We are all trying to get our heads around what is going on in America right now. And I always look to history to find answers.
Pictured above is Pickett’s Charge, a defining moment in the Civil War during the battle of Gettysburg. Pickett was a Confederate commander of a division which Robert E Lee sent on a frontal assault against Union forces. Lee was duped to believe that this Union position was a weak point in the Union defense despite the position being on a high ground, in the middle of a big field, with the presence of heavy artillery and a defensive stone wall built by Union forces. General Longstreet who was Pickett’s commander knew that he would suffer minimum 50% casualties during this charge and was against it. Lee overrode him. Lee’s strategy in the previous battles (which he won) was also to do frontal charges with heavy casualties. The idea was to overwhelm the firepower of the Union forces with manpower and capture their superior artillery and then use the Union’s own cannons against them. The reason for doing all of that is because the Confederates couldn’t produce their own cannons. This worked in the first few battles as Lee lost more and more manpower while acquiring firepower. Lee severely underestimated the Union defenses in Gettysburg, however, and the entire Pickett’s division was mowed down. It was a killing field. People were walking forward, getting shot at by cannons and firing squads. It was a massacre. Nearly 30,000 Confederate soldiers were mowed down that day during that charge. When Pickett came back from the field and Lee asked him to organize his division for retreat, Pickett famously said: “General, I have no division”.
During his series of reckless engagements, Robert E Lee kept telling his troops that every battle is “THE BATTLE” after which the Union would crumble. He gave significant importance to each battle to convince his soldiers and subordinate generals to go to certain death on these reckless operations. In addition, the Confederate strategy from the start was to inflict a few quick losses on the Union and get them to capitulate quickly to the independence demands of the Confederate states. Ironically, the battle of Gettysburg was 2 years into the Civil War, long past the time of “quick” engagement. But Lee’s continued on his delusional course. In Gettysburg, his latest hope was that he would win Gettysburg, march to Philadelphia, surround it and force a quick end to the war.
Robert E Lee recklessness and desire for quick outcomes is the direct opposite of George Washington’s strategy during the Revolutionary War which lasted 7 years. George Washington avoided major engagements with the British and chose to bring Britain down through a long war of attrition and guerilla warfare and hope the costs of engagement piled up for the British which would eventually force them to cut their losses and leave. Which is what happened.
The reason why I bring up Robert E Lee and George Washington today is for two reasons.
The first reason is that people, both in the US and abroad, need to understand that there isn’t one America. There are two Americas. There is Confederate America and Union America. They happen to be represented by 2 parties – Republican Party and Democratic Party. While who calls themselves a Republican and Democrat has changed over the years, the divisions nonetheless are exactly the same. One party represents the interests of Confederacy while the other party represents the interests Union. These two parties tussle for power in the United States. Since World War 2 the Republican Party has become the party of the Confederacy and has become increasingly autocratic. The have had 2 Presidents impeached for abuse of power – Nixon and Trump. In other words, the GOP no longer wants to play by democratic rules and respect the Constitution. Worse yet, GOP goals are to use the Constitution to gain power, then cancel elections and never surrender that power. You see that with Trump refusing to accept the result of the elections today and the entire Republican Party consisting of Senators from Confederate States going along with it.
This has the practical implications that there is the real and present danger that America’s large nuclear arsenal can come under the command of a cabal of irrational racist maniacs. To me, the Confederates are just as insane as Hitler. If the last 4 years of Trump don’t convince you of that, I don’t know what will. We should not forget how racist, how religious and how irrational the Confederates are. They went to a massive war to preserve slavery and slaughtered over 600,000 people in defense of that cause. This remains by far the deadliest war in American history. American elections for President don’t get decided by a popular vote. They get decided by the Electoral College which really means that 100-200,000 people in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania decide the fate of the country and who holds the US nuclear arsenal. The reality is that those 100-200,000 people don’t vote on issues such as “do we give nukes in the hands of Confederate maniacs with Hitlerian tendencies”. They vote for cutting taxes or tariffs on China or some other issue which not related to the geopolitical issue of America’s nukes. This is a five-alarm fire for the world. Nobody really worries about who controls Russia’s nuclear weapons, China’s, France’s, UK’s or Israel’s nuclear weapons. These are countries with very stable regimes from that standpoint. People worry about North Korea, Pakistan and India. And now people are worried about the United States.What is happening in America right now is shattering the world’s confidence in America’s ability to be a stable country. And the blame for that falls entirely on the Republican Party. Or should I call it, the Confederate Party. Look no further than McConnell who refuses to acknowledge Biden as a winner of the 2020 election.
The 2nd reason to look to Robert E Lee and George Washington’s examples is to evaluate America’s response to COVID. The Confederate States and the Union States take entirely different approaches to the COVID crisis. The Confederate States don’t care about casualties. Robert E Lee never cared about casualties. Slavers don’t value human life. A slave’s life or an indentured servant’s life is just an economic number. Slaves are expendable and interchangeable. That attitude permeates the Confederate States response to the crisis. They don’t care that dead men don’t do business. They only care about the business of the living men. And that is why they allow the COVID to spread. That is why they believe in their erroneous interpretation of “herd immunity” – getting everybody infected with it. “Herd immunity” is obviously a vaccination concept, not a mass murder concept like the Confederates think. Trump’s “optimism” about COVID – that “it will just go away” – is really Robert E Lee’s “this is the final battle” cry reincarnated. It’s just a delusional statement aimed at making people freely accept their own death. Trump is essentially asking people to jump from a bridge and they go and do it willingly. This is the type of hold autocratic cult leaders like Robert E Lee and Trump have. I don’t know why Confederates think that way. Maybe the sun and humidity is melting their minds. Who knows? But I don’t care why. I care that they act that way.
The Union state COVID response is obviously different, rational and resembles Western Europeans countries like France and Germany. You really have to think of Confederate America as a banana republic and Union America as a Western European state. The two have very little in common. That doesn’t mean that Union state COVID response is perfect, but at least it is based on scientific reasoning and practical considerations as opposed to misguided religion or ideology.
The Worst of COVID is Ahead
In the US yesterday, 7 states had higher daily infection rates than New York had in April. In New York, the 7-day average peaked around 7,000 in April. Yesterday, Illinois, Texas, California, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida were all around 7,000 and above. All of those state are New York in April. The country overall had 180,000 infections, the highest daily increase yet. 7-day average is 150,000 per day. You have to understand that these COVID infections reported today are people that got infected 2 weeks ago, given the virus’s incubation period. They got the virus 2 weeks ago and finally now they felt ill and went to get tested. So the numbers in the next 2 weeks will be massive and will continue to double up. There is still mostly no restriction to mobility anywhere in the US, particularly in Confederate States. So COVID will continue to burn and overwhelm hospital systems. The problem with COVID in America is that there are 2 response. And half the country has basically chosen to do nothing about it. It is the most bewildering thing if you look at this situation as a Western European or as a Chinese.
The worst is yet to come and 2021 will as bad with COVID as 2020 was. Hopefully, we get enough vaccines to inoculate the doctors and nurses. But beyond that, the death we will see in the next 6 months will be monumental. This is despite all the medical improvements over the summer. What will happen is hospitals will get overrun with COVID and people will die from non-COVID issues simply because health care is rationed. This is already happening in Wisconsin and Illinois. The IHME model projects 440,000 deaths by March and without national mask mandate they see nearly 600,000 deaths. We are not getting a mask mandate while Trump is around so you have to assume the higher number. We just hit 250,000 deaths after 10 months of COVID. Over the next 5 months, we will double it.
I know everybody wants this to be over and to go back to January 2020 quickly. I know everybody wants to believe in Robert E Lee promise – “the next battle is the final battle”. But that is not how it works in real life. The Union proved to be a resilient enemy and COVID has proven to be a resilient enemy. It mutates. The COVID virus that is ravaging Europe now is a strain that came from a mink farm in Spain. Who would’ve thought that? The vaccines will be always behind the new strains. It is important for Americans to lose their irrational “optimism” and their Robert E Lee-like delusions and face reality. And the reality is grim. The Civil war didn’t last 10 months. It lasted 4 years. And so will COVID pandemic. For all practical purposes, 2021 will be just as bad as 2020 from a COVID and economic perspective – without obviously the initial shock. But COVID will remain with us in a material way.