Make Thee Mightier Yet

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Sydney Webb

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Nov 26, 2005, 4:58:54 PM11/26/05
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Tender readers,

This morning when I switched on the People's Radio classical service I
heard Barry Tuckwell conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in Elgar's
_Pomp and Circumstances March_. That's the piece that gives us the tune
for _Land of Hope and Glory_.

Naturally I was reminded of the British empires, being a semi-Brit and a
nostalgic and all that. There was the First British Empire, largely
lost at the Battle of Yorktown. And the bigger and better-remembered
2nd British Empire that was largely dismantled in the years 1945-70.

Which made we wonder. Has the world seen the last of the bloody poms?
Or is there one more empire inside them? In particular, what of the
next 100 years?

Could the British - or in the event of an independent Scotland, the
English and the Welsh - seize _de facto_ control of the EU?

WI the British were to leave the EU under some suitably xenophoic^W
sceptical PM? Is their any avenue for revanche with a go-it-alone
Britain. A century is a long time but we still have to consider the
constraints of the initial starting position.

Thoughts?

- Syd

Mike Ralls

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Nov 27, 2005, 4:28:42 AM11/27/05
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Sydney Webb wrote:


> Britain. A century is a long time but we still have to consider the
> constraints of the initial starting position.

A widespread nuclear war that destroys or seriously damages almost every
industrial nation in the world, yet leaves Britain untouched could open
up lots of possibilities for a large and important third British Empire.
Such a war is improbable, but not impossible as a century is a long time.

Mind you, any large nuclear war would result in a vast increase of
(relative) power for any untouched nation.

--
Mike Ralls
http://mikesbooknotes.blogspot.com/
By 27, it's time to stop acting 18.
No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood.
You have all the time in the world to do what you really want, but not a
second to waste.

Noel

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Nov 27, 2005, 1:03:32 PM11/27/05
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Mike Ralls wrote:
> Sydney Webb wrote:
>
>
> > Britain. A century is a long time but we still have to consider the
> > constraints of the initial starting position.
>
> A widespread nuclear war that destroys or seriously damages almost every
> industrial nation in the world, yet leaves Britain untouched could open
> up lots of possibilities for a large and important third British Empire.
> Such a war is improbable, but not impossible as a century is a long time.
>
> Mind you, any large nuclear war would result in a vast increase of
> (relative) power for any untouched nation.

---But an uninteresting scenario, as these things go. And
far too unlikely to motivate much discussion, which is the
whole point of this forum.

Syd, what exactly do you have in mind? As I look around
the world, I am actually astounded at how imperialism seems
to have gone out of fashion.

No, really. Both the U.S. and Belgium (that imperial mega-
power) have recently rewritten their domestic law to make it
easier for foreign sovereigns to default on their debts without
consequence. If that's not a major rollback in imperial senti-
ment, what is? Imperialism of the old-fashioned sort isn't
working out too well, and the more new-fangled type found
in the Balkans seems unlikely to be repeated outside the
neighborhood of ... ah ... your great country, and the really
cool-assed new-newfangled stuff involving lawyers, trade
credit, Euroclear, and the massive amount of T-Bills lying
around outside the United States seems to be quite deli-
berately rejected by the potential imperial powers.

Which leaves us with the E.U. (and Oz, yes) as the only
successfully expansionist kid on the block nowadays, but
the E.U., I think we all agree, is whole 'nother kettle of fish.
And not really imperialism, either, as Doug has explained
to us. (Oh, Doug, please email me if you read this.)

So what, absent the atomic destruction of Continental
Europe and the United States, would give Britain both the
leverage the ability to engage in any one of these three
sorts of imperialism on a large scale (and without the help
of either Brussels or Washington) over the next few
decades?

Perhaps clarifying the question will help you find the answer?

Best,

Noel

Sydney Webb

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Nov 28, 2005, 6:58:20 AM11/28/05
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Noel wrote:

> Mike Ralls wrote:
> > Sydney Webb wrote:
> >
> >
> > > Britain. A century is a long time but we still have to consider the
> > > constraints of the initial starting position.
> >
> > A widespread nuclear war that destroys or seriously damages almost every
> > industrial nation in the world, yet leaves Britain untouched could open
> > up lots of possibilities for a large and important third British Empire.
> > Such a war is improbable, but not impossible as a century is a long time.
> >
> > Mind you, any large nuclear war would result in a vast increase of
> > (relative) power for any untouched nation.
>
> ---But an uninteresting scenario, as these things go. And
> far too unlikely to motivate much discussion, which is the
> whole point of this forum.

Agreed.

> Syd, what exactly do you have in mind? As I look around
> the world, I am actually astounded at how imperialism seems
> to have gone out of fashion.

I strongly disagree. Then again, given Australia's current craze for
neo-imperialism, to which Noel tactfully refers downthread, I may have
blinkers on.

I don't refer to Australian troops deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar
and Oman - which makes no damn sense at all. Rather I'm think of our
nation's deployment of soldiers, police and civil servants in such
places as Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands
and Nauru. The fact that we are facilitating changes of Government in
Vanuatu, and changes of the constitution in PNG and Nauru, the better to
allow our police to operate unfettered and our jobsworthies to take
cabinet positions. A move from considering our neighbours as equals to
using the realpolitik of foreign aid to prevent states from failing, at
least for an Australian value of 'fail'. All this, it should be noted,
without a national debate about the changed foreign policy; long-sighted
Australian pundits choosing to focus on the western end of Asia instead.

How is this relevant to the future of the world? Well as female
suffrage and the secret ballot remind us, if it can be done in Australia
it's coming soon to a nation near you.

Soft power in the form of foreign aid is, despite all the zeros, cheaper
than the harder stuff. And foreign aid, regularly applied, is strangely
addictive. So addictive that a country will submit to all manner of
indignities and erosions of sovereignty to maintain the flow. That
peacekeepers, if sufficiently diffident, can actual enjoy the support of
the population rather than uniting them against the outsiders.

[ISTM that this is what the French have been trying to do in Africa
these last 30 years or more. Whether any lack of success can be
attributed to a lack of diffidence is left to the judgment of the
reader.]

A UKoGBaNI, or any other wealthy country, that wanted to take this
approach could IMO garner a great degree of influence abroad. The
country would have to eschew any great principle - no haranguing the Bob
Mugabes of the world on human rights or far elections - but with the
right blend of cynicism and pragmatism could use their foreign aid pound
to get a lot of boots on the ground and a lot of say-so over
constitutions and cabinets.


>
> No, really. Both the U.S. and Belgium (that imperial mega-
> power) have recently rewritten their domestic law to make it
> easier for foreign sovereigns to default on their debts without
> consequence. If that's not a major rollback in imperial senti-
> ment, what is?

Neither a borrower or a lender be. [If a dictator owes a wunch of
bankers a billion it's the bankers who have the problem.] A patron, a
maker of mendicants - that's the way to be. You're knowingly doing your
dough, true, but the dictator knows there's more dough to be had
provided he - and dictators by and large are 'he's - complies.

> Imperialism of the old-fashioned sort isn't
> working out too well,

One fears Noel is arguing from too small a sample. Can anyone give
three present day instances?

But back to my main theme. A few billion euros a year, strategically
directed, every year and within 20 years you could own half of
sub-Saharan Africa - for quite valuable values of 'own'.

- Syd

Thomas Womack

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Nov 30, 2005, 8:14:55 AM11/30/05
to
In article <438AF197...@hotmail.com>,
Sydney Webb <Syd_...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> The country would have to eschew any great principle - no haranguing
> the Bob Mugabes of the world on human rights or far elections - but
> with the right blend of cynicism and pragmatism could use their
> foreign aid pound to get a lot of boots on the ground and a lot of
> say-so over constitutions and cabinets.

Is there not a case to be made that the Middle Kingdom is involving in
this sort of work in a well-resourced, efficient and well-planned
fashion, in an awful lot of the kinds of countries up to which the
West tend to raise their hands in horror? If you have a production
well to dig in the Sudan, or a dam to build in Burma, Chinese
financing is much more available than anybody else's, and the strings
are fine and silken.

>But back to my main theme. A few billion euros a year, strategically
>directed, every year and within 20 years you could own half of
>sub-Saharan Africa - for quite valuable values of 'own'.

I would not be startled to discover in 2030, though I'm not altogether
certain of any cheering way in which I'd discover this, that the
People's Republic has already done this.

Tom

Noel

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Nov 30, 2005, 10:16:55 AM11/30/05
to

---I was in Lesotho a few months ago. The Chinese govern-
ment is thinking of providing the finance for a cotton fabric mill
for the country's textile industry. (An industry threatened, iron-
ically, by Chinese exports.) They've also donated a library and
are helping to create a national TV network.

Here's the thing, though: what do the Chinese (or our
future British) get out of it? And is it really imperialism,
for any reasonable definition of the term?

Frex, you get goodwill, it's true. And maybe, at some
point in the coming decades, the People's Air Force (or
whatever it's called) will get a fancy base in the mountain
kingdom. But that's not quite the Second British Empire;
it's not even the kind of influence the U.S. wields in Pana-
ma. Calling that "imperialism" renders the term useless.
(Not meaningless, merely useless.)

What else do you get? Access to strategic resources
at reduced prices? Well, that hasn't happened yet. It
could, I suppose, but it hasn't. The thrill of "seeing 'em
jump"? OK, except that foreign aid's record of buying
influence is ... ah ... checkered. Security? That's a
very real one, foreign aid can be used to buy security,
albeit usually in conjunction with violence or the threat
of violence. Still, even there it's hard to see what threat
Sub-Saharan Africa will pose to China or Britain.

In other words, I don't see it. Then again, I would like to
see it, and I believe I have demonstrated that I can be
convinced. Syd, would you like to give it a shot?

Best,

Noel

Sydney Webb

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Dec 1, 2005, 4:49:50 AM12/1/05
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Noel wrote:

These are two good questions our friend Noel asks, in response to some
good points raised by Thomas.

The first is: Why would a country want to own, or influence, another
country in this day and age? Actually 'influence' is a fairly
namby-pamby word. I mean influence in the sense of "We'd like you to
change your constitution, so our police can operate in you country with
legal immunity" or "You've picked the wrong Prime Minister, please
rectify soonest,"[1] or "Here's our boy. He's a graduate of one of our
finest universities. He's now your Finance Minister." That sort of
influence. [Does this answer the second question?]

There are as many answers to the first question as there are embassies
in Yarralumla. Take the People's Republic of China. She had the
unhappy experience of the first twenty-odd years of her life being
excluded from the UN by the machinations of the Bandit Regime In
Taipei. Consequently there have been massive influence peddling by both
the PRC and BRIT to shore up or undermine support for their
selves/rivals. And now that the BRIT is coming to terms with the
likelihood of never regaining the mainland and is thinking loudly about
Other Options the PRC still needs support in the General Assembly and on
the Security Council in case Firm Measures become a Regrettable
Necessity.

For Australia, the drivers are different. With PNG, the Solomons and
Vanuatu Canberra does not want these states to fail. For humanitarian
reasons, first and foremost. But in line with the 19th and 20th century
traditions of "Australia for the white man" and fears of the "Yellow
Peril" the prospect of hordes of tinted refugees is another compelling
reason to raise a neighbourly hand to help combat lawlessness, civil war
and the depredations of the Russian mafia.

With Nauru it's slightly different. There's still the humanitarian
concern, obviously. But there's also the reputational risk. While
Australia was only ever a minority shareholder in Nauru (sharing control
with NZ and UKoGBaNI) and help the country to an early and initially
prosperous independence there are still some who, whenever perceived
misfortune befalls the island, Blame Australia. State failure would be
one such misfortune.

It's probably best if I describe this in economic terms. There's an
arbitrage opportunity when the country who owns a resource values this
less highly than a second country. So in PNG in July 1999 Port Moresby
succumbed to the blandishments of BRIT and granted them recognition in
exchange for substantial foreign aid. Canberra, a very close friend of
the PRC stepped in, told Sir Julius Chan to dance with the one who brung
him and quashed the deal.[2]

But the point is that diplomatic recognition brings arbitrage
opportunities when it costs the beholder/bestower nothing and the
recipient is desperate for it. Sovereignty is generally valued higher
by the owner but there are still possibilities to deal - on partial as
well as entire sovereignty - if the price is right and the purchaser is
highly motivated.

Note that it is not just nations that are interested in other nation's
sovereignty - entire or part. There are also forces of free enterprise,
the aforementioned Russian mafia and Royal Dutch Shell f'rex. They are
probably not equipped to conduct foreign policy on such a lavish scale
as Beijing or Canberra, however.

This takes us to the original plausibility question. Or three
questions. During the next century would Britain want to acquire more
sovereignty from impecunious countries? What would the prices be and
how much can Britain afford? And how would the rest of the world react
to London on a spending spree?

The first question is key. Britain doesn't need recognition. There is
no 'Battle of the Flags' Vietnam-style that she might become engaged
in. She's shown no alarm in the past when former colonies have gone in
the crapper and has experienced no large refugee intake since Uganda 30+
years ago.

We need a base motive in Whitehall and I'm not immediately seeing one.
Thoughts from the finer minds of a.h.f?

[1] And don't Aussies whinge when other countries do that to them? And
with far greater delicacy, I might add.

[2] Technically it was the new PM, Mekere Morauta, who broke off
relations with BRIT later that month. See footnote [1], above.

- Syd

davea...@yahoo.com

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Dec 9, 2005, 1:14:28 PM12/9/05
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Sydney Webb wrote:

(snip)

> This takes us to the original plausibility question. Or three
> questions. During the next century would Britain want to acquire more
> sovereignty from impecunious countries? What would the prices be and
> how much can Britain afford? And how would the rest of the world react
> to London on a spending spree?
>
> The first question is key. Britain doesn't need recognition. There is
> no 'Battle of the Flags' Vietnam-style that she might become engaged
> in. She's shown no alarm in the past when former colonies have gone in
> the crapper and has experienced no large refugee intake since Uganda 30+
> years ago.
>
> We need a base motive in Whitehall and I'm not immediately seeing one.
> Thoughts from the finer minds of a.h.f?
>

(snip)

> - Syd

The original post, ISTM, raised two questions. The first, Why
Imperialism?, has been discussed at length.

However, the second - Why Britain? - has been largely passed by. In a
new version of the Great Game, how does the UK outplay - or just play
even with - the US, China, Russia, India, and the rest of the EU?

Does everyone else not play? Absent highly selective asteroids or
plagues, or the discovery that 2/3s of the world's supply of unobtanium
ore is found in Yorkshire, why not?

ISTM - again - that you have to give the UK some kind of cultural
advantage. No other kind of advantage would last long enough. So:

In the day of CNN and the Internet, what kind of advantage does the UK
get, and how does it keep it? What kind of crisis would make the Brits
reinvent themselves, Meiji-Restoration style? And...

**What kind of language do you use to write about this??**

When I tried to answer these questions, the readily available language
and rhetoric seemed to push in the direction of something
Tom-Clancyish. When I rejected that and tried to come up with
something different, it just sounded silly.

(Of course, this may be because it was silly. But still.)

When I tried to add more explanation by putting the post in the form of
a historian writing in 2050, it sounded precious.*

Does anyone know of a good example of writing about cultural change in
a convincing way, especially on Usenet?


Best,

David Allen

*Does this group have an equivalent to DBWI? PFHA, for Possible Future
History Article?

Noel

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Dec 9, 2005, 5:11:59 PM12/9/05
to

davea...@yahoo.com wrote:
> Sydney Webb wrote:
>
> (snip)
>
> > This takes us to the original plausibility question. Or three
> > questions. During the next century would Britain want to acquire more
> > sovereignty from impecunious countries? What would the prices be and
> > how much can Britain afford? And how would the rest of the world react
> > to London on a spending spree?
> >
> > The first question is key. Britain doesn't need recognition. There is
> > no 'Battle of the Flags' Vietnam-style that she might become engaged
> > in. She's shown no alarm in the past when former colonies have gone in
> > the crapper and has experienced no large refugee intake since Uganda 30+
> > years ago.
> >
> > We need a base motive in Whitehall and I'm not immediately seeing one.
> > Thoughts from the finer minds of a.h.f?
> >
>
> (snip)
>
> > - Syd
>
> The original post, ISTM, raised two questions. The first, Why
> Imperialism?, has been discussed at length.

---Has it? Re-reading the thread, it still seems largely
unanswered, except in terms of some special cases.

Let's rephrase you're question. You're actually asking
"Why would Britain be good at imperialism?" Syd, how-
ever, quite explicitly left unanswered the question of
"Why would Britain bother?"

Can you answer that? It seems necessary to have an
answer to "why" before asking "how."

Best,

Noel

Sydney Webb

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Dec 9, 2005, 5:15:40 PM12/9/05
to
davea...@yahoo.com wrote:
>
> Sydney Webb wrote:
>
> (snip)
>
> > This takes us to the original plausibility question. Or three
> > questions. During the next century would Britain want to acquire more
> > sovereignty from impecunious countries? What would the prices be and
> > how much can Britain afford? And how would the rest of the world react
> > to London on a spending spree?
> >
> > The first question is key. Britain doesn't need recognition. There is
> > no 'Battle of the Flags' Vietnam-style that she might become engaged
> > in. She's shown no alarm in the past when former colonies have gone in
> > the crapper and has experienced no large refugee intake since Uganda 30+
> > years ago.
> >
> > We need a base motive in Whitehall and I'm not immediately seeing one.
> > Thoughts from the finer minds of a.h.f?
> >
>
> (snip)
>
> > - Syd
>
> The original post, ISTM, raised two questions. The first, Why
> Imperialism?, has been discussed at length.
>
> However, the second - Why Britain? - has been largely passed by. In a
> new version of the Great Game, how does the UK outplay - or just play
> even with - the US, China, Russia, India, and the rest of the EU?

Even this is two questions. First, why do Britain want to play? Then
having given the Motive, there is question how do they play - what is
the Opportunity and Means?

> Does everyone else not play? Absent highly selective asteroids or
> plagues, or the discovery that 2/3s of the world's supply of unobtanium
> ore is found in Yorkshire, why not?
>
> ISTM - again - that you have to give the UK some kind of cultural
> advantage.

Cultural advantage in the sense of previously being good at
imperialism? Cultural advantage in having polyglot cities as recruiting
bases for a born-again Foreign & Colonial Office? Or Cultural advantage
in having Oasis and Blur to lead a second British Invasion?

> No other kind of advantage would last long enough. So:
>
> In the day of CNN and the Internet, what kind of advantage does the UK
> get, and how does it keep it? What kind of crisis would make the Brits
> reinvent themselves, Meiji-Restoration style? And...

A Meiji-style restoration? I love it. The circumstance leading up to
it and the form it would take present quite a challenge.

I'm imagining a coup. It could be military or more subtle. More subtle
is good because the new regime, 'New Tories' or 'unLabour' or whatever
they call themselves, will have legitimacy but will still need a
distraction. A focus abroad - the building of a Greater Britain, a
combined nationalistic and morale crusade - would be a useful way of
absorbing the attentions of idealists who might otherwise sit at home
and criticise the government.

There is probably a less cynical scenario that would work, too.

> **What kind of language do you use to write about this??**

This is another good question. So far, in the past year's project to
gentrify a.h.f we've mostly tried to extrapolate from the present a
sparse description of a plausible future.

[snip]

> *Does this group have an equivalent to DBWI? PFHA, for Possible Future
> History Article?

Writing from a future sense sounds interesting, particularly if done
from the perspective of a historian. Not sure how it would work in
practice. The Webb style, of writing from a human, 'you are there'
style is more problematic - it could come across as inferior science
fiction.

A case in point is _Foundation and Huns - Postscript_ which is
technically AH but still reads as bad SF:
http://groups.google.com/group/soc.history.what-if/msg/4818e9f4ad484fd0

- Syd

davea...@yahoo.com

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Dec 10, 2005, 1:53:11 PM12/10/05
to

I'm not really sure about that. Drawing on some foggy memories of
history, it seems that the beginnings of imperialism depend on the
means existing and being used in a small way first, then expanded as
they prove to work.

For a modern comparison, I'm sure that Blair's government is worried
about secure future supplies of oil. I'm equally sure that no one has
given more than five minutes of thought to the possibility of securing
them by conquering Saudi Arabia. Moral questions aside, the practical
means to do so are totally lacking.

However, if the Foreign Office and the DoD could say to themselves "Two
battalions of Marines and a couple hundred Mind Control Lasers and that
problem would be solved permanently", things would be very different.

Actually, I didn't think of this until you asked.

Relative to the why question: The same dim memories of the beginnings
of imperialism include someone's theory that the grand plans of the
metropolitan don't matter nearly as much as the problems and decisions
of the people on the spot, who can insist either that Someone Must Do
Something About This or that You'd Better Recognize What We Just Did.
So our British Imperial Future must include lots of Brits around the
world willing and able to act as freebooters and/or freelance defenders
of civilization...


Best,

David Allen

davea...@yahoo.com

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Dec 10, 2005, 2:18:09 PM12/10/05
to

France and the Netherlands also have that. So do Russia and China,
depending on what you mean by "previously".

> Cultural advantage in having polyglot cities as recruiting
> bases for a born-again Foreign & Colonial Office?

France and the Netherlands again, plus the US. Possibly Russia and
China also.

> Or Cultural advantage
> in having Oasis and Blur to lead a second British Invasion?

Actually, I considered something like this. Would you consider global
dominance in wealth and culture as the Next British Empire? It would
probably be necessary for your financial imperialism model, anyway.

>
> > No other kind of advantage would last long enough. So:
> >
> > In the day of CNN and the Internet, what kind of advantage does the UK
> > get, and how does it keep it? What kind of crisis would make the Brits
> > reinvent themselves, Meiji-Restoration style? And...
>
> A Meiji-style restoration? I love it. The circumstance leading up to
> it and the form it would take present quite a challenge.
>
> I'm imagining a coup. It could be military or more subtle. More subtle
> is good because the new regime, 'New Tories' or 'unLabour' or whatever
> they call themselves, will have legitimacy but will still need a
> distraction. A focus abroad - the building of a Greater Britain, a
> combined nationalistic and morale crusade - would be a useful way of
> absorbing the attentions of idealists who might otherwise sit at home
> and criticise the government.

Actually, I was thinking about the cultural aspects of the MR, rather
than the political ones. It's the most striking example of a country
and a culture reinventing itself.

But what, other than a major military defeat, could make the UK
reinvent itself?

I may have to bite the bullet and post my scenario even if it does
sound silly.

>
> There is probably a less cynical scenario that would work, too.
>
> > **What kind of language do you use to write about this??**
>
> This is another good question. So far, in the past year's project to
> gentrify a.h.f we've mostly tried to extrapolate from the present a
> sparse description of a plausible future.
>
> [snip]
>
> > *Does this group have an equivalent to DBWI? PFHA, for Possible Future
> > History Article?
>
> Writing from a future sense sounds interesting, particularly if done
> from the perspective of a historian. Not sure how it would work in
> practice. The Webb style, of writing from a human, 'you are there'
> style is more problematic - it could come across as inferior science
> fiction.
>
> A case in point is _Foundation and Huns - Postscript_ which is
> technically AH but still reads as bad SF:
> http://groups.google.com/group/soc.history.what-if/msg/4818e9f4ad484fd0
>
> - Syd

Best,

David Allen

Noel

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Dec 16, 2005, 7:16:06 PM12/16/05
to

---Well, here's the thing: we live in a democratic age, which
the 19th Century decidedly was not. Legitimacy matters, both
at home and abroad. How do you make permanent control over
the affairs of other people legitimate?

This stuff matters --- it's why the Soviet Union fell apart --- and
it's why Tom Clancy novels seem so silly.

It's not just means and motive, although it isn't all that easy to
come up with those either. It's means, motive, and legitimacy.
Without that last you get the kind of half-assed pseudo-imperial
thing that the French sporadically do in West Africa.

Looking forward to your scenario,

Noel

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