Friday, May 27, 2016

Obama, Japan and Atomic Apologies

President Obama just became the first sitting American president to visit the city of Hiroshima, Japan. In the lead-up to this visit, given his track record, conservatives in America were very concerned that Obama would apologize to Japan for the American atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At the last minute, the White House made clear that he would not do that but what he ended up saying upset many people on the right almost as much to the point that some are calling for Congress to censure the President for his remarks. I asked some of you if Obama should apologize to Japan or not and most of you said that you thought he should. I disagreed and I know of at least one Japanese person who felt the same way, being of the opinion that she did not want Japan being used by Obama to further his legacy as the apologetic president and that such an apology would be rather meaningless anyway. I am not as upset as some by the President’s remarks but I must part company with my readers and say I am glad that he did not apologize and I will explain why.

In the first place, as any long-time readers will know, I have very mixed feelings about the atomic bombings of Japan. Personally, I think that no matter whether you feel it was justified or unjustified, no one should be very strident about their opinion or dismissive of others on this issue. The use of nuclear weapons was such a monumentally horrific event that it bothers me a great deal that anyone could not be troubled by it on the one hand or be so dismissive of what not using it would have meant on the other. How does any leader sacrifice more of the lives of his own people in a conflict in which the outcome is in do doubt rather than save them by taking the lives of the enemy? I have often posed the question as to whether any Japanese Prime Minister could have lived with himself if he could have saved the lives of his people and ended the war by using devastating weapons against Los Angeles or Chicago. How could you look your own people in the eye after that when their husbands, sons or fathers were killed when you could have prevented it?

Of course, using the bombs was a terrible thing that caused immense death and lasting misery to huge numbers of innocent people. Do I regret that it happened? Certainly, just as I regret that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, attacked The Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, the East Indies and Australia. I regret that the war happened at all, not only because of how terrible it all was but because I regret the inevitable destruction of the Empire of Japan that this brought about. I regret the turmoil this brought about and the opening it gave for Marxist and radical murderous regimes as the “Bamboo Curtain” descended across East Asia. I wish none of it had happened but it did and dwelling on recriminations does not solve problems or, from what I have seen, make anyone feel any better about what happened. Saying you are sorry without doing something to make things right always seems hollow. Sometimes you cannot make things right and sometimes people try to make things right without saying they are sorry. Which is more important; actions or words? Would Japan have been better off with a post-war apology rather than the huge amounts of money the U.S. pumped into the country to rebuild Japan after the war?

Finally, while I am sure there are always exceptions that can be found, in general I am not big on apologies like these. I am not big on people apologizing for things that they themselves did not do. It makes little sense to me for someone to apologize on behalf of someone else to someone who did not actually suffer the harm being apologized for. In the same way, I have never been fond of the endless calls for Japan to apologize, over and over again, for the actions of previous generations there. What is the point of such apologies? Why make an apology that will not be accepted? Usually, concerning Japan, the typical response of China or Korea (the ones usually demanding apologies) is that the Japanese were not truly sincere in their apology. One could say the same about Obama. Would an apology from him mean that all or even most Americans are sorry that their grandfathers or great-grandfathers used atomic weapons on Japan? I doubt it.

In my opinion, if President Franklin D. Roosevelt were around today, there is much that I think he would have to apologize to Japan for. The same could be said for Secretary Hull. Would he ever do it? Probably not, nor would any of his partisans think that he should. Japan, likewise, did things for which they should be ashamed just as they are also accused of things which they did not do. Some will always think they should apologize more just as others will always think they are blameless and should apologize for nothing. At the end of the day, I do not see what is accomplished by it all. Perhaps it is because I see about 99% of everything any politician says as insincere blathering for the cameras but to me, it just seems like so much pointless picking at old wounds that revolve around issues about which everyone is never going to see eye-to-eye on. As such, I will refrain from joining in with such demands for apologies and save them for the people who are actually responsible for the things that should be apologized for.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Great Christian Monarchs, Not So Long Ago

Today, anyone would be forgiven for regarding Christianity in Europe as a lost cause. The number of people who are active Christians has declined dramatically, particularly since the 1960's, in many countries the majority are atheists and the fastest growing religion is Islam. Even where Christian churches still operate, one would have to be fairly generous to call them actually "Christian" at all. In The Netherlands, the largest Protestant church group claims only 8.6% of the population and even among those, nearly half have said they do not believe God exists and 1 out of every 6 members of the clergy are atheists! In Britain, the Church of England announced not long ago that it would be closing down many rural parishes other than for Christmas and Easter due to lack of worshipers. In the Kingdom of Spain, once the strongest bastion of Catholicism in Europe, while 92% are officially members of the Catholic Church, only 3% regarded religion as one of their most important values. Obviously, things are not what they used to be and this has affected monarchies and republics alike. However, the 'last stand' of traditional monarchy, in a way at least, the First World War, shows us that strongly Christian monarchs were not at all uncommon even in those days.

King Albert I of the Belgians
In Great Britain, King George V would not have seemed too religious compared to some other monarchs but that is mostly because he was not the sort of man to let such things show very easily. He was, unlike his own father but very much like his grandmother Queen Victoria, a faithful husband who took his marriage vows seriously. He had a faith in God that can be seen in his private letters, particularly during times of great difficulty. Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands, was a monarch of very sincere faith, even if many did not know the extent of it until after she was gone from reading her autobiography, written at the end of her eventful life. Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide of Luxembourg, on the contrary, was widely known from the start for being an ardently faithful Catholic. One of her first acts as Grand Duchess was to refuse Royal Assent to a bill that would have removed Catholicism from the schools. After being (quite unjustly) forced to abdicate after the First World War she joined the Little Sisters of the Poor in Italy. King Albert I of the Belgians was another such monarch, a very sincere and devout Catholic whose faith permeated every aspect of his life. He often spoke of a life in the service of God as being the greatest calling of all and impressed upon his children the importance of their Christian faith and that disaster had always befallen those peoples who turned away from God.

Czar Nicholas II of Russia
Among the other monarchs of the major Allied powers, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy has often been labeled as less-than seriously religious. However, rather like George V, he was not a man who was very easy to understand. In fact, he was a faithful husband (unlike his predecessors) and a practicing Catholic who would challenge anyone who expressed anti-clerical views in his presence. It is true though that there was difficulty in overcoming the decades of unfortunate animosity between the Church and State in Italy. His wife, Queen Elena, was a Catholic convert and had all the zeal of a convert so that she currently has a cause for canonization underway today. One can notice something of a history in the House of Savoy of royal spouses becoming saints. And, of course, no monarch in the ranks of the Allies has had his piety so publicly recognized as Czar Nicholas II of Russia, recognized as a "Passion-bearer" by the Russian Orthodox Church. Czar Nicholas II, like the others mentioned, was a faithful husband and a more extremely devoted husband and father than most. Here again was a man whose sincerity of faith was on display in everything he did and, for a man often criticized for indecisiveness, was one think in his life that he was, to the very last, absolutely unshakable on. Prayer and the Orthodox Church were pillars of his life and reign and he did nothing without them, even to the ultimate end of becoming a martyr with his family for them. Given the political situation as it was and has been in Russia, Nicholas II has been criticized and vilified more than most and yet, it says something that even his worst enemies have been forced to admit that the last Czar was a devout and godly man, a faithful husband and father without blemish.

German Kaiser Wilhelm II
On the side of the Central Powers, Christian monarchs were certainly not lacking either. However, in the case of at least one, that fact might take many by surprise. Very few people are the slightest bit aware of what an openly devout Christian the German Kaiser Wilhelm II was. It is something that is almost always left out of any discussion of the man. Could this be intentional? If one were to go back in time and meet the last King of Prussia, it is probably what would stand out the most. Like the Czar, he had his youthful indiscretions but by the time he married had become a more serious Christian and his life with Kaiserin Augusta Victoria only strengthened that. She was extremely devout as well and the two often prayed together in times of difficulty (which there was plenty of). It is interesting to note that one of the biggest "warning signs" about Hitler and Nazi Germany that the Kaiser noted was the lack of any real bond with Christianity. His fellow Kaiser, Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria, is a case that almost goes in the opposite direction. Whereas most have no idea how staunch a Christian the German Kaiser was, many assume that the Kaiser of Austria had a better relationship with the Church than was actually the case. He had his personal failings of course and was a source of strength for the Church to be sure but relations between the two were not always cordial. He earned papal criticism for violating the territory of the Papal States and earned quite a push-back from Pope St Pius X after he came to the Throne of St Peter following Francis Joseph using his imperial-veto to block the candidate that was originally elected. After that, this special privilege was revoked.

Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary
Still, those disagreements were invariably of a political nature and Emperor Francis Joseph was always unwavering in his support of Catholic doctrine and very aware of his duties and responsibilities as a Catholic monarch. He was a staunch Christian and his sincerity only increased with time (and that was a lot for someone as old as he came to be). It was his nephew and successor, Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary, who would gain the most recognition for his devout Christian faith. Again, for Charles, it was something strengthened by his family life, something he and his wife, Empress Zita, had in common and worked to instill in their children. They were devoted to each other and helped each other in their devotion to God. You can see his deep Christian faith on display throughout his life and his short reign on the Hapsburg thrones. His effort to make peace may have been ill-advised and doomed to failure, but the fact that he made it at all says much about his character. No one who knew Emperor Charles could not but come away impressed by the sincerity of his devotion to God and this faith sustained him in the time of his exile. The Catholic Church has never made a habit of canonizing monarchs (though it has certainly happened much more often than for presidents, which is 'never') and it says much as well that even in the very anti-monarchy early 21st Century that Emperor Charles would be beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2004. When the Catholic Church wished to hold up to the world an example of Christian leadership in the political sphere, they held up a Hapsburg monarch.

Cases such as the last Czar of Russia or Emperor of Austria may be well known but for the others, sadly, their very open and devout Christian faith is all too often ignored. This should not be the case and, as can be seen, such faith, while not universal, was certainly not a rare exception. Today it can often seem like Christianity is banned from the halls of power, and often times it actually is, but it is then all the more important to remember that this was not always the case and it was not the case not all that long ago. Today, future monarchs are being raised in an environment very hostile to Christianity but even now there are still faithful Christians among the monarchs of Europe, even if they are not allowed to be very open about it. What is important, I think, to take away from all of this is our own responsibility. If we want God to give us good, Christian monarch as in days past, we might first try becoming a good, Christian public or at least aim to make an effort at such similar to how our forefathers did.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Queen and Communist China

There was recently a bit of a media 'dust-up' over remarks made by HM the Queen about the recent visit by President Xi Jinping of China and other leading Communist Chinese officials. It started when Her Majesty was overheard telling a guest at a recent garden party that the Red Chinese had been "rude" to her ambassador. There was an immediate flurry of media activity about this since the Queen usually keeps virtually all of her opinions to herself and the Royal Family as a whole is under extreme pressure to have no opinion on anything controversial at all. Personally, I was glad to hear Her Majesty speak her mind, even in this very, very small way, about a visit that was such a blatant sell-out of the U.K. by the political class in London eager for Chinese cash. The Chinese Communist government, of course, was very upset by the Queen's brief phrase and proceeded to prove how 'not rude' they are by referring to the west as "barbarians" and assuring the Chinese people that these uncouth foreigners will improve in time as the thousands of years of Chinese civilization rubs off on them. The response was actually funny, considering the source.

The Communist government's response sounded more like something Emperor Qianlong would have said, dismissing a British envoy. It is a sign of how bourgeois modern China has become and I'm sure Chairman Mao is spinning in his mausoleum that one of his successors as dictator of mainland China would ever have anything to do with "class enemy" like the British monarch. It would be only fair as I was rather distressed that Her Majesty would be called upon to receive a pseudo-Marxist tyrant like Xi Jinping in the first place. I thought the ladies of the Royal Family (excluding the Queen) went overboard with their red dresses and I applauded HRH the Prince of Wales for boycotting the state dinner, specifically to show his disdain for the Communist oppression of Tibet. Previously, the Prince also caused a stir by a less than flattering observation he made about the Red Chinese at the handover of the Crown Colony of Hong Kong. What should be the real scandal is the way the British political class have kowtowed to the Communist rulers of China *for decades* enduring far more from them than merely "rude" behavior.

Let the record show that in 1967 Chinese Red Guards attacked an invaded the British embassy in Peking, assaulting the people trapped inside to an extent some would call torture. The Communist government condoned the action and a similar attack on British officials in Shanghai. The same year, troops of the People's Liberation Army fired on British police officers in Hong Kong, killing five, an act most would consider an act of war. Chinese envoys even attacked British police officers in London and in 1982 Deng Xiaoping openly threatened to invade Hong Kong. Yet, after every outrage, the British government has looked the other way, given in to the demands of the Red bandits and gone on with normal diplomatic relations with them as though nothing had ever happened. The Queen was entirely accurate in her remark and, indeed, could have justly used even harsher language in describing such a despicable regime.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Loyalist Holdouts of the Great Ming

It may seem strange to some, with a basic understanding of the Chinese monarchial concept of the “Mandate of Heaven” that there could ever be loyalists of a fallen dynasty. Yet, such a thing was not that uncommon. In Vietnam, for example, well into the reign of the Nguyen Dynasty, there were still those who were loyal to and wished to restore the fallen Le Dynasty. In China, particularly Manchuria of course, most are familiar with the efforts, ultimately successful for a time, to restore the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty to his throne, in China during World War I and later in Manchuria which lasted more than ten years. However, simultaneously with the reign and decline of the Qing Dynasty there were also still loyalist holdouts of the former Ming Dynasty for much longer than most people realized. Their cause was probably helped by the fact that they had nationalism to bolster their cause as the Ming were the last dynasty of the majority Chinese Han nationality before the rise to power of the foreign Qing Dynasty from Manchuria, which had been a totally separate and self-governing country.

Chongzhen, last official Ming emperor
Founded in 1368 the Ming Dynasty reign over China lasted officially until 1644 when the last Ming emperor was overthrown by a Chinese rebel who tried and failed to found his own dynasty. He was quickly defeated by the Manchu and pro-Manchu Chinese forces and the “Great Qing Empire” was formally proclaimed. However, Ming Dynasty loyalists remained, some with powerful armies and in control of extensive territories throughout central and southern China. The last major Ming resistance was carried on under a recently proclaimed kingdom (The Kingdom of Tungning) on the island of Formosa (Taiwan), conquered from the Dutch, until 1683. Previously, the major focus of Ming loyalists had been the city of Nanking which had held out against the Manchu forces until 1645. However, there had been other centers of Ming resistance in several other Chinese cities as well. Their problem was that they lacked unity, having no recognized emperor to rally around. Each faction had their own pretender making a claim on the Ming legacy such as Prince Fu who held court at Nanking, the Prince of Tang later at Foochow, another Prince of Tang later at Canton and finally the Prince of Gui who was ultimately forced to retreat all the way south into Burma. The final major forces attempted to retake Nanking but failed and it was this faction that ultimately invaded Formosa, defeating the Dutch and establishing the island as a base for Ming loyalists until 1683.

Oppose Qing and Restore Ming
The Ming princes not killed in the course of these campaigns ultimately surrendered or were captured by the Manchu armies and were given titles and pensions by the new Qing Dynasty in keeping with accepted custom. However, while the Qing Dynasty was firmly in control and became well established, there were still Ming loyalists who did not go away. With open military opposition having been defeated, these Ming holdouts resorted to more clandestine modes of operation. Some of these joined or made alliance with outlawed secret societies such as the Hongmen or Society of the Heaven and the Earth. Their original proclaimed intent was to “Destroy the Qing and Restore the Ming”. They later branched out to form other organizations such as the “Three Harmonies Society”. These groups, probably due to a triangle symbol they adopted, came to be known by British authorities as the Triads, probably the most famous Chinese organized crime syndicate in the world still around today.

Three Harmonies Society
The Green Gang of Shanghai, which is not around anymore and so is less well known, was one a major criminal organization which even had ties with the Kuomintang that also, especially early on, contained no small amount of Ming Dynasty loyalists within its ranks. Now, unless any take the wrong impression from this, the Ming had no monopoly on ties to outlawed secret societies and criminal organizations. The massive mobster Chang Yuqing of the Yellow Way Society of Shanghai was a supporter of the last Qing Dynasty monarch, sending a message of congratulations and loyalty when he was enthroned as Emperor of Manchukuo. Oftentimes in such cases, the motivation for such groups and activities tends to become circular. A secret society that is outlawed by the Qing adopts the cause of the Ming in order to oppose the Qing and the Qing pursues them because they support the Ming and so on. In some cases, such clandestine operations began with the clear goal and purpose of restoring the Ming Dynasty, which made them outlaws under the Qing Dynasty, but in order to survive while evading the authorities, they became more and more involved in criminal activity, necessarily so because legitimate business would have been forbidden to them so long as they opposed the ruling dynasty. One of the early leaders of what became the Boxers (“Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists”), though aimed at reviving the Qing, bolstered his credentials by claiming to be a descendant of the Ming.

One could say that, ultimately, the total hatred of the Qing Dynasty by the Ming Dynasty loyalists was a part of their own failure to realize their goal of seeing a Ming Emperor once more on the Dragon Throne. In effect, many seemed to have become more anti-Qing than pro-Ming. During the 1911 Revolution there were still those who took up the cry of the Ming loyalists, calling for the downfall of the Qing Empire and the restoration of the Ming Empire. However, with the western-educated Sun Yat-sen as the driving ideological force behind the revolutionary movement, that was not going to happen. He ultimately made some token gestures to the Ming Dynasty as the last native imperial line but even that was half-hearted and short-lived. With the downfall of the Qing Dynasty, the Ming loyalists seemed fade away. Some joined the republican movement, some went deeper into organized crime to the point that the original intent of these groups were totally forgotten and so on. Many histories have pointed out that the Ming loyalists seemed to lose focus and their reason for existing with the collapse of the Qing Empire. Few bother delving into much detail to explain why, why after so many years of being committed to ending the Qing and restoring the Ming, they would stop with only half of their mission accomplished.

Whatever their motivations may have been, we are left with the basic fact that inveterate opposition to the Qing Dynasty seemed to outweigh loyalty to the Ming Dynasty and once the Qing Empire was gone, most former Ming loyalists accepted the less traditional systems of government that came after and abandoned any efforts to restore the Ming Empire in full. There seemed to be little, if any, support for the heir of the Ming Dynasty (discussed here earlier), the Marquis of Extended Grace, who lived in poor conditions and who remained loyal to the Qing Emperor throughout the republican period until the end of the Second World War by which point he disappears from the historical record. The republican government eventually withdraw all recognition and support for him and the later communist government went a step further and in their propaganda made a hero of the rebel Li Zicheng who overthrew the last Ming Emperor.

It would be interesting to know how many, if any at all, of the Triads around the world today are aware of their origins among the diehard loyalists of the Ming Dynasty. The same could be asked of the Hongmen who do still exist as a fraternal organization to this day. Some might object to or be repelled by the notion of monarchists being associated with a major force in organized crime such as the Triads but such would be rather selective outrage. It is now a matter of common knowledge that the United States government cultivated numerous ties with the Sicilian mafia during World War II, some of the greatest heroes of the Kingdom of England were pirates once upon a time and bandits such as Emilio Zapata and Pancho Villa are revered national heroes in Mexico to this day (as misguided as that is). After a certain point, most obviously when the pursuit of criminal enterprises overtook or entirely replaced efforts to restore the Ming Emperor, such activities can be soundly condemned. However, hardly anyone can be entirely untainted by association with those deemed “criminals” by the powers-that-be, particularly during a period of “regime-change”.

Emperor Hongwu
To the King of France, the revolutionaries were certainly outlaws, according to every law of man and God that France knew at that time. Likewise, those counterrevolutionaries who rose up against the First Republic were, according to the new revolutionary regime and the law of the land as they had devised it, outlaws and treated them as such. For the sake of “full disclosure” I should also add that I tend to be partial to the Qing Dynasty myself, though not for particularly substantive reasons I will be the first to admit, but according to ancient Chinese custom, just as the Qing were entitled to rule as evidenced by the fact that they did rule, if the Ming loyalists had prevailed it would have likewise been proof enough that they were entitled to be restored to power. Yesterday’s criminal becoming tomorrow’s emperor was not entirely unprecedented in Chinese history, nor in the history of the Great Ming itself for that matter. For those unfamiliar, the founding monarch and first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty had been a poor peasant and outlaw, leading rebel forces against the ruling Mongol Yuan Dynasty which he eventually expelled back to Mongolia and established himself as Emperor of China. So, again, it is not an unprecedented concept.

In summary, there were Ming loyalists who resisted in traditional fashion for as long as they could, until all were ultimately defeated and after that a smaller number still held on and continued to resist outside the bounds of the law, either as silent dissidents biding their time or members of organized crime. Unfortunately, the Qing Dynasty fell and the Ming Dynasty remained fallen as well. Are there any lingering Ming loyalists around today? I would hope so and with more than a billion Chinese people around the world the odds would be in favor of there being some, somewhere. I will close by saying, as carefully and prudently as I can, that in my view at least, taking back something that was stolen from you, even if outside the law of the land, is not wrong but right.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Monarch Profile: King David of Israel

In the history of western civilization probably no other monarch looms as large as King David. As a figure, David dominates the political history of the Jews and, with the rise and spread of Christianity, this ancient king from Jewish tradition also came to play a huge part in the political iconography, traditions and culture of the European Gentiles as well. For the Jews, at least since the death of Joshua, King David became the pivotal figure with everything that happened before his reign, after Joshua, leading up to it and everything that happened to the Jews since being a result of the remarkable life and legacy of King David. For the nation of Israel and later for Christians as well it was King David who set the standard by which all subsequent monarchs were judged. He was the ideal king; humble, faithful, brave, pious and wise. King David has his flaws as well but even in his flaws, he was an example. His mistakes made the point that even the greatest of men was flawed and only God is perfect and when King David made mistakes he atoned for them so that these errors themselves, and how he dealt with them, made him even more of an example to emulate. In short, it would be quite impossible to overstate the legacy of King David and how far reaching it has been.

Of course, for someone from ancient times, there are details about David which remain a mystery but, from Biblical accounts, we do know a surprisingly great deal about him and there have been archaeological discoveries which have supported these accounts, showing that such a man did, actually, exist. Estimates vary but it seems he was born around the year 1000 BC, perhaps in Bethlehem, in the land of Judah. There are hints that he may have had some relation to the Ammonite royal family. He is usually described as being a brave boy of humble origins, a shepherd who became adept at the use of a slingshot while guarding over the family livestock. David fought in the wars against the Philistines and first came to prominence when a giant (and there are numerous accounts of giants in the Bible) named Goliath of Gath challenged the Israelis to send out their champion to face him in single combat. While others lacked the courage to face this monster, young David had faith that if God was on your side, no enemy should be feared and, scorning the use of armor, went out alone armed only with his slingshot, killed Goliath with a stone between the eyes and then cut his head off. The Philistines fled in terror and David became an instant celebrity and was taken in by King Saul as part of his inner-circle.

David became best friends with King Saul’s son Jonathan and married King Saul’s daughter Michal but soon his great deeds and popularity made King Saul jealous of him. Saul arranged to have David killed but the young man thwarted or avoided every attempt on his life and fled from the court to lead his own private army, winning further fame and glory much to Saul’s dismay. It was also this period which demonstrates how David is an example in his loyalty to a monarch who not only harsh and unkind to him but actually tried repeatedly to have him killed. David twice had Saul at his mercy and could have easily killed him but refused to do so, despite the urgings of his followers, because to raise his hand against the King, God’s anointed one, would be a sacrilege. He did, however, point this out to Saul, that he could have killed him but chose not to, which caused even King Saul to confess that David was a better man than he, treating Saul with kindness where Saul had treated David with cruelty. Though finally forced to flee to enemy country, David nonetheless remains loyal to his people and King Saul and kills the messenger who tells him of Saul’s death, saying that “a great man has fallen” in the midst of battle. Of course, part of what had been troubling King Saul was the words of the Prophet Samuel telling him that he had lost favor with God and that his crown would pass to David.

That point is also stressed a great deal that, though David was popular as a handsome, young warrior, it was the will of God rather than man that made him King of Israel. David is given a higher compliment than any mortal man in the Bible in I Samuel 13:14 which says of David, “The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart”. Because of that, King David is still remembered to this day as ‘a man after God’s own heart’. In subsequent battles, David defeats the remaining followers of Saul and becomes the undisputed King of Israel, making the conquered Jebusite city of Jerusalem his capital. With his people united behind him, and being an experienced, talented military leader, King David defeats his enemies and establishes a powerful kingdom, bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem though it is left to his son to build the first magnificent temple in which to house it. At the start of his reign, Israel was a divided nation, probably a vassal of the Philistines, yet King David led them to unity, independence and even domination over a number of neighbors. The Kingdom of Israel did not reach its peak under King David but it was he who certainly laid the foundations.

Of course, for all of the praise King David receives, we are left in no doubt that he was still a mortal man with mortal weaknesses. As is, perhaps, not too surprising, this man who led armies into fierce, hand-to-hand combat, looked death in the face countless times and even triumphed over a giant that had cowed an entire army, was not strong enough to resist the temptations of a beautiful woman. That woman was Bathsheba, the wife of a soldier named Uriah. King David and Bathsheba have an affair and Bathsheba becomes pregnant by him. In an effort to cover up his misdeed, King David has Uriah recalled from the front immediately, thinking that he will sleep with his wife and later everyone will assume the baby is his. However, in keeping with the custom of the time, as a soldier on active duty, Uriah does not sleep with his wife and so, desperate to avoid being found out as an adulterer, David has him sent to the front to be exposed to the greatest danger and killed in battle. However, this does not go unnoticed, the Prophet Nathan admonishes King David and he ultimately confesses and repents of his misdeeds. His apology is sincere but there was still a price to be paid for his wrongdoing. When a number of horrors befell his children, a son rebelled against him and Saul loyalists in the north rebelled, it was all taken as divine retribution on King David for what he had done.

This all served as an important lesson, both to show that God would punish the wicked for their misdeeds, that King David was not a perfect man but also that he would admit to his mistakes and make amends as best he could. It was probably a necessary lesson as otherwise King David would likely seem to good to be true. He represented the epitome of Old Testament kingship. All the troubles of Israel since the death of Joshua kept being traced back to their lack of an orderly succession of recognized leaders. With King David, the monarchy was given lasting divine favor and a legacy that would continue for thousands of years. Not only would special favor be shown to the Davidic dynasty among the Israelis but it would cast a shadow across the world by way of the Christian monarchies that would rise up later. That is because it was in the person of King David that we have the origin of the “Divine Right of Kings”.

Because of how beloved King David was, known as the man after God’s own heart, God made a covenant with King David that was unprecedented. Numerous times throughout Biblical accounts, God made covenants with mankind, invariably with provisions that included the person or people doing something for God, such as keeping His commandments, in exchange for which God would grant some divine favor. However, the covenant with King David was the only such agreement God ever made that was unconditional. God promised to King David that he and all his descendants would have a “divine right” to rule over God’s people and that if any of them did wrong, while God would punish them for that, because of how beloved King David was, their divine right would never be taken away from them. Because of this, no other dynasty held such a sacred significance for the Jews as the House of David did. It is why prophecies of the future Messiah would be bound up with associations with the sacred royal line and why even long after the Kingdom of Israel was a distant memory, Christian monarchs in Europe still found it advantageous to trace their genealogy back to King David.

Although exact dates are not known, King David probably died sometime around the year 961 BC. Under other circumstances he would be too large and lofty a figure to truly grasp, someone more suited to myths and fables than actual history. Yet, while there are aspects of his story that certainly could be read that way, few serious historians doubt that King David was quite real. His impact on Israel and later “Judeo-Christian” culture cannot be exaggerated. It was he who made Israel a united, independent nation state. It was he who established a royal line that would hold power for the next 400 years, it was he who made Jerusalem a capital city and center of the Jewish religion. For Christians, it was his line that would produce the Messiah, born in the city of his birth, crucified in the city that he ruled from and who was put to death on the accusation of claiming to be “King of the Jews”. King David also set the standard for what an ideal ruler was supposed to be for many, many generations to come. Everyone is familiar with his story. The story of the young boy who fought off the wolves to protect his sheep, the boy playing his harp to sooth the troubled brow of King Saul, the wiry youth who killed a giant, the faithful friend, the loyal subject, the heroic warrior-king. He is a larger-than-life figure.

And yet, King David also appears all too real and all too human. We see a real person in him rather than some marble image of Olympian perfection. His bravery on the battlefield did not match his character at home, where he surrendered to the temptations of lust and then plotted and schemed to cover up his crime in fear of being discovered. As a warrior-king he was unmatched but as a statesman-king or administrator-king he seemed to have less ability. His reign was often troubled and based on the actions of his children, he was not as good a father as he was a general. He could be indecisive, often refused to see facts that were painful to him and could be self-indulgent at times. All of that makes him human and he was just as aware of that as anyone. He was not perfect but he was ‘a man after God’s own heart’ and someone who many believed to be so pious that his prayers could bring down any favor from Heaven. Christians would later see him as a precursor of Jesus, giving him a feast day in the Eastern and Western Churches and ranking him among the “Nine Worthies” who best embodied the ideals of chivalry. Monarchs from three continents found it helpful to claim descent from him. Today, politics is a world away from where it was when King David was important even as a symbol but there is no denying that for most of the history of western civilization he was a colossal figure, the standard against which all others were judged.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Monarchial Submarine Strength Today

For a considerable period of time, most of the countries in the world (and virtually all the monarchies) directly or indirectly under American military protection have voiced considerable opposition to American policies, the American character and the presence of American military forces around the world. Today, for a change, that skepticism is provoking a response in the United States with anti-war Democrats, Libertarians and Trump supporters finding themselves part of a growing chorus of American people who are either opposed to or dissatisfied with the current network of alliances that sees American military forces pledged to defend countries all around the world, from western Europe to Japan. In considering what would happen if U.S. military protection was withdrawn from these quarters, it is necessary to look at how capable these countries are of defending themselves against the powers that threaten them. For no other reason than that is an area of interest to me, this article will deal specifically with the naval strength of the monarchies of the world in terms of their submarine fleets. If further justification is demanded, all I can say is that this does tend to be illustrative of how committed countries are to national defense in general and, as any naval expert can tell you, a submarine is a singularly significant weapon in that the best way to deal with a submarine is another submarine.

HMAS Waller coming into Pearl Harbor
There are currently nine monarchies in the world that include submarines in their naval arsenals; Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Going in alphabetical order, we will first look at Her Majesty’s submarines in the Commonwealth of Australia. The Royal Australian Navy currently operates six diesel-electric submarines of the Collins-class. Based on a Swedish design, these are the first submarines to be built in Australia. However, while nice boats on paper, the Australian submarine force leaves much to be desired. Although six boats are currently in service, so few Australians have volunteered to serve on them that there have often only been one or two that are operational at a time. The Collins-class has suffered a number of problems as they entered service with numerous mechanical breakdowns, being excessively noisy and thus easy to detect as well as glitches in the combat system. There were other problems that could be expected with a new boat and most of these were corrected but certain malfunctions plagued the class as a whole and this, combined with accusations of corruption in the design and construction process, has given the Collins-class boats quite a bad reputation. They have certainly had more than their fair share of problems but, if you look closely, these tend to stem from an overall lack of seriousness on the issue of naval defense more than the boats and the Royal Australian Navy itself.

HMCS Windsor
The Royal Canadian Navy currently operates four diesel-electric submarines, the British Upholder-class purchased from the U.K. and renamed the Victoria-class. These are excellent conventional submarines though four seems an extremely small number for a country with such a vast coast to defend. Purchased in 1998, they are older than some but carry their age quite well. Unfortunately, one suffered a fire that killed a Canadian sailor and set off a series of ugly exchanges between Britain and Canada with the Canadians effectively accusing the British of selling them faulty merchandise and the British blaming the Canadians for not operating the boat properly. It was a sad, messy affair that did no one any good and unfairly gave a bit of a ‘black eye’ to the Upholder-class boats in Canada. That should not be the case though as the Upholder-class has shown itself to be one of the very best types of conventional submarines in the world with extensive service in the Royal Navy. Today, more recent boats may be outpacing them but they are still good value for money as conventional subs go (“conventional” meaning diesel-electric rather than nuclear powered). The bigger problem is that there are only four of them, divided between the Atlantic and Pacific and having two boats per ocean is not the mark of a country that is serious about having an independent naval defense.

JMSDF Oyashio-class submarine
In the Pacific, the monarchy with the largest submarine force is easily the State of Japan. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force currently operates 19 diesel-electric submarines, part of an ongoing expansion of the submarine force from 17 to 22 boats. The subs currently in service are all of the Oyashio-class and the latest Soryu-class. These are both very advanced and highly capable conventional submarines and their expanding numbers show that Japan is taking naval defense more serious than most, which is not surprising given that Japan is so close to the lunatic-regime in North Korea, an unfriendly Russia with a very large and highly advanced submarine fleet and most worryingly Communist China which has the fastest growing submarine fleet in the world. The Japanese have been very good at coming out with new and always improved submarine types and the latest, the Soryu-class, is an extremely technologically advanced and capable conventional submarine indeed. They have the tools, they have the talent and they are increasingly taking national defense more seriously. The only real shortcoming, aside from being limited to defensive weapons only, is that no one in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces has ever heard a shot fired in anger and so while they are well trained and have the latest equipment, none have any actual combat experience. That, however, is something all but one of the countries covered here have in common and Japan does have a strong submarine tradition which is more important than most probably realize.

Malaysian submarine Tunku Abdul Rahman
When one thinks of naval powers, the Kingdom of Malaysia probably does not spring immediately to mind. However, if one considers the geography of the country, it does make sense for Malaysia to put a priority on naval defense. They could probably do with more. The Royal Malaysian Navy currently operates a grand total of two Scorpène-class diesel-electric submarines, a Franco-Spanish design built under license by a number of countries and operated currently by Chile, India and Brazil as well as Malaysia. The Malaysian boats were purchased from France. They include some of the latest advances in underwater endurance and an improved sonar system. Other than that, they are fairly typical of the sort of conventional boats that appear on the world market, solid, reliable and good value for money but not anything exceptional. In dealing with Malaysia’s immediate neighbors, they would be up to the challenge though having only two is obviously a weakness and against a major power such as China they would be only a minor bump in the road. Obviously, purchasing foreign boats also means depending on another power for such naval weaponry and this is a serious issue for Malaysia to consider. The old days of being able to depend on the Royal Navy for protection at sea are long gone.

Dutch Walrun-class submarine surfacing
Moving back to European waters, we have the case of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Currently, King Willem Alexander has four submarines to call his own of the Walrus-class of diesel-electric boats. The lead boat of the class, HNLMS Walrus, was completed in 1989 and commissioned in 1992. A fire onboard caused a delay in getting the boat fully operational and out to sea, however, it is a highly advanced and innovative design that carries its age well. In NATO naval exercises this type of boat did quite well in mock actions against the U.S. Navy, penetrating an escort screen to make a theoretical attack on an American aircraft carrier. They are all around very good boats for their type and it does help that The Netherlands has a fine tradition of submarine service, even if most do not know about it. The first Japanese warship to be sunk in World War II was actually sunk by a Dutch submarine (O-Boat) and they took quite a toll on Japanese shipping in the waters of the (then) Dutch East Indies. They have good technology and talented personnel so that their only drawback is the small size of their fleet. Given that The Netherlands still has island possessions in the Caribbean, naval power is something that the Dutch should still give more attention to.

Norwegian submarines in Bergen
Compared to her neighbors, the Kingdom of Norway could be taken for a powerhouse in submarine warfare but, unfortunately, only if one looks at nothing but the numbers. The King of Norway currently has a force of six diesel-electric submarines of the Ula-class. Built in Germany, they have been in commission since 1989 so are rather old boats and most of their vital equipment comes from foreign countries. They are good boats, very quiet, highly maneuverable and are good value for money. However, they do show their age somewhat, have a fairly limited range and are not as technologically advanced as some others. For a country like Norway, they are an adequate force but realistically would not pose much of a threat to a potential enemy such as Russia. Being foreign built, they also show a lack of commitment to independent naval security. In cooperation with a stronger ally, they could be quite useful but, on their own, would not present much of a challenge.

Spanish sub Tramontana
Far to the south, the naval forces of the Kingdom of Spain have certainly declined a great deal from the days when the Spanish dominated the seven seas. His Catholic Majesty currently has a force of three diesel-electric submarines of the French Agosta-class in the Armada Española. These boats have been around since 1977, older even than Malaysia’s Scorpène-class boats and not even the latest of their type (which is used by Pakistan). They were built under license in Spain, which is something, and one was even recently deployed during the Libyan emergency though, of course, it saw no action. They are decent boats and do provide the Spanish navy with options they would not otherwise have but neither are they anything to write home about. Their capabilities are quite limited and other designs have made them rather outdated. All of which is a shame, along with the fact that Spain has no real submarine combat tradition, considering that in the early days of submarine development the Spanish were much more involved than most people today realize. As was sadly common, internal instability in Spain simply prevented anything from coming from this period of early promise with the downfall of the monarchy, the Second Republic, the Spanish Civil War and of course the recent economic collapse allows for little hope that Spanish naval might will be returning in the foreseeable future.

Swedish submarine Gotland
If, however, there is any one country that would probably take the most people by surprise in the field of submarine warfare it would probably be the Kingdom of Sweden. For a country that has been so adamantly neutral for so long, the Swedes have shown an admirable focus on being independent in security matters, even if such independence does not always equal actual military strength. The Swedish Royal Navy currently operates a small force of five diesel-electric submarines, a meager force but all Swedish in their design and construction. Three of these are from the most recent Gotland-class which were commissioned in 1996. They have been around for a while but are very advanced boats, the Swedes being pioneers in the field of Air Independent Propulsion which has revolutionized the endurance of conventional submarines and been widely copied around the world. These boats were impressive enough that one was borrowed by the U.S. Navy to test American anti-submarine forces against a conventionally powered submarine enemy and the Swedish boat performed extremely well in the ensuing exercises. They are very quiet, have good endurance and are able to perform a variety of functions. Again, the only drawbacks are that they are few in number and are getting older. Still, they are quite capable and are domestically produced, which is good. There just are not many of them nor does Sweden have a submarine tradition like some other naval powers.

HMS Victorious, Vanguard-class SSBN
Finally, we come to the last name on our list and perhaps fittingly so for that is, of course, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. When looking at the British, there are positive as well as negative aspects to be considered with the sheer number of positive aspects making the negative ones all the more infuriating. The British have a strong submarine tradition, have survived two devastating submarine campaigns against them and have a level of actual experience that absolutely no one in the world today can match, Russia and America included. The U.K. is currently the only monarchy in the world that operates nuclear submarines as well as being the only monarchy that possesses nuclear weapons. The Royal Navy is the only force to date that has sunk an enemy ship with a nuclear submarine and one of only two countries in the world to have successfully attacked an enemy ship with a submarine since the end of World War II (the other being, believe it or not, Pakistan, which sunk an Indian ship with an old French sub they had purchased). The Royal Navy has tradition few can match, experience that none can match, great tools and great talent. That being said, there are problems.

HMS Ambush, Astute-class SSN
Her Britannic Majesty currently operates a force of eleven submarines so, yes, in terms of the number of boats, Great Britain is lagging some distance behind pacifist Japan. Four of these are nuclear ballistic missile submarines (the Queen’s sole independent nuclear deterrent) and seven are nuclear attack submarines (ballistic missile submarines - SSBN, nuclear attack subs - SSN). The SSBN boats are of the Vanguard-class, each armed with 16 Trident nuclear ballistic missiles. In exercises, they have proven themselves capable of doing what they are intended for, however, the class has had a number of mechanical problems and mishaps that have taken some of the luster from their escutcheon (as it were). The seven attack submarines are of the Trafalgar-class and the new and improved Astute-class nuclear boats. Both of these types are extremely good, the Trafalgar-class being one of the best SSN types in the world in its time and the Astute-class being basically bigger and better. They are quiet, highly adaptable and pack a powerful punch, combining torpedoes and cruise missiles in their arsenal of weapons. In every way except for numbers the submarines of the Royal Navy are probably the only ones on the level of the United States and Russia. They have great equipment, unmatched experience and highly competent personnel. The training routine for British submarine commanders, the Perisher Course, is arguably the best in the world and a number of countries have sent naval personnel to be trained by the Royal Navy.

HMS Astute, underway
The biggest drawback, obviously, is that a force of eleven submarines is extremely limited for an island nation that depends on the sea lanes for its very survival and which still has a number of very far flung overseas possessions to defend. The British military has publicly said that they are basically incapable of independent military operations at this point and while the submarines of the Royal Navy are highly effective, they are far too few. Consider the fact that Britain has 11 submarines whereas the one major naval power that has most threatened Great Britain, Russia, has a fleet of 61 submarines, including recent models of extremely high quality. That is more than all the monarchies in Europe combined and by a wide margin. For monarchies on the other side of the world, the biggest concern is China which recently surpassed Russia in having the second-largest submarine fleet in the world with 69 boats and that number is growing faster than anywhere else in the world as well. China has territorial disputes with almost all of their neighbors, including Japan and Malaysia and the Chinese now operate conventional and nuclear attack submarines as well as ballistic missile submarines. Early on the quality of their boats was laughably poor but they have been steadily improving and today, while still lagging behind more well established naval powers, no one is laughing anymore for sure.

Russian Kilo-class sub purchased by Iran
All in all, there is a great deal of high quality naval weapons listed above that the people of the monarchies in the world can be very proud of. The problem is that none of them would be capable of dealing with a major naval power on their own, due to having too few boats and many of those being elderly and all but the British being restricted to conventional power plants. Think about the monarchies not on this list as well. None of the Arab monarchies possess a single submarine whereas the Iranians are currently operating three Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines purchased from Russia which are very capable boats. They also have an extensive fleet of midget-subs but, frankly, they have yet to prove worthy of any consideration at all. China, as mentioned, has more submarines than anyone other than the United States (which currently has 75 on duty) and nearby monarchies such as Thailand, Cambodia and Brunei have none (and certainly in the case of Brunei, lack of sufficient funds cannot be used as an excuse). If it came to blows, without American involvement, Australia would be easily swamped by a Chinese tidal wave of naval forces. Currently, if Australians managed to suppress their mockery and denigration of the English long enough to ask for help, Britain could do little more than lodge a formal protest with the United Nations.

HNLMS Zeeleeuw
The bottom-line then is that all of these countries should be doing much more to make national security a priority than is currently the case, especially if they are unhappy with the current alliance system. I know, many see any major conflict as totally beyond the realm of possibility but history teaches us that such sentiments are hardly new. Many people, many times, have thought the same thing and wars have often broken out when least expected. And, even if you are happy with the current system of alliances, you still should be concerned. It is, I would say, unwise for any country to depend entirely on another power for protection if at all possible, no matter who that power may be. Likewise, just because things have been relatively peaceful for quite some time, does not mean they always will be. There are real threats in the world today and make no mistake about it there are still forces out there that would be all too happy to threaten you, to take what you have, if they thought they could get away with it. If, as is the case today, you live in a country that has reduced your naval inventory to a mere handful of vessels and are having trouble even finding sailors to man them, that is a sign of a serious problem; a problem of a populace that is not taking their national security seriously at all.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Royalist Reflections on “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”

Warning: (because I know from past Facebook posts how much some people hate this stuff) This article deals with an *anime* and was written as a way of returning a favor. If you do not like this sort of thing, if you detest anime no matter what it is about or what genre it falls into, turn back now, don’t whine about it later.

“Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion” is a tragic-science fantasy-mech anime that debuted in Japan in 2006. As the name makes clear, it follows the story of Lelouch vi Britannia, a discarded prince living under an assumed identity in Japan, later known as “Area 11” after it is conquered by the overwhelming might of the Holy Britannian Empire and his rebellion against said empire and his father the Emperor. As to the show in general, I do not recall what prompted me to watch it originally but I am glad I did. I found it very entertaining, very engaging and just overall very well done. Based on how often it comes up so many years later, it seems to have made quite an impression and I think I am probably among the majority in giving it a ‘thumbs up’. The story was very clever and though there are some things I could nitpick, it would be just that; nitpicking.

Probably the one thing that stands out the most for me was how every episode kept you coming back for more, building upon what came before it to make you eager to know what happens next. And, it was not like some shows that have many cliffhangers followed by no satisfying pay-off. No, in “Code Geass” things actually happen. So, overall, I approve. You liked the characters you were supposed to like, hated the characters you were supposed to hate and most major characters were quite complex so that eventually you see that our “hero” Lelouch has his dark side and many of the villains are not without their good points either. Even if you still believe them to be very much the “bad guys”, you can at least understand how they see themselves as something totally different. Except for Suzaku. Everybody hates Suzaku. And everybody should. Anyway, down to the business of politics.

In the alternative version of history in which this story is set, the world is dominated by three major powers. One, about which the least is said, is the European Union or at least some sort of alternate version of it which, we are led to believe, operates along democratic republican lines. The second-largest power is the Chinese Federation which is a nominal monarchy though, we are led to believe, is still rather communist or socialist in economic terms. Finally the most powerful of the three is the aforementioned Holy Britannian Empire which is a capitalistic, aristocratic, militaristic absolute monarchy. From a famous speech given by the ruler of this empire fairly early in the series, Emperor Charles zi Britannia, this super-state seems to be based on royal absolutism and social-Darwinian capitalism. I have joked before that Emperor Charles could seem like the bastard child of King Louis XIV and Ayn Rand. At one point in the series we briefly hear a schoolteacher talking about the battle in which the last British monarch was defeated and from maps we see that Great Britain itself is part of the European Union while the Holy Britannian Empire is based on North America and North America is referred to by Britannians in Area 11 (Japan) as “the homeland”. So, it seems as though the Holy Britannian Empire, the “bad guys” is probably intended to represent the United States of America.

What I took from the show (and there is not much detail about this sort of background material as it is not really pertinent to the story) was that the American War for Independence either never happened or was won by the British and the British were later driven from the British Isles and so North America became the capital of the British Empire which eventually became the more grandiose ‘Holy Britannian Empire’. It seems to combine the false but stereotypical view of Britain and America by combining an entrenched aristocracy with cut-throat capitalism. Neither of these is reality of course, in Britain these days the hereditary peerage has no power and seems to be tolerated only because people cannot be bothered to do away with it. America, likewise, while widely viewed as the epitome of free market capitalism, particularly by those who view it as heartless and exploitative, has of course never been purely capitalist and has become increasingly less so ever since probably the Gilded Age, with big anti-capitalist shoves coming from Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson and lately Barrack Obama (and the Bush bailouts so as not to let the Republicans off without a mention).

The defenders of the Holy Britannian Empire are certainly the “bad guys” in this show but I have something of a history of being sympathetic toward if not outright siding with the “bad guys” in any number of movies and television shows. Of course, as the villains, the Britannians do plenty of horribly cruel things throughout the series, to say nothing of what the ultimate secret plan of the Emperor is, which actually turns out to have nothing to do with politics or global domination really. They treat subject peoples horribly (our story is set in Japan but we are to assume that what we see is standard procedure in other conquered territories), rob them of their rights, stamp out their national identity, segregate them and sometimes massacre them. However, there is also another aspect which many people may find surprising which is that the Britannians are also very meritocratic. Suzaku, “an 11” (as Japanese people are called) is able to rise to the highest rank in the empire simply by his own ability. We see other characters who seem to be of different races (it can sometimes be hard to tell in an anime) who have risen to important positions by their own talents and are treated as is appropriate for whatever rank or station they hold. Likewise, some of the aristocrats we see are corrupt buffoons while all those holding positions of real importance show that they have talent to justify their being there.

Prince Clovis finds peasants such a bother
All of this is in keeping with the values of the empire as presented in the speech given by Emperor Charles at a funeral. He speaks of the basis of the empire in very Darwinian terms, that in Britannia people compete and the cream rises to the top, that on the world stage they conquer, plunder and dominate because they are stronger and they are stronger because they are continuously evolving by this competition which weeds out the weak and dull and advances the strong and clever. “Inequality is not wrong,” the Emperor booms out to the audience, “Equality is!” At which point, he goes on to pour scorn on the other major powers, referring to the democratic EU (which of course the actual EU is certainly NOT) as a place that grants power on the basis of a popularity contest and the Chinese Federation which believes in wealth redistribution to promote equality as a system that has created a population of “lazy dullards”. All of which stands in stark contrast to the Holy Britannian Empire where the successful rule and the unsuccessful are ruled by them. The members of the Imperial Family are all deferred to and aristocrats treat common people contemptuously but even if you are a commoner you can earn advancement into the ranks of the aristocracy and even a foreigner of a conquered people can, with enough achievement, reach lofty positions. It is survival of the fittest.

As the villains of the series, though Lelouch himself is a Britannian prince, the Holy Britannian Empire does receive the most attention but I was also intrigued by what was told about the next largest rival of the empire on the world stage which was the Chinese Federation. Rather like how Britannia combines high-tech weapons and modern economics with barons, knights and sword play, the Chinese Federation seems to combine aspects of ancient as well as modern China. The nominal ruler is the childlike Empress (Tianzi) Jiang Lihua however, hearkening back to the days of the Han and Tang dynasties, it is the top court eunuchs that actually rule the federation. The empress herself is a mere figurehead who the eunuchs, we ultimately see, have no real reverence or even regard for at all, viewing her as ultimately dispensable. This is in stark contrast to Britannia where the Emperor is very much an absolute monarch and it is he who rules, usually through the persons of his many children.

The Chinese Empress
No back story is given for the Chinese Federation but it seemed to me to be a sort of representation of what could happen if the communist party remained in power for a sufficient period of time that traditional China would start to absorb the current People’s Republic of China. Stranger things have happened (see North Korea). After all, we have an imperial monarchy, we have court eunuchs, we have a sort of stylized version of traditional Chinese costumes and yet we also have a socialist economic system. I thought it also telling that the heart and center of power for the Chinese Federation was referred to as the “Vermillion Forbidden City” which is only a few shades different from the actual Purple Forbidden City but with more of a reddish tint to its name. What I imagined was that in this timeline, something like the current People’s Republic of China existed but lasted for so long that eventually the leadership came full circle and began to revert back to traditional Chinese ways, the dictator-president becoming the emperor and the party apparatchiks becoming the eunuchs. Red (or vermillion) is the new Imperial Yellow. This was, for me, a fascinating subject to ponder given how the communist revolutions that succeeded in East Asia tended to dance along the border, rather uncomfortably, with their imperial predecessors.

All of this is not far-fetched when one considers that Chairman Mao’s fourth wife, Jiang Qing, once had several imperial gowns made for herself in preparation for a visit by Imelda Marcos, First Lady of The Philippines, though she ultimately decided not to wear them as Mao disapproved. In North Korea we have seen the establishment of a Marxist political dynasty, complete with mystical folklore and even in Vietnam there was once talk of the current regime as a sort of new “Ho dynasty” (there was an actual one though it produced only two emperors) and at times have been efforts to portray successive presidents (who are not always the real rulers of the country) as some sort of reincarnation of Ho Chi Minh who has been raised to mythic, near god-like status. In the show, it is also interesting to note that the egalitarian, socialist policies of the Chinese Federation are implied to be praiseworthy but also shown to be quite ineffective with the federation being a generally impoverished country. We also see the monarchy being portrayed in a rather positive way with the little empress being a good, just and kind-hearted girl but who is being held prisoner by her corrupt and traitorous attendants. Similarly, while Emperor Charles of Britannia is certainly the main villain of the piece, we see that not everyone in the Imperial Family is so cruel, though there are those who are, if anything, even more devious.

I shall not spoil the ending for anyone who has not seen the series and may wish to but suffice it to say that, while the show certainly (and not surprisingly given modern sensibilities) promotes egalitarianism, it does not directly attack monarchy itself. We see a malevolent emperor, a benevolent empress, an emperor who pretends to be bad to accomplish a greater good and are left with another, presumably, benevolent empress. We see princes and princesses that are bad and good and some that seem to be the one but turn out to be the other in due time. There are also plenty of contradictions as almost every main character, be it Lelouch, Emperor Charles or Suzaku hold to the belief that the ends justify the means and so each do things which they claim to deplore in order to accomplish their ultimate aim which, each believes, will change things for the better. As for what became of the Japanese monarchy in this alternate timeline, I cannot say as it is never mentioned in the series and that is not uncommon in such Japanese works where, in my experience, the Emperor and Imperial Family tend to be a taboo subject. We do hear of Japan having a prime minister so, we can, perhaps, presume that the Imperial Family remains and somehow survives, hidden away somewhere, all of the earth-shattering events of this series.

In the end, from a monarchist perspective, I found nothing too objectionable about it. The setting and nature of the series tends to make me more tolerant since it is all so ‘make believe’ and detached from the real world. As stated at the outset, I found it an engrossing and entertaining show, intelligent, with plenty to “chew on” (as I like to describe such things), giving viewers much to ponder, discuss and debate whether one agrees or disagrees with any particular aspect or premise. If you are open to this sort of thing and not put off by all things anime (there is fan service, giant robots and at least one ‘magical girl’ so this is as ‘anime’ as it gets) then I would recommend watching it if you can. Whether you come away liking or disliking it, I think it will at least prove stimulating. If you are as twisted as I am you might even find yourself thinking that the Holy Britannian Empire doesn’t sound so bad in some ways but then, that should probably be cause for concern. Some characters will impress you, some will frustrate you, some will make you laugh (*cough* Lloyd *cough*), and some will make you sympathetic. And, if in spite of all their horrible deeds, you hear Emperor Charles’ speech and jump up shouting with the crowd, “ALL HAIL BRITANNIA!” then you just might be a … Mad Monarchist.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Martial Prowess of Imperial Austria

I have touched on this subject before but I think it is an issue which deserves going into further detail. As I have said before, one of my pet peeves is people who denigrate military service and, perhaps worse, those who denigrate the military achievements of entire countries or nations. Quite unjustly, Imperial Austria is one of those which often falls victim to this and, in the case of Austria, as with some others, the Austrians themselves, and their sympathizers, can sometimes be a hindrance rather than a help in refuting such a stereotype. One famous phrase that many pro-Austrian people often repeat is, “Others make war, but thou, O happy Austria, only marry”. This is in reference to the fact that the Austrian empire grew and expanded mostly through dynastic alliances and inheritance rather than conquest. This is true to a large extent but only up to a certain point. Some of the territory Austrians and Austrian-sympathizers made a great fuss about holding on to over the years was not gained by marriage but by war or political “horse-trading”.

Austrian grenadiers on the attack at the Battle of Essling
The point, which is true, is that Austria was never a thoroughly militaristic sort of country in the way that their fellow Germans in Prussia were. However, the Prussians tend to rank in a class by themselves in that regard and any comparison on that front is rather unfair. Yes, unlike Prussia, life in Imperial Austria did not revolve around the army but that does not mean the Austrians were without military achievement or great military heroes. However, another problem, aside from the stereotype of Austrians being more interested in music than the military, is that Austria does not fit into such a neat, national box as Prussia or France or The Netherlands. Where does the story of the Holy Roman Empire, old Germany, end and the story of Austria begin? Who is Austrian and who is not? This may seem arbitrary to some but it would seem ridiculous to me to restrict the story of Austrian military achievement to the German-Austrians just as it would be ridiculous to say that Napoleon should not rank as a great military figure of France simply because the blood in his veins was not French. So, some great names will be mentioned here who were not German-Austrians but who fought for the House of Hapsburg, who were part of the Imperial Austrian power structure and who won their victories with the troops, Germans, Magyars, Slavs and the like, which were under the Austrian Crown.

Marshal Wallenstein
One could go back quite a way depending on, again, where one chooses to differentiate Austria and what became the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary from what had been the First German Reich. Emperor Charles V, for example, was quite a successful war leader and he was a Hapsburg but he was born in Belgium, was King of Spain and was overall so cosmopolitan that it would be hard to reduce him simply to the label of “Austrian”. He is as much a figure of Spanish history as he is of Austrian or German history and his larger-than-life presence is well represented by his famous quip that he spoke ‘Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse’. Later, in the Thirty Years War, Johann Graf von Tilly proved quite a successful military commander, fighting for the House of Hapsburg and he too was born in what is now Belgium and learned his trade from an Italian, Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma, who also fought for the Hapsburgs and who was considered the greatest soldier of his time. Alongside Graf von Tilly, it was Albrecht von Wallenstein who gained the greatest fame as commander of Imperial forces in the Thirty Years War and he was a native of Bohemia. One can argue over his merits as a man but as a military commander his record of success speaks for itself.

A commander who often seems to be overlooked who fought for the House of Hapsburg and who became something of a legend in his own time (even if often forgotten today) was an Italian from Modena, Raimondo Count of Montecuccoli. Here was a man who fought against the Pope, the Hungarians, the French and the Swedes in his long military career before gaining his greatest fame in battles against the Turks. Today he is not often remembered but he was ranked alongside Turenne and Conde of France as one of the greatest military leaders of his time (the mid 17th Century) and both of whom he faced at the end of his career. His victories, often won against extremely uneven odds were so remarkable that the Emperor made him a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and awarded him the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Prince Eugene of Savoy
Certainly though, when one looks at the military history of Austria, one name can easily be given as a starting point due to how he was revered by the men who came after him in the ranks of what was ultimately the military forces of the Austrian Empire and later Austria-Hungary. That name was, again, an Italian one rather than a German one but one thoroughly associated with Austrian military glory and that was, of course, Prince Eugene of Savoy. It says something that this man, who first offered his sword to the King of France only to have it refused, would one day have his portraits hanging in Austrian military barracks for generations and as late as World War II both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy had warships named in his honor. Prince Eugene of Savoy was one of the great captains of military history and alongside the Duke of Marlborough from Great Britain won his greatest fame in the War of Spanish Succession (Queen Anne’s War to American readers). He was one of the most influential military commanders in world history and certainly can be easily classified as part of Austrian military history because his figure loomed so large throughout the rest of the Hapsburg reign over central Europe. Whether in the period of Empress Maria Theresa, Emperor Francis I or Emperor Francis Joseph, it was Prince Eugene of Savoy who was looked to as the example of great, victorious, military leadership for Austrian army commanders to emulate.

Austrian infantry, 1740
Even with Prince Eugene of Savoy though, it is easy to look simply at his famous victories in the War of Spanish Succession and forget that most of his military career was spent fighting the Turks in the east. For all those who would denigrate the military abilities of the Austrians and other members of what became the Dual-monarchy of Austria-Hungary, one need only look at the very, very long period of bitter warfare that raged throughout the Balkans against the overwhelming might of the Ottoman Turks against which the Hapsburg lands stood as a bulwark in defense of Christendom. If the Austrians are such poor soldiers, one could justly ask how exactly it was that the Turks were ultimately pushed back from the very gates of Vienna to Constantinople? They certainly did not pack up and meekly march home of their own accord. This was only accomplished by a long series of conflicts in which men like Savoy and Montecuccoli and others, leading Austrians, Slavs and Magyars at times, defeated and pushed back what had been the most powerful empire in the world in its time. In centuries past it would have seemed laughable to portray the Austrians as effete music-loving dandies after so many years, even centuries, of being on the front line of the war for the very survival of western civilization. The country was known as “Ostmark” for a reason; it was the eastern barrier against which the invaders never passed.

Baron von Laudon
Moving into the 18th Century, Austria was not without military heroes and military achievements there either, it is only that they often tended to be overshadowed by others. A couple of examples will illustrate this. One was the Austrian Generalissimo Baron Ernst Gideon von Laudon. Never heard of him? Perhaps not, but you probably have heard of the Prussian King Frederick the Great. Well, Baron von Laudon was someone the fearsome Frederick probably wished he had never heard about because he was just about his most troublesome adversary. For military history experts, Baron von Laudon is known as one of the greatest captains of his time but, to the broader public, he was simply outshined by Frederick the Great. The undefeated Russian general, Alexander Suvarov, credited von Laudon with being his teacher in the art of war. Baron von Laudon himself had also learned some of his trade from another highly competent foreigner in Austrian service, Maximilian Graf von Browne, a son of Irish exiles. Although they were not always on good terms, Franz Moritz Graf von Lacy was another Austrian commander of the period worthy of mention. He played no small part in the great victory at Breslau for Empress Maria Theresa and later became a close confidant of Emperor Joseph II. Field Marshal Leopold Joseph von Daun was the third member of this trinity of Austrian military heroes and one who also defeated Frederick the Great at such battles as Kolin and Hochkirch. Empress Maria Theresa referred to him as the “savior of her states” and such sentiment was not unwarranted.

Graf von Daun
It is rather unfair that these men should be so overshadowed by King Frederick the Great of Prussia. “Old Fritz” certainly deserves his exalted place in the pages of military history. He and his Prussians worked military miracles but surely that should also mean that defeating so great a genius as Frederick was no mean feat and he was defeated on several occasions by the Austrian commanders mentioned above. Their victories were hard fought and fairly earned and they should not be shrugged off. However, it was also with the rise of Prussia that Austria becomes more easily set apart and the First German Reich had not long to live even on paper. As the reign of Emperor Joseph II came to a close the French Revolution erupted and it set events into motion which ultimately brought down the First Reich and caused to rise up in the aftermath the Austrian Empire. During those struggles the Austrians fought many battles, knew victory as well as defeat but also added glorious events and figures to the pages of their own military history. During what became known as the Napoleonic Wars, of course, the figure of Napoleon himself looms the largest and deservedly so, he was one of the best that ever was. However, it also took military leaders of the highest quality to eventually defeat him and Austria was not unrepresented in that group.

Archduke Charles of Austria, Duke of Teschen
Most people today may be more familiar with names such as the British Duke of Wellington or the Prussian Marshal Bluecher, perhaps even Russia’s old, one-eyed General Kutuzov but another name that should be just as familiar (even if it often is not) is that of Archduke Charles of Austria, Duke of Teschen. He was the brother of Emperor Francis I and the greatest Austrian military commander of his time and a very major thorn in the side to the French Emperor. He was certainly among the most capable of the enemies of Napoleon and gained fame for winning victories at such battles as Rastadt, Amberg and Wurzberg. He was not so successful in Italy but, upon returning to the Rhine, was victorious again at Biberach and Stockach. He was not always victorious but his victories merit him being better known than he is. The Duke of Wellington, after all, only faced Napoleon once, at Waterloo, administering his last defeat. Well, it was the Archduke Charles who gave Napoleon his first major defeat at the Battle of Aspern-Essling. He was also a gifted military administrator and implemented important reforms to the Austrian army that would pay dividends for a long time to come. It is probably no exaggeration to say that Archduke Charles was the most capable and persistent of Napoleon’s continental enemies.

Joseph Graf Radeztky
There were other, less lofty, Austrian commanders who earned laurels in the wars with France and it was many of the younger officers who tasted battle then who would command Austrian troops in the next great crisis that the empire faced, which was the Revolutions of 1848. The one figure who stands out the most, in this period of Austrian military history, was probably Field Marshal Joseph Graf Radetzky von Radetz. He was a beloved and highly successful general who was adored by his troops and played a critical part in a time of crisis that could easily have doomed the Austrian Empire. However, this is where unfair and unkind stereotypes can sometimes feed upon themselves. Probably his greatest hour of fame and glory came when his unflappable leadership proved the decisive factor in defeating the Italians in their first war for independence. In the years since, however, as many people have unfairly denigrated the military abilities of the Italians, defeating them has come to be seen as no great achievement and thus Graf Radetzky is all too often overlooked or dismissed as being of relatively little importance. Such thinking is an injustice to two peoples at the same time. As regular readers here will know, the stereotype of the Italians as being ‘no good at war’ is totally false. The Italians were darn good soldiers and defeating them was no small achievement. If one looks at the battles in which Graf Radetzky and his Austrians faced off against King Carlo Alberto and his coalition of Italians, one can easily see how close the Austrians came to defeat. The situation was, perhaps, not always as bad as it seemed but probably any other commander would have been panicked by the situation as it developed and pulled back, surrendering the victory to the Italians. Not Graf Radetzky. He kept his cool, was never flustered and so managed to pull off a decisive and hard fought victory for the Austrian Empire. It is unfortunate that the Austrians themselves often seemed to take such hard fought victories for granted as the government was almost always quick to give the military a lower priority when it came to spending. Later Austrian defeats, such as at the hands of the French and Italians and later the Prussians were due in large part to the army having been neglected by the civilian government. However, even in those days the Austrians still proved themselves excellent soldiers. The volunteers who went to Mexico, for example, to fight for Emperor Maximilian earned a matchless reputation and could often be found in the vanguard of any attack, acting as a sort of shock troops for the Imperial Mexican forces.

Finally, however, we must come to the First World War and it is perhaps this conflict which is most responsible for the unfair reputation Austria has come to have in military matters. It can sometimes seem that the only thing anyone remembers about Austria-Hungary in World War I was the phrase of one frustrated German that his country was ‘shackled to a corpse’, referring to Austria-Hungary. Hopefully longtime readers will know and new readers will look back at old posts to familiarize themselves with why this is unfair in greater detail. Suffice it to say that Austria-Hungary generally appears weak only because it was invariably compared to the German Empire which had none of the disadvantages that Austria-Hungary had to deal with. Austria-Hungary had a government that tended to spend less on the military whereas in Germany, with Prussia dominant, the army always came first. Germany was a nation-state whereas Austria-Hungary was a multi-ethnic patchwork with an extremely complicated organizational structure and bureaucratic infrastructure that was difficult to manage in the best of times. Germany had two major fronts to deal with, Austria had at least three and whereas Germans were all pulling in the same direction throughout all but the very end of the war, Austria-Hungary contained many dissident elements that were all too willing to be enticed by the enemy.

Count Conrad von Hoetzendorf
In any event, when evaluating the part of Austria-Hungary in World War I (a conflict which the Hungarian half of the empire was not happy about being a part of in the first place), there are a few things that should be kept in mind. For one, Austria-Hungary was undoubtedly a major military power, in fact one of the most militarily powerful countries in the world in 1914. The army was large, professional and they had superb artillery (which the Germans themselves made use of). The effective commander of the Austro-Hungarian army, Field Marshal Conrad von Hotzendorf, was probably the most respected military leader of his day, referred to as the greatest strategist in central Europe and was held in very high esteem even by the Germans. His plans have since often been criticized as overly ambitious and unrealistic but few care to remember that the ultimate campaigns by which Germany led the way to victory on the eastern front were all in keeping with his original strategies. It should also be kept in mind that Russian intelligence had obtained the Austrian plans before the war began, putting Austria-Hungary at quite a disadvantage. Nonetheless, some early victories were achieved, though at a great cost.

Arz von Straussenburg
One of those who distinguished himself was Colonel General Viktor Graf Dankl who won a hard fought, 3-day battle against the Russians at Krasnik, the first major victory for Austria-Hungary in the war (most of his army, by the way, was made up of Slovakian and Polish troops). The Gorlice-Tarnow offensive was also a major victory for Austria-Hungary though many, unfairly, tend to discount any victory achieved in cooperation with the Germans as being attributable solely to Germany rather than Austria-Hungary. This is quite an injustice considering that, for example, the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive was planned by Conrad von Hotzendorf though it was a German general who commanded the combined forces in the operation. Field Marshal Svetozar Boroevic von Bojna, a Croat - Serbian Orthodox officer from what is now Croatia, was considered one of the best defensive generals of the war and Colonel General Artur Arz von Straussenburg also distinguished himself in a number of victories, earning the respect of his countrymen as well as the Germans for his actions against the Russians and Romanians. His role as chief of staff, against Italy, did not go so well but it was not solely due to him.

Austrian submarine U-5
All too often it is forgotten that while the Germans may have ultimately taken the lead on the Russian front, Austria-Hungary contributed to virtually all of those victories as well as those in the south. The Austro-Hungarian forces also performed well, overall, on the Italian front despite often being heavily outnumbered with only the mountainous terrain as a major advantage. Austria-Hungary produced a number of “ace” fighter pilots during the war and showed considerable talent at sea despite having only limited forces. The Austrian submarine fleet, though few in number, actually had a higher ratio of hits per torpedoes fired than the German submarines did with Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp (later made famous by “The Sound of Music”) becoming the most successful Austrian submarine commander of the war. Austria-Hungary, though ultimately defeated, put up a heroic fight against long odds against the Russians, Serbians, Italians, Romanians and others while also sending military forces to assist the Germans on the western front and the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East. All things considered, it is quite amazing that Austria-Hungary was able to do as well as they did for as long as they did against the powerful forces arrayed against them.

Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic
World War I, sadly, brought with its termination the end of Austria-Hungary, the end of the Austrian Empire (the Kingdom of Hungary lingering for a while in name at least) but even with the defeat and collapse of 1918 the military legacy of Imperial Austria was still felt for some time after. Some of the young officers who learned their trade fighting for the Kaiser of Austria would also rise to prominence in World War II. Some, like the aforementioned Ritter von Trapp, refused to serve after the union with Nazi Germany, but others still fought for their country regardless of their opinions about the government. Three Austrians would rise to the rank of Colonel-General in the German armed forces of World War II and one of the most notable was General Lothar Rendulic. Rendulic served in Yugoslavia, Scandinavia and on the Russian front as a divisional, corps, army and army group commander, earning the nickname of “The Austrian Fireman” even though, while born in Austria, he was ethnically Croatian rather than German-Austrian. He earned quite a reputation as a commander who could come into a bad situation and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Of course, not all of his record is good but on the purely military side of things, he was one of the best and he first learned his trade fighting for the Austrian Emperor rather than the Austrian corporal.

There are, of course, many other names that could be mentioned and other victorious battles that could be talked about, from the Siege of Vienna in 1529 to Caporetto in late 1917 but hopefully the point has been made. Austria may not have the reputation of being a militaristic power (or even desire such) but that does not mean it lacks in ability. Austria has a long and illustrious military history full of many great war leaders and great achievements. It is extremely unfortunate that most of it has been lost thanks to the current Austrian republic which does not even seem to consider defense of the national territory to be a priority, preferring to leave itself at the mercy of others respecting its position of absolute neutrality. True, Austrian leaders gained much by marriage but Austria made war quite often as well and has a record that any Austrian can be justly proud of. I also know from experience that there are those who are going to accuse me of "forgetting" their favorite Austrian military figure. I can hear you now asking, "Why didn't you mention Prince Schwarzenberg or Andreas Hofer or..." whoever your choice may be. I did not, of course, forget them but mentioning every Austrian who achieved military success would make this already lengthy post turn into a rather large book. And that fact should make the point quite well that those who denigrate the martial prowess of Imperial Austria are the ones showing themselves woefully ignorant of the actual facts of the matter.

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