Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a good time to take a few moments and give thanks to our ancestors who did their best to pass along a better nation to their children.

Memorial Day began three years after the War of the Rebellion ended. Had the South emerged victorious it is my firm belief that the North American continent would have shattered into a balkanized mess of varioius independent or pseudo-independent states, with Great Britain, France and eventually Germany or even Russia probably swooping in to play off various factions over the ensuing decades. That war was a dark time of crisis that ended as well as it could - though a botched Reconstruction hobbled the South for nearly a century after.

It is worth pondering as we enter into this new time of crisis. There will be brighter dawns ahead, but the choices we make now could have enormous impact on the future. Act as wisely as you can. Happy Memorial Day.

4 comments:

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Counter-factual histories are fun, but as with everything else it's all about ones premises.

Rather than your Balkans assumption, let's look at a few others, starting with a different premise:
1) Perhaps there wouldn't have been a pogrom against American Indian tribes driven by early empire crony capitalism.
2) No unitary nation to begin its Imperial quest with the erroneous phrase, "Remember the Maine!" and culminating (then) with slaughtering Filipinos in the low six figures, following General Sherman's (and his wife's) new view of how to win wars.
3) No unitary nation for Wilson to drag into WW I, breaking a stalemate headed for negotiated truce and creating the inevitability of Stalin's successes and the rise of
3) The Nazi Party leading to WW II (just a resumption of WW I) and the development of nuclear weapons and their deployment against civilian cities.
4) No unitary nation-state led by people needing to continue the War Socialism of 1939-1945 so therefore no Cold War & no Arms Race with its load of Armageddon-bringing fision bombs.

Big is bad, small is better, that's the political premise I started with. To the extent that Lincoln's development of modern warfare (where all people are considered targets, soldiers and civilians alike) was a success, political leaders in the USA were handed a mighty mace with which to bludgeon humanity for the past 60 years.

From the premise I began with, it was a colossal mistake to hand a few people such power. Tens of millions of people have died because of the total war perfected in North America and employed in its leaders' real-life game of RISK(tm).

We can't know what life would have been like had Lee adopted a guerilla strategy and bled the North until it gave up. We do know that, by changing the names in the history texts, the USA is by any measure the Evil Empire of modern times. Just replace USA with USSR and read about Predator Drones wiping out wedding parties, military bases spanning the globe, assassination squads changing governments, gunboat diplomacy on a historic scale, torture, rendition...

Evil Empire. Had the South seceded perhaps the trend would have been worse, there's no way to know. But it is a major fallacy to see the past and conclude that it was both inevitable and Pareto Optimal. Also, preventing any states from leaving the union was immoral by any honest grasp of what it means to form a government. The original colonists would never have consented to form the union had they believed there was no escape.

Flagg707 said...

Hey David,

Great points all and I am a sucker for alternate histories as well.

I normally agree with the "small is better" thesis. My only caveat was that for a brief few hundred years, that went awry with weapons systems and economics models that favored large, connected entities - witness the wiping off of the map of the many vibrant tiny kingdoms and principalities in Europe since the 1600's. While I think that trend is now reversing, bigger states and empires had a brief run where bigger was, if nothing else, more efficient and wiped out or bullied those who were not big enough to stand up to them.

Had the USA and CSA faced off, I agree that many evils would have probably been avoided - I just worry that other evils would have replaced them.

Thanks, though, for the food for thought.

David said...

One last note: Lincoln started that war, and it killed over 600,000 people. He repudiated every aspect of justice in his zeal, establishing the first totalitarian government since Columbus. The victory cemented a powerful central government in place, one that (as with all governments) grew like a parasite without limit or like a metastatic cancer, enabling every destructive impulse in human social organization (e.g. central banking, cabinet warfare, confiscatory taxation, regulation by decree).

It provided a means for Fabianism to overtake the west while communism took over much of the east, in both cases weakening self-reliance and independent social foundations like the family. The single greatest victory for collectivism in the past 400 years was Lee's surrender.

Since collectivism is to society what poison is to food, I must protest any notion that what occurred in 1865 was good for mankind.