Thursday, December 4, 2014

The USA, Monarchy and America-Bashing

Whenever British royals visit the United States you can count on two things happening; proletarian preaching from the Yankee Doodle dandies about the glories of republicanism and how absurd having royals is (have fun counting down until someone says, “We fought a war to get away from this sort of thing” -someone says it every single time and still thinks they’re oh-so-clever) and then, in reaction to this, you have the other side retaliating with tirades of anti-Americanism, ranting about how the United States is the most terrible country in the world and the greatest plague to the monarchist cause ever. All the while, of course, the royals themselves invariably behave in the most well-mannered and friendly way possible and while the American leadership tries to be good hosts (though certainly not always succeeding). This issue has been brought to my attention more than usual lately and, as I usually do, thinking about it long enough has caused me to consider the side opposite that I would normally take. Is the strident anti-Americanism of so many monarchists really justified? Has the United States really been that bad for monarchy around the world?

In the first place, I would have to say that even while agreeing with much of the content of anti-American complaining from monarchists, I have never, ever been fond of it. Even when it is entirely accurate, it still seems petty and hypocritical. It is, in a way, stooping to the level of the basest American republicans that so many monarchists despise. After all, what that imported Englishman Thomas Paine penned his famous tract, “Common Sense”, he appealed to emotion rather than reason and, lacking any rational, factual justification for their rebellion, the American patriots had no other recourse but to heap blame and point fingers at King George III. Furthermore, as has been pointed out here often enough, the United States would not exist as it is today without the support of monarchies. The Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of Spain were of the most direct assistance, while the Kingdom of Morocco boasts of being the first foreign power to recognize the United States. The Kingdom of Sweden claims to be the first nation to recognize the United States which was not engaged in the conflict that bore it out. Empress Catherine the Great of Russia said that she would sooner commit suicide that recognize American independence if she were King George III but, as she was not, the Russian Empire also made haste to recognize the new republic. King Frederick the Great of Prussia even sent George Washington a ceremonial sword as gift (perhaps he heard that some American monarchists speculated about making his brother King of America).

The strident anti-American would then have to condemn those monarchies which not only helped give birth to the United States but without whose support American independence could not have been won (much as the Yankee Doodle dandies hate to admit it). One should also keep in mind that, for all the radical rhetoric, the so-called American Revolution was hardly revolutionary at all. The firebrand republicans like Thomas Paine were useful to whip up the masses and make the rebellion seem justified but when it came to actual leadership, such rabble-rousers were kept far from the halls of power. Even the most radical of the “Founding Fathers”, Thomas Jefferson, kept in his “Hall of Heroes” at Monticello portraits of King Louis XVI of France and the self-made Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. There were Founding Fathers who were monarchists themselves at heart, the most notable being Alexander Hamilton. Men like George Washington and John Adams, once the war was won, could not hide their lingering attachment to the United Kingdom they had broken away from. The war deprived the British monarch of territory but not of his throne and there was no attempt to remake society in the way of the French or Russian revolutions.

Loyalists had to go of course (and almost all did) but those who were the elite before the war remained the elite after it was over. Also, unlike the French Revolution, there was no immediate urge to export the “American Revolution” abroad. There were those who sympathized with the French Revolution that broke out soon after and those who wanted to renew the war against Great Britain in solidarity with the French republicans but, as we know, that did not happen. In fact, America stopped payment of its debts to France on the grounds that the debt was owed to the King who had aided America and not the French Republic (while simultaneously making a trade agreement with Britain). The resulting French revolutionary outrage sparked The Undeclared War with France on the part of the United States. Clashes did not cease until the French Republic succumbed to the more realistic rule of Napoleon (who was also kind enough to give the USA a good deal on Louisiana). In 1812 there was the totally condemnable effort to conquer Canada but, after a good drubbing, the United States seemed to have learned its lesson even while telling themselves that they had not really lost.

Where America at least seemed to have the most impact on the replacement of monarchial government with republican ones was in Latin America. There was, after all, the Monroe Doctrine and the involvement of American officials (often Freemasons) in conspiracies to bring down the Spanish Crown in the New World. However, as reprehensible as these things are, the simple fact is that the United States did not have the strength to back up one word of the Monroe Doctrine and no amount of republican fervor from US envoys in Latin American countries could have accomplished anything were it not for the republican, revolutionary elements already there. The British Empire supported the Monroe Doctrine and had the Royal Navy to enforce it. Aside from native, revolutionary elements the success of republicanism in Latin America largely came down to official and unofficial support from the British Empire as well as, most significantly, chaos in Spain itself. The royalists had won in Mexico but the rising liberalism in Spain pushed Mexican conservatives into the pro-independence camp. The outbreak of the Carlist Wars also prevented the Spanish from being able to focus their strength on serious efforts to retake colonies that had been lost with the support of Britain which was anxious to break up the Spanish monopoly on trade with Latin America.

The United States was quick to recognize the independence of the Empire of Brazil but was certainly the decisive factor in the failure of the Second Mexican Empire. Yet, that situations presents anti-American monarchists with a unique problem. The rapidly growing power of the United States made it extremely difficult for any one European monarchy to oppose them outright but the one thing that would have broken up that power and saved the Empire of Mexico would have been the victory of the Confederate States of America. Support for the Confederacy is not unknown in monarchist circles but with the “Lost Cause” of Dixie so associated with slavery today, I have rarely seen any monarchists willing to say that Britain and France should have recognized the slave-holding southern states and helped the Confederacy win independence. As we can see, even when America has been wrong, it was rarely alone and seemed to have a way of exploiting situations so that an American triumph would be hard to condemn because so many would see the alternative as being worse or at least necessitating some very unpopular and even distasteful alliances. But, of course, distasteful alliances is what geopolitics tends to be made of. The United States has certainly made more than a few but then so has virtually every monarchy.

After clashing with Britain in 1812, America did not fight a monarchy again until the Spanish-American War. Many European countries did not like this and the German Kaiser even urged concerted action to, more or less, put the Americans in their place. However, none did so because, again, the British Empire decided it was wiser to support America rather than Spain which, still struggling with seemingly endless Carlist Wars, was a rapidly declining power. Around the same time there was also the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by American interests and that is something that Hawaiians certainly have a right to be upset about. Not too many do though as it is a very liberal state and has come to depend on the largesse of the government in Washington. Hawaiians are also a tiny minority in the state and in any democratic decision on the matter would be easily outvoted.

The next time the United States went to war with a monarchy (or monarchies) was in 1917 when America entered the First World War. This is a rather complex situation as President Woodrow Wilson (certainly one of the worst presidents in American history, whether one is a monarchist or not) is a perfect bogey man and many have heaped blame on him and America as a whole for ruining the Europe that was dominated by traditional monarchies prior to 1914. Unfortunately, this is also the beginning of what has become an obsession with the United States by many people beyond its borders. They make common cause with the Yankee Doodle dandies in at least one way; both like to portray the United States as the pivotal world power upon whom everything depends, one side just thinks that this has been good and the other thinks it has been bad. Sadly, I must disappoint both sides and say that the United States, certainly in 1917, was just not that important. In the first place, America was involved only in the last few months of the war and the primary rival to President Wilson in domestic politics, former President Teddy Roosevelt, would not have remained neutral but would have taken America into the conflict much sooner. Moreover, it was France and especially Great Britain which worked the hardest to get the United States involved in the war, helped just across the finish line by Germany with that ludicrous Zimmermann Telegram which no country in the world would have ignored. But, what about America and the monarchies of World War I?

As much fun as many have blaming the loss of every monarchy toppled in 1918 on America, the simple fact is that the USA had practically nothing to do with it. America did not declare war until late in 1917, after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, and by that time Austria-Hungary was already doomed. Britain and France had already made the agreements with the other powers and the ethnic minorities for the carve-up of Austria-Hungary before America was ever part of the picture. The same goes for the Ottoman Empire. In Bulgaria, the monarchy survived and in Germany it was the outbreak of leftist rebellions combined with the Social Democrats seizing the opportunity that brought down the Kaiser. Not one American or other Allied soldier had set foot on German soil when that happened and the greatest pressure put on Imperial Germany by the Allies was the Royal Navy blockade which had been going on since the start of the war. As for what happened at the Versailles Conference, Wilson certainly did his part to help make it the disaster it was but he was only one man among many and the other Allied leaders were perfectly happy to ignore his lofty, unrealistic preaching when it suited them. The Germans actually preferred to make peace based on his “Fourteen Points” but the Allies brushed most of them aside. The United States, lest we forget, was the only major Allied power that neither sought nor was given any territorial concessions and also the only one that did NOT endorse the Versailles Treaty. The idiotic Wilson thought it was swell but, thankfully, the United States Senate did not and refused to ratify it and America made a separate peace with the Central Powers later.

The United States, despite gaining no territory, certainly emerged from the war in a very enviable position. Having stayed out until the very end, it made a great deal of money selling all sorts of necessities to the warring powers and almost all of the Allies were so desperate for American money that they all indebted themselves heavily to the United States. For the British Empire, this situation reached critical mass during World War II. Those who decry how the United States surpassed the British Empire as the preeminent world power must face the fact that it was Britain which put itself in this position by mortgaging the empire to fight a war it could not win on its own. It is not a pleasant thing to ponder but the fact is that the British Empire could, possibly, have survived the First World War but not the Second. As it happened, the British government made the decision that destroying Nazi Germany was worth placing the Empire entirely at the mercy of the United States and President Franklin D. Roosevelt made no secret of his desire to see the British Empire come to an end.

American participation was not always bad for monarchy in World War II. American forces enabled the monarchies in The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and Norway to be restored or liberated. The Greek monarchy was restored (for the time being) and though the Italian monarchy fell it is one, for baffling reasons, which a fair number of monarchists seem ambivalent about. In East Asia, the American victory meant the doom of the restored Manchu monarchy but it seems to have few friends these days anyway. Korea became republican but even most Korean monarchists seem to prefer half an independent republic to a monarchy subordinate to the Empire of Japan. In Japan itself, it was the United States, mostly General Douglas MacArthur himself, which prevented the partition of the country (as the Soviets wanted) and the execution of the Emperor (which many in Washington and even some dissidents in Japan wanted). The monarchies of Yugoslavia, Romania, Albania and Bulgaria were doomed but this was part of a deal worked out as well between Britain and the Soviet Union and one must face the uncomfortable question as to whether Nazi or Communist domination of these countries would have been preferable. To jump back to East Asia for a moment, it is interesting to note that the one other independent monarchy in the region (besides Japan) was the Kingdom of Thailand which declared war on the United States but the United States never declared war on Thailand in return, considering the regime there illegitimate.

After World War II, the world was treated to a state of affairs not conducive to monarchy at all but dominated by a choice between being aligned with the United States or the Soviet Union. One need look no further than the fate of the Romanov dynasty to see that the monarchies of the world made the right decision in choosing the United States. As the era of colonial empires came to an end, there is much for which American policy can be justly criticized, probably the most blatant being the absolutely disgraceful betrayed of the Netherlands over Indonesia. However, of the major colonial powers of Britain, France and Portugal there was only one monarchy among them. In Indochina, the United States did not have clean hands in the fall of the Vietnamese monarchy (or rather the state which amounted to as much) but then, without American support, as was seen, the communists would have won and the monarchy would have fallen anyway. America had a hand in the (temporary) downfall of the Cambodian monarchy but, again, without America the ultimate communist victory would have brought about the same thing. The same goes for Laos where America’s struggle against North Vietnam at least delayed the fall of the monarchy as long as the war continued.

In Burma, it had been the British who deposed the last king and the downfall of the British Empire, while certainly assisted by the United States which was eager to jump on the popular anti-colonialism bandwagon and try to woo peoples away from Soviet Russia, it was the decisions of the British government and British people which made this possible. Britain had sold itself to America to fight World War II and may, perhaps, have forgotten the Biblical warning that “the borrower is slave to the lender”. Yet, even then, Britain may have been able to at least hold on to Africa where it not for the fact that after the war the socialists came to power in a big way in Great Britain and there is simply no way that the United Kingdom could afford an empire AND a social welfare state. It has become clear today that they cannot even afford a military and a social welfare state. The generous entitlements, benefits, welfare (call it what you will) most monarchies have in place today would, by and large, not be possible were it not for the United States protecting all of them and so permitting them to live in peace with only token military forces.

Monarchists who hate the United States today should, perhaps, get over their American obsession and focus their attention on the decisions of their own governments. As it stands today, practically every monarchy in the world has availed itself of the protection of the United States. In a way, all depend on very republican Americans to be the defenders of monarchy in the modern world. The United States, through NATO (in which the USA accounts for the vast majority of NATO‘s military strength), has pledged to defend the monarchies of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and Spain. Japan also has a formal guarantee of American protection and, in fact, the United States is the one and only official ally Japan has in the world (something the radicals on the right and left in Japan like to ignore). In addition, among those listed as “Major non-NATO Allies” of the United States are the monarchies of Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, Bahrain, Jordan and Kuwait. The Kingdom of Sweden is noticeably absent from both lists but, rest assured, Sweden has participated in NATO missions anyway and has “secret” agreements (don’t tell Wilson!) to avail itself of American protection in the even of an enemy invasion. Again, there is practically not a single monarchy in the world that is not either defended by America or defended by a country which is defended by America with the US having “defense understandings” even with such unpopular monarchies as Brunei and Saudi Arabia.

When it comes to the post-Cold War era, American actions in regard to monarchy are probably not so terrible as most would think (certainly if one listens to those who blame America for everything). Iran is an interesting case. America is often blamed by monarchists for the fall of the Shah, yet this is more a case of America not helping maintain the Shah as opposed to actively bringing about his downfall. However, there is no doubt that President Carter certainly should feel guilty about his treatment of such a stalwart American ally (-partisan remark about a certain US political party removed-). What does look absurd is that while monarchists blame America for letting the Shah be deposed, anti-monarchists are blaming America for having put the Shah back in power once before, something anti-American monarchists rarely talk about. After Carter, there was President Ronald Reagan who restored the authority of the Crown over Granada. I know, some British experts at anti-Americanism think that was outrageous but I do not see how. The Governor-General, the Queen’s representative on the island, had been taken prisoner so the authority of the Queen had effectively been removed by the communists and this was restored by the intervention of the US Marines. It doesn’t seem like something for a British monarchist to complain about to me.

Under the first President Bush the United States actually led a coalition to war to restore a monarchy, namely the Emir of Kuwait, to the throne he had been deprived of by the republican dictator Saddam Hussein. But, then we had President Clinton, the man who thought it would be a brilliant idea for the United States, which is pledged to defend the United Kingdom from foreign attack, to make as the one and only Major Non-NATO Ally in Latin America the Republic of Argentina. Yeah, …what a genius. Anyway, some have blamed the United States under the second US President in history to be impeached for the lack of royal restorations in the Balkans following the collapse of the Soviet Union. You will not find a greater critic of the Clinton family than myself, but this really seems to be stretching credulity. How was it that the United States actually prevented monarchies from being restored in Romania, Bulgaria or Yugoslavia? Aside from one contemptuous, haughty remark from Clinton’s Secretary of State, I have yet to be shown any real evidence of this.

The United States was certainly not occupying any of these countries, they had been isolated from all American influence for decades behind the “Iron Curtain” and all of their monarchs had been exiled. If there is any evidence of the United States actually taking action to prevent the return of monarchs to these countries and providing some sort of irresistible pressure to prevent restorations I have yet to see it. In most cases, there was no real change in the power elite at all, old communists were simply replaced by new communists who changed their affiliation to Social Democrats. I suppose the United States could have been more supportive or perhaps could have done what it never did throughout the Cold War and launch military invasions of East European countries to forcibly restore monarchs to power but that would seem an odd thing for monarchists to expect from the most preeminent republic in the world while not expecting the same action from actual monarchies. That is something which perplexes me to no end; the number of times I have seen monarchists acting outraged that the very republican United States is not more pro-monarchy than actual monarchies are. I find it baffling. Frankly, I am often amazed America is as friendly toward monarchy as it is given how hyper-egalitarian the American left is and how hyper-republican the American right is.

During the administration of Bush the Younger anti-Americanism became more popular than ever and perhaps, being so often in the minority, monarchists could not help but join in. On at least one issue, I had to change positions myself and drop some previous criticisms I had made against the US government after doing some research. For the Bush years, the two most controversial events were the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Personally, I supported the invasion of Afghanistan (have not supported lingering there for a decade) while viewing the Iraq war as unnecessary. However, for monarchist critics of these events, I fail to understand the complaints. Of course, there are any number of things to criticize about how things were done, the mission, whether it was in the interest of any particular country or how they impacted the politics of the region. However, strictly from a monarchist perspective both Afghanistan and Iraq had monarchist parties operating freely and competing in elections after the invasions where they had been totally suppressed before by the Taliban and Baathist dictatorships. Going from “no chance” of a restoration to at least a “slight chance” of a restoration seems like positive movement to me. In the case of Afghanistan though, many have and continue to repeat the accusation that the United States prevented a restoration of the monarchy when everything was in place for this to happen. I confess to raging about this one myself. However, I was wrong. The simple fact is that the reason the monarchy in Afghanistan was not restored was because the King did not wish it so. The United States had been very friendly with the King in the past and gave a great deal of support to people who claimed to be monarchists in Afghanistan. However, when approached the King said he had no desire to be King of Afghanistan and that was the end of it.

The bottom line is that the United States attracts a great deal of criticism simply for being powerful, just like others that have gone before them. Long-time readers will know that I hate the blame game and believe that in the vast majority of cases we are all the authors of our own misfortunes. Some like to bash America simply because it is an inviting target. Countries complain that they cannot take any action on the world stage without America’s permission, yet, when pressed, they admit they really don’t want to take any action anyway. Many countries complain about America meddling in the affairs while taking for granted American subsidy and military protection. In other words, “shut up and give us your money”. However, all of the monarchies which have to at least take the wishes of America seriously are only in such a position because of past decisions they themselves made and which they go on making today.

I have heard it said that America exerts undue influence on other countries because they are so indebted to the United States. My first reaction to that would be, then don’t borrow so heavily from one country, don’t start wars you cannot finish without having to put your fate entirely in the hands of a foreign power. However, most know that the United States itself is a deeply indebted country, about $17 trillion in the red at least count. Do you know who America owes most of this money to? Nope, WRONG! It is not China, the two biggest sources of borrowed money for Washington DC is the United Kingdom followed by Japan. Does anyone think the British or Japanese are exerting such influence in this way to control the actions of the United States? Are Americans just the helpless puppets of the money-lenders in London and Tokyo? If they are, they have an odd way of showing it. The truth is, no monarchy is being “held back” by the United States. The United States is currently protecting more monarchies than probably any country in history. It would like nothing better than to see these countries shoulder more of that burden, to become more militarily powerful. In regards to Japan, the United States has been urging the Japanese to strengthen their military for decades. For the British, the greatest block on military strength has been the fault of extremely expensive entitlement programs. And for Britain, the idea that the UK is the lapdog of the US, suffering under Yankee rule, is rather disproved by the fact that there have been occasions when the US asked for British help and Britain said, “no”.

Monarchists, in my view, need to be more realistic about the world we live in, a world born out of World War II, a conflict which started in London and Paris and not Washington DC (though Roosevelt certainly took full advantage of it). Currently there is no monarchy that is anywhere near close enough to being able to take a leadership position in the world comparable to the United States, mostly due to past actions in regards to the world wars. If monarchists are unhappy with this state of affairs, then we must ask ourselves who would be most likely to have such a dominant position if not the United States? I doubt anyone would imagine that Communist China would be prepared to give war guarantees to most monarchies in the world. And if none of the alternatives seem preferable then the only solution is not to complain, not to antagonize but to reassess priorities. Make the tough choices to grow the economy, put more money into the military and be more assertive on the world stage once you have the strength to back it up. Blaming America for all and sundry will get you nowhere and being a constant annoyance to the most powerful country in the world is hardly helpful to the monarchist cause. What would be helpful is if more monarchists were just as proud and just as assertive about their own countries and their own system of monarchial government as most Americans are about their own model. Rather than give Americans doubts about the wisdom of standing guard for the monarchies of the world, welcome it and welcome American friendship while using the safety that shield provides to rebuild, reorganize and grow stronger until the great day comes when it is no longer necessary.

6 comments:

  1. "After all, what that imported Englishman Thomas Paine penned his famous tract, “Common Sense”, he appealed to emotion rather than reason and, lacking any rational, factual justification for their rebellion, the American patriots had no other recourse but to heap blame and point fingers at King George III."

    I actually posted on Reddit just today about how republicans refuse to mount an evidence-based defence of their position (possibly because they don't have any). I've included links to all studies comparing republican to monarchical government types with the main conclusions. I'd like to think that if we had research like this in the 1700s 'Common Sense' would have looked like the foolishness it was.

    Reddit Link: http://www.reddit.com/r/monarchism/comments/2o8avm/academic_research_on_monarchy_ie_how_to_shut_up_a/

    Enjoy

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    Replies
    1. Even without it, I recall reading a very good rebuttal to "Common Sense" by a British or American loyalist author. And it is true, a lack of evidence is the reason for this. In regards to the USA, it is probably about as monarchy-friendly today as it is possible to be. It could never be outright pro-monarchy because to do so would be to undermine the whole justification for the USA existing.

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  2. The rebuttal of "Common Sense" was entitled "Plain Truth." At the time, it seems to have been popular and influential. The author was Maryland Loyalist officer, James Chalmers. There have been a few modern publications (after 1990?) concerning this essay and Chalmers' career. I had something once, but my library is split in storage across three continents.

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  3. Mad Monarchist, I am an American who has acquired an appreciation for monarchies in recent years. You might enjoy my post debunking the 1775 Battle of Lexington, Mass. (which ignited the Revolutionary War) as a connivance—a trap set for General Gage’s troops. http://jamesperloff.com/2014/12/09/the-american-revolution-part-i-the-secrets-buried-at-lexington-green/
    I grew up in Lexington, so have always had extra interest in the battle.
    You might also enjoy this musical tribute to Lost Russia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kW4T8m2wWc
    Keep up the good work. I don’t see a way to contact you directly, but feel free to write me through my website’s contact form.

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  4. Great Article and I often wondered how the USA would be if we had a Const. Monarchy. WWI ad WWII brought an end to the Great monarchies and makes u wonder what if the European monarchies has all signed open alliances with each other because if Western, Central and Eastern Europe had all worked together maybe it could have been avoided. I do wonder also how things would have been if Germany, Italy and Japan had won the war and could the 100 million deaths at the hands of communism been stopped.

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  5. In response to a comment that underlines my frustration: George Washington was not responsible for the development of partisan politics in America. As a matter of *fact* George Washington hated the 2-party bickering of the British constitutional monarchy and urged his fellow Americans not to make the mistake of allowing political parties to develop. Unfortunately, he was ignored. This was also a man who, as the first American President, quickly restored friendly relations and trade with Great Britain while immediately breaking off the alliance with France after the outbreak of the French Revolution and who took action to ensure that French Revolutionary mindset didn't take hold in America.

    Monarchists who obsess over George Washington are allowing themselves to be misdirected away from the real and actual threat.

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