UPDATE: The Peanut Farmer’s Wisdom

I just gave up on my rebuttal of Jimmy Carter’s comparison of the American Revolution to the campaign in Iraq in order to prevent cranial implosion. But here I am updating anyway.

L’Ombre de l’Olivier compares Carter’s statements to those Alternative History novels. He writes

Carter say that the “British were mislead” in going to war, which just shows his ignorance. The assumption here is that Britain was as it is today, a democracy in which all could vote or express their opinion. This is simply laughable.

Which is exactly why I said “King George III” and not “Parliament” in my abandoned rebuttal yesterday.

Arguing that the British people were “misled into war” against the Colonies in the 18th century is like arguing that the Iraqi people were “misled into war” against Kuwait in the 20th. It never occurred to the the kings (and their loyal nobility) of the respective nations to ask what their subjects thought.

Another point that L’Ombre de l’Olivier makes is Carter’s claim of “tens of thousands” Iraqi civilians killed during the invasion and occupation. Almost everyone on every side puts the number between 5,000 and 15,000. Even iraqbodycount.net puts the number between 13,278 and 15,357. And they’ve got more than a hatchet to grind. Unless Carter thinks “since 15,000 is greater than 10,000, ‘10,000’ is not accurate, therefore it must be ‘tens of thousands’” he’s either wrong, lying, or simply confused.

I suspect that the answer is ‘D – All of the Above’.

All this ignores the number of Iraqis that would have died since March of 2003 due to Saddam’s policy of iron-fisted rule and the sanctions. And don’t forget that, for the 457th consecutive day, today’s “Raped by Uday Count” remains at ZERO. I expect that this streak will continue indefinitely.

L’Ombre de l’Olivier’s comparison to Alternate History novels is, um novel, in another way that’s interesting to me. I’ve spent more than a little time reading some of these sorts of books, and they’re always interesting in a “what if” sort of way. For a little while. But once something changes, the author basically has “creative dominion” over events, and some play pretty loose and wild with things. While often making for a great story, the true historical value of this prettly low.

Reader KTLA comments:

“…and of course now we would have been a free country now as is Canada and India and Australia, having gotten our independence in a non-violent way.”

Is that really true? Does he really believe that the existence, positions, and actions of the United States had absolutely no influence on the independence of these other British colonies?

I’m not saying he’s *necessarily* wrong, but it seems unlikely that history would have unfolded just the same in the end for those other nations had the Revolution not occurred.

My initial thought about refuting that statement by Carter was that 1947 India may have looked slightly different if the US’s role in the events of 1939-1945 had been significantly altered. (Never mind 1917-1918.) But, of course, we might still have been a British colony, so “our” boys may have changed the outcome of the 1940 invasion of France. Or prevented it entirely. Or maybe America would have been little more than a huge farmland if Britain had successfully prevented the industrialization of her cheif colony as it almost certainly would have wanted to. Or maybe since Britain still had America and its natural resources, the British Empire continued to reign as the supreme power on the planet. And, without the erosion of her power (and the example of America’s freedom, as KTLA noted) Canada, India, and Australia might still be colonies.

Who really knows?

It’s just too hard to extrapolate the effect of changes in 18th century history out to specific events in the the 20th century. For me, anyway.

But it’s certain that things would have been very different. And if the general impact that American independence has had on the world over the past 200+ years is any indication, I doubt that the majority of the changes would be for the better.

Chris Matthews continually referred to Carter as “an historian”, which I also intended to address. Carter apparently earned this title by doing research for an historical novel set in the Revolutionary War.

In fifth grade I researched the battles of Lexington and Concord for a report on a commemerative postage stamp for after-school Stamp Club. Why is it that I get the impression that I learned more for that one-page report (which was a doozy, by the way) than Carter did while researching his book?


  1. People forget that the violence in the American Revolution was started by British taxation without representation (People enjoy keeping what their hands have made/grown/built), then denial of Free Speach (Oneof the biggest mantras of the modern press), and escallated when the British tried to confiscate the ‘Assault Weapons’ owned by the people. Modern History books fail to print the whole story of Paul Revere – ‘The British are coming…to confiscate you arms’.

  2. Like Garfield says I simply cannot imagine the British retaining the American colonies without the development of concepts that took the British Empire another 100 years to think of. Had (somehow) the British rulers managed to grasp the political and economic thoughts of people like Adam Smith then they might have managed it. But that is precisely why your ‘creative dominion’ point is so true. In practice it took until 1845 for basic Adam Smith economics to be absorbed by the British government which anyway was only written in 1776.