Friday, February 28, 2014

MM Movie Review: Emperor

“Emperor” is a 2012 American-Japanese joint production directed by Peter Webber of Great Britain and starring American actors Matthew Fox as Brigadier General Bonner Fellers and Tommy Lee Jones as Allied Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur about the investigation of HM the Showa Emperor for war crimes in the wake of World War II. Filmed mostly in New Zealand and on a rather limited budget, which really doesn’t show as the mixed-in CGI was handled very well, the movie purports to deal with the overall theme of “justice or revenge”. Unfortunately, like so many historical films, the factual story is frequently set aside in favor of a really rather unnecessary romantic subplot. Rounding out the cast is the lovely Eriko Hatsune as Aya Shimada, Toshiyuki Nishida as General Kajima, Masatoshi Nakamura as Prince Fumimaro Konoe, Kaori Momoi as Mrs. Kajima and Colin Moy as General Richter. Aside from the actors brought in from Japan, most of the supporting cast consists of New Zealanders in the role of American military personnel.

The film opens with stock footage of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and shots of the utter devastation that was post-war Japan. The film is set, for the most part, in Tokyo which is nothing but rubble and it is mentioned how the American bombers turned the city into history’s largest crematorium by use of fire bombing and one raid on Tokyo alone taking the lives of 100,000 people. Early on we are introduced to General Fellers and the first of many flashbacks filling us in on his past romance with a Japanese girl named Aya Shimada, the niece of General Kajima. Upon arrival, Fellers is first tasked with apprehending 30 Japanese leaders for war crimes, starting with former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo (Shohei Hino). They arrive just after General Tojo shot himself in the chest but, of course, he lived as General MacArthur was very specific that every effort was to be taken to keep him alive long enough for him to be executed (you know, after that silly formality called a “trial”). As soon as that was done General MacArthur explains that the government in Washington wants to see the Emperor executed as a war criminal and he gives General Fellers ten days to investigate the guilt or innocence of the Emperor and then present his recommendation to MacArthur. More than anything else, MacArthur is most concerned with making the occupation as peaceful and efficient as possible and rebuilding Japan according to American values.

We then move into the main theme of the film which consists of General Fellers meeting with key Japanese officials, always after considerable resistance, attempting to determine the guilt or the innocence of the Emperor always to be met with no real answers to his satisfaction but then being sent to meet with someone else and the process begins again. Mixed in with this are numerous flashback scenes to his romance with Aya who he met in college. After returning home unexpectedly, Fellers meets her again in Japan just before the war where he is writing a paper on the mindset of the Japanese soldier. Aya introduces him to her uncle General Kajima who tells him that if Japan fights the United States, the Japanese will win because they follow the divine will of the Emperor. Aside from these occasional flashbacks on the odd drive through the country by Fellers in his efforts to locate Aya, what we get is a series of interviews between Fellers and Japanese officials that really result in no answers at all for his questions. It makes for a rather stale film at times, helped in no small part by the fact that we all know how it is going to end. We know the Emperor was not deposed and executed and that the Japanese monarchy continues to reign. So, something more is needed to make for an interesting movie, some new aspect or fresh look at things and, unfortunately, this is just not delivered.

An attempt at tension is made when General Fellers, frustrated by the fact that he keeps coming up with unsatisfactory answers to his questions, finally sits down and types up a recommendation that the Emperor, in whose name everything was done, be deposed and put on trial. But, again, the problem with that is that we know it is not going to happen. The only bit of information, revealed toward the end of the film, that many may not know about, is the attempted coup at the Imperial Palace when the Emperor told the civil and military leadership that the war had to stop. This was a dramatic revelation and was handled well, however, it is not exploited to the fullest. For instance, no one does the reasoning that this rather disproves the oft-repeated line that, even if he did not give the order to go to war then he could have stopped it because everyone would have obeyed him no matter what. They could have delved more into the mentality, which has arisen several times in Japanese history, that sometimes action must be taken to “save” the Emperor from himself; basically those professing loyalty behaving in a disloyal fashion in order to pursue their own agenda. Yet, this is another opportunity lost.

“Emperor” largely re-treads old ground rather than taking the opportunity to delve into issues that, even today, remain unaddressed. Why, for example, should anyone in Japan have been willing to trust the Americans to mete out justice when even in the United States there was no justice for American citizens? This was the same country that had put Japanese-Americans in internment camps, that had laws prohibiting immigration from East Asia, which still had racial segregation in place. Given that, why should anyone in Japan have expected justice or been prepared to trust the Americans at all? Unfortunately, the issue is not addressed. Nor, just as sadly, is the entire issue of the war crimes trials. That could have made for a very thought-provoking film. General Tojo, for example, has a brief appearance (non-speaking but powerful nonetheless) and this was a man whose life was saved by the Americans only so he could be executed later on the charge of “waging an aggressive war” in spite of the fact that there was no law against such a thing in 1937. And, if the law is to be applied retroactively (as it was); why were no charges filed against the Soviet Union for invading the Baltic states, Finland, Poland, China or Mongolia? Why were they and Great Britain not charged for having invaded neutral Persia? This was a missed opportunity to really challenge the audience to think about their own assumptions but, alas, it was not taken. The closest we came was when Fellers interviewed Prince Konoe who asks him, rather pointedly, if it was wrong for Japan to invade China, why was it not wrong for the British or the Portuguese? If it was wrong for Japan to invade the Philippines, Indochina, Malaysia and Indonesia why was it not wrong for the Americans, French, British and Dutch who had done so first? All we get is a petulant Fellers saying he did not come for a history lesson, yet, a history lesson is exactly what the filmmakers seem to be trying to do but they fail to actually teach us anything that most do not already know.

Instead, what we are given is simplistic, good guys and bad guys with the Americans being more pragmatic than just. Getting rid of the Emperor would cause problems for their occupation and agenda for post-war Japan and it is as simple as that. Like so many historical films, “Emperor” is a case of many missed opportunities for something much better. Still, it would be wrong to say that this was an entirely bad film. Its sins are mostly those of omission. It does show, realistically, the post-war devastation of Japan and the point is made (hopefully the audience is not too bored to notice it) that the Emperor acted with great courage in questioning the leadership and finally in determining to end the war and make peace. The closing scene in which MacArthur and the Emperor met was moving (at least I found it so) as the Emperor offered to accept all responsibility on himself rather than see his country and his people suffer anymore. Ultimately, the Emperor emerges from the film much better treated than one would expect. The final point the film closes on being that, while it is impossible to know if the Emperor could have prevented the war, what is certain is that he was instrumental in stopping it and his action, even in the face of armed rebellion, saved the lives of a great many Americans and Japanese alike. Far from being vilified, he should be admired. Of course, saying so would be expecting far too much from a film in the atmosphere of today.

Was it good? It would probably be better to say that it wasn’t bad. The actors performed well even if some did have no depth to them, the visuals were good but it fails to really stand out as it has nothing new to offer and seemed to ignore major issues in preference for trivial ones. Those interested in the period or the subject matter will give it a chance, those who are not will skip it and they really will not be missing much.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Monarchist Profile: Felix Maria Calleja del Rey, Count of Calderon

Felix Maria Calleja del Rey was born on November 1, 1753 in Medina del Campo, Valladolid, Spain. He led a rather ordinary childhood, typical of his social standing and, not surprisingly, decided on a military career early in life. His exceptional intelligence was noted from the start and he began to specialize in military cartography. Unfortunately, his early career was not marked with much success. In 1775 he participated in a failed expedition against Algiers. In 1782 he was on hand for the successful capture of Menorca Mahon harbor but the same year was among the Spanish forces thwarted in the siege of Gibraltar. After serving a few years as head of a military academy, the fortunes of Captain Calleja del Rey would begin to change with his transfer to the New World. In 1789 the Count of Revillagigedo went to Mexico City to take up the post of Viceroy of New Spain and Calleja del Rey was among his party. Colonial service allowed for more rapid promotion and soon he was commanding an infantry brigade in San Luis Potosi and under the orders of Viceroy Miguel Jose de Azanza he successfully suppressed insurgent Indian forces in the area. This was a time when rebellion was becoming a major problem across New Spain and when elements in the United States were eager to take advantage of the misfortune of Spain to try to grab Texas.

Padre Hidalgo
When American filibusters (land pirates) allied with Mexican revolutionaries invaded Texas, Calleja del Rey was among those Spanish officers who led royalist troops to victory against them. Many of the officers under his command would go on to great fame in Mexico with some, like Ignacio Allende, fighting for the revolution against the monarchy and others, like Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, fighting for both. In 1811 and 1813 he successfully suppressed rebellions against royal authority and even found the time to marry a local girl, Francisca de la Gandara, daughter of the owner of the hacienda de Bledos. These years gave him valuable experience in putting down revolution, impressing upon him the importance of well cared for and disciplined troops as well as making an example of rebels. In time, he would be key in eliminating the three most famous Mexican revolutionaries against Spain and establish a reputation as one of the most brilliant and successful commanders to ever see action on the battlefields of Mexico. The most famous insurgent leader of all (and the man still hailed as the “Father of Independence” in Mexico today -which is odd given that he was defeated long before independence was actually achieved) was the heretical priest Father Miguel Hidalgo who incited a major rebellion with his famous Grito de Dolores on September 16, 1810.

This was a combination of political rebellion and race war with Padre Hidalgo inciting the most heavily mixed race elements to rise up and kill those of Spanish blood. Huge mobs took to the streets and across New Spain city after city fell into rebel hands. Mexico City fell into a panic as Padre Hidalgo defeated the royalist army and marched toward the capital with 80,000 men. However, at the critical moment, the Padre lost his nerve and ordered a retreat. Calleja del Rey was, at the time, a brigadier general in command of a cavalry division at San Luis Potosi and Viceroy Francisco Javier Venegas summoned him to come to the aid of Mexico City. It was the start of a masterful campaign. Calleja del Rey and his royalist forces first met the rebels on November 7, 1810 on the plains of San Jeronimo Aculco and completely wiped them out. On November 25 his royalist forces re-captured Guanajuato and on January 21, 1811 liberated Guadalajara. The rebels retreated, despite their still swelling ranks, and Calleja del Rey gave chase. On January 17, 1811 at the battle of Calderon bridge, his tiny force of 6,000 royalists attacked and routed an army of 100,000 rebels in a stunning victory that ensured the revolution would be crushed and put off the independence of Mexico for another ten years.

In the aftermath of this victory, Calleja del Rey took 4,000 men and made them the core of the new Army of the Center that crushed the remaining rebel forces. Padre Hidalgo was captured and executed, however, another renegade priest; Father Jose Maria Morelos, continued the resistance and managed to repel Calleja del Rey in the 72-day siege of Cuautla, forcing the royalists to fall back to Mexico City. Among the royalists and aristocrats of Mexico, discontent was growing against the leadership of Viceroy Venegas who was accused of mismanagement and neglecting the army. Calleja del Rey became a focus of this discontent and his home was often a meeting place for disgruntled royalists. They finally appealed to the regency in Cadiz for new leadership, arguing that the insurgents could be suppressed and Mexico restored firmly to Spanish rule if only the right man were put in charge. The government seemed to agree and on January 28, 1813 Calleja del Rey was appointed to be the new Viceroy, taking up the post on March 4. He inherited a colonial government that was broke, drowning in debt and an army that was woefully ill-equipped and owed about two million pesos in back pay.

Nonetheless, Calleja del Rey showed himself more than up to this formidable challenge. As the Spanish Inquisition had been abolished by the Constitution of 1812, he alleviated some of the immediate financial problems by confiscating their property in New Spain. Using his meager forces, he reestablished order so that postal service and regular commerce could be resumed, he set up a strict system of financial oversight for the treasury, keeping a close account of all income and expenses, cut out waste and hired a private third party to collect the sales taxes all of which greatly increased revenues. With this he was able to turn his attention to the army and ensure that the military was properly funded, well disciplined, well equipped and promptly paid. It really seemed that a page had been turned in the history of New Spain and that Spanish power in America was on the rise again. Unfortunately, there were some problems totally beyond the control of the new Viceroy. Toward the end of 1813 a massive epidemic broke out that took tens of thousands of lives and that same year the renegade Morelos captured Acapulco and later the Congress of Anahuac declared the independence of Mexico in Guerrero.

Back in Spain, His Catholic Majesty King Fernando VII was restored to his throne and he abrogated the 1814 Constitution, returning to the former absolute monarchy of 1808. He also reestablished the Spanish Inquisition and in 1816 allowed the Jesuits to return to Mexico. In New Spain (Mexico) divisions hardened in response as liberals were enraged by this reactionary turn of events while conservatives were encouraged by it. Calleja del Rey continued his program of improving public services, firmly dealing with armed resistance and exiling captured rebels to Cuba and later the Philippines. It seemed to be working. Revolutionary forces were defeated yet again, Morelos himself was captured and executed in 1815 but it seemed every time the Viceroy solved one problem a new one would spring up elsewhere. After the elimination of Morelos, Vicente Guerrero launched a new uprising in the south and the increasing unrest forced Calleja del Rey to take more harsh and repressive measures to maintain order. The revolutionaries feared him most of all but there was also opposition to his rule even among the more liberal royalists who accused him of aiding the revolutionaries (unwittingly of course) through his brutal methods. They took their argument to the Spanish government that if the Viceroy had only shown a softer hand after the death of Morelos, the revolution might have ended then.

No one can long endure against enemies to the front and rear and so it is not surprising that Calleja del Rey was dismissed as Viceroy on September 20, 1816. Still, his magnificent service was not forgotten and when he returned to Spain he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Royal and Military Order of San Hermenegildo and the Royal American Order of Queen Isabella the Catholic as well as being given the title of First Count of Calderon for his stunning victory at Calderon Bridge. The Count of Calderon continued in his career, becoming military commander in Andalucia and governor of Cadiz. However, removing the most gifted general in Mexican service proved not to be a wise move and rebellion and disorder increased in his absence. Soon, he was charged with organizing a new Spanish army to be sent to New Spain to restore royal authority. However, that project was interrupted by unrest at home as liberals in Spain rose up against King Fernando VII in 1820. The Count of Calderon met the crisis with his usual zeal and was able to capture Rafael del Riego, the instigator of the liberal uprising. He joined the list along with Hidalgo, Allende and Morelos of prominent enemies of the Spanish Crown brought to justice by the Count of Calderon. However, that was to be his last major prize before his death in Valencia in 1828.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Monarchist Military: The Epic Voyage of E-11

It may not come up much here, but yours truly has had a near lifelong fascination with submarines. I could bore anyone to tears on the subject. To be sure, the first time submarines really proved themselves to be a major, game-changing weapon was in the First World War. It was in that conflict that a submarine sank an enemy ship with a free-swimming torpedo for the first time and, although few are aware of it, the most successful submarine commander of all time took his toll in the First World War, sending nearly half a million tons of Allied shipping to the bottom. It was also the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a submarine that is often credited with turning public opinion in America squarely against the Central Powers. All of these were u-boats (submarines) of the Imperial German Navy and undoubtedly, when it comes to submarine warfare, the Germans have every reason to be the most famous. However, they were certainly not the only ones to make deadly use of the submarine and, in fact, the Royal Navy of Great Britain actually had more submarines when the war began than Germany did. The British came up with a great many innovations in submarine and (of course) anti-submarine technology in that conflict. It was also in World War I that one of the best (certainly in my book) sub commanders of Great Britain made his name. That was Lieutenant Commander Martin Naismith of His Majesty’s submarine E-11. He, along with his first officer Lieutenant Guy D’Oyly-Hughes were tried veterans of the battle of Heligoland and cruises in the Baltic and North Seas when they gained their greatest fame in 1915 in the waters of the Ottoman Empire.

Winston Churchill had come up with the plan for an amphibious invasion of Turkey on the Gallipoli peninsula, a plan that turned into a bloody quagmire just as hellish as anything on the western front. While Allied troops were pinned down at Gallipoli, the Turks ferried over resources from Europe by way of the Sea of Marmara at the eastern end of the Dardanelles Straits. The Royal Navy determined that the only way to cut off this line of supply was with submarines. On May 19, 1915 Naismith steered the E-11 through a minefield into the Dardanelles. Spotting a battleship, the E-11 dove underneath another minefield but when coming back up to periscope depth found that the battleship had moved away and they were surrounded by destroyers. One of them spotted the periscope, opened fire and tried to ram the E-11 (a typical anti-submarine tactic of the time). They made their escape and within seven hours passed through the straits and into the Sea of Marmara. The E-11 was only the second British submarine to get so far into enemy waters and Turkish gunboats prowled the area intensely. Finally, Naismith spotted an old wooden dhow (a common sight) and had an idea. They surfaced right beside the vessel and the British sailors poured out and immediately jumped over and seized the boat, taking the Turkish crew prisoner and lashing the dhow to the submarine. With it drifting alongside them, with the E-11 awash, mostly concealed, it provided a perfect camouflage as they searched for valuable targets.

Damaged periscope of the E-11
At sundown Naismith had to cut the dhow loose and put the bewildered crew back on board. Two days of waiting followed and finally, on the 23rd, a large transport was sighted about eight miles off Constantinople. However, it was protected by a gunboat, the “Pelenk-i-Dria”. A torpedo from E-11 sent it to the bottom but in an astonishing piece of incredible bad luck, a piece of debris from the gunboat hit the periscope of the E-11, putting it out of action. The sub was blind and had no armament other than her torpedoes which could only now be fired on the surface and staying on the surface is suicidal for a submarine, particularly in waters so heavy with traffic. However, Commander Naismith was an officer a cut above the rest. He took his boat to the relative safety of a nearby island and set to work fixing the periscope himself. When he had taken command, he made it his business to learn absolutely everything about every last piece of equipment and machinery on his boat. His diligence now paid off as, almost miraculously (as it is an extremely delicate and complex device) Naismith was able to repair the periscope on his own.

By the next morning, the 24th, the E-11 was on the hunt again and soon spotted a large, civilian steamer. In accordance with the rules of the sea at that time, Naismith surfaced his boat and ordered the steamer to stop so that the crew could be offloaded before sinking the vessel. The ship did not stop though until the British sailors opened fire on it with their small arms. The crew were evacuated and Lt. D’Oyly-Hughes was sent onboard with a demolition charge that was later set off, sending the ship (which was found to be carrying a large amount of guns and ammunition) to the bottom. After spotting another target, E-11 submerged and stealthily followed it right into the harbor. The sub hit the bottom but Naismith kept pressing forward through the ever shallower water, determined to get his shot. As the water became more shallow the top masts of the sub were exposed and soon they were under Turkish small arms fire but Naismith kept his cool, lined up the shot and destroyed the transport with a single torpedo.

That, however, was only the beginning. On May 25, Naismith took the E-11 in an attack into the Bosphorus, the narrow channel connecting the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. It was a rather historic occasion as the famous “Golden Horn” had not been penetrated by an enemy in five hundred years. Upon entering the densely traveled area, their first problem was with a curious Turkish fisherman who kept trying to grab their periscope. Naismith finally allowed him to get a good hold and then quickly retracted the scope, nearly capsizing the little vessel and leaving the fisherman unharmed but quite bewildered. Their first target was a large ammunition ship but the torpedo went wild. Naismith fired again and that time the torpedo hit in a fantastic explosion which Naismith captured on camera in a shot taken through the periscope (the first time such a thing had ever been done). With that victory, the Turkish shore defenses leapt into action, vessels hurried to port and everyone was put on the alert. Right off the capital of the Ottoman Empire, naval traffic and operations had been brought to a halt by one very audacious British submarine.

The E-11 dove deep and headed back into the Sea of Marmara, having put a good scare into the enemy. Over the next two weeks Naismith and his crew sunk a transport and about a dozen dhows until they were down to only 2 torpedoes and, as the engineer discovered, they had a crack in one of their propeller shafts. It looked like it was time to head back to base in the Mediterranean. On June 6th the E-11 headed back, escaping unscathed though there was one very hair-raising incident as a naval mine was snagged on one of their diving planes. Naismith had to go deep, reverse engines and surface stern-first to get un-stuck from the deadly device. Once back to Malta the E-11 was fixed up and fitted with a 12-pounder deck gun. In the meantime, the E-11 having proven the viability of such an operation, the British had sent more subs into the Sea of Marmara and virtually cleared it of enemy shipping. However, the E-11 was not done yet. In August Naismith and his men returned just as the Allies were mounting another push on Gallipoli. Severing Turkish supply lines would be extremely beneficial.

Within days of arriving the E-11 sent another transport and a gunboat to the bottom. Then, on August 8, smoke was sighted and the E-11 submerged. Through the periscope, Naismith saw a destroyer escorting out the last Turkish battleship, the heavily-armed “Hairedin Barbarossa” (originally the Imperial German battleship ‘Prince Elector Friedrich Wilhelm’). It was being sent to support the Ottoman troops defending against a British attack on Suvla Bay. Naismith let the destroyer pass over and then rose to periscope depth and took out the Turkish battleship with a single torpedo. The destroyer continued on its way and Naismith took a parting shot at it but missed. Still, the last major Turkish warship had gone to the bottom thanks to Naismith and his men. But, they were not done yet. With sea traffic at a standstill, the Turks had to depend on the Berlin-Bagdad Railway for imported supplies and Naismith was determined to attack this last lifeline.

The E-11 surfaced and Naismith and his crew began shelling the bridge with their new deck gun. However, the Turks were well prepared and began returning fire with their shore batteries. Finally, Naismith had no choice but to order his men below and submerge to the safety of the depths. However, no one wanted to give up and Lt. D’Oyly-Hughes volunteered to go ashore, alone and blast the bridge with a demolition charge. Naismith gave the order and the intrepid British officer crept ashore, dodging Turkish troops and some noisy chickens in a nearby farm. However, the entire bridge was lit up like Broadway as teams worked to repair the damage the E-11 had inflicted the night before in their shelling. D’Oyly-Hughes was dismayed but still determined to strike a blow for King and country. He found another bridge, actually an enormous trestle over a dry-wash ravine that was even larger than the Izmit Bridge they had first targeted. D’Oyly-Hughes set his charge and then opened fire on a camp of Turkish soldiers with his pistol to distract them. He dashed back to the shore, dodging bullets along the way but his mission was a success. He made it back to the submarine and a huge section of the Berlin-Bagdad Railway went up in an enormous explosion. For his exploit on shore, Lt. D’Oyly-Hughes was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

In the two weeks that followed the Turks were forced to resort to transport by sea again, this time adopting the convoy system but the indomitable E-11 still took a heavy toll in spite of these measures, sinking 2 armed tugs and 2 sailing vessels in one convoy and 4 transports from another before leaving the Sea of Marmara on September 3. In two patrols, Commander Naismith and His Majesty’s submarine E-11 had sank 18 enemy ships, including the last Turkish battleship, destroyed a major section of the Berlin-Bagdad railway and almost totally choked off the line of supply to the Turkish forces on Gallipoli. Even more would be added to this total in a third cruise to the area and Commander Naismith was awarded the Victoria Cross, promoted to full Commander and later Captain and later Admiral, becoming Sir Martin Dunbar-Naismith. He retired in 1946 and died in 1965 but he became a living legend in the submarine community all over the world for his exploits and his name will never be forgotten by all those men who “sail” beneath the waves.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mad Monarchist Q&A

Please note, I have had to paraphrase some of the questions to keep this from running too long or shorten them to the basic question. The questions posted appear in white, my responses in yellow. -MM

Ps Earth asks: Why did you start blogging about monarchies in 2009?
I started before that, just started in 2009 at the current web log.
How did you become so interested in monarchies?
Answered that in a previous Q&A, the video is on YouTube
Do you do a lot of reading or research on the monarchies or do you “just know”?
It’s a combination of both. A lot is from memory but I have a library full of books for when I need to check facts.
Do you believe in reincarnation?
Not generally, but, of course, I believe “all things are possible”.
Is it true there is not a lot of writings regarding Emperor Puyi, why is this?
There is a fair amount on him just not much that can be trusted. Best book in my view is “Twilight in the Forbidden City” by Reginald F. Johnston. His account is first-hand and he is an impartial, outsider with no reason to be dishonest.
What is the true essence of a monarch?
No idea what that means. I’m not sure what the “true essence” of me is much less anyone else.
Which Texas city/town/area is the “heart” of Texas?
San Antonio
Would you consider Duke Cosimo Medici of Firenze a monarch?
Of course, he was, I think, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany and I believe I wrote a profile on his consort a year or two ago.
If you happen to know about traditional Texan buildings or sites, would you suggest some for reminiscing trips into histories?
For the same reason as above I would say San Antonio. Aside from the Alamo there is La Villita, the missions and the old Spanish Royal Governor’s Palace (pics in the “Monarchist Destinations” posts) or Goliad to have a look at a mission and a Spanish presidio.
What’s your take on and knowledge about the love life of King Ludwig II of Bavaria?
Don’t really have a “take”. As I recall, there wasn’t much to talk about in that department for Ludwig II. The rumors of course were that he was ‘a certain way’ but restrained himself from giving in to that.

Drake Heath asks: What’s the difference between usurpers like Phocas and many other Roman/Byzantine usurpers vs. people like William the Conqueror or the Hongwu Emperor who also took their thrones by force?
I’m not sure exactly what your asking as to differences other than that Phocas was eventually overthrown and William I and Hongwu were not.
And monarchs who were from peasant backgrounds like Basil I? Would they count as usurpers since they didn’t have a dynastic claim to the throne?
There was no one single “legitimate” Byzantine bloodline so usurpers were commonplace. They usurped power but in that time and place that was rather standard procedure.
Can new royalty (whether it’s just a dynastic change or governmental change) be considered legitimate after a few generations? How about new monarchs who created their monarchy out of a republic like Augustus?
As with most things, some will accept them and others will not. It depends on the country and the accepted source of royal legitimacy which does vary from place to place. Napoleon was accepted by some in France but most monarchists did not and never would accept anything but the original bloodline. Augustus was different, his legitimacy was never in question. He was raised to his “exalted” status by the existing, legal procedures of the Roman Republic.
If a new monarchy arose out of a republic today with a previously non-royal family would they be legitimate (even if the country formally had a royal family) or just pretenders? If generations passed and they stayed would they eventually become legitimate monarchs?
This sounds like you’re fishing for a particular answer. Re-read my answers above. In the first place, I cannot imagine such a thing happening, secondly, some would and others would not. It more or less happened that way in Albania but the new monarchy didn’t last long enough to see if it would have been accepted by the wider community of European royals. It might be more likely today than in the past since today marrying commoners is the rule rather than the exception and the emphasis is on royals being ‘just like everyone else’ rather than something special set apart from all the rest.

James Destry asks: You said in the last response to me that you would support a coup to restore a monarchy. Would you support a revolution? Really, what I want to know is what method of restoration you would not support, if any?
I thought I made it clear, I can’t really think of any such circumstances. A revolution to restore a monarchy would be a counter-revolution and I have supported every one of those that has happened.

The Bavarian Monarchist asks: What do you think, can a monarchist support politicians like Francisco Franco in Spain or Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria, even if they have no intention of (immediate) restoration of the monarchy?
If they are moving a country toward a more monarchial position, I would say you could or if the other side would be more detrimental a monarchist could support them. If there is no progress toward restoration support can be withdrawn. I know these ‘strongmen’ types can be attractive and I have come across many “monarchists” wishing to ditch their own royals in favor of some caudillo figure but it would be a wasted effort. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves.” In Thailand the King has just about as little actual political power as any European monarch but he has been able to intervene in national affairs in the past and take decisive action because his country reveres him, trusts him and is absolutely loyal to him. Monarchs in Europe with much the same powers do not intervene because, frankly, their people are not so loyal. If the loyalty of the people were unconditional, even constitutional monarchs could work wonders. In other words, don’t blame monarchs for the faults of their subjects.
In reference to right-wing, nationalist organizations, which allies do we monarchists have (or do we at all?) in our struggle, not only in Germany, but worldwide?
It often seems there is not many, mostly because almost everyone today has adopted revolutionary values and the revolutionary mindset, even most of those on the so-called “far right” or “third position” types still have the socialistic, egalitarian, “it’s all about the people” mindset. Some traditionalist and nationalist type groups can, perhaps, be helpful but we must always be very careful of them.

Patty Shaw asks:
What’s the difference between pious and religious?
The difference is easily found in any dictionary.
Why would you say “sanity is for the weak”? Isn’t sanity needed to have a good night’s sleep?
Not at all, I sleep like a baby.
Does the boogie man really exist?
Oh yeah, ran into him just last week.
Have you checked out the following music?
Have you been to Bavaria before?
Why did you think I had mistaken you for someone else?
Because you were writing in very familiar terms.
And also, will you be my pen-pal?
Don’t be silly. Observe for yourself or ask others -I’m not friendly, I’m not nice, I’m very unpleasant, I’m overall horrible -you don’t want anything to do with me.

Anonymous asks: As you have talked about other territorial disputes, what are your thoughts on the dispute between Spain and the UK over Gibraltar?
Disputes like that between monarchies bother me because monarchies are so few they should be sticking together. As I understand it, Britain won Gibraltar fair and square but the dispute stems from some Spanish understanding that it was supposed to be returned to them and was not. I don’t see why Britain needs it but as long as the people want to remain British, Spain will just have to deal with it or live with the problem. Even if Britain turned it over to Spain, most of the people (and their wealth) would probably leave and even those who didn’t would likely be a problem. Plus it would ratchet up the pressure for Spain to return its North African holdings to Morocco. My biggest problem with these disputes is the moaning and whining, for years and years, whining to the UN or whining to some other international organization. I say, put up or shut up. If it’s that important, then fight for it but if you’re not willing to take the risk and make the sacrifice then just stop complaining, accept that what is lost is lost and get over it.

James Destry asks: How you think that nation that have not had a monarchy in centuries (Case and point, Ireland, Switzerland, US) can establish one?
Ireland had a monarchy not so long ago, the British monarchy, and if the people were willing could reestablish the old Kingdom of Ireland tomorrow if they so desired. Switzerland used to be part of the Holy Roman Empire but the United States is an ‘invented’ country so it is a little different. However, as with any place, there are two ways: legal and illegal. The illegal method would be to use force, the legal method would be to have the states vote on constitutional amendments to change the U.S. to a monarchy and then invite someone to assume the throne.

Sung asks: In light of the question above, how do you think young countries with very little history and more than one nationality such as Singapore for example, could establish monarchies?
The same way any other country does or has done. In the case of Singapore, it used to be a monarchy as part of the British Empire and that was an entity with a vast array of nationalities which, most of the time, didn’t seem to bother anyone.

Drake Heath asks: How much do you know about Ancient monarchies (like Babylonians, Egyptians, Alexander’s successor kingdoms and ancient China) and pre-Christian European monarchies?
Not as much in the case of Babylon, a little bit more with Egypt, not much on the Alexandrian states and ancient China depends on your definition of “ancient”. My formal education on China covered mostly Qin Dynasty onward, before that -not so much. For pre-Christian European monarchies, same answer, unless you count Rome which I’ve studied quite a bit.

VictoryGinRB asks (I think): I was about of directing to You some particular questions…about philosophical groundings of monarchism by more modern thinkers…as J. Evola, Ortega y Gasset, Spengler, Toynbee and others connected with doxas of ant modernism and cultural pessimism (mainly anti-democratic, anti-secularism, historical regression etc) and was curious if You have interest in directing some attention to those questions in future and how well You are into that sphere…
You would probably be disappointed. That transcendental stuff, what I have studied on, I mostly keep to myself. I’ve read quite a bit of Evola but even he was more of a theoretical than actual monarchist, not as familiar with the others besides Spengler and, again, nothing very “monarchist” jumped out at me about him. I probably wouldn’t cover much of that sort of thing here because, from those I have read up on, their “monarchism” was all very theoretical, far off in the future, sometimes even other-worldly and I think it more practical to not lose focus on the here and now before all traces of monarchy are gone.

Anonymous says: I’ve never been able to wade through all of the propaganda to find out if the argument that women were seen as lesser citizens in monarchies is really valid…Perhaps you could offer me some resources as well.
Not sure what you mean by “resources”, I certainly don’t have or know of any books specifically on that subject. All I can say is that the status of women has changed over time in various countries regardless of whether they were monarchies or republics. A woman in the Republic of Venice had no more rights than a woman in the Kingdom of France in that time. Likewise, this is usually more of a cultural issue than a political one. China and Vietnam, in the old days, were both Confucian-based monarchies and yet the status of women in Vietnam was much higher than in China because of the history unique to that country. Today, women are certainly treated better in the United Kingdom or the Kingdom of Belgium than in the Islamic Republic of Iran but then again women have more rights in the French Republic than in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I recall reading, many, many years ago, an account by an ambassador from Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) to Vienna where he was shocked to see the Emperor of Austria step back and allow women to cross in front of him on the street (he attributed this to the influence of the cult of Mary in Catholic countries). Both Turkey and Austria were monarchies but the status of women was very different because of the different cultures and religious beliefs of the two places and each would be viewed very differently from the modern standpoint.

Emperor Romanov asks: How did lords properly “tax” or in this case demand/collect rent from the peasants? What prevented the lord from demanding too much payment or services? Is the lord’s power restricted by some force or organization what prevents him from arbitrarily ruling with his private military? …Did lords charge rent to cities that did not get a charter of autonomy?
As usual, the answer to that varied somewhat from place to place. In general, peasants worked on the land of a lord and part of that land was reserved for the peasant himself so that was his payment for working the lands of his lord. The lord was restricted from asking too much in a number of ways. The local Church would chastise him and simple common sense and self-interest would tell him that if you take too much the peasants will not survive and you lose your workforce and your lands become worthless. As for his private military, you have to remember, the peasants themselves were the bulk of his military so if they all refused to cooperate there was not much he could do. As for the cities, it varied a great deal and there were not many cities in those days because people were more self-sufficient and most big cities, the few there were, had an independent or autonomous status under their own leadership.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Royal News Roundup

It has been an odd week in royal news and no place better to start than the United Kingdom. The anti-hunting, ‘animal life is more precious than human life’ crowd is going hysterical all over the world and some of their manic rage is being deployed against the British royals -and it would be much easier to sympathize with them if they did not also do things to encourage these bizarre priorities. The Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry have all recently been stressing the importance of stopping illegal hunting and saving endangered species in Africa. Then someone thought it outrageous that Prince William went hunting for wild boar in Africa and then someone else dug up a 10-year old photo of Prince Harry with a water buffalo he had just shot. Cries of hypocrisy have been raised and while I’m not fond of encouraging any of this type of hysteria at all, the facts are facts and the facts are that neither wild boar or water buffalo are endangered species (last time I checked) and these were not the sort of animals the princes were speaking out against hunting. No member of the Royal Family has ever killed an animal illegally and that should be made clear and that is what they have been speaking out against, killing animals like elephants and rhinos for their tusks -that sort of thing. Where I do think one royal has gone too far is when Prince William announced this week that he hopes to one day strip all the ivory out of Buckingham Palace, destroying about 1,200 pieces of ivory most of which have been given to British monarchs as gifts over the centuries to ‘set an example’ for world leaders. Please. This is just silly. Destroying a bunch of antiques will not save any animals, it will not bring any back to life. This sort of gesture reminds me of all the fuss made over Pope Francis choosing not to live in the Apostolic Palace. The place still has to be maintained so whether he lives there or not it is not saving any money or anything and if Prince William tosses all those ivory treasures it is not going to help any animals. The ones those pieces came from are all long dead and it’s not as though they were purchased in the first place, thus conceivably adding to the demand for them. It’s just silly. And in other news, the royals hosted celebrities for BAFTA and the Prince of Wales visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other places in the Middle East.

Across the North Sea, King Harald V of Norway opened a special celebration of the Norwegian constitution and Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark went skiing in Sochi (very timely) but a busy week for the Swedish Royal Family was drowned out by news of the birth of a new addition as Princess Madeleine and husband Chris welcomed a new baby girl to their family. According to the father, the little one looks like her mother (thank God) and now the speculation turns to what the little girl will be named. So far, Desiree seems to be the popular favorite. The King and Queen had a typical busy week, as mentioned, but it seems not everyone has moved on from some of the less pleasant revelations from the recent past with a new poll showing that half of all Swedes want the King to abdicate in favor of Crown Princess Victoria. It is a good thing that Princess Madeleine had a daughter rather than a son as it seems male royals are just terribly out of fashion these days. Further down on the continent, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands spoke out on helping the poor and announced upcoming visits to Colombia and Peru. In Belgium the royals turned out for a mass in honor of the deceased members of the family and King Philip and Queen Mathilde were welcomed on an official visit to the Italian Republic. The big news in Belgium though was the announcement of the engagement of Prince Amedeo, son of Archduke Lorenz and Princess Astrid, to Miss Elisabetta Rosbach von Wolkenstein. We wish them all the best. In southern Europe, Princess Caroline of Hanover visited Genoa, the Spanish media continues to pour over the leaked details of Infanta Cristina’s testimony and at a consistory in Rome Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict were together again, the first time both have appeared together at a liturgical event.

On the Middle Eastern front, Jordanian Prince Mired and Princess Dina climbed mount Kilimanjaro in Africa to raise money for a cancer center while royals of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE all took their turns hosting visits from the Prince of Wales as mentioned earlier. The Emir of Qatar also held talks with the Emir of Kuwait to discuss regional and international issues of mutual concern. There was also quite a bit of outrage on the part of tourists in the Maldives when their plans were ruined by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia when he booked three entire island resorts for himself. Many had long-standing reservations cancelled and were naturally quite upset about this. The Saudi government has not commented on it. And, to sprint over to northwest Africa for a moment, King Mohammed VI of Morocco visited Mali last week to support the on-going peace process there and (hopefully) gain greater influence than the reaching republican government of Algeria. Well-wishing people lined the streets shouting “Long live the King!” but, apparently, such a reception is not expected on another upcoming visit for the King of Morocco to the African republic of Guinea. There the governor of the capital warned people that anyone who caused trouble during the visit by the Moroccan King would say goodbye to their loved ones “for good”. This is mostly due to recent riots resulting from power cuts.

In East Asia, the King of Bhutan celebrated his birthday last week, congratulations to the Dragon King, and trouble continues to beset the Kingdom of Thailand. In this area (though far from uncommon) many media reports have given the wrong impression, speaking of people being killed and many people injured in the anti-government protests that have been going on around the country. The important thing to remember, which is not always told, is that in every one of these cases the deaths and injuries have been among the protestors and were caused by pro-government zealots who are afraid that the demonstrations might have an effect.  These protests are being carried out by people loyal to the King, who want a law and order society and for existing laws to be upheld. They have only been forced to take such actions as holding demonstrations and peaceful protests because of the policies of the government in, effectively, buying votes. Hopefully the Prime Minister will step down and life can return to normal in the “Land of Smiles”. And finally, moving north to the “Land of the Rising Sun”, HM the Empress attended a special charity concert in Tokyo last week and HM the Emperor met with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, all in all, a fairly routine week.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Today in History

On this day in 1921 the Bogd Khan, the last monarch of Mongolia was restored to his throne (after being deposed by forces of the Republic of China) by the multi-national pan-monarchist army of Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, the mascot of The Mad Monarchist weblog. If only such stories were more common. Monarchists of the world unite!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Military Power, Monarchies and Republics

In these modern times we tend to elevate our beloved political talking shops and denigrate our militaries which provide the security to allow all of us to pursue our peaceful pleasures. The focus today tends to be on economic concerns (which are certainly pertinent) rather than military strength and that extends to the rivalry between republicans and monarchists. I have seen many put forward the case for why monarchies are superior to republics based on social concerns, based on economics and based on religion but I do not recall ever seeing the case being made for monarchies having an edge on republics when it comes to the armed forces. To an extent, this is somewhat understandable given that, in our own time, the two dominant military superpowers of the world (the United States and the Soviet Union) have been republics with most of the remaining monarchies of the world depending, ultimately, on the United States for protection. However, this rather narrow vision does not give us the full picture, even though the armed forces of several modern-day republics certainly present quite a respectable picture of military strength. Yet, even today, if one looks closely at the actual facts, one can see that the record of republics does not stand up to close scrutiny when compared to monarchies in their prime. Consider, for example, how efficiently Great Britain was able to guard the largest colonial empire in history which, at its most expensive, cost slightly more than 3% of the net national product between 1870 and 1913 whereas the United States today stands guard across the world at a cost of 6.8% of the net national product between 1948 to 1998. Britain did more with much less over a far greater period of time.

Kublai Khan
Of course, when looking at the whole of human history, there is no doubt that martial strength was immense in the pre-revolutionary days before republicanism became increasingly dominant. Almost every major power that has ever existed reached its peak under the rule of monarchs rather than presidents. It was true of Alexander the Great when he conquered “the world”, it was true of Rome under the Caesars and true for the Mongols who struck out under Genghis Khan to found the largest land empire in history which reached its peak under the reign of Kublai Khan of the Yuan Empire. Imperial China reached its peak in size under the Qing Dynasty of the Manchus and it is quite telling that most of the foreign policy of the current communist government in China has focused on retaining or regaining territories that were not traditionally Chinese but which had been part of the Great Qing Empire (such as Manchuria, Tibet and Outer Mongolia). As an empire the Turks dominated the Middle East, North Africa and much of Southern Europe, whereas the Republic of Turkey managed to defeat Greece before spending the rest of their recent history dominated by an identity crisis (Muslim or secular, Asia or Europe). More recently, some might be unaware of how successful Imperial Germany was during the First World War compared to Nazi Germany in the second. True, the Kaiser did not conquer France, but German troops fought longer in more far-flung territories in the First World War and German troops actually penetrated farther into Russia in that conflict than in its successor two decades later. The military strength of Austria-Hungary is often denigrated (unfairly) but it was certainly a major European power and none of the minor republics which succeeded it can compare to the military muscle of the old “Dual-Monarchy”.

However, some will surely wish to take issue with countries such as the example of Germany, cited above, or that of France. Many will assert, and point to a number of powerful facts to support them, that both France and Germany were stronger after their monarchies were overthrown. However, in the case of France, this would mean claiming Napoleon to be a republican when he reached his height of power as a self-proclaimed monarch. Furthermore, both Napoleon and Hitler marched to war with an officer corps that was the product of the monarchies that preceded them. In the case of the Germans, if Hitler achieved more, it is also true that he lost more, in fact many, many millions more in German lives than the Kaiser did. As for France, if looking only at the French republics, their biggest expansion was colonial and not in Europe where the most militarily powerful countries were. After the Thirty Years War, the Kingdom of France was the dominant power on the continent of Europe, something no French republic has ever managed and the Kingdom of France produced some of the greatest military minds in world history, something which, again, no republican regime in France has managed to match. Under King Louis XIV, all of Europe revolved around France with almost everything that happened being instigated by France or done in reaction to France. However, for most of the history of the French republics, the country that most fits that description would be Germany.

At this point, republicans will surely be getting impatient and would wish to stress the current military might of countries such as the United States, Red China and the Russian Federation. This can be a little tricky, however, as these powers came to be or came to their full strength after monarchy had ceased to be the dominant form of government and monarchists could object to a direct comparison for the same reason republicans would surely object to the comparisons made before with the great monarchial empires of history that dominated the world. However, in the case of China and Russia we can certainly compare them to their own monarchial pasts. The United States, being a relatively young country with no past as a monarchy to compare it to, will be the most difficult. What can be said about the United States is that, in the first place, it got practically nowhere on its own as a military power until it began to sacrifice its original republican vanities and embrace the ways of the Old World monarchies it so despised. This means stripping away some of the cherished myths of American military history, starting from the very beginning; principally, the idea that there was anything at all innovative about the military forces of the American War for Independence.

Many, in the United States certainly, will have learned in school that the colonial patriots outwitted the British by fighting in irregular fashion, using long rifles from cover while the redcoats marched shoulder to shoulder in long lines in the open. This is simply not true and credible American military historians will admit as much. The Continental Army had a record of almost continuous defeats interrupted by the odd stalemate or minor victory that usually resulted from their enemies doing something risky rather than on any brilliance on the part of the American leadership. The colonials did not become a military force worthy of great consideration until they adopted the European tactics they claimed to despise; fighting in line of battle with the victory going to the troops that were the most disciplined and well drilled. Most also know that the colonial forces would not have been victorious had it not been for the timely intervention of the forces of the Kingdom of France. However, after the war, in the full flush of their victory, the Americans made the mistake of believing their own propaganda and giving in to their republican vanity. They spurned things like professional armies, an educated officer corps and even military decorations as all having the taint of monarchy about them. Instead, they clung to the mistaken belief that they had achieved victory all on their own and that this proved that a civilian militia, fueled by a righteous love of liberty, could triumph over any enemy. That conceit lasted until the War of 1812 when the U.S. invaded Canada and had their proverbial clocks cleaned. While still talking a good game in public, privately, the American leadership realized they had been very lucky to escape unscathed from that conflict and, in the aftermath, decided to have a professional army instead of relying so heavily on a civilian militia and, most significantly, to establish formal military academies for the training of officers. Ridiculous republican ideas such as soldiers choosing their own officers by election were quickly and quietly done away with.

Once that was done, it was also quite some time before the United States ever fought a war against another country at the height of its power and almost every war since (save perhaps the Mexican War and the Civil War in which America fought itself) was a war the United States chose to fight and was not a matter of absolute necessity. The most ridiculous was the war with Spain which came at a time when American power was growing rapidly and Spanish power had reached rock bottom. One author compared it to “a tiger fighting a sick tomcat”. The First World War was definitely more of a challenge, but even then, American power did not really come into play until the last half of 1918 when Imperial Germany was bankrupt, starving and running out of soldiers. World War II certainly saw American military power at its peak, fielding immense military strength on land, sea and air in Europe, Africa and Asia. World War II stands out though as being a war in which it was taken for granted that this was a war of machines, a war of aircraft carriers, submarines, tanks, bombers, fighter jets and rockets. It became a race between the Axis and Allies to develop new and better weapons first. The U.S. ended up trumping everyone with the atomic bomb.

American military strength cannot be denied and I will not attempt it. I will say that it came into its own only when it stopped trying to incorporate republican ideology into the military and stuck with what had proven to work in the monarchies of Europe. Today, politics has been steadily creeping back into the U.S. military and (coincidence?) clear-cut military victories have become steadily fewer. Think though, for a moment, about the tools of the modern American military superpower. American innovation is second to none, true, but at their core, all of these are improvements on things which originated in monarchies. Sound unreasonable? Put it to the test: everyone thinks of American troops using flamethrowers during the island hopping campaign in the Pacific but the flamethrower is actually very old technology, used by the Byzantine Empire (“Greek Fire”) and by the Chinese during the Ten Kingdoms period (Pen Huo Qi). Most Americans know that the first battle between armored warships was in the American Civil War (battle of Hampton Roads) but the first actual armored warship was built by the French Second Empire and even these could be seen as improvements on even earlier innovations such as the “Turtle Ships” developed by the Kingdom of Korea in the Fifteenth Century. The first to use aircraft in combat was the Kingdom of Italy during the war with Turkey, the first to develop fighter planes was the German Empire, the first submarine to sink a ship with a free-swimming torpedo was the Imperial German Navy, the first to use tanks in combat was the British Empire and the first to launch a successful air raid from a naval ship was the Imperial Japanese Navy all in the First World War. No one can say that republics have a monopoly on military innovation.

Concerning Russia and China, of course, the situation is completely different as there is a monarchial past to compare with the republican present. First, there is Russia and there will surely be many who think there can be no comparison between the Russian Empire and, if not modern Russia, certainly the Soviet Union at its peak. Actually, there is and the contrast is rather stark. When one thinks about the great victories of the Soviet Union they invariably involve battles in World War II in which the Soviets were able to throw hordes of men and machines against greatly outnumbered German and other Axis forces to achieve victory (which even then were extremely costly and often rather limited). This alone would place none of the Soviet commanders on the same level as a Tsarist general like the great Marshal Suvarov who never lost a battle in his career, winning against the French, Turks, Poles, rebel forces at home and often fighting against enemy armies that outnumbered his own. His strategic movements and surprise attacks made him one of the most influential military commanders in history. All too often, the greatest victories of Imperial Russia are little known but when one considers the vast areas of Eastern Europe and Central Asia that came under Russian rule after hard fought campaigns the perspective surely changes.

People tend today to emphasize too much the defeats Imperial Russia suffered and have a very incomplete vision of the whole picture. World War I is one of the most cited examples and yet few realize that, in spite of immense industrial and logistical disadvantages, the Russian Empire drove Austria-Hungary almost to the breaking point, made considerable gains against the Turks and at the time of the revolution was, according to military production, showing every indication of being on the verge of a massive turnaround. Even when it comes to wars that were lost for the Russian Empire, it is quite revealing to look at the quality of the powers Russia lost to in comparison to conflicts that were lost by the Soviet Union. For example, Russia lost the Crimean War but it took the combined power of Victorian Great Britain and the French Second Empire (both of which had illustrious military reputations) combined with other powers to do it. Russia lost a war to Japan (the significance of which seemed worse than it was simply because of a rather racist underestimation of the Japanese by all European countries) but made Japan pay a heavy price for it. Just consider for a moment, which was the greater embarrassment; losing a war with the Empire of Japan (a power that would inflict the worst defeats ever suffered by the U.S. Navy and the British Empire in World War II) or losing a war to tiny, outmatched Finland like the Soviets did?

True, the Soviets gained some territory but they did not conquer Finland and they suffered terrible losses even at that so that Finland was called “the grave of the Russian field army”. Which was the worse loss; being forced out of Poland by the combined might of Imperial Germany and Austria-Hungary or being forced out of Afghanistan by a mob of goatherds with a few advisors from the CIA? In that light, the record of Imperial Russia looks somewhat different doesn’t it? And, since World War II (in which the U.S.S.R. was massively supported by Britain and the United States) the Red Army did very little formal fighting and was most often used to crush dissent by mobs of civilians, hardly noble victories. It should also be kept in mind that the early, horrendous losses suffered by the Soviets in the Second World War can be blamed almost entirely on Stalin who had gone out of his way to seek out and destroy talent wherever he could find it. The Russian Empire also kept flexible in foreign policy and believed in fighting her own battles whereas the Soviets were content to meddle in the internal problems of far flung countries that had nothing to do with Russia at all and is also a far cry from even the Russia of today that seems stuck in the foreign policy grooves of its Soviet predecessor.

As for China, it may seem the most difficult case to make, but is actually the easiest. People today look in awe at the People’s Liberation Army as the largest standing army on earth, they look at the Chinese nuclear arsenal, the largest air force in the world and a rapidly expanding navy. However, in terms of military equipment, most Chinese air and naval units are far behind their rivals in terms of technological sophistication. It has the second largest navy in the world but only 13 nuclear submarines compared to 72 in the U.S. Navy and its one aircraft carrier was an old Soviet hulk purchased from the Ukraine with the original intention of using it as a casino ship. Compare this to the navy of the Ming Empire which had ships more than twice the size of the leading naval powers of Europe at the time. The modern Chinese military copies the weapons and equipment of other countries, Imperial China invented new technologies such as gunpowder and rocketry. One could even go back to ancient China when Sun Tzu literally wrote the book on military strategy.

Throughout its long history, Imperial China had defeats but also won victories against almost all of its neighbors in that course of time, dominating some for centuries at a time. When one looks at the military record of Communist China, for having such an immense army in terms of numbers, there is not much to write home about. In Korea, the Chinese suffered inordinately heavy losses in order to achieve a stalemate. In India, China claimed a victory but it was a minor one at best and was accomplished by having the Indians outnumbered 8 to 1. Later, the PLA took quite a drubbing from the Vietnamese, claiming victory while retreating from Vietnam and doing nothing about the Vietnamese domination of Pol Pot’s Cambodia which China had launched the invasion in response to. Despite its immense size, the Chinese military has shown itself quite fierce when crushing Buddhist monks in Tibet or student activists in Peking but has much less to boast of when fighting actual enemy armies. And that has been the history of modern China. Whether wins or losses, Imperial China fought many external enemies whereas most of the fighting done by Chinese armies since the birth of the republic has been internal struggles for power, first between the nationalists and communists and later by the communists against dissidents.

And, in the end, despite all of the storm and stress, no republican government in China has ever been able to surpass or even match the land area controlled by the Qing Dynasty at its peak. The Soviet Union may have dominated more of the earth than the Russian Empire but it certainly did not last long, nor did it gain all of that territory by its own strength. Aside from the United States (which has never been a monarchy) every country that has a significant military history behind it reached its peak of martial strength while under monarchial leadership rather than republican. There is then a powerful argument to be made for monarchy not only in terms of a more economic government, greater social cohesion but also greater security as well.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Assassins, Sainthood and Joan of Arc

Most people in the west are probably unfamiliar with this story so a little background information is called for. Once upon a time, in the “Land of the Morning Calm”, the Kingdom of Korea, there was a man named Ahn Jung Geun. He was a Catholic and, based on his actions and writings, quite possibly not in full possession of his faculties. In 1909, a year before Korea would be annexed by the Empire of Japan, Ahn Jung Geun hid a gun in his lunchbox and slipped into the railway station in Harbin, Manchuria. When a Japanese delegation arrived after having negotiations with Russia, he opened fire, shooting four men; a South Manchuria Railway official, a Secretary of the Imperial Household Agency, the local Consul General and his primary target, who was killed, Prince Ito Hirobumi, the first Prime Minister of Japan and the former Japanese Resident-General in Korea. Ahn Jung Geun was quickly arrested by the Russians and later turned over to the Japanese. Found guilty of murder and attempted murder he was executed on March 26, 1910. Since that time, for his assassination of Prince Ito Hirobumi, Ahn Jung Geun has become the greatest national hero in modern South Korea. Great kings, generals and admirals of the past who won great victories for their country might not be remembered but this assassin has been deluged with monuments and posthumous honors. Recently, in a collaboration with communist China (you know, the regime responsible for Korea being split into two warring factions) a special “memorial hall” was opened in the VIP section of the Harbin Railway Station overlooking the place where the murder occurred.

I take for granted that this exuberant celebration of an assassin does not make sense but there is a great deal about the bad blood between modern Korea and Japan that does not make sense. That should be set aside, it is not something I am terribly interested in. However, while I consider bizarre actions by republican governments the rule rather than the exception, recently, the Catholics in the Republic of Korea have started to make this a religious issue as well and have invoked the name of one of my favorite historical figures, someone I consider a great Christian and a great example for monarchists; St Joan of Arc. Now, to step back for a moment, it should be made clear that this was not always the case. Ahn Jung Geun supposedly converted to Catholicism after being sheltered by a French Catholic priest oddly named Father Wilhelm. When Ahn Jung Geun was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death, the presiding Catholic Bishop of Korea ordered that he not be given the sacraments, including the last rites, because he had committed murder and was not in the least repentant about it. However, the story is that Father Wilhelm disobeyed the Bishop and gave him last rites anyway.

Now, we come to the present day when Ahn Jung Geun is a celebrated hero across the Republic of Supplicant Koreans, the Democratic Republic of Enslaved Koreans and the People’s Bandit Republic of China. Recently, the Catholic hierarchy in Korea began to push for the canonization of Ahn Jung Geun as a saint. The local Korean bishop said that he was a great Catholic patriot and compared him to St Joan of Arc in France. That got my monarchist blood boiling in a big way. To compare Ahn Jung Geun to St Joan of Arc is not only false and extremely arrogant but is an absolute insult to the memory of St Joan. The connection being made was that, just because Ahn Jung Geun shot a man three times and shot three more men in quick succession, that should not disqualify him from sainthood because St Joan of Arc killed people for the liberation of her country as well. Obviously, the Catholic bishops of Korea do not have a very solid grasp of the life of St Joan of Arc or of medieval French history. Allow me to highlight the great, gaping chasm of difference between the lives and circumstances of St Joan of Arc in France and Ahn Jung Geun in Korea.

First of all, although some might find it hard to believe for a soldier and a general but St Joan of Arc never killed anyone in her life. She had a sword and she wore armor but according to all that I have read, and her own testimony, she never took the life of anyone. She stated at her trial that when she rode into battle she preferred to carry her banner rather than her sword for fear that she might kill someone. The only thing she is known to have used her sword for was to use the flat of it to strike prostitutes who followed the army. In battle, she mostly preferred waving her special banner to rally and inspire the French soldiers who did the actual fighting. She was wounded, very badly wounded at times, because she was at the front, leading her soldiers and urging them onward but never did she ever actually kill anyone herself. Furthermore, St Joan of Arc did not want anyone to die, French or English. She would plead with the English before battle to leave in peace and go back home to England, she was as much concerned for the souls of her English enemies as she was her own countrymen.

Prince Ito Hirobumi and the
Crown Prince of Korea
However, just for the sake of argument, let us suppose that the Korean bishops are correct. Let us assume that either the trial transcripts are wrong or that St Joan was lying and that, in the heat of the moment, Joan of Arc lashed out with her sword and killed some English soldiers. We will assume that for the moment. There is still absolutely no comparison to what Ahn Jung Geun did. That was a war and if St Joan did kill anyone it was in the midst of battle, fighting armed men who were trying to kill her and her countrymen. There is a huge difference between soldiers killing each other on the field of battle and someone, hiding in wait, concealing his weapon and then gunning down a group of unarmed civilians, shooting a defenseless, elderly man three times and then exulting over it. There is a huge, huge difference. However, there is someone that might be more similar to Ahn Jung Geun who was also French (though from a part of France at the time under the rule of the King of Spain), also a Catholic and who also is known to history only because he murdered someone. That is Balthasar Gerard, the man who assassinated the Dutch rebel leader Prince Willem I of Orange (Willem the Silent).

Of course, there are still some differences. Balthasar Gerard could claim to be acting on instructions from his sovereign lord the King of Spain, at least in a way. Again, we have the difference of there being an actual war going on between the Dutch rebels and the Kingdom of Spain. During the Dutch War for Independence, King Philip II of Spain declared the Prince of Orange to be a “pest on the whole of Christianity and the enemy of the human race” and offered a reward of 25,000 crowns to anyone who dispatched this traitorous rebel, which to Spain he certainly was. Balthasar Gerard acted on this and shot and killed Willem the Silent on July 10, 1584. He was arrested by the Dutch, given a trial and condemned to death. However, whereas the Japanese simply hanged Ahn Jung Geun, Balthasar Gerard was sentenced to death by slow torture, having his right hand burned off, the flesh torn from his body, his arms and legs were cut off, he was disemboweled, had his heart cut out and shown to him before finally being beheaded. Ouch. And this was after enduring four days of other horrific tortures before his actual execution. Ahn Jung Geun fared much better. The Japanese did not torture him, helped him write the story of his life, gave him special treats for the new year celebration and his warden brought him a special set of white Korean clothes for him to be executed in as he requested.

Anh Jung Geun
However, both men were Catholics, both men claimed to be doing a greater good by their actions and both men had shot princes. Also, after his death, some Catholics regarded Balthasar Gerard as a hero and the Apostolic Vicar to the Dutch Mission, Sasbout Vosmeer, campaigned for him to be canonized as a saint. He took the case all the way to Rome. However, even in those days of such bitter and violent religious division, the Catholic Church declined to canonize a murderer. It also helped that democracy did not matter to anyone in those days. The fact that a large number of people in Catholic Spain and the Low Countries considered Gerard a hero did not make any difference to the papal court in Rome. Today, however, it remains to be seen if the authorities will be as unmoved by the widespread and enthusiastic support in Korea for the canonization of Ahn Jung Geun. To make him a saint would certainly be popular in both Koreas and in China where Christians are still persecuted such as those Catholics who remain loyal to Rome in spiritual matters rather than to the Communist Party. However, would it be right? Will the hierarchy of today do as it did in those supposedly more violent days long past when they said that the Church would not canonize someone for committing murder?

I find it astonishing that any Catholic, even if they are Koreans burning with national pride and eternal hatred of Japan, could propose canonizing someone who is only known to history for being an assassin. I find it deplorable that he is being compared to someone like St Joan of Arc, a spotless example of Christian compassion, virtue, heroism and loyalty, showing the sort of loyalty that stood firm even when it was not returned and I find it, frankly, disgusting that this could actually be given serious consideration. After all, even if we are to toss religious and Christian principles out the window and look only at plain, dirty, political considerations, it still makes no sense. Remember again the case of Balthasar Gerard. He was not canonized but the fact that he was so popular among some Catholics and that it was considered made Protestant leaders like Queen Elizabeth I in England extremely paranoid and this resulted in a great deal of persecution for totally innocent Catholics. Obviously the Japanese would be greatly offended to see Ahn Jung Geun canonized and the Christian minority in Japan as well (just as Ahn Jung Geun is cheered by Protestant as well as Catholic Koreans and Chinese atheists all at the same) but think of how other presidents, prime ministers and assorted national leaders will look at their Catholic citizens in the future if the Church declares a man who assassinated a prime minister to be a saint. Will this gain the Church greater acclaim or will it make every world leader, particularly those paranoid, dictatorial types, start to look at the Catholics in their populations as a threat to national security, a group of people who might decide to become a saint by murdering their leader or a foreign political leader and sparking a war?

Korea has legitimate national heroes worthy of honor and celebration and if Korea cannot celebrate a national hero without taking a swipe at Japan there are examples of successful men who met the Japanese in honorable combat (Admiral Yi Sun-shin and General Kwan Yul spring to my mind) but Ahn Jung Geun is not one of them. He was not anything at all like St Joan of Arc and it is an outrageous insult to the Maid of Orleans to even make the comparison. He was not a soldier who killed on the battlefield, he was not a martyr who died because he was Catholic. He was an assassin who murdered an unarmed man and was justly put to death for the crime he committed. His crime did not help his people or his country and it had nothing to do with religion or the Catholic Church. If his canonization goes ahead it will be a clear indication that pandering is more prevalent than piety in the Catholic hierarchy and the fact that, even as things stand now, he is so celebrated is proof of the depths republican governments will sink to in searching for a figure to unite their people in the absence of a monarch. The whole episode is disgusting and should be unworthy of both the Catholic Church and the nation of Korea.
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