American Empires


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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22 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    Yeah Turtledove basically hits on the barrier that guarantees that Canada would not be invaded by the US: liberalism and politics. An annexed Canada would, of course, demand the vote. The US as a liberal nation would be pretty much obligated to give it one. The then enfranchised Canadians would tip the balance of power in the US leftward. Thus the most belligerent component of the American polity would view acquiring Canada as an anathema.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to North says:

      Just give it a few years. Wall Street’s got a plan for that.

      Honestly, I think it is downright stupid for folks to think “we can’t do that” or “we won’t do that”.

      If Canada has military plans on the books to invade us, and we have plans on the books to invade them, then yes, there is a finite probability that they’ll come up.

      We may be into Krakatoa territory — “Oh no, we just lost a summer!” or “We just lost the Eastern Seaboard, and Miami has to go SOMEWHERE” (Won’t the Miamians be pleased with nova scotia?). Or maybe Canada becomes the last bastion of oil, and sides with the Russians…

      There’s always another reason to invade someplace. And Canada’s so sparsely populated that you could probably get most of the short-term gains by just grabbing the cities… (no, i’m not serious).Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to North says:

      I could conceivably see annexing (not invading) the western four, with the GOP believing that three of the four would trend red over time.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:


    Is that like listening?

    #neologism grumpReport

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Without reading the stories, and going solely on the linked map, Turtledove’s Western Hemisphere Great War alliances make no fishin sense.

    A CSA (still with slavery right? or at least formal legal White Supremacy e.g. Jim Crow, Apartheid?) joined up with the triple Entente is counter to a good deal of the the ideology and most of the realpolitik interests of each of the three real world countries that composed it. Likewise with a USA and the Triple Alliance. (but in reverse – that is, the USA would have no need to prop up either the Hapsburgs or the Ottomans, and would have found them distasteful to boot).

    Brazil may have been a mortal enemy to to the CSA if the former executed emancipation at the same time as the real world – and the latter embarked on its desired slavery empire in the Caribbean. More likely in my estimation, they would have been BFFs – t=the success of the CSA revolution would have emboldened Brazil to continue slavery for another generation or more, and the two of them decided to divide up central and South america between them.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kolohe says:

      Jim Bennett also has some issues with the CSA-British alliance. But here is how it unfolded (, since this is getting into the nitty gritty):

      Va beqre gb frpher Oevgnva naq Senapr’f fhccbeg va gur Frpbaq Zrkvpna Jne (orgjrra gur PFN naq gur HFN va gur 1880’f), gur PFN znahzvggrq gur fynirf va gur 1880’f, naq ercynprq vg jvgu na ncnegurvq. Jvgu gur uryc bs gubfr gjb pbhagevrf, gurl orng gur HFN sbe gur frpbaq fgenvtug gvzr. Gur HFN qrgrezvarq gung vg arrqrq nyyvrf, naq gurl’q whfg sbhtug Oevgnva naq Senapr… naq gurer jnf Treznal (jub unq nqivfrq gurz va gur FZJ), naq n eryngvbafuvc jnf phygvingrq.

      Obgu nyyvnaprf jrer njxjneq naq fgenvarq. Treznal naq gur HF fgnegrq fdhnooyvat vzzrqvngryl nsgre jvaavat gur jne. Fynirel be ab, gur Pnanqvnaf naq Oevgf jrer rzoneenffrq ol gurve eryngvbafuvc gb gur PFN.

      Oenmvy jnf arhgeny guebhtubhg zbfg bs gur jne. Vg jnf nffhzrq gung gurve flzcnguvrf jrer jvgu gur PFN, ohg jbhyqa’g pbzzvg. Jura gur gvqr bs gur jne fuvsgrq gb gur nccnerag (naq riraghny) ivpgbef. V pna’g erpnyy vs gurl fgvyy unq fynirel be abg.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Will Truman says:

        That all makes a reasonable amount of sense (and Bennett’s details further bring it into focus). And thinking about it more, of course alliances can switch surprising quickly and create odd couples / trios – the premier example being an alliance between a liberal social democracy (with some issues), an aging mercantile (though also substantially democratic) empire, and a totalitarian communist dictatorship.

        Though I still think (like Bennett sort of does) that the details and dynamics of how things went down in 1880s the Southenvictoryverse are where things are stretched out the most. From what I have read of Turtledove, he’s kinda weak on the logistic imperatives to strategy, but so is just about everyone else (particularly when it comes to post-bellum alt US Civil war scenarios – because the logistic advantages of the North is the biggest thing you have to either negate or just ignore)Report

      • …because the logistic advantages of the North is the biggest thing you have to either negate or just ignore)

        This. As the military folks like to say, amateurs study tactics but professionals study logistics. The Maryland Campaign was a big supply raid, with a secondary hope that it might strengthen the position of anti-war politicians. No way Lee had the logistical capability to do any actual occupations.

        I haven’t read the series myself (it’s on my list), but the things I’ve read suggest that there are lots of critical logistics and resource issues that Turtledove ignores. For example, the East Texas oil fields were a critical resource in WWII. I might not go so far as the historians who claim that in our timeline the Allies wouldn’t have won without East Texas, but there is a case to be made that that’s true. In any alternate WWII with a CSA and the US, the Texas campaigns are going to be of monumental importance. While East Texas proper wasn’t discovered until 1930, there were enough fields in production by 1920 that a CSA crushed in the WWI time frame almost certainly wouldn’t have been allowed to hold on to Texas.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

        Even with massive logistic advantages, it took the North 4 full years to fully defeat the South, and the biggest issue for the Southern armies wasn’t running out of supplies (they’d been doing that since ’63), but running out of bodies. Every engagement in Virginia in 1864 and 1865 further reduced the Army of Northern Virginia’s ability to fight because it reduced the size of that army.

        And the South’s large disadvantage in the number of bodies persists to this day, and only began to diminish in the second half of the 20th century. At no point, even with a British alliance, would the South have been able to defeat the North in a prolonged war, because the North could simply keep sending down new fighters, while the South would run out of them.

        See also: Germany in 1918.Report

      • At no point, even with a British alliance, would the South have been able to defeat the North in a prolonged war, because the North could simply keep sending down new fighters, while the South would run out of them.

        Yeah, I’ve always thought that if you were going to do an alternate history with the South winning, it wouldn’t turn on some brilliant Southern military stratagem. Maybe Lincoln dies sooner. Or the South makes the Union troops’ advances slower and more painful. In any case, the North decides (politically) that the price being paid is too high and gives up.Report

  4. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Vox presents thirteen maps of things that never happened.

    20 maps that never happened
    by Matthew Yglesias on December 12, 2014

    Are the Patriots managing these maps? 😉Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    All the maps that Yglesias gave are fascinating. Some are more well-known than others. I think a better map that didn’t happen for Israel/Palestine, because it is less well known, was the Faisal-Weizmann agreement.–Weizmann_Agreement

    This would have gave the Jews a state on both sides of the River Jordan and the rest of the Middle East to the Hashemites to create an Arab nation-state out of. The French would have probably insisted on an independent Lebanon for the Arab Christians. This would have cut off many, but not all, Middle East conflicts in the bud.

    2. The African map is also fascinating but a bit off if we accept 1844, the year of departure as its starting date. Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Madagascar more or less already existed in their modern boundaries. South Africa and Ethiopia were also on their way to their modern forms. If the Europeans never colonized Africa, beyond the parts that they already controlled in 1844, mainly South Africa and Algeria, than I’d imagine that coastal polities would dominate the entire polities because of greater links to the outside world giving them a technological edge. This is how Japan ended up dominating Korea and China. I see no reason why African polities would be different. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Ethiopia, and Madagascar would be the main powers because they were the early adopters of the nation-state and Western technology and education. They also had a religious advantage by being Christian or Muslim and more sympathetic to outsiders for that reason.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Since the Hashemites got their asses kicked out of the Hejaz, and thus lost the prestige of being the defenders of Mecca and Medina, just a few years later, I’m not sure it would have mattered.Report