From the WhatIfAltHist Youtube Channel
I recently finished American Republics by Alan Taylor and liked it quite a bit – some random disjointed thoughts
- America is optimized for grand irony and strives for it at all times
- The whole notion of states rights, and that people saw themselves as citizens of individual states is quite true but incomplete – during the early American days there was no “American” identity with which to identify – it would be like identifying as a member of NATO
- John Marshall was much more influential than one would think in the long term
- American did not have priorities as much as it had an agenda of “Let’s support whatever the settlers are already doing and act like it’s our idea”
- There was much, much more European involvement in North America than I would have thought, or knew about
- It was mostly a record of American public crime and barbarism, which is fine, the shoe fits, but it does leave out anything that could be labeled “good” or “neutral” – it barely discusses any sort of technology or anything that happened in the free states, or immigrants
- The whole notion of defensive imperialism makes more sense now – it’s similar to Russian imperialism over time in some ways
- The whole notion of States Rights is truer than I would have thought, but slavery was built way into the fabric of society to about the same degree that I thought too (very, very built in) – the two notions are an odd sort of separate, but related in practice
- Andrew Jackson (and Polk) were more thorough bastards than I would have thought possible
- Settlers led, and the government followed
- Anti-British sentiment loomed larger than I would have thought
- Being informed about the relative populations put a lot of things into focus
- The fear of slave revolts (which never really happened at all) was a driving force behind a lot of things
He has a very interesting article on the War of the Triple Alliance. RTWT.
I’ve made them non-political, strictly symbolic. They are
- The national anthem shall be changed to America the Beautiful; an accessible song with a solid melody and natural meter; and the Star Spangled Banner will be consigned to history, where it will be of much interest to our eventual tone-deaf robot overlords
- Daylight Savings Time shall be abolished. Trying to fool the sun sets a bad example for children and weakens our moral fiber
- Calvin Coolidge shall be worked into Presidents Day somehow. We’re long overdue for rewarding people who do their job quietly, with no drama
- We shall come up with a simple way to properly fold the US Flag that does not require two people
What would y’all do?
- Lincoln and the Jews – from the Federation of American Scientists
- The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk – the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe
- Two from Charlie Rose, specifically this interview with Petraus’ main counter insurgency adviser David Kilcullenm and also with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater.
I got this from Megan McArdle, it’s the Civic Literacy Quiz!
I scored 57 out of 60 correctly — 95.00 %!
How about y’all?
PurpleSlog has an interesting thought experiment of What Five Places/Events Would You Visit With A Time Machine? They are
- Israel at the start of Christianity (the same as PurpleSlogs)
- The Kennedy Assassination – I’m partial to the Oswald acted alone theory, but it would be nice to know for sure.
- The Russian revolution
- The writing of the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution
- The White House with Lincoln during the Civil War
I was listening to this diavlog recently and one of the participants (Daniel Deudney) remarked that the Wilsonian “Make the world safe for democracy” mantra of World War I was not so much referring to bringing democracy to monarchic parts of the world so much as making the world non-threatening enough so that America could maintain it’s non-militaristic way of life and avoid becoming a “Garrison State”.
I haven’t thought about it for a while, but several years ago I thought that was the strongest argument for the Iraq war. Not sufficient on it’s own, but a good reason. The threat in WWI was European militarism; now it’s “The Gap” but the example still holds. The term “Garrison State” is a useful one to describe a militarized police state.
One of the many annoying things I often hear is “Reagan won the Cold War”. It’s the wrong question. While the Cold Warn certainly wasn’t won by Jimmy Carter, it wasn’t Reagan either. Here is the analogy I use.
Imagine two men in a bar. They’ve just finished fighting other people together. After that fight is done, they start to squabble amongst themselves. Both men pull guns and a tense standoff ensues.
Neither side has a clear edge as both guns are comparable and effective. The standoff continues for quite some time. Both parties upgrade their weaponry periodically. One of the people spends all of his non-weapon money on health food, while the other spends all of his non-weapon money on crystal meth and salty snacks. After a while the first health food person buys a pricey new SA80 rifle. The meth/salt guy complains about a new arms race, then has a heart attack and dies.
That’s the end of the Cold War. The canard “We outspent them” ignores the fact that Communism is not capable of utilizing resources efficiently, and if the Soviets hadn’t been using their resources on weapons they would be wasting the resources some other way. While Reagan did see the evil nature of communism accurately, he wasn’t responsible for the heart attack. Happily, communism is self-limiting that way.