Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pondering this Secession thing

Philosophically, I don't have much problem with the notion of secession. It would seem to flow logically that if a nation is based on the concept of freedom, of free people freely forming associations (cities, counties, states, even a nation) that states might peacefully withdraw from such a union and even be readmitted at some later date.

Yet, circa 1861-1865 approximately 750,000 folks got suddenly dead in the process of a rather vigorous discussion in which one set of parties sought to coerce the other set of parties to remain in the Union of the day. It seems they succeeded.

However, success through coercion doesn't necessarily mean right. In the American Civil War, once you get past the history written by the victors there appear to have been darned few saints and an awful lot of sinners when you start looking at the political leadership and the motivations on either side.

Practically, right or wrong, secession by force has some fairly major downsides. If we saw a second American Civil War play out today with the same rate of casualties as the first, we'd see right about 7.5 million graves filling up fairly rapidly win or lose.

U.S. Population Casualties
1861 31,443,321 750,000
2012 312,780,968 7,460,590

Now, these are fairly soft numbers with the 1861 figures grabbed in a quick google search, and casualties derived by calculating the worst case 1865 casualty estimates against the 1861 population. The analysis also fails to consider that since the Civil War era when both professional and citizen soldiers were arriving on the battlefields of the day with mostly single shot rifles and the occasional revolver, technology has improved a bit.

In other words, we've gotten MUCH better at killing each other. Odds are quite good that casualties would be much higher, even from this armchair cowboys perspective. And just for fun, consider that we really don't know who gets how much of the military should we see a "festive secession" scenario - any more than our forefathers could guess the same thing in 1860.

For anyone with a shred of morals or decency, "festive secession" is clearly to be avoided even if one assumes that the kids on both (assuming their are only two) teams will refrain from getting REALLY festive and breaking out ABC sorts of gear.

Peaceable secession is a far less common creature, but as we saw in the devolution of the U.S.S.R or Eastern Europe it *can* happen - it is simply astonishingly rare.

If these folks signing these petitions are able to pull off a peaceful parting of the way, my hat is off to them. And at a romantic level, I wish them every success. I increasingly lean towards the school of thought that the U.S. is devolving into balkanized region divided by fundamental worldviews so incompatible as to make coexistence unlikely if not impossible.

I'm rather hoping that isn't the case. But in the meantime, I am hedging my bets at the best speed I can arrange.


Anonymous said...

IIRC, a majority of both officers and enlisted men are southern gentlemen and women. Might their loyalties tend to side with the secessionists?

Gay_Cynic said...

I hope we never have the opportunity to find out.