The late President Ronald Reagan made several speeches where he referred to the subjects of aliens, specifically an alien attack as seen here speaking at the UN in 1987. The gist is that if we became aware of some sort of alien threat to us that humanity’s differences would evaporate and we would, in Lennon’s words, become a ‘brotherhood of man’.
He also apparently said that the US would aid the USSR if it were attacked by an extra-terrestrial intelligence. Gorbachev later said “I shall not dispute the hypothesis, although I think it’s early yet to worry about such an intrusion.”
The theme is used in Turtledove’s Worldwar series and in Watchmen, but do you agree with the basic premise? If, today, we became aware of an alien threat to all humans on Earth and had to unite our efforts to combat it, would humanity manage it or would we be screwed?
Ask any surviving Chetniks how well facing an overwhelmingly superior force unites people.
Could forces from “outside” bring together hostile groups in the fashion of the UK/US and USSR during WWII? Probably. But it would be no sure thing. China had a fair amount of intramural warfare during WWII. During the westward migration, the U.S. used animosity between native groups to further “pacify” hostile ones.
Reagan also said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” (Yes, I am aware it was a joke to test the microphone. It was also, given the tensions at the time, in incredibly poor taste, notwithstanding how it could be interpreted by the notoriously culturally unaware Russian intelligence services.) Has anything our former so esteemed and masterful chief executive had so say during his tenure as President, including the predicion that we would have a working impenetrable missile defense shield shortly after the turn of the century, been worthy of consideration?
I once had a British friend ask, “What is it like having a complete moron run your country?”, to which I responded with, “How many times did you guys elect Harold Wilson again?” which shut him the hell up. And then we elected George W. Bush. Twice. Well, America, fuck yeah! There is a reason the United States is pretty comprehesively despised, and it isn’t just because of the shitty McDonald’s coffee and Stallone movies we export.
What was the question again? Aliens? Like the ones in Independence Day or Rendezvous With Rama? Doesn’t matter. We would be so technologically and strategically overpowered by any alien intelligence capable of transiting interstellar space with the intent of waging war it really wouldn’t matter much whether we march shoulder to shoulder to fight the good fight or get into a nuclear war over the mineshaft gap. We would be truly and unequivocably fucked. Unless, of course, we have Jeff Goldblum with a PowerBook and Wil Smith cracking wise. Then we are totally on top of it.
Yeah, the Navy would be forced to share their cold-fusion devices with the public and other nations just so we’d have enough juice to power the laser weapons we’ll need to blast those space bugs back into the Oort cloud.
That actually isn’t what happens in the Worldwar series. In the Worldwar series, the Aliens end up taking over more than half the world, some places they rule (like Poland), see them as preferable to the alternatives, and after the original fighting, things settle into a four way cold war between the aliens, the US, USSR, and Nazi Germany.
So long as it’s a threat to all humans, sure, for the duration of the crisis you’d see unity of purpose. It wouldn’t be perfect, of course, and it would become less so if the Earth’s forces started to win (as nations would alter their priorities from survival to ensuring their place in the post-war order).
The essential condition here is that the aliens treat all humans as a nuisance to be exterminated. If they are willing to make deals with collaborators, or even plausibly pretend that they are, then you can forget about any brotherhood of man.
There are two possible reactions and that is one of them.
Human history has basically been the history of Identity with groups. Everyone else is Other. The path of unifying nations has been to find common ground and ways to make everything see themselves as American/British/Italian/Etc and minimize otherness within the desired unit.
Aliens will be the ultimate Other. Not as much difference between us when the Aliens are so completely…alien. (We better pray they’re not just Star Trek aliens who appear Human, just with different forehead ornamentation.)
However, I am also aware of two examples;
The Fall of Jerusalem to the Roman legions. The various Jewish rebel groups did not join together against Other. They fought each other to the bitter end and were all destroyed together.
The Conquest of North America, South America, etc, etc etc. When the white man appeared, the natives didn’t join together to oppose them. Indeed they completely failed to grasp that their entire paradigm had changed. Instead of seeing themselves within the larger situation, they tried to fit the ‘alien invaders’ into their own smaller situation. They tried to make alliances to get these new people on their side against their traditional foes, which led to the ruin of all.
One of my favorite bits from the *Farscape *series is toward the end when they make it to Earth and Crighton is giving the world a small shuttle to help Earth get advanced tech so that they might have a chance against the Scarrans when they come. The American team, led by Crighton’s father, don’t want to share with the rest of the world, seeking only an advantage for themselves against their traditional enemies (see above). Crighton tries to convince his father otherwise, but his exasperated father only proclaims “You’re not seeing the Big Picture!” Delicious irony that it is in fact Crighton’s father who is failing to see that there is an even bigger picture his son is worried about.
Baron Rievaulx came from a humble background to become the youngest ever Oxford Don aged 21, was a director of economics during WWII, refused to read Marx *, broke with the truckling British tradition of sending tributary troops to fight America’s wars; and had the decency to leave office long before he went wackadoodle, in marked contrast to Ronald and Lady Thatcher, who both entered that way.
Moron he was not.
An odd remark to a representative of militant state atheism.
When Gorbachev returned, I expect Cardinal Suslov made him do penance and recite ten Hail Krupskayas.
Although the major powers did call a truce, which is within the theme.
Not after, but during the US particularly during the war propagandised the Soviets as their gallant allies against Nazism; see Days of Glory etc. Reagan was also speaking specifically within the context of the Cold War, imagining teaming up or coming to the aid of a power he called an “evil empire”.
It would probably produce some impulse towards greater cooperation, but many groups and nations wouldn’t unify. And as a practical matter any race advanced enough to reach us could squash us like bugs if they were hostile, so it doesn’t really matter.
The medieval Islamic world was vastly more advanced scientifically than the Europeans, but they failed to conquer them.
Moreover, since we’re talking about different races. Human beings are smarter than polar bears but arrogant humans who went into a situation without knowing too much about who they’re facing would be in huge trouble.
We’re not talking about the difference between the literate but divisive Muslim emirates and the Catholic-led crusaders; we’re talking about the difference between a species which is highly challenged to even put people in the nearest major celestial body and cannot defend its own planet from incidental bombardment by natural hazardous objects (or even reliably identify them in time to warn against impact) and a species which has command of the enormous energies and technical capability to cross interstellar space. Even without assuming some kind of directed energy weapons or exotic technology, it would be child’s play for such a species to make the surface of the Earth temporarily uninhabitable, such as injecting massive quantities of dust into orbit, blocking sunlight and preventing any effective attack or countermeasures. Without the services of some magical group of superheroes, e.g. Tony Stark and Friends, we would be “utterly, hilariously outgunned” in such a situation.