Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Soldier of Monarchy: Afonso de Albuquerque

In the long and glorious history of the Kingdom of Portugal, if one seeks a great military commander it would be difficult to find a name to surpass that of Afonso de Albuquerque, Duke of Goa. As both a general of ground forces and an admiral of naval forces, Albuquerque achieved far-reaching successes and this, combined with his astute judgment, strategic brilliance and the boldness and ambition of all great explorers, went a long way to the establishment of the Kingdom of Portugal as the first, and for some time preeminent, global maritime power. It is no great exaggeration to say that he won more victories, contacted more remote peoples and made more long-lasting decisions of consequence than anyone in Portuguese history, perhaps any other of his age from any country. The fact that he is not more well known outside of Portugal is, frankly, baffling, given his extensive list of achievements. Within the borders of Portugal, naturally and quite legitimately, he is remembered as a national hero, one of the (numerous) giant figures of the “Age of Exploration” and a military commander whose far-reaching victories earned him the title of “the Caesar of the East”.

King John II
Born sometime in 1453 in Alhandra, near Lisbon, to aristocratic parents, Afonso de Albuquerque had a privileged childhood. His father held a post at court and was related, through an illegitimate line, to the Portuguese Royal Family. Young Afonso was given the best education possible, was well trained in religion, warfare, mathematics and Latin and was a childhood friend of the future Portuguese monarch King John II. When he was old enough, he joined the army and first saw action in North Africa where he served for ten years, learning on the job as he battled with the Portuguese army against the Muslim Arabs and Ottoman Turks. He served under King Afonso V in the conquest of Tangier, Morocco in 1471 and later in campaigns against Castile in Spain. In 1480 he participated in the victorious campaign in Italy against the Ottoman Turks at Otranto, saving the day for the Spanish forces of King Fernando II of Aragon. When his friend became King John II of Portugal, he was given the prestigious post of “Master of the Horse” and saw further victories in North Africa.

The era of the greatest Portuguese expansion came during the reign of King Manuel I and did not initially include Albuquerque who was slightly old by the standards of the time and who the new, young monarch was somewhat suspicious of. However, his time came in 1503 when he was charged with leading an expedition to India. Albuquerque reached the subcontinent and made an alliance with some locals to make war on the ruling potentate of Calicut. He won a number of battles and was able to see his own native ally enthroned as the King of Kochi. In appreciation, the King allowed Albuquerque to build Fort Emmanuel on the Arabian Sea coast and establish trade relations between Portugal and the surrounding region of India. This was a crucial foothold for what would grow to be an extensive Portuguese presence in India and the start of a vast empire in Asia for the Kingdom of Portugal.

Ft Immaculate Concepcion remains in Ormuz
This expedition was so successful and so quickly won that King Manuel promptly sent Albuquerque back to India on another expedition in 1506, though this time as a squadron commander within a larger fleet commanded by Tristan da Cunha. Along the way they landed on the east coast of Africa, attempted sending envoys to Ethiopia and Albuquerque conquered the island of Socotra (today belonging to Yemen) and established a fortress there with the intention of controlling traffic in and out of the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean. The site was well chosen, though the fort was abandoned a few years later. While the rest of the expedition sailed on to India, Albuquerque was tasked with expanding Portuguese influence in the region and so he embarked on a military campaign, winning battles and capturing cities, culminating in the capture of the city of Ormuz. This was a very strategic point for control of the Persian Gulf and the local king became a vassal of the King of Portugal, breaking off his previous tributary relationship with the Shah of Persia. That was accomplished in 1507 and all with only 7 ships and about 500 Portuguese soldiers and sailors.

However, there were problems, and as Albuquerque made all of his men, regardless of rank, share in the work of building fortifications and so on, some of the more high-born officers rebelled and absconded to India to join the main fleet, claiming that Albuquerque was exceeding his authority. Left short-handed, Albuquerque was forced to abandon Ormuz, make a few raids for supplies and finally sail for India himself. Once there he found no help from the Viceroy, who Albuquerque was supposed to replace, and who had been fortified by the testimony of the malcontents who had abandoned Albuquerque and preceded him to India. Nonetheless, Albuquerque refused to have any part in a rebellion and simply bided his time, with his own loyal men, at Kochi where he was still well received. His enemies, however, would not be so considerate and after winning a decisive victory that expelled the Muslims from the Indian Ocean, Albuquerque was arrested in August of 1509.

Fortunately, this confinement was only to last for three months at which time the Marshal of Portugal arrived with a large fleet and orders from the King to set things in order. Albuquerque was released and in November of 1509 was appointed Governor of India. In January of the following year, Albuquerque set out on a military campaign to conquer Calicut. However, the offensive ended in fiasco when another Portuguese force advanced into an ambush, forcing Albuquerque to come to the rescue and fight his way back out again with heavy losses. He rebuilt his forces, best he could and learned that the fleet of the Egyptian Mamluks was sheltering at the port of Goa and the local sultans were busy fighting each other and would not be able to come together against him with full force. Seeing an opportunity, in the spring of 1510 Albuquerque attacked and seized the port of Goa. However, it was a difficult undertaking, massive forces were sent against him and the local Hindu population, originally supportive in freeing themselves of Muslim rule, turned against him and he was forced to abandon the city. Nevertheless, Albuquerque returned in November with Portuguese reinforcements, as well as more native allies and by December forced the surrender of the Sultan and his Turkish allies.

Despite numerous attacks to re-take the city, Goa remained steadfastly in Portuguese hands and the most important port in the Portuguese territories in India. Albuquerque established a mint, made contact and some alliances with other Indian rulers and was soon well placed to take control of the spice trade routes. In order to seize control of the spice trade, previously held by Muslim powers, Albuquerque was tasked by the King to capture the Strait of Malacca in Southeast Asia. Some Portuguese had already been seized by the local potentate and one of these men had smuggled out a letter, via a Hindu trader, to Albuquerque, begging for rescue and providing a description of the local fortifications. Against the orders of his immediate superior, Albuquerque gathered a force of 18 ships, 900 Portuguese and 200 hired Hindu mercenaries and set out for Malacca in 1511. One of the men under his command, incidentally, was the future navigator of renown, Ferdinand Magellan.

Albuquerque
Albuquerque approached Malacca in grand style and bombastically demanded the capitulation of the local ruler, Sultan Mahmud Shah. The Sultan released the Portuguese prisoners but refused to surrender, feeling he had little to fear from a force of a little over a thousand men considering that he had at his command a mercenary force of around 20,000 and 2,000 cannon. However, Albuquerque planned a clever attack and had the support of many of the local merchants who despised the Sultan and the favoritism he showed his fellow Muslims at the expense of others. Sailing up the river that divided the city, the Portuguese troops fought a fierce battle, seizing control of the bridge that linked the two halves and then repelled a heavy assault, including war elephants, launched by the Sultan. Albuquerque and his men attacked, defeated the enemy and seized the city on August 15, 1511, the troops being allowed to pillage but with the property of those locals who had supported them and asked for protection remaining unharmed and their businesses respected. Albuquerque, always alert to the possibility of a future counter-attack, set his men to work building a fortress, in part using stones from the local mosque his forces had demolished.

In the aftermath, Albuquerque showed considerable astuteness in establishing a new system of administration, ending the discriminatory practices that favored Muslims and appointing new leaders based on merit and with an eye toward future beneficial alliances. He then sent out envoys, complete with generous gifts, to establish commercial ties with neighboring powers such as the princes in Sumatra, the King of Burma and the King of Siam (Thailand). In 1512, after having learned from local traders the location of the famous “spice islands”, he sent an expedition to claim them, the ships amassed a huge fortune in nutmeg and cloves but were wrecked on the return voyage, though they nonetheless laid the groundwork for future profits, having established good relations with the locals and even being permitted to build a fort on Ternate island in the Moluccas (part of modern Indonesia). In 1513 another expedition dispatched by Albuquerque established trade relations with the Great Ming Empire of China, which was later interrupted by a period of conflict, but business relations were eventually restored, paving the way for the establishment of the Portuguese enclave at Macau with the consent of the Ming Emperor.

Albuquerque
Finally, in 1511 Afonso de Albuquerque set off to return to Portugal, weighted down with an immense wealth of treasure with which to impress King Manuel of the value of the regions he had secured for the Portuguese Crown. Unfortunately, his ship was sunk in a storm and Albuquerque barely escaped alive. He was able to reach Kochi in India but found, to his dismay, that Goa was under attack and many of his own countrymen had advised giving up this most valuable port. Albuquerque was having none of that and, after receiving reinforcements, set out from Cochin in September of 1512 with 14 ships and 1,700 troops, launched a bold attack, defeated the forces of the Sultan of Bijapur, led by Rasul Khan, and reestablished full Portuguese control of Goa for good.

The following year, Albuquerque received an envoy from the queen-regent of Ethiopia, a country the Portuguese had tried to contact before. This was huge news as many had believed that Ethiopia, said to be ruled by Christians, might be the rich and powerful land of legend ruled by the mythic “Prester John”. The Ethiopians seemed open to an alliance with Portugal in opposition to the common enemy of the Ottoman Turks. In support of such a campaign, in 1513 Albuquerque sailed into the Red Sea with 1,000 Portuguese soldiers and 400 Asian mercenaries to attack Aden, however, strong defenses, contrary weather and sickness among his men, caused the campaign to fail and Albuquerque was forced to return to India. Once back in the subcontinent, Albuquerque continued building up the Portuguese administration, establishing relations with more Indian princes, making alliances, business agreements and exchanging embassies, growing the Portuguese presence and influence throughout the region. In 1515 he led an expedition to recapture his old prize of Ormuz, reestablishing Portuguese control of the strategic point which would last until an Anglo-Persian alliances ejected them in 1622.

The wealth, the treasures, the exotic animals and so on that Albuquerque sent back to Portugal caused a huge sensation all across Europe and sparked the drive for other nations to set out for the distant lands of Asia over the trail first blazed by the Portuguese. Thanks largely to the victories of Albuquerque, it seemed that no matter where such future Dutch, Spanish, French or British forces went, they found that the Portuguese had invariably preceded them. Albuquerque, however, fell ill on the return voyage from Ormuz and died at sea, within sight of Goa, India. At the end, his final days had been troubled by a plot against him by jealous and ambitious men who tried to turn King Manuel against him. He died on December 16, 1515 and was first buried in Goa but his body was later returned to Portugal in 1566 with all appropriate fanfare for the Governor of Asia, Duke of Goa and Governor and Captain-General of the Seas of India. His name was seldom spoken without the appellation of “the Great” attached to it and for good reason. King Manuel I, regretful at having, for a time near the end, doubted the loyalty of so great a servant of the Crown, lavished rewards on his son and ensured that no future Portuguese would forget the name of Afonso de Albuquerque, the man who gave the Kingdom of Portugal an empire from the Persian Gulf, to India to Southeast Asia.

Portuguese control of all access points to the Indian Ocean
In total, the contribution of Albuquerque to the glory of Portugal would be difficult to overstate. A tireless man, campaigning to the end of his life, his ambition was boundless. He famously contemplated changing the course of the Nile River and capturing the corpse of the prophet Mohammed to hold hostage until the Muslims vacated the Holy Land! His victories ended the Muslim monopoly on Asian trade, expelled them from the Indian Ocean and gave Portugal the first dominate position in the lucrative importation of spice. He established the Portuguese presence in India that was to outlast all others (ending only in 1961), gave the King of Portugal control of the vital, strategic “choke points” at the gateways of the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Malacca connecting the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. He established contact and trade with numerous world powers and these new avenues for enterprise, trade routes and fortresses enabled Portugal to become, at the time, the wealthiest country in Europe. Furthermore, just as important as what he did was the foresight he showed in recognizing strategic positions and lucrative possibilities that later explorers and traders were to build upon. It is then, little wonder that he became known as “the Portuguese Mars” and, “the Lion of the Seas”.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Princely Profile: Sultan Hamid II of Pontianak

During the wave of anti-colonialism that swept the world in the wake of World War II, which had devastated the European colonial powers, native monarchs in these countries found themselves in an almost impossible position, trying to maintain traditional values and authorities against a population that was backed by ideological forces, usually Marxist, fundamentally opposed to all traditional institutions everywhere. Those pushing an anti-European racist narrative, because this was easier for people to understand than the nuances of socialist economic and political theories, had an easier time vilifying such monarchs who stood by the existing, pre-war power structure because they could play on the primitive drives of human nature such as envy, resentment and hatred of the alien, white-skinned Christian people while the monarchs who remained supportive of the colonial system had only reason to reply with, trying to make people understand that these white-skinned Christians had brought important positive advancements to their countries and could be worked with, in the new environment, to enact more beneficial changes than those advocating a total break. One of the monarchs faced with this unenviable situation was His Highness Sultan Hamid II of Pontianak in what is now Indonesia.

The future sultan was born Syarif Abdul Hamid Alkadrie on July 12, 1913 in Pontianak, an important trade port on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo. He had a very cosmopolitan upbringing, being raised until the age of 12 by two ladies of British nationality who taught him fluent English, his Scottish foster-mother Miss Salome Catherine Fox and Miss Edith Maud Curteis. His own ancestry was Malay-Arab and he attended Dutch colonial schools in what was then the Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia) before finishing his education at the Dutch military academy in Breda, The Netherlands. Upon graduating he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Dutch East Indies Army, the primary colonial military force of The Netherlands. As the son of the Sultan Syarif Muhammad of Pontianak, of the Hang Dynasty Alkadrie, he was also given instruction by native teachers for the duties he would inherit and there was religious instruction in Sunni Islam, the faith of his family and which he was to adhere to for the entirety of his life.

Prince Hamid returned to the Dutch East Indies to take up his military duties during the reign of Sultan Syarif Thaha. He had good relations with the Dutch, with other Europeans, not surprising considering his upbringing, but also a very clear understanding of the often tumultuous world of East Indies dynastic politics. His foster-mother Miss Fox died in 1933 but he continued to keep in touch with Miss Curteis. The Royal Dutch East Indies Army was mostly concerned with internal security as The Netherlands had no foreign enemies to cause any fear of invasion and the local anti-Dutch independence movement had not been very serious and was relatively easily dealt with. Their most troublesome leader, Sukarno, was arrested and to most the Dutch East Indies seemed the ideal colony, peaceful, orderly and doing a booming business in trade and oil exports. The only trouble in Asia was far to the north in China and European affairs were considered far more serious. However, even after the outbreak of World War II and the German conquest and occupation of The Netherlands, life in the Dutch East Indies largely carried on as it had before, directed by the government-in-exile in England.

All of that changed on December 7, 1941 when the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Empire of Japan signaled the start of a huge, very intricate but very well planned Japanese offensive throughout Southeast Asia. The whole area was relatively swiftly conquered and the Dutch East Indies were the primary target due to the vast oil reserves and other natural resources which the archipelago had. The Dutch colonial forces offered heroic but futile resistance but in the early months of 1942 the whole area was seized and occupied by the Japanese. Sukarno was set at liberty along with any other anti-Dutch dissidents to aid in the Japanese occupation and war effort. Local princes who chose to cooperate could expect no harm but the entire white population was put in internment camps. Prince Hamid was also confined to an internment camp, in Java, by the Japanese as they had good reason to expect no cooperation from him. Early in the campaign about 28 relatives of the prince were killed by the Japanese along with his other maternal figure Miss Curteis. His father and two of his brothers were killed, along with other ethnic Malays in the “Pontianak incidents” and this, along with his close relationship with the Dutch and rank in the colonial army ensured that there would be no thought of any collaboration between Prince Hamid and the Japanese.

The Prince remained interned for three years until the Empire of Japan surrendered and Allied forces landed to liberate him and his fellow captives. The Dutch, conscious of what he had endured, partly due to his friendship with them, recognized him with a promotion to the rank of colonel. On October 29, 1945 he succeeded his father as Sultan of Pontianak, taking the name Hamid II. Of course, by this time, political events in the Dutch East Indies were changing rapidly. After maintaining military rule throughout the war, once their cause was lost, the Japanese, on their way out the door as it were, tapped Sukarno to declare Indonesian independence from the Dutch Crown. There was a great deal of chaos and confusion as Indonesian rebels made attacks while Allied forces were in place, the Dutch coming in and the Japanese were still in the process of moving out.

HM Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands, throughout World War II, had been adamant about restoring and maintaining the Dutch colonial empire and was not prepared to let the weakness of her country, after years of war, occupation and devastation, be taken advantage of. However, the Queen was also aware of the limitations on her long-suffering people and so was prepared to make compromises. Sultan Hamid II, being an important traditional authority figure and someone who the Dutch trusted, was right in the middle of these events as a delegate for the State of West Kalimantan in the Federal Consultative Assembly or BFO. The Dutch proposal was that the East Indies become a sort of federal republic of monarchies and states, the independent United States of Indonesia but still within the Dutch community and with the Queen of The Netherlands as sovereign. Sultan Hamid II supported this plan, preferring the federal system put forward by the Dutch and which had proven successful in Malaysia as a way to maintain traditional authorities without incessant in-fighting. Sukarno and his faction, a volatile combination of Marxists and Islamists as well as more mundane secular socialists, wanted a unitary state and a republic with no connection to The Netherlands at all and all traces of the Dutch population purged from the country.

Queen Wilhelmina with Sultan Hamid II
Sultan Hamid II, and others like him though he was probably the most prominent, knew enough about local, native, politics to see what was behind the unitary state idea of Sukarno. Rather than a federal state of power-sharing such as is still the case in the Kingdom of Malaysia, Sukarno’s unitary state would mean the domination of all by the Javanese. Sultan Hamid II, therefore, led the locals opposed to Sukarno and his republicans and as well as being the highest ranking native in the colonial army, he was also given the position of “Adjutant in the Extraordinary Service of Her Majesty the Queen of The Netherlands”, effectively the highest level of advisor to the Dutch monarch. When any agreement with Sukarno, and those more radical than him, proved hopeless, the Dutch responded with a number of military operations or “police actions” some of which, in his military capacity, Sultan Hamid II participated in.

The first such operation saw the Dutch royal forces take control of most key areas of the country, the urban centers and major ports. The second of the two largest, Operation Kraai or “Crow” saw a greater further victory with the capture of Sukarno, his deputy Mohammed Hatta and the Indonesian Republican leadership at Yogyakarta where the local Sultan, a sympathizer, had been sheltering them, at the end of 1948. Unlike the republican rebel leadership, who surrendered to the Dutch, their host, Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, remained in his palace throughout the battle and refused all efforts at reconciliation by the Dutch. Sultan Hamid II was brought in to try to mediate with his fellow prince, to win him over, but all such efforts were rebuffed. Unfortunately, for the Dutch and the counter-revolutionary locals, the very success of this operation worked against them as The Netherlands came under pressure from the United Nations to give in to the revolutionaries they had just defeated. Fearing that the Marxists in Sukarno’s coalition would make the country a Soviet satellite, United States President Harry S. Truman (Democrat, Missouri) decided to sell-out a war time ally and threatened to cut off Marshall Aid to The Netherlands if Queen Wilhelmina did not give in to the rebels and accept Indonesian independence.

There was no realistic option other than to comply though Queen Wilhelmina could not stomach such a thing, abdicating in favor of her daughter, Queen Juliana, who was left to preside over the separation of Indonesia from The Netherlands. The independence of Indonesia was de facto recognized on December 27, 1949 in Java and Sumatra and Sultan Hamid II suddenly found himself having to answer to President Sukarno, recently released from captivity yet again. The Sultan was appointed to the cabinet of the new United States of Indonesia though he was given no portfolio, it being a rather symbolic gesture as a token to the native traditional rulers. In any event, the feigned pretense of this federal system would not last long in any event as Sukarno remained committed to his unitary republic.

Capt. Ray Westerling
Sultan Hamid II could see this as well as anyone, perhaps better than most, and understood the local politics behind it. As such, he began to organize with his former fellow comrades of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army, particularly Captain Raymond Westerling, to launch an anti-Republican coup against Sukarno in Bandung and Jakarta. With elements of the old colonial forces, the Royal Netherlands Army, including the Special Forces, Dutch nationals and local counter-revolutionaries, the coup attempt was made in January of 1950 but proved to be a fiasco and fell apart by the following month. In April, Sultan Hamid II was implicated in the plot and soon enough the pretense of federalism was given up as his own state of West Kalimantan was brought under the central control of the increasingly unitary Republic of Indonesia. Sultan Hamid II endured two periods of incarceration for (false) charges of “treason” and had to endure in isolation as, when the trouble began, he had sent his wife, a prominent local lady of mostly Dutch blood but some lofty native ancestry as well, Didie van Delden, given the name and title of Sultana Maharatu Mas Makhota and their two children, a son and daughter to live in The Netherlands, where they remained.

His reign ending in 1950, Hamid II was succeeded by Syarif Abubakar as Sultan of Pontianak, though it meant little in the new regime. Former Sultan Hamid II, when not being hounded by the authorities, lived a quiet life of service and died on March 30, 1978 in Jakarta. His wife died not long ago in 2010 and his son, Pangeran (Prince) Syarif Max Yusuf Alkadrie lives in The Netherlands. The legacy of Sultan Hamid II in Indonesia has been controversial, first being portrayed as a villain and a traitor as is always the case with the opponents of successful revolutions. Benedict Arnold would be an American hero if the British had won the war, as I often point out. However, he does have one lasting legacy even if few people in modern Indonesia know about it which is that it was Sultan Hamid II who designed the “Garuda Pancasila”, the national emblem of Indonesia, based on the early Hindu legends of the islands, which was adopted in 1950.

So, every time a modern Indonesian sees that insignia, they are seeing something designed by a man, no less patriotic than others, but a prince who had a very different view on how the country should have been organized. Today the legacy of the sultan is somewhat more moderate and less unfavorable as the family has worked to get alongside the powers-that-be and historians have come forward with an alternate view of the man as someone who was not opposed to the Revolution really but simply had a different vision for how the independent Indonesia should be organized, federal rather than unitary, friendly with the Dutch rather than hostile and so on. From what I have been able to gather, it seems his reputation is these days improving.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

When Libertarians Went Off the Rails

I have written about the Libertarians before, relating some of the ways I agree and disagree with them but this political season I have had to burn some bridges with the Libertarians or, at least, the “official” established Libertarian powerhouses of this country such as the Libertarian Party and Reason Magazine. However, while some of my previous problems with libertarianism remain, this time something has changed and that is that the mainstream American Libertarians seem to have gone so far into the weeds of “principle” that they have largely abandoned what they were supposed to be all about. So, this time, some of my biggest problems are not with “libertarianism” but with the Libertarians who are currently in charge, at least in this country. Gone are the days of Congressman Ron Paul who wanted to stop using American troops to guard foreign borders and use them to guard the American border, now the Libertarian Party seems to be all about globalism, big government, nanny states and open borders. All of which goes against what they are supposed to be about!

First of all, I still have my long-standing problem with Libertarian priorities. They claim to want to dismantle the welfare state, not a bad idea in my view, but after never making it a priority, this time around, in several discussions I’ve had with Libertarian Party supporters, it has absolutely been thrown so far down the road as to drop off the cliff of reality. They don’t care about it and they’re not going to do it because calling for that would make them very unpopular. Legalize drugs? That’s popular, just like gay “marriage” and open borders. However, so many things that I would not really oppose so much if the welfare state didn’t exist, like the laws against gambling or drug abuse, depend entirely on getting rid of the welfare state first so that I don’t have to carry people who ruin their lives even more than I already do. So, the priorities issue is still there but leads into a big problem for me which is either new or at least new to me and that is the Libertarian devotion to having one, big, borderless world.

Milton Friedman, usually beloved by Libertarians, didn’t like borders but even he said it would be disastrous to have open borders AND a welfare state, nothing could bankrupt a country faster than that. However, Libertarians want open borders and, yeah, maybe, some day, at some point, in the far off vague future time, they might dismantle the welfare state. This is insane policy *for Libertarians* and seems to go against what Libertarians are supposed to believe in, or at least what I thought they did. For one thing, whether it is rational or not, history has shown us electoral patterns of behavior and one of those is that immigrants vote for the left-wing party, the party of bigger government, the party of more social welfare for people like themselves. That means that the Libertarians are cheering on the importation of a new population that will NEVER vote for them and ensure they never achieve national office. At least with the Democrats and Republicans, their positions on immigration are rational. Democrats want more because immigrants vote for Democrats and Republicans want less for the same reason. Libertarians, however, are so focused on their principles that every individual, every where in the world should be able to go wherever and whenever he/she/it wants, that they are acting against their own political self-interest. What would Ayn Rand think of you?

This also reveals something that surprised me about Libertarians which is that they just went from the party of small government to the party of global government. They seem to think, rather like the mandarins of ancient, Imperial China, that the whole world is governed by the United States and those places beyond are borders are just in denial about it. They think our rights and laws apply to everyone, citizens or non-citizens. It also shows that they think we owe our success to the government rather than “we the people”, which is what I thought Libertarians used to believe. After all, if you can replace the original population of this country with a new one, expecting everything to carry on the same as before, then what you are saying is that it is the system, the machine, that we owe everything to and not the unique history and culture of our own people. I must disagree, I do not think that you can take someone from a culture of theocracy, shariah law and tribalism or even large amounts of people from a culture of absolutism, dictatorship, revolutions and religious persecution and then plug them into a system founded by people from a culture of Magna Carta, 1688, Thomas Jefferson and frontiersmen and expect nothing at all to change. This is what some have called the “magic soil” argument. That all people are interchangeable but, for some reason, North America has magic soil that makes like better here no matter who the people are or what sort of history and culture has formed them prior to their arrival.

Open borders really seem to be a big deal to Libertarians this political season. It has even overpowered their supposed opposition to big government, over regulation and the “nanny state” which I thought was their worst enemy. I was really shocked when Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor-in-chief of “Reason” magazine announced that she favored the U.K. remaining in the European Union. Yes, the anti-democratic, unaccountable, massively top heavy, tax & spend, cradle to grave welfare state and government so big we will regulate absolutely everything even the shape of your cucumbers European Union! What on earth was it that could prompt the big cheese at America’s foremost libertarian periodical to support such a thing? You probably guessed it: open borders and free trade. A government bureaucracy that is so overreaching that it regulates everything from fishing to playground equipment to bananas and hair dryers, that the so-called libertarians at “Reason” can accept so long as the important principle of more non-British people being able to move to Britain is upheld. Whatever happened to smaller government guys?! Guys? Hello…?

Annoyed yet? Bear with me, there’s just a bit more. You will notice that Katherine also mentioned “free trade” along with open borders as part of the reason she supports the Westminster Parliament being shackled to a bunch of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. That’s another point by itself. The European Union does not have “free trade” even among its members. Trade between member states is not really “free” at all, it is very, very heavily regulated just like your electric tea kettles, it is only that they all have the same regulations set by a central authority rather than in the past when every country did their own thing. Libertarians really seem to have gone full-blown ignorant on this subject and there is no better example than the parade of Libertarians who have come out to blast Donald Trump for being critical of our trade deals with China. The Libertarians denounce the bombastic billionaire and assure us that “free trade” is good for everyone!

Do they even know what they are saying? How can we have truly “free” trade with China when this trade comes with trade “deals” and is overseen by a “trade commission” with lots of rules and regulations governing it? Donald Trump says these trade deals are bad, which you can agree or disagree with but the Libertarians seem to be in total denial about the deals even existing! Well, I’m sorry delusional Libertarians but we do have trade deals with China, you cannot just buy and sell however you please between the two countries and what is also true, though not talked about because “they took our jobs” is easier for the masses to understand, is that China has repeatedly violated the terms of these deals and faced no consequences because of it. What do I mean? Well, here is an example that I would think Libertarians, if they believed in what they claim to believe in, would understand: private property. Libertarians are supposed to believe that private property rights are absolutely sacrosanct. Well, the Chinese do not believe that and they have stolen the intellectual private property of a great many people. Now, I would think that the free market, Libertarian answer to that would be to stop doing business with someone who rips you off like that, but, NO! They want us to go on getting ripped off because apparently their respect for private property is not as great as their devotion to globalism and having trade just for the sake of having trade I guess.

But, you may be thinking, “you’re just getting carried away Mad Monarchist, this is because the Libertarians support big business, they have always supported big, international corporations and have never made a secret of that”, well, I have news for you unnamed, anonymous, imaginary reader of this blog! As well as giving up on the welfare state, big government and private property, they are also giving up on small business in favor of big business it seems. The Libertarian Party candidate for President of the United States, Gary Johnson, (yes, again) has said that a Jewish baker should be forced by the government to bake a cake for Hitler’s birthday party covered in swastikas just as a Christian baker should be forced by the government to bake a cake for the homosexuals who are getting married. Individual rights? Freedom for small business owners to run their own businesses? Screw that idea! What do we look like, Libertarians?! No, sorry, this year the Libertarians have gone, way, way too far. From the conversations I have had and what I have heard from the leadership of the Libertarian Party and “Reason” magazine, the libertarian movement is not about private property rights, ending the welfare state, free markets and individual rights any more. They are for globalism, open borders, big government, regulatory regimes and allowing every heroin-addict to buy a machine gun. Good job guys.

Now, I will add that I cannot believe all libertarians are like these. As far as I know, Hans Hermann Hoppe has not gone off the rails and is still someone I have a lot of time for. Hopefully, it is just the American libertarian leadership that has lost its mind but I cannot be too optimistic. I know some great libertarians who have had more than one ‘face-palm’ moment this political season and I am sure many are just as appalled as I am, perhaps even more so as I am just on the outside looking in. Why do I even care? Well, I care because even though I have never agreed with them on everything, I have agreed with them on some things in the past and because the libertarians have represented at least a hope for what I would consider beneficial changes. They were one group of people who at least rated notice on the political radar who had a plan for a society that would have ultimately made democracy rather unnecessary and had people who were open about saying so. They were one of the few groups who, in the old days anyway, were not afraid to say that “equality” is a delusion, that an individual can be right when the majority is wrong, that democracy should not decide everything and that the successful should be applauded and emulated, not shamed and hated. It pains me to see what they have come to but, as long as they continue on their present course, they can expect no support from me. A line has been crossed.

Friday, August 12, 2016

World War II and the Scandinavian Monarchies

Across Europe, even among those monarchies which survived World War II, none had as much influence as they did before the conflict. The war itself, however, was not always the direct cause of this but, nonetheless, it came at a time when wider events over a number of years brought about such an outcome. The fact is that the monarchs who reigned during the time of the Second World War had considerably more authority, regardless of any actual constitutional changes, than those who came to the throne after the conflict was over. This was certainly true in the Low Countries but, while perhaps less noticed, was equally true in the monarchies of Scandinavia. Even the one country which managed to avoid actually participating in the war, the Kingdom of Sweden, was not untouched by the conflict or unaffected by the wider repercussions of both the First and Second World Wars. The monarch on the throne throughout the period was His Majesty King Gustav V who is remembered as the last Swedish monarch to date to intervene in the affairs of his government.

In 1907, when he came to the throne, King Gustav V had extensive legal authority in political matters. However, in the reign of his father, parliament had more strongly asserted itself and, originally, King Gustav V went along with this new way of doing things. This changed with the coming of World War I. The King favored increasing Swedish military strength while the recently elected Liberal government did not. When a crowd of concerned citizens demonstrated in front of the palace in favor of strengthening the Swedish military in case the country were to become engulfed in the upcoming conflict, the King acted on his own to address the crowd, whose views were in accord with his own, to assure them that this would be done. The Liberal prime minister objected to this, King Gustav V responded that he was well within his rights to speak to his subjects on such a matter, as both their sovereign and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, which prompted the government to resign at which time the King appointed a more conservative administration to replace them.

That would be the last time that a Swedish monarch would directly intervene in government. The collapse of Russia, spread of communism and the economic disaster that accompanied the end of World War I, worked to pull Sweden dramatically to the left. In 1917 the King tried to appoint another conservative government but found no support, the most power being held by what amounted to democratic socialists on the one hand and less-than-democratic socialists on the other. Still, World War II played a part as well and in a way related to World War I. The Queen consort, Victoria of Baden, was a German and in the First World War the King was widely believed to be sympathetic with the German Empire and the cause of the Central Powers. Similar accusations would be made concerning the King and Nazi Germany in World War II which certainly had a more negative impact on his popular perception than any possible sympathy on his part for the Kaiser would have had. Little to nothing on that score can be proven but the allegation alone was enough to do damage.

The most serious accusation in this regard, though again, it has never been proven, revolved around the King interfering in government again. The issue was the 1941 demand from the Germans, at the time of the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, to allow German military forces to move from Norway, through Sweden to their fellow Axis partner of Finland. According to the prime minister, King Gustav V intervened in this matter, threatening to abdicate if the government did not accede to the German demand. Anti-royal controversialists often mention this in conjunction with another allegation, accusing the King of sending congratulations to Hitler for his victories against the “Bolshevik pest” of the Soviet Union. Others have claimed that the King similarly favored allowing Allied troops to move through Swedish territory but that it was the government which refused and there is no doubt that the King also spoke up on behalf of the Jews and that he tried to arrange peace talks to end the war early on.

All of this was used to smear the character of King Gustav V after the war ended in an Allied victory. However, few people care to consider the basic fact that if the Germans wanted to move troops through Sweden they were certainly capable of doing it whether the Swedish government agreed or not. Given the depleted state of the Swedish armed forces, the Germans could have conquered the country and occupied it with as little difficulty as they did in Denmark and Norway. At a time when Sweden was literally surrounded by Germany, German allied Finland and German occupied Denmark and Norway, the British could have done nothing to help them and Hitler could have wiped out Sweden easily if they had defied him. Under the circumstances, a refusal would have been hailed as noble and courageous in the rest of the world but it could easily have resulted in invasion, occupation and the total loss of Swedish independence. If the King did intervene to urge the government to let the Germans move through, in such a situation, it would be hard for any rational person to say he did wrong.

There was, in any event, no shortage of gossip and allegations against King Gustav V, even among his fellow monarchs. There were rumors that he tried to interfere in the Norwegian succession, bypassing the King and Crown Prince for the royal grandson, today’s King Harald V and King Haakon VII of Norway reputedly referred to the King of Sweden as ‘the old scoundrel’ and believed him to be pro-German. The fact that Sweden would have been much the worse off by taking a hostile attitude toward the Germans or the fact that a great many Jews found refuge in Sweden because of its neutrality, did not amount to much in the post-war years where mere mention of the word “Nazi” and any hint of being in the least bit tainted by anything less than a zealous commitment to their extermination is sufficient to cause people to switch their brains off and become totally irrational. After Gustav V died in 1950 at age 92 he was succeeded by his son King Gustav VI Adolf and by the next decade republicanism and the total abolition of the monarchy had become mainstream. By the time of the next monarch, new constitutional changes saw the Swedish Crown stripped of absolutely all residual powers, which did tend to thwart some of the arguments of the republicans as there is no president on earth with less power than the King of Sweden.

The Kingdoms of Denmark and Norway are a different story. Both were pulled into World War II for the same reason. The short version is that Winston Churchill was so convinced the Germans would violate Norwegian neutrality that he decided to violate it first, laying mines in Norwegian territorial waters. A landing by ground forces was also planned by the whole British campaign in the far north was an utter fiasco. Germany responded with swift and overpowering force. To move against Norway, Germany had to go through the Kingdom of Denmark. After a long period of decline from the ranks of being a major power, as well as a long period of peace which many people thought would last forever (something seemingly everyone is likely to do), the Danes were practically powerless to resist the German invasion. So, they basically didn’t and the Kingdom of Denmark was occupied in less than 24 hours.

The Kingdom of Denmark was supposed to be Germany’s “model protectorate”. They assured the Danes that they were friends, not conquerors and that their independence would be respected with German occupation forces remaining only so long as was necessary for the war situation. The Danes didn’t buy it and soon began carrying out acts of sabotage. Their monarch, King Christian X, condemned such actions, as he was bound to, but also defied the Germans as far as he was able. He refused to enact anti-Semitic legislation they pushed, refused to hand over Danes to the hands of German justice who had been caught in acts of sabotage or helping Jews escape to Sweden and he famously continued his solitary horseback rides every morning through the streets of Copenhagen. The Germans wanted him to stop, particularly as these came to be occasions of outbursts of public support for the monarchy and Danish patriotism, but the King refused. When the Germans demanded he accept a German escort to act as his bodyguard on such occasions, the King famously said that every Dane was his bodyguard. King Christian X did finally have to stop though when he was thrown from his horse and injured in late 1942 (allegations that the horse had Nazi sympathies have not been corroborated).

By the end of World War II and the German occupation, the Danes and their monarch never seemed to be closer. It was a stark contrast to how the unfortunate King Leopold III of the Belgians was treated for also remaining in his country during the German occupation. King Christian X of Denmark was admired and respected by almost everyone and his prestige seemed to have never been greater. Yet, even in the oldest monarchy in Europe, which has weathered the republican storm better than most with its very deep roots, no monarch after King Christian X would ever have quite the same level of power and influence in state affairs. It is hard to see how the war played a part in this change, yet that it happened cannot be denied. The monarchy before the war was very different from the monarchy after the war, or, at least, after Christian X. Under his successor, King Frederick IX, the Kingdom of Denmark began to change, becoming, as it was known, a “democratic monarchy”.

In truth, however, the wartime prestige of the monarchy was no more than King Christian’s ‘Indian Summer’. After World War I there had been a dispute over the territory Denmark had lost to Prussia in the 1864 war. The Danish government wanted the inhabitants to vote on whether they wished to rejoin Denmark while Danish nationalists wanted the territory annexed outright. King Christian X agreed with annexation, intervened and the government fell which the King replaced with a more conservative temporary government until the next election. This was the “Easter Crisis of 1920” and it resulted in a fierce left-wing backlash against the monarchy led by the Social Democrats. Faced, for the first time in her ancient history, with the loss of the Danish monarchy, King Christian X had been forced to retreat, dismissing the government he had just appointed and accept his status as a virtually powerless monarch. The war years boosted his prestige but it did nothing to change the political situation. The monarch retains some considerable powers on paper but Danish judges have interpreted these to belong to the King’s government and not the King (or Queen in today’s case) personally.

One other point of contention for Danish monarchists, widely overlooked in foreign lands, which resulted directly from World War II was the loss of the Danish Kingdom of Iceland to republicanism. From 1918 to 1944 Iceland was an independent kingdom in personal union with the Crown of Denmark. However, in May of 1940 British troops invaded and occupied Iceland. The local government protested this violation of their neutrality but made no effort to resist. The British later handed the keys over to the United States and in 1944 a referendum was held which resulted in Iceland becoming a republic, severing all ties with the Crown of Denmark. King Christian X showed impossibly good grace by sending them his congratulations but many on the right in Denmark felt betrayed and not unjustly so. As they were under German occupation at the time, they could hardly argue their own case for maintaining their existing relationship with the island and even if there was nothing untoward about it, one cannot escape what political pundits today would call very “bad optics” to have a referendum during wartime while being occupied by a foreign army which is at war with the foreign army occupying the ‘home’ country.

Finally, any talk of Iceland, monarchy and World War II, will usually produce some mention of the so-called conspiracy for a Nazi monarchy. I mention it only because someone is bound to speak up if I do not but there really is not much to say on the subject. It was never a conspiracy, never something that was going to happen, it did not happen and so is hardly much of a story. An important, though often left-out point to make clear though, is that this suggestion of a Nazi monarchy in Iceland was made *before* the Germans had occupied Denmark (seat of the existing Icelandic monarchy) and thus also some time before the Allied occupation of Iceland. There is some variation in accounts of this episode but the usual version is that a group of pro-Nazi Icelanders approached the German government about making Prince Friedrich Christian zu Shaumburg-Lippe the King of Iceland. The Prince had been a fairly early member of the Nazi Party, joined the Brown-shirted Storm Troops (SA) and rose to be an assistant to Dr. Joseph Goebbels in the Propaganda Ministry. He was in fact, considered to be on the leftist, socialist, side of the Nazi Party. In any event, it didn’t happen. The Prince said Goebbels favored the idea but Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop did not. However, regardless of that, it is not as though Iceland was ruled by a pro-Nazi party at the time, so such an offer would have had no real meaning anyway.

Last, but not least, we have the situation in the Kingdom of Norway. The Norwegians were the most recently independent of the Scandinavian monarchies, having detached themselves from a personal union with Sweden in 1905. The people voted to establish a monarchy rather than a republic and invited Prince Carl of Denmark to take the throne as King Haakon VII of Norway. He realized that there had been a sizable minority who had favored a republic and the recent democratic process which had brought about the break with Sweden was a sign of the times so he knew from the outset that his royal powers would be limited and was partly chosen for the very reason that he made no objection to such restrictions. By 1928 he was obliged, by the democratic process, to appoint a government led by the Norwegian Labor Party which advocated abolishing the monarchy (something later dropped from their program).

World War II spread to Scandinavia, as mentioned, because of events in Norway. Denmark was a mere stepping stone, invaded and occupied within a day. Norway would take somewhat longer for, as Norwegians at the time proudly said, “we are a longer country”. The British effort to establish a Scandinavian front was a total fiasco, very ill-organized and the German attack was swift, efficient and overpowering. King Haakon VII knew his country stood no chance and immediately made plans, upon the outbreak of war, to establish a government-in-exile in Britain. The Germans did their best to capture him and the Royal Family but in an arduous series of movements, they were able to elude them and ultimately take a British warship into exile. The German attack had begun on April 8 and the last major Norwegian stronghold fell on May 5 with the King and party leaving the country on June 7. The King and Crown Prince Olav, the symbols of Norwegian resistance, went to England while other family members were sent to safety in the United States. Pockets of Norwegian forces carried on fighting for much longer and, of course, Norwegian forces in exile and underground resistance movements persisted in fighting for the duration of the war.

It would be hard to overstate the significance of the King during this time of crisis for Norway. He had taken the lead in rejecting the German demands to submit peacefully to their occupation, expressing his desire to abdicate if the government chose to cooperate with the Nazis and as the King he was the living symbol of Norwegian government legitimacy in the fight and in the years of exile. Unlike Denmark, there was no room for any doubt at all that the fate of the Norwegian monarchy depended on an Allied victory. The Germans had a willing client in Vidkun Quisling standing ready and after efforts to coerce the government in Norway to depose the King, the top German official simply declared on his own that the King of Norway had forfeited the Crown and that he, nor any of the Royal Family, had any right to ever return to Norway again. King Haakon VII was the symbol of Norwegian resistance to the Germans, he was also very much the “voice” of the resistance due to his BBC radio addresses to Norway and thanks to him the Norwegians were able to contribute a great deal more to the Allied war effort than most people realize. He was extremely popular as a result of all of this and when he died in 1957 he was mourned almost as much in Britain as in Norway.

His son and successor, King Olav V, had played a major part in the Norwegian war effort, being appointed an admiral in the Norwegian navy, a general in the Norwegian army and in 1944 the Norwegian Chief of Defense. He oversaw the Norwegian contribution to the Allied armed forces and at the end of the war was in charge of dealing with the disarmament of the surrendered Germans. Nonetheless, by the time he came to the throne, things had already changed from what they had been in the war years when his father was so identified with Norwegian patriotism that “H7” became the symbol of the resistance. Although, legally, the royal powers did not change, having been limited at the outset, there was definitely a new, more republican, sentiment about the country. When King Haakon VII had come to the Norwegian throne, he had been given a proper coronation. For King Olav V there would be no coronation, only a church service after his swearing-in ceremony which was officially boycotted by the ruling Labor Party (though some members attended anyway).

Like his father, King Olav V never made any trouble for the politicians but, seeing which way the winds were blowing perhaps, he also made an effort to be seen even more as “down to earth”. The closest his father ever came to a confrontation was taking a drink of illegal alcohol after coming into a hotel, cold and soaked. King Olav V would not even go that far, even using public transportation during the energy crisis of 1973. He could also often be seen driving his own car. All of this had the intended effect on public opinion as this egalitarian style caused him to be dubbed, “the People’s King”. Again, to be sure, the current Norwegian monarchy started out a much shorter chain than their neighbors in Sweden or Denmark but, nonetheless, one cannot escape the fact that the style of the monarchy even in Norway was rather different in the first reign after the war that it had been before the conflict, whether the war actually had any impact on it or not.

What we can see is that many monarchs had an increased status during the war years due to the state of emergency that, of course, ended when the war was over. There was also an increase in national unity because of the war which, likewise, ended when it was over. This was something that some monarchs commented on as being regrettable. The status of many monarchies also saw the status of the monarch decline with the status of the country due to things like de-colonization and the polarization of the world into an American camp and a Russian camp. European monarchies also often saw leftwing parties come to power after World War I, then brought back after World War II and with a huge influx of American aid money which made unsustainable spending programs and social welfare states take root which governments have become more desperate to try to uphold. It is certainly no coincidence that the leftist parties pushing these policies have invariably been either openly anti-monarchy or at the very least possessing a very republican mentality even if not openly calling for the establishment of a republic.

Monday, August 8, 2016

MM Special News Report: Address from the Emperor

Today, His Majesty the Emperor of Japan made a special address to the nation (read the English text of the speech here). This is only the second time that His Majesty has addressed the Japanese public directly and it is only the third time in history that such a thing has been done. Obviously, this was important. His Majesty explained the situation and the context of his remarks very succinctly and well. He is concerned about his advanced age and his health, assuring everyone that while his health is currently good, he does feel his age and is concerned that he will not be able to devote himself to all the duties of being emperor as he would like. The Emperor did point out that he cannot, himself, ask for anything to be done about this or make any suggestions. That was a reference to the much talked about issue of abdication, something which was once extremely common in the Japanese monarchy but which has not been done since before the time of the Meiji Restoration. The problem is that the current Japanese constitution contains no provisions for the abdication of an emperor and so His Majesty the Emperor cannot legally abdicate nor can he express a wish to as this would be seen as a political statement and the Emperor is not allowed, by the constitution, to have anything to do with government or politics or to express any opinion on political subjects.

Because of these restrictions, the Emperor could only indirectly address the issue at hand by pointing out his own concerns about his age, health and ability to carry on his duties as emperor and trust in the government, currently led by conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to pass the laws needed to allow the Emperor to abdicate or for the appointment of a regent to take up his duties on his behalf while he remains emperor for the remainder of his life. The idea of a regency is one that has a more recent historical precedent. The current emperor had to take up the official duties of his father and the very end of the reign of HM the Showa Emperor and the Show Emperor, then Crown Prince Hirohito, had a rather lengthy period as regent for his father the Taisho Emperor. Farther back, however, before the Meiji era, abdications were so common as to be more the rule rather than the exception. Many Japanese emperors reigned for fairly short periods before abdicating and enjoying a life of leisure. That seems like a different world from the State of Japan today. However, it would be wrong for anyone to be dismissive about the duties and responsibilities that the Emperor of Japan must fulfill.

The most important obligations for the Emperor of Japan is certainly the religious duties he has to perform as the highest chief priest of the native Shinto religion. These can involve quite lengthy and elaborate rituals which only the Emperor can perform and, in recent times, His Majesty has confessed that he has lately made some mistakes while performing these rituals because of his advanced age. In the past I have also pointed out that the Emperor is probably the only monarch whose official duties include farming. He must plant and harvest his own rice field on the Imperial Palace grounds, this special rice then being used for sacred Shinto ceremonies which call for such offerings produced by the Emperor himself. Obviously, this is not a duty which becomes easier with advanced age. There are also the very numerous visits, meetings, receptions for foreign dignitaries, state dinners, trips abroad to foreign countries and the issuing of documents related to the opening and closing of the parliament which most any monarch would find familiar. Throughout his reign, the Emperor has performed all of these flawlessly but is concerned that he must cut back his schedule these days due to his age.

The basic situation is that the Emperor feels it is unfair to his people for him to carry on in his imperial duties if he can no longer give 100%. In subsequent remarks, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government would be seriously looking into the matter. So far, any Japanese government has been reluctant to deal with any issue concerning the monarchy. Those on the right being rather fearful that those on the left will try to introduce unwanted innovations into the ancient institution, particularly female succession, which would mean the end of the male-line that stretches back to traceless antiquity. However, for the Emperor to take the initiative to record an address such as this shows how important he feels the issue is and the government cannot simply ignore or indefinitely postpone the matter, particularly considering that the conservatives now in power have been pushing for constitutional reforms which would include restoring the Emperor officially to the position of Head of State and placing the Emperor above the constitution rather than being subject to it.

Given how the government of Japan operates, we can be sure that there will be no changes immediately. We may see, in the future, legal measures taken that will allow His Majesty to abdicate or for HIH Crown Prince Naruhito to step into the part of regent on behalf of his father while the Emperor enjoys a quiet retirement for the remainder of his years, which he certainly deserves. Personally, I am not, as I have often said, very fond of abdications but in the case of Japan it is not unprecedented and if it must happen, I would prefer it happen while Abe and his coalition are in power rather than someone else.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Tiburtine Sybil & Imperial Prophecy

In the old days of Christendom, one could mention the Tiburtine Sybil and the prophecies regarding the Roman emperors and many people, certainly educated people, would know immediately what was being talked about. Today that is certainly not the case and so some background information must be provided as, aside from experts in this particular field or, perhaps, art history aficionados, no average person will know what this is all about. First of all, we have the figure of the Sybil. The sybils were women who acted as oracles, usually associated with a particular holy site in pagan times. The custom originated in ancient Greece but soon spread to Italy, Asia Minor and other areas. The Oracle of Delphi is probably the most well known example of a sybil. These women were often sought out for prophecy and divine guidance as it were by powerful people. In the time of the Roman Empire one of the most prominent was the Tiburtine Sybil, known as such because she resided at the town of Tibur, an old Etruscan town, which is today the Italian city of Tivoli. Many stories grew out of this particular sybil later on among Christians concerning the Roman emperors.

Emperor Augustus & the Tiburtine Sybil
One thing to clarify at the outset was that the sybils were, obviously, not Christian religious figures but were associated with paganism. However, once upon a time, this did not cause Christians to discount stories about their prophecies. They knew from their Bible stories that the pagan priests of Pharaoh were able to perform seemingly miraculous deeds or that the witch of Endor had been able to summon up the spirit of Samuel for King Saul, for example. It was taken for granted that people who were not worshippers of the Christian God could still possess amazing gifts and that God could use such people for His own purposes. Later examples of such things might include the Native American shamans who, according to various stories, made prophecies about the coming of the Spanish or had visions of the Blessed Virgin to prepare them to receive the Gospel when Christian missionaries later arrived. There was also, it must be said, an effort by the Christians of the “Ages of Faith” to look back at classical history and to incorporate it into their new, Christian, world view. The story of Pope St Gregory the Great, momentarily resurrecting the Roman Emperor Trajan in order to baptize him, is an example of this. Virtually everyone discounts this story now but it reflects the wish of people to see so great a man, such a revered emperor, saved from eternal damnation for not having been a Christian.

Emperor Augustus & the Tiburtine Sybil
The first recorded instance of the Tiburtine Sybil crossing paths with a Roman emperor came in the time of Augustus Caesar. The story goes that Emperor Augustus approached the Tiburtine Sybil, Albunea, at the Temple of Vesta to ask if he should be worshipped as a god. This meeting was once a very common thing to see depicted in art. An Archbishop, Jacobus de Voragine, later recorded this story, stating that it had been handed down to him by Pope Innocent III, that Augustus met the Sybil and that the Sybil revealed to him one who would come after him, greater than he, and showed him a vision of the birth of Christ, referring to the Blessed Virgin as “the Altar of Heaven” where a church was later built and dedicated as such. According to Virgil, the Cumaean Sibyl also made such a prophecy about the birth of Christ and stories such as these, which became widespread, explain why the sybils were included in Renaissance works of art, such as by Michelangelo, alongside Old Testament prophets in foretelling the coming of the Christian era. These would also coincide with other stories, once popular, about the early Roman emperors taking a “hands off” approach to Christ. Stories circulated, for example, that Emperor Tiberius, who did not exactly have a reputation for kindness, ordered that Christians not be persecuted or accused and even talked of including Jesus Christ in the pantheon of Roman gods.

If such stories were true, the prophecies of the Tiburtine Sybil to Emperor Augustus might help explain why such an attitude was taken or why someone like St Paul would prefer to put his fate in the hands of the Emperor Nero rather than his own Jewish countrymen of the Sanhedrin. There were actually a great many such accounts of miraculous events and Christian prophecies concerning the pagan Roman emperors before the more famous events after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge and the baptism of Emperor Constantine the Great. There was the story of Pope St Clement I being a cousin of the Emperor Diocletian (in all likelihood he was a freedman who had been in his employ), Emperor Antoninus Pius condemning any illegal attacks on the Christian community, the dramatic story of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and the “Thundering Legion” or his son Emperor Commodus having a Christian mistress which is often pointed to as a reason for this fairly irascible Caesar refraining from persecuting Christians. She is also credited with influencing Emperor Commodus to release Pope St Calixtus I from prison. A revelation, passed down the imperial line, originating in a pagan source that they would not question, would be a possible explanation for such behavior.

Emperor Constans
However, other than foretelling Emperor Augustus of the birth of Christ, the most famous prophecy of this sort from the Tiburtine Sybil concerning an apocalyptic vision about a certain Emperor Constans. This prophecy foretold of a Greek king who would rise to become “king of the Romans and the Greeks” or, in other words, the Roman Emperor of East and West alike again, who would be very tall, very handsome, very wealthy, will destroy the enemies of Christianity, end all pagan worship, convert the Jews and defeat the massive, mysterious powers of Gog and Magog, after which he will retire to the Holy City of Jerusalem, abdicate his throne and hand the empire over to God. At that point, the Sybil describes what we would recognize as the rise of the Anti-Christ, coming from the tribe of Dan, who will win the people over by miraculous acts, who will destroy the Roman Empire and only then reveal himself as the agent of evil from the Temple of Jerusalem. This, of course, is very similar to other prophecies concerning “the Final Emperor” or the “Great Catholic Monarch” who will lead a last revival of Christian power before the end of the world.

An interesting point in the prophecy of the Tiburtine Sybil is that this monarch is named as Emperor Constans and that the prophecy was made, as near as we can tell, around the year 380 AD, a few decades after Rome had already had the reign of the historic Emperor Constans, the son of the Christian Emperor Constantine the Great, who came to the throne in 337 and ruled until he was assassinated in 350. If we were to be skeptical and presume that the Sibyl was trying to tailor her message for the audience, or that the story was invented later to appeal to Christian sensibilities, naming this future Christian hero after Emperor Constans would not make much sense. He was not known for being a terribly nice man or a terribly good emperor, though he too was part of a prophecy of his own concerning his grandmother, the Christian Empress St Helena. The prophecy said he would die in the arms of his grandmother and when he was assassinated it was after being cornered in a military post named Fort Helena.

Emperor Tiberius
So, what is the point of all this? I will be the first to admit it is largely just an act of indulgence on my part since I am interested in this sort of stuff. As with anything of this nature, some people will be inclined to believe and others will be inclined to disbelieve it and there really isn’t anything that anyone can say to prove either side right or wrong. I will say, at the very least, the existence of these stories and that they were passed on for so long reveals something to us about the people and the faith of Christendom. Sources of revelation were not rejected for being pagan, the people of the time recognizing that God can use anyone to participate in His plan. It shows also the centrality of the Roman Empire and the Roman emperors in the hearts of minds of Christian people and how central that Roman imperial tradition was to Christendom itself. The Christians of the late Roman Empire, even with all that was going on around them, did not cease to believe that their ‘realm’ on earth was something special, that Christianity had sprang up in that empire was no accident and that the Roman Empire was something that others would strive to bring back, that they hoped ultimately would come back, with all Christian, European peoples united under one divinely ordained Caesar.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The League of Nations: Root of U.N. Evil

It seems obvious and beyond dispute to me that the United Nations is a thoroughly contemptible organization that ranges from wastefully ineffective to horrifically malevolent in its actions. It has lofty goals of course but it has no oversight, is not accountable and is rife with corruption. Moreover, we have since found out for a fact that UN forces have participated in an unprecedented and disgusting criminal campaign of rape, child molestation and exploitation in Africa. What little good it might do is far outweighed by the horrors it has perpetrated and these good things could be done by other organizations. It does not prevent conflict, it shelters despicable characters, stops some countries from doing good and enables others to do evil. However, the root of all evil for the United Nations was its predecessor the League of Nations. The United Nations was originally the primary Allied nations of World War II, a conflict which the League of Nations had failed to prevent, and the U.N. was intended to be the League of Nations but with all of the mistakes that had made it a failure corrected.

Woodrow the Worst
That did not happen of course but maybe, just maybe, that was because the real mistake was the League of Nations itself. The idea for some sort of international organization had been advocated for some time by British leftists, Labour Party members, Fabian Socialists and the like but the League of Nations that was actually created was born out of the uninformed idealism of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson at the end of World War I. When the former professor turned Democrat politician went to the Versailles Conference to lecture the nations of the Old World on how to fix things, Wilson was a failure. He later admitted he did not know what he was talking about and almost everything he called for was ignored by his Allied partners. In the end, he sacrificed almost everything he said he stood for in order to get agreement to his legacy project which was the League of Nations. The creation of the League of Nations was the only major goal of Woodrow Wilson that he was able to see achieved. However, even then, it proved an embarrassment at the outset when he returned to his own country.

The United States of America refused to accept the Versailles Treaty, later making its own separate peace treaties with the Central Powers, and also refused to join the League of Nations. The United States would be the most significant world power that never joined the League of Nations but others who had originally been excluded were later admitted and it reflects the politics of the League and what was deemed acceptable by the leaders of this new international world order. Germany, the enemy in World War I, was excluded from the League but, after the Weimar Republic proved sufficiently subservient and willing to disarm and not resist the League, was allowed to join in 1926. This followed the French occupation of the Rhineland in 1919, which caused outrage across Germany after numerous rapes of German women by French colonial troops (from the African colony of Senegal) and the 1923 occupation of the Ruhr valley by French and Belgian troops. Soviet Russia, also initially excluded for being a communist state most regarded as illegal and illegitimate, was also admitted in 1934. What is interesting about the timing of that was the fact that Adolf Hitler, who had always despised the League, had taken Germany out the previous year.

Sinister Stalin
Ultimately, the League of Nations had decided that having a communist member was acceptable, even though the Soviet leadership had done nothing but condemn and castigate the leading members of the League from ‘day one’ as bourgeois capitalists and imperialists. The Soviet Union was expelled from the League at the end of 1939 because of the Soviet invasion of Finland. The League was supposed to respond to aggression with economic sanctions, however, that was never a viable option for the Soviet Union. At that point, they were still doing business with Nazi Germany, which was outside the League and would certainly not be following their orders, and the leading countries such as France and Britain were at war with Germany by that point and were not looking to antagonize the Russians. It is interesting to note that the Soviets had carried out a number of aggressive acts prior to joining the League, and was only expelled as a result of such aggression after making a pact with Germany which, under Hitler, had never had much use for the organization.

If this makes the League seem rather inconsistent and perhaps less than honest, the first major problem the League was unable to solve shows it even more. That, of course, was the 1931 occupation of Manchuria by the Imperial Japanese Army following the Mukden Incident. The Japanese military, acting independently of the government in Tokyo, moved quickly, took control of the country and soon set up a client state, the “State of Manchukuo” (which is simply ‘Manchuria’ in Chinese). By the time the commission from the League, headed by the Earl of Lytton, arrived in Manchuria, they were investigating what was already an accomplished fact, not something that was about to happen or in the process of happening. Their final report concluded that the Japanese had acted aggressively and that the State of Manchukuo was not a legitimate country. Deeply offended, the following year in 1933 the Empire of Japan officially left the League of Nations. What makes this case smell of corruption is that few historians doubt that if Japan had pursued an “Open Door” policy in Manchuria, reducing their own interest and control in the region to allow in other countries to invest, the commission would likely have come to the opposite conclusion.

The Mild Manchu Emperor
Such might have been in the best interests of Japan as opening Manchuria up to other countries would have induced them to recognize the State of Manchukuo immediately and given them a vested interest in its survival. However, it is easy to see why Japan did not do this, given that they had done the work, they had taken the risk and thus they saw no need to share the spoils. They had a valid point when they asked why there was a Monroe Doctrine for the Americas but an “Open Door” policy in China. There seems little room for doubt that the League found against Japan because Japan cut out the other great powers from having a share of the profits. It is also clear that the historical argument was on the side of the Japanese. They had restored the legitimate Manchu ruler to his ancestral homeland. The League also, contradictorily, branded Japan an aggressor while not saying anything to refute the claim of the Japanese military that the Chinese had been responsible for the Mukden Incident itself. So, they let this accusation stand, that the Chinese had attacked the Japanese-owned railroad and yet still ruled that the Japanese had acted aggressively.

In the end, nothing was done by the League and the only result was that it discouraged most of the international community from recognizing the State (and later Empire) of Manchukuo as a legitimate country. Putting sanctions on Japan would have been futile. The deed was already done and such sanctions would not be able to undo it as the source of most of the imports Japan relied on was the United States, which was not a member of the League, not bound by their decisions and which was not about to cut off trade with Japan over Manchuria. In fact, the President of the United States, Republican Herbert Hoover, was of the opinion that, given the Soviet occupation of Mongolia and support for the Chinese communists, the Japanese occupation of Manchuria was a justified act of self-defense. Any such action, he felt, would put America on the road to war with Japan and that he was not about to do. His Democrat successor, Franklin Roosevelt, would later take the opposite view, would put sanctions on Japan and would ultimately end up at war just as Hoover had predicted.

The Uncooperative Duce
The issue of Manchuria, however, was only deemed significant for the League in retrospect, not at the time. The League was supposed to resolve international disputes and, with the Japanese occupation being already accomplished, no major dispute seemed to exist. The Chinese were upset of course, but they had not been able to put up much of a fight nor did they feel compelled to go to war over the issue. Basically, the League wanted to have for itself the power to make the big decisions in world affairs. Japan had acted without League approval but it had not acted with League disapproval either because the issue was resolved before the League became involved. They would not have to wait very long, however, before the League was faced with a real challenge and one there would be no way to escape without either showing that they were the real arbiters of international affairs or that they were ultimately powerless to enforce their liberal, idealistic vision of the world on the global community. That challenge can be traced to a single man and that man was Benito Mussolini.

Most are probably aware of the basic facts. There was an “incident” at an isolated outpost, Abyssinia (Ethiopia) claimed the outpost had been built in their territory and a large force attacked it. Mussolini responded with preparations for war. It would take about a year for arrangements to be made and Italian military forces to be transferred to East Africa and so this time the League of Nations had plenty of time to respond. Once again, they acted against the findings of their own investigation, at least in a way. They never really said which side was to blame for starting the trouble, never asserted that the Italians had not been attacked nor, contrarily, did they show how or why Italian forces would have attacked an Ethiopian force five times as large without their own army to back them up. The fact that it took so long to transfer the bulk of Italian military strength to Africa rather proves the point that this was not some pre-planned conspiracy. However, the League of Nations nonetheless condemned Italy as an aggressor, threatening to place sanctions on the kingdom, if Mussolini did not back down. A line had been drawn.

Haile Selassie, chosen showcase
This was about power on the world stage and much bigger than Abyssinia. Liberal idealism had little to do with it. After all, Abyssinia was an absolute monarchy, no more democratic than Fascist Italy was. It still practiced slavery on a large scale and this, in fact, had been part of the reason why it became a member of the League of Nations in the first place. Ordinarily, such a tribal state would not have been considered the proper material for a League member but Abyssinia had been brought in, ironically enough, under the sponsorship of Italy. This was because anti-slavery societies in Britain had been pushing for British intervention in the country to end the practice and Italy, not wanting Britain to gain control of the country as a result, backed the Abyssinian bid for membership along with a promise to end slavery (which the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie had promised to do but which was so entrenched that it had not been accomplished over a decade later).

The status, the power and prestige of the League of Nations was put on the line when Italy was condemned and sanctions threatened if Mussolini went ahead with his war. The issue was far bigger than one African country and Mussolini was more than willing to be the one to accept their challenge, to call their bluff in a way. After so many years of portraying himself as the strong leader, the man who was always right, the modern-day Caesar who was going to re-build the Roman Empire, Mussolini could not back down. He was also thoroughly disgusted by the League in general, infuriated by their efforts to overrule him, their threats of sanctions and was determined to defy them. National pride was also involved, which ran counter to the internationalism of the League. Italy had been humiliated in Abyssinia once before, the defeat at Adowa which had brought down the powerful Crispi regime, Mussolini was not going to let that happen again. The man who had been fairly popular around the world, other than in the socialist/communist sectors, suddenly became a villain as he chose to openly defy the League of Nations. He warned them in a public address that Italy would respond to economic sanctions with discipline and to sanctions of a military nature with war.

Mussolini, fashionable strongman to international villain
Some leaders in Britain and France, not wishing to lose Italy as an ally against Germany, tried to come to a compromise. Mussolini was receptive to the idea, war could have been avoided, but when the attempted deal was leaked to the public, such an outcry arose that it fell apart and the British and French foreign ministers were forced to resign. This was, in a wider sense, not so much a conflict between Italy and Abyssinia but a conflict between Italy and the League of Nations. Sanctions were imposed which severely hurt the Italian economy but it did not turn the people against the Duce, rather it turned them against the League of Nations. Nor were the sanctions strict enough to bring Italian military operations to a halt. Oil, for example, was not embargoed. However, once again, even if it had been, that could not have stopped Italy from buying oil from the United States. Many have pointed out that the British did not close the Suez Canal to Italian warships, however, long-standing agreements stated that Britain could not close the canal to any country except in time of war and a war with Italy was the last thing Britain wanted, particularly over a conflict in one of the relatively few parts of the world where Britain had no interests.

The League was confident that they would win. They predicted that it would take the Italian military at least two years of hard fighting to totally dominate the huge local population and rugged terrain of Abyssinia. By that time, the effect of the sanctions would be crippling and the Italian people would rise up in opposition and remove Mussolini from power. Of course, it did not work out that way and the sanctions were actually part of the reason why. The hopes of the League were obvious to everyone, not excluding Rome, and Mussolini soon replaced the commander of his forces in Africa who was waging a slow, cautious campaign to minimize losses, with another commander who had orders to use any means necessary to win the war quickly. Rather than two years, Abyssinia was conquered in seven months.

Proclaiming the empire, death knell of the League
Mussolini crowed to his Blackshirts, “…lift on high, legionaries, your standards, your steel and your hearts and salute, after fifteen centuries, the reappearance of the Empire on the fatal hills of Rome!” The mood at the League of Nations, was one of furious dejection. The organization which has set itself up as the arbiter of world affairs and the guarantor of the post-Great War world order, the promoters of internationalism had their illusions shattered by the Kingdom of Italy. This was far more significant than the fate of Ethiopia. Mussolini had defied the League of Nations, the supposed ruling class of the world community, defied their sanctions and, worse, had beaten them. The rest of the world had seen them beaten. Immediately, even before the conflict in Africa had been fully resolved, countries began to take notice and to make changes accordingly. Liberal idealism had failed its test and pragmatism began to come back into style among some nations. Since the League had so championed the cause of Ethiopia, they tried to gain at least some moral support from outside its membership. The Ethiopians called upon the Empire of Japan, asking for no actual assistance but simply a show of moral support by condemning the Kingdom of Italy. The Japanese refused. Given their occupation of Manchuria not so many years before, it would have seemed rank hypocrisy to do otherwise. Instead, Japan came to a practical agreement with Italy. The Empire of Japan formally, and before the western democracies, recognized the King of Italy as Emperor of Ethiopia. In return, the Kingdom of Italy formally recognized and established diplomatic relations with the Japanese-sponsored Empire of Manchukuo.

Franco, who stopped the reds in the west
The League of Nations was officially a “lame duck” and the world soon saw the evidence with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The idealists were rendered rather powerless by their own idealism while the pragmatists made real headway. The League of Nations was appealed to, the League of Nations studied the problem and finally took no more action that to offer safe haven in Switzerland for the art treasures of Spain. The republicans received assistance from Soviet Russia but Stalin made them pay such a heavy price for it that, had the republicans won, he would have effectively owned Spain when it was over. General Franco and the nationalists received some limited, though highly effective, support from Adolf Hitler and a huge amount of help from Benito Mussolini. Idealism nor ideology had nothing to do with it, contrary to what many now say, Franco was not a Spanish Hitler. He was simply an old-style conservative, not any sort of radical out to change the world or the course of history. He just wanted his old Spain back. He was not even very similar to his greatest benefactor Mussolini, other than an authoritarian streak, use of the Roman salute and a preference for nationalism over internationalism. Mussolini helped Franco because he wanted Franco in his debt, he wanted to extend his influence throughout the Mediterranean area and even hoped of returning the House of Savoy to the vacant Spanish throne. And, of course, there was a genuine sympathy among Latin, Catholic Italians for Latin, Catholic Spaniards and the suffering they were enduring at the hands of the republic.

The League of Nations, rather like a referee that everyone ignores, simply sat on the sidelines, ineffectively blowing a whistle, while General Franco and his nationalists won a great victory. Franco did better than anyone would have likely thought. He won the war, solidified his hold on power, had sense enough to stay out of World War II and thus outlived his primary creditors. Spain withdrew from the League of Nations in 1939 but it mattered little by then as the outbreak of World War II was the final nail in the coffin. Those powers who tried to be idealistic in the build-up to that war, ultimately lost everything, while those who pragmatically and even cynically, took the opportunities that came, such as Stalin, who would ally with Nazi Germany, imperialist Britain or capitalist America as it served his interests, would come out with the greatest gains. Yet, those liberal idealists seemed to learn very little if anything at all from the demise of the League of Nations.

The Big Three at Yalta
The fact that no lessons were learned is rather proven by the fact that the League of Nations never officially died. It did no business after the outbreak of World War II but legally it still existed until 1943 when the Allies agreed to replace it with a new organization; the United Nations we still have today. Think about that fact for a moment. An organization which was intended to stop there being any more wars, was revived and refurbished during the largest, costliest war in human history which had broken out on its watch and which it had failed to prevent. And so the madness continues, only on a larger scale, with a more entrenched, more corrupt, more power-hungry bureaucracy which has taken on a life of its own. It also, for a change, had the United States of America as a founding member this time. That was due to the grip on power that Roosevelt and the Democrats had at the time. Republicans have never been nearly so supportive and most conservative Americans instinctively despise the organization to this day. It has not prevented any major wars, fought one significant conflict and that mostly because the communists had gone on strike before figuring out they could manipulate it to their own advantage as often as not.

The U.N. today is still preaching the same vague, liberal idealism that the League of Nations preached before, if anything even more hypocritically, being a worse version of the League. It benefits no one other than the internationalist, elite class who make fortunes for themselves by working for it. They spend most of their time jetting around the world to luxurious resorts in exotic locations to talk about this or that and congratulate themselves on their own imagined superiority. Their internationalism and their slavish though always hypocritical, devotion to liberal idealism setting them apart from all that has gone before.

That is the important part for readers here to remember. The League of Nations was the first organization of its kind. The nearest thing to a precedent that had gone before them was the “Concert of Europe” which tried to put Europe back together after the French Revolutionary wars and to keep the peace and maintain the existing order of traditional authority. That final part, the “traditional authority” part, makes all the difference. The League of Nations was the first effort at international cooperation that did not consist of monarchs or the representatives of monarchs coming together and that makes all the difference. Monarchs, after all, have a paternal attachment to their nations which makes them inherently more responsive to practical reality than some ideology or political idealism. The Congress or Vienna System of the Concert of Europe was practical and not idealistic. The fact that the King of Great Britain and Ireland was a constitutional monarch and the Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias was an absolute monarch did not matter. The fact that the King of Prussia was a Protestant and the King of Spain was a Catholic made no difference, they were not trying to spread some ideal formula for solving the problems of the world, they were simply trying to maintain peace and stability. History clearly shows which of these two systems was more successful in achieving the goals they set for themselves.
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