Friday, June 28, 2024

Guest Post: British Argentina

This Today in Alternate History post by Yosef Robinson first appeared on Quora.

What would Argentina have looked like today if Britain had captured it in 1806-1807?

The British start their takeover of the River Plate region in early July 1807 by temporarily directly controlling all of that area thanks to a daring maneuver by Lieutenant-General John Whitelocke storming the city before Santiago de Liniers could prepare defenses. However, a few months later, for various reasons including pro-independence and anti-British/Spanish rebellions, they give up direct control of Buenos Aires - city and province - in favor of independence as a British client state. The lighter British hand, along with a small economic boom from import/exports during the occupation, prompts local tolerance for British authority.

At the same time, the British retain direct control of Montevideo and the Uruguayan coast; soon thereafter, upon the defeat of Jose Gervasio Artigas and fellow Uruguayan rebels in favor of Spanish-American independence*, also the Uruguayan interior, plus what are now Entre Rios, Corrientes, and Santa Fe provinces. The British also control those points along the Patagonian coast that had hitherto belonged to the Viceroyalty, as well as eventually the ever-strategic Strait of Magellan. Various Spanish-speaking republics also form in the interior, such as Cordoba and Tucuman.

*Artigas and the other instigators flee to Paraguay, sort of like how the instigators of the Patriotes rebellion in Quebec in 1837 flee to the USA.

Gradually, the British take over various other places in that region, ultimately including places like Buenos Aires around the late 1830s-1840s (due to the threat posed by Juan Manuel de Rosas to the British presence in the region). The British take over many spots in the interior later yet, and most of these parts become part of a federal Dominion of Argentina starting in 1875, with the exception of Paraguay (always independent) and real-life Misiones province (becoming or being a part of Paraguay). The Argentine Chaco - up to and including Formosa province - gets to be a part of Argentina in this scenario.

Furthermore, the War of the Pacific in the nitrate mining area (northern Chile, in reality) ca. 1879–80 plays out differently in that the British are more heavily influential on the “informal empire” and economic level all throughout much of South America. Thus, they indirectly influence Chile, Bolivia, and Peru on account of all their economic interests in each of those countries, including the nitrate mines, even while themselves being neutral. There’s less military combat going on overall. While Chile gains the Antofagasta area for the nitrates, Bolivia takes over much of the zone north of the Antofagasta/Tocopilla area (with Bolivia thus retaining a coast to this day), as in the Iquique area for example. Peru gets to keep the Arica area even further north. After taking over previously-independent Salta/Jujuy ca. 1900 after considerable resistance, the British take over Bolivia right to the north from 1900-1905 as a protectorate for its tin-mining boom, until a popular revolt sometime in the 1940s or early 1950s overthrows the British and restores full independence. The British would have loved to make a northern access route to the Pacific through Bolivia even as far back as the 1860s-1870s, but the very difficult geography of the Altiplano just would have made it impossible using the transportation technology of that time.

A nationalist movement arises in the late 1940s and early 1950s among the Spanish-speakers of Argentina, including the appearance of a new flag, seen below. This leads to a 1967 referendum on Argentina becoming a republic, which is defeated. There is a linguistic and constitutional crisis as a result of that. The interior, Spanish-speaking provinces gain greater autonomy, but there is no separatist movement nor anti-English language legislation like there is in Quebec. A second referendum in the mid-1980s, with the "Yes" side winning, leads to the formation of a parliamentary republic, with a president replacing the Queen of England (represented by a governor-general) as the head of state.

An Argentina in all this scenario - which includes Uruguay plus the Falklands (without dispute, albeit as an internal territory much like, say, the Northwest Territories in Canada) and the Strait of Magellan area (in Chile in real life) - becomes bilingual and bicultural (in this case, Spanish and English) just as much as Canada or white South Africa, joining the family of anglophone countries. Indeed, it is more like white South Africa than like Canada, with a 60/40 split between the Spanish and English sectors. Roman Catholics, including many of the Anglos, outnumber Protestants three to one - with Catholics comprising just over half of the entire population. Another 20-25% are religiously unaffiliated.

The capital is Rosario (rather than Buenos Aires as in real life); in actual history, there were multiple unsuccessful attempts in the 1860s and 1870s at making Rosario the federal capital.

Because of a very well-endowed geography, as well as because of the more favourable political and economic legacy left behind by the British just like in the other Anglo countries such as Canada and Australia, plus being an Ally in both World Wars, Argentina is able to leverage its natural turn-of-the-20th-century prosperity much more effectively than in reality. It is able to more effectively industrialize, and somewhat earlier, than in real life.

As such, Argentina becomes not only a developed and stable country with a modern per capita GDP of at least $50,000, unlike in real life, but also a member of the G8 of the most powerful economies alongside Canada, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. This alternate Argentina is a regional South American power, alongside Brazil.

Therefore, no Peronism, Dirty War, Falklands War, hyperinflation, IMF/World Bank austerity measures, etc., and further back, no interminable series of bloody 19th century independence and civil wars!

The current population of this alternate Argentina is almost 75,000,000 (as against just over 50,000,000 in real life in the territory covered by British Argentina). Not including the Argentine claim in Antarctica, its area is 3,020,849 km.² (1,166,356 miles²), making it the eighth largest country in the world by area. There are 21 provinces and two territories (the Falkland and South Atlantic Islands, and the Federal Capital Territory) in the country.

Neighbouring countries like Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay are all somewhat better off than in real life, at least economically.

Chile manages to avoid the deleterious Allende and Pinochet regimes, due to Allende narrowly losing rather than winning the 1970 election because of somewhat fewer poor people voting for him. It becomes a developed country in the 1990s, though even today it isn’t quite as developed as Argentina, more on the level of something like Greece or Portugal, or maybe Spain or Italy at best.

Brazil abolishes slavery earlier, due to a more significant British military presence in South America - the British having been instrumental even in reality to abolish the slave trade. On the other hand, it retains its monarchy longer, given the example of the British dominion of Argentina next door, such that when it does abolish its monarchy, it becomes a semi-presidential republic (along the lines of France) to this day.

Once Bolivia overthrows the British protectors sometime during or just after World War II, there is reasonably more political stability than in reality, and the elites are much more coherent and less fractured. In the 1970s and 1980s, there is a terrorist group along the lines of the Shining Path in Peru or the FARC in Colombia.

Paraguay is more populated than in real life because there is no massive population loss (especially of men) due to the War of the Triple Alliance (or Paraguayan War) in the 1860s, the British being a much more formidable foe of Paraguay than the real-life independent Argentines and Uruguayans. If anything, there might just be skirmishes between Paraguay and Brazil. Moreover, there is no full-fledged Chaco War in the 1930s, perhaps just skirmishes between Paraguay and Bolivia, and most certainly there is no proxy war between the US-owned Standard Oil and the British/Dutch-owned Royal Shell Company as in real life due to Bolivia being a British protectorate at that time (hence, the predominance of the Royal Shell Company in this scenario). Therefore, Paraguay’s northwestern border with Bolivia remains somewhat further south than what it is in reality.

Author's Note:

In reality, the British failed to take advantage of their victory over the militias on the field just west of the city on July 2, with Liniers being unharmed; that gave time for the militias to thoroughly organize themselves. On July 5, the Buenos Aires militias beat the British in urban warfare in the then-city of Buenos Aires itself. The militias' victory on July 5, without any help from Spain (their colonial master), paved the way towards the de facto independence of Buenos Aires in 1810--and the de jure independence of Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina in 1816, a process which started in earnest after the people of Buenos Aires learned of the news of Joseph Bonaparte's invasion of Spain in 1808. The Uruguayan struggle for independence, at first from Spain and later from Portugal/Brazil, initially flirted with incorporation of much of what is now northeastern Argentina before eventually becoming a buffer state between Argentina and Brazil in 1828 with British help.

Both Argentina and Uruguay were subsequently embroiled in civil wars throughout most of the remainder of the 19th century. While they enjoyed prosperity and British financial, sports, and cultural influence in the late 19th and especially early 20th century (such that Argentina was known as an "honorary dominion" within the British "informal empire"), subsequently their political and economic situations deteriorated - pockmarked by dictatorships in the later 20th century - and they have steadily become significantly impoverished compared to the early 1900s. At heart, this is because their societies and land tenure structures have been led by oligarchies and have been unequal. This has been even more apparent in Argentina than in Uruguay, for while in Uruguay a welfare state and an egalitarian political system were set up initially under the leadership of Pres. José Batlle y Ordoñez in 1903 and have been kept intact (with occasional breaches), in Argentina only Peronism turned out to be the long-lasting reform, and overall a retrograde one at that.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Guest Post: Senators for Cities in the US

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Allen W. McDonnell, Eric Oppen, Mike McIlvain, Scott Eiler, and Jeff Provine.

June 15, 1776 - Mayor Whitehead Hicks declares NYC loyal to King George III

Whitehead Hicks, the forty-second Mayor of New York City, ordered the arrest of the Third New York Provincial Congress. Standing in front of the statue of George III in Bowling Green, Hicks declared the city loyal to the King of England, welcoming the British fleet with open arms.

The loyalist sentiment in the city was fiercely challenged by farmers and small-town dwellers who openly rebelled. It also gave Benjamin Franklin more ammunition to try to gain France's allegiance with regular news of British interests being sabotaged in New York, such as the Great Fire that September. Ultimately patriotism would prevail, and the British Army finally departed on Evacuation Day, November 25, 1783. In their wake, General George Washington triumphantly led the Continental Army from his headquarters north of the city across the Harlem River and south through Manhattan to the Battery at its southern tip. It was a glorious moment of triumph that left many important lessons to be learned by the victors if they were to seize the opportunity for liberty.

The troubling loyalist rebellion of New York City would prove to be a defining moment at the birth of the Republic. Across America, the apparent division between the city and the countryside was a nation-building challenge of the first order for the Founding Fathers to confront. Fortunately, a lasting compromise was hashed out at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. It was at the suggestion of the Virginian James Madison, who was dissatisfied with the weak national government established by the Articles of Confederation. He proposed a senator for the largest metropolitan area in each state while the other two senators would be appointed by the governor with the consent of the state legislature.

This was an imaginative technical fix, an adjustment of the original idea that state legislatures elected senators to ensure state issues were seen as important to federal government. But, inevitably, Madison's visionary brilliance was inadequate to foresee the long-term growth of the Republic, which in many ways could not possibly be anticipated from an 18th century lens. In a larger sense, that dynamic was at the heart of the uncertain experiment of American democracy. One particular development was urbanization that came up in the 19th and 20th centuries with more and more major cities and fewer folks in the countryside.

While citizens in the cities as well as the rural areas complained of imbalanced representation, this was only one of many critiques. A bi-state metropolis such as St Louis and Kansas City needed to have special status unique to their geography, greatly benefitting from the Madison Compromise. In fact, it was hard to imagine how they might otherwise be governed effectively if not directly represented in the Federal Capital by their own senators. Conversely, the Wyoming city of Cheyenne (population 64,000) received its own senator whereas the city of Casper (population 58,000) in the same state did not; this was an uneven representation that drew criticism of the Madison Compromise from citizens of Casper as well as out-of-state Americans.

The first major problem arose over Detroit, once the fourth-largest city in the nation after New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Based strategically on the United States-Canada border, its population sharply diminished after the slowdown of the motor car industry, and Grand Rapids became the largest city in Michigan. The census triggered the switch of senator, causing great consternation in Detroit. Infuriated local politicians in the Big D called for a post-Madison Compromise to update the Constitution to allow representation in Washington for multiple large cities in one state over a certain population threshold. The most radical solution proposed was a Detroit-Windsor conurbation gaining special status as a Bi-State City even though Windsor was over the border in Canada. Pundits howled that this could very well let Canadians determine American policy.

Author's Note

In reality, by early 1776, the office of Mayor in British-held New York became untenable, and Hicks resigned from office. He met with a committee of nine colonials formed by the New York Provincial Congress to investigate "domestic enemies" "disaffected to the American cause." Indicating his loyalty to George III, he was subsequently put on parole. The Great Fire broke out in the early days of the military occupation by British forces destroying 20 percent of the buildings.

Provine's Addendum

The debate about "City Senators" was also particularly loud in Texas, where Houston had its senator but San Antonio (the seventh largest city in the United States), Dallas (ninth), Austin (eleventh), and Fort Worth (twelfth) had none, despite each having nearly ten times the population of Manchester, New Hampshire (population: 115,644). However, Conservatives were nervous to change the since urban populations tend to vote more liberally than rural ones. They felt their bloc could hold back the amendment required to change Madison's system, but others thought it would only be a matter of time until the change came.

Yet another opinion frequently surfaced in debate: eliminating the senate and having more direct influence on Congress through the House of Representatives. Few seemed ready to consider such a hurried step.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Guest Post: FBI Special Agent Richard Nixon

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History, inspired by the TL Special Agent Richard Nixon.

In 1972, Acting FBI Director Clyde Tolson was put in charge of the initial investigation which would eventually lead to the resignation of President Nelson Rockefeller.

Only three weeks had passed since J. Edgar Hoover died in the middle of a presidential election year. Long-time special agents L. Patrick Gray and Richard M. Nixon desperately wanted to succeed Tolson as the permanent director. First, they had to navigate internal politics at the Bureau, Senate nominations, and the wishes of the next president, whether Nelson Rockefeller or someone less predictable should he lose in the fall.

Nixon didn't fancy these long odds and his "dark" sense of paranoia convinced him that he would be overlooked for promotion. He strongly felt a sense of injustice having enjoyed some soaring moments at the epicenter of historic events. During his early years, for example, he was trusted to be put in charge of security for African American opera singer Marian Anderson's concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1939. The late J. Edgar Hoover had bitter remarks about Anderson and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped organized the concert, and said, "There is always trouble where ever these 'civil right' fighters go." The concert of course had no violent incidents. Rather than admitting he was wrong, Hoover praised Nixon for keeping the 75,000 attendees in line. From that special moment of favoritism onward, Nixon remained convinced he was destined to succeed Hoover.

But more than thirty long years past, Hoover's tainted legacy hang heavy. With Shirley Chisholm running as the first African American presidential candidate on an "unbought and unbossed" platform, it would certainly appear to segregationists that "the trouble" was growing. If a silent majority still respected Nixon, then it seemed to many liberals that he was a shadowy figure out of time, considered wholly unsuitable for the coming era. He understood the very narrow path to his dreams, but therein lie the life story of Richard M. Nixon--he needed a game-changer.

All three would-be Hoover successors were aware of Rocky's infidelities (they had also wire-tapped Martin Luther King, Jr., and had compromising records of his affairs). Whereas the indiscretions of FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, et al., had been overlooked to keep national confidence in the Oval Office, Nixon chose to go for this vulnerability for his own selfish purposes. He utterly despised the East Coast establishment as a result of childhood poverty preventing him going to Harvard. Driven by this bitter resentment, he made the fateful calculation to expose Rocky, and form a faustian pact with his Democratic rival, Ted Kennedy.

Ted K was no angel, and this calculated move would badly backfire on Nixon, however, as the reveal causing Rockefeller's scandal was traced back to Nixon, whose own shadowy actions came to the forefront. Reviews of Nixon's own shadowy actions came to the forefront, such as his effective damage-control covering up a 1969 car crash incident in Chippaquiddick for Ted Kennedy. Both men's public images were devastated.

Nixon's 36-year tenure at the Bureau ending in disgrace. In an angry resignation note he would state, "You don't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last report."

Author's Note:

In reality, Nixon initially hoped to join the FBI after graduating from Duke. He received no response to his letter of application, and learned years later that he had been hired, but his appointment had been canceled at the last minute due to budget cuts.

Provine's Addendum:

After the shocking 1972 election year in which Rockefeller managed to win amid protests and the lowest ever record turn-out, the American public wanted a clean slate for their elected officials. Squeaky-clean Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter (who wouldn't even do an interview for Playboy) won handily in 1976 and again in 1980 over former CIA Director George Bush. A faction of neo-conservative Republicans in 1980 sought to push Ronald Reagan for the election, but his history of divorce became a major issue at the Republican National Convention.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Guest Post: Black Warrior Affair leads to an earlier Spanish-American War

This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History exploring a theme from a number of related articles including WI: America Buys CubaWI: The US acquired Cuba as a Slave State? and WI Cuba acquired by US in 1854?. The point of divergence is that the U.S. Minister to Spain Pierre Soulé maintains the secrecy of his meetings as per the expressed wishes of US Secretary of State William L. Marcy.

May 19, 1854 - 

The acquisition of a Cuban slave state saved the Union from disintegrating into Civil War.

Southern expansionists seized this fleeting opportunity to break a political deadlock with abolitionists. It was a moment perfectly crafted for them by the timing of "Bleeding Kansas" occurring during the presidency of Franklin Pierce, a pro-Southern Democrat. A dystopian vision of a future Civil War, this outbreak of violence centered on the question of whether Kansas, upon gaining statehood, would join the Union as a slave state or a free state.

The situation in Cuba was vastly different than newly settled Kansas: the majority of the population were slaves, an institution that had been part of the island for centuries. In the 1800s, independence attempts were underway to overthrow colonial authorities and Africanize the island. Southerners were apprehensive that events in the Republic of Haiti would repeat in Cuba. They cynically used this fear to turn the tables on Northern abolitionists. In so doing, they brought a fresh problem which had been hotly discussed in relation to Mexico: the assimilation of Catholic-faith, Spanish-speaking citizens. A secondary issue was that Cuban statehood would likely destroy the mainland domestic sugar industry, especially in nearby Florida. A further obstacle was the suspension of the neutrality laws being demanded by the Democratic majority on the foreign relations committee, Senators Mason, Douglas, and Slidell.

The biggest problem was Spain would never sell Cuba as it was its last province of its once great empire in the Americas and much Spanish pride and stability depended on holding Cuba. Disregarding these problems, the Southern expansionists' official rationale for annexing the island was recorded in the Ostend Manifesto. National security was the documented reason "justified in wresting" the island from weak Spanish hands. This was intended to prevent Britain or France from adding to Cuba their Caribbean possessions. Trade and sovereignty became the primary issues when Cuban authorities in Havana seized the steamer Black Warrior on a regular trading route from New York City to Mobile, Alabama. Ironically, or fittingly, cotton was the commodity in dispute with the consignees, Charles Tyng and Co. The larger truth of course was that it was trade and sovereignty were driving a wedge inside the Union.

The voyage of the Black Warrior followed customary practices, but a new factor was the over-zealousness of the recently appointed governor, Juan de la Pezuela. A regressive, conservative figure out of time, he insisted upon imposing the peculiarly Spanish methods of navigation laws in Cuba to American shipping, demanding a cargo manifest that the captain refused, having never been asked it before. Cuban authorities seized the ship in response. While this international dispute was symptomatic of the political conditions at the time, the intransigence of Pezuela and the machinations of Southern expansionists clicked into place to ensure the outbreak of war.

The ultimate American war aim was the control of trade across the Gulf or even Caribbean, but her naval forces were ill-equipped for this task. Pezuela was confident, and American victory was far from assured. War dragged on, but as the tide turned toward newly built American ironclads, Spain became interested in a peaceful settlement before it lost more holdings, perhaps even to the Philippines in the Pacific. Victory satisfied not only doves in Congress but also Southerners feeling their ports more secure with American Cuba. Abolitionists eager for statehood in Minnesota were satisfied in 1858 with the addition of another free state, required for maintaining Congressional parity per the Missouri Compromise crafted by Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky in 1820. 

The genius of the Southern expansionists' solution was to be found in their knowledge of the superior strength of the naval forces under Queen Isabella II. As they had correctly anticipated, the Union was forced to build a large navy in order to recover from a series of humiliating defeats. For ease of access from Florida, these new ships were operated from Southern ports and usually were commanded by Southern officers, creating a new military balance across the Mason-Dixon Line. These heavily armed vessels would prevent a Northern army from attacking should Dixie threaten to secede from the Union.

Author's Note:

In reality, while the Black Warrior Affair was resolved peacefully, it fueled the flames of Southern expansionism. Whereas the lack of secrecy surrounding the Ostend Manifesto led to exposure, denunciation, and creation of rallying cry for anti-slavery Northerners. Marcy himself summed this up in a letter to Senator Mason dated July 23, 1854, "To tell you an unwelcome truth, the Nebraska question has sadly shattered our party in all the free states and deprived it of that strength which was needed and could have been much more profitably used for the acquisition of Cuba."

Provine's Addendum (with inspiration from comments by Philip Ebbrell):

The Spanish-American War turned to favor American victories just in time to assure Franklin Pierce his bid for reelection in 1860. Culture shock followed the war with Cuban representatives in Washington, leading to a surge in the xenophobic and populist Know Nothing Party, who rallied for such things as an official national language and defense of religious freedom from alleged "Romanist" conspiracies. Catholic immigrants who had typically voyaged to cities on the northern Atlantic Coast began shifting the immigration pattern to Cuba as local Know Nothings carried out campaigns promoting "American-only" ideas.

The debates in Congress took a sharp turn in 1862 with the French invasion of Mexico. While Emperor Napoleon III had anticipated potential friendship in the United States as partners in recolonizing Latin America, Americans rallied behind the Monroe Doctrine. The US demanded France leave the occupation zone, which was an impossibility for Napoleon since the entire matter had been one of honor due to unpaid debts to begin with. The Franco-American War started soon after, lasting several months until it was obvious that the French Navy could not compete with a modernized American fleet thousands of miles closer to home. Mexico became liberated, yet it felt tremendous influence from the US and its ships massed in the Yucatan Channel. Britain would prove the ultimate winner of these nineteenth century wars in which it did not participate, establishing far-reaching colonies in the Pacific that expanded its political and economic footprint.

War had distracted America at large from the issue of slavery for years more, but peace brought promises of change. After much effort from numerous factions in Congress, a final reform in the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery while also instilling legal groundwork for a racial code that kept much of the same institutions in place. Slaves were freed, but many of them ended up working in "plantation towns" or, in industrialized cities, "factory towns" where the populace lived in rented property and shopped in stores controlled by wealthy land-owners. Racial tensions kept the working class frequently pitted against each other until the Workers Revolution of the early twentieth century.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Guest Post: Roger Mudd Anchors

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

The famous Roger Mudd interview undermined the presidential hopes of Senator Edward M. Kennedy in 1979. Kennedy later accused him of stumping him to boost his chances of succeeding Walter Cronkite as CBS Anchor. In this alternate scenario, Mudd does a 'Perry Mason' on Kennedy with far-reaching changes at CBS over the next 24 years.

March 9, 1981 -

The ageing Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite was approaching his 65th birthday, the mandatory retirement age at CBS. After 19 years in the seat, he had gained the authority of a religious leader or founding father. Now he would have to make way for one of his younger colleagues, either his fellow Texan Dan Rather, Roger Mudd, or Mike Wallace. At a precipitous moment for the fourth estate, it proved to be an impossible choice to replace the pillar of American broadcast journalism, and so CBS chose both Mudd and Rather.

On the eve of his retirement, Cronkite appeared on The Tonight Show hosted by Johnny Carson. In his farewell statement, he announced, "This is but a transition, a passing of the baton. A great broadcaster and gentleman, Doug Edwards, preceded me in this job, and two others will follow. And that's the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981. I'll be away on assignment, and Roger Mudd will be sitting in here next week. Good night." The following night, Carson did a comic spoof of his on-air farewell address.

Mudd and Rather combining forces made sense as the credibility threats to instant news coverage were immense. It might well have been the end of an era, but perhaps even more significantly, the beginning of a new one under President Reagan. As the "most trusted man in America," Cronkite had reported events from 1937 onwards, a distant, more innocent time, when the mainstream media was much tamer. Even if he was a throwback to that era, he had been at the very front of a new generation of reporters who held the US government to account. Since Johnson and Nixon, a third transition was underway in which the US government fought back. There was a pause in this power struggle with the fourth estate during the troubled terms of their lackluster successors, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, both of whom experienced low approval rates. However, Cronkite's replacement(s) would have to report on the recently elected Ronald Reagan, a charismatic and articulate former actor who was arguably even more media-savvy than journalists. After two decades of crises in the US government, it was that the wave of popularity would usher in a new dawn for America.

Although Rather had been favored, Mudd was certainly a formidable reporter with a strong personal connection to history and American's lived experiences. He was a direct descendant of the doctor imprisoned for treating Lincoln's assassin. Mudd's first live TV studio interview was with Dorothy Counts, a black teenage girl who had suffered racial harassment at her otherwise all-white high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. He also anchored the coverage of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom for CBS. However, his trajectory really took off after one of the most famous moments in the history of television, the so-called "Roger Mudd Moment." This occurred when he stumped the Democrat candidate Ted Kennedy with the question, "Senator, why do you want to be President?" If this was a low point for the Kennedy family, it was followed by a remarkable moment of solidarity in journalists as Mudd and Rather unexpectedly agreed to co-host the show.

To satiate Rather's ego, he would be prime, promoted to the top-tier position of managing editor. Signing off on his first broadcast, Mudd explained that Rather would be on air the following week, quoting from the Book of Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." This arrangement, while testy in its toughest moments, added an extra weight of credibility and was proven to pass the test of time. Audiences and producers alike were impressed as Mudd insisted Rather stay on air to present the news seven minutes late after a delayed tennis match featuring Stephie Graff.

Mudd's record of hard-hitting interviews contributed in the power struggle with the Bush dynasty, from the 1988 Iran-Contra interview with the then-vice president to the later Abu Ghraib scandal and ultimately Dubya's disputed service record during the Vietnam War. The Bush family would join the Kennedy family in castigating CBS, with Dubya blaming Mudd in particular for stopping his re-election in 2004. Following Mudd's passing in 2021, Rather's summary was customarily monosyllabic. "Courage," was all he said.

Author Note:

In reality, CBS awarded the job to Rather and Mudd chose to leave CBS News and he accepted an offer to join NBC News.

Provine's Addendum:

Commentators at the time and historians alike long debated the outcome of the close 2004 election, whether it was a widespread temperament or a handful of Ohioan voters that sealed the election for Kerry. Either way, many agreed with George W. Bush that the turning point in the campaign stemmed from another "Roger Mudd Moment." The Electoral College was heavily criticized as Kerry did not win the popular election by millions, leading to the 28th Amendment assuring an overall popular election for the presidency.

While largely uneventful through the years of working to disentangle the United States from the Middle East, the Kerry administration proved incredibly unpopular as the national economy fell into steep decline in 2008. Although many Democrats argued that Kerry's recovery plans would have worked given more time, there was no time before the election in November that swept John McCain into office. McCain would return in 2012, narrowly defeating Hillary Clinton. The Democrats returned to the White House in 2016 with the election of Barack Obama, whose longtime service in the Senate had established connections that led to major reforms in healthcare, immigration, and bank regulation. Obama's handling of the 2020 COVID pandemic became widely praised, part of a list of credentials that would win him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Guest Post: Scipio Nasica averts Third Punic War

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History proposed by Eric Oppen.

April 10, 153 BC -

An embassy to Carthage led by Roman statesmen Scipio Nasica negotiated terms of co-existence that averted the outbreak of a Third Punic War. An opponent of further conflict, he had seen for himself the rich opportunity in her growing economy and strength.

In many ways, it was an unexpectedly positive outcome for both rival powers. The mission might well have reached a very different conclusion had Marcus Porcius Cato not drowned during the sea journey. Cato was a veteran of the Punic Wars and contributed to the decisive and important victory of Sena at the Battle of the Metaurus, where Hasdrubal was slain. He had consistently encouraged the Romans to attack Carthage, famously ending every speech in the Forum with "Carthago delenda est" ["Carthage must be destroyed"]. His role in the embassy was likely to prevent any kind of accommodation with the opposing peace faction led by Scipio. Some historians wonder whether Cato's death had been a maritime accident at all, since the outcome was a resilient win for Scipio's perspective.

Institutionally, Carthage's Senate had a powerful caucus that was half-hearted in the pursuit of their wars. The truth was, she was greatly weakened by the Second Punic War and no longer able to threaten Sicily or Sardinia. Her politicians knew that the Roman Republic would continue to expand across the Mediterranean world and an accommodation was necessary to avoid destruction. The cost of their survival would be annexation and slow Romanization offset by the granting of preferential trading privileges.

This long-term peace settlement enabled the economically prosperous commercial city-state to persist in its current form, albeit as a vassal state of Rome. Ultimately, the emergence of a Roman province of Carthage would greatly strengthen the projection of power in North Africa and also in Spain. Long-term benefits would also be seen elsewhere. With Carthaginian naval expertise, Roman trade routes encouraged conquest down the west coast of Africa, establishing ports to trade with, then dominate, the rich gold fields of Ghana. Roman victories in Europe would lead to expansion into Gaul, Germania, Britannia, and then the Balkans. This was before an Eternal Peace was formed with the Persians very much in the collaborative spirit of long-dead Scipio.

Whereas Cato was opposed to the spread of Hellenic culture, Scipio realized that the expansion of the Roman Republic could be boosted by absorbing civilizations such as Greece and Carthage without threatening to destroy the rugged simplicity of the conventional Roman type. In truth, there would be some cultural exchange from annexing Carthage that would make for a different Rome, with Baal Hammon included among the pantheon as a form of Jupiter as well as the issue of child sacrifice. Like their Phoenician ancestors, the Carthaginians offered their children to "pass through the flames" in offering to the fertility gods like Baal for abundant crops. Roman propaganda during the Punic Wars denounced the practice, but a form of it evolved into Roman religion as a method to test the worthiness of children that might otherwise undergo the commonplace Roman practice of exposure.

Author Note:

In reality, the Third Punic War systematically destroyed the city and killed its inhabitants; only on the last day did they take prisoners, 50,000 of them, who were sold into slavery. The conquered Carthaginian territories became the Roman province of Africa, with Utica as its capital. It was a century before the site of Carthage was rebuilt as a Roman city.

Provine's Addendum:

Part of the Pax Aeterna (or so the generations-long treaty with the Parthian Empire was called; Roman armies adventured as far as the Baltic Sea and the Congo River aboard ships in the navy, improved by Carthaginian seamanship) was to maintain a series of buffer states to absorb friction between the two superpowers. Pompey the Great had conquered Syria and Judea in the Third Mithridatic War along with Pontus after Mithridates VI allied with the declining Armenian Empire, which looked to become a client state. Though many in the Senate called to expand ever eastward, a far-thinking faction determined to make the peace with Parthia by ensuring Armenia, Osroene at the headwaters of the Euphrates, and the restored independent kingdom of Judea remained independent. Both sides kept ambassadors at each court, but tradition forbade intrigue beyond trade and favoritism.

Client states along the Silk Road meant another set of middlemen for trade, driving up prices for Romans at home. Gradually the sea route to India through the Red Sea expanded, driven largely by descendants of Carthaginians. Soon Hindu gods would find influence in the Roman pantheon as well.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Guest Post: Churchill's Armed Revolt

This dystopian TL about Churchill's Armed Revolt first appeared on Today in Alternate History, blending related ideas from three scenarios, Robbie Taylor's Mosley's New Party, Chris Oakley's Mosley's Rebellion and Jeff Provine's December 30, 1947 - King Michael Calls for Aid.


February 28, 1938 - Mosley Lights the Flame of Civil War

A very disunited United Kingdom was ruled from 10 Downing Street by Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet, with his Black Shirts only in control of the capital city and nearby Home Counties.

Bitterly disappointed by the orthodoxy of the two main parties in British politics, he had founded the New Party. His ranks had swelled with the unemployed as the full effects of the Great Depression hit England. Brought to office by violent unrest, he could not build out his popularity from the base of radical supporters in London. Inevitably, his rise to power only accelerated the cycle of political violence, brought about by frustration that he was unable to implement a Nazi-style program of economic change.

With the rest of the British Isles in open revolt, his Fascist government was dependent upon the shared interests of an unholy alliance of the poor and the Establishment. Articulating false, incompatible promises to "Make Britain Great Again" and yet preserve both the Empire and the Class System, he could only maintain his premiership by making common cause with continental fascists Mussolini of Italy, Franco of Spain, and Hitler of Germany.

Following a disingenuous call for aid to protect King Edward VIII and the Royal Family, anti-Comitern troops from the continent began to slowly arrive in London. Mosley's enemies were horrified and warned of a slow foreign takeover that would never have been logistically possible during wartime. A Third English Civil War began as Churchill led fellow MPs into a rival government, but there was a much bigger picture as both sides had foreseen. Within a few short years, much of Europe from France to Ukraine would be occupied by the jack-booted Fascists as Germany invaded to the east, west, and east again. Local resistance groups broke out across the continent, but nowhere was resistance more fierce than in the north of England and Scotland where irregular forces under Winston Churchill carried on the struggle for freedom in the desperate hope of American salvation.

Unfortunately for Churchill's rebels, the FDR's US government was firmly focused on its own rebuilding program via the New Deal and had even adopted an official policy of strict neutrality. This position of strategic ambiguity logically followed on from George Washington's dictum of disentanglement, the public's desire for peace after the horrors of the Great War, and perhaps a deeper sense that Old Europe had to look after, and pay for, its own security.

Author Note:

In reality, Fascist violence under Mosley's leadership culminated in the Battle of Cable Street, during which anti-fascist demonstrators including trade unionists, communists, anarchists, and British Jews successfully prevented the BUF from marching through London's East End. Mosley was imprisoned in May 1940, after the outbreak of the Second World War, and the BUF was banned. He was released in 1943 and, politically disgraced by his association with fascism, moved abroad in 1951, spending most of the remainder of his life in Paris and two residences in Ireland.

Provine's Addendum:

The fires of the British Civil War spread quickly throughout its empire. While Mosley had campaigned to strengthen the empire, many of the colonies took the distractions in the mother country as a chance to do whatever they pleased. Canada and Australia faced their own divisions with each side of the debate dispatching troops to the British Isles to fight alongside Churchill or Mosley. Island colonies and those in Africa found themselves without support in funds and materials as they had, leading to many local officials establishing warlord-like systems to maintain order. India, the great jewel of the empire, erupted into revolution. While leaders like Mahatma Gandhi called for peace, the subcontinent soon saw its own factions establishing numerous independent nations while areas with sufficient British influence attempted to maintain control of their own lands.

With Japan extending its empire by occupying former French and Dutch colonies and then invading the eastern USSR as it dragged on in war with Germany in the west, the world was truly at war. Only the Western Hemisphere seemed at peace, but with supply networks interrupted and global economies struggling, even that seemed tenuous.

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