The First, Second and Third Reich

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2014

History 101

The Holy Roman Empire was the First German Reich

At the height of the Roman Empire the Mediterranean Sea was a Roman Lake.  For the Romans controlled all the land around the Mediterranean Sea.  As the Roman Empire controlled most of the civilized world.  From Africa to Britain.  From Spain to the Middle East.  And its presence in Europe would shape Europe and the world we know today.  But before the Romans could shape our world the barbarians had to destroy theirs.

The northern frontier of the Roman Empire ran along the Rhine and Danube rivers.  West of the Rhine and south of the Danube was the civilized Roman Empire.  On the other side of those rivers were the Ostrogoths, the Visogoths and the Vandals.  Barbarians.  Germanic people.  Who would sweep down (along with the Huns from Central Asia) and conquer the Western Roman Empire.  With a Germanic chieftain, Odoacer, deposing the last Roman emperor in the West.  Romulus Augustus.

After about 3 centuries Charlemagne, King of the Franks (Germanic tribes in and around modern day France), would unify Western Europe.  In a Christian kingdom.  Pleasing Pope Leo III.  Who went on to crown Charlemagne emperor of the Roman Empire.  But after he died his empire broke apart.  Meanwhile to the east Otto I was unifying the Germanic tribes into a single kingdom.  A German empire that stretched from northern Italy to the North and Baltic seas.  Encompassing a huge swathe of Central Europe (including but not limited to modern day Germany, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Switzerland, France (eastern lands), Italy and Poland).  A Christian empire.  Pleasing Pope John XII.  Who crowned Otto emperor.  And the First Reich (the first German empire) became the Holy Roman Empire.

Winning the Franco-Prussian War ushered in the Second German Reich

The First Reich would last for about 850 years.  Coming to an end in 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, abdicated after fighting and losing to Napoleon.  Who reorganize it into the German Confederation.  And reduced the First Reich to a French satellite.  Up until this time there were two large powers in the Reich vying for power.  Austria in the south.  And Prussia in the north.  Otto von Bismarck was a Prussian.  And Prussia was a militaristic nation.  That believed less in diplomacy and more in power.  And Bismarck would use force to unite the German states into a Prussian-dominated Germany.  While getting rid of its rival.  Austria.

War followed.  The Austro-Prussian War (1866) ended the German Confederation.  Prussia replaced the German Confederation with North German Confederation that excluded Austria.  This confederation included much of the northern lands of the First Reich.  To sooth the feelings between the north (led by Prussia) and the south (led by Austria) Bismarck made the French declare war on Prussia.  And when they did the southern German states sided with Prussia.  The Prussians and Germans moved quickly into northern France.  And after a long siege of Paris the Germans won the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871).  They took back a lot of lands lost to France.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  Much to the chagrin of the French.  And unified the German states into a German Empire.  The Second Reich.

The German Empire industrialized.  Greatly increasing its economic and military might.  Shifting the balance of power in Europe.  Germany was now the most powerful nation in Europe.  Which concerned the other powers of Europe.  So they began to enter treaties with each other.  Such that if Germany attacked one nation another nation (or nations) would declare war on Germany.  To provide a deterrent against German aggression.  And rebalance the balance of power in Europe.  But then Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, traveled to Sarajevo.  Where Gavrilo Princip assassinated him.  Pushing the first domino in a sting of dominos to fall as all of Europe honored their treaties.

The Third Reich was the Largest and Shortest-Lived German Reich

Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia.  In support of Austria-Hungary Germany invaded Belgium and Luxembourg on their way to France.  Causing the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany.  In support of Serbia Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary.  Allying with France and the United Kingdom.  The Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia.  Then nation after nation joined a side and entered the war.  Even the United States.  By the time it was all over some 16 million people were dead.  As were the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and German empires.  The map of Europe changed.  And the Second Reich was over.  Having lasted 47 years.  Large chunks of the Second Reich were taken away.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  And much of Prussia.  Which was restored to Poland.  Which infuriated a lot of Germans.  Especially one German war veteran in particular.  A corporal.  Adolf Hitler.

World War I ended in an armistice.  Meaning that no one surrendered.  But the American entry into the war pretty much meant that the Germans were going to lose.  All the nations had long grown weary of the war.  But here was a fresh nation that could field fresh troops against Germany.  Which was exhausted.  It had nothing left.  Which gave the Allies the upper hand in the peace that followed.  And it was a bitter peace for the Germans.  Who were singled out as the sole responsible party for the war.  Well, one thing led to another and Adolf Hitler inaugurated the Third Reich.  And he set about retrieving all that lost German territory.  He annexed Austria.  The Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.  Then he took the rest of Czechoslovakia.  A country that conveniently ran along the southern border of Poland.  And then he kicked off World War II.

The Third Reich invaded Poland.  Norway.  The Low Countries.  France.  And the Soviet Union (the former Russian Empire).  Reclaiming all lost German lands.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  And unifying them once again.  Even adding on to them.  Through the use of force.  The Prussian way.  The Third Reich was the largest German Reich yet.  But it was the shortest lived Reich.  Lasting only 12 years.  By the time World War II was over some 70 million people were dead.  Making the Third Reich the bloodiest Reich.  The Allies helped to rebuild West Germany (East Germany was behind the Iron Curtain) to keep her out of the Soviet Sphere.  To give it a thriving free market economy.  And prosperity.  By providing full employment.  Which also helped to prevent gangs of unemployed young men from getting nationalistic fervor.  Again.  West Germany integrated into the west.  Away from the Soviets.  And away from her Prussian past.

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Geopolitics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 27th, 2014

Politics 101

Twice in little over One Century an Enemy Invaded and Overran Russia/the Soviet Union

On June 24, 1812, Napoleon’s Grande Armée invaded Russia.  And made it all the way to Moscow.  Which they took.  But the Russian army didn’t want anything to do with Napoleon or his Grande Armée so they kept retreating in front of it.  Foiling Napoleon’s plans of engaging and defeating the Russian army.  While drawing them deeper and deeper into Russia.  In a scorched earth retreat.  Leaving nothing for the French.  Making it difficult to feed his massive army.  Then the bitter Russian winter came.  Having expected the Russians to have sued for peace by then they had no winter clothing.  Leaving Napoleon no choice but to retreat.

On June 22, 1941, Joseph Stalin’s ally, Adolf Hitler, broke the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  And invaded the Soviet Union.  About one month later than planned due to some trouble their Italian allies were having in the Balkans.  The Nazi armies advanced through the Soviet armies and reached Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad.  Then the bitter Russian winter came.  And like the French the Germans had no winter clothing.  Having expected a victory before the onset of winter.  They tried to hold their ground as they froze and starved.  But the Soviets pushed them back.  Eventually all the way to Berlin.  But not after some 20 million Soviets died.

Twice in little over one century an enemy invaded and overran Russia/the Soviet Union.  Never again vowed the Soviets.  So when they chased the Nazis back into Berlin they kept the territory they were on after the war.  Which is why Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Albania became Soviet satellites.  Countries behind the Iron Curtain.  To provide a buffer to slow down another invasion before it reached Soviet soil.

For the Latter Part of the 20th Century the Soviets tried to extend their Communist Revolution to other Nations

Of course, following World War II it was the Soviets that had an expansionist policy.  A little thing called the communist revolution.  The assault on capitalism.  Replacing it with socialism first.  Then communism.  And as revolutions go they are fought.  With guns.  So the communist revolution was a perpetual state of war interrupted with moments of peace.  A war the Soviets forced onto their neighbors to get them to join them in their socialist/communist utopia.  Something their neighbors didn’t want.  And something their other neighbors, the Western Powers, would try to help them avoid.

The German capital, Berlin, fell in East Germany.  Berlin, however, was a city divided between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union.  The Western Allies supplied West Berlin via truck and rail transport.  Until the Soviets closed the borders.  In an effort to force West Berlin into the social utopia that was East Berlin.  Something the West Berliners wanted no part of.  So the Western Powers helped them by supplying the city via the Berlin Airlift.  Eventually the Soviets relented.  And opened the truck and rail transport into West Berlin.

The Soviets tried to spread their socialist utopia to other countries that didn’t want it.  Greece.  Turkey.  Iran.  South Korea.  The United States and the Western Powers helped these countries resist these Soviet advances.  Even fighting a shooting war on the Korean peninsula to push the Soviet and China backed North Korea out of South Korea.  So through the remainder of the 20th century the Soviets tried to extend the communist revolution to other nations.  While the United States tried to thwart their designs.  And stared each other down with their nuclear weapons in the Cold War.  Developing the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).  Meaning that any country that started a nuclear war was going to lose, too, in that nuclear exchange.  It was mutually assured but it really was a warning to the Soviets.  Who had designs on conquering other nations.  Including the United States.  Who had no designs on waging war with the Soviet Union.

Geopolitics is about the Balance of Power

To balance the threat of the Soviet Union the Western Powers formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  For Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, etc., had no chance by themselves against an attacking Soviet Union.  They did as a member of NATO, though.  Where an attack on one was an attack on all.  Which meant if the Soviets attacked the Low Countries they were also attacking France, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.  The Americans even deployed armor units in West Germany.  The Soviets replied with the Warsaw Pact.  A NATO-like organization between the Soviet Union and some of those countries in Eastern Europe they never left after the end of World War II.

And there was peace.  What we call the Pax Americana.  The American peace.  For it was the awesome might of the American military that gave NATO its teeth.  With troops deployed around the world.  Air forces stationed within striking distances of potential hotspots.  The mightiest navy ever to ply the oceans.  A huge nuclear arsenal.  And the greatest economy in the world that could pay for all of this while the American people still lived a happy and carefree life with all of the comforts a capitalist society could give.  Something the socialism/communism of the Soviet Union could not.  For the people in the Soviet sphere waited for apartments, cars and groceries.  Large extended families crowded into small apartments.  And people waited in lines at stores with empty shelves.  Which explains why the Soviets required a brutal secret police force.  The KGB.

People in the Soviet sphere who learned of how much better life was in the West tried to escape to the West.  This is why they built the Berlin Wall.  Not to keep West Berliners from sneaking into that socialist utopia inside East Berlin.  But to keep the East Berliners from escaping that socialist utopia.  For the only way you can get people to live in that socialist/communist utopia is by force.  And you have to spread the communist revolution not to make life better for people in capitalist societies.  But to destroy that better life across the border from communist societies.  To extinguish that beacon of liberty that keeps luring their people from their oppressive police state.  Something Russia is returning to.  As Vladimir Putin slowly but surely reassembles the Soviet Union.  Not to reconstitute the buffer to protect Russia from another invasion.  But simply because he wants to.  And can.  So far, at least.

Geopolitics is about the balance of power.  Some like to maintain a balance of power to keep the peace.  Like the Romans, the British and the Americans did with their Pax Romana, Pax Britannica and Pax Americana.  Where the prevailing superpower kept the peace.  While others are more interested in acquiring power than peace.  Like Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Putin.  Who didn’t have strong economies.  And used force to get what they wanted.  Raw materials.  Food.  Or a warm water port in the Crimea.  And they are always looking for a weakness in their enemies to alter the balance of power.  For they were/are masters of geopolitics.  And want to redraw the borders of the world.  To restore the former glory of a past empire.  Or to realize some glorious destiny they believe God has planned for the nation.

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Things go from Bad to Worse in the Middle East as American Allies fall on Opposite Sides of the Egyptian Power Struggle

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 24th, 2013

Week in Review

Some may think the Middle East is a homogenous region.  Where all Muslim people are the same and think alike.  But it’s not.  And they’re not.  There are huge divides between people in the Middle East.  There isn’t just tension between the United States and this region.  There’s tension between the different Muslim people.  Something President Obama apparently didn’t know with his ‘let’s make nice to Muslims so our former enemies don’t hate us’ foreign policy.  The geopolitical power struggles that exist everywhere else in the world exist, too, in the Middle East.  And you just can’t treat everyone the same (see Obama Caught Between Polarized Allies in Egypt Crisis by Terry Atlas posted 4-19-2013 on Bloomberg).

U.S. regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey are backing opposite sides in the violent power struggle in Egypt, complicating U.S. diplomacy as the most populous Arab nation is torn by conflict.

In pressing Egypt’s interim government — and the military leaders who hold the real power — for political reconciliation with Islamist protesters, President Barack Obama is finding that U.S. influence is being challenged by financial and political support from Middle East countries pursuing their own stakes in Egypt’s future…

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have pledged billions of dollars in aid to the new Egyptian government. Qatar was a financial backer of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi’s administration, and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced last week’s government crackdown on pro-Mursi protesters as a “massacre.”

“What Qatar and Turkey say is almost a 180-degree opposite of what the Emirates and the Saudis are saying publicly,” Katulis said.

There was a balance of power in the Middle East.  And because there was a balance of power there was peace in the Middle East.  And there was one man instrumental in keeping that peace.  Hosni Mubarak.  American friend and ally.  And friend of our other friends and allies in the region.  Those who want to maintain the balance of power.  And the peace.  And our friends were not happy when President Obama told Hosni Mubarak he had to go.  Especially Saudi Arabia.  Who is trying to check the spread of radical Islamism spreading in the region.  Something Mubarak did.  Because he and his allies and friends didn’t want radical Islamism spreading through the region.  And neither does the United States.

Yet President Obama threw the one man that was instrumental in suppressing Islamist revolution in the region, by suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, under the bus.  And did nothing as the Muslim Brotherhood rose to power.  Even recognizing the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood as the legitimate ruler of Egypt.  Despite warnings from every quarter.  As the Muslim Brotherhood inspired/spawned Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda.  All anti-Western terrorist organizations.  All anti-Israeli terrorist organizations.  And all anti-American terrorist organizations.  These are the people that President Obama said the U.S. can work with.  Despite their credo being: “God is our objective, the Koran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, struggle [jihad] is our way, and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations.”  These are the people that President Obama wanted to make nice to so they would stop hating us.  Because he was naive and inexperienced.  And tended to believe a little too much of the myth-making the American media was spreading about him.

The balance of power and the peace it brought is now gone.  And the U.S. has allies falling on both sides of the Egyptian power struggle.  What a mess.  And it’s not isolated to Egypt.  The Muslim Brotherhood is spreading its tentacles throughout the region.  Making the Middle East a tinderbox.  Where it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.  Sadly.

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The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend in Egypt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 15th, 2013

Politics 101

The US supported Saddam Hussein because of the Iranian Revolution and the Iran Hostage Crisis

Remember Saddam Hussein?  He was the dictator of Iraq that the US toppled from power.  Because of intelligence reports that he had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).  In particular chemical weapons.  And the reason this intelligence was so believable is that Hussein had used chemical weapons.  Against the Kurdish people in Halabja.  In southern Kurdistan.  An act of genocide.  And the greatest chemical attack against a civilian population.  As well as against the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).

One of the requirements of the armistice that ended the Gulf War (1990-1991) was for Hussein to destroy his chemical weapons stockpile.  And document that.  With UN inspectors.  Which never happened.  So technically a state of war still existed when George W. Bush launched the Iraq War (2003-2011).  Giving all the legal authorization he needed.  But he still went to the UN.  And asked the US Congress for permission to invade.  Which they gave.  And the US-led coalition went through the Iraqi defenses like a hot knife through butter.  But never found those WMDs.  Which was pretty unbelievable.  But there was something that was even more unbelievable.  Saddam Hussein, the brutal dictator the US toppled from power, used to be a US ally.

How can this be, you ask?  How could the US ally themselves with such a bad, bad man?  Because of Iran.  Iran used to be an ally of the US.  Then came the Iranian Revolution in 1979.  And the Iran hostage crisis (November 1979-January 1981).  This marked the time Iran began calling America the great Satan.  And began their war against the West.  Especially against the US.  Hostile rhetoric.  Some state-sponsored terrorism.  And leading the anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world.  So when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran the US threw in with him.  Because the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

The Muslim Brotherhood had a Problem with Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak keeping the Peace with Israel

Now is this just petty?  Or good foreign policy?  The whole enemy of my enemy is my friend thing?  Well, it turns out that it is good foreign policy.  For the goal of foreign policy is to make things better for your country.  And in the case of Iran and Iraq the choice was clear.  To make things better for the US you allied with Iraq.  Because Iran was going full Islamist against the US.   So by helping Iraq wage war against Iran the less time and resources Iran had to further anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world.  And should Iraq win the war it would bring Iran’s oppressive theocracy to an end.  Making life better for the average Iranian.  Especially for Iranian women.

But the Iran-Iraq war ended in a stalemate.  After 8 years of bitter fighting.  But when the war was over nothing changed.  The border was right where it was before the war.  But it wasn’t all for nothing.  With the stalemate Iraq kept its Shia minority population from catching the Iranian bug.  Leaving the Sunni majority safely in the majority.  Something a lot of the Arab strongmen had in common.  Including Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser.  Who had chosen to align Egypt with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  But when Nasser died and Anwar Sadat took over he switched sides in the Cold War.  Aligning Egypt with the United States.  Even signing a peace treaty with Israel.  Something the Shia minority population did not like in the least.

The U.S. poured money into Egypt.  And made the Egyptian military a force to be reckoned with.  Making Egypt the most modern Arab state.  The most powerful.  And the most secular/Western.  Women could go to college and wear Western clothes.  Like they could in Iran before the Iranian Revolution.  Something the Shia minority population did not like.  Nor their growing political party.  The Muslim Brotherhood.  Who really had a problem with Anwar Sadat making peace with Israel.  As did the Egyptian Islamic Jihad movement.  Who assassinated Sadat (1981).  As they wanted to replace the Egyptian government with an Islamic state.  Just like the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to do.  Which is why when Hosni Mubarak succeeded Sadat one of the things he did was to continue the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood.  And oppressed and jailed its members.

The Nations interested in World Peace favor the Egyptian Military over the Muslim Brotherhood

During the height of the Roman Empire there was great world peace.  The Pax Romana (27 BC to 180 AD).  Made possible by Rome’s massive military might.  During the height of the British Empire there was great world peace.  The Pax Britannica (1815–1914).  Made possible by Britain’s massive military might.  And their unchallenged sea power.  Which let them maintain a balance of power.  For any powerful nation that threatened the peace with thoughts of attacking a weaker neighbor could not attack that neighbor without taking on the mighty British Empire.  For to maintain the Pax Britannica the British would intervene on the behalf of the weaker power.  Allowing weaker nations to live next to more powerful nations without threat of invasion.

This is what a powerful military can give you.  Peace.  If that military power is controlled by a nation interested in keeping the peace.  Which is what the Egyptian military gave Hosni Mubarak.  Under his presidency there was peace in the Middle East.  The Suez Canal was open to world trade.  Egyptian tourism thrived.  Egypt was a modern and secular nation.  Women and Christians lived with the greatest liberty and safety during the Mubarak presidency.  Because Mubarak kept the peace.  Sometimes with brutality.  Especially when it came to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Which is why there was peace in the Middle East.  And women and Christians in Egypt enjoyed liberty and safety.  Because the people who wanted to take all of that away were prevented from doing just that.  But then came the Arab Spring.  And President Obama told Hosni Mubarak that he had to go.  Instead of working with him to implement reforms to ease the tensions in Egypt.

In Egypt there are basically two political forces.  The military.  Which kept peace with Israel.  And in the Middle East.  Then there’s the Muslim Brotherhood.  Who wants to remove Israel from the map.  And install a theocracy in Egypt like they have in Iran.  When Mubarak faced open rebellion he did not turn the military onto his people.  He stepped down from power.  And the Muslim Brotherhood rushed in to fill the political vacuum.  Assuring the world that they wouldn’t do pretty much everything they did.  And one of the last things the democratically-elected Mohamed Morsi did was to give himself dictatorial powers.  Just as bad if not worse than Mubarak exercised.  Only without the peace, liberty and prosperity enjoyed under Mubarak.  Democratically elected or not a Morsi presidency did not foster democracy.  Or peace.  Just as the Muslim Brotherhood does not foster democracy or peace.  Which leaves the other political power in Egypt.  The military.  Which is why Western nations and those nations interested in world peace favor the military over the Muslim Brotherhood.  While the enemies of the West (i.e., Iran) support the Brotherhood.  Because the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

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Yorktown, North, Rockingham, Shelburne, Franco-Spanish Alliance, Vergennes, Adams, Franklin, Jay and the Treaty of Paris

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 5th, 2012

Politics 101

For the British to Maintain the Balance of Power in Europe an Independent America actually Helped Them

The war wasn’t over with Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown.  But his surrender changed everything.  The continuing war was becoming more and more unpopular in Britain.  And costly.  Britain was fighting four wars.   One with the Americans.  One with the French.  One with the Spanish.  And one with the Dutch.  The debt was growing so great that there were discussions about suspending some interest payments.  The British wanted out of these wars.  The opposition blamed Lord North for the latest debacle at Yorktown.  The Prime Minister resigned.  His government fell.  And the opposition took power.

The new Prime Minister, Lord Rockingham, had favored American independence.  His foreign secretary, Charles James Fox, had favored American independence.  In fact, those who had favored American independence filled all cabinet positions.  Except for one.  The Secretary of Colonial Affairs.  Lord Shelburne.  Fox and Shelburne did not much care for each other.  They quarreled.  Each having their own idea of how they should conduct the peace.  Fox sent Thomas Green to France to begin negotiations with the French.  Shelburne sent Richard Oswald to France to begin negotiations with the Americans (Benjamin Franklin was in Paris).

The French had a debt problem of their own.  And they, too, were anxious for the war to end.  But on favorable terms.  They were looking to change the balance of power with their eternal enemy.  The British.  And therefore wanted to negotiate the peace for the Americans.  Get back some of their lost North American territories.  And elsewhere.  Meanwhile the Spanish were laying siege to the British in Gibraltar.  Anxious to retrieve that from the British.  They were greatly interested in blocking American westward expansion.  And they also wanted to keep them off the Mississippi River.  Which flowed to the Gulf of Mexico through their Louisiana Territory.  So the politics were quite complex in negotiating the peace.  For the British to maintain the balance of power they enjoyed an independent America actually helped them.  While an independent America actually harmed the French and the Spanish.

Shelburne negotiated Directly with the Americans to use them to gain Favorable Terms with their European Enemies

The original peace commission in Paris was just John Adams.  Few could be found that were more adamant on American independence than he.  And this was a problem for the French foreign minister.  Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes.  He didn’t like Adams.  Who was not willing to compromise.  Vergennes wanted to end the war.  And stop the financial hemorrhaging.   And he was willing to compromise with the British to make that happen.  Willing to compromise away American independence.  American navigation of the Mississippi River.  American territorial ambitions beyond the Appalachians (leaving Maine, New York City, portions of the Northwest territories, Charleston and Savannah British).  And the American fishing rights off Newfoundland.  He was willing to give all that up to end the war with Britain.  He had only one problem.  John Adams.  Who refused to give up what the Americans were actually fighting for in the first place.

Vergennes instructed the French minister in America, the Chevalier de la Luzerne, to lobby the Continental Congress.  To have them order Adams to be less belligerent.  To be more willing to compromise.  And to accept the wise counsel of the King of France.  The most generous sovereign who made it possible for the Americans to bring the British to the negotiating table.  Luzerne was successful.  Perhaps with a little bribery.  The Congress sent Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Henry Laurens to join Adams.  With the instructions to follow the advice of the French in the peace negotiations. 

Fox still favored granting American independence.  And he wanted to do it quickly.  To split the allies apart.  And make separate peace treaties to limit the damage.  For the French, Spanish and Dutch could hold out for a grander bargain.  Especially if the fortunes of war turned their way.  As the Spanish were hoping would soon happen at Gibraltar.  So the British warned that their allies could force the Americans to continue the war not for their own interests but that of these Europeans.  He told Green to tell Franklin that Britain was prepared to recognize American independence.  And that it was in America’s best interests to negotiate a separate peace.  Franklin suggested early that Britain may want to throw Canada into the deal.  To help pay for all the damage the British did to American property.  Shelburne wasn’t about to negotiate away Canada.  His answer was to bring up the debt owed to British creditors.  And reimbursing the Loyalists who lost their property in America.  Things that weren’t high on the American list of demands.  Then Rockingham died.  Shelburne became prime minister.  And Fox quit.  Pro-American independence ministers no longer filled the government.  Still, Shelburne continued to negotiate directly with the Americans.  So he could use them to gain favorable terms with their European enemies.

The American Negotiators were being Played by the Best of European Intrigue

In Franklin’s talks with Oswald he made it clear that independence was a prerequisite for peace.  Officially that was a problem for Oswald.  For his original commission from Shelburne directed him to negotiate with a commissioner from the colonies or plantations.  Not a commissioner from the United States of America.  Which, of course, would recognize American independence.  Vergennes urged Franklin and Jay to proceed anyway.  That official recognition could follow in the final peace treaty.  Jay suspected that the French were stalling.  He knew of the siege of Gibraltar.  And didn’t trust the Franco-Spanish alliance.  So he ignored Congress’ order.  And did not listen to the wise French counsel.  Joining Franklin and Adams in stating that independence was a prerequisite for peace.

The American commission had good reason to not trust their European allies.  The French wanted the British to agree to keep the Americans out of the fisheries along Newfoundland.  So they could fish these waters.  A bitter pill for a New Englander like Adams to swallow.  The French were also opposed to the Americans annexing Canada.  What they once called New France.  Before it became British.  While the Spanish were working hard behind the scenes to keep the Mississippi River away from the Americans.  Had they gotten their way the Mississippi south of the Ohio River would have been in Spanish hands.  As well as the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Louisiana. 

The American negotiators were being played by the best of European intrigue.  But thanks to the principled men America sent to negotiate the peace the Americans bested the Europeans at their own game.  John Adams.  Benjamin Franklin.  And John Jay.  For the Americas got their independence.  Territory that stretched to the Mississippi River.  And navigation on the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.  Even their fishing rights off of Newfoundland (though they would revisit that issue later).  It would be America’s greatest achievement in diplomacy.  The Treaty of Paris (1783).  And they made this treaty without consulting the French.  Who were miffed.  But thanks to Franklin America and France remained friends.  So the Americans won the Revolutionary War.  And the peace.  While avoiding any entangling alliances with the old European powers.  Not bad for a brand new nation on the world’s stage.

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British, French, Quebec City, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Pierre Beaumarchais, Silas Deane, King Louis XVI and Entangling Alliances

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 29th, 2012

 Politics 101

When the American Colonists rebelled against their British Overlords it created a Complex Political Landscape

For about a hundred years the nations of Europe had been at war.  Over religion (Protestantism versus Catholicism).  Oversea colonies to build trade networks.  And the balance of power of the European nations.  Often tilted by the acquisitions of their overseas possessions.  These nations have been at war with each other off and on from the late 17th century to the late 18th century.  Alliances formed and shifted during this century of war.  But one thing was constant.  The Protestant British and the Catholic French were always on opposing sides.

The most recent war that ended in 1763 (the Seven Year’s War) was a particularly bitter pill for the French to swallow.  They lost pretty much all of New France in North America to Great Britain.  Including Quebec City.  Founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608.  The British occupation defiled 155 years of French history.  This was the heart and soul of New France.   The French culture was so deep that they still speak French there today, having never accepted their British overlords.  And never have forgotten their French heritage.  For as Quebec’s official motto says today, “Je me souviens.”  Which translates to, “I remember.”  Remember what?  That they were French.  And remain French.

When the American colonists rebelled against their British overlords it created a complex political landscape.  In a drawn out war with Great Britain the Americans would more than likely need foreign assistance.  Meaning an alliance.  However, the reason why they declared their independence from Great Britain had a lot to do with all those European wars that Britain fought.  Which were expensive.  As was the following peace.  For they now had to defend their newly conquered lands.  Exhausted from all these wars the British taxpayers felt taxed out.  So Parliament turned to their British brethren in America.  And taxed them.  Which led, of course, to the Americans’ Declaration of Independence.  So the Americans were very wary of joining into any European alliances.  Fearful that the Europeans would pull them into a future European war.  And bankrupt them.  Before they even had a chance to become a country. 

The European Monarchs weren’t going to help the Americans Rebel against Monarchy out of the Goodness of their Hearts

So the Americans were wary of alliances.  But they were thinking about it.  Especially with the most likely candidate for an alliance.  In September of 1776 John Adams wrote, “our negotiations with France ought, however, to be conducted with great caution, and with all the foresight we could possibly attain; that we ought not to enter into any alliance with her which should entangle us in any future wars in Europe; that we ought to lay it down as a first principle and a maxim never to be forgotten, to maintain an entire neutrality in all future European wars; that it never could be in our interest to unite with France in the destruction of England, or in any measures to break her spirit or reduce her to a situation in which she could not support her independence.”  This from one of the most outspoken Founding Fathers for independence.  One of the few men Britain was not willing to forgive for the things he said and wrote.   A man the British condemned to death even if the Americans reconciled with the British.

At the time of the Revolution The Hague in the Netherlands had diplomats from all the courts of Europe.  One of these diplomats was a friend of Benjamin Franklin.  Charles William Dumas.  Franklin wrote to him to feel out the foreign powers.  In September of 1775 he wrote asking if there was any “state or power in Europe who would be willing to enter into an alliance with us for the benefit of our commerce, which amounted, before the war, to near seven millions sterling per annum…”  Like Adams, he wanted to avoid any alliance that could draw America into a future European war.  Feeling that American commerce would be reason enough to support the Americans.  As at that time all American trade went though Great Britain.  So treating directly with the Americans would cut out the middle man.  Making American goods less costly.  Surely a financial incentive for any nation.

Then again, these European powers they were feeling out were all monarchies.  Would these monarchies support a rebellion against royal authority?  France, their most likely alliance partner due to their history with Great Britain, was an absolute monarchy.  Would they support the Americans in their bid for independence with French taxes?  Would they take a chance that their oppressed masses wouldn’t rise up in defiance of those high taxes and/or royal authority (which they eventually did)?  Then there was a moral element as Robert Morrison noted in a letter to John Jay in September of 1776.  “Can this be morally right?”  Bringing war to the people of Europe in their bid for independence?  Their kings may not care about what they do to the innocents.  But a government of the people would.  Or should.  But if they got any support from these European monarchs the big question would be at what price?  For these monarchs weren’t going to help the Americans in their rebellion against monarchy out of the goodness of their hearts.  For, as monarchs, they kind of liked the institution of monarchy.  So any involvement on their part wasn’t going to be for any moral imperative.  It was for personal gain.  New territory.  Getting back lost territory.  Or changing the balance of power in Europe to their favor.

Despite all of their Misgivings the Americans entered into an Entangling Alliance with the French

Monarchies were getting a little nervous about the impoverished masses around this time.  For there were a lot more poor people than royals and nobles.  Revolution was in the air.  They made fun of the noble classes in some of the leading plays of the day.  In fact, one play was banned in Vienna.  For being less than respectful of the aristocracy.  But that didn’t stop a composer from using it to write a new opera from it.  That play?  The Marriage of Figaro.  The composer was, of course, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Who based his new opera on the play written by a Frenchman.  Pierre Beaumarchais.  Who plays a prominent role in America’s Revolutionary War.

Beaumarchais had written a play making fun of the aristocracy.  And the American rebellion against aristocracy piqued his interest.  So he decided to aid the Americans in their cause.  He strongly encouraged Louis XVI to support the Americans in their cause.  For if they did not they would not only lose in the balance power to Great Britain.  But likely the very valuable sugar trade coming from the French West Indies.  He also set up a private company to ship war material to America in exchange for tobacco.  Silas Deane arrived from America in Paris in July 1776.  He, too, worked on obtaining the materials of war as well as skilled officers.  America’s greatest diplomat and propagandist was also in Paris.  Benjamin Franklin.  Who the French adored.  For his scientific experiments.  And his plain American airs.  They really got a kick out of the coonskin hat he wore.  Which he wore only for them.  Never having worn one back in America.

So the Americans were really working their mojo behind the scenes to get French support for the cause.  As well as French money and arms.  Which they were getting.  And after the American win at the Battle of Saratoga, they got a whole lot more.  Formal recognition of the United States.  And despite all of their misgivings, an alliance.  On January 7, 1778 they entered into a treaty of amity and commerce.  Followed by (on February 6) the treaty of alliance.  And these treaties were rather entangling.  But so dictated the necessities of war.  And what did the Americans agree to?  In exchange for French military support against the British in North America the Americans would support the French militarily in the French West Indies.  In any future French war where the Americans were neutral the French and their warships would have access to American ports.  While the French adversary would not.  Also, the French could bring in any captured ships into American ports to refit and re-provision them.  And then leave freely.  Which came back to haunt the Washington administration during the next war between the French and the British.  Following the French Revolution.  A war in which America not only remained neutral.  But her neutrality ‘favored’ the British.  As the vast majority of her trade was with the British.  Causing a lot of animosity in America.  For we had a treaty with the French.  Who helped win them their independence from the nation they were now currently fighting.  Again.  A treaty some of the Americans noted, though, that they made with King Louis XVI.  Who the French recently executed.  Brought about, in part, by the incredible French debt incurred financing the American Revolution.  Providing the tinder for the French Revolution.

A complex political landscape indeed.  Of course the Americans didn’t know what was awaiting them in the future.  All they knew is that when General Washington left winter quarters at Valley Forge they were no longer alone in their struggle.  After their win at Saratoga and their new ally things were looking up.  Little did they know that there would still be 5 more years of war.

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War of the Spanish Succession, War of the Austrian Succession, Diplomatic Revolution , Seven Years’ War, Royal Proclamation and Quebec Act

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 16th, 2012

Politics 101

The French lost most of their colonial possessions to Great Britain in the Seven Years’ War

The 18th century started off with a bang.  And it banged all the way through the century.  Starting with the War of the Spanish Succession from 1701-1714.  At issue was the Spanish throne.  The last Spanish Habsburg, Charles II of Spain, died in 1700.  Leaving the throne without an heir.  And France was very interested in occupying it.  But the British weren’t too keen on Catholic France controlling so much of Europe.  The rest of Europe that wasn’t Spanish or French wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the idea, either.  For France and Spain, both Catholic, at this time were the two European superpowers.  And a union between the French and the Spanish would alter the ‘balance of power’.  A term entering the political discourse at this time.  So there was war.  There’s a lot more details to this war as one would expect in a war that lasted over a decade.  But in the end there was no French and Spanish union.  The Spanish lost territory in Italy and the Netherlands to Austria.  And Spanish Gibraltar became British.  As did parts of French North America.  Also, when Queen Anne died in Great Britain with no male heir, the Brits plucked one from German Hanover.  Over on the continent.  George I.  For his mum was the daughter of James I.  Which gave her Stuart blood.  And she was a Protestant.  Making George a Protestant.  Very important and necessary for a British ruler.  George I ascended the throne of Great Britain in 1714.  Creating a personal union between the British and German states (two separate kingdoms ruled by the same king).

But the peace didn’t last.  Because another Habsburg died.  The last male Austrian Hapsburg.  Charles VI.  Before he died, fearing he may have no sons to inherit his throne, he issued an edict.  The Pragmatic Sanction of 1713.  Which said in the absence of a Habsburg son a Habsburg daughter, his daughter, could inherit the throne.  Most of the German states accepted the edict.  Problem solved.  Until Charles died.  And his daughter, Maria Theresa, ascended the throne.  Then the European states went to war.  The War of the Austrian Succession from 1740-1748.  Because some said that Maria Theresa was ineligible to inherit the Hapsburg throne.  But what they really wanted was a chance to alter the balance of power now that the Habsburg line was extinct.  For the Austrian Habsburgs were a major power.  And whoever succeeded to that throne would control a large part of Europe.  Something Prussia (a rising German state) was interested in.  As were the French.  And the Spanish (primarily to win back what it lost in the War of Spanish Succession).   Who joined together.  With the threat of a French/Spanish super state again the British jumped in to prevent that.  And joined in on the Habsburg side.  Who at the time was stronger than the rising Prussian state.  And a better balance to French power and ambition.  Especially with Hanover being so close to the French border.  After 8 years of war not a whole lot changed in the balance of power.  Except that Prussia appeared to be now a more formidable threat than Austria.  Which the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756 addressed.  By a changing of sides.  The France-Prussia alliance versus the Great Britain-Austria alliance became the France-Austria alliance versus the Great Britain-Prussia alliance.  Which made for a long and lasting peace.

Until hostilities flared up again later that year.  In the Seven Years’ War from 1756 – 1763.  This was a big one.  A world war.  Over the balance of power.  In Europe.  And other parts of the world.  Especially where colonial interests clashed.  Where they were generating lucrative trade.  And the British were bumping into the French almost everywhere they went.  In North America.  As the British expanded their colonies west from the Atlantic into the river valleys the French claimed.  In the Caribbean.  In coastal Africa.  In the Philippines.  In India.  In the end Britain’s Royal Navy and their alliance with Prussia led them to victory.  The Prussian armies of Frederick the Great held their own in Europe and freed the British Army for service elsewhere.  The Royal Navy ruled the seas.  And moved the British Army at will.  Where they prosecuted and won the colonial battles.  At the close of hostilities the French lost most of their colonial possessions to Great Britain.  And Spain lost Florida.  The British extended their control in North America to all lands east of the Mississippi River.  Spain ended up with the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi River.  But the mighty Spanish empire was now in decline.  France wasn’t looking that much better.  France and Spain also lost most of their naval power.  Which elevated Great Britain to true empire status.

To Help bring the Catholic in the Province of Quebec under British Rule the British passed the Quebec Act

The British did well in the Seven Years’ War.  They won large parts of the world.  And paid a pretty price to do it.  Almost bankrupted them.  This despite the previous efforts of William Pitt the Elder.  The British Secretary of State who built a great and prosperous colonial empire.  The British Empire.  Before the war.  And added greatly to it during the war.  But conquering is one thing.  Governing is another.  And, as it turns out, governing is as expensive as conquering.

British North America required a little political finesse.  For the Protestant British now governed Catholic French Quebec.  And they had to step lightly with the Indian Nations.  Who were allied with the French.  Agreeing to halt further westward expansion.  Via the Royal Proclamation of 1763.  To avoid hostilities on the frontier. 

To help bring the Catholic in the Province of Quebec under British rule the British passed the Quebec Act of 1774.  This act extended Quebec territory to include most of the Midwest states bordering the Great lakes.   The oath of allegiance to the British Crown no longer included a reference to Protestantism.  It protected Catholicism in the Province of Quebec.  And it allowed the use of French civil law in some instances over English common law. 

Great Britain would fight a Civil War in British North America before the Century was Out

None of this went over well with the British North Americans.  After defeating the French all eyes looked west.  And they did not like this Royal Proclamation interfering with their business.  And these fiercely loyal and proud Britons were also devoutly Protestant.  Many fought in the war to get the Catholic French out of their country.  And this protection of Catholicism in their Protestant backyard was nothing short of an insult.  But worse of all were the taxes.  To pay for a century of war against the French that only some of which was fought in North America. 

Great Britain’s money woes would continue.  For they would be fighting another war before the century was out.  This one a civil war in British North America.  Another costly 8 years of war.  That would not end as well for them as the previous war.  Worse, it would cause a Revolution in France.  Brought about in part due to the near bankruptcy of France from all of her wars.  And alliances.  Bringing about yet another war with the French for the British before the century was out.

The century started out with a war to contain French expansion and Catholicism.  And the century would end with great successes in that endeavor.  With the decline of the French and Spanish empires the world was safe from Catholicism.  But France and Great Britain would fight on.  Into the next century.

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The UK is Burning because they have too much Socialism and Class Warfare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 10th, 2011

You Simply can’t Keep Increasing the Burden on the Productive Class Forever 

The UK is burning.  Thanks to socialism.  And class warfare.  For people are rioting because they’re not getting enough stuff.  So they’re correcting that inequity by stealing stuff from others (see As rioting spreads UK’s Cameron vows crackdown by Stefano Ambrogi and Angus MacSwan posted 8/10/2011 on Reuters).

Youths fought running battles with police in the northern cities of Manchester and Liverpool as well as in the Midlands.

They smashed shop windows, carted off televisions and designer clothes, and torched buildings as police armed with shields and batons struggled to maintain control…

Gangs of youths in hooded tops battled police in Manchester, smashing windows and looting shops, and setting fire to a clothes shop.

In nearby Salford, rioters threw bricks at police and set fire to buildings. TV pictures showed flames leaping from shops and cars, and plumes of black smoke billowing across roads…

In Liverpool’s Toxteth district, rioters attacked two fire engines and a fire officer’s car, police said. Earlier, some 200 youths throwing missiles wrecked and looted shops…

Cars were burned and stores looted in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton in central England; and in Nottingham a gang of young men set fire to a police station. There were also disturbances in Birmingham and Leicester in central England, and Milton Keynes north of London…

In Birmingham, police launched a murder inquiry after three Muslim men died after being run over by a car in the mayhem there. A friend of the men told BBC radio they had been part of a group of British Asians protecting their area from looters after attending Ramadan prayers at a mosque.

“The car swerved toward them. It was cold-blooded murder,” the friend said. The father of one of the men tried to save his dying son with CPR.

They’re not doing this in the US.  Yet.  Because the US is not quite the social welfare state the UK is.  Yet. 

These UK riots illustrate the problem with socialism.  ‘From those according to ability to those according to need’.  The youths rioting have no ability.  And have shown no effort to learn any ability.  Content to remain on the dole.  And it’s a very generous dole in the UK.  Well, it used to be.  Hence the rioting. 

The rioters have needs.  Great needs.  Widescreen televisions.  Designer clothes.  Seeing buildings and cars burn.  So they attended to their own needs.  Took from those having ability.  And burned the mother up.  Destroyed the property of the very people who pay taxes and fund the welfare state.  And provide jobs.  So it looks like the rioters haven’t helped their employment prospects in the community.

Getting a permanent underclass dependent on government benefits provides loyal voters at election time.  But it comes with a price.  The spending required to maintain this underclass eventually becomes unsustainable.  Because you simply can’t keep increasing the burden on the productive class forever.  They may just say screw this and go on the dole, too.  And let someone else put up with the high taxes.  And the looters.

“This disturbing phenomenon has to be understood as a conflagration of aggression from a socially and economically excluded underclass,” the liberal Independent newspaper said.

“These youths live in the heart of British cities but they do not feel part of them. Far too little has been done by successive generations of politicians and public servants to integrate these individuals into normal society. The fuse for this explosion has been burning down for many years.”

Oh, society’s to blame.  Not the people smashing windows and stealing stuff.  Or the people setting fires.  It’s the people who have been living by the rules, the law-abiding people, who are to blame.

Critics say government policies of chopping public spending and raising taxes to cut a huge budget deficit have aggravated the plight of urban youth as the economy struggles to grow and unemployment rises.

The awarding of huge bonuses to bankers has become emblematic of a culture of flashy consumption for the elite.

Corruption scandals within London’s police force and a 2009 scandal over parliamentarians’ expenses have also fueled the notion that greed is a motivating factor across the spectrum of British society.

“Everyone’s heard about the police taking bribes, the members of parliament stealing thousands with their expenses. They set the example. It’s time to loot,” a youth in the riot-torn London district of Hackney told Reuters.

“It’s time to loot.”  That says it all.  They don’t want to sit down and discuss socioeconomic issues.  They just want to get stuff while the getting is good.  I mean, there are protests.  And there is theft.  Labor standing in a picket line is a protest.  Smashing windows and stealing stuff is theft.

Is State Welfare so Generous that People don’t want to get off of State Benefits? 

Of course, some are politicizing this violence.  To make the case for more social spending.  Because if you don’t pay these thugs off they’ll come and smash your windows and take your stuff (see Do Budget Cuts Cause More Riots? by Bouree Lam posted 8/10/2011 on Freakonomics).

A couple weeks ago, Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans-Joachim Voth put out their working paper “Austerity and Anarchy: Budget Cuts and Social Unrest in Europe, 1919-2009.” It uses cross-country data in the 90-year period to examine whether riots and civil unrest increase as governments cut spending. They found a positive correlation between social instability and budget cuts.

I think the real question is this.  Is state welfare too generous?  Is it so generous that people don’t want to get off of state benefits?  And when said benefits are cut they riot?  Are they so lazy and have such a state-induced entitlement mentality that the thought of having to provide for themselves is so disagreeable that they prefer burning their own neighborhoods? 

And so they riot.  They torch their oppressors.  Probably drive these stores out of their neighborhoods.  And discourage anyone from opening a new store in such a violent and riot-prone neighborhood.  Now what?  Where are they going to shop with no stores?  Who will they riot against then?

The Balance of Power has always Determined whether there will be Peace or War 

As bad as all of this is, some are saying the US should follow the UK’s example.  Stop being a world superpower.  And enjoy harmonious bliss at home.  Like they have in the UK.  When they’re not rioting and burning the place down (see Three Cheers for Decline by Charles Kenny posted 8/9/2011 on Foreign Policy).

Of course, the United States still possesses greater military strength than any other country in the world. But what good has being the world’s policeman done for Americans? Wielding that might meant the United States saw more combat deaths overseas last year than any other country, according to data from Uppsala University. Beyond the blood is the treasure: U.S. military spending increased 81 percent between 2001 and 2010 and now accounts for 43 percent of the global total — six times its nearest rival, China. The U.S. military burden is equivalent to 4.8 percent of GDP, the largest economic burden of any OECD country.

Everyone attacks U.S. defense spending.  Something, by the way, called for in the Constitution.  Unlike entitlements.  Now 4.8% of GDP is too high and should be cut.  Whereas entitlement spending is twice that amount and yet no one calls for any spending cuts there.  So it’s not a money thing.  It’s a ‘let’s weaken the U.S. thing’.

Freed from the distractions of colonial oversight and global leadership, it could retire its planet-spanning chain of military bases, shrink the Royal Navy, and devalue the pound without fears that the world would come to an end. And the country learned to collaborate without feeling equal status was a slight to its dignity — joining the European Union, for example, and signing the Kyoto Protocol.

Could the United States go down the same track toward contented (well, most of the time), pretty-good-power status?

But let’s not forget something.  When the sun never set on the British Empire the world was a more peaceful place.  We call it Pax Britannica.  Latin for British peace.  The British Empire was a benign one as far as empires go.  There was prosperity and peace.  And little war.  Something only a powerful military can give you.  When in British or American hands, at least.

The world is a dangerous place.  Always has been.  And the balance of power has always determined whether there will be peace.  Or war.  When the Nazis had it there was war.  When the British had it during the Pax Britannica there was peace.  Yes, the US and UK have made some mistakes.  But ask yourself this.  Who would you feel more comfortable having the kind of military might the US has?  China?  Iran?  Russia?  I think not.

So the US should give up its national security interests.  And take that money and spend it on more state benefits.  Like the UK did following the end of her empire.  So the permanent underclass can grow larger.  And more restive.  Demanding ever more benefits.  And rioting when they don’t get what they want.  Not a very good tradeoff for living in a less safe world if you ask me.

People Dependent on Government Benefits tend to vote for Candidates who Promise more of the Same

The rise of the welfare state has created a permanent underclass dependent on government.  Because overly generous benefits made it attractive to remain in the underclass.  Happy not to be productive.  Living off the labors of those who are.  It’s good politics.  People dependent on government benefits tend to vote for candidates who promise more of the same.

But there is a limit to how much wealth you can transfer from the productive class to the nonproductive.  If you take too much away the productive class may just join the ranks of the nonproductive.  Because that’s where the incentive is.  So the government can only tax up to a certain point.  Then they have to start borrowing.  Until the borrowing creates deficits too great to borrow anymore.  So then the spending cuts begin.  And, of course, the rioting.

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LESSONS LEARNED #77: “Liberals only call for bipartisan compromise when they’ve lost majority power and can no longer dictate policy.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 4th, 2011

The Liberal Ruling Class hails from the Ivy League

Liberals hail from the Ivy League.  Where they’re taught important life skills.  Arrogance.  Conceit.  And condescension.  It is here at these universities that they learn to hold everyone in contempt.  Yes, there are some out there with true liberal bona fides that didn’t go to the Ivy League, but they are the exception.  Not the rule.  These people may bleat the liberal line as well as the Ivy Leaguer, but they are not going to ascend to the Ruling Class.  And though they won’t admit it, the Ruling Class holds most of these liberals in contempt, too.

Amassing wealth and power in a few, elite hands is nothing new.  Even in early America.  The Planter Elite of the Deep South were a small minority of the population.  But they held the wealth and power in the Deep South.  And they wielded it during the Philadelphia Convention.  They held the founding of the new nation hostage.  Unless the land where all men were created equal had slavery there would be no new nation.  So there was slavery.  And the Ruling Class of the Deep South gave themselves extra political clout in the new federal government.  Thanks to the Three-Fifths Compromise.  The minority planter elite were able to inflate their numbers by counting 3/5 of each slave.  Thus inflating their numbers in the House of Representatives.

So for the first 50 years or so of the new nation the new federal government spoke with a decidedly southern accent.  And often dictated policy in the new nation.  And for those 50 or so years the Deep South was happy to be part of the union.  Because they sort of ran the show.  Then all that immigration into the north started to change the balance of power in the House of Representatives.  Which left the presidency (where they did whatever they could to make sure the president would be sympathetic to southern views and willing to compromise to save the union).  And the Senate.  And to maintain power in the Senate they had to hold on to slavery. 

The Planter Elite used Slavery to Concentrate Wealth and Power in their Hands

The Ruling Class, the Planter Elite (approximately 5% of the Southern population), used slavery to concentrate wealth and power in their hands.  It was truly an old-school aristocracy in the Deep South.  The ‘landed aristocracy’ in these states owned these states.  And up to the mid 19th century they took this disproportionate power to Congress.  They advanced and blocked legislation to protect their slaveholding interests.  To maintain their minority rule.  Their power.  And their wealth.

As immigration began to tip the balance of power away from them they turned their focus to the Senate.  Each state got two senators.  Population numbers didn’t matter.  What mattered was that there wasn’t more ‘free’ states than ‘slave’ states.  And that there was no prevailing antislavery sentiment.  As there was throughout the northern states at the time.  Not only did they eschew slavery, they weren’t even returning runaway slaves to their rightful owners.  So while they could the Planter Elite would use the power of the federal government to override any state law they felt counterproductive to their interests.  And dictate policy to these recalcitrant northern states.

For you see, slavery is a lot like socialism.  It doesn’t work well when those trapped in it can escape it.  And that was a problem for the Deep South.  Their slaves were escaping to these northern states.  And these uppity northern state governments refused to return this southern ‘property’.  Not only were they taking a financial loss on these runaway slaves, but this northern sanctuary was encouraging more slaves to run away.  This would not do.  So they passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 compelling them to return these slaves to bondage.  Or be fined and/or jailed.  This did not go over well in the North.  And it placed the country on the road to civil war.

The Civil War was a Battle between Privileged Aristocracy and the Equality of Self-Government

All during the run up to the Civil War, the Ruling Class, the planter elite of the Deep South, participated in the democratic process.  Because for a long time they were free to dictate a lot of U.S. policy.  From a stacked deck (thanks to the Three-Fifths Compromise).  And repeated threats of secession if they didn’t get their way.  Politicians on both sides of the slavery issue made compromise after compromise to keep the union together.  But that all changed with the election of Abraham Lincoln.  A Republican.   Which was the party taking a moral stance on the issue of slavery.  This did not bode well for the Ruling Class. 

South Carolina seceded first.  Then the rest followed.  The planter elite in these states led their states out of the union.  And into civil war.  Arguing that Lincoln’s federal government was going to infringe on their states’ rights (in particular their right to continue the institution of slavery).  They called it the War of Northern Aggression even though they fired the first shot at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.  And they told their brave soldiers to fight these Yankee invaders to protect their country (i.e., state), their families and their way of life.  And they did.  Some 300,000 dying in the process.  But not to maintain the institution of slavery.  For 95% of all Southerners didn’t own any slaves.  They fought to protect their country, their families and their way of life.  Most of which was a life of backbreaking labor on a small patch of land they called the family farm.  That was in no way threatened by the North.  But the Ruling Class lied.  To protect their interests.  Their wealth.  And sacrificed a generation of their own people.  Because to them, they were as expendable as the slaves on their plantations.  Actually, they were more expendable.  For Confederate soldiers didn’t show up on their balance sheets.  But slaves did.

The Confederate soldier fought valiantly.  But lost.  In what was a battle between the Old World.  And the New World.  Between the privilege of aristocracy.  And the equality of self-government.  Between the Ruling Class.  And ordinary Americans.  The balance of power shifted.  Away from the Deep South.  But, alas, not to the people.  Instead, to the North East.  To the Ivy League.  Where another Ruling Class would rise.  And take over the reins of government.  Keeping class warfare alive and well in the United States.

Tea Party Republicans are Decidedly Anti-Ruling Class

The players may change but the Ruling Class lives on.  Those who feel entitled to an elevated position because of their birthright.  Or wealth.  Most often both.  Which is what you need to get into the Ivy League.  And you have to think correctly.  Which isn’t too much of a problem for they make sure you do so in their curriculum.  Which is heavy on liberal progressivism.  And light on staying out of other people’s business.

Case in point, Obamacare.  Universal health care.  The holy grail of liberalism.  The people didn’t want it.  Based on the polling.  And the town hall meetings.  They didn’t want the government intruding into their health care.  But they had both houses of Congress.  So they could do just about anything they wanted.  Dictate policy.  And sneak things through in the dead of night.  Which they did to make Obamacare law.  Strictly along pure partisan party lines.  Some of their members paid the ultimate price and lost in the following election.  But they take care of their own.  The Ruling Class.  Though out of office, they’re never out of power.

That is until a bunch of uppity freshmen Republicans descended on Congress.  Tea Party Republicans we call them.  And decidedly anti-Ruling Class.  And they’ve become a problem.  For they won’t accept the established order.  They can’t be bought.  And they don’t care if they get reelected.  The boobs.  All they care about is keeping their campaign promises.  Which is anathema to the Ruling Class.

And soon the shoe was on the other foot.  The Ruling Class lost the House in the 2010 midterm election.  And had to deal with obstructionism.  And by obstructionism I mean responsible governing.  Per the will of the people.  From that contemptible Tea Party.  For they are interfering with the natural order of things.  That is, letting liberals do whatever they want.  So now the liberals cry foul.  And demand bipartisan compromise.  Until they can dictate policy again.  They way it should be.  According to the Ruling Class.

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LESSONS LEARNED #25: “War is costly. Peace, too.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2010

AT THE HEIGHT of the Roman Empire, the empire reached from North Africa to Britannia (England), from Hispania (Spain) to Mesopotamia (approximately modern day Iraq).  When Roman power ruled the civilized world, there was peace.  The Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The Romans built empire through conquest.  And Rome grew rich with the spoils of conquest.  For awhile, peace was only those quiet intervals between growth and conquest.  But with secure borders, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  For some 200 years.

Life was good for the Roman citizen.  As well as for those living in the empire.  The Romans modernized the provinces they conquered.  Made life better.  Even for the conquered people.  Although there were those who hated being subjugated by a foreign power.

Reg: They bled us white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had. And not just from us! From our fathers, and from our father’s fathers.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah, all right Stan, don’t belabor the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct?

Reg: What?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct.

Reg: Oh. Yeah, yeah, they did give us that, ah, that’s true, yeah.

Revolutionary II: And the sanitation.

Loretta: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.

Reg: Yeah, all right, I’ll grant you the aqueduct and sanitation, the two things the Romans have done.

Matthias: And the roads.

Reg: Oh, yeah, obviously the roads. I mean the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads…

Revolutionary III: Irrigation.

Revolutionary I: Medicine.

Revolutionary IV: Education.

Reg: Yeah, yeah, all right, fair enough.

Revolutionary V: And the wine.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Oh, yeah! Right!

Rogers: Yeah! Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.

Revolutionary VI: Public bathes.

Loretta: And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

Rogers: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it; they’re the only ones who could in a place like this.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Hahaha…all right…

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Revolutionary I: Brought peace?

Reg: Oh, peace! Shut up!

(From Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, 1979.)

Maintaining a peaceful empire is costly.  As people got more accustomed to peace and plenty, they began to complain about taxes.  Citizens refused to volunteer to serve in the Roman Legions maintaining that peace.  Barbarians began to serve in the Legions.  Some rose to command them.  Some Roman commanders came from the very people they were fighting in the border regions.  Soon Rome would rely on mercenaries (hired soldiers) to defend their borders.  All of this cost the empire.  It had to pay more and more to maintain the loyalty of the military.  Ditto for the huge bureaucracy administrating the empire.  And they lost control.  Trouble on the borders and economic collapse ended the peace.  And, ultimately, the empire.  The civilized world broke down and collapsed.  And barbarian leaders on the borders, hungry for conquest, attacked.  Plunging the former Roman provinces into war and instability.

RISING FROM THE ashes of the Roman Empire were the seeds of new empires.  And the ground that proved most fertile was the northern limit of the old empire.  England.

England started to assert herself with the growth of her navy.  With her borders secured, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  Again.  For about a hundred years.  During the Industrial Revolution.  After the defeat of Napoleon. 

Imperial Britain stretched across the globe.  The sun never set on the British Empire.  And wherever she went, she brought the rule of law, modernity, a sound economy and political stability.  Her old colonial possessions went on to be some of the richest, most prosperous and peaceful nations in the world.  India.  Australia.  New Zealand.  South Africa.  Canada.  And, of course, the United States of America.  She achieved her century of peace (Pax Britannia) by a balance of power.  She maintained peace by intervening in disputes, often on the side of the weaker nation.  She prevented stronger, aggressive nations from threatening her weaker neighbors.   And she provided a safe environment for the weaker nation to live peacefully in the shadows of stronger, more aggressive neighbors.

For a hundred years Britannia kept the peace.  In large part due to her Royal Navy, the most powerful and potent navy at the time.  If you ate any imported food or used any imported goods, it was thanks to the Royal Navy that kept the world’s sea lanes safe.  But this peace came with a price.  The rise of nationalism, the quest of new empires to establish their own overseas colonies and a change in the balance of power in Europe with the rise of Germany added to that price.  And then a shot fired in Sarajevo by a Serbian terrorist ignited a tinderbox.  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip started World War I.  The most bloody and expensive war at the time, it bankrupted Great Britain and ended her empire.  And left the world a less safe place. 

From the ashes of World War I rose new leaders with aspirations of world conquest.  Fascist Italy led by Benito Mussolini.  Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler.  Communist Russia led by Joseph Stalin.  Imperial Japan led by Hideki Tojo.  And the nation that led the victors in World War II would, by default, become the new world power.  The new world policeman.  The United States of America.

SO WHAT HAPPENED during the inter-war years that led to World War II?  War exhausted Britain and France.  Neither had the stomach for another war.  Britain continued to rely on the Royal Navy for protection (as an island nation, sea power is indispensable).  France built fixed fortifications (the Maginot Line).  Both were primarily defensive strategies. 

In America, General Billy Mitchell demonstrated the vulnerability of battleships to air power by sinking a battleship with an airplane (greatly flustering the naval high command).  Colonel George S. Patton developed an armored doctrine for an unenthused army and eventually transferred back to the horse cavalry.  Meanwhile, Imperial Japan was building aircraft carriers.  And Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Communist Russia developed air and armored doctrine while fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Fascist Italy attacked Ethiopia in 1935 to rebuild the Roman Empire and make the Mediterranean Sea a Roman lake once again.  Nazi Germany launched World War II in 1939 by an armored assault on Poland with tactical air support.  Poland resisted with horse cavalry.  And lost.  Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 to destroy American naval power in the Pacific.  They did a lot of damage.  But the American carriers, their prime objective, were at sea.  They would eventually meet those carriers later at the Battle of Midway.  Where they would lose four of their best carriers and many of their best aviators.  This tipped the balance of power in the Pacific to the Americans.

America was ill-prepared for war.  But American industry, the Arsenal of Democracy, ramped up and built the planes, tanks, guns, rifles and ships that would win the war.   It would come with a heavy price tag.  Global wars typically do.  Had there been a balance of power that would have checked the territorial ambitions of the aggressor nations, it would have been a different story.  Of course, having the power is one thing.  How you use it is another. 

France had more tanks than Germany before the outbreak of hostilities.  But the Nazis quickly overran France.  Why?  Doctrine.  France’s doctrine was to hide behind the security of the Maginot Line.  It was a defensive-only strategy.  She developed no armored doctrine.  The lesson they learned from World War I was that armies killed themselves attacking fixed defenses.  Germany, too, learned that lesson.  So their doctrine called for going around fixed defenses with fast-moving armor spearheads with tactical air support (i.e., blitzkrieg).  Formidable though the Maginot Line was, it could not attack.  And if the Nazis didn’t attack it, it did nothing but concentrate men and firepower away from the battle.

WHEN WE PULLED out of South Vietnam, we agreed to use American air power if North Vietnam violated the terms of the treaty ending that war.  Watergate changed all of that.  Even though JFK got us into Vietnam, it became Nixon’s war.  And a vindictive Congress wouldn’t have anything more to do with it.  The North tested the American will.  Saw that there was none.   Attacked.  And overran South Vietnam.  The message was clear to tyrants.  America will quit in the long run.  Especially after a large loss of life.

Other ‘retreats’ would reinforce this perception.  Especially in the Arab world.  The withdrawal from Lebanon after the bombing of the Marines’ barracks.  The withdrawal from Somalia after the Somalis dragged dead American troops through the streets of Mogadishu.  The Arab world even saw the victory in Desert Storm as a retreat.  The anti-American Arab world said that our invasion was about oil.  That what we really wanted was to topple Saddam Hussein and take his oil.  It was just another Christian Crusade into holy Islamic lands.  When we didn’t do that, the Arab world saw it as another American retreat.  That America didn’t have the will to endure a bloody battle to conquer Iraq. 

So some in the Arab world would test America.  Al Qaeda.  Headed by Osama bin Laden.  They started small and became more daring.  World Trade Center bombing.  Tanzanian Embassy bombing.  Kenyan Embassy bombing.  Khobar Towers bombing.  The USS Cole attack.  And they paid little for these attacks.  America didn’t fight back.  But their luck ran out on September 11, 2001.  Because America finally fought back.

PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER one, Osama bin Laden, belonged to the conservative Sunni sect of Islam called Wahhabi.  They have a large following in Saudi Arabia.  The Wahhabi have a delicate relationship with the Saudi Royal family.  They disapprove of the Western displays of wealth in the House of Saud. 

Al-Qaeda was a shadowy enemy.  We confronted them in the mountains of Afghanistan where the Taliban gave them a safe sanctuary.  We attacked.  Knocked the Taliban from power.  Drove al-Qaeda underground.  But we could not stop their funding.

Wahhabi money from Saudi Arabia financed 9/11.  And the money continued to flow.  The Saudis would not intervene on behalf of America.  They feared any crackdown on the Wahhabi could unleash a civil war.  So America needed leverage to get Saudi cooperation.  And they found it in an old nemesis, Saddam Hussein. 

A Sunni minority ruled Iraq.  The Saudis did not like Saddam Hussein.  However, they liked the balance of power he offered to Iran.  Iran was Shiite.  As much as the Saudis did not like Saddam, they disliked Shiite Iran more.  This was the American lever.

After some diplomatic gymnastics, the invasion of Iraq was set.  The Saudis thought we were bluffing.  They didn’t believe we would invade Iraq.  Never in a million years.  If we didn’t do it in Desert Storm when we had the force in place to do it and didn’t, there was no way the Americans would amass another coalition and redeploy forces to the region again.  Especially because America doesn’t like long, drawn out, bloody wars.  Which an invasion of Iraq would surely be.

They asked us to remove our forces from the Saudi bases.  We did.  Now they were getting nervous.  That was the political game.  Make some noise to show the Arab world you weren’t an American toady.  But, secretly, you want those American forces to remain.  That American presence did provide security.  And stability.  After the invasion of Kuwait, it sure looked like Saudi Arabia would be next.  It was only that large American force in the desert that changed that inevitability. 

The Americans invaded.  And conquered.  Now the Saudis had a vested interest in helping the Americans.  They needed them to be successful in Iraq.  To contain Iran.  The lever worked.  The Saudis stemmed the flow of Wahhabi money to al-Qaeda.  The invasion of Iraq proved to be one of the most effective battles in the war on terrorism.  

HISTORY HAS SHOWN that a balance of power can lead to peace.  It has also shown that a superpower can enforce a larger peace.  But it also has shown that there is good and bad when it comes to power.  The Romans could be cruel, but so were most in that time.  The road to empire, after all, started out simply as a quest to provide a buffer between Rome and the hostile barbarians on her borders.  Rome, then, expanded in pursuit of peace.  (Initially, at least.)  And then used her power to maintain peace.

Many view Great Britain as the successor to the Roman Empire.  And many view America as the successor to the British Empire.  These powers share many things (rule of law, an advanced civilization, political stability, etc.).  Perhaps the greatest, though, is a powerful military.  And how it was/is used.  As a powerful deterrent to an aggressor nation.  To protect trade routes.  To maintain peace.  Malign these empires/nations all you will, but the greatest periods of world peace were due to their military power.  And their will to use that military power.  Expensive as that was.  Is.

So, yes, wars are costly.  Peace, too.  Sometimes, though, we must fight wars.  But we can avoid a lot of them.  By a peace-time military force that acts as a deterrent.  Because there are bad guys out there.  Who only respect one thing.  And it isn’t diplomacy.  Often the only thing preventing them from waging a cruel war of conquest is a potent military and a willing leader to use it.  If a tyrant knows he will face a military consequence for acting, he may not act.  When he knows that consequence will be devastating, he will not act.  But if he knows a nation hasn’t the military power or the will to use military power, he will act.  Just as Hitler did.  As Mussolini did.  As Tojo did.  And as Osama bin Laden did.

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