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.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Byzantine Empire, Bosporus, Silk Road, Dutch East India Company, English East India Company, Tea Act and Opium Wars

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 11th, 2014

History 101

(Originally published May 15th, 2012)

To encourage Risk Takers to Travel Halfway around the World Mercantile States granted Monopoly Charters

The modern world began because Europeans had a penchant for silk and spices.  Something they enjoyed during Roman times.  When the Romans ruled the world.  And the Mediterranean Sea was nothing more than a Roman lake.  But when the empire stopped conquering new lands and sending the spoils of war home they had to turn to other means to pay for the cost of empire.  Taxes.  To pay for the Roman government and their public spending.  And the Roman legions.  This excessive government spending led to the fall of the western half of the empire.  But the eastern half lived on for another 1,000 years or so.  Why?  Because the capital of the Byzantine Empire was Constantinople.  On the Bosporus.  Trade crossroads of the world.

This city was so rich everybody wanted to conquer it.  So they could have all those riches.  For everything that came along the Silk Road from China crossed into Europe at the Bosporus.  Soon Muslims fought Christians in the Holy lands.  Then more Christians came.  The Crusaders.  Those who didn’t die went back to Europe with some of those Chinese luxuries.  Spices.  Silk.  Porcelain.  Etc.  Sparking a renewed interest in these finer things in Europe.  Especially the spices.  For European cooking was horribly bland at the time.  The Ottoman Turks eventually took Constantinople.  Renamed it Istanbul.  And controlled that lucrative trade.  Making those much sought after Asian goods rather expensive in Europe.  Which they had no choice but to pay.  Because if you wanted those luxuries you had to go through Istanbul.  Until the Portuguese sailed around Africa and found a direct route to those cherished goods, that is.

It was the Commercial Revolution.  A new age of international trade.  A trade even more profitable than what the Ottoman Turks controlled.  Because big ocean-going vessels can carry more cargo than anything coming over land on the Silk Road.  And these new European maritime powers wanted that wealth.  And the power it would provide.  To encourage risk takers to get into those wooden ships and travel halfway around the world they granted monopoly charters.  The Dutch East India Company (VOC) was one of the largest.  And one of the wealthiest.  But this was not your typical company.  The VOC established overseas colonies.  It waged war.  Established treaties.  Even coined its own money.  Because of this thousands of VOC ships stuffed full of valuable cargoes sailed to Antwerp and Amsterdam, making the Dutch very wealthy.  And powerful.

The Tea Act allowed the Company to Ship their Tea Directly to America and exempted them from any Duties

Of course the Dutch weren’t the only ones doing this.  They had competition.  Portugal.  Spain.  France.  And England.  Who would bump into each other numerous times fighting for control of this trade.  And those colonies.  The English and the Dutch would fight 4 wars.  Which is how Dutch-founded Manhattan became part of the British Empire and, subsequently, one of America’s greatest cities.  The English East India Company gave the VOC a run for its money.  Parliament even passed legislation to give the English a monopoly on all trade with their American colonies.  The Navigation Acts.  Which stated that all trade to and from America had to be on English ships.  And all trade had to go through an English port.  Where the ships were unloaded and the cargoes inspected.  And taxed.  Then they could reload their cargoes and continue on their journey.  All tenets of mercantilism.  This kept the lower-priced Dutch goods out of America.  And prevented the Americans from selling to the Dutch directly for higher prices.  So it shut down the Dutch from all American trade (except for a prosperous black market). And brought in some lucrative tax revenue for England.  While extending shipping times and increasing prices for the Americans.  Which they were not happy about in the least.

The English East India Company (the Company) was similar in structure to the VOC.  And soon made the Indian subcontinent a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company.  But it wasn’t cheap.  Waging war was costly.  As was managing those conquered territories (something the Romans had also learned).  Then a famine in Bengal in 1770 claimed about one-third of the local population.  Making laborers more scarce.  And more expensive.  All at a time when the sales of their imported goods were falling in Europe.  There were warehouses full of unsold Chinese tea that they couldn’t sell.  Making for a bad time for the Company.

Higher costs and lower sales spelled trouble.  And that’s what the Company had a lot of.  Trouble.  So the Company turned to Parliament for help.  And Parliament helped.  By allowing the Company to ship their tea directly to America without having to unload it in a British port.  Or pay a duty on that tea.  Which would greatly reduce their costs.  And allow them to sell it in America cheaper than they did before.  So Parliament passed the Tea Act in 1773.  Making life better for all involved.  But the Tea Act left in place another tax in the previous Townshend Acts.  Which was a bigger problem than getting cheaper tea (which they could get on the black market from the Dutch).  These taxes on the British subjects in America were unconstitutional.  Because there were no Americans sitting in Parliament.  This was taxation without representation.  A much bigger issue than cheap tea.  So they threw that first ‘cheap’ tea into Boston Harbor.  The Boston Tea Party being a major step towards war with the mother country.  And American independence.

Britain became the Lone Superpower after Abandoning their Protectionist Mercantile Policies and Adopting Free Trade

The American Revolutionary War was not the only headache the British got from their mercantile policies.  Part of those policies required maintaining a positive balance of trade.  So there was always a net inflow of bullion into the mother country.  That’s why raw materials shipped into Britain from America.  And finished goods shipped out to America.  Finished goods are more valuable than raw materials.  So the Americans had to make up for this balance of trade in bullion.  Resulting in a net inflow of bullion into the mother country.  Very simple.  As long as you can manufacture higher valued goods that other people want to buy.

And this is the problem they ran into with the Chinese.  For though the British wanted those Chinese spices, silk and porcelain the Chinese didn’t want anything the British manufactured.  Which meant Britain had to pay for those luxuries with bullion.  Including all that Chinese tea they craved.  Which resulted in a net outflow of bullion to the Chinese.  The British fixed this problem by finding the one thing that the Chinese people wanted.  Indian opium.  Grown in Bengal.  Of course, this turned a lot of Chinese into opium addicts.  The addiction problem was so bad that the Chinese banned opium.  But the British were able to smuggle it in.  They sold so much of it that they used the proceeds to buy their tea.  Thus reversing the bullion flow.

Not the finest hour in the British Empire.  The Chinese and the British would go on to fight a couple of wars over this opium trade.  The Opium Wars.  Which the British did all right in.  Even gaining Hong Kong in the bargain.  They didn’t build any long-lasting love with the Chinese people.  But Hong Kong turned out pretty nice under the British.  Especially after they abandoned their protectionist mercantile policies and adopted free trade.  Which made the British the lone superpower for about a century as they modernized the world by leading the way in the Industrial Revolution.  And the Chinese in Hong Kong were very happy indeed to be there when the communists took over the mainland.  And caused a famine or two.  For they lived comfortably.  In a state founded on mercantilism.  That achieved its greatest prosperity during the free trade of capitalism that followed Britain’s mercantile ways.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Nazareth, Galilee, Bethlehem, Roman Occupation, King Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 24th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published December 25th, 2012)

If Jesus were to pick up His Mortal Life where He left it He would go to the Nearest Synagogue

Some on the Left have tried to advance their agenda by appealing to the religion they hate.  Christianity.  Or, rather, the many religions based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, the New Testament and the Old Testament.  They hate the religions of Christianity because they frown on a more fun and libertine lifestyle.  And judge those who participate in a more fun and libertine lifestyle.  In particular those who use birth control and abortion to engage in sex outside of marriage.

So they are no fans of these Christian religions.  But they do try to use Jesus to advance some of their causes.  Such as their campaign to get rid of the gas-guzzling and air-polluting SUV.  Where they ask, “What car would Jesus drive?”  With the implication that Jesus would choose to drive a car that would not pollute the planet that He created.  Or, if you don’t believe in the Trinity (where Jesus is Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the planet His Father created.  Which is a silly question to ask Christians as they believe that Jesus is everywhere as well as within them and would not need to drive anywhere.  Still, they ask the question to try and make Christians feel that they are doing something that would make Jesus sad.  Driving an SUV.

Here’s a question for the Left.  If Jesus was walking the planet today as the man He was before His crucifixion which Christian church would He attend?  An Orthodox church?  A Catholic church?  Or a Protestant church?  The answer?  None of the above.  For this is a trick question.  If Jesus were to pick up His mortal life where He left it He would go to the nearest synagogue as Jesus Christ was a practicing Jew.  And a rabbi.

The Roman Province of Judea was a Complicated Place between the Roman Occupation and King Herod

It was being Jewish that got Jesus into so much trouble.  From the moment of his birth.  Joseph, Jesus’ father, came from Bethlehem.  While engaged to Mary she became pregnant.  Before their wedding.  And not by him.  Turns out God blessed her to bring Jesus into the world.  Joseph had some trouble believing that but after a visit by an angel Joseph was convinced that she did not cheat on him.  That the Immaculate Conception story was legitimate.  At least according to the Gospels.  Written many years later and may not be a literal historical narrative.  But they do include historical fact.  Where history becomes more a matter of faith is difficult at times to determine for the historical record is rather sparse at times.

Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth.  In Galilee near the border with Samaria.  During the time of the Roman occupation.  Who were pagans.  Herod was an Edomite.  Born in the Kingdom of Edom just south of the Kingdom of Judah.  Though he practiced Judaism he was not considered Jewish by the powers-that-be in Judea, the Jewish lands that became a Roman province.  Herod was governor of Galilee.  With Rome’s approval.  He lost his throne.  Rome helped him get it back.  The Roman Senate then voted him King of the Jews.  Three years later he and the Romans conquered Jerusalem.  And elevated him to king of all of Judea.

So the Roman province of Judea was a complicated place.  The Romans tolerated the Jews as long as they did not cause too much trouble.  The Jews did not like living under Roman occupation.  And they were none too keen with King Herod who wasn’t religiously pure, lived a decadent lifestyle and was a brutal tyrant.  It was this world Mary was about to bring Jesus into.

The Last Thing you want to tell the Current King of the Jews was the Location of the New King of the Jews

According to the Gospels Roman emperor Augustus ordered a census.  The Census of Quirinius.  Requiring all residents of Judea to return to their ancestral lands for counting in a census.  Though this may not have been Roman custom they may have called for this in Judea.  That complicated place where the Jews kept their religion and customs.  So Joseph had to return to Bethlehem.  Worried about leaving Mary behind in a land where others may not be so open minded about her Immaculate Conception he took her along.  Which is why she made that great trek so close to her delivery time.

With everyone else returning to Bethlehem the only shelter they could find was in a stable.  Mary gave birth and they placed Jesus in a manger.  A food trough for the animals.  As the word got out about the son of God being born it attracted a lot of attention.  Some were overjoyed that the prophecy in the Old Testament was being fulfilled.  Some were not quite that happy.  Some in the Jewish hierarchy.  Who didn’t foresee this event.  And King Herod.  Who when he heard that a new king had been born to rule over mankind felt nothing but a challenge to his power.  So when the three wise men from the East, the Magi, came to Herod to ask where this new king was King Herod couldn’t tell them.  But when they found Him they were to send word back so he could come and worship Jesus himself.

Of course the last thing you want to tell the current King of the Jews was the location of this new King of the Jews, this son of God.  Jesus Christ.  Because he would want to kill Him.  Well, the Magi got the message in a dream and went back East without telling Herod after delivering their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  (The frankincense and myrrh were aromatic gum resins used as incense.)  King Herod took this betrayal as another challenge to his power.  So to protect his power he ordered that all male children in the Greater Bethlehem area 2 years old and younger were to be slaughtered.  The Massacre of the Innocents.  There is no record of this outside the Gospels.  Though it would be something King Herod would have done.  For he killed his own children when they were a threat to his power.  Based on the size of Bethlehem the number of children falling in Herod’s criteria may have been about 20.  The slaughter of which would be a tragedy.  But the number may not have been large enough to enter the historical record.

An angel warned Joseph of Herod’s plan in a dream.  Telling him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt until the dust settled.  Returning to Galilee after Herod’s death.  Where he grew up.  Jesus of Nazareth.   But his problems with the politically connected Jewish hierarchy and the Romans weren’t over.  He would have about 30 years on earth, though, before that trouble would catch up with Him.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FT181: “Slavery in America is the best thing that ever happened for today’s black Americans.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 2nd, 2013

Fundamental Truth

To become the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit the Man Jesus had to Die

There are some Christians who still have bad feelings towards Jews.  Who they blame for killing their Lord and Savior.  Jesus Christ.  Even though Christ died for man’s sins.  He knew the state was going to execute Him.  But He did not try to save Himself.  He accepted His fate.  Because His death was preordained.  It was all part of God’s plan.  For Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  To become the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit He had to die.  And He had to be crucified.  As horrible as that was.  To give the religion that would follow their most sacred icon.  The crucifix.  Or cross for the non-Catholics.

God’s will was done.  And because of it the Christians got a new religion.  Based on the life and death of a Jew.  The Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth.  Which is why the Christian Bible includes the Old Testament.  To include the Mosaic teachings that Christ Himself taught.  So for Christians to hold a grudge against Judaism is illogical.  Especially when the ultimate instrument of Jesus’ death was politics.  Not religion.

The Jews lived under a Roman occupation.  An uneasy Roman occupation.  The Jews were a thorn in Rome’s side.  As they were quite burdensome.  With their not knuckling under as willingly as others.  So to keep the peace they allowed the Jews to keep their religion.  Or rather, they tolerated it.  Something the high priests and Pharisees were very conscious of.  And they didn’t want any trouble that would cause them to lose their privileges.  Like this young whippersnapper coming around and riling up the masses.  For they knew it wouldn’t take much for the Romans to lose their tolerance of them.  And they especially didn’t like His way of not revering them.  That especially cheesed them off.  So the high priests and Pharisees went to the Romans and said this guy, Jesus, is calling Himself king of the Jews.  Something they were sure would not please Caesar.  Emperor of them all.  Well, one thing led to another and they crucified Christ.  Because of politics.  Not Judaism.

Some of the Countries today enjoying the Greatest Liberties and Highest Standards of Living have a Christian Past

Jesus has done more to bring peace to the world than anyone else.  The golden rule?  It has done more to let people live peacefully together than any government law.  It made people kind to each other.  Instead of the brutes we once were.  Religion civilized us.  And Jesus did more than most to make that happen.  Would that have happened if the Romans hadn’t crucified Him?  Of course this is a moot question.  For it was God’s will.  What happened had to happen.  And we are better off because it happened.  (When people use religion to justify violence it’s a different story.  The horrific wars between Catholics and Protestants had nothing to do with the golden rule.  But people who in their zealotry forget the golden rule.)

Death by crucifixion was a long, painful death.  People hung by their arms until they could hang no longer.  Then they transferred their weight to their legs.  Standing up.  And this went on until death mercifully came.  So Jesus hung by His arms with His weight pulling His tissue and tendons against the nails through His hands.  And when He stood the weight of his body forced His tissues and tendons against the nail through his feet.  And up and down he went.  Forcing those nails through His flesh.  A horrible death.  But a death He did not try to avoid.  People make Him out as some hippy peacenik.  But He had guts.  Though it’s easy for a God to have that kind of guts.  Jesus was just a man when He died.

So something good came from something horrible.  The world became a better place.  Yes, there were a lot of religious wars when some bastardized Jesus’ teachings.  But some of the countries today enjoying the greatest liberties and highest standards of living have a Christian past (and are still predominantly Christian).  Like those that were once part of the Christian British Empire.  Where the rule of law and the respect for the individual—not the ruling powers—rule supreme.  And that would not have happened without Christ.  For even the atheist among the Founding Fathers—Thomas Jefferson—thought that Jesus’ teachings were the greatest in the world.  So good things can come from bad things.  Like another good thing that came from one of the worst things there ever was.  Slavery.

There’s a Prosperous Black Middle Class and Black Millionaires in America thanks to Slavery

Africa is a horrible place.  Sadly.  In any metric you use Africa measures horribly.  More people live in poverty in Africa than they do anywhere else in the world.  Africa has the world’s highest infant mortality rates.  Africa has the lowest life expectancy rates in the world.  Africa has the highest homicide rates in the world.  Africa has the lowest per capita GDP in the world.  And Africa has the lowest Human Development Index in the world.  Which basically says that Africa is the worst place in the world to live.  Whereas Europe and the countries that were once part of the Christian British Empire consistently have the best numbers in all of these metrics.  Making them some of the best places to live.  Unlike Africa.

Of course, the slaves who traveled in the hellish conditions of the slave ships to the New World would have preferred to have remained in Africa.  In the world they knew.  With the family they knew.  Without suffering the horrors of that Atlantic crossing.  The slave markets.  And their brutal overseers.  But something good came from all that suffering.  Unfortunately it was not for them.  But their distant ancestors.  Who today can live in a prosperous black middle class.  Where they don’t have to live in poverty.  Where their children are likely to survive their childhood.  And grow up to live a full life.  Where they have a lesser chance of being murdered.  Where they can have a much higher standard of living.  And a higher Human Development Index.  Unlike in Africa.

Slavery in America is the best thing that ever happened for today’s black Americans.  Ironically, the ancestors of those who were lucky enough to escape the slave traders don’t live as good a life as those who did not.  Today blacks in America are CEOs.  Athletes.  Movie stars.  Hip hop-stars.  Doctors.  Lawyers.  Even president of the United States.  So in addition to a prosperous black middle class there are black millionaires in America.  Blacks who started with nothing.  And earned a champagne and caviar life.  Something that just isn’t happening in Africa.  Sadly.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Roman Denarius, New World Gold and Silver, American Continental and German Mark

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 25th, 2013

History 101

Money that is not Scarce is a Poor Temporary Storage of Wealth

They say money doesn’t grow on trees.  And it’s a good thing it doesn’t.  For money is a temporary storage of wealth.  It temporarily stores value.  And one if its attributes is that it has to be scarce.  For example, let’s say you are a highly skilled tomato grower.  And you work in your garden 12 hours each day weeding, fertilizing, watering, tying, pruning, etc., your many fields of tomato plants.  Producing beautiful tomatoes that everyone just loves.  You love your tomatoes so much that you actually gave up your day job to grow them full time.  And support your family with the proceeds from selling your tomatoes.  Which you will exchange with others for money.  Provided that money is scarce.  And will hold the value of your tomatoes.  Until you can exchange that money for something you want.

Now let’s assume money grows on trees.  Anyone can plant one in their backyard.  And it grows like a weed.  That is, you don’t have to fertilize it or water it or do anything else for it.  And anytime you want something you just walk to your money tree and pick the bills you need.  We would never have to work again if we all had money trees in our backyard.  Wouldn’t that be great?  Or would it?  What would happen if everyone quit working because they, too, had a money tree in their backyard?  If no one worked then there would be nothing to buy with the money from your money tree.

But there is another problem.  If everyone had a money tree there would be such much money in circulation that it would no longer be scarce.  And if it’s not scarce it isn’t money.  It isn’t a temporary storage of wealth.  It won’t temporarily store value.  Because someone that has something of value, say delicious tomatoes, won’t want to trade them for something that he or she can just pick off of his own money tree.  Instead, he or she would rather trade those tomatoes for something that does have value.  Like, say, mozzarella cheese.  So a skilled cheese-maker and the skilled tomato-grower can meet to trade things of value with each other.  Tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  And then each can make a delicious Caprese salad.  Which also has value.  Unlike money that grows on trees that anybody can pick whenever they want to.  Filling the world with people with lots of money but nothing to buy.  Because no one works to grow or make anything.

When Spain brought back New World Gold and Silver it unleashed Inflation in the Old World

For anything to be money it must be scarce.  Just think of the laws of supply and demand.  If there are droughts all summer long farmers have smaller harvests.  Which raises the price of what they bring to market.  Because demand is greater than the supply.  If there was a great growing season they have bumper crops.  Which lowers the price of what they bring to market.  Because supply is greater than demand.  So the scarcer something is the more valuable it is.  And so it is with money.

The main Roman coin was the silver denarius.  As the Roman Empire reached its zenith her borders stopped moving out.  The Roman legions stopped conquering new lands.  And without new conquest there were no spoils to send back to Rome.  So the Romans had to raise taxes to pay for the cost of empire.  The administration of it.  The protection of it.  And a growing welfare state to keep the people content.  To help with these great expenditures they began to debase the denarius.  Mixing more and more lead into the coin.  Reducing the silver content.  So they could make more coins with the available silver.  Thus making these coins less scarce.  And less valuable.  Unleashing an inflation so bad that it devalued the denarius so much that no amount of them could buy anything.   Eventually even the Roman government would refuse to accept it in payment of taxes.  Demanding gold instead.  Or payment in kind.

When Spain arrived in the New World they found a lot of gold and silver.  Which Europeans used as money in the Old World.  The Spanish brought so much gold and silver back to the Old World that it greatly expanded the money supply.  Making gold and silver less scarce.  And less valuable.  Requiring more of it to buy the things it once bought.  So prices rose.  Because of the inflation of the money supply.

The War Reparations the Versailles Treaty imposed on Germany led to their Hyperinflation

During the American Revolution there was little specie (i.e., gold and silver coin) in the colonies.  As wars are expensive this made it difficult to finance the war.  The Continental Congress asked for contributions from the states.  And could only hope the states would give them some money.  For they had no taxing powers.  But they never were able to raise enough money.  So they borrowed what they could.  And then started printing paper money.  The continental.  But they printed so many of them that they were far from scarce.  The massive inflation devalued the continental so much that it created the expression “not worth a continental.”  Which meant something was absolutely worthless.  The people would refuse to accept them as legal tender from the Continental Army because they were worthless pieces of paper.  So the army took what they needed from the people.  And gave them IOUs that Congress would settle at some later date.

The Germans paid for World War I by borrowing money.  The increased debt of the nation during the war devalued the currency.  The German mark.  It took more and more of them to exchange for stronger currencies.  Like the U.S. dollar.  The Versailles Treaty that ended the war saddled Germany with the responsibility for the war.  And made them pay enormous amounts of war reparations.  In gold.  Or foreign currency.  So the Germans turned up the printing presses.  And printed marks like there was no tomorrow.  Making them less scarce.  And worth less.  It took more and more of them to exchange for foreign currency to make their reparation payments.  But they didn’t care what the exchange rate was.  For whatever amount of devalued marks they needed to exchange they just turned to their printing presses.  And printed whatever they needed.  This rapid inflation devalued the mark more.  Requiring them to print more.  Which just fed into the inflation.  Eventually bringing on a hyperinflation where it took enormous amounts of marks to buy anything.  For example, it was cheaper and easier to burn marks than it was to buy firewood to burn.

Anytime you make money less scarce you make it worth less.  The inflation of the money supply devalues the currency.  Which raises prices.  Because it takes more of the devalued currency to buy what it once did before the inflation.  So expanding the money supply leads to price inflation.  Good if you’re a rich investor.  But if you’re someone just trying to buy firewood to keep from freezing to death during the winter?  Not so good.  The Romans, the Europeans, the Americans and the Germans all suffered from bad inflation.  Some worse than others.  If the inflation is so bad, such as in the case of hyperinflation, people may lose all confidence in the currency.  And simply stop using it.  Going to a barter system instead.  Like when a tomato-grower trades his tomatoes for a cheese-maker’s mozzarella cheese.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Nazareth, Galilee, Bethlehem, Roman Occupation, King Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 25th, 2012

History 101

If Jesus were to pick up His Mortal Life where He left it He would go to the Nearest Synagogue

Some on the Left have tried to advance their agenda by appealing to the religion they hate.  Christianity.  Or, rather, the many religions based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, the New Testament and the Old Testament.  They hate the religions of Christianity because they frown on a more fun and libertine lifestyle.  And judge those who participate in a more fun and libertine lifestyle.  In particular those who use birth control and abortion to engage in sex outside of marriage.

So they are no fans of these Christian religions.  But they do try to use Jesus to advance some of their causes.  Such as their campaign to get rid of the gas-guzzling and air-polluting SUV.  Where they ask, “What car would Jesus drive?”  With the implication that Jesus would choose to drive a car that would not pollute the planet that He created.  Or, if you don’t believe in the Trinity (where Jesus is Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the planet His Father created.  Which is a silly question to ask Christians as they believe that Jesus is everywhere as well as within them and would not need to drive anywhere.  Still, they ask the question to try and make Christians feel that they are doing something that would make Jesus sad.  Driving an SUV.

Here’s a question for the Left.  If Jesus was walking the planet today as the man He was before His crucifixion which Christian church would He attend?  An Orthodox church?  A Catholic church?  Or a Protestant church?  The answer?  None of the above.  For this is a trick question.  If Jesus were to pick up His mortal life where He left it He would go to the nearest synagogue as Jesus Christ was a practicing Jew.  And a rabbi.

The Roman Province of Judea was a Complicated Place between the Roman Occupation and King Herod

It was being Jewish that got Jesus into so much trouble.  From the moment of his birth.  Joseph, Jesus’ father, came from Bethlehem.  While engaged to Mary she became pregnant.  Before their wedding.  And not by him.  Turns out God blessed her to bring Jesus into the world.  Joseph had some trouble believing that but after a visit by an angel Joseph was convinced that she did not cheat on him.  That the Immaculate Conception story was legitimate.  At least according to the Gospels.  Written many years later and may not be a literal historical narrative.  But they do include historical fact.  Where history becomes more a matter of faith is difficult at times to determine for the historical record is rather sparse at times.

Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth.  In Galilee near the border with Samaria.  During the time of the Roman occupation.  Who were pagans.  Herod was an Edomite.  Born in the Kingdom of Edom just south of the Kingdom of Judah.  Though he practiced Judaism he was not considered Jewish by the powers-that-be in Judea, the Jewish lands that became a Roman province.  Herod was governor of Galilee.  With Rome’s approval.  He lost his throne.  Rome helped him get it back.  The Roman Senate then voted him King of the Jews.  Three years later he and the Romans conquered Jerusalem.  And elevated him to king of all of Judea.

So the Roman province of Judea was a complicated place.  The Romans tolerated the Jews as long as they did not cause too much trouble.  The Jews did not like living under Roman occupation.  And they were none too keen with King Herod who wasn’t religiously pure, lived a decadent lifestyle and was a brutal tyrant.  It was this world Mary was about to bring Jesus into.

The Last Thing you want to tell the Current King of the Jews was the Location of the New King of the Jews

According to the Gospels Roman emperor Augustus ordered a census.  The Census of Quirinius.  Requiring all residents of Judea to return to their ancestral lands for counting in a census.  Though this may not have been Roman custom they may have called for this in Judea.  That complicated place where the Jews kept their religion and customs.  So Joseph had to return to Bethlehem.  Worried about leaving Mary behind in a land where others may not be so open minded about her Immaculate Conception he took her along.  Which is why she made that great trek so close to her delivery time.

With everyone else returning to Bethlehem the only shelter they could find was in a stable.  Mary gave birth and they placed Jesus in a manger.  A food trough for the animals.  As the word got out about the son of God being born it attracted a lot of attention.  Some were overjoyed that the prophecy in the Old Testament was being fulfilled.  Some were not quite that happy.  Some in the Jewish hierarchy.  Who didn’t foresee this event.  And King Herod.  Who when he heard that a new king had been born to rule over mankind felt nothing but a challenge to his power.  So when the three wise men from the East, the Magi, came to Herod to ask where this new king was King Herod couldn’t tell them.  But when they found Him they were to send word back so he could come and worship Jesus himself.

Of course the last thing you want to tell the current King of the Jews was the location of this new King of the Jews, this son of God.  Jesus Christ.  Because he would want to kill Him.  Well, the Magi got the message in a dream and went back East without telling Herod after delivering their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  (The frankincense and myrrh were aromatic gum resins used as incense.)  King Herod took this betrayal as another challenge to his power.  So to protect his power he ordered that all male children in the Greater Bethlehem area 2 years old and younger were to be slaughtered.  The Massacre of the Innocents.  There is no record of this outside the Gospels.  Though it would be something King Herod would have done.  For he killed his own children when they were a threat to his power.  Based on the size of Bethlehem the number of children falling in Herod’s criteria may have been about 20.  The slaughter of which would be a tragedy.  But the number may not have been large enough to enter the historical record.

An angel warned Joseph of Herod’s plan in a dream.  Telling him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt until the dust settled.  Returning to Galilee after Herod’s death.  Where he grew up.  Jesus of Nazareth.   But his problems with the politically connected Jewish hierarchy and the Romans weren’t over.  He would have about 30 years on earth, though, before that trouble would catch up with Him.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Byzantine Empire, Bosporus, Silk Road, Dutch East India Company, English East India Company, Tea Act and Opium Wars

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 15th, 2012

History 101

To encourage Risk Takers to Travel Halfway around the World Mercantile States granted Monopoly Charters

The modern world began because Europeans had a penchant for silk and spices.  Something they enjoyed during Roman times.  When the Romans ruled the world.  And the Mediterranean Sea was nothing more than a Roman lake.  But when the empire stopped conquering new lands and sending the spoils of war home they had to turn to other means to pay for the cost of empire.  Taxes.  To pay for the Roman government and their public spending.  And the Roman legions.  This excessive government spending led to the fall of the western half of the empire.  But the eastern half lived on for another 1,000 years or so.  Why?  Because the capital of the Byzantine Empire was Constantinople.  On the Bosporus.  Trade crossroads of the world.

This city was so rich everybody wanted to conquer it.  So they could have all those riches.  For everything that came along the Silk Road from China crossed into Europe at the Bosporus.  Soon Muslims fought Christians in the Holy lands.  Then more Christians came.  The Crusaders.  Those who didn’t die went back to Europe with some of those Chinese luxuries.  Spices.  Silk.  Porcelain.  Etc.  Sparking a renewed interest in these finer things in Europe.  Especially the spices.  For European cooking was horribly bland at the time.  The Ottoman Turks eventually took Constantinople.  Renamed it Istanbul.  And controlled that lucrative trade.  Making those much sought after Asian goods rather expensive in Europe.  Which they had no choice but to pay.  Because if you wanted those luxuries you had to go through Istanbul.  Until the Portuguese sailed around Africa and found a direct route to those cherished goods, that is.

It was the Commercial Revolution.  A new age of international trade.  A trade even more profitable than what the Ottoman Turks controlled.  Because big ocean-going vessels can carry more cargo than anything coming over land on the Silk Road.  And these new European maritime powers wanted that wealth.  And the power it would provide.  To encourage risk takers to get into those wooden ships and travel halfway around the world they granted monopoly charters.  The Dutch East India Company (VOC) was one of the largest.  And one of the wealthiest.  But this was not your typical company.  The VOC established overseas colonies.  It waged war.  Established treaties.  Even coined its own money.  Because of this thousands of VOC ships stuffed full of valuable cargoes sailed to Antwerp and Amsterdam, making the Dutch very wealthy.  And powerful.

The Tea Act allowed the Company to Ship their Tea Directly to America and exempted them from any Duties

Of course the Dutch weren’t the only ones doing this.  They had competition.  Portugal.  Spain.  France.  And England.  Who would bump into each other numerous times fighting for control of this trade.  And those colonies.  The English and the Dutch would fight 4 wars.  Which is how Dutch-founded Manhattan became part of the British Empire and, subsequently, one of America’s greatest cities.  The English East India Company gave the VOC a run for its money.  Parliament even passed legislation to give the English a monopoly on all trade with their American colonies.  The Navigation Acts.  Which stated that all trade to and from America had to be on English ships.  And all trade had to go through an English port.  Where the ships were unloaded and the cargoes inspected.  And taxed.  Then they could reload their cargoes and continue on their journey.  All tenets of mercantilism.  This kept the lower-priced Dutch goods out of America.  And prevented the Americans from selling to the Dutch directly for higher prices.  So it shut down the Dutch from all American trade (except for a prosperous black market). And brought in some lucrative tax revenue for England.  While extending shipping times and increasing prices for the Americans.  Which they were not happy about in the least.

The English East India Company (the Company) was similar in structure to the VOC.  And soon made the Indian subcontinent a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company.  But it wasn’t cheap.  Waging war was costly.  As was managing those conquered territories (something the Romans had also learned).  Then a famine in Bengal in 1770 claimed about one-third of the local population.  Making laborers more scarce.  And more expensive.  All at a time when the sales of their imported goods were falling in Europe.  There were warehouses full of unsold Chinese tea that they couldn’t sell.  Making for a bad time for the Company.

Higher costs and lower sales spelled trouble.  And that’s what the Company had a lot of.  Trouble.  So the Company turned to Parliament for help.  And Parliament helped.  By allowing the Company to ship their tea directly to America without having to unload it in a British port.  Or pay a duty on that tea.  Which would greatly reduce their costs.  And allow them to sell it in America cheaper than they did before.  So Parliament passed the Tea Act in 1773.  Making life better for all involved.  But the Tea Act left in place another tax in the previous Townshend Acts.  Which was a bigger problem than getting cheaper tea (which they could get on the black market from the Dutch).  These taxes on the British subjects in America were unconstitutional.  Because there were no Americans sitting in Parliament.  This was taxation without representation.  A much bigger issue than cheap tea.  So they threw that first ‘cheap’ tea into Boston Harbor.  The Boston Tea Party being a major step towards war with the mother country.  And American independence.

Britain became the Lone Superpower after Abandoning their Protectionist Mercantile Policies and Adopting Free Trade

The American Revolutionary War was not the only headache the British got from their mercantile policies.  Part of those policies required maintaining a positive balance of trade.  So there was always a net inflow of bullion into the mother country.  That’s why raw materials shipped into Britain from America.  And finished goods shipped out to America.  Finished goods are more valuable than raw materials.  So the Americans had to make up for this balance of trade in bullion.  Resulting in a net inflow of bullion into the mother country.  Very simple.  As long as you can manufacture higher valued goods that other people want to buy.

And this is the problem they ran into with the Chinese.  For though the British wanted those Chinese spices, silk and porcelain the Chinese didn’t want anything the British manufactured.  Which meant Britain had to pay for those luxuries with bullion.  Including all that Chinese tea they craved.  Which resulted in a net outflow of bullion to the Chinese.  The British fixed this problem by finding the one thing that the Chinese people wanted.  Indian opium.  Grown in Bengal.  Of course, this turned a lot of Chinese into opium addicts.  The addiction problem was so bad that the Chinese banned opium.  But the British were able to smuggle it in.  They sold so much of it that they used the proceeds to buy their tea.  Thus reversing the bullion flow.

Not the finest hour in the British Empire.  The Chinese and the British would go on to fight a couple of wars over this opium trade.  The Opium Wars.  Which the British did all right in.  Even gaining Hong Kong in the bargain.  They didn’t build any long-lasting love with the Chinese people.  But Hong Kong turned out pretty nice under the British.  Especially after they abandoned their protectionist mercantile policies and adopted free trade.  Which made the British the lone superpower for about a century as they modernized the world by leading the way in the Industrial Revolution.  And the Chinese in Hong Kong were very happy indeed to be there when the communists took over the mainland.  And caused a famine or two.  For they lived comfortably.  In a state founded on mercantilism.  That achieved its greatest prosperity during the free trade of capitalism that followed Britain’s mercantile ways.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,