Where are we in the war between the West and Russia in Ukraine? We asked Sam back to help us figure it out. He’s a tutor in the Department of Political Science at Oxford and a member of the Royal United Services Institute in London. He’s an expert on Russia’s wars in Chechnya and Syria, and he’s been to Russia and Ukraine many times in the course of getting his International Relations DPhil. His forthcoming book is Putin’s War on Ukraine: Russia’s Campaign for Global Counter-Revolution. I learned a lot in this conversation and so will you.
You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app — though Spotify sadly doesn’t accept the paid feed). For two clips of our convo — on whether Russia or Ukraine is winning, and the EU’s surprising response to the war — pop over to our YouTube page.
Other topics: Putin’s Pyrrhic victory in Bahkmut; the unexpected support for Ukraine from Meloni; the bromance between Boris and Zelensky and now Rishi; the odd airing of dissent within Russia; how Putin is spinning his failures; Lavrov’s propaganda that Hitler was partly Jewish; how Ukraine is now a proxy war for the West; Russia’s self-fulfilling prophecy of Ukraine joining NATO; Prigozhin bad-mouthing the Kremlin; the possibility of his Wagner Group going rogue; the Russian far right and Dugin; the prospects of a Ukrainian offensive; the chance Zelensky could take back Crimea; the dangers of the war spilling into Russia; the increased risk of nukes as the war grinds on; how Putin could save face in a ceasefire; the stretched limits of US support for Ukraine; how electing DeSantis or Trump could affect that support; Putin exploiting the culture wars; the wild card of war breaking out in Taiwan; and the election next year in Russia.
Browse the Dishcast archive for another conversation you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else). Coming up: Ben Smith on going viral, Tabia Lee on her firing as a DEI director, Patrick Deneen on a post-liberal future, and David Grann on an 18th-century mutiny that’s a “parable for our own turbulent time.” Please send your guest recommendations and pod dissent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A listener on last week’s episode:
I really enjoyed your discussion with Jon Oberg, and I’m thrilled and grateful that you are working to reduce animal suffering in your diet. I’ve been vegan for about three years and really feel it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and the world. Given your large public profile and influence, your going vegan could do so much to reduce cruelty and suffering. Do it, man!
I also know you’re a person of deep faith, so I also wanted to share this article about the biblical basis for veganism.
From a vegan:
Thanks for a good podcast. John Oberg is a very good advocate precisely because he stressed the ethical, and did not allow himself to be sidetracked into matters of taste or fashion. You began quite early by mentioning how irritating the banner-waving-type vegans are. And obviously this is true because all banner waving is irritating. Presumably any argument over tactics of spreading the word are secondary to the word itself.
I myself am quietly, but insistently, vegan. I will not bend for the sake of hosts who have spent all day roasting a lamb, but nor will I accost the person ahead of me at the grocery store because they are buying cow milk rather than, say, coconut, or soy, or almond, or cashew. But I do nonetheless think they are, on most occasions, sinning in this action.
This next listener pushes vegetarianism:
While I feel that Oberg was convincing in his argument about why we need to stop eating meat and the practice of factory farming (which I wholeheartedly agree with), I do not feel like he really sold the idea of veganism over a form of vegetarianism. If a person can raise chickens free range in their yard for eggs, or can get eggs from a local farmer who does the same, what would be the argument to why this would not be acceptable? The same goes for dairy products; if you have a local dairy that allows their cattle to pasture graze, I do not really see an ethical reason to go full vegan.
Another thing came to mind when Oberg was talking about caring for cats when he was younger. How would he deal with the ethics of feeding our pets? Cats are obligate carnivores. Dogs, while not obligate carnivores, still should have some meat in their diet. I know there are some people out there who do feed their cats and dogs vegan diets, but I see this as just another form of animal cruelty — forcing our pets to eat a diet that they never evolved to properly digest.
Next up, a “heavily muscled Geordie from Tyneside, a vegan, and an ardent listener and subscriber to the Dishcast”:
I recommend talking to Dr. John McDougall regarding plant-based food: “He has written a number of diet books advocating the consumption of a low-fat vegan diet based on starchy foods and vegetables. His eponymous diet, called The McDougall Plan, was a New York Times bestseller.
More guest recs from this listener:
Oberg was pleasant enough, but rather light on details and evidence. He blew past the idea of humane animal raising. It absolutely is possible. Granted it takes some means, but this kind of meat is getting cheaper all the time. Not only are these animals raised and slaughtered humanely, they can regenerate the ecosystem and sequester carbon back into the environment. I was hoping you’d push him on the environmental sustainability and suffering caused by the products in the plant-based foods he chooses. Monocropped wheat, corn, and soy cultivation destroys ecosystems.
I strongly recommend Nicolette Hahn Niman — a cattle rancher, vegetarian, environmental attorney, activist and author of Defending Beef and Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms.
I’m learning all the time. Thanks for the suggestion. Another reader on monocropping:
When big combines rip through a field of grain, they kill mice, birds, insects and baby deer. This doesn’t align with Oberg’s do-no-harm ethic. Even his neutering of feral cats is a terrible example. I love cats and have one myself, but they are an invasive species and kill millions of birds and other small animals each year.
Oberg is correct that vegetables provide invaluable fiber, but his pitching of highly processed foods (such as the Impossible Burger) are terrible for you in many ways. Before you consider a vegan diet, please read Robert Lustig’s Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine.
As a vegan of some years, I was excited to hear you giving this topic some airtime. Veganism is a complex topic covering tough ethical, economic, environmental, agricultural and nutritional questions. There are a wealth of people you could invite on to discuss this topic in depth: philosophers like Peter Singer, educators like Ed Winters or Simon Hill, or doctors like Neal Barnard — all high profile, rigorous, and informed, with considerable interview experience catering to non-vegan audiences.
By the way, I’m a new subscriber to the Dishcast and a long-time fan, going all the way back to Virtually Normal. I’ve really been enjoying the episodes for quite some time but it was the fantastic Craiutu conversation that inspired me to sign up as a paid subscriber (and I’m glad I did, having just now listened to John Gray and downloaded his Seven Types of Atheists).
Oberg is just the start of a Dishcast discussion on animal rights — we’re inviting others — so stay tuned, and thanks for all the recs. We received many more emails on his appearance that we had room for on this page, so check out this other page we posted.
After reading my piece “The Queers Versus The Homosexuals,” a longtime, exasperated trans reader writes:
Ah, here we go again.
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