The Russian Empire

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 11th, 2014

History 101

The Europeans built Larger Ships and used Advanced Navigational Skills to sail from Europe to the Far East

The Anatolian peninsula (roughly the area of modern day Turkey) has long been a trade crossroads.  It’s where the Black Sea (and the rivers into Europe and Russia) met the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s where Europe met Asia.  Where East met West.  All important long-distant trade traveled through the Anatolian peninsula.  Right through the Bosporus.  The straits between East and West.

The Greeks, the Persians, the Romans and the Ottoman Turks all coveted this region.  When the Western Roman Empire fell the great Italian city-states rose.  They dominated the Mediterranean.  And the trade through the Bosporus.  Where the Silk Road for centuries brought riches from the Far East into Europe.  The Italian merchant banks controlled that trade.  Until the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) fell to the Ottoman Turks.  Which, lucky for the Europeans, happened at the time of the Renaissance.  Bringing an end to the Middle Ages.  And ushering in the modern era.

It started in Italy.  And then spread into Europe.  A rebirth (hence Renaissance) of all that Greek learning.  Which shifted the trading center from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.  Where the Europeans built larger ships and used advanced navigational skills to sail from Europe to the Far East.  Bypassing the Silk Road.  And the Ottoman Turks in the Anatolian peninsula.  Making the Europeans the new rich traders.  Knowledge and wealth created more ships for trade.  And advanced armies and navies.  Making the Europeans the masters of the world.

Peter the Great pulled Russia out of the Middle Ages by making it more European

While the Mediterranean and European nations were ushering in the modern world not all of Asia followed them.  Russia in particular remained in the Middle Ages.  A vast land full of disparate peoples.  Not a unique and singular Russian people.  Until Ivan the Terrible came along.  The Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547.  Then Tsar of All the Russians.  Ivan the Terrible united Russia by conquering it.  But at a cost.  Continuous wars killed a lot of Russian people.  Which left a lot of farmland fallow.  Giving Russia a chronic problem they would have for centuries.  The struggle to feed themselves.

Tsar Peter the Great (1682 – 1725) modernized Russia.  To be a more modern country like those in Europe.  He even went to Europe incognito to learn as much as he could about advanced European ways.  And had Europeans help him pull Russia out of the Middle Ages.  He made his army to be like European armies.  Learned about shipbuilding.  And built a Russian navy.  Which was a problem as the only access to the sea Russia had was the Arctic Ocean via the White Sea.  Which meant, of course, war and conquest.  He fought the Swedes for access to the Baltic Sea.  And he fought the Ottoman Turks for access to the Black Sea.

The disparate people of Russia were not all that happy with his ideas or the money he spent.  So he brutally suppressed any discontent.  Peter built his navy.  And a new capital on the Baltic Sea.  Saint Petersburg.  A European cultural center.  And the Imperial capital of Russia.  He also attacked the Ottoman Empire.  And lost.  Losing his Black Sea ports.  But Russia would return to fight the Ottoman Turks.  Under Catherine the Great.

The Bolsheviks killed Tsar Nicholas and his Family and ushered in the Oppressive Soviet Union

Catherine the Great ruled during Russia’s Golden Age.  Continuing the work started by Peter the Great to modernize Russia.  Making Russia a great European power.  Through military conquest.  And diplomacy.  She was even an international mediator.  And established the League of Armed Neutrality to protect neutral shipping from British attacks during the American Revolutionary War.

Catherine pushed Russia’s borders out largely at the expense of the Ottoman Empire.  And the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.  These conquests cost, though.  And she turned to the nobility to pay for them.  In return she supported the nobility.  But the wealth she got form the nobility came from the serfs (basically slave laborers) working their land.  Which took a lot of work to pay for her conquests.  Leading to a peasant uprising or two.  But serfdom would continue in Russia.  Tsar Alexander I advanced the status of Russia with his defeat of Napoleon.  They even called him the Savior of Europe.  But serfdom remained as the Industrial Revolution took off in Europe.  Halting the modernization of Russia.

Tsar Alexander II emancipated the serfs in 1861.  Ending the landed aristocracy’s monopoly of power.  Serfs left their lands.  And moved into the cities.  Selling their labor.  Industrializing Russia.  Still, their freedom favored the landed aristocracy.  Who were compensated for their serfs’ freedom with a tax paid by the freed serfs.  Which little improved the life of the freed serfs.  And did little to ease the revolutionary fervor long simmering in the Russian people.  Especially those outside the nobility.

When Tsar Nicholas II entered Russia into World War I things did not go well for Russia.  Military losses, food shortages, fuel shortages, inflation and striking factory workers made the nation ripe for revolution.  Tsar Nicholas went off to command the Russian Army personally.  Leaving his wife Alexandra to run the country in his absence.  Who turned to Grigori Rasputin for help.  Which didn’t help quell the revolutionary fervor simmering in the Russian people.  They didn’t like Rasputin.  Or the Tsar.  And made Tsar Nicholas the last emperor of the Russian Empire.  Which the Bolsheviks made permanent.  By killing Nicholas and his entire family.  Which ultimately ushered in the Soviet Union.  One of the most oppressive regimes of all time.


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Trade, Colonization, South Africa and Apartheid

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 10th, 2013

History 101

Alexander Spread the Advanced Greek Civilization from the Mediterranean to the Indus River Valley

The first civilizations grew up on the great rivers.  The Nile.  The Tigris and Euphrates.  The Indus.  And the Yangtze.  For the river was the source of life.  The flooding of its banks produced the rich black earth that gave us farming.  They helped us irrigate land further from the banks.  And they allowed the spread of civilizations.  For these rivers provided our first means of transporting people and cargo.  Allowing food and goods to travel between settlements.  This cross-pollination of settlements of different people and resources flowered into the great civilizations of the world.

The Chinese civilizations along the Yangtze grew in isolation from the rest of the world due to the geography at first.  Then, later, by choice.  The other three great civilizations came into contact with each other.  The Egyptians on the Nile spread east and made contact with the Sumerians of the Tigris and Euphrates.  Who were in contact with the Harappan of the Indus River valley.  These civilizations traded with each other.  And fought with each other.  As their civilizations flourished they attracted the attention of envious neighbors.  Who wanted what they had.  And conquered them.

Wars pushed boundaries back and forth.  Civilizations rose and fell.  One of the last great empires of the ancient world, the Persian Empire, bumped into a new rising power.  Athens.  Which was conquered by a Greek-trained king from the north in Macedonia.  Whose son, Alexander, went on to conquer the known world.  Spreading the advanced Greek civilization from the Mediterranean world to the Indus River valley.  Creating a Greek-speaking world steeped in science and philosophy.  Creating a greater Hellenistic civilization out of the lands Alexander conquered.  The shared Greek culture allowing an explosion of trade and commerce.

In Time the English and the Dutch would Bump Heads in South Africa

The Romans adopted Greek knowledge and used it for great engineering projects.  Roads, aqueducts, ships, weapons of war, etc.  Soon the Roman Empire displaced the Hellenistic civilization and spread even further.  Ironically, it was the cost of empire that began the fall of the Roman Empire.  High taxes to fund a huge army on the frontier and to pay for a massive bureaucratic state.  Including welfare programs.  The empire first collapsed in the West.  It lasted another 1,000 years in the East as the Byzantine Empire.  With its capital in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey).  Named by the Roman Empire Constantine the Great.  Who helped turned the Roman Empire Christian.

Constantinople was the center of the world.  It was where East met West.  Where Europe met Asia.  All trade from the East went through Constantinople on its way to the West.  For the Silk Road passed through Constantinople.  Making it a very rich city.  As it controlled trade.  After the fall of the Western Roman Empire the great Italian city-states rose.  Venice, Milan, Florence, Genoa, Pisa, Siena, Lucca and Cremona.  With their merchant banking they controlled the Mediterranean trade.  Until the Muslims conquered Constantinople.  Which is when the center of economic power moved north to Europe.  Thanks to advances in navigation that allowed ships to sail around Africa to the East.  Bypassing the Muslim-held Constantinople.

It was the Age of Discovery.  And the great European powers discovered new lands full of valuable resources.  The Portuguese and the Spanish lead the way.  And were soon followed by the Dutch.  And the English.  These nations established colonies around the world.  And, in time, the English and the Dutch would bump heads in South Africa.  Where they discovered gold.  Leading to a century of conflict between the British Empire and the Dutch settlers.  Known as Boers.  During the Napoleonic Wars the British defeated the Boers in Cape Colony in 1806.  And officially took possession of the colony in 1814.  Then it was Britain’s turn to send settlers to the region.  As a prosperous colony at the southern tip of Africa would come in handy for the empire that controlled the trade routes with the most powerful navy in the world.

Mandela Languished in Jail in part because of his Being a Communist

The Boers resented British rule.  And they didn’t like their abolishing slavery.  So they moved north.  Establishing two Boer independent republics.  The discovery of diamonds and more gold would make the region the richest and most powerful in southern Africa.  There was only one problem.  They didn’t have the manpower.  Or an industrial base.  Which led to another wave of immigration.  Mostly from Britain.  Which soon outnumbered the Boers.  Tensions led to the two Boer Wars.  The second one being the longest, costliest and bloodiest war the British fought in the century following the Napoleonic Wars.  With the British ultimately winning the African territories from the Boers in 1902.

The contested areas were all absorbed into the British Empire in 1910 as the Union of South Africa.  And became independent of the British Empire in 1931.  As the foreign powers fought over the African lands they pushed aside the native blacks.  And segregated them.  In 1948 the National Party rose to power.  And began to make segregation law.  The official beginning of apartheid.  Where the whites lived in a first-world nation (which they built with their capital along with black labor).  While the blacks lived in third-world conditions.  The African National Congress (ANC) fought apartheid.  Which was good.  But the ANC was a communist organization during the height of the Cold War.  Which did not make it a friend of the Western World.  Nor was Nelson Mandela.  Who was a communist.  Mandela co-founded the militant wing of the ANC in 1961.  Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).  Which planned a campaign of sabotage against the apartheid government.  Landing Mandela in jail for 27 years.

Mandela languished in jail in part because of his being a communist.  For they didn’t want what happened in Southern Rhodesia to happen in South Africa.  Alignment with the Soviet Union.  And bloody civil war.  This is what they feared if the ANC/MK rose to power under the charismatic Mandela.  Civil war in South Africa fueled by the Soviet Union to aid in their war with the West.  As it turned out, though, Mandela was more like Abraham Lincoln when he emerged from jail.  Who told his generals that once the American Civil War was over there was to be no reprisals or retaliation against the South.  For once the war was over they would move on together as Americans.  Both North and South.  Which made the peace that followed much easier on the South.  Allowing the nation to heal her wounds more quickly than if there had been a period of bloody purges and reprisals.  And this is the gift Mandela gave to South Africa.  Allowing the nation to move forward after apartheid without bloody purges or reprisals.  Which is why South Africa went on to become one of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) economies.  While another former member of the British Empire in Africa, Southern Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe), suffers corruption, poverty, human rights abuses and one of the lowest life expectancy in the world.  Because Mandela spoke of peace and reconciliation when released from prison.  Not vengeance.  Like they did in Zimbabwe.


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The Communists in Japan are targeting Young People to help them Transform Japan into an Oppressive Communist State

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 10th, 2013

Week in Review

The former Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China (back in the days of Mao), North Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba all have great police states.  Not to keep people out of their countries.  But to prevent the people inside their countries from escaping to the capitalist West. Why?  Life was better in the capitalist West than in the communist East.  Where nations in the capitalist West didn’t need a secret police to keep their people from escaping.  But needed strong immigration controls to keep their countries from being overwhelmed by refugees trying to escape to their lands.  Yet despite this history of communist failures there are still communist parties in countries trying to attract voters.  Preferably the ones who don’t know about that history of failure (see Communist Party makes a comeback … in Japan by Gavin Blair, The Christian Science Monitor, posted 8/5/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Founded in 1922, the JCP is the oldest political party in Japan, and has enjoyed constant representation in parliament for longer than any other. But until recently, its image was one of older activists and it struggled to attract younger voters.

July’s elections were the first in Japan where online campaigning was permitted, and it was the JCP that is widely seen as having made best use of it. As well as savvy leveraging of social networks and video streaming platforms, the party created a series of online mascot characters that addressed individual issues such as the planned consumption tax hike, shady business practices, the heavy US military presence on Okinawa, and constitutional change.

“We were able to use the Net to reach out to younger people, many of whom don’t read newspapers or watch TV much. Through the characters, we could communicate issues simply and appeal to young voters,” says party spokesperson Toshio Ueki, who reports that the characters’ webpages got 1.5 million hits in the weeks before the poll.

Sound familiar?  That’s how President Obama won election twice.  By reaching out to younger people.  The people who probably know the least about economics.  And history.  That’s how people who want to change a country do it.  By getting people who don’t have the foggiest idea about what happened in the world in the last century or so.  Who simply don’t know of what people tried.  And what has failed.  With communism pretty much at the top of the list of things NOT to do based on past history.

If we did take power, the JCP wouldn’t try to implement a Communist economy immediately. It would require huge changes and we would seek the support of the people for each step,” Kira says. “And we would want to use the best parts of the current economic system, too.”

Japan is pretty close geographically to some of the great communist failures.  The former Soviet Union.  The People’s Republic of China (PRC) back in the days of Mao.  Vietnam.  And, of course, North Korea.  Places that have all gotten better with a move away from communism and towards capitalism.  Except North Korea.  Which is pretty much unchanged.  And the former Soviet Union.  Which is no more.  But the biggest part of the Soviet Union lives on.  Russia.  Which had moved towards capitalism.  But now is drifting back a bit.

History has shown where there is unfettered free markets life is better.  For this is the direction of all immigration.  From countries with highly fettered markets to countries with less fettered markets.  Older people know this.  People who read history know this.  Or lived it.  People who understand classical economics know this.  But young people?  They haven’t a clue.  Which is why all candidates who want to expand the power of the state over the people target young people.  For with them all they have to do is to promise more stuff and more freedom.  Even if they promise to deliver these with policies that have throughout history done anything but.


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FT182: “Obamacare will do to health care what the Soviet Union did to their economy.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 9th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The whole East versus West Cold War Showdown was a Battle between Capitalism and Socialism

If you’re not old you may not be familiar with the Soviet Union as it no longer exists.  The Soviet Union was also known as the USSR.  The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  And in that full name lies the key to understanding what the Soviet Union was.  That socialist part.  For the USSR was socialism on a grand scale.  Formed following the Russian Revolution of 1917.  Also known as the October Revolution.  When the revolutionaries toppled the Russian monarchy.  And set up a communist state.  Which spilled over in counties surrounding Russia.  And by ‘spilled over’ I mean they conquered those surrounding countries.

People like to make distinctions between communism and socialism but they’re the same thing with a little different window dressing.  Central to both ideologies is a hatred of free market capitalism.  And that enlightened state planners can do everything better than unfettered free markets.  For in socialism they put people before profits.  Whereas in that evil, greedy capitalism they put profits before people.

The whole East versus West showdown of the Cold War was about settling that question.  Which system of government was better?  The free market capitalism of the West?  Or the state planning of the East?  And for a clue to that answer go back to that first sentence.  Where I noted that the Soviet Union no longer exists.  In fact when that socialist utopia did exist those people on the inside dreamed of one thing.  Getting out.

Socialist States use Secret Police to coerce People to Stay and Work for the Greater Good

So why did the people want to get out of their socialist utopia?  Two reasons.  The first was the economy.  Which was horrible.  With state planners managing the economy people waited in line at stores for the things they needed.  Staring at empty shelves where those things should have been.  And seeing shelves full of stuff they didn’t want.  East Berliners risked their lives to climb over the Berlin Wall to get to West Berlin for a better life.  And to go to those stores full of wonderful Western goods.

This brings us back to that other reason.  Which ties into the Berlin Wall.  Which East Berliners risked their lives to climb over.  Why?  Because they couldn’t walk across the street to get to West Berlin.   Or drive there.  And why couldn’t they walk or drive to West Berlin?  Because the East German government wouldn’t allow them to.  The communists built the Berlin Wall because the best and brightest were leaving East Berlin for West Berlin.  And East Berlin, as well as East Germany, couldn’t survive if that brain-drain continued.

Given the choice the people would leave.  If they all left there would be no doctors, scientists, engineers, etc., required in a modern state.  And if they didn’t want to stay and work for the greater good the state used a secret police force (the Stasi, in East Germany) to coerce them to stay and work for the greater good.  To make sure people had the right attitudes and the right thoughts the Stasi spied on people.  Turned people into snitches.  Jailed people.  Tortured people.  And simply made people disappear.  By killing them.  And expunging them from the public record.  As if they never existed.

Liberals in the West loved the Soviet Union and National Health Care

Growing up in the West it’s hard to comprehend life in these socialist utopias.  Thankfully, there are some good movies that bring the fear and loathing of living in a socialist utopia to life.  There’s V for Vendetta.  And Nineteen Eighty Four.  Both set in a futuristic socialist Britain.  If you’re interested in seeing actual life in the former East Germany there’s The Lives of Others.  A movie everyone should watch.  As it is the inevitable destination of creeping socialism.  Life gets worse, not better.  People have less, not more.  And the further we creep towards socialism the worse things get.  And the less we have.

The Democrats passed Obamacare into law on strict party lines.  No Republicans voted for it.  Because history has shown that when the government manages things life gets worse, not better.  And people have less, not more.  This is the basis of the Republican opposition.  On Monday (8/9/2013) President Obama held a rare press conference.  Where he said the holy grail of the Republican Party is taking away health care from 30 million people.  Not their fear of creeping socialism.  Of their fear that health care will get worse, not better.  And that people will have less, not more.

The Soviet Union had national health care.  Liberals in the West loved it.  As they loved the Soviet Union.  College professors.  Public school teachers.  Hollywood.  Even the mainstream media.  Who were (and are) liberal Democrats.  Who all wanted what they had in the Soviet Union.  At least what they believed the Soviets had.  Because the Soviet press wrote glowingly about the Soviet economy.  And the high quality of Soviet health care.  Because enlightened state planners made things better.  Despite the Soviets and the eastern European countries having to use secret police to keep their people from escaping their socialist utopias.  Even with that free high-quality health care.  Because for those living in those utopias it wasn’t everything the liberals in the West thought it was.  Instead, for them, life got worse, not better.  And they had less, not more.  While suffering the brutal oppression of the secret police.


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FT175: “Illegal US immigration tells us that the people of the world want more American imperialism.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 21st, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The Communists built the Berlin Wall to keep her People from Fleeing their Communist Utopia

The West is the best.  Based on history.  The Cold War was East versus West.  The Soviet Union and communist Eastern Europe faced off with NATO forces on the other side of the Iron Curtain.  And all during the Cold War people tried to escape from behind the Iron Curtain into the West.  Where there was no secret police.  And a life of plenty.  Instead of the life of poverty and perpetual want of the most basic of necessities behind the Iron Curtain.  Which is why these people wanted to escape to the West.

Of course, that posed a problem for countries behind the Iron Curtain.  If too many of their best and brightest escaped to the West the resulting brain drain would hurt their economies.  Reduce the quality of their health care systems.  Retard their scientific research.  Diminish innovation.  Leaving these countries frozen in time.  While the West went on to create the modern world.  If you visited East Germany in 1950 and again in 1960 and again in 1970 you would not have noticed great change.  At least not anything near the kind of change you saw in West Germany.

This was a problem in Berlin.  For although Berlin was wholly within East Germany the city itself was divided between East and West.  And life was so much better across the street in West Berlin than it was in East Berlin.  There were blue jeans.  Transistor radios.  Televisions.  People just had to walk across the street and claim asylum.  Board an airplane and fly away from the soul-sucking life of East Germany.  And they, too, could have all of those wonderful things.  As well as a full tummy.  For the West could feed their people far better than they could behind the Iron Curtain.  Which is why the communists built the Berlin Wall.  Not to keep people out of their communist utopia.  But to keep their people from fleeing it.

If Teddy Roosevelt didn’t give Cuba back to the Cubans there would have been no ‘Boat People’

The Soviet Union and their satellite countries behind the Iron Curtain are no more.  For the East lost the Cold War.  Thanks to Ronald Reagan.  And Margaret Thatcher.  Who decided to no longer accommodate the East’s belligerence.  Instead of detente they chose to win the Cold War.  For they saw what communism was.  An economic system on life support.  The Soviet Union could not even feed her people without U.S. grain.  Despite having Europe’s breadbasket on their side of the Iron Curtain.  The Ukraine.  So they pushed.  Hard.  Spent more money on defense that the Soviet economy simply couldn’t match.  Ultimately breaking the back of the Soviet economy.

That’s right.  The West won the Cold War by living well.  The economies of the West, in particular of the United States, were so strong that it could build the Strategic Defense Initiative (i.e., Star Wars) and still provide a life of plenty for their people.  Which is why whenever someone living behind the Iron Curtain had a chance to defect to the West they did.  It’s the dream of oppressed people everywhere to escape to the West.  Especially to the United States.  For when it comes to freedom and a high quality of life this is the ultimate destination.  The United States.

When Fidel Castro turned Cuba communist people made ramshackle rafts to escape Cuba.  Hoping to get to the United States.  Where life was so much better.  These ‘boat people’ no doubt wished the United States had kept Cuba when Spain ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam to the U.S.  For a large sum of money after losing the Spanish-American War.  Spain left Cuba to the Americans, too, at the same time.  But Teddy Roosevelt gave Cuba back to the Cubans.  Which ultimately brought Fidel Castro to power.  Creating those ‘boat people’ trying to escape his rule.  Whereas had the United States kept Cuba it could be more like Puerto Rico or Guam today.  Western.  Where people wouldn’t board ramshackle rafts to get to the West.  Because they would have already been living in the West.

The Ideas of the Enlightenment took Root in America and Flourished better than in all other Countries

Prior to the Spanish-American War there was the Mexican-American War.  Where the Americans fought the Mexicans who had just recently won their independence from Spain.  What started out as a war over Texas ended with a treaty (and a cash payment to Mexico as well as assumption of some of her debt) giving the United States not only Texas but California and what is approximately today the southeast United States.  Moving the southern border of the U.S. south.  But apparently not far enough south.  At least, based on the illegal immigration from Mexico into the United States.

Life across the border in the United States is better than it is in Mexico.  Based on those who leave Mexico and cross into the United States illegally.  Who wouldn’t be doing this if life was better in Mexico than in the United States.  Suggesting that these immigrants would have been happier had the United States pushed their southern border all the way to Mexico’s southern border at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War.  So that Mexico would have been part of the U.S.  Allowing them to enjoy living in the United States.  Without being in the country illegally.

So while people speak out against American imperialism what this immigration tells us is that there was not enough American imperialism.  For if the United States had made most of the world a part of the United States then these people would not have to immigrate here.  For they would already be here.  For whatever reason the ideas of the Enlightenment took root here in America and flourished.  Better than in all other countries.  Making her the leader of the Western World.  And the ultimate destination of oppressed and impoverished people everywhere.


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North Korea Speaks Loudly but Hits with a Small Stick. So Far.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 23rd, 2010

FDR Gave Joseph Stalin Eastern Europe

How did we get this North Korean problem?

After World War II, the Soviets tried to spread communism.  And Roosevelt helped.  He gave Joseph Stalin Eastern Europe.  The German capital, Berlin, was inside East Germany.  The Allies partitioned it.  The United States, Great Britain and France split the West side.  The Soviets took the East.  And West Berlin was a thorn in Stalin’s side.  It was a gateway to the West for those oppressed under Soviet Communism in the East.

FDR liked Uncle Joe Stalin.  Both were Progressives.  And Stalin did Progressivism in a grand way.  The only problem was that the people didn’t want it.  They tried to escape from the heavy hand of Soviet rule.  So Stalin built a wall in Berlin.

Then, to seal the deal, he cut the rail lines into West Berlin.  He was going to starve the West Berliners into submission.  The West initiated the Berlin Airlift to relieve the besieged Berliners.  Stalin relented.  He restored rail service.  And the West checked the spread of communism in Europe.

The Soviets tried to expand into Greece, Turkey and Iran

The Soviets changed tactics.  They tried to entice Western nations into the Soviet Sphere.  To check the spread of Communism into Greece and Turkey, President Truman kept them into the Western sphere with generous U.S. aid.

During World War II, American aid for the Soviets fighting the Nazis came through Iran.  When the war ended, the Soviets didn’t want to leave Iran.  They wanted those warm water ports.  And that land in between those ports and the Soviet Union.  American support and aid to Iran eventually forced the Soviets to leave Iran.

Rebuffed in Iran, the Soviets found success in China.  And North Korea.  Truman implemented his Truman Doctrine to contain any further Soviet/communist expansion.  And, in 1950, this turned into a shooting war on the Korean peninsula.

The Cold War Heats Up

We call the standoff between East and West the Cold War.  The Soviet Union tried to spread communism.  The West tried to contain communism.  And the Cold War heated up on the Korean Peninsula.

The North Koreans invaded South Korea.  The United Nations fought back.  With General MacArthur in command, he pushed the North Koreans out of South Korea.  And he kept on going.  Pushed them all the way back to the Yalu River (the border with China).

And then the Chinese entered the war.  They poured over the border and pushed the U.N. force back.  Eventually, the front ended up about where it started.  At the 38th parallel, the military demarcation line to this day between the North and South.  There was an armistice to halt combat operations.  But no formal peace treaty.

The North Korean Ruling Elite Didn’t Lose, but their People Did

South Korea remained in the Western Sphere and prospered.  North Korea remained in the Soviet Sphere and stagnated.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea suffered from energy shortages and recurring famine.  The country is a mess.  The ruling elite have food.  But millions of North Koreans have starved to death over the years.

North Korea is a closed and isolated nation.  With a strict censorship of all media, the people know only the ruling party propaganda.  The ruling elite told great lies to the people to keep them from rising up.  They flipped the truth.  North Korea was rich and prosperous.  The United States was oppressing her people, starving them, invading other countries, etc.  A lot of North Koreans fear the United States.  And will suffer great deprivations to support their leader.

Which brings us to today.  With no one to turn to and being incapable of providing for their own people, they need Western aid.  But that often comes with conditions.  Such as lightening up on the human rights violations.  Which they are none too keen on.  If the people in North Korea do not live in fear and intimidation, they may threaten the ruling elite’s power hold.  So they have to find ingenious ways of getting the West to provide aid with fewer conditions.

North Korea Speaks Loudly but Hits with a Small Stick

North Korea likes to cause trouble.  Be provocative.  Threaten the West with annihilation.  Shoot people.  Blow things up.  Anything to get the attention of the West.  So the West will give them stuff to calm them down.  The latest provocative action involved the shelling of a South Korean island (see North Korea fires artillery barrage on South by Jung Ha-Won, Agence France Presse, posted 11/23/2010 on Yahoo! News).

North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing one person, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire as the South’s military went on top alert.

Which was more bad news upon previous bad news.

The firing came after North Korea’s disclosure of an apparently operational uranium enrichment programme — a second potential way of building a nuclear bomb — which is causing serious alarm for the United States and its allies.

Which was upon previous bad news.

Tensions have been acute since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Seoul says was the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Pyongyang has rejected the charge.

Russia and China Grow Uneasy with North Korea’s Provocations

Even past Cold War allies are not happy with this latest action (see World edgy on Korea, Russia sees “colossal danger” by Peter Apps, London, posted 11/23/2010 on Reuters).

“It is necessary to immediately end all strikes,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during a visit to the Belarusian capital Minsk. “There is a colossal danger which must be avoided. Tensions in the region are growing.”

China, the impoverished North’s only powerful ally, was careful to avoid taking sides, calling on both Koreas to “do more to contribute to peace.

And why is China being so careful (see The Next Korean War? by Leslie H. Gelb posted 11/23/201 on The Daily Beast).

Beijing simply won’t take a stance against the North, no matter what it does, for fear that this Communist regime will collapse and leave China to pick up the pieces.

The North Korean Problem

North Korea is a problem.  It’s a little like slavery in 19th century America.  There’s tragic human suffering.  And no easy solution to the problem.  If the current regime falls, some nation (or nations) will have to absorb the huge costs of reincorporating the North Korean people into an open society.  Feed them.  Deprogram them.  Prevent them from devolving into civil war (the oppressed versus the ruling elite and their huge standing army). 

The costs will be staggering.  So great that maintaining the status quo is the easy option.  Even though it condemns the North Korean people.  And leaves a ruling elite in power that may go rogue and do something nuclear.


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