Academics use the wonderful term "counterfeit" to describe "what-if" situations, useful exercises for thinking about strategy, and developing credible responses to possible military and political scenarios. Your tax dollars fund hundreds of such exercises each year at the Pentagon. In fact, there is a branch of long-term planning, called "scenario analysis", which is based on the development of whole chains of arguments and point / counterpoint analysis and reaction to conditions that might appear plausible but could not be prove plausible. happen in the future – and we better be prepared for them by giving them some foresight.
If this is too abstract, consider some of the examples cited by Jeff Greenfield in his masterful 43-When Gore Beat Bush, a political fable, recently published as Kindle Single by Amazon. Greenfield, who is known to television viewers as a commentator and a soothing and intelligent voice in news programs on the web, calls his work a chapter in the "house of alternative history" and takes us to several rooms in this house:
"Jacqueline Kennedy did not enter the door on December Sunday in 1960," Greenfield writes, "to see her husband at church, so the suicide bomber parked outside the Kennedy home triggers his dynamite and John Kennedy is killed before Lindon Johnson, with a completely different understanding of foreign policy and power diplomacy, was also in command during the Cuban Missile Crisis. "
Here's another gem that Greenfield has prepared: "Robert Kennedy's son-in-law enters the ballroom of a Los Angeles hotel on a main night in 1968 a few minutes earlier and so happens between Kennedy and Sirhan Sirhan in this kitchen, and Kennedy and his presidential campaign survive and triumph. "
Lastly: "At a key debate in 1976, President Gerald Ford realized that he was missing the error of Soviet rule in Poland and spared his campaign in a crucial week of pain, thereby changing the outcome of the Carter-Ford election. "
There is a long tradition in fiction, Greenfield reminds us, stretching back centuries, from a similar “what if” thinking. It is a classic tool for the novelist to create stories that deeply engage readers. Think of Philip Roth The plot against America , in which aviator and national hero Charles Lindbergh is running for the presidency, with disastrous results from his seduction by Nazi engineering tycoons. And another pair of novels written with somewhat similar main story frames, though not of the same literary quality as Roth – Robert Harris homeland and Philip K. Dick The man in the high castle, both fictional tales of Nazi victories in World War II, victories in which the entire world is consumed by the nightmarish Third Reich.
We are all ready to believe that history is not deterministic. The world would probably be different if Oswald had missed it. The world would certainly be different if John Wilkes Booth had missed it. And now Jeff Greenfield asks us how different the world would be if Gore had defeated Bush back in 2000?
Well, you bet it would have been a different place and a different story, and that was a damn near thing. I personally remember this battle and was deeply intrigued by the Greenfield premises. I was soon glued to my Kindle while reading his book. Here's just a little excerpt from the Kindle site to adjust your appetite without giving away anything that will spoil the story:
"At 5:00 PM on September 11, 2001, the crippled but composed President Al Gore walked into the White House's eastern room to broadcast a televised address to the nation. He was accompanied by former presidents Clinton and Bush. As Texas Governor. Bush flew to Washington from Dallas by military aircraft, his first visit back to the capital after a close race that lost him to the presidency just months ago.
That's not how you remember it?
Imagine if the 2000 presidential election turned out to be different and Al Gore defeated George W. Bush to become the 43rd president of the United States. How can events play out? Would Osama bin Laden emerge as the big one? Would the 9/11 attacks be even worse? Would we invade Iraq? Would the economy plunge into recession? "
Some readers may recall in that ancient epoch before e-books that Jeff Greenfield wrote a masterful book, "Then Everything Changed, Stunning Alternative Stories of American Politics," published by Putnam in 2011, using "dead tree technology." (ie it was a paper book where you had to turn the pages, remember those?). "Speculation is not history, but it's a trick to understand like Jeff Greenfield," he writes. Publisher weekly of those efforts, a book that created a new sideline for the talented Greenfield to add to the daily work of live television news analysis.
Greenfield's work as a journalist for 30 years actually gives credence to his complex alternative stories. I imagine that in this genre, if that sense of plausibility is not immediately felt by readers, everything is lost – but it is the genius of Greenfield's design that creates the scenarios that sound real and I often find myself reading the winner in Greenfield. 43-When Gore Beat Bush, a political fable, that the version of Greenfield's story actually looks like more believable for me from a story that I remembered personally from being alert and alive and watching TV 13 years ago.
It would be unfair for both Greenfield and potential readers of this little gem to say much more about the story. Just remember that Jeff Greenfield has been hiding Beltline politics since the 1980s, and he's a very cool, calm, collected, analytical guy. You do not need to be asked to "stop your disbelief" in order to borrow John Gardner's term for this act, which is required when he voluntarily steps into the fictional world of someone else. Greenfield just grabs you and you are a believer. In fact, his fictional version of the story seems too real.
43-When Gore Beat Bush is a political fable is available on the Amazon website. This is a short book, not a full-length novel, maybe about 100 pages of "dead tree" material, for me it is a one-night-long reading where I burn midnight oil, or a two-night reading if I do so and turn off the lights at a reasonable hour.
One of the most respected political analysts in America, Jeff Greenfield has spent more than thirty years on network television, including as a commentator on CNN, ABC News and CBS and currently a presenter on PBS. I need to know , A five-time Emmy Award winner, he is a political columnist for Yahoo News and the author of more than a dozen books. He splits his time between New York and Santa Barbara.