Sunday, May 31, 2015

Where is the Monarchy World Power?

There have been several stories lately, and growing alarm, over the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea by the People’s Republic of China. The bandit regime in Peking has claimed the entirety of the South China Sea as their own property and with these islands are trying to enforce that claim. Recently, they have started to arm these islands with artillery and make them capable platforms for aircraft. The United States has warned Red China to put a stop to this but the only response from Peking has been a counter-warning for the U.S. to mind its own business and stop meddling in their affairs. More countries are involved of course as the Red Chinese claim includes islands whose ownership is disputed between a number of neighboring countries and the bandits in Peking recently offended the bandits in Hanoi by ordering Vietnamese fishermen to stop fishing in the Gulf of Tonkin; an order the Vietnamese have rightly ignored.

One monarchy that has been put under increasing pressure from all of this is the Commonwealth of Australia. An ally of the United States but a country with extensive and ever growing economic ties to Red China, the Australians have been caught in the middle of the two giants and Red China in particular has become increasingly impatient in wanting to know where exactly Australia stands. The United States has increasingly desired the use of Australian bases for operations in the region while the bandits in Peking have, directly and indirectly, warned Australians that they would be wise to stay out of this and not allow the Americans to “pull” them into a confrontation that does not concern them. What is Australia to do? Like many, the Australians have, since World War II, counted on the United States for military protection but Red China has become more and more critical to the Australian economy and the Red Chinese have purchased a good deal of Australian resources. It is not an enviable position to be in for the “Land Down Under”.

Now, I am sure there are many monarchists out there, reading these words, who would be very frustrated at the idea of having to choose between the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America. Personally, it would be an easy decision to make but I can certainly understand and sympathize with those who would prefer to choose neither. It would certainly be nice if there was another, monarchist, alternative to this duopoly. What other major power could, if not outmatch, at least give pause to these two giants? Russia is out of the question, being firmly tied to Communist China these days. The European Union has no military (yet) and even if it did, the military forces of Europe have been so drastically reduced to fund social welfare programs that they would hardly be worth considering. Additionally, despite including a number of monarchies, the European Union is a thoroughly, indeed radically, republican institution. What about simply trying to be patient and wait for one of the “emerging powers” to gain sufficient strength? Alas, these are all republics as well.

Of course, in the old days, there would have been so many more options and much better options. Once upon a time there would have been a British Empire and an Empire of Japan as major players in the region and if you go back a little farther there would have been a German Empire to take into account. The Kaiser had a few footholds and a naval squadron in the area. However, none of these former world powers count for very much anymore. Japan is largely pacifist and constitutionally barred from military intervention anywhere, the Germans have gone republican and have an army even smaller than that of Italy and the British, while certainly being more active on the international scene than the others, have had to reduce their military to such a degree that you could practically fit the British army in a football stadium. Why? Because in the U.K. you can cut national security but you cannot cut the NHS and, turns out, “free” healthcare is actually quite expensive. So, what is a monarchist to do?

The easy answer would be to simply get angry (and boy is it easy) but that would not be the wise answer. Getting angry with Red China is bound to hurt your economy and while getting angry with America is easier it still accomplishes nothing. To really be a major world power these days several things are required and there simply isn’t a monarchy that possesses all of them. The United Kingdom is currently the only monarchy in the world with nuclear weapons but, while all the major players have nukes, possessing them ensures no other power is likely to attack you, they do not automatically allow one to project power around the world. Modern nuclear weapons are so fantastically destructive that even the most unhinged of regimes have never used them. To ever truly stand alongside the likes of America, China or Russia any monarchy in the world would have to drastically increase their military. They would also have to have a population large enough to draw a sizeable military force from as well as being large enough to be a lucrative market and produce wealth, thus becoming economically significant on a broad front. This is a thorny issue as most monarchies in the world are simply not capable of supporting an extremely large population. All the monarchies of Scandinavia combined have fewer people than the state of California alone and none have sufficient habitable land to sustain a great many more than they have.

The notable monarchial exception to this has been Japan but it would be wrong to place too many hopes in the Japanese example. True, even stripped of their empire and lacking natural resources the Japanese were able, by hard work and inventiveness, to become, at one point, the second largest economy in the world. However, Japan is also the most heavily indebted country in the world. After 1945 the United States pumped in huge amounts of money to Japan which enabled it to make an astounding recovery. However, as politicians tend to do, leaders in Tokyo took this cash flow for granted and enacted policies that ensured spending would continue at a drastic rate. Eventually the bubble burst, the debt piled up and Japan is still struggling to deal with the economic fallout from this. However, keeping all of that in mind, the case of Japan does prove that a country can overcome certain deficiencies to become a major economic power. Even today, with all of the economic woes of the EU, the monarchies of Europe are still more financially significant than a huge number of other countries with more land, resources and people than they have. As usual, there is simply no substitute for good decision-making. The problem is finding political leaders that will make good decisions as opposed to popular ones. The liberal, democratic model practically guarantees this will be nearly impossible.

Yet, every monarchy is as capable of making at least as good (or least bad) decisions as any of the numerous republics that have grown to be world powers. They could place a greater priority on the military side of their budgets, focus on more growing wealth instead of redistributing in an effort to make everyone blandly lower-middle class, cut off the benefits and teach people to be self-sufficient and endeavor to achieve greater national unity and foreign policy focus. Were such a thing to even be attempted, monarchies would have a significant advantage by their very nature. They could then take a more assertive role in international affairs. Of course, even at their best, most would still be unable to rise too high but by building coalitions they could give the ‘big boys’ a run for their money. If, as I have often argued, all the English-speaking monarchies could cooperate more closely together and if the Latin American republics were to cling more closely to their mother Spain they could play a part on the world stage well out of proportion to their individual strength. Simply instilling a greater sense of national pride and that your monarchy, be it Belgium or Sweden or any other, has something to contribute to the world would be a great start.

Americans, more so the conservative ones, can be annoyingly arrogant in their pride in the United States and speak of the total American package as if it was God’s gift to the world. It has become almost a litmus test for presidential candidates to assert that they believe in “American exceptionalism”. For those people who live north of the 49th parallel, south of the Rio Grande or on either side of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans this attitude can be extremely tiresome. However, I have long advocated that monarchists stop complaining about it and, instead, emulate it. Assert that your country is exceptional, assert that your form of government, monarchy, is the ideal form of government that anyone with good sense should seek to have for themselves. Make your own case, present your own solutions and give the braggarts in republican lands some competition! The bottom line is that every country is where it is because of choices its people and its leaders have made. Blaming others will change nothing, only taking responsibility and making good decisions in terms of policy can do that. People living in monarchies (I temporarily excuse monarchists living in republics as their first priority should be restoration) are the only ones who can do the work, day by day, to make their countries significant and present to the world a better, monarchist, alternative. Until that happens, the only choice will be to pick the least bad option. For Australia, that choice is Red China or America, others might face the EU or Russia but whatever it is, monarchists should be able to come up with something better. It’s been done before, it’s not totally beyond the realm of possibility that it could be done again.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Romanian Royal Struggles in World War II

When European events began to move toward war, the Kingdom of Romania had already gone through some difficulties at the highest level. The Crown Prince had left the country over matters of the heart and when King Ferdinand I died in 1927 he was succeeded by his grandson, the child King Michael I. However, the situation changed in 1930 when Crown Prince Carol returned to the country, secretly, and with the attainment of power by G. G. Mironescu as Prime Minister. He was a member of the National Peasants’ Party (PNT) that was more authoritarian and opposed the leftist factions of the party. He worked in cooperation with Iuliu Maniu in organizing what some have called a sort of coup. His government backed the Crown Prince, causing a break-up of the regency council and so the parliament voted to give the crown to Carol and to make his son, then reigning as nominal king, to crown prince. So it was that King Carol II came to the Romanian throne on June 8, 1930. He presided over a country with a fractured political class, faced by internal and external communist threats and increasingly worrying international trends.

King Carol II & Crown Prince Michael
King Carol II decided to tackle these problems personally and began a campaign for what he called a “national renaissance”. Foreign observers described it as a royal dictatorship. The period between the wars in Europe saw something of a revival of absolute monarchy, at least in the Balkans. King Alexander I of Yugoslavia abolished the constitution on January 6, 1929 and ruled himself until his death in 1934. Outsiders called this period the “6 January Dictatorship” and, later, in 1935 King Boris III of Bulgaria had a “King’s Government” which some observers likewise described as a “royal dictatorship” which is a rather 20th Century term for what used to be known as absolute monarchy or the monarch actually ruling his country. King Carol II tried to do the same thing in Romania. He promised to restore the cultural pride of Romanians and sweep away the disorder and divisions caused by the old political parties. Along with “Monarchy Day” on May 10 (a preexisting holiday), King Carol II designated June 6 as “Restoration Day” to bring all sections of society together in a celebration of Romanian culture.

One element that soon became central to such celebrations was the youth organization established by the King known as Straja Tarii or ‘Sentinel of the Motherland’. With their uniforms, beret headgear and Roman salutes many in the democracies of Western Europe thought noted their similarity to the Opera Nazionale Balilla of Italy or the Hitler Youth of Germany. In Romania, however, the creation of the organization was mostly seen as a reaction by King Carol II to the growth of the Iron Guard and its youth movement. This organization, first known as the Legion of the Archangel Michael, is typically labeled as “fascist” because members wore uniforms, used the Roman salute and were not communists. However, they were different in a number of ways from the actual Fascist Party, in good ways and bad ways but probably most noticeably in being almost as much a spiritual movement as a political one. One of the original requirements was that members had to be willing to die for Christ. They were also generally monarchist, though with the King wielding political power that meant that any political movement could be seen as a potential rival, if not to monarchy in principle then at least to the King.

The royal regime
Yet, for those on the lookout for anything fascist-like, King Carol II attracted his own comparisons. Using his emergency powers he enacted a constitution that formalized near absolute royal authority, reorganized the country somewhat on corporatist lines and he had his followers in uniforms (of a different color) as well. The public supported these changes in a national referendum, which many consider have been held simply for the sake of appearances, and while King Carol II remained the focus of the country he soon delegated most of the day-to-day ruling of Romania to his prime minister General Ion Antonescu in 1940. The problem was that Antonescu tended to favor friendship with Nazi Germany, probably for no other reason than they seemed to be the strongest power in the neighborhood. The Nazis, however, did not approve of King Carol II. Most attribute this to the fact that the King was not a virulent anti-Semite (his mistress and later wife was half Jewish). Hitler seized on the tensions between the King and the Iron Guard to interfere in Romanian politics, favoring the Iron Guard which was anti-Semitic (though it should be said in a different way and for very different reasons than the Nazis).

With the start of World War II in Europe, with its string of early German victories, Hitler became more demanding toward the Kingdom of Romania. He wanted a Nazi-friendly government firmly in power so as not to jeopardize his access to the Romanian oil fields. Considering that, having been on the winning side in World War I, much territory had been ceded to create the “Greater Romania” that then existed, the country had plenty of enemies with Hungary and Bulgaria both longing for territory within Romania’s borders. Isolated on the world stage, King Carol II had no choice but to agree to a demand from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to hand over Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to Russia. When Antonescu protested, the King had him arrested and from then on Antonescu was seized upon as Hitler’s man in Romania. He promised Hitler secure and unfettered access to Romanian oil if the Nazi Fuhrer would back him and Hitler agreed. In a very short time, Germany pressured Romania to hand over further territory in Transylvania to Hungary and land in the south to Bulgaria. Thus, by the time Antonescu was back on the scene, the popularity of King Carol II had fallen dramatically as the Romanian people saw gains from the last war being signed away.

King Michael and Antonescu
Of course, with France defeated, Britain far distant and barely holding on and with a Nazi-Soviet pact in effect, there was simply no way for Romania to resist Hitler’s demands. King Carol II had defied him as long as possible but by the middle of 1940 it was clear that if the country were to have any future it would have to come to terms with the Germans. Antonescu seized on this as his great opportunity and demanded that King Carol II abdicate for having given up so much Romanian territory (though he would have done exactly the same and probably with far less hesitation). At first, he was put off by simply having the King hand over his ruling powers to him (as mentioned) but when he heard a rumor that two royalist generals were plotting his assassination, Antonescu insisted that King Carol II had to go. So, in September, Carol II abdicated and his young son became, once again, King Michael I of Romania but with Antonescu occupying the position of dictator. The Kingdom of Romania officially joined the Axis powers and Hitler had his secure source of oil as well as an additional ally for the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union.

The only individual Hitler had to worry about was the young King Michael who was as firmly in favor of the Allies as Antonescu and his government were of the Axis. And, it seems, Hitler was worried about the King but Antonescu was not. The Marshal of Romania was convinced that he was in control, the King was just a young man (he still thought of him as a boy) who was not at all interested in politics. And, true enough, at the outset of his (second) reign there was little the King could do, Romania being firmly in the Nazi grip. However, he would bide his time and slowly build up a network of reliable royalists who were loyal to him. He secretly kept himself informed by way of the BBC and various informants and was much more aware of what was going on both inside and beyond the Romanian borders than the dictator thought. Divisions in the country still existed, between the government and the Iron Guard as well as within the government itself between those loyal to Antonescu and those who opposed him. These spread to Germany as well with some of the Nazi leaders backing the Iron Guard and others, along with the army, backing Antonescu. In the end, there was an Iron Guard rebellion but Antonescu emerged victorious and had the organization wiped out, after which he firmly held control of the country. Hitler trusted him as he did no other.

The beginning of his end, and opportunity for King Michael, came with the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Antonescu was an enthusiastic supporter and contributed more troops to the invasion than all the other German allies combined, organized into the “General Antonescu Army Group” which was grouped with the forces led by German Colonel-General Eugen Ritter von Schobert. The contribution was also partly due to the fact that most assumed they would have to fight Hungary someday to regain the territory that had recently been ceded and they hoped that, if Romania proved most helpful in the war with Russia, Germany would favor them over the Hungarians. All such thoughts, however, came to an end with the disastrous Battle of Stalingrad, possibly the bloodiest battle in human history. The Romanian divisions were singled out for attack by the Soviet Red Army and they suffered horrendous losses. The momentum on the Eastern Front shifted in favor of the Soviets and, thereafter, Russian troops moved steadily closer to the Romanian border. And, as the war situation deteriorated and public discontent increased, young King Michael began to seriously plan how to take his country back.

It took time to get everything in place, to be sure that he had loyal people available at the right time to support him. The advancing Russians also had to be considered and whether the Allies would support the King as he tried to switch camps. Finally, in 1944, it was time for King Michael to act and launch his own royalist coup against Antonescu. The Allies, however, remained a cause for concern as the King had secretly sent out messages to them asking if they would grant Romania an armistice only to receive no reply. This was, in all likelihood, because Winston Churchill (whom he had contacted) had already agreed that Romania would be placed in the Soviet sphere of influence in exchange for Greece being reserved for the British sphere. Nonetheless, the King boldly went ahead, requesting Antonescu to meet with him on the afternoon of August 23. The Marshal arrived alongside a general who was party to the conspiracy and a group of royalist army officers waited secretly in the next room as Antonescu was brought before the King.

King Michael speaks
King Michael calmly asked the dictator to take Romania out of the Axis and make a separate peace with Russia. Of course, he refused and when the general beside him suggested a change in government might be in order, the haughty Marshal scoffed that they could not seriously consider putting the country in the hands of a “child” referring to King Michael. He underestimated his monarch to the last. At a signal from the King, the officers next door burst into the room, saluted him and placed the Marshal under arrest. After briefly trying to order them to stop, Antonescu realized that he was isolated and had been outmaneuvered by King Michael. At that point, the King had to move quickly, arresting pro-Antonescu officials, setting up a communications center and appointing a new administration for the country. In a hastily organized broadcast, King Michael announced that Romania was leaving the Axis, that democracy was restored and he declared peace with Russia. Crowds of war-weary Romanians soon gathered around the palace shouting, “Long live the King!” On the advice of his officials, the King then left Bucharest, coming under fire as went and it was a good thing too as German forces shelled the palace that same day, demolishing the room where the King would have been staying.

Loyalist troops began rounding up the Germans in the country over the next few weeks as Romania put itself in the Allied camp but the Soviet troops who crossed into the country did not come as liberators but killed and pillaged as they went, taking prisoner all Romanian troops they encountered who had been ordered not to resist since the Soviets were then supposed to be their allies. The Soviets also began picking out communist traitors who would be subservient to them to form a new socialist regime when the country was completely taken over as it was in due course. In the meantime, King Michael ruled by royal decree until a new parliament could be elected and in September of 1944, in Moscow, he formally signed the armistice with the Allied nations and pledged Romania to the Allied cause. However, the Soviets demanded crippling reparations and the return of Bessarabia and Bukovina as well as ordering the King to choose a new prime minister. King Michael did so but, in an act of defiance, chose a prominently anti-communist one. Red Army troops terrorized, intimidated and stirred up trouble which they then offered to put down so long as the King appointed the leader that Stalin preferred. He had no choice but to comply.

King Michael, his situation showing on his face
The British and Americans demanded a return to democratic government with U.S. President Truman refusing to agree to an armistice until Romania did so. This, the King thought, was a life-saving opportunity for his country. However, to his horror, the elections would not be held until 1946 by which time the Soviets had firmly taken control of the country and terrorized everyone into voting for the candidates favored by Stalin. Romania had been abandoned by the western democracies to the Soviet Union and King Michael was little better than a prisoner in his own palace. The war was over for Romania but the monarchy had not long to live. The following year, tired of his continuous resistance and refusal to leave the country and abandon his people, the communists finally forced King Michael to abdicate by threatening to start massacring Romanian students if he did not sign the document. He did so, all of his property was confiscated and he was forced into exile.

World War II was a conflict that the Kingdom of Romania did not want to fight. King Carol II declared neutrality when it started and the country only joined in when all power was in the hands of Antonescu. King Michael took the country out of the Axis and out of the war but was undercut by the post-war settlement that gave Eastern Europe to Stalin. Yet, his action, which so shocked everyone, proved the value of monarchy. It was only because of the existence of the Romanian monarchy and the person of King Michael and the loyalty that he, an inexperienced but intelligent young man, commanded as monarch that he was able to bring down a dictator who had seemed totally unassailable. That was the power, not of an individual young man, but the power of monarchy. Happily, the era of Soviet domination did finally come to an end and King Michael was returned to his country. It is only unfortunate that his country has not been returned to him.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

First Savoy Reign over Sicily

The island Kingdom of Sicily was first under the reign of the House of Savoy from 1713 to 1720 during the reign of King Vittorio Amedeo II. It came about as a result of Piedmontese participation in the War of Spanish Succession alongside Great Britain and Austria. At first, it was proposed to give the House of Savoy both Naples and Sicily (at the time separate kingdoms) but as the Hapsburgs still ruled in Naples this was finally dropped. King Vittorio Amedeo II was more interested in gaining Milan which the Savoy had been reaching for over many years but his Dutch and Austrian allies objected to this. The British, under Queen Anne, finally took decisive action and, being in command of the Mediterranean thanks to the success of the Royal Navy, announced that Sicily would be given to the House of Savoy and King Felipe V of Spain had little choice but to agree and renounce his claim on the island. The British tried to maintain a commanding influence but King Vittorio Amedeo II refused to grant British merchants any additional favors than they had known previously under the Spanish. Still, Britain was convinced that Sicily would be better off and the region more stable under the Savoy.

The King & Queen depart for Sicily
King Vittorio Amedeo II and Queen Marie d’Orleans arrived in October of 1713 to formally take possession of their new kingdom and were given a joyous welcome from the local population when they were delivered to Palermo by a British naval squadron. Early the next year the Sicilian parliament was assembled to officially swear their allegiance to the new king and the Savoy Crown. The Kingdom of Sicily was to remain legally separate from the continental realms of the House of Savoy but in personal union through King Vittorio Amedeo II. However, there did arise some complaints that the King was putting Piedmontese officials in positions of importance after being less than impressed with the state of affairs that he found on the island with widespread waste and corruption. Still, the Sicilians could not complain too much since financial aid also poured in from Turin to allow Sicily to balance its budget. A census was taken of all people and livestock and the King introduced beneficial reforms to the tax system and the customs office which had been riddled with corruption. Still, many groaned at the additional ‘special taxes’ that had to be implemented to carry out these changes.

The Hapsburgs did not recognize the treaty, the Treaty of Utrecht, by which the Savoy gained the Kingdom of Sicily and so, being just across the straights in Naples, King Vittorio Amedeo II placed priority on improving the coastal defenses of Sicily and raising a new army which consisted of two regiments of volunteers and a unit of royal guards. When King George I came to the British throne and the Royal Navy was withdrawn from the Mediterranean, King Vittorio Amedeo II also took care to expand the Sicilian navy to pick up the slack. The King, of course, ultimately had to return to Turin but left behind a Viceroy to rule in his place. The Viceroys had plenty of problems to deal with as, despite the renunciation of Felipe V, the Spanish maintained agents on the island who spread pro-Spanish and anti-Savoy propaganda and encouraged resistance. The reconciliation between France and Austria also posed a potential threat. There was also a ridiculous and frustrating dispute with the Holy See over Savoy rule of the island.

King Vittorio Amedeo II
Problems with the Church came about when a local bishop objected to having to pay an import duty on chickpeas. He excommunicated the local customs officials, which some might call just a slight overreaction, but the Tribunal of the Monarchy, which was set up to exercise the special ecclesiastical authority traditionally given to the kings of Sicily since the Norman era, nullified the excommunications. The bishop then placed his entire diocese under the interdict and left to ask help from Rome. The issue was further complicated by the fact that the Pope, Clement XI, did not recognize the authority of the tribunal because he did not recognize the right of King Vittorio Amedeo II to the throne of Sicily because, claiming it as a papal fief and the King of Sicily his vassal, the change in royal leadership had happened without his approval. The King sent agents to Rome to reach an amicable agreement but the Pope refused to consent to the clergy paying any taxes or import duties and ordered the tribunal abolished. The King refused to disband the tribunal and refused to be invested as a vassal of the Pope, on the grounds that Sicily was a sovereign kingdom. The Pope then re-issued the excommunications and interdict as well as placing spiritual restrictions on the local clergy who were loyal to the King while the King had pro-papal clergy arrested. Finally, the Pope did consent to the existence of the tribunal if he could control it but as he still refused to recognize the King, there was no agreement.

The era of Savoy rule over Sicily started to come to an end in 1717 when the Spanish attacked Sardinia which was then ruled by the Hapsburgs. This set off the War of the Quadruple Alliance with Spain on one side and the British, French, Dutch, House of Hapsburg and House of Savoy on the other. The following year the Spanish also invaded Sicily. The British navy won a victory that stranded the Spanish forces and the Austrians sent troops in from Naples. Spain was finally forced to concede defeat but Savoy rule over Sicily would not be restored. Instead, the allied powers essentially forced King Vittorio Amedeo II to take the Kingdom of Sardinia in exchange for Sicily. Although his forces had held no control over the island since 1718, the official hand-over did not occur until 1720 and the King did not relinquish his title as ‘King of Sicily’ until 1723 and was still seeking compensation for the loss as late as the autumn of 1729. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Japan, Comfort Women and How to Lose an Argument

For those who do not know, “comfort women” is the term used to describe prostitutes who served the old Imperial Japanese Military at military brothels which were known as “comfort stations”. Originally, these comfort women were all Japanese but after the Japanese annexation of Korea they came to include Korean women as well. During World War II, as Japanese forces conquered southeast Asia, other nationalities became comfort women also. These comfort women are at the center of a long-standing dispute between Japan, South Korea and to a lesser extent Red China (they mostly do funding and let the Koreans do the public activities). Activists on the Korean side have claimed that this was an institutionalized system of sex slavery run by the Imperial Japanese Army and the Japanese government and that hundreds of thousands of women were sexually enslaved, raped and abused by the Japanese in and around World War II as a matter of official policy (an important point). Many Japanese dispute this and some quite vociferously so. However, those who do have done themselves more harm than good and, in the end, are helping the anti-Japanese crowd more than anyone.

An event that happened recently in the United States concerning this issue is a good object lesson in exactly what NOT to do if you want to be persuasive in turning people to your way of thinking. Everyone can benefit from this. It should be stated at the outset that, when it comes to the comfort women issue, there are plenty of facts and more just plain common sense on the side of the Japanese. I have spoken about this issue before (elsewhere) and have looked into both sides of the argument. The problem with the Japanese side is not so much in their facts as their presentation. So, here is the first important tip for anyone trying to win an argument or convince someone of something: know who you are trying to persuade and why. The Japanese making this argument have had a very hard time when it comes to getting their story straight. All too often they lose focus by trying to deny that Japan ever did anything wrong that they get off topic and lose credibility by trying to argue that they alone have been pure and blameless at all times. This becomes an issue when dealing with the comfort women, as we shall see. They also do not seem to know exactly who they are trying to convince of their point of view. In this case, the primary target is Americans and recent events have shown just how badly this was not understood.

In recent years, Sino-Korean organizations have erected comfort women statues in a few American cities. These have all been very leftist areas and done in cooperation with the local governments. Many in Japan were very upset by this and, originally, many Americans were inclined to side with Japan. Leftists, feminists and minority pressure groups were always on the Sino-Korean side and are never going to be anything else but most Americans, and especially conservative Americans, were inclined to side with Japan, even knowing nothing about the issue. It caused quite a stir in the news and most Americans had no idea why these statues were being set up. What did any of this have to do with the United States? No one knew, and mainstream Americans, especially those on the right, dislike immigrant groups bringing feuds from their former countries to the United States. Japan got another boost of sympathy when Korean communities in certain areas began pressing people such as the state government of Virginia to change American textbooks to rename the Sea of Japan the “East Sea” (as it is known in Korea). Japan was well placed to win such arguments. The comfort women issue had nothing to do with the U.S. and caused unnecessary divisions and ugly scenes. Many Americans disapproved.

However, then along comes a young, far-right Japanese filmmaker named Yujiro Taniyama. He decided to hand the Sino-Korean pressure groups an easy victory by making this issue America’s business when he made a very long documentary on the subject and came to debut it at Washington Central University. The result was a disaster of face-palming proportions. In looking into this person, after the fact, this should not have come as a surprise to anyone and illustrates why the far-right in Japan is their own worst enemy. They don’t know what they are arguing “for” nor do they seem to know exactly “who” they are trying to win over with their arguments. Many have tried to reach western audiences with their perspective by supporting western writers who will spread their point of view. However, this has invariably resulted in an echo-chamber in which the only people listening are the people who already agree. Examples include people like the now elderly Henry Scott Stokes from Britain and Michael Yon from America, people who criticize their own country but have nothing but praise for Japan. As one can well imagine, such views go over well in Japan but not so well in Britain or America. If, for example, you are trying to persuade people in Britain to listen to both sides in the comfort women argument, the leftists are a lost cause and for the conservative, proud British people, Henry Scott Stokes is going to offend more than persuade with his constant portrayal of Japan as the only righteous country in World War II, the “light of Asia” that liberated oppressed people from the terrible slavery of the British Empire. Yeah, that’s not going to be a big hit with proud, Queen and Country Britons. One Max von Schuler-Kobayashi is another example, a man who says he is an American (living in Japan) but who is the most virulent anti-American one can imagine. He is not going to persuade anyone in the United States of anything unless it is to view all Japanese as enemies.

When Yujiro Taniyama came to WCU to screen his film, had anyone looked into his past remarks, they would know immediately that, despite his fluency in English, he was not the right person to be making this case. Some at the university did and immediately there was an effort to put together a rebuttal forum to be held alongside the screening of his film. The title of the film alone would put people off, it was called “Racist America: The Scottsboro Girls”. One would think it goes without saying but an important tip in making an argument is not to start off by insulting the very people you are trying to persuade. When you begin by calling people “racists” or their country “racist” they tend to stop listening or will take a very negative view of anything you say after that. Allow me to describe in detail exactly what happened because, as mentioned, it was a perfect example of what NOT to do at absolutely every step.

The Scottsboro boys with their attorney
Mr. Taniyama showed up wearing an American flag baseball cap and bib-overalls. He looked like he was going trick-or-treating as a “redneck”. Right off, this will offend people who think he is a redneck and it will offend rednecks who think this foreigner is mocking them. Before screening his film, Taniyama spoke at great length, almost to the point of saying everything the film would say before it showed. He did two very damaging things; he made the comfort women issue an American issue and he insulted everyone in the United States. He also decided to make this something racial and, when looking into his past remarks, this is not too surprising as he has spoken numerous times on the “White people are all racists” theme. However, he made it still worse for himself by the title of his film alone, first by calling America racist and then by borrowing the name of the infamous “Scottsboro Boys” case from American history. This was a case in which a group of Black men were accused of raping some White women who were later found to have been lying about the incident. The title alone managed to offend both White and Black Americans.

Additionally, in this vein, his casual use of the “n-word” did not help either. He did not call anyone that, but it is not a good thing to say, especially for someone in his position. This may have been a misunderstanding but when in doubt it is best not to use such a controversial word at all. Some older Americans, for comparison, see nothing wrong with the term “Jap” anymore than they would the term “Brit” to refer to someone from Britain. However, Japanese people consider this a racist term and it would not be a good idea to go to Japan and make a speech in which you toss around the term “Jap”. It should not take much cultural understanding to know this was not a good idea. During his long speech, he also made numerous “jokes” that were sure to inflame both sides of the political spectrum in America. He made cracks about Hillary Clinton, offending liberals, feminists and Democrats as well as cracks about buying guns at Wal-Mart, offending conservatives, NRA members and Republicans. He complained about the liberal media trying to silence him, offending the left, and mocked Fox News, offending the right. His insulting remarks about the comfort women themselves did his cause no good as basically calling unfortunate, elderly women a bunch of whores just makes you look bad, not them. He also attributed opposition to his point of view to “evangelical feminists” which would offend left-wing feminists and right-wing Christians at the same time.

The result of all of this was that many people walked out before the film even started. By the time he finished ranting only 15 to 20 people remained in the room. Contrast this to the at least 200 people who attended the nearby anti-Japanese rebuttal forum, staying for the duration. Which side came away the winner is easy to see. Why was this? The Korean side played on feelings of compassion, pulled at the heartstrings and, very importantly, did not openly insult their audience. They also had a single, consistent narrative. Mr. Taniyama had some facts too but these do little good if your presentation turns people away from even listening to you and the result is that the Sino-Korean side came away looking like the innocent, sympathetic victims and Japan, the most successful East Asian country and the most venerable monarchy in the world, came away looking like an America-bashing country of anti-White racists. “Blame the racist White people” seems to be a favorite tactic of Mr. Taniyama as seen in this tweet that was brought to my attention regarding an appearance he made on the anti-western Al-Jazeera network:
This is something easy to sell in certain quarters but it is precisely in those quarters where the Japanese conservatives are never going to win any support while alienating those who ARE most inclined to listen to and sympathize with them. Know who you are trying to persuade.

As to the facts of the matter at issue, comfort women were, by and large, sex workers and not sex slaves. Some were not, some were abducted and some were treated viciously and they deserve sympathy. However, to argue that the comfort women system was part of some government-organized sex slave business is completely untrue. Mr. Taniyama quoted a few university historians (from a country he called racist) to back this up but it would not convince many people. Nor is it necessary as simple common sense would tell most people, if they can be persuaded to listen, that Japan would not be able to forcibly abduct and confine 200,000 women while at the same time fighting a world war. It is not an argument, in my view, Koreans should make (as they are most often associated with it). Koreans were not the only comfort women, Koreans served in the Japanese military and availed themselves of the services of the comfort women the same as the Japanese did. Japan issued an apology for this in the past and paid reparations to the Korean government for this, in fact to the President of Korea who was the father of the current President of Korea. I just don’t think it is a good or healthy subject to try to make into an international issue, just from a Korean perspective. Any country should desire to be respected rather than pitied and, to me, no one connected with this issue comes away from it unsullied.

It would have been better, certainly for Japan, if this had remained simply a Korean-Japanese issue but people like Mr. Taniyama succeeded in making it an American issue as well. This is where controlling your message and keeping focused comes into play. First, he made it an American issue by blaming it on “American racism” which was not smart. Secondly, in an effort to spread the blame around, he asserted that American forces made use of comfort women after World War II. Which is true, though they were not Koreans, they were Japanese prostitutes that the government recruited to basically take care of the American occupiers to prevent them from raping decent Japanese ladies. There was some of that, as there always will be. However, Mr. Taniyama and many on his side often hold up as evidence an American army report from 1944, during the war obviously, that stated that the comfort women were prostitutes or “camp followers” (of which there is a long tradition) rather than sex slaves. That would be a compelling piece of evidence were it not for the fact that these same people accuse the American government and military of being flagrantly dishonest and deceptive and of using comfort women themselves. It undermines their own argument that the U.S. report, made during war time, must have been true since they would not have lied in Japan’s favor since they also claim that the U.S. did lie about everything bad they say Japan did and that they were using comfort women as well. By trying to make the U.S. military complicit in the act, they also give the U.S. a good motive to say that the comfort women were sex workers rather than sex slaves. You can’t have it both ways.

The truth is that most comfort women were sex workers just as there are sex workers today and all through history. It is also true that some were not, some were forced into it by elements in the military and treated horribly. Some Japanese have admitted this and expressed deep sorrow over it. However, the question of the willingness of the women involved to work at comfort stations is a difficult one. Even for those who were paid and given good treatment, most women in the sex industry, then or now, are not there entirely willingly. No little girl says she wants to be a hooker when she grows up. They deserve sympathy and not insult. Many, then as now, are forced into prostitution by poverty, family pressure or other reasons. During the war, some were forced in by the military but it was not a matter of official policy. Some people in Japan have made this case in the west and made it very well. The best example I have seen, about 98-99% perfect I would say, was Mr. Yoshihisa Komori who was interviewed on CNN by an obviously skeptical Fareed Zakaria in 2007 (you can watch the interview here). He did almost everything right. He did not insult his audience, he did not show contempt for the comfort women nor did he deny that some were abducted and abused and that he was very sorry for that and what happened to these unfortunate women. Still, he calmly related that this was not part of an official policy and that Japan was being held to a different standard than other countries. He said, basically, that it was a terrible wrong that had been done, Japan was sorry for that and paid reparations for it but it was not official policy, not something to condemn all Japanese for all time over. And he was perfectly correct.

The days of friendship I value most
Since then, Mr. Komori has been rather frustrated that his side of the story has not taken hold in America or other western countries. Part of the problem is that the excellent work of several gentlemen like Mr. Komori can all be undone by the antics of one Taniyama and those like him. For the Korean side of the argument, as I have said, I don’t think this is something that serves them well to make an issue of, they were as complicit in what went on as the Japanese in those days when Korea was part of the Japanese Empire. However, for the Red Chinese it is a very transparent effort at undermining the Japan-U.S. alliance which blocks their desired expansion. Certainly they will never be able to grab the Senkaku Islands as long as the alliance is in effect. But, as stated at the outset, if you are going to have a debate, it is important to keep in mind your ultimate purpose in the debate and toward this end many Japanese on the far-right score own goals. They revert back to a World War II mindset in which America is the enemy, “White” people, Europeans and European-Americans are all racist imperialists and they do a better job of undermining the alliance than the Red Chinese ever could by such outdated and one-sided rhetoric. If the goal of Red China is to break up the U.S.-Japan alliance and isolate Japan from friendly western countries, these people and their western supporters are being a great help to them. And, of course, the more sensational, the more media coverage.

It is also important to understand who is most likely to be receptive to your point of view and hear you out. In the United States (and the United Kingdom and probably others) there is a very tight bond between the radical feminists and the far-left. This had led to the Democratic Party campaign accusing their Republican opponents of waging a “war on women” and this has only increased with the latest presidential campaign for Hillary Clinton. Obviously, the American left is not going to want to hear anything that Japan has to say about the comfort women issue. It also doesn’t help that we have known since the Bill Clinton administration that they have received large donations from the Red Chinese. However, for all of these reasons, conservatives in America would be all the more likely to listen to and understand the Japanese side of the argument. However, that potential for cooperation is destroyed by going off into other issues, anti-American statements and accusations of racism. It is also the right in America that most believes in opposing Communist China and supporting Japan, yet this can easily be undermined by anti-American, anti-western or anti-White people in general statements from people on the far-right in Japan and their western spokesmen. It does no one any good but those who are the real enemies of both Japan and America and even Europe.

All would be better advised to follow the example of the Japanese Imperial Family. His Majesty the Emperor has never hesitated from expressing his support for proper, healthy patriotism in Japan, flying the flag, singing the anthem, honoring forefathers and the sacrifices of those who have served their country and august monarch. He has also never hesitated to express regret for the war, a very sublime attitude to take; no accusations, no recriminations, simply sorrow that such a horror ever happened and resolution that it not happen again. Earlier this year, on the occasion of his birthday, His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince said, “I myself did not experience the war…but I think that it is important today, when memories of the war are fading, to look back humbly on the past and correctly pass on the tragic experiences and history Japan pursued from the generation which experienced the war to those without direct knowledge.” Many took this as a criticism of the far-right but it is simply good, sound, wise advice. Do not ignore misdeeds but do not wallow in guilt and recriminations. Do not cover up and do not exaggerate, be truthful, reflective and learn from the past. Terrible things did happen during the war and practically no one escaped with clean hands but a tragedy is something to be remembered solemnly and not used as a club to beat innocent people with today. His Majesty the Emperor and the Imperial Family, as always, set a matchless example that all others would do well to follow.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Greek Demands for Compensation Today

Although it is off-topic for this dusty, little corner of internet, having recently talked about Greece in World War II it seemed relevant to also say a few words about the recent demands by the Greek government for further reparations payments from the Federal Republic of Germany which, so far, the German government has not taken seriously. In my view it is not something the Germans should take seriously and, for once, I suspect most of world opinion is on my side in that. Coming as it does at a time when Greece, having spent itself into ruinous debt by a succession of leftist governments so that no one now regards them as a good credit risk, most see this as a transparent effort to force more money from Germany rather than putting their own fiscal house in order. I should also say that, in my view, most cases of reparations payments have seemed unfair to me as they rarely involve the government which actually committed the crimes in question being the ones forced to pay up. This is certainly the current case in regards to Greece and Germany. That might as well be the first issue to be addressed.

The current Hellenic Republic is demanding reparations from the current Federal Republic of Germany in compensation for crimes committed by the former Nazi State of Germany against the former Kingdom of Greece. In other words, the Greek republic is today demanding payment from a government which has done them no harm. Putting aside the issue of the governments involved, only a very few (and ever shrinking) number of people alive in Greece today ever suffered from German occupation just as very few Germans are alive today who were anything more than innocent children at the time of the invasion and occupation of Greece. There is no obvious justification then for the German people of today being expected to pay for wrongs which were committed by their grandparents or great-grandparents to a Greek population which has, for the most part, been born long after such wrongs were committed. That the Greek people suffered under the German occupation is not in question nor is it doubted that many Greek people are still suffering today but those Greeks who are suffering today have only their own governments and, more often than not, their own electoral choices to blame for that.

Secondly, the selective nature of this demand for reparations makes it appear to be more an attempt at moral blackmail than a genuine quest for just compensation. As was mentioned in the previous article on Greece in World War II, most of the country, for most of the war, was under Italian occupation and the acts of cruelty committed by the Italians against the Greeks were few and far between. Additionally, part of Greece was also occupied by the Bulgarians and there were many acts of cruelty meted out to the Greeks in that zone of occupation. However, we only see the current Greek government demanding reparations from Germany and not from the Italians or Bulgarians; perhaps because neither of these countries have the money to give that the Germans do? There were also numerous acts of barbarism committed against the Greeks by the Greeks themselves during the war and in the civil war that grew out of it. These were invariably committed by revolutionary organizations, many of them communists, whose acts of resistance were what often prompted the reprisals by German forces for which the Greeks are now demanding reparations.

That brings me to the third point which is that one of the complicating matters in terms of war-time guilt in cases like this is the role played by collaborators. This was also the case in Greece where republican General George Tsolakoglou declared the monarchy abolished and set up the “Hellenic State” which collaborated with the Axis powers occupying the country. He was followed by two other collaborationist leaders, the last of which did not collaborate as much as the Germans were soon forced out of the country. It was this government which paid the so-called “war loan” to Nazi Germany for which the legitimate Greek government later demanded reparations. It was also this collaborationist government which helped the Germans in requisitioning supplies from the already hard-pressed Greek population which resulted in the “Great Famine” in the winter of 1941-42 that cost about hundreds of thousands of Greek lives. Their suffering was immense but some Greeks were complicit in that suffering along with the Nazis and the ring-leaders did not face all that harsh of a punishment. Tsolakoglou was convicted of treason but never executed, he died of disease three years after the war still in prison and his successor fled the country to Nazi Germany, was arrested by the Americans who handed him over to the Greeks who first sentenced him to death but then reduced that to life in prison and then reduced that. He was released in 1951 and died peacefully at home a decade later.

Does this seem like justice? It was certainly a far less harsh fate than befell Hitler, Mussolini or Tojo. For the record, the actions of collaborators does not, in my view, negate the suffering of other people, the vast majority of whom opposed the occupation forces whether they actively resisted or not. However, I do think that it should lessen the “victim-hood” status of such countries where there was widespread collaboration with the side later deemed to have been the guilty party. There are other examples of this, in fact far more troublesome than that of Greece I would say. In France, for example, the level of collaboration with the Nazi regime was far more extensive than most realize and was something that the post-war French government of Charles DeGaulle tried very hard to hush up and forget about in favor of a new narrative of unrelenting resistance to the Nazis to help rebuild French national pride. However, certainly the most egregious example must be that of the Indonesian dictator Sukarno who extracted a huge amount of reparations from a defeated Japan even though he himself had been a Japanese collaborator during the war. In short, he demanded and received compensation for crimes committed by the Japanese occupation forces in his country which he himself helped them to commit!

This latest Greek demand for compensation is also a case of double-dipping and hypocrisy. Although, again, the current Greek government is certainly not alone in trying to run this scam, using guilt to try to coerce a country to pay more than once for wrongs committed in the past. In 1960 West Germany paid the Greek government 115 million D-Marks in compensation for the crimes committed by the Nazis in Greece during the war. The Greek government has since claimed that this was not supposed to be the final amount but in 1990, prior to re-unification, East and West Germany signed another agreement with the Americans, British, French and Russians in which these countries renounced all rights held in Germany, allowing for reunification and for Germany to become a united country with the same rights and obligations as any other. It was supposed to be a return to normalcy and an end to the World War II punishments against Germany.

Keeping that in mind, when the Greek government recently demanded a whopping $303 billion from the Federal Republic of Germany in war reparations, the Germans pointed to the aforementioned agreement with the U.S., U.K., France and Russia which was called the “Treaty on the FINAL Settlement with Respect to Germany” (my emphasis) and that this had concluded all such matters and further reparations would not be discussed. The Greeks objected to this on the grounds that they had not been party to any such agreement. The Germans responded to that objection with the simple statement of fact that Greek involvement was irrelevant as Germany had surrendered to the Americans, British, French and Russians -not to the Greeks. Therefore, these were the only powers that Germany had to deal with in regards to what happened during the war. This is where the hypocrisy part comes in and, under the circumstances, it is rather funny.

The German response to this objection, by Greece, was that it was irrelevant as Germany had not been beaten by the Greeks and had not surrendered to the Greeks but was beaten by the Americans, British and Russians and so had surrendered to them. What is comic about this answer, and why the Greeks have nothing to say about it, is that this was exactly what the Greeks themselves had said in World War II. To over-simplify for the sake of brevity; while the Greeks were fighting the Italians at the front door the Germans had come in by the back door and taken them from behind. When the Greeks surrendered they were very adamant and very dramatic about specifically surrendering to the Germans and not the Italians who they said had not beaten them. As a result, Germany controlled the process and Italy was unable to annex any of the territory Mussolini had wanted for the Third Roman Empire. Thus, perhaps unwittingly, the German republic had caught the Greeks in a technicality of their own making by pointing out that Nazi Germany had not surrendered to Greece and thus had no need of satisfying Greek demands.

Finally, it is extremely doubtful that the Greeks will receive any of these new reparations that they are demanding. The German government has said it is a settled subject and if they do give the Greeks any money it will be because they choose to and not because they believe Greece is legitimately entitled to it. Almost everyone that I have talked to about this subject immediately came to the same conclusion, that this was simply a dishonest way of trying to force more money from the German bank that would loan them no more. It is a ridiculous proposition and the Greek politicians who came up with it have only hurt the image of their country on the world stage by putting it forward.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Greek Monarchy in World War II

The Second World War was the latest in a series of disasters which had befallen the Greek monarchy in the Twentieth Century. The man in charge, King George II, had already known his share of trials before the war began. During World War I he had followed his father, King Constantine I, into exile when the republican Venizelos had deposed him and placed Alexander on the throne to abandon neutrality and join the Allies. After the death of King Alexander an effort at republicanism was defeated when a plebiscite restored the monarchy in time for a war with Turkey, one of the many after-shocks of World War I. It was a disaster for Greece and forced King Constantine to abdicate in 1922 when his son succeeded him as King George II. However, the republicans were still scheming and only a year later George II was forced to leave the country after an attempted royalist coup failed. There was another republican effort and chaos in Greece as factions battled each other for power, the King looking on from a distance.

The communists were key players in this struggle and their revolutionary plots would bedevil Greece for many years to come. Coup followed coup, governments rose and fell at startling speed until finally order was restored in 1936 with the authoritarian regime of the staunchly royalist General Ioannis Metaxas. King George II backed Metaxas and approved his legislation banning political parties, abolishing the previous constitution and establishing a new regime which Metaxas called the “Third Hellenic Civilization”. Others referred to it as the “Fourth of August Regime” for the day that the de facto dictatorship was formally established. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, law, order and a new type of peaceful normalcy returned to the Greek kingdom. Today, the Metaxas regime continues to be a source of controversy as to how it is labeled. Outwardly, many then and since have viewed it as being of a kind with Fascist Italy, Nationalist Spain or Nazi Germany (though even among those there were considerable differences which the mainstream today tends to ignore).

However, despite the symbols, the uniforms, the nationalism and so on, the regime of Metaxas was most of all the product of necessity. Greece had stagnated from so many years of turmoil and in-fighting, the Greek position in Europe had plummeted and the country was in bad shape. Metaxas was authoritarian without question, suppressing dissidents, censoring the media and so on but it was all done to correct this downward spiral. If General Metaxas was a dictator, he was not a bad one. There was no cult of personality around Metaxas, loyalty was reserved for King George II. There was no effort to remake society really but rather an effort to revive Greek culture, Greek traditions and support the Greek Orthodox Church. Enemies were political and those singled out were those who had proven their treasonous tendencies in the past. There was no effort at setting up scapegoats, no racist legislation, no persecution of Jews. If Adolf Hitler admired Metaxas, it was of no great importance. Metaxas deferred to the King and there was no doubt that King George II viewed the Nazi regime with disgust and was, from start to finish, staunchly sympathetic with the Allied nations, particularly Britain.

Metaxas' party flag
When World War II erupted in Europe, Greece remained neutral but the King was prepared to step in and help the Allies if needed. The danger was the Kingdom of Italy. Despite early Italian support for Greek independence, tensions between the two countries had been deteriorating for years. Independent Greek forces had been driven out of Albania in World War I by the Italian army. In 1923 an Italian general and three aides were murdered in Greece with the government refusing any apology or compensation, prompting Italian retaliation. The Greeks demanded that Italy give them the Dodecanese Islands, after the Italian occupation of Albania, the Greco-Albanian border disputes were taken up by Rome. When Metaxas fortified the border with Bulgaria, which was tied by marriage to the Italian Royal Family, Italy took this as a hostile act. Enemies of the Fascist regime in Italy could also find safe haven in Greece which did not go unreported by the Fascist secret police. Things were tense but Metaxas was relatively confident that the good relations with Germany would prevent any direct action from Mussolini.

However, Metaxas was not taking anything for granted. He had already considerably modernized the Greek army and he began to build it up further to be prepared for any eventuality. That would prove extremely important very soon. Italians worried that the Greeks were planning an attack on Albania while their forces were concentrated in North Africa for the invasion of Egypt. After the fall of France, German forces also handed over to Italy captured messages from King George II of Greece offering Britain and France the use of Greek facilities such as air and naval bases should they need them. Finally, in October of 1940, an ultimatum from Mussolini arrived in Athens. The Duce demanded that the Greek government allow Italian armed forces free movement through Greek territory. It was a pretext and nothing more, no one in Rome expected Metaxas of all people to agree to it and he predictably refused. Within a matter of hours, four Italian columns began the invasion of Greece. However, despite the outward confidence of Mussolini, it was the Greeks who were much better prepared for this war.

Italian troops in Greece
Everything about the Italian invasion of Greece was wrong. It was the wrong time of year, cold and wet, in the wrong place, with the Greek army well placed in the rugged mountains and against the wrong enemy as Mussolini had underestimated the Greeks while overestimating his own strength. The result was an Italian invasion force that attacked a larger Greek army with the benefits of a superior position, superior knowledge of the ground and internal lines of support. After some initial success the Italian invasion quickly ground to a halt and the Greeks began to counter-attack, pushing the Italians out of Greece and advancing into southern Albania. When the British offered assistance, Metaxas confidently turned down the offer and promised that the Greek army would soon be marching down the streets of Rome. That was a mistake. As the Greeks advanced their advantages shifted to the Italians, their forces weakened and Italian reinforcements poured in to stabilize the situation. Their offensive ground to a halt as Italian troops repulsed their assaults and began to organize their forces for a more sober and serious offensive. Greek forces also took a severe pounding in the air war and King George II was obliged to ask the British to send all available assistance.

This turned out to be a major mistake for the Allied war effort. In North Africa, British forces were severely depleted in order to reinforce a hopeless battle in Greece. Most would not even arrive in time to participate in the battle. In the spring of 1941 the Italians launched another offensive that began to push the Greeks back, though losses were heavy and the gains were light. However, the coup in Yugoslavia that took that country out of the Axis and into the Allied camp prompted German intervention. Because the Greeks had concentrated all of their divisions on the Albanian border to stop the Italians, the Bulgarian border was almost totally undefended and it was from there that the Germans struck. The result was the swift defeat of the Greek forces and on April 23 King George II relocated to the island of Crete. When that position came under attack by German airborne troops, he was forced to relocate again to the safety of British headquarters in Egypt. By April 20 the Greeks had surrendered, the troops were given very honorable terms in recognition of how hard they had fought and most of Greece came under Italian occupation.

Germans occupy Greece
Mussolini had originally planned for a limited victory with Italy annexing only the northwest coastal region and some additional Aegean islands with Greece being compensated by being given the island of Cyprus from the British, whose defeat he also thought was impending. Only if things went much better than anticipated would the conquest of the whole country be considered and, of course, thing went much worse than the Duce had expected. In the end, Greece was occupied with Italy being responsible for most of it, Germany taking over some areas and islands in the east and Bulgaria obtaining a southern coastline. Ultimately, Italy never annexed any Greek territory. Churchill had blundered in undercutting his forces in Africa but he had nothing but praise for how hard the Greeks had fought, famously saying that, “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks”. However, for the Greeks, their suffering and struggle had only just begun. Those in the Italian zone of occupation were better off but those living under German occupation fared far worse and were the victims of numerous atrocities. Also in the Bulgarian zone there was a great deal of brutality resulting from the long history of bitter rivalry that characterized the Balkans.

Resistance movements, of course, emerged and they tended to be dominated by communists and other revolutionary republicans who saw this as their great chance to seize power with the King and Metaxas out of the country. King George II did not stay in Egypt long where he was made to feel unwelcome by the pro-Italian King Farouk and so he moved on to England. Regular Greek forces continued to serve alongside the other Allies in the Middle East theater of operations. At home, acts of resistance, first against the Bulgarians and then against the Germans, provoked harsh retaliation. Meanwhile, similar to what happened in regards to other countries in the region, the British government, seeing the preponderance of leftists among those fighting the Germans, pressured King George II to form a government-in-exile that was more to the left, casting off those who had been serving him when the crisis began. As a result, only two members of the Metaxas regime were left in the new government. However, Britain did stand up for Greece when dealing with the Soviet Union that expected to take control of the whole Balkan peninsula when the war was over. While the rest was consigned to the Soviet sphere of influence, Greece would not and the British stuck to their guns on that score.

King George II in Egypt
However, unlike areas in which Britain did not take such an interest, as German fortunes fell, the concern became less about combating the Nazis and more about which power would replace them as King George II and the Greek government-in-exile seemed to have so few supporters on the ground. Fortunately, those supporters were there and the Greek resistance increasingly grew into yet another Greek civil war. The violence was intensified in 1943 when the Kingdom of Italy sought an armistice. Some Italians were immediately taken prisoner by the Germans (and many were massacred) but a great many turned their weapons over to the Greek resistance fighters and some even joined their ranks. An anti-communist resistance did begin to arise as the war was clearly drawing to a close and Greeks, as well as the British supporting them, became more concerned that the end of hostilities might bring a soviet dictatorship being forced on Greece. Nonetheless, the Allies still tended to pressure the King to stay away from those who had previously held power in the Metaxas regime for no other reason than the cosmetic similarities it bore to their current enemies and the very liberal worldview the Allies were supporting.

It was an unenviable position for King George II to be in. While being publicly celebrated in London and Washington DC, he was obliged to name Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens to the post of regent in 1945 and he proceeded to appoint a mostly republican government. By this time the British had cleared the Germans out of Greece and the King had been rather forced to agree to yet another plebiscite on the future of the monarchy when the war was over. However, a rival communist government was also set up in Greece and so, as the Germans retreated, outright civil war erupted between the Greek royalists and the communists, backed of course by the Soviet Union. King George II was beginning to suffer poor health and the turmoil and suffering of his people took a heavy toll. Already his wife, Elizabeth of Romania, had divorced him, being unable to cope with the stressful life of the Greek monarchy and being increasingly sidelined he was forced to settle down in England and simply await the results of the struggle at home. Finally, in 1946, World War II having ended, the plebiscite was held and the communists boycotted it, allowing the royalists to sweep to an easy victory.

King George II addresses the U.S. Congress
In the autumn, King George II returned to Greece to a gutted and looted palace, a country in ruins and a public that was war-torn and bitterly divided. This was not the first time a Greek King had returned from exile nor was it the first time that a public referendum had resulted in maintaining the monarchy. However, that very repetition weighed on him. The enemies of the Crown were intractable and continuously resorted to treason and subversion at every opportunity. Indeed, the civil war continued in spite of the referendum, the communists adhering to their own soviet government and within six months, broken in health and spirit alike, King George II died on April 1, 1947. He was succeeded by his brother Paul. He too was sick with typhoid fever and his health as well as the situation in Greece prevented him from attending the marriage of his first cousin, Prince Philip, to Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain. Fortunately, things were set to improve, at least in the short term, though it is still a tragedy that King George II, who had endured so much in his life, was not around to see it.

By 1947 the British were no longer led by Churchill but by the leftist Clement Attlee who started decolonization and moving Britain in a socialist direction. Supporting Greece against communist insurgents was something Britain was no longer capable or, under the current government, very willing to do. The United States of America, from 1947, then became the major supporter of the Greek royalists with President Harry Truman pledging all necessary support for King Paul. Predictably, the communists in Greece began portraying the King and any loyal government of being puppets of the United States, playing on popular anti-American sentiments. Queen Frederika of Brunswick, a zealous anti-communist, was also singled out for particular attack by the treasonous press, some days attacking her for her German background, other times for her close ties with America. Eventually, however, under the steady leadership of King Paul, the civil war ended in a victory for the Greek royalists, peace returned and the economy began to recover. The republicans, as ever, did not go away and, once again, bided their time for another crisis to take advantage of in order to seize power. They would eventually get their chance and the world is free to view how Greece has fared under their rule.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Philippines and Monarchy

The Philippines, as we know it today, came into being as a result of the arrival of the Spanish in 1521 under the leadership of the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães), the first to circumnavigate the globe (though not him personally but I assume most know the story) and the man who first laid claim to what became the Spanish East Indies, which included The Philippines. Now, that statement alone may offend some people (what doesn’t these days?) but it is nonetheless true. Of course, the history of the islands we call The Philippines goes back much farther but it was not one country but a multitude of minor warring states, small factions and segments of other larger powers. It was the Kingdom of Spain that grouped together and organized as one political entity what eventually became The Philippines and who contributed to the unique blend that makes up the modern Filipino culture. The multitude of other contributors are all important but, in all that happened for the roughly three hundred years that Spanish monarchs reigned over The Philippines, the country would be something very different if none of that had ever happened. It certainly would not be what it is today. One of the things that is most unique and most admirable about The Philippines is the strength of faith there. It is the only majority-Catholic country in the region and Roman Catholic Christianity plays a central role in Filipino history.

King Philip II of Spain
Obviously, the Spanish monarchy was deeply involved in this. At the time of the arrival of Magellan, when the Spanish flag was first planted on Filipino soil, the King of Spain was Carlos I, better known as Emperor Charles V (“of the German nation”). The arrival of Magellan coincided with the outbreak of the Catholic-Protestant split, begun by Martin Luther, that divided Christendom (or at least the Catholic part of a Christendom already divided between Orthodox and Catholic Christians). As Protestantism spread across Germany and northern Europe, Catholic, and particularly Spanish Catholic (as Spain was then the most powerful Catholic country) footholds in places like America and The Philippines became extremely significant mission fields. Ultimately, this more or less worked and about as many new Catholics were converted in places like Central America and The Philippines as were lost to the Church of Rome to Lutheranism. In The Philippines, as was common with European colonial expansion, the Spanish foothold began with the arrival of Magellan and his alliance with an existing local state against a neighboring enemy. In the case of Magellan, this resulted in a military adventure that ultimately cost him his life but other Spanish expeditions followed that claimed and eventually gained control of the islands for the Spanish Crown and it was Ruy Lopez de Villalobos who, in 1543, named them The Philippines in honor of King Philip II of Spain, Felipe II being the son and successor of King Carlos I (aka Emperor Charles V).

It was not until 1570 that the Kingdom of Manila, on the island of Luzon, was taken and it became the capital city and has remained so ever since. Until 1821 The Philippines were, within the Spanish empire, categorized with “New Spain” which was centered on what is today Mexico. It is interesting to note that Mexico was thus the Spanish colony most connected to The Philippines (in terms of trade and communication) and long after The Philippines were parted from Spain, the contribution of Mexico to the Allied cause in World War II, which consisted of the 201st Squadron (the “Aztec Eagles”) was in driving the Japanese out of The Philippines in 1945. The two countries have a unique connection. However, while Spanish forces were still expanding their control over The Philippines, threats of domination by another power were almost constant due to the key location of the islands astride the South China Sea trade routes. The powerful ruler of Japan, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, demanded that they become vassals of Japan but, of course, Spain was having none of that and Lord Hideyoshi was not in a position to do anything about it. There were attacks by the Dutch and the Portuguese on The Philippines, all basically fighting for control of commerce in the region and there was a very dangerous series of attacks from China. These invasions were not on the part of the Great Ming Empire but rather a notorious Chinese pirate named Limahong who tried to carve out his own pirate-kingdom in the islands. He managed to dominate some of the local rulers in eastern Luzon and attacked Manila but ultimately the Spanish and Filipino forces defeated him.

Empire of Brunei flag
The struggle of the Spanish in The Philippines could also be seen in the context of the larger war between Christian and Islamic forces in which Spain played a key part (North Africa, Malta, Lepanto, Vienna etc). The Empire of Brunei (yes, the tiny state was once an empire) had spread Islam in what would become The Philippines, replacing the earlier religious beliefs of the old states which had been most influenced by Indian culture (like much of Southeast Asia). Spanish and Filipino Catholic forces were thus fighting Islamic states in The Philippines at the same time Spanish and Austrian troops were battling Islamic expansion in Europe and the Mediterranean. However, the lack of political unity meant that the Islamic petty monarchies in the archipelago meant that they fought each other as much as anyone else and this enabled the Spanish to ultimately defeat all of them. In 1578 Spain declared war on Brunei after the local monarch, Sultan Saiful Rijal, refused an ultimatum from a Spanish envoy from The Philippines to allow Christian missionaries into his territory. The Sultan hoped to block the spread of Catholicism in The Philippines as well as to prevent Spain from gaining control of the local trade routes. In the resulting War of Castille, fought mostly by Filipinos on the Spanish side, the capital of Brunei was captured but the Catholic forces were decimated by disease and had to return to The Philippines.

My own tinkering -NOT an actual flag
Brunei still regards this as a great victory but it prevented Brunei from gaining control of Luzon and ended the largest foreign supporter of the Islamic forces still fighting the Spanish in Mindanao. The Spanish Governor-General of the time, Don Francisco de Sande, also worked to disestablish the large Spanish encomiendas (similar to feudal estates) where exploitation of the Filipinos was not uncommon. He enacted a law forbidding Crown appointees from owning such encomiendas. At one point, Spanish forces were so successful that footholds were established in the Maluku Islands of what is now Indonesia and on Formosa (what is now Taiwan) but these later had to be abandoned due to the threat of a Chinese attack on The Philippines themselves. Over the years, despite some alarms, Spain was able to protect The Philippines successfully from outside attack and to maintain control and protect commerce and communications throughout the many islands. This, however, points to one of the great misunderstandings of modern Filipino history or, at least, how it is told in relation to Spanish colonial power.

No people, whoever they are, enjoy being ruled by outsiders and there were plenty of examples of injustice on the part of Spain (and later the United States) for the Filipinos to have legitimate grievances over. However, while many today may not wish to acknowledge the fact, The Philippines were simply never presented with an option of being independent or subject to the colonial rule of a foreign power. The islands were not united, were not one country or one people before the Spanish and even if they had been, were too sparsely population because of rampant tropical diseases to ever be able to survive on their own. Thus, the only choice The Philippines ever had was which imperial power was going to have jurisdiction over them. If Spain had not ruled The Philippines, someone else would have and that fact was clear at the outset of the colonial period and would reoccur throughout Filipino history.

British King George III
Along with occasional attacks by Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and Japanese raiders (which decreased over time until stopping altogether) the Spanish were employed in suppressing numerous local rebellions over the centuries. Sometimes, such rebels could find outside support but of the sort that only would have resulted in a change of flags over the capitol building in Manila rather than actual independence. One often overlooked example was the British seizure of Manila in 1762 during the Seven Years’ War (that’s the French & Indian War to Americans). The Spanish government did not even know it had happened until the war was over. British troops operating out of India invaded The Philippines and captured Manila within 10 days from the surprised garrison. So, from 1762 to 1764 The Philippines were actually under the reign of King George III of Great Britain and Ireland before being returned to King Carlos III of Spain after the war when the peace settlement was arranged. The British had promised considerable support to anti-Spanish rebels led by Diego Silang (and later his wife who led the rebellion after Diego was killed). Diego Silang led an uprising and was rewarded with the rank of a local governor by the British Governor-General but the British never secured control of all of The Philippines and were effectively bottled up in Manila, unable to send him the promised troops and the rebels forces were crushed by the Spanish and pro-Spanish Filipino forces. Even if they had been successful or if the treaty negotiations had gone differently, it would not have meant independence for The Philippines but only that the Union Jack rather than the Cross of Burgundy would have flown over Manila.

Queen Isabel II statue, Intramuros
In 1821, with the independence of Mexico, The Philippines seemed to be under the jurisdiction of the Viceroy of New Spain and were from then on under the direct oversight of the government in Madrid. The royalist struggles in Spain between the Carlists and Cristinos also reached all the way to The Philippines though not in a violent way. In the 1850’s the people of Manila donated money to erect a statue of Queen Isabella II of Spain which was placed in what is now Lawton Plaza in 1860 (what was then near the Alfonso XII theatre). This statue became very symbolic of the monarchy in general in The Philippines. In the “Glorious Revolution” of 1868 Queen Isabella II was overthrown and a very liberal Governor-General of The Philippines was appointed named Carlos Maria de la Torre (according to one source he had been a Carlist but, if so, his politics must have changed dramatically). He wanted all traces of the former monarchy removed and ordered the statue destroyed, however, the man entrusted to do the job was a loyalist and hid it away instead. Although he proved to be exceedingly popular with the local population, the Governor-General was replaced with Rafael de Izquierdo y Gutierrez in 1871, appointed by the new Italian King of Spain Amadeo I. He preferred the “iron fist” to the “velvet glove” of his predecessor.

Prince Yamagata Aritomo
Insurgents rose up again and began to increasingly become better organized and more politically astute during what would prove to be the last years of the reign of the Spanish Crown over the Philippines. What has become known as the Philippine Revolution began and only intensified as the years passed. Yet, not every agent of the King of Spain was harsh in his dealings with the Filipinos. Governor-General Ramon Blanco is an example, a man who tried to be lenient with the rebels. However, local conservatives forced him out of office and when the rebel leader Jose Rizal was killed by royalist Filipino troops the former Governor-General took his sword and sash and presented them to the rebel leader’s family as an apology for their loss. Yet, again, no government recognized the Filipino rebels and during this time of difficulty for Spain there were numerous other powers that envisioned taking The Philippines for themselves. The two who seemed most eager were the Empires of Germany and Japan. In 1894 Prince Yamagata Aritomo, later Prime Minister of Japan, offered the Spanish 40 million pounds sterling to sign over ownership of the archipelago to the Japanese. During the Spanish-American War, the German East Asian Squadron kept a close watch on the conflict at Manila in case any opportunity should present itself for Germany to step in and take control of the Philippines.

The child King Alfonso XIII would be the last monarch The Philippines would ever have. Unrest continued to grow, aided in no small part by the number of people from Latin America who came to the islands whether in private occupations or in government positions, bringing with them a background in republicanism and opposition to Spain. Despite the best efforts of the Queen-mother, acting as regent, in 1898 war broke out between Spain and the United States, mostly over American support for the rebellion in Cuba. The Philippines was a place hardly anyone in America had ever heard of or thought about. Yet, during the war it stood out as an inviting target. Spanish control had been pushed back practically to the walls of the old city itself, (known as Intramuros) in Manila. After a brief battle, mostly a show for honor’s sake, the Spanish surrendered and, so to speak, tossed the Americans the keys as they were leaving. The Spanish flag was lowered, never to be raised again and, to the frustration of the Germans and Japanese, the United States stepped in as the new colonial power, the Spanish being paid about $20 million for their lost territory.

King Juan Carlos in the Philippines
That was the end for monarchy playing a national part in The Philippines. The rebel government of Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence (as a republic) the same year the Spanish-American War started but neither the U.S. nor any other power recognized his government and after American troops were attacked by Filipino rebels it was the start of another brutal counter-insurgency campaign. The only other brush with monarchy that The Philippines would have was during World War II when the country effectively became a colony of the Empire of Japan. Though a collaborationist regime was in nominal control there was no doubt that the Japanese were really in charge. Yet, oddly enough, The Philippines is probably the only country that counts itself amongst the Allies that regards its collaborationist regime as being legitimate, something the Japanese have always pointed to as proof that the Filipinos remain fond of their time within the Empire of Japan (the situation would be similar to the King of Norway recognizing Vidkun Quisling as a legitimate prime minister for comparison). Shortly after the war, as a republic of course, The Philippines finally became an independent country.

Queen Sofia during her most recent visit to The Philippines
Fortunately, relations between The Philippines and the Spanish monarchy have improved since the colonial era. In 1974 Prince Juan Carlos and Princess Sofia, on behalf of the government of Generalissimo Francisco Franco which they were soon to succeed, visited the Philippines and were received by President Ferdinand Marcos. The statue of Queen Isabella II, which had narrowly avoided destruction in the 1860’s had been put on display again in 1896 at the Malate Church in Manila. It was blown down by a typhoon in 1970 but five years later, on the occasion of a visit by King Juan Carlos, it was restored and put on display again, this time at the Isabel II gate to Intramuros where it still stands today as an illustration of the restoration of friendship with the Spanish monarchy. Members of the Spanish Royal Family have visited a number of times since, Queen Sofia making her fourth visit to The Philippines in 2012. Ties between Spain and The Philippines have increased over the years but solely in the areas of history and culture rather than politics with the only active royalist presence in the islands being those attached to the Islamic former states that pre-dated Spanish rule.
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