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History is filled with “what ifs?” What if the Normans hadn’t invaded England? What if Columbus hadn’t sailed across the Atlantic? What if England had included the colonies in Parliament?
We really don’t know how much different actions would have gotten quite different results. Several authors have written speculative fiction describing outcomes quite different from actual history. One example is an author who wrote several books on what if the South had won the Civil War.
I don’t really know how things would have turned out if only…, but bear with me as I join the speculators.
Lincoln went to war against the Confederacy because he felt that an un-United States would have left the States open to foreign intervention. It wasn’t so much that he wanted to free the slaves, but the South did fear the North taking away its slaves. Lincoln did take away the slaves, but that left so much resentment that “blacks” still are treated as second class citizens in much of the South, to say nothing of the murders committed against blacks in the South (and in the North too).
If the South had successfully seceded, with or without a war, would the slaves eventually be freed? Probably not. For example, textile mills in New England would be eager to buy slave-picked cotton from the South. And manufacturers in the North would be eager to sell all kinds of labor-saving machinery to the South. Would that machinery be more efficient than slaves? Thereby reducing the market in slaves? We really don’t know.
In Europe empires grew to embrace many people of quite different languages and interests. The empires in turn were distrustful of each other and made treaties with “friendly” empires to protect themselves against “unfriendly” empires. They thought a balance of power would create a balance of peace. Then “one leg of the chair” collapsed. With a single assassination, one group of empires felt the need to attack another group of empires.
If there had been an alliance of all the nations of Europe to settle disputes in a more peaceful manner, would there have been “The War to End All Wars”? We do know that most of those countries are now at peace with one another.
But at the end of World War I, some victors wanted to punish the losers. This punishment had two different serious consequences.
In Europe, the injustices perceived by the Germans led to the rise of Adolph Hitler. Millions died because they were “other” and millions died because of the wars Hitler started. Consider that not all these deaths were caused by Hitler and his Japanese allies. The number of innocent people killed in the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are far greater than the number of people killed in a decade of “Islamic” terrorism.
In the Middle East the Ottoman Empire was broken up willy-nilly without any consideration for the people of the various countries created. Then oil was discovered and buying countries wanted to make sure they had stable supplies. It didn’t matter what the form of government was or the what the wishes of the people were. The buyers supported non-democratic leaders with nary a blink of an eye. In fact, if a democratic leader tried to change oil contracts to be more beneficial to his country, the buyers sought to overthrow him and replace him with an autocrat. Remember Mosaddegh and Reza Pahlavi? Is it any wonder that the ayatollahs took over and had so much animosity to the U.S.?
Then George W. Bush and company decided that they had to do something about Saddam Hussein because of 9/11. How many Iraqis died because of this war? It was far more than had died in any number of terrorist attacks before. And the easy victory that the Bush administration predicted resulted in chaos that still hasn’t settled down either with a stable democracy or a firm dictator.
Into the vacuum came equally hard-nosed militants who believed Allah was on their side. I find it strange that Allah isn’t booming down from heaven the same message to the rest of us. And strange that God isn’t booming the same message that George W. Bush received.
All of this religiosity seems to ignore the more gentle wisdom that is in both the Bible and the Koran: do unto others as you would have them to do you, blessed are the peacemakers, the sins of the fathers are passed on to the sons, yea unto the seventh generation, and many more.
“Yet it is in fact militarization that is the cause of the problem in the first place.” - Ben Norton
If you have an hour to spare, read Ben Norton’s “Our Terrorism Double Standard: After Paris Let’s Stop Blaming Muslims and Take a Hard Look at Ourselves”, Salon, 2015-11-14 at
The article doesn’t take an hour to read, but you will want to read many of the related articles in the sidebar.
After the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush is infamously quoted as advising Americans to “Go shopping.” I think it was a misguided attempt to ask people to act normally. My advice to Americans after any of these catastrophes is “Go vote”. Too often the militant vote and the peacemakers stay home.