Alas Babylon! What if...

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Eric_L, Mar 19, 2005.

  1. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    I just finished reading the book Alas Babylon by Pat Frank for the second time, the first being when I was about twelve. I was pleased to have remembered much of it, and more pleased to rediscover much more.
    Since I closed the book I've been thinking alot about what things would be like today had the story been historical rather than fictional.

    One would first have to presume that there was no nuclear winter, so bombs were few and far apart enough to avoid it. The book was released around 1959, so there is much that would have changed in history, wihtout the USA/NATO and USSR as major players...

    A few thoughts I've had;

    1) The children in the story would now be nearly sixty years old! (if they were still alive)
    2) China would own Taiwan, and possibly Japan
    3) There would have been a worldwide depression and food shortage with the loss of Ukraine and US food lasting decades. Agricultural countries would have immense wealth comparable to oil producing countries.
    4) Israel would probably occupy much of the middle east per a modern manifest destiny. (Would they have 'adopted' any surviving US carrier battle groups?)
    5) Brazil would be the manufacturing capital of the western hemisphere.
    6) The US would only now be developing roads zig-zagging between hot areas connecting new port towns to the interior.
    7) The USA would be a confederacy of CZs, mostly independant from each other, connected only by good will and tradition.
    8) 50 years old would be a high world average lifespan.
    9) Cancer rates would be off the charts. Aids would be unheard of - either undiagnosed, misdiagnosed as radiation poison or never spread by patient 0.
    10) no Cell phones, microwaves, digital clocks, velcro, cd players or even walkman were ever made.
    11) Dominant world powers would be China, Japan (if it kept China off their land), Israel and Brazil.
    12) Warlords would run Africa and parts of the middle east. Iran would own Iraq (if it were not occupied by Israel.) Packistan would be at the mercry of India.
    13) Most movies would come from Bollywood. (shiver!)
    14) Global warming would be blamed on radiation instead of emissions.
    15) There would be no war on drugs, since there would be no hughe US market to sell them in.
    16) No internet, PC or Home theaters would exist! PANIC!

    I thought it'd be fun to see others speculate on what the last 40 years would have looked like post Alas Babylon...
     
  2. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    Unfortunately I have never read this post apocalyptic novel so I can't speak to its specifics. However, there are a certain number of dangers with "what if" games (although they can be occasionally fun). One of the biggest dangers is that history does seem to operate in threads so the change of one item could spur changes impossible for us to image.

    The biggest problem with a "what-if" concerning the US and Soviet Union destroying themselves in a limited nuclear war is that we often base the resulting threads on what we know about a world where both Superpowers existed. If you retroactivitely take the US and USSR out of the geopolitical equation in the early 60's you wouldn't create a Superpower vacuum unless you take out all the Western superpowers.

    If you had created a Western superpower vacuum in the late 50's or early 60's you could have created some very interesting openings for people. You had a lot of charismatic rulers back then who were contained by the activities of the US/USSR. The elimination of the US/USSR could have allowed a Peron empire in South America, a Nasser empire in Africa and the Middle East, and opened the door for a lot of Asian leaders who might not have ordinarily had global aspirations (Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore; Mahitir Mohammid, Malaysia; Kim Il Sung, North Korea; Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam; and others) but who might have felt a need to step up if the global situation were thrown into chaos.

    Incidently, taking Nuclear Winter out of the equation is a big deal since we know a lot more about the climate and the possible impact of nuclear war now than they did in the 50's/60's where nuclear war was considered viable.

    Kenneth
     
  3. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    I'm really not sure how many H bombs it would take to create a nuclear winter environment. Of course, we could only speculate - or maybe lob a few dozen at Venus and see what happens.

    You really should read the book, it is a brief read and quite entertaining. It would make a good movie, though some of the gender/race relations would need to be PC-ified. In the story NATO is included in the carnage.
    As far as the charasmatic leaders - many were propped up by one or the other power. Particularly in Asia. It is probable that the expansion goal of China would have gone unchecked.

    At the time Japan was not yet an economic superpower. I wonder if they could have resisted China.
     
  4. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    They weren't an official superpower after the war because the US and Asia were working to keep them out of the geopolitical environment. Personally, I can't conceive of a nuclear conflict that wouldn't have included them as a target, even in the late 50's and 60's. As to whether they could have resisted China, they fought a world war less than 20 years earlier. They had rebuilt successfully due to the US occupation after the war (similar to Germany after WWI). They still had living WWII veterans and Emperor Hirohito was alive and the Emperor of Japan. If they had felt threatened by China they could have become a superpower quicker than they did after they resinded the Meiji Doctrine that locked them away from the west for the 300 years while the Shoguns were in power.


    As I said it is hard to predict what could have happened since our knowledge of the world is prefaced on conditions that you are removing in your "What-if". That said, if the conditions are that we have a limited nuclear exchange that removes Europe, the US, and the USSR from the geopolitical power structure in the late 50's here are some things that I think would have happened:

    China would probably take Hong Kong and Taiwan as targets of opportunity (possibly Tibet, but India would now play into that equation).

    China would move into the former USSR as would Pakistan (from different sides). India would capture locations in the Andaman Sea and probably move into Indo China.

    North Korea would have attacked South Korea and become one country.

    Japan (if they were not bombed) would take the Islands they ceeded to Russia after WWII and possibly move onto the Russian mainland in Kamchatka.

    Nasser would have established a Sub-Saharan Islamic state. Someone similar (possibly from Iraq or Syria) would have done the same in the Arabian Pennisula.

    South America would have consolidated under one leader (either Peron or a military leader from Brazil).

    Mexico would have expanded south and north creating a large central American empire.

    I think the world would look so different we can't even imagine the changes. You could still have technological achievements like the Internet if the Japanese create a large technological empire. You could have seen an even more antiganistic relationship between the budding empires than you did between the Superpowers. Remember that the 60's was a hotbed of nationalism and change, not just in the US so it's hard to tell where some of these changes would have gone without Superpower containment.

    Cheers,

    Kenneth
     
  5. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    You left out Israel, Considering how well they did in 67 w the six day war it may be reasonable to presume they continued all the way to the capitals and then some.
     
  6. Kevin Hewell

    Kevin Hewell Cinematographer

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    But wasn't one of the main reasons Israel was so succesful was because the US was supplying them with weapons/technical help? If the US wasn't in a position to help them how well would Israel have done?
     
  7. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    USA and NATO took a neutral position and did not funnel aid, intercede or perform missions for Israel, though the Egyptians, Syrians and Jordanians would like that history changed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-Day_War

    See the part titled 'Arab Revisionism'

    IMHO I'd speculate this;

    Without pressure from the UN, US or NATO Israel probably would have taken the capitals of each nation and annexed them. Other Arab nations may have attempted to intercede, but one could only speculate how that would have gone - particularly without the USSR supplies and the very real posibility that Israel could have gained posession of a battle group. (A devastated USA could never have kept it afloat, Israel had the money and the relationship to do a lend/lease, and wtih Arab oil it would have the resources to keep the fleet active.)
    In the book Israel appeared to have been spared the bomb, though was not specifically mentioned. I don't know enough of the politics of the time to be certain, but I don't think there would have been a strategic benefit from nukin them. The book did mention only strategic targets took a hit.
     
  8. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    Again, the time frame proposed in that novel factors into the equation. Israel has been receiving immigrants from other countries since its founding. This would have been difficult in the post apocalyptic chaos. Also, when Egypt tried to capture the Suez in the 50's they were repelled by Britain and France. Without them in the equation it is hard to tell what might have happened (another factor is without a superpower, countries might have tried blockcading Israel). Finally, I wouldn't see a large Israel empire since it would be very difficult to maintain.

    As I said, it is very difficult to play out all the variables in a what-if. Personally I think in that hypothetical world the Mideast would be just as much of a powderkeg, maybe even more. It is hard to say.

    Kenneth
     
  9. Mike Voigt

    Mike Voigt Supporting Actor

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    It also depends on whether Israel gets to the point of developing nuclear weapons. While TTBOMK never admitted to, it is widely thought that they do have one, and most probably several. That gives them a leg up on jsut about everyone in the region, and the attack on the OSIRAK reactor showd they weren't about to relinquish such a postion, or allow anyone in the region to achieve such weapons.

    With that, Israel has the possibility of blackmailing the area into at least letting it be, or more.

    This would have to be towards the end of the 60s. In the 50s, as Kenneth points out, they were trying to still achieve a viable statehood, recognition by others or not.
     
  10. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    The book time period is set after 1959 - the publishing date. There is no date mentioned in the book, but since it contains no science speculation I have to presume it is intended to be within that time period. I'm sure a military buff could use some deductions based on the military equipment used (aircraft most notably) as to what the upper possible time frame could be.

    They mention b47s, c135s and F-11-F Tigers-which holds the infamous distinction of being the first jet aircraft to shoot itself down. All of these operated from the late fifties through the sixties. I've not found any exact decomission dates.
     

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