Uncharted Territory

Historical analogies seem like useful tools for understanding current events. Everyone has heard, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” a bazillion times. Of course, our analogies are always to past disasters. Most people reading this can probably name a dozen people that have been compared to Hitler and another dozen examples of Western leaders being compared to Neville Chamberlain. For the most part, our analogies to the past are always warnings of pending doom. No one ever compares the present to some tranquil time in the past.

Humans have limited information processing capacity so nature devised ways for us to quickly process information. Pattern matching is one fast way to locate danger in a very crowded scene. If a current event resembles a past event in some way, then maybe they have other things in common. The logical shorthand is AX:BX::AY:BY, with X being the commonality we know and Y being the commonality we inferred. This sort of reasoning is really only useful in avoiding danger, thus the salience of the Santayana quote. Otherwise, he would have said “blessed” rather than “doomed.”

The thing about Hitler, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun and so on is that they had no obvious analog in the past. The events in Germany after the Great War were very unique. In fact, there’s no good example from the past to which they compare. Similarly, the world had never seen the likes of Genghis Khan, which is why the Mongols had so much success. One big reason Attila was so scary to the Romans was that he was clearly a different breed of Hun. Because he was not like his predecessors, he was unpredictable and therefore a very frightening figure to the Romans.

Of course, this is why comparing every two-bit dictator to Hitler is silly. Saddam was not Hitler. Qaddafi was not Hitler either. Obama cutting a deal with the Iranians may be stupid, but that does not make him Chamberlain. In other words, our attempts to understand the present by finding scary analogs in the past has led to one blunder after another in the Middle East. Our pathological need to remember the lessons of Vietnam made success in Afghanistan an impossibility. Because we remembered the past, we made entirely new and avoidable mistakes.

The point of this is that the upcoming election is being compared to 1980, 1968, 1932 (you know who) and Trump has been compared to everyone from Hitler to Andrew Jackson. Everyone is groping around for a useful historical analogy in order to make sense of this highly improbably election. The most important political office on the planet will either be filled by the wife of a former President or filled by a billionaire real estate developer. It’s not exactly Henry Tudor versus Richard III, but the consequences are probably going to be much more important.

This election is looking like an extreme outlier. Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate to have been accused of violating espionage laws. She may have beat the rap, but name another candidate that had even a whiff of traitorous intent. Trump is the first novice to run as a major party candidate since Wendell Wilkie in 1940 and that’s not a great comparison as Wilkie was involved in politics his whole life. Other than stroking checks to candidates for favors, Trump has not been very political.

Then there is the fact that both parties are a mess at the moment. The Democrats have a collection of geezers at the top and no bench. Their “young guns” are still in college. No one really wanted Clinton, but there was no one else so she is the nominee. On the GOP side, Trump is hated by the party and some segments of the GOP voters. He’s the nominee primarily because the rest of the party is a dog’s breakfast of globalist fantasies and 1980’s romanticism. The sense of betrayal among conservative voters is at revolutionary levels.

What’s most incredible about all of it is the extreme disconnect between the party elites and their voters. Most Democrat voters would prefer less immigration and better polices for the middle-class and working class. Similarly, most Republican voters would respond to similar appeals, with an emphasis on the more business friendly stuff. Yet, neither party is offering much of anything on these issues. Instead they are obsessed with weird fads like transvestites or globalist esoterica that no one outside the global elites finds interesting.

We do seem to be in uncharted territory, which may not be a terrible thing. Historical analogies are often wildly mistaken, resulting is disasters like the endless wars in the Muslim lands. The battles of the Great War were mostly due to the generals clinging to lessons of the past, despite the carnage they were witnessing. Much of what plagues American politics today is a layer of Baby Boomer politicians who can’t stop reliving the 1960’s. A break from the past could be the palate cleanser society needs. Or, we may be rocketing over a cliff.

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Member
4 years ago

Great post. You, sir, have made my list of daily must-read blogs.

Severian
4 years ago

Put me down for “rocketing over a cliff.” The particulars are highly irregular in this election, yes, but crises of legitimacy are all over the historical record, and that’s what we have here. Time was, even the most entrenched aristocracy had to have a justification for remaining in power, other than “a long tradition of existence to its members and the community at large.” If it didn’t, well, pretenders to the throne were a dime a dozen. The Dirt People work the jobs and staff the armies — push them enough, and they’ll listen to whatever bastard half-cousin of the… Read more »

SgtBob
Reply to  Severian
4 years ago

The Dirt People are not so maliable, no so push-aroundable as to listen to any ‘bastard half-cousin of the queen’s nephew.’ Dirt People listen and talk and vote (or don’t vote, which is inexcusable in a republic). Dirt People have a great understanding of injustice, far greater than the elitist establishment. Unlike their “betters,” Dirt People believe in “We hold these truths …”

Severian
Reply to  SgtBob
4 years ago

Kinda my point — if the Elite keep pushing the Dirt Folk around, the Dirt Folk will find themselves a new Elite. And there’s always someone else ready and willing to be the new Elite– the queen’s nephew’s bastard cousin, or whomever. The point is that the Elite don’t get to be Elite simply by declaring themselves so — they have to provide some value, or they will be replaced.

Steven Johnson
4 years ago

Wait .. we didn’t repeat the exact same mistakes of Vietnam in Afghanistan?

I’m thinking of letting the Taliban have sanctuary in Pakistan, vice the VC in Cambodia. And departing a province once it was pacified, only to have it fall to the enemy anew. And inability to stand up a reliable sepoy army, although it appears the ARVN did a lot better than our Afghan allies.

But … oh, are you thinking of our willingness to use massive firepower/bomb North Vietnam, whereas we have insanely restrictive ROE’s in Afghanistan? Because that’s a fair point.

Chiefillinicake
Chiefillinicake
Reply to  thezman
4 years ago

I’ll take door #2, Monty.

LetsPlay
LetsPlay
Member
Reply to  thezman
4 years ago

Except that the MIC at the time had pushed for “testing” their glorious new toys on a “top” military foe. Hence, the old style military approach, buildup, rollover, leave. And the politically correct sentiment at the time was: 1. “Oh, the horror.” You can’t kill innocents! 2. “Destroy the poppy fields?” You can’t do that. There’s major money to be made there. 3. Maybe we didn’t create “a state in the south” but we did give them enough weapons and training and money” to defend themselves and win. But they did what their culture always does, loot and look for… Read more »

guest
guest
Reply to  thezman
4 years ago

Fun fact, the Taliban expressed their condolences right after 911 and were prepared to cooperate: Bush rejects Taliban offer to hand Bin Laden over The Guardian Without Evidence, the Taliban Refuses to Turn Over bin Laden New York Times “To this, they added a conciliatory statement of condolence for the victims of the attacks in the United States. “The ulema,” they said, using an Arabic term for Islamic clergy, “voice their sadness over American deaths and hope America does not attack Afghanistan.”” It’s even funnier how the US had plans to invade drawn up before 911: The Afghanistan War was… Read more »

post.tenebras.lux
post.tenebras.lux
Reply to  guest
4 years ago

“” right answer ” if you had the “right intent’

Nunnya Bidnez, jr.
Nunnya Bidnez, jr.
Reply to  guest
4 years ago

Of course the US had plans to invade Afghanistan prior to 9/11.
It’s not “funny” at all… the US military ALWAYS has contingency plans to invade ANY country..
And BTW, China and Russia also have contingency plans to invade any country.
And all of them have plans to use puppet/client states to do the dirty work; and all of the major powers that ever were have done just that over the centuries.

Your conspiracy mongering phrase… “It’s even funnier how the US had plans to invade drawn up before 911” is childish nonsense.

guest
guest
Reply to  Nunnya Bidnez, jr.
4 years ago

My point is just that the US wanted and welcomed those wars, both could have been avoided, the Taliban could have been dealt with for far less than $500 billion and in a shorter time frame than a decade. And yes, Powell, Cheney, Rumsfeld & co did conspire to get the wars going, so did the hijackers, it was a conspiracy, not just theoretical, look the word up.

guest
guest
Reply to  guest
4 years ago

And it is funny to me, that everything fell into place, like a domino world record.

LetsPlay
LetsPlay
Member
Reply to  guest
4 years ago

Well there is the conundrum. A Muslim, especially cleric, is telling you “sorry” and you are supposed to believe them after being at war with the west for several decades? That is even funnier in my book. Like to boy crying wolf one too many times. Are you really going to believe them after all their other actions? Ever hear of Taqqiya?

But to your point, then the shift from Afstan to Iraq anyway and the big money started rolling. Your are right on that point.

guest
guest
Reply to  LetsPlay
4 years ago

Not believe, but know that they were open for a deal deal, as in Kelly’s Heroes, the talis are republican in that regard, business is business, everything is for sale in the stans!

Dan Kurt
Dan Kurt
Member
Reply to  guest
4 years ago

re: “It’s even funnier how the US had plans to invade drawn up before 911” guest Fly over Washington, D.C. and view in Virginia how FVCKING big the pentagon is in real life. A great deal of PLANNING is being done there all the time and that is part of the reason it is so big. There are hordes of Captains, Majors, and Colonels hard at work Planning Invasions, Defenses, and other possible future wars at this very minute and have been since the building was completed. I for a fact know that a constantly being revised plan exists for… Read more »

Saml Adams
Saml Adams
Reply to  thezman
4 years ago

The famous “Rainbow Plans” drawn up in the 30’s when the peacetime army had a lot of time on its hands.

Drake
Drake
Reply to  thezman
4 years ago

YES! It’s called a Raid or a “Punitive Expedition” and is a very old military tactic. When Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia started taking British captives in 1867, the Brits landed a couple of regiments, marched upcountry to his fortress, sprung the hostages, blew up his fort and trashed the place, then marched back to the coast and sailed home (back to India actually). That’s exactly what I thought we were doing in Afghanistan. Our SF, Rangers, Paratroopers, and Marines conducted a perfect raid of the place. I was thoroughly confused when we started bringing in heavy equipment and settling… Read more »

joe
joe
Reply to  Drake
4 years ago

Using an army to garrison, police and repair is a terrible waste. Imagine how effective our diplomacy would now be if: after invading Iraq and Afganistan and destroying their militaries, we followed up with doing the same to Iraq and Pakistan – Leaving all the corrupt aholes leading those dumps to deal with angry populace with their armies(and most military aged aholes) in rubble. Politicians are stupid about anything other than whoring themselves for money. It’d sure be nice if we could keep the political idiots away from the controls of certain things (war strategy, policing policy, energy policy, education… Read more »

Dutch
Dutch
4 years ago

Cleansing moments in history have typically involved the obliteration of everything in sight in some areas of the Earth’s geography. Unfortunately, it seems that we are more inclined today to want to visit such devastation on our own neighbors rather than on some people and places far, far away. That is the legacy of our current leadership.

el_baboso
Member
4 years ago

Aaron Burr did some stuff that had the air of treason about it, but that was aeons past and at the end of his political career. I’d go back to the assumption that Trump is the the Dirt People’s scourge to use against the elites. Further assuming he elects to play that role, how do the elites react? A few masks have dropped recently. I’d expect that a “scourge of the elites” Trump would cause quite a few more to reveal what’s in their hands to steady and unite the the base (coded language is too slow and some might… Read more »

Doug
Doug
4 years ago

Z, I coined the term Trump is the great fuck you, back in August, because to me he represented a true paradigm, my thinking was like what Andrew Brietbart said about culture being upstream of politics. I’m no historian or have a classical education, but I believe the thing about what Donald Trump is is a sea change, a preference cascade like nothing can be compared to. I think it is the motive power of desire and hope for something better and larger than ourselves. That scares many shitless, but it also represents something grand and good to many others.… Read more »

LetsPlay
LetsPlay
Member
4 years ago

A palate cleanser is what society needs? No, enema is more like it to flush all the crap from the system and inject large amounts of anti-socialism, cortisteroid, antibacterial type medicines that kill off this virulent stuff. No I vote for “we have already left Terra firma and gravity is in control.” Where we land nobody knows but it will be a hard landing.

Drake
Drake
4 years ago

I was a history major and usually have a good historical analogy for a given situation. I’ve got nothing for where we are right now. It does give me an unsettling feeling there may be a cliff right around the next bend.

Thud
4 years ago

That cliff came closer in Dallas last night.

Drake
Drake
Reply to  thezman
4 years ago

I don’t know what to think of last night other than it wasn’t a white NRA guy because that would be all over the news now. I think we are in the pause period as people get their stories straight before dancing in the blood.

joe
joe
Reply to  Drake
4 years ago

treehouse – Philandro Castile. I know, let’s make all the cops fear for their lives – what could go wrong? If there’s anything stupider than making guys with guns nervous, I’m sure our (D)irtbag leaders will discover it.

Casius Lucius
Casius Lucius
Reply to  Thud
4 years ago

Obama has his legacy now. What ever chances Hilary might have had before Dallas, are all ashes now. Time to start repatriating the savages back to mother Africa,

Notsothoreau
Notsothoreau
4 years ago

I think there are at least three good reasons why Trump was chosen. A successful Repub candidate would need to be heard without help from the MSM. Trump is the only candidate capable of that. Trump is the only candidate that is not politically correct. People are tired of monitoring every word that comes out of their mouths. People want to have some hope again. After 8 years of Obama, it seems like things can only get worse. And we could throw in that people are tired of being lectured. I used to marvel at stories about the country before… Read more »

James Hall
James Hall
Reply to  Notsothoreau
4 years ago

So your three reasons are: Trump is independent of the main stream media Trump is not politically correct Things can’t get any worse after Obama Is that what you’re saying? Because first of all, I don’t believe the main stream media is in anybody’s pocket. Is so happens, by the way, that Trump has definitely dominated the main stream media for the last twelve months. There’s no doubt about that. Secondly, politically correct speech implies avoiding offence. What constitutes offence? If your beliefs constitute offence than you should re-evaluate what you believe. It’s called growing up. And finally, I wasn’t… Read more »

Dan Kurt
Dan Kurt
Member
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

“Things were worse before Obama.” James Hall

Avoid taking a toke before commenting, please!

Dan Kurt

James Hall
James Hall
Reply to  Dan Kurt
4 years ago

Get your head out of your ass and tell me how things are worse today than they were when Bush was president. Go on, try not to bust a nut using your “brain”! Tell me how things are worse today!

notsothoreau
notsothoreau
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

You only go back to Bush? Child, I was in the Bay Area during the 60s and early 70s. So yeah, it was worse and it will get worse. Was talking to folks about the debates at one point and they went over all the responses. THEY DIDN’T MENTION CRUZ! They’d actually forgotten about him. That’s what happens when you can be shut down by the media. You must not watch as much of the MSM as I do. And they are most definitely not objective. http://ijr.com/2014/10/186620-6-white-house-network-news-relationships-will-make-shake-head-media-bias/ Political correctness means that we can’t acknowledge the threat from radical Islam. We… Read more »

LetsPlay
LetsPlay
Member
Reply to  notsothoreau
4 years ago

Why waste your effort on this clown? He is obviously brain dead anyway.

James LePore
4 years ago

A Hilary win would lead to another fifty years of the 1960’s, slow national suicide. What follows a Trump win? I don’t have a prediction, but I do know that progressives are very, very nasty and will do everything in their considerable power to undermine or co-opt him. If the Dirt People stick with him and if he doesn’t betray them we might have the break from the past you mention.

James Hall
James Hall
Reply to  James LePore
4 years ago

Slow national suicide? What do you mean by that? The 1960s saw the emergence of civil rights, the peace movement, feminism, and environmentalism. Is that what you mean?

Shelby
Shelby
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

You just named the four horses of the apocalypse. All four completely misused and abused programs. Not to mention the total ruination of women. Don’t get me started. At any rate, why don’t you find yourself another country?

James Hall
James Hall
Reply to  Shelby
4 years ago

Would you care to elaborate? Go on, enlighten us about the total ruination of women! This I gotta hear!!!

notsothoreau
notsothoreau
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

Okay. Giving women the vote seems to have been a mistake. Convincing women that murdering their unborn child is great was a mistake. Telling women that there is nothing more wonderful than having a job was a mistake.

Lorenzo
Lorenzo
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

As always with progressive initiatives, look at the results, Mr. Hall, not the intentions. How are race relations these days? How much peace has the peace movement brought us?

James Hall
James Hall
Reply to  Lorenzo
4 years ago

As compared to the 1960s blacks are no longer subjugated to Jim Crow and most Americans believe Vietnam as a terrible mistake.

james wilson
james wilson
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

Very likely most Americans believe that losing a war is a terrible mistake. The power which is capable of sustaining a losing war for ten years is derived from the same power that is required to dictate and enforce Utopian equality: desegregation, integration, affirmative action, affirmatively furthered fair housing, speech codes, and endless government employment. But being a Prog’ you can spit on one and shine the other.

notsothoreau
notsothoreau
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

That’s because most Americans believe what the MSM told them. Just like they believed we lost at Tet. Yes, Jim Crow was a terrible time. We have a black President now, so maybe it’s time we move on. I am tired of being told that I am personally responsible for slavery. A lot of white men died to end slavery in this country. It is too bad that folks are not concerned about the slavery still carried on in much of the world.

Dan Kurt
Dan Kurt
Member
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

re: “The 1960s saw the emergence of civil rights, the peace movement, feminism, and environmentalism.” James Hall

1) “civil rights” redefinition in 1960s: Black Privilege, Quotas, Affirmative Action;

2) “the peace movement” definition: Dope, Sex, Devolution;

3) “feminism” in 1960s: Abortion, future cat ladies, sluts on parade;

4) “environmentalism” in 1960s: Bambism combined with sentimental science–Greenism like a watermellon is green on the outside and red on the inside.

What you are praising has been a march into decadence.

Dan Kurt

Shelby
Shelby
Reply to  Dan Kurt
4 years ago

There you have it. Well put. I’ve nothing else to say. Thank you.

James LePore
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

Exactly.

notsothoreau
notsothoreau
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

Oh, you mean the rise of the Social Justice Warriors? We went from rights to privileges. The peace movement was a bunch of folks that didn’t want to get drafted. Feminism lead to the Mommy State. And please don’t talk to me about the benefits of environmentalism as I am personally doing battle with the eco-Nazis in my state.

LetsPlay
LetsPlay
Member
Reply to  James Hall
4 years ago

Yeah. Just guessing but probably around the time you were born. A real asshat.