wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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The Lion and the Unicorn and Uncle Sam

After reading GVDL's remix of Orwell's 1941 essay "The Lion and the Unicorn" and then reading the essay itself, I got to thinking about the analogy that many of us who support the war are fond of drawing between 21st century America and England in the 1940s. It's a comforting analogy, and provides us with plenty of snark to unleash upon the anti-war crowd, especially those in the media and academia. Like all analogies, though, it has some serious problems and those need to be talked about, because they affect the underlying pro-war dialectic in bad ways.

First of all, the United States in Iraq isn't comparable to the British Empire in 1940 after the fall of France and the evacuation from Dunkirk. This may seem so obvious as to elicit a "Duh!" from the Loyal Readership, but there are a lot of underlying social and historical factors that need to be hauled out and examined, and GVDL does us no favors when he lumps our modern American intellectualoids in with the marginalized leftists of Orwell's Britain. The Empire was critically damaged by the massive casualties suffered in the Great War, not only in the sense that thousands upon thousands of young men who might have gone on to build and sustain the Empire had been killed in the trenches, but in the sense that the bonds between Britain herself and the dominions had been severely damaged. Among the many dead were thousands of young Australians, Canadians, South Africans and New Zealanders who would never again blindly follow the lead of the generals sent out from London to command the far-flung armies. For all the damage done by Vietnam to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, no sensible person would argue that they suffered the same kind of shattering losses experienced by the British at Paschendaele, the Canadians at Vimy Ridge, or the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli. There was none of the hesitation to get involved in Afghanistan and Iraq that Orwell observed in the ruling classes of England on the verge of WW2.

The political divisions in modern America are not what they were in England, either. While many academics support the Democrats and their anti-war policy, there is no corresponding devotion among the Republicans to the kind of anti-intellectualism exemplified by David Low's Colonel Blimp; quite the contrary, the careful study of history is highly regarded. (Cf. Victor Davis Hanson and Max Boot.) There is no aristocracy or class system in America as there is (and was) in England, and the very notion of government-appointed vicars and bishops (much less their nvolvement in government) has always been beyond the pale here.

To be continued.
Tags: culture & politics, history, military stuff

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