WI President Leonard Wood

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by John Fredrick Parker, Oct 10, 2017.

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  1. John Fredrick Parker Donor

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    What if Wood got the GOP nomination in 1920, with Warren Harding chosen as his running mate? How does this affect American economic, social, and foreign policy in the 1920's?

    Would America join the League of Nations; if so, is the League made more effective or otherwise changed ("Americanized")? Would farmers get better assistance; would organized labor fare better; less economic inequality? Would the height of white supremacy (the Klan, etc) be unaffected, or do civil rights do even a little better? And how does all this, in turn, affect the coming of the Great Depression and the rise of militarism in Japan and Germany? And are there knockoff political effects?

    (Man, it's been years since we discussed this PoD...)
     
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  2. Pug Biaggi/Traficant 2020

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    I would mention something, but at this point it's best not to...
     
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  3. Mikestone8 Well-Known Member

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    Not much. It would be the same Congress, and they wouldn't be looking for much change. Iirc Harding pretty much left foreign policy to Secretary Hughes, who ws firmly in the mainstream.

    By Nov 1920 the Senate had voted on the League of Nations three times - and rejected it three times. It was pretty much beyond resurrection.
     
  4. David T Well-Known Member

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    I know these are big *ifs* but *if* the Republicans nominate a candidate who says "the League is OK if they make certain changes in the Covenant, especially a specific exemption from any obligation of the US under Article Ten" and *if* the League is willing to make such changes: Might not lots of Republicans who voted "No" decide that the League was *now* acceptable ("it's not Wilson's League any more")? And joined with Democrats who, once Wilson was no longer president, felt free to say that a watered-down League was better than none at all, they would be enough to ratify.
     
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  5. bguy Donor

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    What about President Wood's foreign policy? IOTL he seems to have been dissatisfied by the Washington Naval Treaty. (Per Jack Lane's biography of Wood, "Armed Progressive, General Leonard Wood" Wood described the United States as "hamstrung in the Pacific" by the treaty and felt the U.S. had come off second best from it. If President Wood takes a harder line in the treaty negotiations than Harding did IOTL the Washington Conference might fail altogether, leading to a naval arms race between the U.S. and Japan in the '20s.

    Also any thoughts on who Leonard Wood's vice president would be? Assuming Wood dies more or less at the same time as he did IOTL that person will become president sometime in Wood's second term and thus presumably be elected to a full term in 1928. This probably won't change things much as to how the U.S. reacts to the Depression itself (as Wood was a progressive his veep will probably have to be a conservative and thus is unlikely to adopt any policies more radical than anything Herbert Hoover attempted), but having a different president than Herbert Hoover could make a huge difference in how the U.S. reacts to any Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Hoover was (with the possible exception of William Borah) the most pacifistic possible Republican president in 1931 and wasn't willing to even risk sanctions on Japan when they invaded Manchuria. A different president will almost certainly be more hawkish than Hoover and might well take a much harder line against Japan (as was counseled IOTL by Henry Stimson), and while I don't see the U.S. public supporting direct U.S. military intervention, sanctions against Japan could certainly be passed.

    If such sanctions lead to war with Japan (which is not out of the question if U.S.-Japanese relations are already bad following a failed Washington Conference and a 1920 arms race) then the war might even make it possible for the Republicans to win the 1932 election (based on a combination of the Rally Around the Flag effect and the economy improving from the war spending.) The impact from the Republicans winning in 1932 is staggering since it means no New Deal and possibly continued conservative dominance of the Supreme Court for another generation.
     
  6. bguy Donor

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    Interesting. Harding's health isn't great, so it's very likely he predeceases Wood. If Harding dies in 1925/1926 (we'll assume he lives a little longer than OTL since the Vice Presidency is a much less stressful position), and Wood dies on schedule in 1927 then the Secretary of State becomes President. There's a decent chance that Henry Stimson is Secretary of State at that time since Stimson is a Republican foreign policy guru with views similar to Wood and thus would be a likely choice for President Wood.

    As long as the economy is doing well in 1928 then Stimson should be able to easily win a term of his own that year. (Stimson proved a pretty poor candidate IOTL the one time he tried to run for elective office, but unless the butterflies have gone completely nuts the Republican presidential candidate in 1928 would have to be caught with a live boy and a dead girl to have any chance of losing.) And President Stimson will definitely take a hard line against any Japanese invasion of Manchuria. (IOTL President Hoover forced Stimson to delete a passage in a speech where Stimson was prepared to say the U.S. would join the League of Nations in any embargo it wanted to impose on Japan, so clearly Stimson wanted to impose economic sanctions.) Does 1931 Japan back down if faced with an embargo or will they choose war?
     
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  7. John Fredrick Parker Donor

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    @bguy Harding could live even longer (past 1928) without the stress of his first term, just as Wood is likely to die sooner (though for our purposes, still after 1924).

    The question of what Japan does differently is a fascinating one -- here, they're facing the prospect of a naval arms race with the US in the preceding decade, and the incident itself was pretty fungible otl as is. Maybe (and this is me spitballing here) but maybe with the Navy getting more prestige, the Japanese Army is more reigned in by the time the depressin hits, preventing the Second Sino-Japanese War entirely.
     
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  8. GunsCarsGuitars Modern day folk hero

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    Would there still be an Army base named after him?
     
  9. Colonel Grubb Tetsudo Otaku

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    Without the WNT (or something approaching it), internal Japanese politics and how it develops is significantly altered - and Japanese foreign policy in the process. However that would also influenced by what Britain/Commonwealth does in this regard; I think it would be unlikely the Anglo-Japanese alliance is renewed in anything approaching what it was, if at all, but some sort of understanding/coherent policy could probably be reached in London.

    The naval race in the Pacific reaches a 'break point' in September 1923 and the Kanto quake. This stops the IJN's program cold. I don't believe the USN is much better, as articulated here:
     
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  10. David T Well-Known Member

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    I don't think Congress was in the mood for a naval arms race with Japan and the UK in the 1920's. Two pieces of evidence for this: (1) The Five Power Treaty, despite the admirals' dislike of it, was not the controversial part of the Conference agreements--that was the Four Power Treaty, which was approved by the Senate by only 67 to 27 (a five -vote margin) and only with a reservation emphasizing that there was "no commitment to armed force, no alliance, and no obligation to join in any defense." By contrast, support for the Five Power Treaty was almost unanimous. (2) The US never built all the ships it could have under the treaty.

    IMO the sacrifices which aroused the Big Navy men's ire about the treaty were more apparent than real. As Richard Leopold put it in a standard textbook, *The Growth of American Foreign Policy* (p. 444) "None of the predreadnoughts that were scrapped would ever have steamed again in the battle line, while most of the leviathans then building under the act of 1916 would probably have been abandoned in a few years for want of funds. Ever since 1899 Congress had refused to erect a Far Eastern Gibraltar in Guam or the Phillipines. The Washington Conference accepted a situation; it did not create one." Nor, Leopold points out, can one say with assurance that the US could have achieved the world's greatest navy--this would have required "the building program of 1916 and still more"...

    As I wrote in a post here a few years ago, "The US certainly had the *potential* for naval dominance, but it is doubtful that public opinion would have sustained the high taxes necessary to bring it about. According to Thomas A. Bailey, in *A Diplomatic History of the American People,* 1980 edition, (p. 641), 'Senators Lodge and Underwood bluntly informed Hughes that Congress, ever-conscious of the taxpayer, would not vote additional burdens in order to attain the costly and unnecessary honor of ruling the waves.' He also quotes a newspaper to the effect that 'The thought of a national debt second to none isn't quite so thrilling as the thought of a navy second to none.'" https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...on-naval-treaty-who-wins.303113/#post-8594518
     
  11. John Fredrick Parker Donor

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    @Colonel Grubb Wasn't the Anglo-Japanese Alliance effectively done with by the time the WNC began in late 1921? (I know it was officially done in 1923, but AIUI Britain had already signaled that it was dead letter mid 1921.)
     
  12. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    Had the Japanese embarked on the building program they sketched out before the WNT several things would have happened. while the USA did not want a naval arms race, if the Japanese went full out the US would respond. Also, Japan simply could not afford the program they laid out, Kanto earthquake or not. I expect that the US would have improved fortifications on Wake, Midway and Guam sooner than OTL as these were forbidden under the WNT and would not be even contemplated until after the treaty expired OTL.
     
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  13. bguy Donor

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    Is that still true though if the American president is someone who is really committed to US naval dominance and is willing to spend his political capital and use the bully pulpit to make that happen? Leonard Wood isn't Warren Harding or Calvin Coolidge. Wood is going to want a big navy and will probably make it one of his top legislative priorities. And especially if his admirals tell Wood that the US battle line is outgunned by the Japanese as Wood has been worried about the Japanese since at least the Russo-Japanese War (which Wood predicted Japan would win.) If the President is forcefully calling for a big navy and playing up what a threat the Japanese are that could do a lot to shift public opinion.
     
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  14. Mikestone8 Well-Known Member

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    Only if it was what public opinion wanted to hear. The bully pulpit only works when you're swimming with the current.
     
  15. bguy Donor

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    True, but it's not as though it would be that difficult to get the 1920s U.S. public to hate and fear the Japanese. (Consider the 1924 Immigration Act which specifically excluded Japanese immigration). And it will be especially easy to stir up public opinion against Japan if the Japanese are blamed for the failure of the Washington Naval Conference. (Which could easily happen if Wood insists on the U.S. having a 2-1 ratio over Japan at the conference, since a 2-1 U.S. ratio will seem perfectly reasonable to the American public (the U.S. has to divide its fleet between two oceans after all) but will likely prove a deal killer to the Japanese.)

    At any rate even if President Wood ultimately fails to convince Congress to fund a naval build-up, just his attempting to do so would probably poison relations with Japan. Indeed that is probably the scenario that makes a U.S.-Japanese war the most likely since the U.S. will have angered the Japanese without building up the strength necessary to make it obvious to Japan that attacking the U.S. would be a grave mistake.
     
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  16. Emperor Julian Apostata

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    If Wood runs a tighter ship than Harding, which seems likely, then the Republicans will probably do better with fewer scandals to drag them down.
     
  17. Emperor Julian Apostata

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    They took big losses in 1922.
     
  18. thekingsguard Founder of Korsgaardianism

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    One thing to remember - both Leonard Wood and John Pershing were vocal opponants of Wilson segregating the military and federal services, and stood up for the rights of black veterans.

    While not as vocal as Pershing, or as beloved, a President Wood likely would have rolled back the worst of Wilson's actions, which would have a notable impact on the African-American community.

    Some limited civil rights may be pushed for - again, Pershing was much more vocal - but even if Wood stopped at ending segregation at the federal level, that's a huge victory for Civil Rights, one that would be denied until Truman in OTL.
     
  19. John Fredrick Parker Donor

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    Good point; not sure what taking less of a hit in the House changes, but the Senate losses look like they could be pretty much butterflied out with a five point difference.
     
  20. bguy Donor

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    If the Teapot Dome Scandal is avoided then Theodore Roosevelt Jr. probably wins the 1924 New York Gubernatorial election. (The election was relatively close IOTL even with the scandal dogging TR Jr., so a scandal free TR, Jr. should win.) That might very well keep FDR from ever being president since if TR Jr. wins reelection in 1926 and runs again in 1928 then it is going to be very difficult for FDR to win the Governorship in 1928 running against an incumbent governor with a famous name during a time of prosperity. FDR could certainly go on to win the New York Governorship in 1930 but would two years be enough time to make him a viable presidential prospect in 1932? (Yes, Wilson ascended to the presidency after only two years as governor, so its not impossible, but I've always gotten the impression that FDR was considered something of a light weight until his time as New York Governor, so he probably needs those two extra years in Albany to make himself appear a viable presidential prospect.)

    And of course if Al Smith loses the 1924 gubernatorial race then he almost certainly won't be the Democratic candidate in 1928. That means any Democratic loss that year won't be blamed on Smith's Catholicism, which might enable a Catholic to get elected president earlier than 1960. (Maybe we see President Frank Murphy or President James Farley elected around 1940.)