Monday, May 26, 2014

Royal News Roundup

Going to go through the headlines rather fast this week to save time for some commentary on the story getting the most ‘buzz’. In Asia the Sultan of Yogyakarta raised the prospect of running for President of Indonesia. In Thailand the army declared martial law and subsequently assumed control of government functions due to continuing violence and antagonism between the red shirt (bad guys) and yellow shirt (good guys) factions. The trouble goes back to fugitive PM Thaksin Shinawatra who fled the country after being convicted of numerous corruption crimes only to have his red shirt followers elect his sister in his place who then tried to change the law to allow her brother back. The courts finally removed her from office for overstepping her authority and when the temporary government claimed to not be so “temporary” the army stepped in. The red shirts have maintained their hold on power through wealth redistribution programs, effectively buying the support of rural and lower class Thais while the yellow shirts are made up mostly of middle class workers who support the aristocracy playing a larger role in government and greater authority being given to the monarchy.

In Europe, the Norwegian monarchy is enjoying record-high popularity according to a recent study. The King of Sweden met with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Swedish Prince Carl Philip celebrated his 35th birthday. In Belgium, King Philip participated in a 20km foot race and in Spain the Prince and Princess of the Asturias celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary (congratulations to Their Royal Highnesses). King Hamad of Bahrain paid a visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican just before the Pope left for the Middle East where he is due to meet the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. His first stop has been in Jordan where he was received by the Hashemite Royal Family. The visit will mark the anniversary of the meeting between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI. Britain’s Prince Harry was also in Italy, visiting the battleground of Monte Cassino and paying tribute to the British troops who fought there. HM the Queen visited HMS Lancaster and a British court ruled that the remains of King Richard III, the last Plantaganet monarch of England, will be buried in Leicester rather than York as his descendants wished. The family is vowing to continue the legal battle.

The story that got the most attention, however, involved the visit of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Her Majesty’s Dominion of Canada where Prince Charles, while speaking to a Polish refugee of World War II, in a “private” conversation that did not stay that way, compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. The diplomatic uproar was almost immediate and Russian diplomats, politicians and the obedient Russian media immediately went on the attack against Prince Charles as well as the British Royal Family as a whole, in one instance highlighting family connections to members of the Nazi Party in Germany and even digging up that old photo of Prince Harry in a Nazi costume at a fancy dress party years ago. All of this is certainly doing Russia no good as it seems an overreaction to one, supposedly private, remark and gives the impression that the Prince must have hit pretty close to the mark to get them so flustered about it. Speaking of Germans, it most reminded me of the comments and marginal notes of Kaiser Wilhelm II who was quite adept at speaking his mind and causing headaches for the Foreign Office in doing so. Was it wrong? No, but it was not very diplomatic and yet, it was a “private conversation” and should not have needed to be. That is partly why the Russian reaction seems so needlessly hysterical. It was not an official speech or something of that sort.

It also seems somewhat hypocritical for the Russians to be so touchy about comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis when that has been their favorite tactic against the new government of Ukraine from day one; calling them fascists and neo-Nazis. I said even back then (and before) that I really, really wish people would just lay off Hitler and the Nazis. Perhaps it is different in other countries but I am *so* sick of these ridiculous comparisons. Clinton compared Slobodan Milosevic to Hitler, Bush compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler, Democrats compared Bush to Hitler, Republicans compare Obama to Hitler, Obama compared Assad to Hitler, China compares Japan to the Nazis, Russia compares Ukraine to the Nazis and now Putin is like Hitler. One would think there have never been any other “bad guys” in the whole of human history! And, just for the record, Putin is nowhere close to being “like Hitler”. So far, he has not started a world war and has not tried to commit genocide against anyone. What he has done is certainly similar to what Hitler did in Austria and Czechoslovakia but those usually do not make the “Top Ten” list of Nazi infamy. It is hard to get too upset about a country absorbing a part of another country that enthusiastically wishes to be absorbed (like the Sudetenland). However, just as it would be unfair to compare Putin to Hitler, it would also be unfair to compare Hitler to Putin. After all, warmongering, genocidal nut he might have been but Hitler never sold out his country to the Chinese Communist Party either.

I have no problem with the Prince of Wales calling a spade a spade in regards to Putin, however I do think the Nazi analogy has been done to death and I really wish everyone would just drop it. Was it diplomatic? No, but it should not have had to have been because it was a private conversation. It only becomes one because of the strange world we live in where we have eschewed the open antagonism of the past for a false façade of friendship with the world. Countries all over the world hate each other but still go out and pretend to be best buddies, usually for economic reasons. That is what brings up what I think is the real problem with what was said about Putin. It makes no sense to say bad things about him while not being prepared to do anything about it. Obama has had the same problem. I hate whiner-countries ever so much. Put up or shut up is what I say. And that’s the problem, Prince Charles can compare Putin to Hitler but, if that were true, shouldn’t someone do something about Putin? No one has any desire to, not in Britain or America or the rest of Western Europe for that matter. It also brings up some issues that would be rather embarrassing for both sides (which is probably why no one will be honest enough to do it). Think about this:

Where the comparison between Putin and Hitler is valid is that both have broken agreements and used military forces to annex what was part of another country. Another good comparison is both were able to get away with it. Where was this righteous defense of the letter of the law and national sovereignty in the past? Britain and France guaranteed to go to war with any country that violated Polish sovereignty. Hitler did so and both declared war on Germany. Two weeks later the Soviet dictator Stalin also violated Polish sovereignty but no one declared war on him. He took over Mongolia and no one seemed to notice (save China and Japan), annexed the Baltic states and no one in the west seemed to care and at the end of World War II the US & UK handed Eastern Europe over to Soviet Russia, totally disregarding the wishes and sovereignty of all those countries. Britain and the Soviets both occupied neutral Iran during the war, to protect their own interests and the Soviet Union was urged (not that they needed any urging) to break their word of honor in the non-aggression treaty to go to war with Japan, with the US & UK even promising territory that was neither British nor American to give away. It was great for the Soviet Union as they were effectively being bribed to do something they wanted to do anyway.

This matters to us today, make no mistake about it, and for proof look at the recent agreement between Russia and Communist China. As they have said many times before, they repeated their desire to stand together to maintain “the post-World War II world order” -keeping in mind that neither of these regimes actually participated in World War II. However, that tells you something about what mistakes were made and who came out ahead in that conflict. Russia and China want to hold on to that world order and their status as “good guys” in comparison to the World War II Axis Powers while the UK is looking for Germany to stand up to Russia and the US is encouraging Japan to strengthen its military and take a more active role in their defense. How things have changed. Does Prince Charles want Britain to do more to oppose Putin? If so, he is probably in the minority. I might also add that Western Europe would not be quite so beholden to Russia and timid in standing up to Putin if they had not embraced global warming alarmism and squelched things like nuclear power and domestic energy production -which is also something the Prince of Wales has been outspoken about.

I don’t have a problem with what the Prince said, I just would have preferred a comparison to Stalin or really anyone besides Hitler (quite the dead horse by now). I always got a chuckle out of the marginal notes of the Kaiser too. Honesty in public life is refreshing. However, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do since the UK does still have to deal with Russia and as President Obama can attest, you really just end up looking worse when you let your mouth write checks your gluteus maximus can’t cash. As for Putin, he can stop pretending to be offended by this and Russia should knock off the whining. After calling the Ukrainians Nazis and Fascists so many times, they really should not cry so much about getting a dose of their own medicine. And can we try to just stop comparing everyone to Hitler? It really is old hat by now.

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