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March 30, 2010


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I have enjoy this information ,thanks.


Curious: Was there a parallel for Movement Conservatives back then (up to and including the teabagger scum)? I know we had the robber barons and a long period where the government operated exclusively to protect the prerogatives of the super-wealthy, but was there a middle-to-low-income army of imbeciles vociferously backing those policies?

Sir Charles


You had the Klan, of course, and the forces that pushed the creation of the Jim Crow South, a phenomenon that really gained momentum in the 1890s at the same time tht the U.S. really embraced what might be characterized as a kind of race-based imperialism. You also had anti-immigrant feeling of substantial strength -- sometimes manifesting itself in the form of immigrant on immigrant violence, i.e. vicious assaults on Chinese laborers on the West Caost by Irish railway workers.

The country already had embraced a Randian world view --Social Darwinism, which had the pretense of giving a scientific basis for the economic order. If you want to see what a libertarian paradise looks like, I'd suggest looking at the U.S. from 1877-1900 -- not the place I'd want to be as a working person.


No, not really. Because they had other outlets for their energy, like lynching black people and whatnot.

Sir Charles


Do you have any thoughts on Lears' work? I notice he gave a nice shout out (isn't that what you academics call it) to one of Eric's books in his bibliographic notes.


The "progressives" at the New Republic saw war, in Lears' words, as a "regenerative crusade," a "great laboratory of social engineering," and a means of creating a new world from the destruction of the old.

In that I think they were correct, not that being so is anything to be proud of when you're aren't going to be risking your own neck in the process (whereas in comparison, at least the war mongering Kipling lost his much loved 18 year old son). When a country loses almost an entire generation of men in such a horrific undertaking (as Great Britain and a few other countries did) a new world is indeed likely to emerge from the fallout, although it may just as easily be a worse one as a better one.


Toast, the timing is slightly off (I subscribe to Twain's observation that history doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme), but there was even at least one famous right-wing media demagogue during that era (or actually more likely very shortly thereafter). In Detroit there was a Catholic priest who had a syndicated radio show broadcasting his anti-semitic sermons/rantings. His name was Father Charles Coughlin.


Toast, Conservatives definitely had their version of the Federalist Society back then. The time period from 1870-1932 coincided with a judicial reification of Randian/social darwinist principles in the Constitution (kind of like a bizarro world version of substantive due process today). You had libertarian justices overturning social welfare legislation (like minimum wage laws, wages and hours laws etc.) on Constitutional grounds. You also had courts busting up unions on the basis of antitrust laws-- that unions engaged in "price-fixing" of labor. Judicial activism was truly an awful prospect for progressives/liberals back then.

minstrel hussain boy

there were progressives among the conservatives back then too. the split in the republican party which allowed the election of wilson was caused by t. roosevelt's high disgust at the party of lincoln (and it was truly still the party of lincoln back then, TR's secretary of state was john hay, lincoln's personal secretary)

if you really want to have your mind boggled pick up something about alexander's afghan campaign. step by step, incident by incident, we seem to be following that book.


Prup (aka Jim Benton)

Btw, will someone 'clean up' that comment spam in the first comment. They are getting worse -- though it isn't like one legal blog who for months ran long comments in Mandarin until I went through and clicked on them and had Google translate them. Ads for 'beauty products' 'sex toys' and 'brides by mail.'

Gene O'Grady

Coupla questions?

Was Kipling really a warmongerer, as opposed to an Imperialist? (Theodore Roosevelt, whom -- as I do Kipling -- I admire, was) but was I don't recall much warmongering in the fair amount of Kipling I have read.

Second, Irish railroad workers bashing Chinese laborers is a bit of mishmash. Owing largely to perceptions of their laziness and fondness for the bottle, I believe the Western part of the railroads pretty much excluded the Irish and stuck with the Chinese. The abuse of the Chinese in railroad cities like Pendleton and Rock Springs was pretty un-Irish. I am aware of the loathsome Dennis Kearny and his work in San Francisco, actually all of California, but he wasn't particularly connected to the railroads, and in any case his activity was after the railroad building era.

One of the reasons I admire Mark Twain in Roughing It is that he manages to express distaste for the abuse of both the Chinese and the Irish. One might try to consider a thoroughly admirable guy like Patrick Manogue as well as the stereotypical drunken Irish bully of the old West.

By the way, my knowledge of (and distaste for) Dennis Kearny goes back to a genuine cold war classic Irish Catholic history teacher fifty years ago, whose betes noirs were Kearny (for wrecking the California constitution), McKinley (for his "little brown brothers in the Philippines" speech), and Douglas MacArthur, for whom several reasons would have been good enough.


Was Kipling really a warmongerer, as opposed to an Imperialist? (Theodore Roosevelt, whom -- as I do Kipling -- I admire, was) but was I don't recall much warmongering in the fair amount of Kipling I have read

I may have mischaracterized him. I know he was also very firmly in favor of war with Germany and that was what I was primarily thinking about.

Sir Charles


The Irish/Chinese issues were certainly complicated in the sense that both groups were being exploited and pitted against each other. However, there was inexcusable violence inflicted on the Chinese by Irish laborers who were not only seeking to protect their economic interests, but in some respects asserting their American bona fides by means of victimizing another group.

I don't know if Kipling himself was a war monger -- although given his subject matter and the company he kept, it would hardly shock me. TR was pretty much a disgusting war monger, someone who really believed in the notion of redemptive violence, a tendency that worsened as he aged.


I don't think the New Republic folks were endorsing war as a miscellaneous means of promoting change through anarchic violence. I think they too believed in redemptive violence and the idea of national unity and purpose - much beloved by the 9/11 bloggers -- that they thought war would inspire.

minstrel hussain boy

kipling was a british man of his era. he managed to write about india and the british raj era without ever losing sight of the fact that he was there to help the british east india company steal with both hands. in that very strange way he loved the place and its people. he got a bellyfull though with ww1. his son was extremely nearsighted, to the point of being excused from service, but, at his son's insistence, kipling pulled strings, called in favors and made enough of a fuss that the boy was commisioned and made an infantry officer. as if the death of an eldest, and only son wasn't blow enough, one of the boy's comrades later told kipling that his son died while in a shell crater on his hands and knees trying to find his glasses.

kipling never recovered from that emotionally. after that, gone was all romance and fun when writing about war.

an interesting bit of history regarding the chinese in california. it wasn't just on the railroad that they were duped, cheated, and often worked to death for little or no money. i live in the imperial valley of california. at the turn of the last century they did one of the biggest and most ambitious irrigation projects in history. a network of canals brought water from the colorado river hundreds of miles across terribly forbidding desert. most of the labor, and a lot of those canals were dug, by hand, by chinese laborers. when the project was completed, the chinese were expelled as undesirables. many of them went across the border to mexicali where they established a thriving and vibrant community that rivals san francisco's in size and culture. (the main ethnicity of the mexicali chinese is cantonese)

in my intermediate strings class at the local j.c. i have seven mexican/chinese students. two of them show real promise. (at least promise enough to smuggle el professore cuban cigars)


There really is nothing new under the sun.


kipling never recovered from that emotionally. after that, gone was all romance and fun when writing about war.

Out of curiosity last night I read a bit of the Wikipedia entry about Theodore Roosevelt. While I haven't attempted to independently verify this the entry states that Roosevelt's youngest son (& favorite) was an WWI aviator who was killed in action. There are those who think Roosevelt also never recovered from that loss. He died in his sleep of a heart attack on January 6, 1919.

He was 61 years old.


Oh, and I also doubt The New Republic of that time was advocating anarchic violence for its own sake. What I was trying to suggest was that regardless of what they did or didn't believe, they were right about the world-transforming effects of WWI. It's just that I doubt it turned out for the better in the way they were imagining it would.

Something along the lines of be careful what you ask for, for you may get it.

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

I'm gonna disagree with a lot of you here, but the effects of the war -- not the mismanaged and mangled peace negotiations, and not doing anything but laughing and weeping at the incredibly bad generalship -- were positive -- true, in some cases only compared to what they replaced.

First, the war was started 'by accident.' The image of a Western bar-room brawl, the whole 'you hit my friend, now I hit you' bit is much more acuurate than any other image. (The 'left-wing myth' of the "masters of War' that it was started by evil munitions manufacturers or bankers for profit has about as much relation to reality as does the right-wing myth of the dolchstosselegende.) The effects were so disastrous that something similar seems unlikely ever to happen again -- as shown by Munich, in fact. The pre-War system would have required an immediate response and conflagration, as happened after Sarajevo,

Before the war 'hereditary dynasties' were in fact in effective control of almost all of Europe. (Even in the 'Constitutional Monarchy' of England the King had much more effective say -- directly and because his friends and their families were much of the government.) And, though this was only important in 2 1/2 of them, each of the five dynasties were 'sanctified' by a different religion. The Hapsburgs' Roman Catholicism and the Windsors' Anglicanism weren't major factors, but the entire raison d'etre of the Sultan and the Romanoffs was religion, Islam and Orthodox Christianity. And that wonderful mountebank Kaiser Wilhelm II at least tried to claim 'divine sanction' for his reign When he declared "In as much as I regard myself as an instrument of Heaven..." he really meant it as much as he meant any of his bluster. (Which resulted in a wonderful cartoon of the 'Old Emperor' -- Kaiser Wilhelm I -- interceding with God on his grandson's behalf because it was -- Wilhelm had claimed -- by Divine grace that he ruled. God's response? "Now you are trying to put the blame on me.")

After the war, hereditary monarchy was, effectively, resting in the garbage can of history. (The only exception I can think of was the King of Yugoslavia taking control of the government -- even then more as a 'dictator' than as a monarch -- when the fledgling democracy was being rendered impotent by the obstructionism of the Croatian Peasant Party -- so similar to today's Republicans with the addition of cowbells.) And in England and elsewhere, the 'artistocracy' became an impotent joke. Even the new dictatorships of right and left were, in essence, populist movements of the middle and working class, respectively, at lest in the beginning.

Then we have the 'new countries' that came from the war, that had previously been under the control of the Hqapsburghs or the Sultan or the Tsars. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia (Serbia had been semi-independent), the Baltic countries, Rumania, Turkey, Bulgaria, even Austria as a country instead of just the 'home and property of the Hapsburgs' all existed as a result of the War. (And, sadly, the mismanaged peace process -- much like the GHWBush bungling of the fall of Communism -- failed to support democracy there to the level it should have.)

Finally, there really was a danger to the stability of Europe from "Prussian militarism" -- which was real -- from revanchism in Alsace-Lorraine, from the Hapsburg's desire to reclaim Serbia, and from the instability caused by the fall of the Sultanate -- which might not have been permanent had it not been for the war. The question was not WWI or nothing but peace, but exactly how the inevitable war would have happened.

Oh, and one more thing. It may be a sad truth, but War has always been the one thing that pushes scientific advancement more than anything else, scientific advances that usually result in peacetime gains that would have happened no other way. (We are talking on the Internet, checking accurate weather forecasts, and finding our stolen cars because of satellites, which would never have been sent up without the Cold War. (And I remember Proxmire Progressives arguing how much of a waste of money it was, and that we 'got nothing but Tang for the expense.')


Huh. Damn it, Jim, that's a good point. Wars often do seem to be the manner in which negative social forces are finally expunged from society or societies, (would that there was some other way) so it makes sense that the Great War was the bonfire of something significant as well.

The biggest problem with the Great War's conclusion, though, it that it's resolution, combined with the coming Great Depression, lead inexorably to the WWII, and all the atrocities that came with that. If the Allies had been more magnanimous in victory (as Wilson counseled) that latter War might well have been avoided.

minstrel hussain boy

there is a school of historian that regards ww's 1&2 as not being separate conflicts, but one long war, with a halftime resting period for a world wide depression.

kathy a.

mhb, there is something to that theory.

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

I was going to mention that theory myself. It is a good one if you don't take it too far. Certainly Germany was unsatisfied and wanted Round 2, and certainly the Roots of Round 2 were the German failure -- and the belief held by much of the German people that they had really been doing better in the war, that 'a little more time and effort and we would have won, if it weren't for the civilian populace's cowardice' (at worst the dolchstoss).

But I don't want to stress the 'inevitability' of war. A better peace treaty, a stronger League of Nations (ideally with US participation), a less truly horrible German regime and the problems might have been settled by a renegotiation. There was a strongly pacifist streak in both England and France that might have been glad to give a more reasonable Germany what it wanted -- hell, Munich was cheered and had Germany stopped with that instead of deliberately wanting war, it might not have happened.

kathy a.

WWII also involved the far east; i don't think much attention was paid to japan's awful aggression, until pearl harbor was bombed. it's only in the past few years that i've begun to understand the toll in countries like vietnam, where there was a famine that was horribly aggravated by japanese troops confiscating what food there was; many people also died of diseases during that time. those stresses, and many others, led up to the war that many of us watched on TV news in childhood, but no context or history was provided so far as i remember.

Sir Charles


I'm simply not convinced that the U.S. had a compelling reason to enter World War I and that it proved to be an ultimately beneficial exercise. It certainly tipped the scales in the Allies favor -- indeed, I would argue was the definitive event in turning the tide of the war despite both British and French attempts to sometimes minimize the American contribution. But was this in the end good for either the U.S. or the Europeans?


The Japanese conduct even prior to Pearl Harbor was truly appalling -- the rape of Nanking being just the most obvious.

I tend to be a failrly liberal soul, but there is very little in the way of historical revisionism that makes my blood boil more than Japanese attempts to portray themselves as victims during World War II. I know that international law prohibits collective punishment, but the only people I can think of who deserved more hell fire brought upon them then the Japanese were the Germans.

kathy a.

one of the places i wanted to go in japan was hiroshima. and it was more striking and more raw than i expected, even -- but my impression [from there, and from what i know of post-war japan] is that the japanese people and government rejected their country's previous aggression pretty strongly. whatever murmers of victimhood there are -- and my god, we nuked them, the skin melted off of children who were unfortunate enough to survive initially -- the hiroshima peace museum strongly stresses peace, negotiation, disarmament, non-proliferation.

Sir Charles


My sense is that the Japanese government has really been reluctant to actually take responsiblity for its actions in World War II and that the matter is still subject to whitewash in the official histories -- it strikes me as substantially different in that respect than Germany. I think the Chinese and Korean people, among others, would concur in that assessment.

I am

kathy a.

i was impressed that the museum was so up-front about the japanese buildup of forces and aggression -- it obviously did not go into all the details, but gave a decent and straightforward explanation of why hiroshima and its military buildup made it a target.

the site has a lot of memorials and shrines. one memorial was to the koreans who were enslaved to work for the japanese military, and who also died in the bombing. that struck me as a rather public acknowlegment of harm japan had caused to others -- even if it did not cover all of the harm.

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

Agreed on the Japanese during the war -- and another example of people losing their 'moral compass' under a theocracy -- the 'Emperor is Divine' idea was held, at least nominally by most Japanese.

As for whether American entry into WWI was "in the end good for either the U.S. or the Europeans?" I think the only possible answer is that it was. It isn't just the thought of Willie Hollenzern remaining in power, with his bluster and idiocy. The true rulers of Germany by the end of the War were Hindenburg and Ludendorf (the true leader of the Beer Hall Putsch, remember). And if Karl -- Franz Joseph's successor -- was one of the better Hapsburgh rulers, he still was a Hapsburg, and would have done his best to maintain the family control over Eastern Europe. (Remember that the Hapsburg Empire was, in fact, a family holding, not a political entity.)

In fact, had Germany and Austria-Hungary won the War, the rebellious countries that, in our world, gained independence, would have been held onto all the stronger, and would have had but one direction to turn for support against the Hapsburgs -- who probably would have mopped up the previous Turkish states as well. And that was Leninist Russia. (Even in Germany there was a strong communist movement that would have grown even stronger in opposition to Ludendorf.)

So their victory would have led to a far more unsettled Europe, with conflicts arising from both Communism and revanchism -- the French wouldn't have stayed acquiescent long.

And I don't see the advantage to america either, but perhaps you have an idea there, because I can see how it might be possible to argue that way.

kathy a.

hirohito did shock the public, not only by negotiating an end to the war, but also renouncing his divine status. my impression of him is that he failed to exercise his wisdom and education up until that point -- the military held considerable political sway, and he was a figurehead, albeit one who could change the course of history with just one move. i should read up more. but i think this is an example of someone using all his cards at once, to end something awful.

Sir Charles


I don't think Hirohito is the person primarily to blame for the war and its crimes -- he was a strange combination of figurehead and god. An intersting look at the decision making to go to war from the Japanese perspective is contained in Ian Kershaw's "Fateful Choices."


By the way, I come to my rather severe opinion regarding the Japanese conduct during the war not simply from an American point of view, but from having studied the anti-Japanese resistance movements in China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, all of which would ultimately clash militarily with the U.S.


My sense is that absent U.S. intervention there would ultimately have been a stalemate on the Western front in World War I. What that would have meant would be speculation, but I am pretty sure the end results would not have been as bad as what transpired.

kathy a.

no, i didn't mean to suggest hirohito caused the aggression -- he was off on the sidelines, probably not even told much. and there is no real argument that japan's conduct during the war was anything but atrocious. thanks for the book recommendation.


Prup, although I agree that the US entry into WWI was ultimately for the good, I think you're being too hard on the Hapsburg Empire. All of Eastern Europe at the time was ethnically mixed (really from Smolensk to Eastern Germany and throughout the Balkans). What came after WWI was a series of brutal civil wars and border wars as ethnic groups attempted to become dominant in the area to the detriment of the other groups. At least the Hapsburg Empire actully attempted to unite the area through a shared allegiance to a multicultural polity.

The alternative (which occurred) was mass ethnic cleansing and genocide (both during and immediately after WWII).

Although Winston Churchill was fairly conservative, I agree with him that the best geopolitical solution at the end of WWI was not a series of ethnic states in Central and Eastern Europe. Because, without ethnic cleansing- all of them were fairly weak and ethnically mixed despite the attempt to draw borders along ethnic lines. The smarter play would have been the preservation and expansion of a constitutional monarchy type of Hapsburg Empire after WWI.

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

I'm not that strongly anti-Hapsburg. I'm no Rebecca West (BLACK LAMB AND GREY FALCON) seeing them as the font of all the evil in the Balkans, and am aware of the less likable chauvinisms of the Balkan peoples -- which has been an interest of mine since I discovered my favorite detective was a Montenegrin. In fact their 'absolutism tempered with inefficiency' was at times rather charming.

Perhaos the idea of a reconstituted -- and, because of the collapse of the Otooman Empire and fear of Russia -- enlarged Hapsburg Empire would have been desireable, but I simply can't see that it was possible.

The Hapsburg Empire had been pulling apart for a century, even more if you count the loss of Spain, but certainly since they lost any part of Italy. Serbia was already free -- and fighting to free (and rule) their fellow slavs. The revolutionary nationalist ferment that was rewarded -- however poorly -- in the peace treaty would not merely have remained, it would have been tripled, responding to the cry that 'we just lost thousands of our soldiers, and for what? So we could be put back under Hapsburg rule?'

(And a look at the Parliamentary history of between-war Yugoslavia will show that a 'constitutional parliamentary monarchy in which you would have full representation' was hardly deemed sufficient even for an independent 'union of South Slavs.' Under the Hapsburgs it would have been worse.)

The revolutionary activity would have been so strong that it would have had to have been met with fierce repression, bye-bye 'schlampferei' (sp?) hello "Faustrecht." And the complications that the activities of a Leninist Russia would have added would have made the whole idea both impossible and disastrous if tried.

kathy a.

For what it's worth, wiki has some history of Hirohito, re-named Showa upon his death: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirohito Obviously, I have a lot of reading to do, to get a better idea of him and Japanese history before/during/after the wars.

My daughter was born on 1/8/89 in Yokosuka, the first day of the current Heisei era; the day after Hirohito died. A Japanese intern assisted, and he took time to tell me that daughter was born on an auspcious day -- "every time she returns to the homeland, people will notice the day of her birth," he said. It wasn't officially her homeland, being American and born on a US navy base; and that noting of the date has not actually happened as she has shuffled through customs. I think the situation with the royal family post-war is perhaps analogous to that of European royalty -- figureheads who are a romantic link to some cultural aspects of the past, and get too much media attention.


Prup, you would have needed something akin to the arrangement between Austria and Hungary to be expanded to other ethnic groups within the Empire (which seemed to work pretty well for the Austrians and Hungarians). What the arrangement seemed to do was give German and Hungarian ethnicities a role in governing while not making ethnicity the sine qua non of citizenship. I agree it would have been problematic, but what happened in Central and Eastern Europe from 1918-1998 was as bad an outcome as possible. European Jews were completely wiped out in the region. Millions of Slavs (Poles, Czechs, Serbs, Ukrainians, and Russians) and Germans were killed or starved in World War II and in the border wars preceding the war. Ethnic Germans were then expelled from the area. Ethnic Slavs were ethnically cleansed into various satellite states. Muslims were eventually expelled from most of the area. Much of this was caused by not having a stable central European power with a vision for the entire region (the role the EU and NATO play now) to check Germany and then Russia/the Soviet Union.

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