. But as I’ve written, that’s because they’ve been fighting wars that really don’t matter. Israel is now fighting a pretty brutal war, and the only reason it’s not even more brutal is international pressure, not because they are a democracy. All of that depends on a Democrat being in office though. If all this happened under Trump, they’d basically be able to starve and bomb Gaza until they got whatever they wanted. I think Netanyahu’s plan is probably just to wait out the Biden administration. At least that’s what I’d do.
How do international examples fit into your idea that woke is civil rights law. Countries like Canada and Australia seem as or more woke than America. Do you think US laws influence Canadian and Australian laws, and then their legal systems impact culture and corporations? Or is that American culture is so globally dominant and alluring that woke is exported and implemented in these other countries despite a weaker legal underpinning?