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The Civil War (American v Syrian)

April 18, 2018

If I was Syrian, I think I would hate both the United States and Russia...

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln won the Presidency of the United States of America. America was a deeply divided nation in 1860, but not so much in a Left or Right manner. A nation divided in philosophy in a Northern and Southern way. One thing that is glossed over in the American History books, is that the Civil War was mostly decided by Americans and those combatants who wished to be Americans. 

 

The 1860 Presidential Election right from the start was divisive. In order to win the presidency, a candidate needed to secure 152 of 303 Electoral votes, but there were 4 major party candidates. Lincoln was able to secure 180 Electoral votes, preventing the 4 man field from being decided by Congress, but he only garnered 40% of the popular vote. It must also be noted that there was no popular vote in South Carolina, or else Lincoln's popular vote percentages would have been even lower. 

 

 

Yes, you read that right. South Carolina's representatives passed on a popular vote and simply gave the state's 8 Electoral College votes to Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge. Not only did South Carolina not have a popular vote, Lincoln wasn't even on the ballot in the other Southern states which would eventually form the Confederacy (not that he would have received that many votes.) 

 

4 candidates split the votes 4 ways. Lincoln, Stephan Douglas, John Bell, and Breckinridge, if you were going from north to south on the Electoral College Map. And, just a reminder, the voters were all men, women voters were still a half a century away. And slaves were only counted as 3/5 of a person and did not vote. 

 

With that being said, about 4.7 million Americans voted, in a nation of 31.4 million (about 15% of the population.) Shortly after the elections, the Confederate States of America were formed in 1861 after the Southern states seceded, then the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter a few months after secession. 

 

Without dwelling on the causes and outcomes of the Civil War and who was right and who was wrong, we are simply going to focus on who participated, and who didn't.

 

Why is that concept important? Because by today's logic we are very, very lucky that America survived the Civil War.

And the reason why we are re-visiting the American Civil War is due to all of the bombings in Syria this past week. I think it's horrible that Assad is using chemical weapons on his own people, but this is not a new occurrence. According to the New York Times, last week may have been the 50th(!) time Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people. But something caught my attention when Israel bombed Iran earlier in the week. Wait you missed that? Last week Israel bombed Iranian positions in Syria

 

So there's the Syrian Civil War with Russian troops on the ground, an Iranian shadow presence, Israel lobbing missiles into Syria, America randomly bombing targets, and even France and Britain joining in the last round of strikes. Then there's that situation with Turkish troops in SyriaAnd don't forget, all the international troops that helped defeat ISIS in the desert. Assad is not gassing ISIS, he's gassing the Syrian Rebels. 

 

And the Kurds, we haven't even mentioned the Kurds yet.

 

Since Bashar Hafez al-Assad inherited the Presidency of Syria from his Father Hafez al-Assad, the two dictators combined have run Syria since 1971. The al-Assad family reign in Syria should have been over years ago, but it's not. What Syria is now, is a war practice ground for all of their neighbors. Armies fighting each other without bigger armies not having to fight each other in their own countries.

 

Lots of countries participating in Syria, very few in the interests of the Syrian people and, in the long run, Syrian Sovereignty. Who's interest are they fighting for? Their own.

 

Which returns us to the parallels of the American Civil War. Once the North and the South were entrenched in battle things could have gone badly, specifically for the American populace.

 

One of the strategies of the Confederacy was to draw Britain and France into the war. There were no foreign governments that officially recognized the Confederacy as an independent country,but Great Britain and France, though, granted the Confederacy belligerent status. Meaning they could participate in trade relations with the Southern Rebels. Great Britain, for example, wanted cotton, but they wanted the food imports of the North more. By granting belligerent status to the South, they were able to get both trading sources that they needed.

 

Let's play the what if game, using today's standards.

 

What if the Confederacy was able to get Britain and France to, minimally, bomb northern cities such as New York City or Boston. That would have allocated troops away from Southern battlefields. They could have made up any excuse they wanted to if they wanted to fight, Britain and France could have always cited "voting irregularities" as an example of an excuse they could use to bomb Northern population centers, if they even needed an excuse at all.

 

The Mexican-American War ended in 1848 and indirectly led to the Gadsden Purchase in 1854. According to the Smithsonian: During its own civil war of the late 1850s, Mexico had accrued significant foreign debt, which the French Emperor Napoleon III ultimately used as pretext to expand his colonial empire, installing an Austrian archduke, Ferdinand Maximilian, as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico in 1863. The United States did not recognize the French regime in Mexico, but with the Civil War raging, remained officially neutral in the hope that France would not recognize or aid the Confederacy.

 

And, though a colony of Britain, Lincoln had to fend off the meddlesome nature of the Canadians. 3 million Canadians weren't going to plunge across the Northern border, but history has shown us that, indeed, Canada was a sanctuary for Confederate Terrorists.

 

And, though just a footnote now, the Russians were in Alaska during the Civil War. They had incurred a great debt fighting the French and British in the Crimean War, and were looking to unload Alaska to America for cash, but to also screw Great Britain by putting America on both sides of British Columbia. The Alaskan Purchase was 2 years after the Civil War, but the Russians had been actively looking to sell for a decade before. Though far-fetched and revisionist, what if there was no Crimean War? What if Russia had decided to fight British Imperialism in the North American wilderness?

 

Plausibly, if Lincoln didn't navigate the international waters just right, he could have had Mexicans, Russians, French, English, Canadians, and possibly even the Spanish to deal with on top of trying to re-integrate the Confederacy. Imagine if all these empires had their own houses in order and were able to exploit the divisions that were occurring in America. How would history have changed with a half a dozen foreign nations' troops shoring up the the numbers on both sides of the American conflict?

 

The Spanish, you ask? Between the Carlist Wars, Spain was right on America's doorstep. The Spanish West Indies extended right up to Cuba. The Spanish had fought Wars against the US in the past (War of 1812) and would do so again shortly after the Civil War and the Carlist Wars ended (Spanish-American War.) Remember, Florida had only been ceded for about 40 years when the Civil War started.

 

Don't forget, Lincoln wasn't even universally beloved in the North. In 1863, the New York draft riots burned down parts of Manhattan when Lincoln instituted the Civil War Military Draft Act as the Civil War wore on. What was the most unpopular clause of 1863's Enrollment Act? For $300, you could buy yourself out of military service, or, if you could cut yourself an even better deal, pay someone to fight for you at an even cheaper negotiated price.

 

Did I mention the Native Americans? Which side did they choose?  With nearly 2 dozen tribes participating on both sides, Indians didn't have the right to vote either and picked which side to fight on almost down to the individual and some tribes switched sides in the middle. According to the 1860 census, the (non-taxed) Indian population was just over 300,000, or about 1% of the total American population. What if all the Indian tribes had consolidated and declared independence in one of the territories?

 

What does any this have to do with Syria? According to The Atlantic, the Syrian Civil War is actually many wars. The farther and farther you go when investigating Syria, the more grubby little hands that you find. 

 

Let me be clear, Assad should be held responsible for War Crimes for using chemical weapons, but he has been investigated for crimes against humanity for years by Western Nations, most notably by France...in 2015. The same year the American troops were on the ground in Syria. Which circles us back around to Russia, who also had military boots on the ground in 2015. Putin cites historical alliances and Russian security for reasons to prop up Assad. And, though I disagree with Russia, by air Aleppo to Sochi is about 550 miles, or just under a two hour flight, away. Not a dissimilar distance as Miami, Florida is to Santiago, Cuba. Russian Sovereignty needs to be considered seeing that a trip from Russia to Syria is not a dissimilar situation than an U.S. to Cuba excursion.

 

You could argue with me that because Assad used chemical weapons, any comparisons between civil wars is null and void. Or because Assad is a dictator, all comparisons are invalid. Those are fair assessments, but with, at least, seven countries in the mix in Syria, I can't help but think that multiple foreign entities are prolonging Syria's miseries and weakening its future defenses against some unstable neighbors. 

 

Is what's going on in Syria a dirty war, or is it a genocide? And, a more cynical voice would ask: How much can America do about genocides, anyhow? I remember reading about the Allies freeing the Jews from Concentration Camps in Germany in 1945, but discrimination against the Jews in Germany was well reported in America in the 1930's.  Stories of German Concentration Camps were "rumors" and "unverified" as late as 1942. Though the American Government knew of German atrocities by the end of '42, verified photo evidence of the Holocaust didn't arrive in American Newspapers until the Spring of 1945. Once America had proof of the evils of the Nazi regime, they were already at War with the Germans and logistically unable to free Jewish prisoners until troops on the ground approached the camps. 

 

Do you remember the American Troops saving the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994? No? I don't remember that at all. I remember inactivity.   

 

Is President Trump ready to "liberate" a region where ground troops and American blood will be needed to truly stop Assad? Lobbing missiles makes it look like you're doing something. History will decide if anything was done.

 

{I have a serious strategic question. If America launched a missile, and that missile hit a chemical weapons plant, wouldn't the explosion release a...

 

wait for it,,,

 

a poisonous cloud of chemical weapon residue?} 

 

And, inversely-

 

{I have a second serious strategic question. If Russia and Syria are such great pals, how come I don't remember refugees streaming into the glorious Russian Motherland? And I certainly don't remember Syrian refugees streaming into Iran. I remember thousands of Syrians marching through Eastern Europe toward Germany, France, and Sweden.}

About 137 million Americans voted out of possible 325 million population in the 2016 election. That's about 40% of the population. Now some of that population were kids that couldn't vote, but most of the rest were adults who chose not to vote. We've come a long way in the United States to become a more representative union, but who knows, maybe voting will become so simple in 20 years that you can do it securely on your phone and you'll have some real choices besides the usual Democrat and Republican Suspects and we'll have 90% adult voting rates. In the year 2040 people will wonder why only 40% of Americans decided the fate of the country in 2016.

 

Why do I keep bringing up voting? Because America's voting record is hundreds of years old, yet countries with no democracy, like China, continue to mock our democracy as a sham. Countries like Iran seem to have a problem with any country with a democracy. The systems propping up Assad are wrong, but....

 

Look what happened when Saddam was gone. Look what happened when Gaddafi was gone. Did things get better? No, no, no, no, no. Will history judge the Syrian conflict as a war within a war, or a slow drip genocide?

 

Short story long, I'm just wondering that if the American Civil War had included foreign combatants, would the Civil War have lasted another 5 to 10 years? If, say, Britain and France became involved on the Confederate Side, would there be 2 [or 3, or 4, or 15 (!)] Americas today? Would millions more of Americans have died?

 

Why did Trump bomb Syria? Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. As the popularly elected leader of the world's second largest democracy, Trump was using the moral high ground (liberals are snickering) to justify bombing a despicable regime. Personally, he wanted to make his predecessor look bad and make his own Red Line.

 

Trump's going to find out that hitting the button was the easy part. Now he either has to send in more troops, or capitulate to the Russians. 

 

Which is going to create a whole new set of problems in the future where history will be the judge. Assad has already proven he's no Abe Lincoln.

 

 

 

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