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The purpose was to "show the flag", as a "good will" courtesy gesture. The real motive, of course, was a raw display of power:
... the Great White Fleet showed that, without having to fire a shot, the US Navy could take control of the seas with an overwhelming display of naval might, and it demonstrated the practical import of Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan's theories on the use of sea power to project global power. Since Japan had arisen as a major sea power with the 1905 annihilation of the Russian fleet at Tsushima, the deployment of the Great White Fleet was therefore intended, at least in part, to send a message to Tokyo that the American fleet could be deployed anywhere, even from its Atlantic ports, and would be able to defend American interests in the Philippines and the Pacific.The message was unmistakeable: the Japanese (and assorted others) should pay heed, and not get uppity. The message worked for a few years, but the passing of a generation dissipated the coal smoke and pageantry, as the battleships at Ford's Island were to discover.
I've been wondering about the new push for Gun Control. The panic buying of both guns and ammunition suggest that the populist path is the other path - no new laws. What we see is no different from what the Politicians in both parties see. It looks to us like they're playing with fire, conjuring a repeat of the 1994 elections. It also looks to me that they see it differently. Strange, that. So what gives?
Via Arnold Kling, we find an interesting essay by Angelo Codevilla that I think partly explains things:
Thus by the turn of the twenty first century America had a bona fide ruling class that transcends government and sees itself at once as distinct from the rest of society – and as the only element thereof that may act on its behalf. It rules – to use New York Times columnist David Brooks’ characterization of Barack Obama – “as a visitor from a morally superior civilization.” The civilization of the ruling class does not concede that those who resist it have any moral or intellectual right, and only reluctantly any civil right, to do so. Resistance is illegitimate because it can come only from low motives.Kling pairs this with Megan McArdle's much discussed essay on the New Mandarins:
And like all elites, they believe that they not only rule because they can, but because they should. Even many quite left-wing folks do not fundamentally question the idea that the world should be run by highly verbal people who test well and turn their work in on time. They may think that machine operators should have more power and money in the workplace, and salesmen and accountants should have less. But if they think there’s anything wrong with the balance of power in the system we all live under, it is that clever mandarins do not have enough power to bend that system to their will. For the good of everyone else, of course. Not that they spend much time with everyone else, but they have excellent imaginations.I think that both capture the Class Warfare aspects of the situation. Which explains why the progressives have let the Great White Gun Control Fleet sail: their ideological opponents, like Japan of Teddy Roosevelt's day - need a demonstration of Power, to remind them to keep their place.
We shall soon see if they've done the groundwork that the Navy Department did a century ago. It was a lot easier to set up coaling stations in the days before Global Warming hysteria.
Long time readers know the depth of my contempt* for those who consider themselves to be our Intellectual Betters. In particular, I find that they're astonishingly ignorant of history, and unable to plan further than two election cycles.
To the history: the Great White Fleet was an utter failure. Japan took the side of Great Britain in the Great War - entering the conflict in 1914, fully three years before the United States did. The Royal Navy was then the strongest in the world, and Japan chose sides well - rather than dealing with His Majesty's Dreadnoughts off of Singapore, they gobbled up German possessions in China, the Marianas, Carolines, and Marshalls. Quick Loot of Empire, no fuss and no muss.
Teddy's squadron had nothing to do with this. After the War To End All Wars, the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 tried to fix power relations in amber (an ever perennial dream of the Progressive Elites), with Japan relegated to second class status. Again, the Great White Fleet had nothing to do with this, but was the result of war exhaustion. And fifteen years later saw the march of Japanese arms across Southeast Asia. As the Bard said, the fleet's voyage was a tale told by an idiot, full of sound a fury, signifying nothing. But it made Progressives feel good about themselves.
The panic buying of firearms is all it should take for Progressives to see the futility in their Great White Fleet's voyage. We're seeing defiance not just from individual citizens, but from law enforcement agencies and even entire States. They might ponder on whether that, too, is a display of power. If they are as smart as they claim, they will not need to ponder that for long.
And so to the inability of this "elite" to plan more than a couple of election cycles. The raw exercise of power that their proposed laws envision (including home inspections without a warrant and the likely implementation of universal registration via subterfuge) has made their intent plain for all to see. Thankfully, we won't have to hear tripe like "nobody is going to confiscate your guns" anymore, now that the Governor of New York, a Senator from California, and the Legislatures of Colorado and Minnesota have mooted precisely that.
And that moment of clarity is reflected in panic buying. That panic buying is as bad (perhaps worse) in Blue States, so this can't be painted as Republican-Democrat. How do the "Elite" think that this will play out?
They think that they can enmesh gun owners (not members of the "Elite") in a web of laws that will trip them up, criminalize them, strip them of their rights (as felons offending against obscure and impossible to anticipate new laws). They see this as intimidating these members of the "not Elite".
I think that it will enrage the members of the "not Elite". I think that it already has, and that this rage will take a generation to pass. That's some "smart" analysis from the new Mandarin class, right there.
In Japan, Katō Kanji led the opposition to the Washington Naval Treaty, with a whole faction that became increasingly energized against the West. In his view, what had started as a demonstration of force by Roosevelt's Great White Fleet had become an insufferable burden imposed by his successors. But even more so, he saw that the treaty was not a statement of strength, but rather one of weakness. He saw that the West was unwilling to enforce the terms of the treaty with cordite and steel.
And so fifteen years later the Imperial Japanese Army annexed Manchuria.
How many of today's Progressives think on how many law enforcement officers - and departments, and States - will simply refuse to implement their new laws? To ask the question is to answer it. Indeed, it is to conjure Orwell:
The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while asking the military and law enforcement to risk their lives to implement your ridiculous philosophy, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.The grand futile gesture is one beloved of Progressives. I expect that the best case that they can expect from their Gun Control push is what happened in Tokugawa Japan, when the Shogun banned firearms: the Daimyo pretended to comply, and the Shogun pretended to believe them. Worst case, we will see a later day Katō Kanji, likely as Governor of a State.
* using McArdle's terminology, I am [cough] highly verbal who always took tests well and was able to get my work in on time. I also chafe under rules imposed by people who I think are a lot dumber than I, which is why I left government work after a couple of years and have spent my career at startups. I've been surrounded by exceptionally smart, highly motivated people who Made It All Up as they went along, and so we were able to create the future (of sorts). I don't intend to start tugging my forelock to someone whose Daddy pulled strings to get them into Princeton.