Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Unsanctioned Voice; Blue Wound; National Self-Containment

Click these links for discussions of the Writer's Note , Chapters 1 and 2, Chapter 3, Chapters 4-6, Chapters 7-10 , Chapters 11 and 12 and Chapter 13 of Bruce Ramsey's Unsanctioned Voice.

Chapter 14 contains Ramsey's discussion of Blue Wound. (My review of Blue Wound from 2007 begins here.)

Blue Wound is a 1921 novel that followed in the immediate aftermath of World War I. Garrett presented panoramic views of the distant past and lost civilizations while projecting then-current trends into the distant future. The reader, in 1921, was presented with descriptions of World War II (including conflicts with Germany and Japan) and technological advancement that would not actually exist until our own time. The reader would also confront America's later dependence on foreign countries for vital materials (a problem that did not exist in 1921). Garrett used these visions to demonstrate that the United States should remain self-sufficient so that it would not need to fight foreign wars and would be immune to foreign countries' attempts to dominate the United States through dominance of vital materials.

Ramsey focuses on Garrett's advocacy of self-sufficiency, but misses many of the best aspects of the novel. Many of Garrett's predictions - the history lessons, the ancient Rome analogy, the story of Japan's rise, the imagery of the rise and fall of cities - are missing from Ramsey's description.

Ramsey points out (p. 92) similar and overlapping concepts in Blue Wound, Ouroboros and A Time Was Born, including the idea of "national self-containment."

Ramsey finds "national self-containment" the "least attractive of his (Garrett's) ideas." Ramsey quotes (pp. 93-94) a 1940 Garrett column in which Garrett argues that Germany had ample opportunity for foreign trade and economic growth without going to war. Economics was thus not a justification for aggression. Nations could live in peace without fighting over resources. Ramsey found this argument (p. 94) inconsistent with Garrett's arguments for self-containment found in Blue Wound and elsewhere.

But Ramsey's argument (p. 94) misses a very important point. Nations might be aggressive even if it is not in their own economic best interest. We cannot expect foreign nations to act as would a corporation that answers to shareholders. Nations make war for religious or ideological reasons while sacrificing their own prosperity. (A similar concept is the U.S.' adoption and enforcement of Obamacare.) Can we ascribe economic motives to the constant war wrought by Islamic nations/movements or the totalitarian empires of the 20th century?

That nations need not make war for economic reasons does not mean that nations will not make war. That nations will make war means that other nations must protect themselves. Garrett's argument for self-containment is one such way that nations protect themselves. The United States might protect itself by becoming self-reliant, regardless of whether foreign aggressors come to believe in peace and economic freedom. Garrett was being descriptive in his discussions of the options that aggressor nations enjoy and the justifications (or lack thereof) for war. But Garrett was advocating specific policies for the U.S. The policies that Garrett recommended recognized the aggressive tendencies of enemy countries. It is not inconsistent to (1) recommend that the United States follow a self-reliant policy while (2) acknowledging that aggressor nations need not make that policy necessary.

update - click here for a discussion of Chapters 15 and 16 of Unsanctioned Voice.

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