Friday, January 31, 2014

Imperial Friends of Texas: Japan

Most would assume that there could be no two places more father removed than Texas and Japan. However, there is, in fact, quite a deeply rooted historic connection between the Lone Star State and the Land of the Rising Sun. The most poignant, yet often overlooked, reminder of this connection dates back to 1914 and can be found in the heart of Texas, in the city of San Antonio and the most sacred spot for all Texans: the Alamo, “shrine of Texas liberty”. In a small courtyard at the Alamo, visitors will see a small monument bearing the following inscription:

Nagashino is the Alamo of Japan;
The Alamo is the Nagashino of America.
Whoever knows the heroes of the Battle of Nagashino
Knows the heroes of the Alamo

Likewise, if one were to travel to Okazaki, Japan to the remains of Nagashino Castle on the Shitaragahara plain in Mikawa province, one will find the exact same monument with the exact same inscription. This came about thanks to the efforts of Dr. Shigetaka Shiga, a professor of geography from Waseda University in Tokyo. Doctor Shiga was studying and noticed striking similarities between the 1836 battle of the Alamo and the 1575 battle of Nagashino in Japan. Both involved a small band of soldiers, barricaded inside a fortress, holding off a vastly superior enemy army, led by a young commander and sending out messengers calling for help. The difference was in the ending. In Japan, the defenders of Nagashino Castle were eventually rescued by the forces of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu while, as we know, there was no rescue for the Texans in the Alamo who fought to the death in the Mexican attack on the morning of March 6, 1836. The monument marks the similarities between the two events, telling their stories with exchanged names to highlight this. And, even though the outcomes were different, the fate of the Alamo defenders was also noted by the Japanese scholar as it called to mind the samurai spirit of preferring death before dishonor and, as he wrote:

But their fame, like the blossom’s fragrance, is still in the air.
The custom of the West does not necessarily condemn surrender…

The idea of a group of warriors fighting to the death against hopeless odds was something familiar to Japanese culture at the time and something to be respected. However, the monument had a more peaceful purpose, to encourage friendship and goodwill between the peoples of Japan and Texas, and thus the United States as a whole. When the monument was dedicated in 1914, attended by descendants of the Alamo defenders, Dr. Shiga said his goal was to, “make my people understand the friendliness, generosity, and hospitality of the inhabitants of far-off America”. Because of this shared historical bond, even today, Japanese tourists are a very common sight at the Alamo and the battles of the Alamo and Nagashino hold a special significance for Texas and Japan in relation to each other.

In other fields, although the Japanese presence in Texas has never been a large one, it has had a tremendous impact on Texas, particularly in areas such as agriculture and architecture. Rice cultivation has been common in East Texas ever since it was brought over from Louisiana but it was greatly improved thanks to the efforts of some of the first Japanese-Texans who were interested in finding more efficient ways to grow more rice to benefit both Texas and Japan. In 1903 Seito Saibara and 30 other Japanese colonists arrived in Webster in southern Harris County. Rice seed was sent as a special gift from HM the Emperor of Japan and within three years the rice harvest had almost doubled. Seito Saibara, along with his family, among the first Japanese-Texans, have been credited with establishing the Gulf Coast rice industry in Texas. Today, thanks to those early efforts, Texas is one of the largest rice producers in the United States. Later, other Japanese colonists arrived and joined the rice farming industry in various parts of Texas such as Port Lavaca, Fannett, Terry, Mackay, El Campo and Alvin, Texas. Many Japanese also settled in Mission, San Juan and San Benito in the Rio Grande Valley to grow vegetables and citrus orchards. Later, other Japanese families migrated from California to Texas due to racial bigotry being prevalent in California. Texas, the “Friendship” State, was more welcoming.

Of course, World War II put a strain on relations as with the rest of America and in one of the most shameful pages of American history, Texas was home to several of the concentration camps where Japanese-Americans were interned during the war. However, when it was over, goodwill returned quickly as Japan and America became Allies and even looking back at the war years, both sides were able to have a mutual respect for each other. A particularly beautiful example of this can be found in the hill country town of Fredericksburg, hometown of U.S. Admiral Chester Nimitz who led the naval campaign against Japan in World War II. There is a large museum there covering the admiral and the Pacific War as a whole but also a lovely garden, the Japanese Garden of Peace that was gifted to the museum by the Japanese government in 1976 on the 130th birthday of the town of Fredericksburg. The garden is an exact replica of that of the famous Japanese Admiral Togo. One of the greatest naval leaders in world history, Admiral Togo was greatly admired by Admiral Nimitz. Aside from the small town of Fredericksburg, big Texas cities like Austin, Ft Worth, Houston and San Antonio also have Japanese gardens. The Japanese-Texan who built the garden in Austin had a son, Alan Taniguchi, who trained thousands of architects as the dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas and director of the School of Architecture of Rice University.

There are also, of course, numerous Japanese restaurants, tea houses and art galleries in most every major city in Texas. One area in which Japan and Texas have grown quite close in recent years may be overlooked. Texas is known for cattle ranches and oil wells, space exploration and computer development but few probably know that it is a major center for Japanese anime in the United States. Today there are centers in New York and Los Angeles but Texas is still home to the biggest adaptors and distributors of this widely loved area of Japanese pop-culture. The cities of Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are where much of Japanese anime is sent to be dubbed into English and shared with the American public. Anime Network, Funimation Entertainment, Sentai Filmworks and many other of the biggest names in the industry are based in Texas and they largely employ local talent for their dubbing work so that a great many fans will by now by very used to watching Japanese animation performed by Texan voice-actors. With this industry of rather recent years, combined with the earliest Japanese colonists to East Texas to make rice cultivation a major industry, it is no surprise that Houston, Texas has probably the largest Japanese population in the state. Texas shares many values and interests with Japan and the Japanese have made quite an impact on Texas in business, agriculture, medicine, architecture and even the landscape and in food and entertainment. With great mutual respect and long-lasting ties of friendship, Texas and Japan will certainly only continue to grow stronger in the future.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Soldier of Monarchy: Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Gonzalo de Cordoba may be the most honored and widely respected name in the military history of Spain. Although other, later Spanish commanders conquered on a continental scale, it was from Gonzalo de Cordoba that they learned their trade and from whom they drew inspiration. In many ways the story of the Spanish army begins with him, the man known in Spain as “the Great Captain” and it is fully deserved that amongst military historians he is still considered one of the greatest and most influential battlefield commanders in the history of the world. Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, Duke of Terranova and Santangelo, Andria, Montalto and Sessa was born on September 1, 1453 in Montilla, Cordoba to Pedro Fernandez de Cordoba, Count of Aguilar and his wife Elvira de Herrera. A second son, he and his elder brother Alonso lost their parents at an early age and for Gonzalo, as a second son, his career path was generally seen as being limited to the Church or the army and, to the good fortune of Spain, he chose the army. As a teenager he was a page at the royal court attached to Prince Alfonso of the Asturias, half-brother of King Enrique IV of Castile. After Prince Alfonso died in 1468 Cordoba gave his first loyalty to the Prince’s sister Isabella of Castile.

Even at a very young age he participated in battles against the Moors as the Spanish war of reconquest was still raging. From 1482 to 1492 he served as a junior commander in the last stage of this longest war in history, sometimes alongside his sovereign lady Queen Isabella of Castile. He learned the art of war from the ground up by first-hand experience. He learned early on what worked and what did not, what things needed to change and how far courage and determination could take an army. By 1492 the 800-year long struggle to liberate Spain from Muslim rule was finally accomplished and Cordoba became known as a great soldier, at least in the limited scope of his duties at the time. He displayed great bravery and learned about siege warfare, tactics and engineering. At the siege of Montefrio he personally led an attack over the Moorish walls using scaling ladders. Spain was liberated and since the marriage of King Fernando of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile was at last united, at least personally if not fully politically. That same year Columbus was sent on his famous voyage to search for a western route to India but Castile and Aragon still had interests and responsibilities in other areas. One of these was Italy and for some time Spanish, French and occasionally German forces had been fighting for domination of the Italian peninsula in a series of conflicts known as The Italian Wars.

Although usually dated as lasting from roughly 1494 to 1559, the basic situation came about much earlier and in some ways would last until the unification of Italy in the XIX Century. Spanish royals were still ruling southern Italy at that time and it was no different in the XV Century. King Charles VIII of France had invaded the south and forced out the King of Naples, Alfonso II who was Spanish, his father Fernando I being the son of King Alfonso V of Aragon by one of his mistresses. The Republic of Venice, the Spanish kingdoms and the Germans decided to join together to stop the French conquest of Italy. Queen Isabella of Castile called upon her trusted soldier Cordoba and ordered him to take an army of 2,100 Spanish troops to aid the fallen Spanish King of Naples against the French. Unfortunately for Spain, by this time the French were veterans, having fought their way down the Italian peninsula to Naples whereas the hastily assembled army Cordoba had was ill-trained and inexperienced. Moreover, the Spanish and Italian forces proved unable to coordinate well and Cordoba was defeated by the French at the battle of Seminara on June 21, 1495; a disastrous and humiliating affair without doubt. However, Cordoba did not dwell on it but withdrew his army and took measures to make sure such a thing did not happen again.

Cordoba began to rigorously train his army and in quick order had made them a well organized and highly disciplined fighting force. Because their numbers were too few to have any chance against the French in a formal battle, Cordoba adapted to the situation and waged a guerilla war, harassing the French supply lines while avoiding their main armies. The strategy worked perfectly and as time went on the French grew steadily weaker and the Spanish steadily stronger. More risks could be taken, bigger prizes could be targeted and before a year had passed the French commander had been captured. By 1498 the brilliant tactics of Gonzalo de Cordoba had driven the French completely out of southern Italy and King Fernando II of Naples was able to assume the throne shortly before his death. Perhaps most incredibly of all, Cordoba had won all of this without fighting a single major battle. His fame grew rapidly as the man who had won back an entire kingdom while only fighting one traditional battle and that one being a loss. To many, he seemed like a miracle worker. Of course, skill, talent and tenacity played a large part and, as usual, Cordoba learned the lessons experience taught him and when he returned to Spain after the campaign was over, he set to work quickly reorganizing the Spanish army based on his own lessons in warfare.

Cordoba began arming the infantry with arquebuses (heavy, matchlock firearms) so that the troops would be divided into two supporting groups; the harquebusiers to blast holes in the enemy lines and the assault troops to make the attack with swords and pikes and more traditional weapons. He trained his forces in effective coordination between the infantry, cavalry and artillery and organized the army into separate maneuver forces that could be directed by the commander rather than simply throwing a large mob of armed men against each other as had previously been the case in most European battles since the fall of Rome. In time, this foundation would be built upon until the Spanish became masters of pike and musket warfare and would dominate the battlefields of Europe in the years ahead. Cordoba himself, however, first had to prove the benefits of his new ideas and the opportunity came with another French offensive in Italy. Once again, in 1503, Cordoba was dispatched to Italy and on April 28 he met the French near the Cerignola at a hillside vineyard. Cordoba instructed his 6,000 men to dig a defensive trench and this was barely accomplished when the 10,000-strong French army made their attack. Wave after wave of French troops charged the Spanish trench only to be blasted apart by the harquebusiers. The few who managed to reach the trench were quickly impaled on Spanish pikes. The French recoiled and launched a second attack but the results were exactly the same. Cordoba had just fought and won the first battle decided by the use of firearms and in doing so changed the art of war forever.

Sometimes, certain men and events are so pivotal in history that they are taken for granted. Cordoba, who was sometimes called the “Father of Trench Warfare” because of that battle, set a new standard for fighting that was so influential we can see the same basic concept still being played out as recently as the First World War. For Cordoba, however, it was just a part of his duty to his monarch and his country and continued on, following up his victory by occupying Naples and forcing the French to fall back to the Garigliano River. With the French on one side and the Spanish on the other a stalemate ensued but Cordoba eventually came up with another innovative plan. On the night of December 29, 1503 he brought up a pontoon bridge by section, carefully put it across the river and, as quietly as possible, moved his troops over it. By training his subordinate commanders carefully, everything was well coordinated and Cordoba proved his new methods worked as well in the attack as they did in defense. The French were taken completely by surprise and crushed in the furious Spanish attack. In January of 1504, Cordoba and his Spanish troops captured Gaeta and the French could no longer continue the war. France soon signed a peace treaty and surrendered their claim to Naples.

Although he was briefly made Viceroy of Naples, Cordoba had fought his last battle and his military career was at an end. Politics and his own success worked against him. His beloved sovereign lady, Queen Isabella of Castile had died and King Fernando II of Aragon was wary of Cordoba and his popularity. At the time, no one knew if the unity of Spain would last and King Fernando did not want anyone in Castile getting any ideas that Naples and Sicily were anything but the domain of Aragon. He recalled Cordoba who retired with his family to Granada. To his credit, Cordoba took it all with grace, remaining steadfastly loyal to King Fernando, obeying every order and never voicing complaint. Although given plenty of titles in congratulations, he was never again given an active military command. The Great Captain died of malaria which he had contracted during his service in Italy at the age of 62 on December 1, 1515. Still, his military innovation had changed the art of war forever and his victories inspired Spanish forces for generations. One of his subordinates was the father of Francisco Pizarro who would conquer Peru and most of the great Spanish conquistadores looked to the Great Captain as their hero. For many years to come the armies of Spain would win victories from Holland to Italy to Germany and Bohemia with the musket and pike combination that originated with Cordoba. A brilliant soldier and a loyal subject of his monarch, Cordoba fully deserves his reputation as a great Spanish hero and one of the most influential figures in military history.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mad Rant: Befriending Revolutionary Iran

Any monarchist today should be as appalled as I am at the number of people today who have any sympathy or, worse yet, support for the Islamic Republic of Iran. One can see this on both ends of the political spectrum and even among groups claiming to be neither left or right. You hear, in the west, people on the left saying that Iran is the poor, put upon victim of western bullying and that the countries of the west are somehow making the Iranian regime violent and belligerent by refusing to treat them the same as other countries that do not do things like stone people to death or sponsor terrorism around the world. On the other hand, there are those on the far right who have adopted the Iranian regime as some sort of hero for doing things like defying the liberal west, calling for violence against Israel and executing homosexuals. Then, there are also those few in the libertarian camp who argue that if we would only adopt a free trade treaty with Iran, they would eventually be converted to western liberalism through the benefits of capitalism. It makes for quite a witch’s supper with religious radicals being on the same side as socialist and capitalist atheists. However, as a monarchist, it astounds and disgusts me even more that anyone describing themselves as a monarchist or any sort of believer in traditional authority could be in any way sympathetic or supportive of the current Islamic Republic of Iran.

The current Islamic regime came to power by means of a violent revolution that was co-opted (as so many revolutions are) by an exiled fanatic who was a traitor to his country, his sovereign and, I dare say, even his religion. It shocks me that anyone considering themselves a monarchist could be in support of this. Iran was a strong constitutional monarchy in which the monarch had a powerful and central position, who was revered as a father figure to his people and he was brought down by a riotous and seditious mob, forced into exile and threatened and persecuted for the rest of his life. Yet, somehow, though the logic of it escapes me, some have truly adopted the mentality that any sort of progress is a sign of evil (though evidently not computers and the internet based on how often I hear from them) and that the Imperial State of Iran was worthy of death for such ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ as allowing western cinema into the country or allowing women to wear short skirts. Some people, claiming to be monarchists (and I say “claiming” because in this case they support the revolutionary republicans) somehow think that in the case of Iran it was the revolutionaries who were the true “conservatives” and that the last Shah and his monarchy were some sort of European social democracy with rampant immorality, secularism and perhaps even atheism (after all, they made peace with Israel and what sort of “good Muslim” doesn’t want to kill every Jew on earth?).

That anyone claiming to be a monarchist or a lover of tradition could have any sympathy at all for the Islamic Republic of Iran, frankly, leaves me nearly speechless. Like the proverbial mosquito in the nudist colony, I know what to do, I just don’t know where to start. If you are a monarchist, if you are a traditionalist, if you believe that not everything in life should be subject to change on the whim of the temporary majority, there is absolutely, positively no reason, at all, for you to support the Islamic Republic. Anyone should be able to see, that is, anyone with any measurable intelligence, should be able to see that, beyond the superficial things like (gasp) women being educated, wearing short skirts or people going to see Hollywood movies, the Imperial State of Iran was far more traditional at heart than anything that has succeeded it. It looked with pride back on the entirety of Persian history and not merely that most recent Islamic era and it maintained the existing, traditional views of religion (yes, religion) and politics that had far deeper roots than anything the Islamic revolutionaries later came up with. Iran, under its last dynasty, was going through something of a mini-Renaissance, in some ways similar to the Renaissance experienced by Catholic Europe.

In both cases, ancient civilizations were being rediscovered that had flowered before the adoption of the dominant religion (Christianity in Europe, Islam in Iran). In both cases there was also an opening up, to a degree, to different styles and ideas and in both cases there were some religious fanatics who preached fundamentalism and condemned everything around them. In Europe, the Pope had such figures hauled before the inquisition and handed over to the secular authorities for execution. In Iran the answer was exile to France (not exactly a harsh punishment). Those who claim that a few movies and mini-skirts made the Iran of the Shah some sort of modern, progressive, radical state purposely ignore the fact that one of the things the religious dissident fanatics were most upset about was the rediscovery and celebration of the ancient, pre-Islamic Persian Empire and the styles of that glorious past when Persia was the dominant power in the known world. If you believe in honoring and celebrating history and tradition, your sympathies should be entirely with the Shah and not the traitors who drove him from power. In some ways, his regime was more traditional than any had been in that land for centuries. From the exalted nature of the monarch to his personal guard known as “The Immortals” the Imperial State of Iran stood on a foundation of history and tradition far more ancient than that even claimed by those who tore it all down.

However, the claim is often made that traditionalists or conservatives should have been opposed to the Imperial State of Iran because there were very un-Islamic things like nightclubs, cinemas and, again, those vile skirts that caused innocent men to be driven into frenzies of lust by the sight of a calf or perhaps even a bit of thigh. Obviously, I am making somewhat light of this because I do not consider it a damnable offense for a woman to allow her ankles to be seen in public but then, I am not a Muslim. However, back in my university days I did study Islam and the history of the Middle East (from Egypt to Iran was our definition) and so, while not an expert, I am not totally ignorant of the subject and will make my thoughts known (it is your choice to read them or not). From my understanding, if we are to assume that one is a Shiite Muslim as the majority of Iranians are, there is still absolutely no justification for anyone supporting the Islamic revolutionary regime. As I recall, Shiite Islam was based on the idea that no one can speak for God until the Mahdi, the expected one, comes from heaven to lead the faithful to their ultimate triumph. The Ayatollah broke, radically, with this long-established, traditional view of Shiia Islam by claiming unprecedented powers for the Shiite clerics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In doing this, the Ayatollah showed himself to be a revolutionary in religion as well as politics. The basis of Shiite Islam is that only God can appoint the religious leader and guardian on earth and so there was an emphasis on the original family line of the Prophet Mohammed. As a result, the Shiite branch of Islam has always had a more prominent part for clerics than in Sunni Islam, however, under the Ayatollah this was radically expanded to ridiculous proportions so that imams became infallible, sinless and were treated with such subservient devotion that one could be forgiven for thinking they had been exalted above Mohammed himself. Powers and privileges which were traditionally exclusive to the hidden, Twelfth Imam were massively usurped by the Ayatollah and his clerical-republican regime. So, on the one hand, you have the Shah, who was a religious man and a staunch Muslim from the day he was born until the day he died, exercising political authority based on centuries of traditions (or even millennia if we go back to ancient Persia) and on the other hand we have an Ayatollah whose entire theory regarding the justification of his own authority dated back no farther than 1970. Surely, anyone can see which is the more traditional.

Today, although we have touched on this in the past, it bears repeating, we also have those who at least sympathize with the forces of the Islamic Revolution in Iran because they claim to oppose the decadence and immorality of the modern west. That mentality, is not only stupid, it is stupid to the point of being suicidal. It is suicidal because these types seem not to grasp the fact that these fanatics consider the west at its most religious and conservative to be just as immoral as in our own liberal, permissive, present day. These are people who would hold the Christians of the Middle Ages as perverse because they danced touching each other, who would condemn the Popes as immoral for having nudes painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, people who were calling America the “Great Satan” back in the days of Bishop Sheen and “Leave It to Beaver”. Anyone who thinks that these fanatics would show any kindness to someone just because they consider a few of the same things to be immoral is soundly mistaken. They hate the Christian west no matter how truly Christian it actually is. Besides that, however, is the fact that what they hate about the west is more often based on the power and influence held by western nations and has nothing to do with religion or morality at all. Otherwise, how would one explain their cozy relationship with Communist China, an officially atheist, anti-religious regime that persecutes Christians, Buddhists and Muslims and carries out such things as forced abortions and sterilizations? Any tradition-minded person in the west who thinks they can make common cause with the Iranian regime is sorely mistaken.

Finally, we have the actions of the Iranian regime on the pan-monarchist front. It violently opposes and is opposed by virtually every monarchy in the region. In the past, the Emirates of Kuwait, Qatar and the Sultanate of Oman found it necessary to be at least somewhat friendly with Iran for the sake of their own safety. In the case of Kuwait they also shared a common threat from the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq (which also reveals how Iran is not being principled in its choice of friends and enemies for it simultaneously supports the Baathist regime in Syria).  Iran has said openly that there is ‘no room’ for monarchies in Islam as they pose a fundamental ideological threat to the power of the Iranian clerics who must justify their own position based on usurping authority from a monarch. Iran is staunchly opposed to and is opposed by the Kingdom of Jordan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the Gulf monarchies aligning with Saudi Arabia as that kingdom has been more helpful to them recently. This is a far cry from the Imperial State of Iran when there were friendly relations between the Shah and the Saudi King as there were between Iran and the other monarchies of the region and even family ties with the late Kingdom of Egypt.

Other monarchists made the mistake of thinking they could make common cause with Iran and were shown how wrong they were. For instance, in the wake of the Islamic Revolution, King Khalid of Saudi Arabia sent a friendly message to Iran calling for Islamic solidarity. He was met only with anti-monarchy bigotry with the Ayatollah responding by saying that Mecca was under the control of “heretics”. Needless to say, relations between the two countries have never been friendly. In several other countries, monarchist and republican alike, Iran has worked consistently to support subversive elements and oppose any with monarchist sympathies. Those who would sympathize with the Iranian regime as some sort of traditional fortress set against the “evils” of modernity might also remember that the former President of Iran took the exact opposite point of view and boasted of how much more progressive, democratic and liberal his country was when compared to a country like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As recently as Friday, January 24, 2014 an article appeared in Britain’s “The Telegraph” proposing that the west should reach out to the Islamic Republic of Iran because it is “now” a more liberal and democratic country than Saudi Arabia.

I hope I have made the case crystal clear. The Islamic Republic of Iran is an illegitimate regime of political and religious traitors and usurpers, it is an enemy to both the traditional systems of the west and of the Islamic Middle East as well as Iran itself. They are a treasonous, illegitimate regime supported by treasonous regimes and supporting treasonous, revolutionary forces far beyond their borders. There should be no justification for anyone who supports monarchy or traditional authority having any support or sympathy for the current Iranian regime whatsoever and the idea that any, no matter how small their numbers might be, actually do makes me a very … Mad Monarchist.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Royal News Roundup

A rather light week for royal news was this last, but here it is. In the British Isles the biggest news was that HM the Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales are merging their media teams in what is being taken as a further move towards Prince Charles taking over for the Queen in her many royal duties. Some have even gone so far as to mention the “a” word but let’s not be hysterical. The Queen, I have no doubt, will remain Queen until God calls her home but as the years take their toll it is only natural that she should share more of the burden with her eldest son and successor. And speaking of time marching on, we found out this week the name of Princess Royal Anne’s new granddaughter; she will be known as Mia Grace. Across the North Sea, the King of Sweden attended the Society and Defence National Conference this week while his youngest daughter, Princess Madeleine, was attracting attention at her office in New York City with her increasingly noticeable “baby bump”. The King also visited Tacloban City in the Philippines to assess the damage caused by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The King had earlier organized a fundraising program for victims of the storm. And, in neighboring Norway, King Harald V was visiting the unfortunate residents of Laerdal after a recent terrible fire, talking with the locals and congratulating the response teams on their work.

In the Low Countries, the King and Queen of the Netherlands welcomed President Hollande of France to their country early in the week and later met with the Prime Minister of Italy. In neighboring Belgium, Princess Claire celebrated her 40th birthday on Sunday the 19th and her husband Prince Laurent of Belgium (yes, the one who always seems to step in it) put out a press release saying, “…from the bottom of his heart how happy is to have met her, that he respects her, how much he loves her and how grateful he is to her for the beautiful children that fill their hearts with happiness and pride.” The Prince also said, “Each day that pass is a pleasure to share my life with her”. Prince Laurent may not always make good decisions but he certainly made a good one when he married Princess Claire and he is intelligent enough to realize that. Good for them and congratulations to the Princess on her birthday. Finally, in Luxembourg, there has been some confusion over a coin released by a German firm bearing the images of Prince Felix and Princess Claire (another one) as the Royal Court in Luxembourg says that they gave no permission for the use of the images of the newlyweds and will have to see if the couple themselves knows anything about this. And, further south, in the Kingdom of Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has expressed his support for HRH Infanta Cristina who is set to testify as a suspect in court in a few weeks. Rajoy said that he expects things will go well for her and that, “I’m convinced of her innocence”. Nice to see some loyalty on public display in the ‘Land of the Setting Sun’.

The biggest event in southern royal news may have passed unnoticed in most of the media but it was a major event. First of all, there was the official ceremony for the beatification of Queen Maria Cristina of Savoy at the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Naples, Italy. Blessed Queen Maria Cristina was the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Piedmont-Sardinia, the Queen consort of King Ferdinand II of the Two-Sicilies and the mother of Francis II, the last King of the Two-Sicilies. However, this event was preceded by another important royal event in Naples which was the signing of a document of reconciliation between the two rival branches of the House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies. The Duke of Noto (acting for Infante Don Carlos, Duke of Calabria who is in frail health) and the Duke of Castro signed the “peace treaty” of sorts which states that they will effectively share leadership of the house for the present with each head of each branch to be treated equally. As for the succession, it is not considered a significant issue as the Duke of Castro has only daughters and the eldest son of the Duke of Noto, Prince Jaime, is now learning Italian and will in future take on a larger royal in family affairs. This is very good to see, it comes after about a year of meetings and negotiations and is the first time such a dispute has been settled by mutual agreement from both sides. They will now work on the (hopefully not more difficult) task of reconciling their followers. Hopefully this will also set an example for the House of Savoy which is in a similar situation.

Finally, in Asian royal news, it was a fairly quiet week. Tensions remain high in Thailand with internal matters and in Japan with international matters but both monarchies remain, thankfully, tranquil. In the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan the young monarch presided over the opening of the second session of the second parliament this week, which is all well and good but is still breaks my heart that Bhutan ever started down this path of parliaments and political parties. And in the federal Kingdom of Malaysia, the presiding “King”, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam has spoken up for the first time in support of a court ruling that forbids non-Muslims to use the word Allah to refer to God. This has heightened religious divisions in the country. Last October a court upheld the ban, overturning a previous decision that had allowed a Catholic newspaper to use the word Allah in its Malay-language edition. Muslim leaders have called for action against Christians who do not comply with the order (Christians being about 9% of the population of Malaysia). A Catholic priest is currently under investigation for sedition for denying the ban. In a recent speech Sultan Abdul Halim said, “In the context of a pluralistic society, religious sensitivities especially related to Islam as the religion of the federation should be respected”. After the order first came out a few churches were fire-bombed and government officials said that areas where Christians are concentrated would not be forced to comply with the order, however, this most recent ruling and the words of the King have caused many to doubt whether that will be the case.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Royal Friends of Texas: Denmark

The history between Texas and the Kingdom of Denmark goes back quite far. The first Danes to come to Texas that we know of by name came during the colonial period when Texas was still under Mexican rule. Most were sailors who visited the area and decided to stay. Such a man was Peter Johnson, a Danish sea captain who sailed the Gulf of Mexico, visited the Texas coast and began trading in Indianola before deciding to settle there. Another was John Edward Henrichson who moved farther inland and became a rancher near the largely Irish settlement of San Patricio. Others came over from the United States such as the Danish cattleman Christian Hillebrandt who drove his cattle from Louisiana into East Texas and established himself as one of the earliest Texas ranchers. However, the most famous of these early individuals was a Dane who credentials as a “true Texan” would be tough to beat. Not only did he design the first “Lone Star” flag of the war but he later gave his life defending the Alamo. Most history books record his name as Charles Zanco but his real name was Charles Lanco. It was the summer of 1835, the first year of the war, when William Scott announced to the people of Austin’s colony in Lynchburg that he would equip anyone willing to volunteer to fight for Texas independence from Mexico. About 30 men volunteered immediately and one of those brave men was a 28-year old artist from Denmark named Charles Zanco.

These thirty formed a company with William Scott as captain. Later, Captain Scott gave four yards of blue silk to Lieutenant James McGahey with orders to come up with a flag for them. Knowing he had an artist in the ranks, Lt. McGahey took the material to Charles Zano and asked him to paint a design on it. The Danish design was simple but striking, a large, white, lone star in the center along with, at the suggestion of McGahey, the word “Independence” at the bottom. When the Danish-designed flag was first flown at Lynchburg, two boats of armed men coming up from Harrisburg (modern-day Houston) spotted it and began cheering “Hurrah for the Lone Star!” The uplifting effect this had later caused many to mark the occasion as the beginning of the war for independence in southeast Texas. Later, the flag and Charles Zanco saw action with Scott’s company at the battle of Concepcion Mission in October of 1835. The following year, the Danish volunteer gave his last full measure of devotion at the battle of the Alamo, by that time have been promoted to lieutenant in the ordinance department.

Because of Lt. Charles Zanco, the flag of Denmark has and will always have a place of honor in the Alamo, “the Shrine of Texas Liberty”. However, Danish interaction with Texas did not begin on a sizeable scale until after the War Between the States. Two Texans named Travis Shaw and John Hester happened to be visiting the Kingdom of Denmark. Impressed by what they saw, they thought Texas needed some Danes and so they asked if anybody was interested in moving to Texas. A few agreed and were sold land by Shaw and Hester in Lee County. Prices were cheap and at the time, owning property for most any common man in the small countries of Europe was nearly impossible so this was viewed as an opportunity. About 20 families of Danes made the voyage across the ocean first but more came later in the following decade. The first settled in Lee County of course, as did the later arrivals. Most established themselves in an area around eight miles west of the County seat of Lexington. The area came to have such a Danish flavor that it became known as “Little Denmark”. The early settlers were noted for their industriousness and most all were employed in productive occupations such as Paul Paulsen who was a cabinet maker, Niels Thompson who was a bricklayer and Peter Jensen who was a blacksmith.

Lee County courthouse
Danes later settled, in smaller numbers, in diverse parts of Texas and many had a great impact. There was George Henry Trube who founded a mercantile dynasty in Houston and Galveston, Christian Dorbrandt who became a Texas Ranger and Charles Grimur Thorkelin Løvenskiold who came before the Civil War and worked as a schoolmaster, a lawyer and became a colonel in the Confederate army from Corpus Christi during the war. The earliest settlers included many farmers and at first they maintained there own customs such as Danish food, having coffee and pastry every morning and afternoon and observing Danish holidays. However, very rapidly they adopted the ways of their neighbors until they could hardly be distinguished from anyone else. Apart from Lee County, Danes in Texas and those arriving began settling in Gillespie County as well, around Rocky Hill, east of Fredericksburg -undeterred by the heavy German presence there. One Danish Texan by the name of Christian Mathisen even moved to Fredericksburg, worked as a blacksmith and even invented an early wind-powered electric generator as well as coming up with some brilliant, new agricultural methods. Today, Texas is one of the leading producers of “wind energy” in the United States and, you could say, it traces all the way back to that inventive Texan from Denmark.

Most Danes began speaking English exclusively early on, however, Danish survived the longest in the Lutheran churches they founded. Formal Danish was spoken in church services until 1954 and a women’s church group, “Den danske Kvindeforening” spoke Danish or “native Texas Danish” until 1971. The community was once known for celebrating a combination of Danish Constitution Day and United States Independence Day as well as Christmas. Both usually included a circle dance around a community tree and singing at least a few Danish songs. The largest Danish settlement was Danevang, established in 1894 mostly by Danish-Americans moving south from northern states. Although it eventually diminished over time as the locals intermarried with others, moved on to other areas and “assimilated” more in the 1920‘s, there was still a population of 60 in 1990 and the local Danevang Lutheran Church is still open. There is also a Danish Heritage Museum in town. Although not as pronounced as some groups, there are still many thousands of Texans who are of at least partial Danish ancestry. While others may have had a bigger influence on Texas, the Kingdom of Denmark has been a part of Texas history from the beginning and, hopefully, the ties between Denmark and Texas will only grow stronger in the years to come.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The "Third Force" That Never Works

In the aftermath of World War II, there was a great deal of infamy, betrayal and simply absurd actions on the part of the victorious Allies. Countries throughout Eastern Europe were sold out by the western powers to be handed over to Soviet subjugation. Britain and France, for example, had gone to war because of the German conquest of Poland yet were perfectly willing to allow the Soviet conquest of the same country. The United States, meanwhile, was establishing itself all over the world with a considerable military presence in places from West Germany to North Africa to South Korea and Japan while at the same time condemning the colonial empires of their own British and French allies. Much of this, it must be said, was done in a noble effort to prevent the further expansion of communism. However, to be fair it must also be said that the United States and Great Britain had, only a short time before, been heavily supporting and subsidizing these same communist forces. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, before his death in office, had made it clear that while he was fighting alongside Britain and France, he was an enemy of their colonial empires around the world and wished to see them brought down. With the onset of the Cold War, the ideological successors of FDR had their chance though, sadly, it would result in disaster for both the peoples in question and the United States.

This is what became known as the “third force” that Cold War America always seemed to be looking for in soon-to-be former colonial nations. In most of these countries, existing traditional authorities had long-standing relationships with the colonial power of Britain or France and after the Second World War both these local traditional authorities and the colonial empires were challenged by Soviet-sponsored communist rebels. So, there were usually, basically, two groups: the royalists and the communists. However, the American elites in Washington could not bring themselves to support either of these groups. So, as a result, America was always looking for a “third force” that was neither communist nor royalist/colonialist to give their support to and so further expand the anti-communist American “non-empire”. Of course, the desire to combat the spread of communism was a good thing but by always insisting on a “third force” successive American governments succeeded only in helping the Red Menace by splitting the anti-communist forces into two camps and setting them against each other. This was, sadly, a rather long-standing policy in spite of the repeatedly disastrous consequences that it produced all over the world.

Also playing a key role was the heavily leftist American labor unions. They too wanted to bring down colonial empires and native monarchies, and to gain influence before others could although they were much less clear about whether they considered the victory of Soviet communism to be all that bad of an outcome. It became standard policy for American organized labor to go to the colonies of American allies like Britain and France to set up labor unions amongst the locals and then to build on those unions as the core of a revolutionary political force. These labor unions would also lobby the government in Washington DC (having especially strong influence with the Democrats) to apply pressure to colonial countries to grant these places independence. When they did, the idea was that the new leader would come from the ranks of the new organized labor movement and they would have all these new countries solidly in their pocket. They could, and did, after all claim that these countries “owed” them their independence because of their lobbying on their behalf in the United States. This would also boost their popularity in America as well as they could portray themselves in a very patriotic light by taking down kings and monarchies while, in fact, they were thoroughly anti-American to their core.

One early, but often overlooked, example of this is to be found in Tunisia. The last Bey of Tunis, Muhammad VIII al-Amin, had come to power in 1943 when his cousin was overthrown by the Free French forces for having collaborated with the Vichy regime of Marshal Petain (a regime, by the way, which the United States recognized as the legitimate government of France until 1944). In 1956 he proclaimed independence from France and gave himself a promotion to King of Tunisia. By that time, however, he already had a powerful rival in place named Habib Bourguiba. He had started out as a socialist, always remaining very much on the left, and had supported the Allies in World War II. Needless to say he was a staunch republican who wished to tear down the monarchy. What is less well known is that he first gained his “mandate” and widespread support in the American press and with the U.S. State Department in September of 1951 at the congress of the AFL-CIO in San Francisco. The AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) being the largest American federation of labor unions. He launched a coup against the King of Tunisia, deposed and arrested him in 1957, abolishing the monarchy and ruling as a dictator until he was impeached in 1987 by his prime minister who then ruled as dictator of Tunisia until his overthrow in 2011 at the start of the so-called “Arab Spring”.

American labor unions also tried the same sort of tactic in the Kingdom of Morocco, backing Mahjoub ben Seddik in forming the Moroccan labor federation in violation of the laws of the French protectorate. This was part of their overall campaign to support independence while also pushing out French-backed labor unions in favor of American ones. It almost worked in Morocco as it had in Tunisia, however, the Royal Family proved too popular and eventually even those supported by the United States were insisting that pushing for the restoration of King Mohammed V to the throne was a wiser course of action that trying to establish a republic. He had been removed and exiled by the French and replaced by his uncle, Mohammed Ben Aarafa, but was eventually restored and negotiated the independence of Morocco from France in 1956. Still, the seeds that were planted continued to cause unrest and violence in Morocco for many years to come, particularly during the reign of King Hassan II, father of the current Moroccan monarch. All of this certainly did the country no good nor was it of any benefit to the United States. In forcing the country away from France, Morocco was obliged to draw closer to America but the unrest in the country only meant that America had an unstable ally which was surely not the ideal situation.

In 1952 Gamal Abdel Nasser planned the military coup that brought down the ancient Egyptian monarchy the following year. Coming from a socialist, anti-monarchy and anti-British Empire background, he had many admirers in the United States. After becoming dictator of Egypt, in 1956 Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, prompting a military intervention by Great Britain, France and the State of Israel. The U.S. administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a betrayal of his former World War II allies, denounced the intervention as a colonialist effort to hold on to empire. Eisenhower used American economic muscle (as Britain and France were still very dependent on U.S. financial assistance since the ruination of World War II) to force Britain and France to pull out of Egypt. Nasser himself praised Eisenhower as playing the “greatest and most decisive role” in ending the crisis. After leaving office, Eisenhower would remember the Suez Crisis as the greatest mistake of his presidency. Britain and France were forced out of the Middle East and America inherited all of their responsibilities and problems. To make matters worse, despite his words of gratitude, Nasser moved more and more back to his socialist roots and was much friendlier with the Soviet Union than he was with the United States. Still, the misfortune spread and the United States clearly learned nothing. Upon taking office, John F. Kennedy began a gushing correspondence with Nasser even while he was intervening in Yemen to fight royalists backed by Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Great Britain. Eventually the royalists were destroyed and North Yemen was incorporated into the socialist People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen to become the Yemen of today which remains a poor, chaotic and violent state.

Along with Africa and the Middle East, the effort to back a “third force” by America left behind a record of failure longer and even bloodier in Southeast Asia. In the case of Vietnam, America managed to be on almost every side of the conflict that engulfed the region at one point or another. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States funded, organized and trained the communist guerillas who became the Vietminh (and later the Viet Cong) under Ho Chi Minh to fight the Japanese and, perhaps later, the French. While Harry Truman was busy with Korea it became clear that Ho Chi Minh was a communist (which should have been obvious all along) and so under President Eisenhower the U.S. began to support the French and the last Vietnamese emperor in fighting this monster America had a hand in creating. However, the U.S. would not intervene to stop the communists outright at that stage (which would only mean far more extensive intervention later on) and, once again, a “third force” was sought that was neither French/Vietnamese monarchist or communist. The result was the emergence of Ngo Dinh Diem with strong backing from the United States. In 1955 American agents helped push him into deposing the former Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai and establishing a republic. Royalists were squashed and, through sheer brute force, for a time it seemed that this time the formula might be working. However, after President Diem proved to be a ‘puppet who wanted to pull his own strings’ President Kennedy, who had previously supported Diem in his rule and rise to power, authorized the coup that brought him down and ended in his assassination. South Vietnam was plagued by one coup after another virtually until a relatively stable period from 1965 until 1975 under General Nguyen Van Thieu. In the end, the communists were victorious.

King Savang Vatthana of Laos
President Eisenhower had said that Laos was the “cork in the bottle” of Southeast Asia and, originally, President Kennedy seemed to agree with him and his original focus in the region was on Laos rather than Vietnam. Toward that end, the CIA was sent in to give American support to pro-U.S. and anti-communist forces. The King wanted to keep Laos out of the Cold War entirely but not many others were interested. Laos had, simultaneously, three prime ministers all claiming power; a neutralist one (backed by the Soviets who preferred to fight one war at a time), an American-backed anti-communist one and a communist revolutionary one backed by the North Vietnamese (and thus, indirectly, the Soviet Union as well). The U.S. originally backed the right-wing faction along with even more dependable generals fully funded by the CIA in reserve. However, when Kennedy decided Laos was too messy and Vietnam should be the new focus for America, aid was cut and the right-wing faction was urged to align with the neutralist faction. The result was confusion with intermittent, clandestine support for certain parties by the United States in a civil war with the communists while the Lao Royal Army was stuck in the middle. This disastrous situation continued until the American pull-out from Vietnam left the non-communists high and dry and paved the way for the communists to seize power, making Laos a puppet state of the North Vietnamese.

Likewise, in Cambodia, there emerged an American faction, a communist faction and a royalist faction. King Norodom Sihanouk was trying to keep friendly with all sides, showing the sights to Jackie Kennedy one day and vacationing with Chairman Mao the next. He looked the other way to North Vietnamese incursions into Cambodia and to American CIA agents trying to buy influence for Cambodia coming into the war on the side of the United States and South Vietnam. In 1970 the U.S.-backed prime minister, General Lon Nol, staged a successful coup against King Norodom Sihanouk who was out of the country. A republican government was established which was quickly recognized by the United States under President Richard Nixon. The King was sentenced to death in absentia, his wife to lifetime imprisonment and even his mother was placed under house arrest. The new republic immediately went to war with the communist Vietnamese but deposing the King had forced him into the arms of the Khmer Rouge, the local communist insurgency, whose numbers swelled dramatically as a result. In the end, the Khmer Republic lasted only as long as American aid did, which was cut off after the U.S. government gave up on South Vietnam and with the collapse, the Khmer Rouge filled the vacuum. They disposed of the no-longer-necessary monarch and established a communist state that was murderous on a scale almost unequalled in world history. Such were the fruits of a “third force” in Cambodia.

Chin Peng, communist leader in Malaysia
All of this was a far cry from what happened in Malaysia, which provides a stark contrast to American mismanagement in fighting communism. At first, the situation could be seen as somewhat similar to that of America in Vietnam. In Malaysia there was a communist subversive movement, led by the Chinese, which was all about hostility toward the Empire of Japan (and this was prior to the Japanese war with Great Britain) due to the war in China. When World War II spread to Southeast Asia and Malaysia was invaded by Japanese forces, the British Empire, like the United States in Vietnam, gave support and training to these communist guerillas to fight against Japan. Of course, once the war was over, they intended to make a revolution in Malaysia to replicate the success of their communist brethren in China. However, the British did not attempt to create a “third force” in Malaysia but sent in combat units (Australia, New Zealand and Rhodesia contributing as well) to fight alongside the Malaysian forces in defense of their existing state monarchies. The result was that the anti-communist forces were united, the counter-insurgency campaign was successful and, in the end, the communists were defeated and the Kingdom of Malaysia was able to continue on to become an independent member of the Commonwealth and is still today a prosperous constitutional monarchy.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Indonesia. Here again was an anti-colonial war that the United States reacted to but, even more outrageously, not by backing a “third force” but by backing the primary enemy of the colonial power, another World War II ally, the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Under the leadership of another socialist revolutionary, Sukarno, Indonesian rebels waged a guerilla war against the Dutch. Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands agreed to a compromise by which Indonesia would be granted complete autonomy as the United States of Indonesia while remaining under the Dutch Crown, rather like modern-day Aruba is a “constituent country” of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. However, the rebels rejected this offer and continued to wage war on the Dutch population. Their offer of good will being rejected, the Dutch responded with military force and were quite successful. They were positively winning the war when the United States, under President Harry Truman, decided to intervene. After threatening to cut off all Marshall Aid to the Netherlands (on which the country depended after World War II) unless the war was stopped, the Dutch had no choice but to concede total Indonesian independence and hand power over to Sukarno, retaining control only over western New Guinea as a safe haven for Dutch settlers who were suffering immense persecution.

Even then, the aim was not to maintain a Dutch colony in the region but to prepare Netherlands New Guinea for independence as its own country. Still, Sukarno used every means at his disposal to regain the territory including lobbying the United Nations, military attacks and ethnic cleansing of the Dutch living in Indonesia. Still, Netherlands New Guinea held out until 1962 when Presidential brother Robert Kennedy was sent to The Netherlands to demand that the territory be handed over to Sukarno. Once again, the Dutch had no choice in the face of American pressure but to give in and abandon New Guinea. And what was the result for America? A dictator in control of Indonesia who, during the Johnson administration, took his country firmly into the anti-American camp, making friends with Communist China, North Korea and North Vietnam. To make it all even more ironic, during World War II, the United States had considered Sukarno one of the foremost collaborators with the Axis powers in the world because of his cooperation with the Japanese. Previously, the United States had vetoed the continuation or restoration of monarchies in Korea, Manchuria and Vietnam all ostensibly because their monarchs had been in some way associated with Japan in World War II. Yet, a republican of socialist background, for some reason, was not held to the same standard. Instead, he was given American support and he used it to establish a firmly anti-American regime.

There are still other examples that could be cited but the point seems well made. All around the world, anti-monarchy bigotry on the part of U.S. foreign policy served to benefit no one but the very communists it was ostensibly intended to oppose. In some cases it was anti-imperialism that was the primary, motivating factor (such as in Africa where the U.S. backed rebel groups that were anti-Portuguese as well as anti-communist, the communists inevitably winning as a result) but then there are cases in which the colonial power was clearly going or already gone in which the U.S. seemed to oppose a national leader simply for being a monarch. Incredibly enough, the idea that such an anti-imperialist attitude was rather at odds with the fact that the U.S. had a military presence stretching from West Germany to Central America to Japan seems to have never occurred to many occupants of the White House and members of Congress. In spite of the facts surrounding them, the consistent attitude seemed to be, ‘it’s only imperialism when someone else does it’. Finally, this is in no-way an attempt to encourage the ever-present “blame America first” crowd that is so popular around the world. Just as much as what the U.S. did, at issue here is the fact that it did NOT work. The policies did not benefit America in the least. It led to defeats on the world stage that made America look weak and it undermined trust in the United States. Many would shake their heads in agreement with the bitter words of Madame Nhu that, “Whoever has the Americans as allies does not need an enemy”. If the American situation is to improve, Americans have to understand these facts and for future foreign policy success the United States needs to learn from what has happened and drop the knee-jerk rejection of any and all types of monarchy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Royal Words for Life

"It is necessary to respect every living child, every child that has begun to live...And to be in favor of life is not backward, nor is it something confined to Christianity. It is to follow the natural law."
-HM Queen Sofia of Spain

Favorite Royal Images: A Prince Consort

HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Monday, January 20, 2014

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the British Isles, the biggest royal news this week was a new royal birth as it was announced that Zara Phillips (daughter of HRH the Princess Royal) was delivered of a healthy baby girl with husband Mike Tindall calling it “Definitely the best day of my life”. Prime Minister “Call Me Dave” Cameron said it was “wonderful news” and we send our heartfelt congratulations to the proud new parents as well. Also this week it was announced that Prince Harry will be ending his time as an Apache helicopter pilot and will take up a staff position in London which will entail planning for ceremonial events. We wish him the best in that new position. Princess Beatrice of York began an internship with Sony this week and the Countess of Wessex met with some Brownies. A knife-wielding man who tried to storm Buckingham Palace was sentenced to 16 months in jail on Wednesday. He said his goal was to complain to HM the Queen about his welfare payments. He got off lightly in my opinion. Also, it was announced this week that the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will be making a visit to Canada in the future, so we look forward to that.

On the Scandinavian royal front, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden injured her leg while skiing in Italy over the New Year holiday but was not letting that hold her back, carrying on with her royal duties with her left leg in a brace. Meanwhile, the King and Queen met with county governors this week. In neighboring Norway, HM King Harald V celebrated the anniversary of his succession to the throne this week and HM Queen Sonja opened the “1814 -The Game of Denmark and Norway” exhibition at the Norwegian Folk Museum. And in Danish royal news, Crown Princess Mary was in Burma this week, comforting impoverished children on a visit to promote “sexual health” in that unfortunate country. Further south, King Philip of the Belgians opened the Brussels Motor Show this week and in Luxembourg it was announced this week that some months ago Archduke Istvan of Austria resigned from his post as secretary general of the administration of the Grand Duke. The Archduke is the son of the late Archduke Felix who was the son of Blessed Emperor Charles of Austria-Hungary.

And, speaking of the House of Hapsburg, in an interview with a group of European newspapers, Archduke Karl (current head of the family) said that his family should not be blamed for starting the First World War (and rightly so) saying that, “If you were to simplify it, you could say that the shooting in Sarajevo started the first world war. But if there hadn’t been the shooting in Sarajevo, it would have kicked off three weeks later somewhere else. He said his family nor Austria-Hungary had anything to feel sorry about as they were not guilty of anything, saying it would be wrong to single out one state when tensions were so high between all the major powers. And, moving on to southern Europe, in Rome the world media was shocked at the ‘State of the World’ address of Pope Francis in which he called abortion “horrific” in his most critical words yet about the practice. Reuters earned some derision for referring to the remark as a “nod to conservatives” in their headline. In the Principality of Monaco, Andrea Casiraghi and new wife Tatiana are busy preparing for their second wedding ceremony while the Sovereign Prince and Princess greeted circus performers. Finally, in Spain, the anticorruption prosecutor has now said he will not appeal the summons for HRH Infanta Cristina to testify but he also criticized the judge for believing in “conspiracy theories” in an effort to bring the Infanta before the court despite a lack of evidence that it is warranted. Good for him.

In Africa, archeologists from the United States believe they have uncovered the tomb of a previously unknown Egyptian pharaoh. As most know, the pharaohs of Egypt were held to be gods and someone else is being accused of making a similar case on the African continent. However, it is nowhere near as outrageous as most of the headlines make it sound. Yes, it is the Kingdom of Swaziland where the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs said that God operated “in a monarchical way” just as the King does. This is, of course, entirely true. He said, “It is God’s desire to see the people of Swaziland loving their monarchy” which I would also be inclined to agree with. However, he probably did go a bit too far considering the many problems that exist in that country saying, “The reason God’s eye is closer to the Kingdom of Swaziland is that we are a platform of showing the world how the Almighty God wants the world to be ruled”. Okay…

Moving on to Asia, readers may recall a previous news report here about a claimant to the Sultanate of Malacca in what is now Malaysia obtaining a document recognizing his claim from the International Court of Justice. Well, *fooled you*! Turns out it was a fake as the ICJ came out this week saying that it did no such thing and that the claimant in question is a big, fat, lying liar (or words to that effect). The pretender in question, who calls himself Raja Noor, has since been arrested under the sedition act on allegations that he has been involved in the buying and selling of titles (a significant problem in Malaysia). And, on Wednesday, in the “Land of the Rising Sun”, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress participated in the annual New Year’s Poetry Reading Ceremony at the Imperial Palace. A poem, composed by HM the Emperor, was recited which recalled a recent imperial visit to a coastal area devastated by disease caused by severe mercury poisoning due to pollution. There were also poems by HM the Empress and HIH Crown Princess Masako among others.

Friday, January 17, 2014

One of the Worst: President Woodrow Wilson

In some areas, there is not much that needs to be said here about the misdeeds of President Woodrow Wilson as so many have detailed them already and from widely different political backgrounds and viewpoints. For monarchists, much of the criticism of Wilson has focused on his actions during and after the First World War. There is certainly much to criticize. However, my problem with the most extreme of that type of criticism is that, in exaggerating the influence of a man who was involved only at the very end of the war and whose views were often ignored when it was over, too many equally or more guilty parties escape unscathed. The First World War was a disaster of epic proportions but it was not a war that the United States or Wilson had anything to do with starting nor was the botched peace settlement entirely of his own making. Later, after the fact when it was too late to do any good, Wilson himself admitted he was totally out of his element and had no idea what he was talking about when he strutted over to Europe ready to lecture to all and sundry about how to solve the worlds problems. There is plenty, again, to criticize him for on that front but his counterparts in the other countries involved deserve by far the most criticism. Nonetheless, he was one of the worst presidents America has ever produced and it is Americans, rather than Europeans, who have the most grounds for which to condemn Woodrow Wilson.

First of all, some things to make all our friends on the liberal left very uncomfortable. Wilson was a Democrat and only the second Democrat to be elected President since the era of Republican domination during and after the Civil War. This happened because the Republican Party had split into conservative and progressive factions led by Taft and Teddy Roosevelt. His father was a Confederate-sympathizing Presbyterian preacher and, as President, Wilson segregated Washington DC and the federal government, demoting or firing many Blacks (whom he referred to as “Darkies”). He re-segregated the army and is often remembered for the praise he gave to the controversial Civil War film “Birth of a Nation” in which the heroes who ride to the rescue in the end are the Ku Klux Klan. Wilson’s endorsement was so positive, it was featured in the film itself. Wilson also adamantly opposed granting suffrage to women but, being a politician after all, changed this position when it became clear that his career would suffer for it. Afterwards, he favored giving women the vote. Impressed yet liberals? So, it is true, this hero of the Democrat Party and so many liberals still today was a complete racist who only grudgingly went along with giving women the right to vote and who had no qualms about invading countries that did not threaten the United States at all. What a guy.

His election came with a huge victory for the Democrats in Congress and with near absolute power President Wilson could have his way on just about everything. The American people were to see what an unfettered Democratic government looked like for the first time in the memory of most people. First he lowered or abolished tariffs and then set about putting the government in charge of the banking industry and establishing a new currency with the passage of an act creating the Federal Reserve which the government would have exclusive control over. In doing this, Wilson had said that he wanted to set business free, but not too free it seems as he next set about enacting a massive intrusion of government into the business sector with the creation of the Federal Trade Commission and the passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act. He also helped out the farmers by making it easier for them to drown themselves in debt. Again, what a guy. And if that doesn’t make you love him, Americans also have President Wilson to thank for the federal income tax. I’m rather surprised his face isn’t on Mt Rushmore (which was carved by a member of the KKK so I really am surprised).

In the area of foreign relations, Wilson turned down a loan to China because he was against “dollar diplomacy” yet he didn’t seem to have a problem with violent “diplomacy”. He disapproved of the military dictatorship of President Victoriano Huerta in Mexico and tried to coerce him into retirement, declaring that there would be no peace in Mexico so long as Huerta remained in office. When Huerta refused to step down because of the disapproval of the American president, Wilson began selling weapons to his enemies (including Pancho Villa who would eventually ransack a town in the United States). Next, a group of U.S. sailors were arrested in the Mexican port of Tampico. They were eventually released and President Huerta apologized but this was not enough for President Wilson who demanded that Huerta salute the American flag in Tampico which, obviously, he was not about to do. When Huerta refused this ridiculous demand, Wilson responded by invading Mexico and occupying the port of Veracruz. This little battle cost 18 Americans their lives, four more than the number of sailors who had been arrested in Tampico -what a trade. Argentina, Brazil and Chile intervened to negotiate a peace, Huerta was forced to leave office and Wilson was happy. But, the man who replaced Huerta, Venustiano Carranza, was soon faced with rebellion as well, led by one of his former generals, the aforementioned Pancho Villa.

After Pancho Villa raided American territory, President Wilson ordered another invasion of Mexico where American troops clashed with rebel and government forces alike. The issue was never settled as American attention was soon diverted by the First World War. However, Mexico was certainly not alone in being invaded by American troops thanks to President Wilson. No, this preachy scholar who firmly believed he was the smartest man in any room, who condemned past territorial acquisitions by the United States and who would condemn, for example, the German invasion of Belgium in 1914, invaded a number of other countries himself. Aside from a totally unjustified invasion of Mexico at Veracruz, Wilson had American troops invade and occupy Nicaragua in 1914, Haiti in 1915 and Wilson put the Dominican Republic under U.S. military rule in 1916. Somehow, each of those was justified but, of course, Germany invading Belgium or Austria-Hungary invading Serbia was just plain wrong. It was after all of that, in 1917, that Woodrow Wilson took the United States into World War I after winning reelection on the slogan “he kept us out of war”.

But, before getting into that, we should also mention that a whopping three Constitutional amendments were passed during the Wilson administration. One was giving women the vote (and we know what Wilson thought about that), the other was the prohibition of alcohol which proved to be extremely lucrative for the organized crime business and finally one which provided for the direct election of U.S. Senators who had previously been appointed by state governments. This is often overlooked but it was one of the worst of the many terrible things Wilson inflicted on the United States. The Senate had been established in the first place to provide a representative body for the states of the Union. The people were represented by the House of Representatives and the states were represented by the Senate. By making Senators be directly elected, the public suddenly got double-representation and the states suddenly had none. This made it much easier for the federal government to trample on the rights of the states in the future. It would also lead to a great deal of political fighting and deadlock as the Senate ceased to be a less partisan gathering based on region rather than party and became a more puffed up version of the lower house which became particularly problematic when the same public would elect one party to power in the House and another party to power in the Senate.

Wilson declaring war on Germany
Then, of course, there is the war. It is true, Wilson stayed out almost until the very end (he specifically did not want to join the Allies so long as the Russian Empire was a member of the club) when many others (like Teddy Roosevelt) wanted to get involved from the outset. It is also true that Germany committed a calculated risk with the reintroduction of unrestricted submarine warfare and an unbelievably colossal act of stupidity with the infamous Zimmermann Telegram, however, Wilson still could have dismissed that if he had really wanted to. Most governments would not have of course, but the fact is that Mexico was not about to be any sort of threat to the United States and Germany or any of the Central Powers posed no real threat to American security or interests at all. Germany gave Wilson a reason to go to war but it could never be said it was vital or necessary to do so. Then, during those brief months of war, the American public was treated to what a little strutting dictator Wilson could be. Newspapers that were critical of the war, Great Britain, the Wilson administration or which said anything positive about Germany were shut down. People who displayed opposition to the war were arrested. So much for freedom of speech. One man was arrested for playing music by Beethoven, another was arrested for reading the Constitution of the U.S. on the street. Wilson set up an official propaganda office, enlisted celebrities to help sell war bonds, deported immigrants who opposed the war and arrested thousands of people for being critical of the government even after the war was over. He was a tyrant of the first order who would never compromise with anyone. In fact, many attribute the failure of the Senate to ratify the Versailles Treaty, at least in part, with the fact that Wilson cut the Republicans completely out of the process.

In his arrogant, scholarly way, he came to Europe when it was over famous for his “Fourteen Points”, cheered wildly in every European capital he visited. The truth, of course, was that the Fourteen Points were irrelevant from day one. The Germans actually wanted to have a peace based on them, knowing it was a better deal than what they would otherwise get but, of course, Britain and France had no intention of letting Wilson dictate the peace. Most regarded Wilson with derision as an over-educated yet uniformed, idealistic incompetent who didn’t know what he was talking about. Eventually, Wilson himself all but admitted as much. He had lots of vague, pretty sounding slogans but no real solutions to European or world problems. He also sacrificed a great deal just to see the creation of his beloved League of Nations, a useless talking shop that the United States, thankfully, refused to have any part of. In fact, the U.S. refused to sign on to both the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles which, in typical fashion, Wilson blamed on the influence of Germans and Irish in the United States. He left behind him a country full of unemployed veterans, striking workers and race riots but with a much bigger and more powerful federal government that future presidents would be only too willing to exploit.

Woodrow Wilson must easily rank as one of the worst presidents in American history. Arrogant, hypocritical, narrow and close-minded, he was convinced he had the answer to any and all problems which usually amounted to some grandiose turn of phrase followed by putting the government in charge and leaving someone else to deal with it. He actually emerged from the war claiming that the United States was the “savior of the world”. He blighted America with the Federal Reserve, the income tax and a level of totalitarian tyranny the likes of which had not been seen before (but would be seen increasingly in the future). He inflicted plenty of terrors on Europe, the only diminishment there being that his Allies happily ignored him most of the time and inflicted far worse. Yet, as bad as he was for America, probably the worst thing Wilson did was to clear a path for even worse things to come and politicians from both the Democrat as well as Republican Parties have built on his mistakes. He muzzled free speech and gutted freedom of the press, later presidents would put people in concentration camps, hold people without trial or take away any right to privacy. He got the government involved in banking and business practices, later presidents would take over entire industries. He started the income tax, other presidents would raise it higher and higher and expand it wider and wider. Wilson was terrible enough on his own but probably the most damaging thing he did in the long run was setting a new standard in what the President could get away with and, for the first time, setting the precedent that American military intervention could solve the world’s problems. Woodrow Wilson: Europeans hate him, Americans should hate him more.
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