Published on 23 Mar 2017
The First World War & The Death of the Habsburg Empire: http://www.boehlau-verlag.com/download/163983/978-3-205-79588-9_1_OpenAccess.pdf
Since Kaiser Karl I ascended the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire he was not happy with the progression of the war. He felt that his empire was tied to their German ally more than necessary and this week 100 years ago he was starting a process of secret negotiations for a separate peace with the Entente. At the same time the British had increasing problems at the home front and the chaos in Russia continued.
March 24, 2017
March 2, 2017
Charles Stross speculates on a few ways that Il Donalduce could trigger the end of Britain’s nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines:
Working hypothesis #1: Donald Trump is an agent of influence of Moscow. Less alarmingly: Putin’s people have got blackmail material on the current President and this explains his willingness to pursue policies favourable to the Kremlin. Russian foreign policy is no longer ideologically dominated by communism, but focusses on narrow Russian interests as a regional hegemonic power and primary oil and gas exporter.
Clearly, it is not in Russia’s geopolitical interest to allow a small, belligerent neighbor to point strategic nuclear missiles at Moscow. But this neighbor’s nuclear capability has a single point of failure in the shape of the resupply arrangements under the 1958 UK-USA Agreement. Donald Trump has made no bones about his willingness to renegotiate existing treaties in the USA’s favor, and has indicated that he wants to modernise and expand the US strategic nuclear capability. Existing nuclear weapons modernization programs make the first goal pointless (thanks, Obama!) but he might plausibly try to withdraw British access to Trident D-5 in order to justify commissioning four new US Navy SSBNs to carry the same missiles and warheads.
(Yes, this would break the “special relationship” between the USA and the UK for good — but remember, this is Donald Trump we’re talking about: the original diplomatic bull in a china shop who decapitated the state department in his first month in office.)
Trump could present this as delivering on his promise to expand the US nuclear capability, while handing his buddy a gift-wrapped geopolitical easter egg.
Working hypothesis #2: Let us suppose that Donald Trump isn’t a Russian agent of influence. He might still withdraw, or threaten, British access to Trident as a negotiation lever in search of a better trade deal with the UK, when Theresa May or her successor comes cap-in-hand to Washington DC in the wake of Brexit. It’s a clear negative sum game for the British negotiating side — you can have a nuclear deterrent, or a slightly less unpalatable trade deal, but not both.
In this scenario, Trump wouldn’t be following any geopolitical agenda; he’d just be using the British Trident renewal program as a handy stick to beat an opponent with, because Trump doesn’t understand allies: he only understands supporters and enemies.
As for how fast the British Trident force might go away …
Missiles don’t have an indefinite shelf-life: they need regular servicing and maintenance. By abrogating the 1958 agreement, or banning Royal Navy warships from retrieving or delivering UGM-133s from the common stockpile at King’s Bay, POTUS could rely on the currently-loaded missiles becoming unreliable or unsafe to launch within a relatively short period of time — enough for trade negotiations, perhaps, but too short to design and procure even a temporary replacement. It’s unlikely that French M51 missiles could be carried aboard Dreadnought-class SSBNs without major design changes to the submarines, even if they were a politically viable replacement (which, in the wake of Brexit, they might well not be).
February 17, 2017
Published on 16 Feb 2017
After breaking off diplomatic relations, the tensions between the US and Germany are still strong. This week the so called Yarrowdale prisoners become pawns in the power play between the great powers. At the same time, the Russian air force is bombing targets all over the north Eastern Front and little skirmishes happen on the overall quiet Western Front.
February 16, 2017
Victor sent me this. I had to share:
Justin Trudeau is prepared for this. He has spent hours of watching videos of foreign dignitaries having their knucks busted by Diamond Donnie. He and a crack team of advisors have been studying them and analyzing every move. He has been overclocking it at the gym to get his forearms swole. Anytime he is off camera he is clenching and unclenching a gripmaster. He is endlessly clenching and unclenching his anus to build focus. Shaking hands with Donald Trump is really a contest of wills and Justin Trudeau will not fail. He is an aristocrat and he was bred by his father in all the fine arts of modern statecraft like clasping claws with thugs. Donald Trump is a trumped up peasant and Justin Trudeau is the heir and defender of the North American dream. This was the only thing discussed in that motorcade to the White House. Forget softwood lumber and dairy supply management and the attempt to leverage Ivanka for a roundtable on women in the workplace that sounds like a summit they would have held back in the silent era of film.
The whole trip was all handshake game plan. Every possible move, every possible contingency, from proper foot stance to recognizing Trump’s sloppy attempts at any one of 32 possible Masonic hand ciphers.
The car door opens. This is it. It’s go time. Trudeau steps out of the car and glides into Trump’s outstretched hand. He quickly braces himself on the president’s shoulder, establishing an indomitable centre of gravity. He is going fucking Super Saiyan on this handshake. But Trump will not be deterred. He ratchets up the pressure and tries to pull this punk kid in. There is a tug of war. Trudeau is not moving. His hand is too strong. Their forearms are jerking around with electrical power and neither of them were ready for this to happen.
He can barely believe it himself and he has to look down at his own hands to make sure that this is really happening that, yes, he is not broken. He raises his head again to meet Trump’s gaze with blazing eyes that scream SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS but also AINSI TOUJOURS AUX TYRANS because bilingualism. Utterly destroyed but wanting to be cool about it, Trump gestures at the cameras before leading Justin into his den of lies. He cannot hide the look of absolute mystification on his face.
February 10, 2017
Published on 9 Feb 2017
While the US breaks off diplomatic relations with Germany in response to unrestricted submarine warfare, the Western Front is rather quiet. On the Macedonian Front, the Bulgarian Army is digging in at Doiran. They built a formidable defence network without the Entente realising it and this week 100 years ago the British get a first taste of that. The British also deal the final blow against the Senussi tribesmen on the Libyan Front.
January 14, 2017
Another brilliant bit of realpolitik from Yes, Minister, disguised as humour:
January 6, 2017
Published on 5 Jan 2017
This war was supposed to be over by Christmas 1914. Now, as 1917 dawned, the world still knew 10 active theatres of war around the globe: Western Front, Italian Front, Eastern Front, Macedonian Front, Caucasus Front, Persian Front, Libyan Front, Palestine, Mesopotamia and German East Africa – and still there was no end in sight, no quick victory to be had for any side.
December 24, 2016
How to make some NATO members move in the right direction? Here’s an idea. Let me pull one of my “NATO Motivator” concepts out of my goodie-bag.
You learn quickly in NATO that one of the most critical and important things to many in the alliance is a thing called Flags-to-Post.
It is when NATO decides which nations will get which senior uniformed and senior civilian adviser billets. Trust me on this; the conflict in AFG, refugee crisis, etc – none of that stuff goes in front of anything related to Flags to Post.
If you’d like to bring attention to the “Press allies on defense spending” point, do this; the minute an Estonian General (pop. 1.3 million, percent of GDP on defense, 2.04%) take a position usually held by say, a Belgian General (pop. 11.2 million, percent of GDP on defense, 1.05%), then you will get people’s attention.
Just an idea.
CDR Salamander, “Make NATO Great Again”, CDR Salamander, 2016-11-14.
December 11, 2016
Ted Campbell is in favour of bringing NAFTA up-to-date and reminds us that there’s another diplomatic item that could use modernization at the same time:
In my opinion, if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, or the next Conservative leader is really interested in restoring Canada to a leading position in real, practical, long term peacekeeping then (s)he will abandon the United Nations and, instead, turn Canada into a free trade powerhouse by dropping our remaining protectionist measures, as Maxime Bernier and Colin Robertson both advocate, and making deals with all comers. And it is important to remember that “deals” involve two sides and both sides must gain something which means that both sides probably “give” something, too, and that produces short term “losers” and it is politically important to try to “soften” the transition for those who are bound to lose in the short term. But, in the mid to long term most losses are “covered” by gains in new products and services and the utilitarian goal of “the greatest good for the greatest number” is achieved … most of the time.
One of the things Colin Robertson mentioned was shipbuilding and it leads me to consider that one of the things we want to renew if or when we must renegotiate NAFTA is the Defence development sharing agreement between Canada and the United States of America. The stated objective of the existing (since 1963) agreement are:
- To assist in maintaining the Defense Production Sharing Program at a high level by making it possible for Canadian firms to perform research and development work undertaken to meet the requirements of U.S. armed forces.
- To utilize better the industrial scientific and technical resources of the United States and Canada in the interest of mutual defense.
- To make possible the standardization and interchangeability of a larger amount of the equipment necessary for the defense of United States and Canada.
The Defence Production Sharing Program is, too often, hamstrung by US (and Canadian) protectionist measures and it needs to be brought more fully into the area of bilateral free trade. I am not suggesting that the Pentagon would ever let, say, a significant shipbuilding contract to a Canadian yard but it must be possible for Canadian shipyards and factories and service providers to bid on US defence contracts on at least a “near equal” basis and vice-versa, of course. This, free(er) trade in defence materiel and services is one area where we, North Americans, can learn from the Europeans. I am not suggesting that Canada should abandon the idea of having a national defence industrial base but, rather, that we should have a base that fits, neatly, into a larger continental base that is, somehow, connected to other allied defence production systems.
So, broadly, when (if) President elect Trump says he wants to renegotiate NAFTA we should, indeed, say “bring it on!” But we should go into negotiations with our eyes wide open, prepared to surrender some “losers,” as good bridge players do, in order to finesse some winners for ourselves.
September 29, 2016
Published on 1 Sep 2016
After getting the Seneca to join the Great Law of Peace, Hiawatha came up with a plan to convince Tadodaho. But it took Jigonsaseh to confront him and make him become a true leader. Now united, the Five Nations created a participatory democracy rooted in the Peacemaker’s ideals, one that still lives on today.
Three nations had united under the Great Law of Peace, but the Seneca and Onondaga remained outside it. Both nations relied on war for their power – but also for their safety. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker came to the Seneca expecting an argument, but Jigonsaseh had already convinced them since she was Seneca herself. All but two of the chiefs were ready, but those two chiefs feared what would happen if other nations brought war to their borders. The Peacemaker called a council to discuss their concern, but it quickly dissolved into in-fighting and arguments. To solve it, he established a bicameral legislature where each tribe had a turn to speak. Hiawatha joined the Mohawk and helped legislate a solution, putting the Mohawk and Seneca in charge of the borders with the authority to call the tribes together in war if outsiders threatened the confederacy. The envoys also agreed to follow his plan for Tadodaho. They returned to the Onondaga nation and offered to make Tadodaho their leader, with veto powers over every law. He immediately saw the potential to grow his power, but Jigonsaseh confronted him for his greed and cruelty and convinced him to use his power responsibly. With him, the Onondaga joined the Great Law of Peace. Now Jigonsaseh sat with the women’s councils and selected the League representatives, for the women owned the council positions and chose the men who served in them. Those representatives met the Peacemaker on the shores of Onondaga Lake, where he demonstrated how a bundle of five arrows, like the five nations, could not be broken. Then he had them bury their weapons under a white pine tree guarded by an eagle. Those symbols would later be adopted by the United States, whose Founding Fathers studied the Great Law of Peace and adopted many of its principles into their own Constitution. The original Haudenosaunee League drafted laws based on the Peacemaker’s teachings, creating a government that served the will of the people. Hiawatha commemorated each of these laws with a series of wampum belts, most notably the Hiawatha Belt which symbolized the five nations coming together in peace. The government they created has lasted for centuries, making it one of the longest lasting participatory democracies in the world.
August 16, 2016
Tom Kratman regretfully says no:
The last several months have seen repeated claims and variants on claims that presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to, and intends to, pull the United States out of NATO. Hillary Clinton made the claim on 28 March of this year, repeating a version of it on 8 May on Face The Nation.
Sad to say, Trump hasn’t said we need to pull out; would that he had. Instead, he’s made far weaker calls to “reconsider” our role in NATO, and to restructure or reform NATO to deal with modern threats, like terrorism, rather than Cold War threats, like the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. These were couched in terms generally reasonable and factual; to paraphrase, NATO other than the US doesn’t pay its fair share.
I’m not so concerned with what politicians may say – and Trump’s become one now – who are vying for political office. See, for example, Hillary’s lies about what Trump actually said, cited above. I’m far more concerned with what they should do following election. In this particular case, though what Hillary has claimed of Trump is a lie, it’s a lie he should follow through on.
NATO has rarely pulled its weight in the past, nor is it pulling its weight in the present. Of twenty-eight NATO countries, only five meet their defense spending goal of two percent of GDP. Even that is begging the question, though; because none of them, not one, come near to our level of spending. Britain, for example, with a GDP of 2.679 trillion, spends about fifty-two billion, or just over two percent. France’s defense budget runs under two percent. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, disgracefully, spends a mere thirty-seven billion, or just over one percent. Some smaller NATO countries, the Netherlands, for example, spend about what Germany does.
We, conversely, spend about three times what Germany does, and even more than that if one tallies in a number of indirect expenditures, like the VA, on which we spend more than twice Germany’s entire defense budget.
Frankly, all of NATO is on a kind of moral defense welfare and has been pretty much since inception.
But the Truman Doctrine! The Truman Doctrine!
I know a lot of people must have missed it, but the Truman Doctrine wasn’t designed to contain Russia. Neither should one be taken in by flighty rhetoric presented to congress. The Truman Doctrine arose in the context of containing communism. That was done. Communism is no longer an international threat (and if we can keep the Hildebeast out of the White House we may be able to keep it from becoming a domestic threat, too).
But we need European troops!
Some of them have been, indeed, excellent. I am thinking especially of the UK’s, Canada’s, Australia’s, and Denmark’s. I am not thinking of Germany’s, the reports on whom, such as I have seen, are almost uniformly wretched, and I am not thinking of France’s, the reports on which are mixed. However, in accord with their defense budgets, those troop slices were objectively small, and they generally did not come with logistic self-sufficiency. In other words, in huge part, we had to provide the transportation and other support to keep them in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that, especially in Afghanistan, where our own logistic capability was badly strained.
That was bad enough, but there is something much worse. There has grown up over the decades since the Second World War a regime of treaties, advancing what is often called “International Humanitarian Law” – IHL – and purporting to subordinate the law of war to it. Some of those claims are so preposterous as to be unbelievable, except that many, many of the world’s elites do believe in them and do force us to subordinate our own laws to them. A discussion of IHL is beyond the scope of this column. Note, however, two aspects of it that have arisen, the International Criminal Court, created by what is called “the Rome Statute,” and the Protocols Additional to Geneva Convention IV. The former subverts national sovereignty by placing it subordinate to unelected, partisan, largely left wing, jurists. The latter were specifically designed and pushed forward by the former Soviet Union to undermine the west.
We accept neither of these and, in fact, have a conditional declaration of war in place, the American Servicemembers Protection Act, should anyone try to grab our troops for trial before the ICC. Unfortunately, our “allies,” for the most part, have signed onto these obscenities. What that means is that we are constrained from acting with the full rigor of the law of armed conflict by the presence of allies, for whom, should we act in accordance with the law of war but against IHL, makes them complicit in what are, by their own domestic laws, war crimes. This constraint is intolerable, a rotten, stinking albatross tied around our necks. And this is what makes the presence of allied NATO troops not worth the bother, even when those troops are superb.
August 8, 2016
Almost everyone wants peace, the problem is that we’ve had peace in this country for so long that most people don’t recognize it for the aberration that it is. Because of this, a curiously contradictory mindset holds sway over a large segment of the population, most of them on the left side of the political spectrum. It goes something like this: “Well, we want peace, so we’ll just refuse to fight. If we refuse to fight, the other guy will have no reason to fight us.” If you point out to them that the other guy just might not want peace, you’ll get a predictable response: “Well, since peace is the default state of the world, if we can figure out what we did to make the other guy mad at us and desirous of war, and make it up to him, then he’ll feel comfortable with allowing the default state to resume.”
The problem is, of course, that peace isn’t the default state of the world, war is. Human beings are predators, and we are genetically designed to be in competition with other human beings, either individually or in groups. If group A has something group B wants, the natural instinct of group B is to attack group A and take it. The only way that group A can prevent this from happening is to be stronger than group B. For centuries, the Mongol tribes roamed the countryside of Mongolia, squabbling with and fighting each other. The great neighboring dynasties, the Xia and Jin, had little to fear from the Mongols beyond nuisance raids, because they were stronger. Then Temujin united the tribes, assumed the title Genghis Khan, and swept both empires off the face of the earth. The empires had enjoyed peace for generations — because they were strong. When they ceased to be stronger than their foes, they soon ceased to be entirely.
So what? Primitives. Barbarians. Savages. We’re different now. Civilized. Cultured. Superior.
I hate to break it to you, but we’re not. 13th century man is behaviorally identical to modern man. 8 centuries is nowhere near long enough for that kind of evolutionary change in the human animal. People are … people. Always have been, always will be. The reason that we’ve enjoyed centuries of peace in America (even our wars haven’t been fought here since the 1860s) is because we’ve been strong enough that nobody has had the ability to fight us over here, and we’ve had the ability to go fight them over there when we needed to. There is nothing about this situation that is written in stone. Our homeland is peaceful because we’ve had the military might necessary to make it impossible for foes to make it not peaceful.
But now, with so many believing that peace is the natural order of things, we are in grave danger of finding out that peace is not the natural order of things, it’s a luxury, one that is paid for in blood and the willingness and ability to shed it. Our military is a shell of its former self, hollowed out to buy bread and circuses for the masses. Our diplomacy a joke, conducted insecurely and thus transparent to our foes. Our foreign policy is a hot mess of appeasement and apology. All of this makes us look weaker and weaker to the world, and so now they believe that they can take what they want from us because we can no longer defend it. Bill Clinton gave Ukraine a rock solid guarantee of protection in return for them giving up their nukes to ensure “peace”. That’s gone, along with half that country. Our strongest allies are realizing that they are on their own against genocidal aggressions and prepare to act alone or in concert with new allies. We issue ultimatums and draw red lines and the world laughs at us. This isn’t peace, it’s the prelude to destruction. Our destruction.
Weirddave, “Fundamental Concepts – Weakness Invites Aggression”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2015-03-07.
August 3, 2016
In Atlas Obscura, Linda Rodriguez McRobbie tells the story of the French soldier, diplomat and spy, the Chevalier d’Eon (also known as Mademoiselle la Chevaliere d’Eon):
When the Chevalier d’Eon left France in 1762, it was as a diplomat, a spy in the French king’s service, a Dragoon captain, and a man. When he returned in July 1777, at the age of 49, it was as a celebrity, a writer, an intellectual, and a woman — according to a declaration by the government of France.
What happened? And why?
The answer to those questions is complex, obscured by layers of bad biography, speculation and rumor, and shifting gender and psychological politics in the years since, as well as d’Eon’s own attempts to reframe his story in a way that would make sense to his contemporary society. (Note: In consultation with d’Eon’s biographer, I have decided to use the male pronoun when talking about d’Eon before the gender shift and the female pronoun after.) Professor Gary Kates of Pomona College is one of the first modern academics to look closely at the life — or lives — of the Chevalier d’Eon, in his comprehensive biography Monsieur d’Eon Is a Woman. Kates had access to d’Eon’s personal papers, a treasure trove of manuscripts, diaries, financial records, documents, and letters housed at the University of Leeds, and his work is widely considered the best place to start when considering d’Eon.
The story Kates tells is a complex narrative, involving Ancien Regime intrigue, secret spy rings, political necessity, burgeoning celebrity culture, and nascent feminism. The meaning of d’Eon’s transformation has been dissected for centuries; feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft praised d’Eon in their lifetime and contemporary trans groups have named themselves in d’Eon’s honor.
Even so, Kates cautions that the history of this fascinating figure is far from complete. “I don’t think I’ve written the definitive book on d’Eon,” he says. How could he? This is a person who lived enough for three lifetimes.
July 30, 2016
Published on 23 Jul 2016
Order the limited edition Opium Wars wall scroll before it leaves forever on July 27! http://bit.ly/2a138ur
James talks about our mistakes, and adds additional stories, for Federico da Montefeltro and the First Opium War!
Quick story about Federico da Montefeltro: after losing an eye in a jousting accident, he ordered his doctor to cut a divot out of his nose so that his remaining eye had a better view and he could still fight in battles.
Now on to the Opium War! The Macartney expedition did not draw on the knowledge of Jesuit missionaries or even merchants who were familiar with Chinese court customs, because the British felt that a noble like Macartney was the only fitting representative. He didn’t come prepared to handle the kowtow, and he didn’t understand that the Chinese would have been more interested in British agricultural tech than they were in trinkets. James reads the disdainful letter which the Daoguang Emperor wrote to King George III in response to the embassy. There also happened to be a political upheaval in the Chinese palace at the time, so if the British had arrived sooner, they may have met with a different result and avoided the Opium Wars entirely. Once the war came to a head, it caused great division in Britain. Even though it was a war to sell illegal drugs, it was often recast as a war the Chinese provoked by insisting on the kowtow and treating other nations as vassals. Two traders by the names of James Matheson and William Jardine helped tip the scales for war because it helped their business, which had gotten a huge start in the opium trade. The Jardine-Matheson trading firm still exists today, and is a multibillion dollar company. Back in China, the British blockade of Canton’s port led to an odd first confrontation. A British ship called the Royal Saxon ran the blockade, so the British fired a warning shot to make it turn back. The Chinese, to prove they still controlled their sovereign waters, took this as an opportunity to challenge the blockade. Thus, their defense of a British smuggler led them into a war that, ironically, was about stopping British smugglers. The British official directing the war efforts, Charles Elliot, found himself in an awkward situation. He loved his country, but he morally objected to the British agenda in China. He tried to pave a moderate path, only to be fired and reviled as a failure. But after he left, the war truly got vicious. The British committed many atrocities in their campaign. They never sought to hold China, however, because their wars in India had taught them how impossible such an undertaking would be. Thus they settled on the unequal treaty. And as for Walpole… well, he started it, of course. Tea became such a large part of Britain’s economy because of the large tax levied on it. And who levied that tax? It was Walpole. He actually repealed an earlier, heavily resented tax and got political accolades for doing so, then introduced a much higher tax under a different name that flew under the radar even while it brought in hundreds of thousands of pounds for the government every year. The government’s reliance on tea for funding would later propel them to take such extraordinary measures to secure access to tea via Chinese trade. So who really started the Opium War? Well. It was Walpole.
July 23, 2016
Published on 9 Jul 2016
The Chinese attempt to retake Canton by force failed. New British commanders took charge and would accept nothing less than total Chinese capitulation. They captured cities all the way up to Nanking, forcing the Emperor to negotiate. He had no choice but to accept an unequal treaty, kicking off a period of subservience to Europe which China still remembers today as the Century of Humiliation.
Disappointed in the treaty, the Daoguang Emperor replaced Qishan with three new commanders. One of them wanted to buy time and modernize the army, but the Emperor insisted the British be repelled immediately. They assaulted Canton from across the river, firing cannons and sailing fire ships at the British fleet. Their efforts fell far short, and soon the British controlled the river again. The Chinese were forced to pay them an indemnity to leave Canton, but in their wake riots and looting plagued the city anyway. Elliot still led the British forces, but upon returning to Hong Kong, he learned that he was now being replaced. His replacements had no interest in the compromises he’d tried to establish. They pushed immediately towards Beijing. In each new fort they captured, they found evidence that the Chinese resistance had ironically been weakened by crippling opium addiction. As the Chinese attacks grew more desperate, British retaliation grew more brutal. Finally, they stood ready to seize Nanking. With it would come control of the Yangtze River on which all of China depended, so the Emperor was forced to negotiate. They had no bargaining power, and gave the British nearly everything they wanted: a huge indemnity, new trade ports, no more Hong monopoly, generous tariffs, consulates, and sovereignty over Hong Kong. The only two matters they refused were Christian missionaries and legalizing opium, but the latter would only lead to the Second Opium War with similar results. These “unequal treaties” would go down in Chinese history as the beginning of what the Communist government later called “The Century of Humiliation.” The spectre of this shame and forced subservience to European interests continues to shape politics today, as this history is often invoked or used as a rallying cry during dealings with the West.