Thursday, August 31, 2017

China and Japan, Should the West Care?

In recent years, the People’s Republic of Chinese Sweatshops has been growing at a rapid rate in terms of the size of its economy and massively building up its military forces, particularly its oddly named People’s Liberation Army Navy. They are currently finishing up their first domestically produced aircraft carrier, having one already in service they purchased from Ukraine, an old Soviet vessel basically used as a starting point for Chinese naval engineers. Similarly, China is expanding its submarine fleet faster than any other power and gone are the days of the noisy death traps known as the Han-class boats and the Romeo-class Soviet relics, the Shang-class nuclear attack subs are no laughing matter and after purchasing and studying a number of very effective Russian Kilo-class diesel boats, the recent Chinese made Song and Yuan-class boats are of comparative quality. China has also been building artificial islands, complete with aircraft platforms and weapons systems in the South China Sea and establishing naval bases in places such as Ceylon, Pakistan and Djibouti. Obviously, this is an effort to secure control of the main trade route between East Asia and Europe.

Should the western world care about this? Before addressing that, it must be noted that one country which cares very much is Japan. Ignoring the leftist, mainstream, “fake news” media like NHK, I will point to a more rational news source, the conservative Sankei Shimbun and the new online outlet Japan Forward. I think this is particularly appropriate since Japan Forward is the effort to spread a conservative Japanese news source to a wider, international, audience, particularly the Anglosphere. For example, Japan Forward frequently carries articles warning about the threat posed by China, offering advice on what the United States, Japan and other countries can or should do about it and criticizing any hint of the U.S. or Japanese governments taking their ‘eyes off the ball’ that is Pseudo-Communist China. Japan Forward recently ran a special, three part series on countering the building of militarized, artificial islands by China in the South China Sea (read it here). Any of these articles, taken on their own, put forward a compelling case. However, it is when World War II enters the conversation, which is absolutely inevitable when dealing with Japan as *everything* revolves around World War II, that we start to have problems at least so far as the U.S. and the West are concerned.

To illustrate this, I point to an interview, also in Japan Forward, by YouTube personality Yoko Mada with Hidetoshi Ishii, “a Japanese expert on the politics and history of Asia” who has very definite ideas on what needs to happen in the region (see it or read it here). First of all, for those on the left or even moderate right anywhere in the western world, any Japanese talk of a “Greater Asia” is inevitably going to cause blowback over memories of Imperial Japan’s “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” and the “Greater East Asian War” (which is what Japan calls World War II, look for Hitler and Mussolini far under the bus). They bring up something I have written about before (here, a plug for me this time) which is the claim that Imperial Japan was really the “good guys” in World War II, in fact the *only* “good guys” (Adolf & Benito still under that bus) as Japan was fighting a righteous war for ‘Freedom’ to liberate Asia from the wicked, western, colonial powers, because colonialism is a western thing, it is racist, it is wrong, it is evil and before you even ask, no, Korea doesn’t count, because it’s not colonialism if Japan does it. Silly. It is also noteworthy that, in the interview, a great emphasis is placed on Hong Kong (the former British Crown Colony now languishing under mainland rule) and that everyone in Japan, and America and the western world should back the cause of Hong Kong independence from China.

Now is the time to pose the question, in light of the Japanese argument, as to why the USA, the wider Anglosphere or Europe should really care about this. Should they? Do any really have a vital interest in seeing China stopped? To be clear, I think the current bandit regime that sits in Peking is illegitimate and monstrous, I have been unhappy with every Chinese regime since 1912 but, from a purely pragmatic perspective, what business is it of anyone in North America or Western Europe? The Chinese government, based on their military buildup, their establishment of naval bases and the ongoing construction of a new “Silk Road” are clearly, in my view, trying to gain control of the trade route which is vital to their overwhelmingly export-dependent economy. This is certainly a threat to those in competition with China but, as things currently stand, that list would not include North America or Europe which rely almost as heavily on Chinese imports as the Chinese economy depends on exports to these parts of the world. In short, the only cause for concern for the west would be China shutting off this trade route which is the last thing the Chinese would want to do as they would suffer the most from it as North America and Western Europe in particular buy more from them than anyone else. As things stand now, the west does not produce, it consumes and China depends more on that consumption than the west does on Chinese production.

In the old days, prior to World War II, things were very different. Countries such as Great Britain, France, The Netherlands, Portugal and the United States had an interest in Asia because they had colonies there which were important parts of their economies. If you go back prior to World War I, Germany did as well (and to a much lesser extent, a few others too). This is not the case anymore obviously. The British started giving up their Asian colonies almost as soon as the war was over. The Dutch had to give up the East Indies in 1949, the French were forced out of Indochina in 1955, Portugal lost Goa to India in 1961 and handed over Macau in 1999, the United States had agreed to Filipino independence before World War II, delivered it in 1946 and was evicted from Subic Bay in 1992. All of this, according to the “Japan fought World War II to end western colonialism” narrative, is ultimately thanks to Japan and, as such, runs contrary to the Japanese argument that the western powers today have any real, vital, national interest in what happens in the region. Why should, for example, the British ultimately care if Hong Kong remains a part of China or becomes independent when Hong Kong stopped being a British concern in 1997? And, again, based on the point that the same country arguing that Britain should be concerned is also arguing that they ultimately deserve the “credit” for Britain losing her Asian colonies in the first place.

“Asia for the Asians” was the Japanese slogan in World War II, and now, that is truly the case. It is why some on the right in Japan have argued that they didn’t really lose the war at all, because the goal was to get the westerners out of Asia and now they are all gone. Why then should the USA or any western power continue to take an active interest in Asian affairs? I do not doubt that some might notice that, when Japan said “Asia for the Asians” in the 1930’s and 40’s, the Empire of Japan was the strongest power in East Asia whereas today, economically and militarily, China is once again the dominant force in the region. Could that have anything to do with the Japanese attitude of, ’give up your colonies and get out of here but then come back and do something about China’? For Japan, the effort to justify their last war is running contrary to their current desire for support against a powerful and zealously anti-Japanese neighbor.

This is not unique to Japan, it is only that Japan, because of the war, casts itself more broadly, taking “credit” for the end of the other empires touching East Asia. However, since the Chinese military buildup, The Philippines has now said some U.S. troops can come back to Subic Bay after all and even Vietnam, which bases so much of its current identity on anti-Americanism, has decided that the United States isn’t really all *that* bad and now allows American warships to visit Vietnamese ports. If they were in a position to help them at all, I don’t doubt they would take the same attitude toward the French. From the point of view of western civilization, how is any of this not seen as a case of trying to have your cake and eat it too? In other words, why should western powers protect eastern powers for nothing in return? The strength and potential threat of China is supposed to justify everything and yet, the west, thanks mostly to allowing China into the World Trade Organization and other similar acts, is economically invested in maintaining good relations with China. Whether a good decision or not (and I think it was not), this is nonetheless a fact.

I also must repeat something I have said before which is, when making an argument, it is important to remember who exactly you are trying to persuade. In the case of Japanese conservative outlets trying to make the case against China, their target audience would be western conservatives. Western leftists certainly have no desire to confront China, being largely in sympathy with them, however, by tying so much back to their justification of World War II as a righteous, anti-western, “holy war” against colonialism, I fail to see how the Japanese could convince those on the right in the west who either stand by their former empires, defend their memory and deplore that they were lost, or agree that Asia should be “for the Asians” and of no concern to the west at all, these being more concerned with issues such as terrorism, immigration and demography in western countries than with anything China is doing on the other side of the world. In my experience, these same westerners often see much to admire about Japan but nonetheless view Japan as “them” and nothing to do with “us” which the Japanese narrative actually encourages by casting themselves as the ‘anti-imperialist’ empire.

Personally, I would have preferred Japan and the Allies never went to war at all or would have preferred the Japanese to have attacked the Soviet Union rather than the British and Dutch in Southeast Asia. I prefer the days when the Empire of Japan was still around and one of the club. I would have also liked to see a revived Qing Empire in China as part of that club as well. In any confrontation between Communist China and the State of Japan, my own sympathies are certainly going to be with the Japanese and, in the event of such a calamity, my friends know I would do anything to help them. When taken up to the level of countries, however, national interest is the determining factor and since the end of the colonial period, commerce is the only way the west is involved with the East Asia. The Chinese army is not threatening to invade Europe or North America and if the Australians considered such a thing remotely possible, they would probably have taken care to maintain a navy that would actually pose a challenge.

Since the European colonies in Asia were lost, no European power is frankly able to intervene in the region as they have no bases there any longer. So, as some in Britain have admitted, when anyone in the west says “we” should do something, it actually means that the United States should do something. As it concerns China, the mainstream right is concerned about China, the left is not but it is the right which most runs counter to the Japanese narrative as they are the only ones in America willing to take America’s side in its wars and interventions. The only sizeable group which actually agrees with much of the Japanese narrative are the libertarians, however, they illustrate perfectly the problem with Japan’s argument since they point to the same things Japan points to, such as western colonialism, as precisely the evidence for America not being involved in Asia at all. Just as they condemn the sanctions placed on Imperial Japan in the past, so too do they oppose any disruption of trade between America and China today.

Given the current state of affairs, it could well be argued that China poses an existential threat to Japan, not only because of their military strength but because of the degree to which anti-Japanese hatred is used as a unifying force in China. What is more difficult to argue is that China poses an existential threat to America or western civilization in general. Most of the west is frankly unable to do anything even if it should and, as for the United States, the most potent threat posed by China is the possibility of China’s new currency system replacing the dollar as the international reserve currency. That, however, is something that will not and cannot be stopped by American bases in Japan, American troops in South Korea or by the elimination of artificial islands in the South China Sea. Western civilization is under threat, of that I am in no doubt. However, that China is such a threat seems dubious, though I am open to arguments on the subject. With no real stake in the region, since the end of western colonialism, it seems more like the west is being called upon to, once again, take the side of others in a fight that is not theirs.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

MM Movie Review: A Royal Affair

“A Royal Affair” (‘En kongelig affaere’) is a Danish historical film about the affair between Queen Caroline Matilda of Great Britain, consort of King Christian VII of Denmark, and the court physician Johann Friedrich Struensee. Released in 2012, directed by Nikolaj Arcel, it stars Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Struensee, Alicia Vikander as Queen Caroline and Mikkel Folsgaard as the King of Denmark. I am not expert enough on the details of Danish history to know how precisely accurate the film is but I can at least say it is broadly so. King Christian VII was considered mentally ill, he did have a court physician named Struensee who had an affair with his wife and during this period there was a huge amount of changes undertaken by the Danish Crown which ultimately resulted, as shown in the film, in a rather unhappy end for the Queen and the doctor. Given what an unusual historical character Queen Caroline was, I am rather surprised the film did not portray her as more ‘over the top’ and was, frankly, surprised by the amount of restraint and even fairness presented in the film.

The English princess
The entire story is told in flashback, Queen Caroline, in circumstances not made known until the end, writing a letter to her children to explain what happened during her time in Copenhagen from her own point of view. She relates being plucked from a seemingly idyllic childhood in England to be married off in 1766 to King Christian VII of Denmark who, we are assured from the outset, is barking mad. As is usually the case in such circumstances, I have my doubts about this, though there is certainly no denying the fact that he was not entirely sound. However, I have a hard time taking diagnoses of mental illness (about which even today we know practically nothing) from people who think that, as was said of King Christian, insanity can be caused by masturbation. The King seems at least interested in her, they have a romp and an heir to the throne is soon on the way, though the Queen cannot relate to her bizarre husband, nor he to her and he soon neglects her, spending his time elsewhere. This is all intended to build up the first half of the ‘royal affair’, that of the liberal minded, neglected young queen, forced into an unwanted and loveless marriage with a lunatic.

It is at this point that we are introduced to Doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee and, I should add, also from the very beginning, we are made aware that the Kingdom of Denmark is, at this point, still a feudal, absolute monarchy, lagging behind the times in “Enlightened” Eighteenth Century Western Europe. The Queen, at the time of her marriage, is told that her ‘Enlightenment’ books are not allowed in Denmark which is resolutely sticking to tradition. However, Dr. Struensee is also a devotee of Rousseau and the ‘Enlightenment’. A German, from the Danish possessions in northern Germany, he is portrayed as a progressive man of, if not low origins, at least perfectly comfortable with the common, crude and even vulgar. He does a man with connections a medical favor, this is returned by his being recommended to court and he soon finds himself appointed as the King’s personal physician. Whether it is whoring or bizarre conversation, he goes along with the King, seems to understand him and the King becomes very attached to him, no doubt because he is the only one who does understand him, probably because he is the only one who has taken the time to actually try.

The King and his doctor
Dr. Struensee begins winning the King over to his more liberal ideas and the King gives the doctor a seat on his Privy Council. However, Struensee finds that his views are always overruled, though he is careful that these are put forward by the King. Struensee then begins working on the King, having come to understand him, he is able to put things in a way that the King will respond. He convinces the King to act normally by presenting it to him as a game, a sort of joke, as the King does understand pretending or acting in a play. He works on the King to pretend as though he is acting in a play when he meets his ministers and, as such, is able to have the King behave in a more kingly fashion and his ministers must obey him. Once this formula is worked out, the King begins unleashing a flood of liberal reforms on Denmark, all secretly originating from Dr. Struensee. His part in this, however, cannot remain secret and it is soon known that he is the one behind all of these dramatic changes which many in the aristocracy and Royal Family oppose.

Someone who does not oppose it is the Queen who, with all of these changes underway, sees that she and Struensee hold much the same pro-Enlightenment political opinions. The two soon begin an affair and Struensee seems on top of the world, or at least Denmark and what else really matters? The King is his friend and is basically allowing him to rule the country, he is committing vigorous adultery with the beautiful, young queen and he is re-making Denmark according to the ‘Enlightenment’ principles he most believes in. Everything is going his way. Then, the Queen informs him that she is pregnant. Uh-oh. It then becomes a matter of dire necessity to get the King back in bed with his wife very quickly in order to provide some plausible deniability for anyone else being the father. I do not like these, “the prince/king is not really the father” tropes in film but, unlike “Braveheart”, this one actually has historical merit. We cannot say for sure who the father of the child was, a girl born in 1771, but courtiers did say the child looked like Struensee and even in the King, with his supposedly limited mental capacity, had his doubts.

The King & Queen of Denmark
Nonetheless, the King appoints Struensee to the highest position at court to the extent that any order which comes from him must be enforced as if it came from the King personally. Struensee begins issuing a flood of “reforms”, more than ever, in actual history what works out to three a day and, I must give the film some credit on this score. Even for those who thought some of these changes were beneficial, they were too much, too fast. In a way that, frankly, surprised me, the film actually acknowledges that this torrent of liberal changes does not really work out well. It is made clear that Struensee has not taken the time to think things through, just ordering what to him seems “reasonable” while taking no account of how practical any of these changes are. He upsets the elites and, again, I am surprised the film was honest enough to show this, even upsets common people who he thinks he is benefiting. Moreover, by abolishing the censorship laws, these people are able to ridicule the King in whose name all of this is being done. Struensee gave the public the tools to attack him with.

All of this scrutiny finally allows the Dowager Queen Juliana, mother of the King’s younger half-brother Prince Frederick, to learn of the affair between the Queen and Dr. Struensee. The tension shown was historically accurate. The King never got on with his step-mother, the Queen never liked her and she did have a history of trying to keep the King isolated. She was never very popular in Denmark and no doubt looked forward to having more influence by replacing the unsound King with her own son. The Dowager Queen and a powerful official work together to arrange a palace coup, meanwhile the public has been worked up into a howling mob as not only have the horde of liberal reforms upset their lives but now they learn the King is being manipulated by a German who is ‘playing doctor’ with the Queen.

The downfall of Struensee
Nonetheless, the King is portrayed as a basically good man who simply has an affliction of the mind but he sees the mob howling for blood and refuses to turn over Struensee to them, the man who has been his only real friend, the only one who had any understanding of him at all. However, aside from having the affair confirmed, the King is told that the Queen and Struensee are plotting to murder him and take control of his kingdom themselves. This, the King cannot allow and he orders the execution of Struensee and the exile of his Queen. However, he still does not really want Struensee to be killed and issues an order pardoning him. However, the pardon is suppressed by Ove Hoegh-Guldberg who is set to take over the country in place of Struensee and the doctor is executed. The liberal reforms were overturned, though not much mention is made of it, this is done under the regency of the King’s half-brother Frederick. The film ends with the Queen finishing her letter to her children shortly before her own death in Hanover. The children receive the letter and, we are told, when he came to the throne, King Frederick VI reissued most of the Struensee reforms and Denmark was all happy, free and “enlightened”.

That was, of course, a fitting way to end such a film but anyone who knows anything about the actual history of the Danish monarchy in this period will know that they lie by omission. Yes, King Frederick VI did issue many similar liberal reforms but then he also led Denmark to a fairly disastrous involvement in the Napoleonic Wars, the result of which was to see Denmark lose Norway to Sweden and afterwards, seeing the woeful state of his country, Frederick VI reversed course, abandoning his earlier liberalism and becoming a full-throated reactionary. It is an historical record that makes it rather difficult for the so-called “reformers” that every time their ideas were put into practice, disaster was the result. In any event, I have low expectations when it comes to the ‘messaging’ of most royal-subject films and I think “A Royal Affair” can be forgiven this effort at implying an altogether happy ending. I say that, however, only because I had expected worse and was pleasantly surprised.

Mother and child at the mercy of step-mother-in-law
“A Royal Affair” is, I think, overall a pretty good movie. For the sake of people in Kansas, I will say, it is not for children (which I would think should be obvious but…) as there is some crude language, brief nudity and what I suppose would be termed “sexual situations”, though those mostly alluded to rather than seen. Overall, it seems a fairly accurate film to me, though, while I am no expert, some things did bother me somewhat given what I do know on the subject. For example, it seemed to me that Queen Caroline was portrayed as being far too helpless, as if she were little more than a prisoner from start to finish when, in reality, she had her own faction at court, as was usual in such cases, and was far from being isolated and powerless. In any event, I was impressed with how the King, while certainly portrayed as being insane, was not portrayed as an inherently bad person but a basically good man who has an affliction which makes me unable to relate to ordinary people or for them to relate to him. I was also, again, surprised and impressed that they were honest enough to show that the Struensee reforms did not instantly make a paradise on earth but actually made things worse and sparked a backlash, not just from the aristocrats but from ordinary people.

It is certainly a well made film, well acted, it won a large number of awards and great amount of critical acclaim. It looks very good and it covers, fairly accurately I thought, a critical period in Danish history. If it prompts people to learn more, I think that alone would make it worth recommending. Personally, I am glad to see any such films from the Kingdom of Denmark and wish there was more available on Danish royal history in various language (such as English) for a wider audience. Denmark has the oldest monarchy in the western world and there is much there to enthrall and educate, I wish more people could learn about it, myself included. Anyway, bottom line, I would say it is a pretty good film, not perfect but better in some ways than I expected and I would like to see more, preferably next time about a Danish monarch who was successful and not insane.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Fascist Debate and Christianity

It has become painfully obvious to all by now that our political discourse in the United States has degenerated into an argument over who the “fascist” is. The Nazis have also recently replaced Russia as the looming bogey man of American political discourse with accusations and counter-accusations of the left and right being the “real” Nazis. The term “Nazi” is used by both sides interchangeably with the term “Fascist” as if these two things were one and the same. Rather than debate ideas or principles, we seem to spend our time arguing over who is or is not a “fascist”. The Democrats say that the Republicans are “fascists”, that President Trump is a “fascist” and the more extreme members of the progressive left have even formed a group called “Antifa”, which is short for “Anti-Fascist”, to combat any Republican, conservative, or whomever they consider at all ‘right-wing’ who are all, to their mind, “fascists”. Prior to World War II, there were many such groups, usually organized by the local Communists of a given country and the members of “Antifa” today are modeling themselves after those people.

At the same time, the Republicans have responded to this by arguing that they are not “fascists” but that, rather, it is the Democrats who are the “fascists”. They point to the behavior of “Antifa” and say that the “Anti-Fascists” are the *real* “fascists”, that they are the ones behaving like “fascists” and so on. There is a similar back and forth over who is most similar to the Nazis. Trump is called a Nazi or a Neo-Nazi or a Nazi sympathizer by the Democrats while the Republicans continue to argue that the Nazis were leftists and that no one on the right could possibly be a Nazi because of that. Rather, they implicitly argue, it is the left in this country which is most like the Nazis with each side refusing to even consider the possibility that the Nazis were a different sort of thing, taking ideas from both sides and thus neither entirely on the right or the left. It can, and has, become extremely tiresome as both sides accuse the other of being Fascists and both sides accuse the other of being most like the Nazis, the Nazis being the secular replacement for the Devil, who no one believes in anymore, as the representation of pure evil in the world.

Thus, our political debate has been reduced to shouting at each other, “you’re a fascist!” and, “no, you’re a fascist!” ad nauseam. The left will have an easier time of this since the right, by responding the way that they do, implicitly accept the leftist standard of judgment. They have, effectively, decided to play the left’s game according to the left’s own rules and it is hard to imagine how that could ever work out well for them. They could, and with more justification, accuse the left of being Communists and/or Stalinists but they do not because, again, they have accepted that the Nazis and/or Fascists were the worst people in the history of the world, the representation of absolute evil and thus calling them Communists would not pack the same punch. The difference is that the right recoils from the accusation of being Nazis or Fascists while the left does not recoil at being called Communists or Socialists. The Republicans spent eight years calling Obama a socialist and when his term ended the Democrats very nearly nominated an open and avowed socialist to replace him. The term obviously does not repel them in the least.

No, the mainstream right, and not just in America, has a problem because, according to their own ideals of classical liberalism, what the left wants does not seem that out of order. They have already conceded the ground on too many key points. If, after all, we are all “created equal”, then it does not make sense that some do better than others and seems perfectly reasonable for a powerful state to intervene in order to restore that mythical inherent equality. If America, or any other western state, is a “nation of immigrants” then it does seem rather arbitrary and capricious to say you are only arguing over matters of procedure and paperwork. If you concede complete freedom of religion, and equality and the “brotherhood of man”, anyone can become a citizen of any country so long as their paperwork is in order, it does seem like only blind bigotry which would motivate you to say the Muslims should be given a bit more scrutiny. No, do that, and you just might be called a Fascist and, apparently, the worst possible thing to be in our current liberal, democratic, republic is a “fascist” and we are locked in a cycle of accusing the other side of being that most terrible of things.

Now, for the left, the revolutionary, republican, secularist types, this makes sense. They have also long embraced “identity politics” and are very definite about whose side they are on. If your identity is that of a non-Caucasian race, a non-Christian religion or a non-traditional sexual orientation, they are for you but if you are any of those things, not so much. The right, on the other hand, tries to argue against all identity politics while at the same time inherently running into the problem of what it “means” to be an American. From what I have seen, the fall-back position seems to be Christianity or, as they often prefer, “Judeo-Christian values”. While still trying to argue that you can be any religion or of no religion at all, they say that these Christian values are the core of who we are and we must get back to them as the basis for the only proper sort of identity. Frankly, that sounds rather impossible to me and rather at odds with their agreement with the left that the manifestation of absolute evil in political terms can be lumped together under the label of “fascist”.

Remember, after all, that National Socialism and Fascism are actually not the same thing nor did they behave in exactly the same way nor were either of those identical to any of the other regimes currently given the blanket classification of “fascist”. They certainly did not have the same sort of attitude when it came to religion, the dominant religion in all such countries being Christianity. In “fascist” Spain, General Franco was the savior of Christianity, delivering it from the atrocities of the Second Republic which killed more people in a matter of months than the supposedly notorious Spanish Inquisition killed in as many centuries. The “fascist” Legion of the Archangel Michael in Romania had Orthodox Christianity as one of its foundations and required all members to be willing to die for Christ. The leaders of both of those movements were also monarchists. The very pro-Christian “Austrofascist” leader Kurt von Schuschnigg had agreed to a restoration of the monarchy, which we have discussed before, and the “fascist” regime of Salazar in Portugal was very pro-Christian and at least friendlier to the idea of monarchy than any government in the Republic of Portugal has been before or since. Given all of that, I can only believe that if anyone understood Fascism, I do not see how actual Christians could consider that the worst thing in the world to be, certainly worse than our own regime.

From a Christian point of view, one could go back to the Roman Empire which the faith was born in and converted for the image of an ideal state or the medieval specifically Christian monarchies which rose up after it but neither of those are on offer today and, indeed, are intentionally ignored. They are certainly not attacked the way that the Nazis or the Fascists are, though they have and would be, but more than that the ruling elite seems to not want them to even be considered. So, for a sincere Christian living in the modern, liberal, democratic west, it seems hard to understand how the term “Fascist” could be regarded as the ultimate evil. I say this because, in any way in which I would measure a society by the standards of traditional Christianity, the one actual, honest to goodness state which was truly Fascist, the state in which the dictator of the country was the man who actually invented Fascism, Benito Mussolini, seems inarguably more Christian than our own celebrated and beloved liberal, democratic, union of republican states. Fascist Italy was, of course, none of those things. It was certainly not liberal, Mussolini emphatically despised liberalism, nor was it democratic as several years into his tenure Mussolini banned all parties but the National Fascist Party and it was not a republic as Mussolini, though dictator, was only the head of government and not the head of state, which was the King of Italy.

That must sound shocking but, I can only ask you to consider a few facts about this terrible, nightmarish dictatorship known as Fascist Italy which was so bad that it has become our primary political epithet. Consider it, particularly, from a traditional Christian perspective. In Fascist Italy, divorce was illegal. Abortion was illegal, gay “marriage” was certainly illegal and homosexuals or trans-genders and everything of that sort was nowhere to be seen. Men were encouraged to be masculine, women were encouraged to be feminine and the tax code encouraged people to get married and have large families, to, ‘replenish the earth’ if you like. Christianity (specifically of the Roman Catholic variety) was the official and sole religion of the state, Christian religious classes were mandatory in all Italian schools, the local form of Christian worship (the mass) was even declared, “central” to national life in Fascist Italy. There were also, by the way, no mosques in Rome (though there were Christian churches going up in Libya, Eritrea and Somalia) just as there were no gay bars or trans-gender bathrooms. Oh, and there were no Satanists giving the opening prayer at city council meetings either.

All of that was in Fascist Italy under the dictator Mussolini and in every one of the examples cited above, the modern United States of America is exactly the opposite. We do have democracy and we also have “no fault” divorce, we have abortion and call it a fundamental right known as “women’s reproductive health”. We have gay “marriage”, homosexuals parading through the streets, in every walk of life and on practically every television show. We have trans-gendered people, gender-fluid people, men who want to be women and women who want to be men. We have a welfare system that discourages marriage and in which only the relatively wealthy can afford large families and these people are told not to bother anyway because large families are bad for the environment. We have a “wall of separation” between church and state, we have banned religion from the schools to an extent that the Bolsheviks would find quite familiar. Whereas in Fascist Italy a crucifix had to be displayed in every classroom, in modern America even a silent prayer is strictly forbidden. Far from being central to national life, Christian worship is discouraged and, indeed, fewer and fewer people bother doing it. Yes, there was also recently a city council meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado at which the opening prayer was given by a Satanist, praising reason and light and ending with a heartfelt, “Hail Satan!”

These are the facts of the matter and so, I would say again, to consider who had the more Christian society; Fascist Italy or the modern United States? Then, ask yourself, if you are a Christian certainly; why is it that we consider the Fascists to be the epitome of evil and ourselves as the “shining city on the hill”? It may not be pleasant to think about but I think it would be worth it. After all, notice that the Satanist in Colorado was able to say “Hail Satan” and not a single finger was laid on him by any Christian. Try addressing any city council in the western world and ending your remarks with “Hail Hitler” and see how far you get. To me, this reaffirms my theory that no one really believes in Satan anymore, even the so-called “Christians” of the Republican Party. Everyone, however, believes in Adolf Hitler, we take that guy very seriously indeed. Obviously, Christianity can be a powerful basis for a country, because it has been for centuries of western history. However, what these milquetoast conservatives are peddling is not Christianity. We know that because, if we judge our republic as we judge a tree by its fruits, we can see that it could not have been founded on Christianity in the first place. If it had been, well, it would not have been founded at all as the New England rabble rousers would simply have, ‘rendered unto King George the things that are King George’s and to God the things that are God’s’.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Rocky Record of Anglo-American Relations (Part II)

Continued from Part I

During the inter-war years, American isolationism became the popular position and this was seen very much as an anti-British attitude. There were disputes over arms agreements and a succession of American administrations that were less than friendly to Great Britain. A critical moment came when the United States made it a condition of good relations for the British to break off their alliance with the Empire of Japan. The British Empire was itself divided on the issue. Canada, heavily dependent on trade with America, wanted Britain to ditch the Japanese in favor of Anglo-American solidarity. The Australians, however, near to Japan and far from Britain, wanted the Japanese kept on side. The British government decided to end the alliance with Japan, even though America offered no similar alliance in return, which caused the Japanese, who had long entertained anti-colonial enemies of the British Empire in Asia, to view all British possessions in the Asia-Pacific region as ‘fair game’. When Japan finally joined World War II alongside the other Axis Powers it would be with the claim that it was fighting to end western colonial rule, for “Asia for the Asians” and to eradicate the White population in East Asia.

Ready to fight the U.S. invasion?
In 1930 the U.S. military drew up “War Plan Red” in preparation for an eventual war with the British Empire. Earlier, in 1921, the Canadians had also drawn up a plan in case of war with the United States. The British had given the matter some thought as well, though not along the same lines as Canada. The British viewed Canada as a lost cause and planned to instead focus on a naval war in which Britain and America would be fairly evenly matched. Nothing came of it of course, and these were only contingency plans, but they do reveal that such a thing was not considered totally beyond the realm of possibility. Anglo-American relations were at an overall low point during the historically lengthy administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Roosevelt totally opposed the existence of the British Empire and made little effort to conceal that fact. As the first world leader to recognize the government of the Soviet Union, FDR seemed friendlier toward Moscow than London. Yet, both countries often found themselves on the same side of the fashionable causes around the world in the 1930’s. Both were critical of the Japanese in China, both sympathized with Ethiopia against Italy and both favored the republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. Neither liked the look of Adolf Hitler.

Yet, once again, when Britain went to war against Germany a second time in 1939, the United States again declared neutrality. The American public was more isolationist than ever before, felt they had been burned by participation in the First World War and wanted no part of another one. Yet, Britain scarcely had a prayer of winning without American participation and so tried to rekindle the fires of Anglo-American kinship and solidarity. To some extent, this worked but they were opposed by the likes of the “America First” committee and by the socialists and communists who denounced the war as a capitalist crusade to benefit European imperialism. Naturally, they completely reversed themselves as soon as Germany invaded the Soviet Union at which point they became more interventionist than anyone else.

Charles Lindbergh, America First Comm.
President Roosevelt, also became noticeably more warlike after the Axis invasion of Russia. America was neutral but not impartial and FDR began a number of schemes to aid Britain, the Soviet Union and China (in their war against Japan) while remaining officially “neutral”. Roosevelt squeezed British gold reserves dry in exchange for the food, medicine, supplies and weapons that Britain desperately needed just to hang on. Roosevelt wanted to get involved but the American public did not. FDR’s attitude was certainly not because of any real pro-British sentiment as he would make clear. He would fight to defend Britain but not to defend the British Empire which he was determined to see come to an end. Churchill, of course, was outraged by this attitude but by going to war against Germany and Italy, the British government had placed themselves in a position they could not escape from without American help and Roosevelt knew that no matter what he demanded, Britain would have no choice but to agree.

The American public, however, remained stubbornly isolationist and Roosevelt realized he could do nothing unless he could provoke one of the Axis powers to attack the United States. Germany and Italy were in a position such that it was impossible to do any more to them than was already being done but Roosevelt could put the squeeze on Japan. After the Japanese occupied French Indochina, Roosevelt put sanctions on Japan which the British government and Dutch government-in-exile had no choice but to go along with. Japan would either have to back down or attack and the Japanese decided to attack. On December 7, 1941 the bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. declared war and the Axis powers were officially doomed. By 1945 it was all over and Britain and America were victorious. However, Britain was also so heavily indebted to the United States that the relationship had practically come full circle in terms of the power and influence of each. Thankfully for Britain, FDR did not live to see the end of the war, being succeeded at his death by President Truman who was at least not as anti-British as FDR had been.

Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Unfortunately, the beginning of the Cold War, in which Britain and America were allies in the United Nations and NATO also saw the start of an unfortunate situation in which British and American leaders were seldom on the same page at the same time. So, while Harry Truman was more anti-communist than FDR had been, Truman at least wishing to see communism ‘contained’, his British counterpart, Prime Minister Clement Attlee, was farther to the left and was intent on abandoning the British Empire and reducing British military strength, depending more and more on the United States for defense, in order to fund the social welfare programs he envisioned. So it was that the Attlee government saw the creation of the National Health Service and the British welfare state along with the abandonment of India and Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma, Jordan and Palestine. Still, the U.S. supported the British campaign against communist revolutionaries in the Malayan Emergency (which was successful) and Britain provided the second largest military contribution to the Korean conflict, a UN effort led by the United States.

Once Attlee was out, Churchill returned and he favored holding on to the British Empire but things became sticky under his successor Sir Anthony Eden in dealing with U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower. There had been talk of maintaining a smaller “third British Empire” focused on Africa but that was squashed when the Eisenhower administration undercut the British effort to hold on to the Suez Canal in Egypt. Eisenhower thought that by backing the Egyptians against the British, he could win their loyalty in the fight against communism. It did not work and this wishful thinking by American leaders would be repeated in numerous countries all to the same effect. The loss of Suez also seemed to completely break the morale of the British and ended any further desire to try to hold on to any vestige of the empire. The U.S. had also been rather put off with Britain over the refusal of London to back the French fight against communism in Indochina the previous year. However, Eisenhower later admitted that his bullying of the British over Suez had been the greatest mistake of his presidency. Too bad no one learned from it.

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had a good working relationship with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and this is not surprising given that both agreed that the British Empire needed to be cast into the dustbin of history. British colonies in Africa were abandoned, often to communist dictators and there was some U.S. grumbling that Britain refused to support the American fight against communism in Vietnam (Australia did but no one now considers this to have been a good thing, the prevailing wisdom of the liberal west being that communism should never be opposed). Democrat President Lyndon Johnson, who inherited the Vietnam problem, pleaded with Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson to send even a token, symbolic force to Vietnam to show a united front against the communist bloc but Wilson refused because leftist anti-war fervor in Britain was so high. It was a mutually harmful relationship in this period with the Americans refusing to help maintain British colonies and the British refusing to help American military campaigns against communist expansion.

Personal relations were better between President Nixon and Prime Minister Heath, but overall Britain became more anti-American and America became, in turn, more anti-British. When Heath took Britain into the EEC (forerunner of the EU), Nixon saw this as a move toward Europe and away from the USA and Anglosphere. When Heath later said he had to consult Europe on defense policies before America, the U.S. stopped sharing military intelligence with the U.K. for about a year. In the Middle East, during the Yom Kippur War, America backed Israel while the British refused. Britain stopped allowing America the use of British bases on Cyprus and in retaliation the U.S. again cut off intelligence sharing with the British. Things did improve after that though, particularly moving into the 1980’s when Britain and America each had leaders who liked each other and seemed to be on the same page in regard to their politics and worldview, these were, of course, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan. Nonetheless, a generally anti-American attitude continued to entrench itself among the British public and this showed itself in some rather absurd ways.

Maggie & Ronnie, BFF's
For example, when war broke out between Great Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, the United States offered to mediate the dispute. The offer was not accepted and America supported the British in the war, though saw no need to intervene militarily. The USA provided, instead, supplies, logistics and intelligence to the British. However, presumably because of the original offer for mediation, many in Britain accused America of not taking their side and doing nothing to help them. On the other hand, when Grenada (a British possession) was taken over by communists and the Queen’s Governor-General overthrown and imprisoned, President Reagan sent in the U.S. Marines in a surprise attack that subdued the communist guerillas (backed by Cuba) and set the Queen’s representative at liberty again. Reagan expected the British would be overjoyed at this but instead the British media, public and many in positions of authority expressed their fury at the whole operation, denounced the U.S. for not discussing it with them beforehand and even calling it an act of aggression against a Commonwealth nation, even though, as the Queen’s representative was being kept in a prison cell by the communists, the British were certainly not in control at the time of the invasion -which was the whole point!

British and American forces cooperated in the First Iraq War and NATO campaigns against Yugoslavia, both of which were quick and victorious missions that came and went with little lasting fuss. However, British and American public opinion was about to be laid bare. In America, those on the right tended to like Britain for what it was but dislike Britain for what it is while those on the left tend to like Britain for what it is and dislike it for what it was. The British, on the other hand, just dislike America in general. Usually, Americans have lived in blissful, unconcerned ignorance of what other countries think of them but British, and European generally, views of the country came into public view in a big way after the 9-11 attacks and the subsequent “War on Terror”. While the government and Royal Family showed proper sorrow and solidarity, the American public saw that this was not a reflection of the British public. In the immediate aftermath, during a popular BBC political talk show, a former American ambassador was driven to tears by the British audience which was almost unanimous in basically saying that the United States had got what it deserved. The BBC was so embarrassed by this accidental reveal of British public opinion that it apologized and removed the episode.

Bush & Blair, the toxic twosome
Britain participated in the U.S. led (nominally NATO) campaign in Afghanistan and, more controversially, in the Second Iraq War which was highly unpopular with the left in America and everyone in Britain. U.S. President George W. Bush was hated by the left in America and by everyone in Britain. When Prime Minister Tony Blair emerged as his closest ally in the “War on Terror”, he immediately became the most unpopular political figure in Britain, a plummeting fall from his earlier years in power. He received thunderous applause and glowing praise from Americans for his speech to a joint-session of Congress but it only made him more unpopular, even positively despised, in his own country for doing so. When Bush left office and was succeeded by President Barrack Obama, the British public cheered in approval but this was all the more odd given that Obama, doubtless because of his background, was the most anti-British president America had had, probably since FDR. When Obama’s administration seized on a BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a ‘defining moment’ (wishing to contrast Obama with the Bush reaction to Hurricane Katrina, which was ridiculed in the U.S. and Britain) the left and environmentalists pushed an anti-British line which only increased anti-American sentiment in Britain.

The praise and adulation Obama had been given by the British public upon his election seemed to be fading. Aside from the oil spill fiasco, there were arguments over the release of a Libyan terrorist from prison by the Scottish government, British criticism of American treatment of captured terrorists and even the banning of a number of prominent Americans from British soil on the grounds that they were deemed “Islamophobic”. By the end of his presidency, when Britain was voting on whether or not leave the European Union, Obama had become so unpopular that his intervention, urging British voters to stay in the EU, was seen as a great boost for the “Leave” campaign. Obama even went so far as to threaten British voters with being put “at the back of the line” in trade agreements with the U.S. if they voted the wrong way. Right-wing Americans objected to this but also felt little sympathy, knowing that Obama was the President the British public had wanted. In the end, they voted to leave but Obama himself was soon gone as well.

President "The Donald" Trump
A clearly less-than-friendly U.S. President was gone and the new U.S. President was the son of a British (Scottish) mother, a man with business interests in the U.K. and who often spoke of how his mother kept a portrait of the Queen in their house and how pro-British he was. One might expect this to have been the start of a renewal of Anglo-American friendship and one might be correct were this president not Donald J. Trump. Trump came to office praising Great Britain as America’s most trusted ally and promising to give Britain pride of place in the new trade negotiations which will be required if and when Britain actually leaves the EU. The White House even received, “positively” we are told, a proposal for the United States to join the British Commonwealth, an idea reportedly approved by the Queen and put forward by the Royal Commonwealth Society. However, for all of Trump’s pro-British statements, the British public has responded to him with all of the hysteria and vitriol of the American left. Anti-Trump demonstrations were held in Britain and there were even votes in Parliament on the possibility of banning President Trump from the country, a truly unprecedented step.

The British public, media and political class has been almost unanimous in their condemnations of President Trump with even the most favorable not expressing support but simply arguing that condemning and banning the leader of your closest ally and most powerful country on earth is not prudent. The U.K. was originally at the top of the list of countries Trump wished to visit but the vitriol against him in Britain, particularly combined with the vote to ban him from the country and threats of huge, potentially violent, demonstrations if he set foot on British soil, have caused his visit to the U.K. to be quietly and indefinitely postponed. Traditionally, new U.S. Presidents go to Britain to visit the Queen (I like to think so she can inspect them) but opposition to Trump has put a stop to that custom. Originally, the White House was still insisting that the visit would go ahead at some point but the summer is almost gone and no more is being said about the matter, nor have there been any further effusions of pro-British sentiment from the President.

The Queen addressing Congress
That is where things stand today and I think it is worth keeping in mind both the ‘ups’ and the ‘downs’ of the Anglo-American relationship and to note how different the two countries have become. Once upon a time, despite occasional difficulties, each side viewed the other as family; family you did not always get along with but family nonetheless. Today that is increasingly not the case and if current demographic trends continue will certainly not be true (already, children of European-descent are a minority in the United States). There did seem to be a real chance at the beginning of the Trump presidency for the two countries to become closer than they had ever been before but that seems impossible at this point. In Britain, anti-Trump hysteria has blinded people to the potential repercussions of their behavior and this, I think, points to a deeper problem.

The British public, judged by the generally negative view of the United States, seems to think the “special relationship” was either never real or, if it was, is of no value, perhaps even detrimental. Likewise, the American public, increasingly sees no benefit to the current arrangement and isolationism seems to be on the rise. Whether one looks at Trump during his campaign, the views of the Libertarian movement or that of the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democrat Party, America seems to be moving in the direction of disengagement from its current commitments and network of alliances. In each country, I think this fits in with the overall disconnect felt by the people and their supposedly “representative” governments. Yet, contrarily, at the same time there is also the problem, I think caused by “representative government” that people seem largely incapable of differentiating between a country and its government. For America, this seems less of a problem to me because of the British monarchy, prime ministers come and go but the monarch remains and so illustrates that Britain is more than its government but for Britain, given the American system of government, this seems to be more of an issue.

I would say though, as advice to those who value Anglo-American friendship, despite what its prospects may be, you must take care to keep in mind what you are arguing for and who you are arguing with. I have certainly seen this in the case of other countries. If, for example, you are an Anglophile in America, you are never going to convince your audience to accept your argument if your attitude is one of, “Britain is always right and we are always wrong”. That is an anti-American argument rather than a pro-British one and no average American is going to be won over if they think you, the pro-British person, are anti-American as it can naturally be assumed your argument is intended only to benefit the British and not the United States. On the British side of things, anyone with pro-American opinions can only have my sympathy given the current state of public opinion but, in that direction, my only advice is that it is an unavoidable fact that America would not exist without Great Britain and it because of this fact that Americans have never been able to view Britain as just another country in the world. America would never have involved itself in two world wars had Britain not been imperiled and, as I’ve often pointed out, when you ask any American what he or she thinks about “the Queen” they will instinctively understand that you mean the Queen of the U.K. and not any other country. That is material to work with though, as mentioned above, that will be impacted by demographic changes going forward so it is material with a finite shelf life.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Rocky Record of Anglo-American Relations (Part I)

The United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have a history of being best friends when not being bitter enemies. Neither has often been able to view the other dispassionately, as ‘just another country’ among many in the world. For a long time the British tended to view the United States dismissively, and, when that was no longer possible, with a mixture of pride at what their former colonies had become and resentment at being surpassed. For the United States, there has existed from the very start of the country both Anglophile and Anglophobe factions. At times these were political, more conservative Americans looking admiringly on the British constitutional monarchy and more liberal Americans looking admiringly on revolutionary France. At other times, these were regional, based on local economic self-interest and, increasingly as America became home to an ever larger immigrant population, based on historic ethnic rivalries.

American loyalists
The two countries started out as enemies with the American War for Independence, yet, even then, there was a sizable portion of the American population that were staunchly loyal to the King and mother country while in Britain, the American rebels were not without many friends in high places. When the war concluded, two factions emerged in the fledgling United States. There were those such as George Washington who wanted peace and friendship with the British and those such as Thomas Jefferson who still regarded Britain as an enemy and the emerging French revolutionaries as their ideological allies. In 1793, when Britain declared war on the French Republic, there was a clamor on the left to renew the war with Britain alongside the French but President Washington refused, even deporting French nationals from the country who tried to spread revolutionary sentiment. Washington was criticized for this but, nonetheless, declared neutrality, stating that America would be, “friendly and impartial” to both sides.

The emergence of the two-party system in America grew out of the two factions led by Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, each of whom had very different views of the British. Hamilton wanted peace with Britain and, perhaps, to expand American power by making war on France and Spain which were also fighting Britain. Jefferson, on the other hand, sympathized with the French Revolution and wanted American solidarity with France. Anti-British sentiment also grew in the west out of conflicts between American Indians and American settlers who pointed to the British providing arms and assistance to the Indians. Meanwhile, at sea, both Britain and France attracted criticism for their efforts to interfere with American trade with the other power. In 1794 these disputes seemed to be reaching the point of crisis and John Jay was sent to England to settle matters. The resulting treaty was so unpopular in America that effigies of Hamilton were stoned in public demonstrations after Hamilton assured a British official that the U.S. would not go to war with Britain over these difficulties.

The Franco-American "Quasi-War"
In 1796 when John Adams defeated Thomas Jefferson to become the second President of the United States, it was seen as a victory for the Anglophile faction. The French minister to the USA, in fact, had resigned his post in order to campaign for Jefferson. When Adams became president, the French refused to receive his envoy and when it leaked out that the French foreign minister, Talleyrand, had demanded a bribe to maintain good relations, the American public was outraged. In the nick of time though, another scheme emerged that Senator William Blount had proposed secession from the Union and the seizure of Florida and Louisiana from Spain to create a new territory that would then join the British Empire. The British rejected the proposal and Blount was impeached in 1797. Anglo-American peace was maintained and, instead, the U.S. embarked on an “Undeclared War” with republican France in 1798 which lasted until 1800 when Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in Paris. French agents were expelled from the country and the whole affair was responsible for the passage of the now notorious Naturalization, Alien and Sedition Acts. However, the tide shifted again when Thomas Jefferson was elected President of the United States in 1801. Not for the first time, Jefferson and in particular Aaron Burr, stirred up anti-British sentiment in the public as a means of obtaining an electoral victory over their opponents.

Jefferson, however, became less pro-French after Napoleon came to rule that country and was nervous about the possibility of France renewing their presence in North America. He had backed the French effort to regain Haiti after the slave uprising there but did not want the French back on the North American mainland. He was then happily surprised when Napoleon determined the Louisiana Territory could not be held and sold the entire land mass to the United States for fear the British might take it by force. As it happened, Jefferson had opposed the French presence also out of his fear of the British, saying that if Napoleon’s legions occupied the Mississippi valley, America would have to “marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation”. The huge acquisition of territory benefited Jefferson politically and he was reelected to a second term afterwards. Tensions remained high though due to French and British efforts to stop America trading with the other. In 1807, HMS Leopard fired on an American ship and forced its surrender. Many demanded war and Jefferson ordered all British warships to leave American territorial waters. The British retaliated by increasing their patrols and tensions rose ever higher.

British advance in the War of 1812
The following year, as the British blockaded Europe and France placed a continental embargo on Britain, Jefferson responded by stopping all foreign trade which ultimately only harmed American business while having little to no impact on the British at all. In 1809 Jefferson left office but was succeeded by the man he endorsed, little James Madison. During his administration, Anglo-American relations would grow worse and worse, not only because of British interference with American shipping but also because of “war hawks” from the American west and south who wanted territorial expansion and saw Canada as an vast territory that could be easily conquered. This ultimately resulted in the War of 1812 which, while America ultimately escaped unscathed, proved that the British would fight if they had to and that Canada was not so helpless as the “war hawks” had thought.

Despite many claiming victory, the U.S. had been badly stung during the war. The invasion of Canada had ended in ignominious failure, Washington DC had been occupied and the White House burned to the ground. The expansionists would, in future, look to the south and west rather than the north, having no desire to cross Britain again. Likewise, the war had also been very damaging to the New England states who depended on trade and, led by the Federalist Party, these states came close to seceding from the Union before the war ended. In the aftermath though, Anglo-American relations greatly improved. Both supported the independence movements from Spain in Latin America, they cooperated to block a Franco-Spanish expedition to suppress these movements and the British Royal Navy made America’s “Monroe Doctrine” an enforceable reality.

President James K. Polk
This lasted until the late 1830’s when tensions rose again over border disputes in the north. In 1837 a group of Americans aided some Canadian rebels sheltered on Navy Island. The British crossed the Niagara River and burned an American ship bringing supplies to the rebels, killing an American citizen in the process. Later, the unofficial “Aroostook War” broke out between American and Canadian lumberjacks over where the border between Canada and the state of Maine rested. Again, the threat of war loomed but President Martin Van Buren managed to arrange a peaceful end to the standoff. Disputes over the Canadian border were finally settled with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842. In 1846, under U.S. President Polk, an agreement was also reached over the disputed Oregon territory between Britain and America, the last significant border dispute between the two countries. However, it was also during this period that large numbers of immigrants began pouring into the United States, many of them from Ireland and the Irish community would provide a long-standing anti-British voting bloc in American politics. In 1850 both countries also agreed not to harass each other in the shared desire of building a canal across the isthmus of Panama.

The British focused on the business of empire while the Americans became increasingly bound up with internal strife over states’ rights and slavery. With the election of the first Republican Party President, Abraham Lincoln, southern states began to secede and formed their own government, the Confederate States of America, which Lincoln vowed to suppress with military force. The American Civil War erupted and the British Empire came exceedingly close to getting involved. The largely anti-slavery British public tended to favor the Union while British leaders tended to favor the Confederacy given that British industry depended heavily on southern cotton and the break up of the Union into two unfriendly countries would greatly weaken the United States which was becoming an industrial and trade rival to Great Britain. In 1861 a U.S. warship stopped the British vessel RMS Trent and forcibly removed two southern agents bound for Europe as diplomatic envoys. The British government of Lord Palmerston protested furiously, the same way America had protested similar actions by the British leading up to the War of 1812. The Canadian militia was mobilized, British reinforcements were sent to Canada and the Royal Navy was put on the alert.

Prime Minister Lord Palmerston
Lord Palmerston was ready for war but many others in Britain were not and thought it unseemly to be on the same side as a slave-holding power. The Lincoln administration, opting for “one war at a time” moderated, releasing the envoys and a last-minute intervention on the British side by the Prince-consort Albert smoothed things over. Still, there was plenty of tension. Confederate agents operated out of Canada, British shipyards built commerce raiders for the Confederate Navy (many of whom had largely British crews) and British blockade runners in the West Indies profited handsomely by smuggling in desperately needed goods to the southern states. The British 1853 Enfield Rifle was the most purchased weapon of choice for the Confederate armies. However, ultimately, the British never ultimately took the side of the Confederacy, the bad “optics” making it impossible.

In the aftermath, Anglo-American relations remained extremely fragile. The U.S. demanded reparations from the British for the huge toll taken on their merchant fleet by British-built Confederate warships and the U.S. Army had a huge number of Irish immigrants who were spoiling for a fight with the hated British Empire. More had come over during the war and they formed their own American branches of the clandestine Irish republican groups operating in their homeland. After 1865, these men were combat veterans and they wanted to take action. These sentiments resulted in the famous “Fenian Raids” on Canada which lasted from 1866 to 1871, the most serious being the Niagara Raid of 1866 which resulted in quite a fierce struggle at the Battle of Ridgeway. The idea was for these Irish troops to seize control of some segment of Canada and hold it ransom for Irish independence from Britain. Officially, the United States opposed these actions but, because of anti-British sentiment in the north, they did not try too terribly hard to stop them. None were successful though and the U.S. was finally obliged to take action to stop any further attacks on Canada.

HM Queen Victoria
By 1871 most of the outstanding issues between Britain and America were settled with a new treaty. A lingering dispute over islands off the Canadian west coast was settled by the arbitration of the German Kaiser in America’s favor. American demands for reparations over losses to the Confederate Navy were also sent to arbitration by an international group of arbiters. In the end, Britain was obliged to pay $15,500,000 in damages to the United States. This was more than double than what the Russian Czar had asked for Alaska, to keep it out of British hands. The Civil War had seen Britain hold back from her last chance to weaken America and the 1870’s saw rapid American advancement in industrialization, population and finally surpassing Britain as the world’s largest economy. The coming years saw America’s “Gilded Age” and the Victorian heights of the British Empire. America focused on internal matters, the British on colonial issues. A potential problem almost arose in Samoa over competing German, American and British interests there but a storm wiped out everyone’s ships and an agreement was reached in 1889 for a ‘three-power protectorate’.

The two countries still found disagreements, in odd places. One was the Bering Sea, which the U.S. Congress declared American property and seized Canadian ships engaged in seal hunting. When reports came in of British warships moving to the area, the U.S. agreed to arbitration. This time the arbitrators, Italy, France and Sweden, found in favor of Britain in 1893 and ordered the U.S. to pay $473,151 in compensation for the Canadian ships. In 1898 the U.S. won a war against Spain, gaining Puerto Rico, Guam and The Philippines as well as annexing Hawaii later the same year. The British were generally favorable to America becoming at least a minor colonial power, seeing them as a potential counterweight to Germany which was quickly building up the third largest colonial empire in the world.

German shelling of Ft San Carlos, Venezuela
The only major problem to arise in this period came, again, in an unlikely place. It started with a border dispute between Venezuela and British Guiana. Someone found gold in the disputed area and this ratcheted up the tensions in a big way. Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations and requested American arbitration. Britain refused arbitration twice which prompted the Anglophobe faction in America to denounce the British for defying the Monroe Doctrine and bullying an independent South American republic. In 1895 the U.S. government again demanded Britain submit to arbitration but, again, Britain refused. Finally, the Cleveland administration basically threatened war if Britain did not agree to settle the issue and British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain approved, saying that an Anglo-American war would be, “an absurdity and a crime”. The arbitrators found basically in Britain’s favor, Venezuela had to back down and the U.S. came out looking strong and fair. As the U.S. had also become a player on the world stage, British and American forces also fought alongside each other in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900. In 1902 Britain, Germany and eventually Italy joined in a blockade of Venezuela when that country defaulted on her debts. Venezuela again called on the United States to arbitrate. When the German navy attacked Venezuela there was considerable outrage with many in Britain objecting to being on the same side as Germany after such an incident and this isolated Germany which finally agreed to arbitration.

1903 saw an agreement between America and Britain over the details of the Alaska-Canadian border with the British ultimately agreeing with the American position. The outbreak of war between Russia and Japan in 1904 saw Britain and America both cheering on the Japanese. However, while Britain had an alliance with Japan, the peace settlement, arbitrated by U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, marked a turning point. The war had been far less one-sided than the Japanese public had been led to believe and the lack of Russian reparations was blamed on the United States, prompting anti-American violence in Japan. This, naturally, caused American public opinion, which had been anti-Russian and pro-Japanese, to turn drastically anti-Japanese and this would be very significant in the future of Anglo-American relations as Japanese-American relations continued to deteriorate from that time on. Still, for the time being, relations were generally good as the Republican Party (which held uncontested power since the Civil War) felt they had a good working relationship with the British government. That, however, changed with the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson as President of the United States in 1912.

Anglo-American friendship, WW1
When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, former Republican President Teddy Roosevelt almost immediately called for American intervention on the side of Britain and France. However, President Wilson declared neutrality and urged Americans to, “be neutral in fact as well as name…impartial in thought as well as action.” The U.S. and Britain came to separate agreements on issues involving Mexico and Panama but Wilson objected to the British blockade of the Central Powers and the large numbers of German and Irish immigrants in the country were vocal in demanding America stay out of the war which, they claimed, was nothing more than a war to maintain the British Empire. Wilson stuck to neutrality and won reelection on the slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War”.

The U.S. did have other issues to deal with, such as a volatile situation in Mexico, but the British and Anglophile Americans were relentless in their urging for America to join the First World War, portraying it as a war between the “free countries” of Britain and France against the autocratic powers of Germany, Austria and Ottoman Turkey. However, the presence of the Russian Empire among the allies put Wilson off of this idea and he left little doubt that he would never take America into a war on the same side as Czarist Russia. The British press and their Anglophile supporters put out a great deal of anti-German propaganda and made full use of the sinking of the British liner Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915. This proved a major turning point in American public opinion, something the British were only too aware of with Winston Churchill saying (privately of course) that American shipping being lost to the Germans was all to the benefit of Britain as it would push the United States closer to war. Finally, at the height of a renewed, unrestricted, submarine campaign, Germany proposed an alliance with Mexico against the United States. This was intercepted by the British who turned it over to the Americans at just the right time. There was an immediate outcry and the United States declared war on Germany in April of 1917.

Those since who have deemed President Wilson an Anglophile because of his intervention in World War I against Germany and Austria could not be more mistaken. In the buildup to the Easter Uprising in Dublin, Ireland, in 1916 the Irish republicans had collected $100,000 in donations from America and in the aftermath the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune and The World ran front-page stories, all very anti-British in sentiment, for more than a week. In German-American communities from the Midwest to Texas, large gatherings were held raising money for the German and Austrian Red Cross right up until the outbreak of war. No, the Anglophiles had wanted American intervention immediately and it was only because Wilson was so opposed that it took until 1917 and an extremely stupid diplomatic blunder by the Germans for this to finally happen. Wilson had objected numerous times to the British blockade and future President Herbert Hoover particularly denounced it as head of the American Relief Administration which fed millions of Germans and Austrians reduced to starvation by the Royal Navy.

Even Wilson had regrets
American participation in the war, despite public flirtations with the French, was rightly seen as being driven by the British and the Anglophile faction in American politics. After 1918, the British and Americans had fought together, died together and won victory together. Surely, there would be fast friendship between the two from then on? Not at all. Wilson annoyed his allies with his peace proposals, was ignored and eventually had to abandon all of his lofty, utopian principles in order to get the League of Nations he wanted most as his legacy. The problem was that America did not want it and never joined it. The U.S. had also fought alongside the British and French but never formed an alliance with them. After the war, the British also did not pay the huge debt owed to the United States. The fact that this was because the British had gone into debt loaning money to her allies which, after the war, refused to pay Britain, generally never reached the American public. The American people felt they had gained nothing from the war, had lost much, saw the British Empire reach its peak in size and determined that they had been swindled into making sacrifices on behalf of an ungrateful Britain which refused to pay its debts (the only country to pay its war debt on time was actually Finland).

To be concluded in Part II
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