The big question of the day seems to be: “Should the USA intervene in other countries’ civil wars?” Should we help the government quash the rebels, or should we help the rebels overthrow the government? Who are the good guys and who are wearing the black hats?

One might wonder whether we have had any experience in our own history that would help us. The answer is yes, we had our own civil war. The government side, known as the United States of America, was opposed to foreign intervention, while the rebel side, called the Confederate States of America, actively sought foreign assistance.

Well, what the heck happened? Britain and France considered recognizing the Confederacy until Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, after which both nations backed away so as not to be seen as supporting slavery. Nonetheless, the South purchased naval vessels from England, built and armed in Liverpool.

The most famous one, CSS Alabama, captured or sank 65 Union ships on the high seas, causing the entire American whaling fleet to put into port. As a result, the era of wooden sailing ship building in Maine ended; after the war ships were mainly iron steamships.

Based on American history, we might come to disapprove of foreign intervention in civil wars, leaving us with serious questions about the wisdom of involving ourselves in Syria.

Tom Feagin


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