Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Revise This

[posted by Callimachus]

The American Civil War lasted until 1877, and the South won.

While we're in the business of pouring new wars into old bottles, I suggest we re-write history, too, to make it conform with the realities that are claimed for the present.

The statement at the head of this post, for instance, is where you'd come out if you applied the prevailing pessimist's view of Iraq and J. David Singer's "Journal of Peace Research" definition of "civil war" (the one embraced by journalists and anti-administration polemicists).

Shockingly revisionist, but arguably right. The CSA suffered military defeat and government collapse. Its leaders were driven from power. But a relentless insurgency and the dirty work of policing internal ethnic strife wore down the patience of the people of the North. The old U.S. army never had much of a taste or aptitude for peacekeeping. Political tides shifted in the North and eroded any remaining federal commitment to reconstruction, and the U.S. government simply declared victory and went home, leaving race-based slavery wobbly and battered, but essentially intact in everything but name. (Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens, writing after the war, described "slavery - so called -" as what "was with us, or should be, nothing but the proper subordination of the inferior African race to the superior white ....")

Of course it overlooks whole swaths of reality, but so does every ideologically driven paradigm, eh?