Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Review

This will not be a very long post as 2016 was not the most eventful of years for the monarchies of the world though the major events that did happen were quite unprecedented. It was certainly not a happy year for the former Royal Family of Romania. King Michael I was diagnosed with cancer, sparking an outpouring of insincere praise from the political establishment in Bucharest. He certainly deserves such praise but if these clowns really meant what they said, they should have restored him to his throne. As it was, the former monarch was not even well enough to attend the funeral of his beloved wife, Queen Anne, when she passed away in August of this year. There were some public gatherings and hopes that the traditionalists in Romania might be going somewhere but there has been no movement on that front as the politicians refuse to give up their beloved presidency they all aspire to and wish to exploit.

There was happier news from the British Isles in 2016. Her Majesty the Queen celebrated her ninetieth birthday, becoming the oldest reigning monarch in British history and she is still doing fine. No doubt the Queen needed all of her genetic fortitude when the government insisted on ‘putting on the dog’ for a state visit by the President of China. Ladies such as the Duchess of Cambridge and (soon to be Prime Minister) Theresa May showed up for the state dinner in red dresses in honor of their Chinese guest, though the Queen did not. She was later overheard remarking about how rude the Chinese had been to her ambassador and the Prince of Wales refused to attend the state dinner to show solidarity with the people of Tibet so there was plenty for the media to chatter about. It was as nothing though compared to the British event of the year which was the long-promised but much delayed referendum on U.K. membership in the European Union.

To the dismay of many but the joy of many more, Britons voted to exit the EU in a vote which attracted a larger turnout than any vote in British history. The royals were not left untouched by the event with the Duke of Cambridge making remarks that some interpreted as support for Britain staying in the EU while others interpreted remarks by the Queen as revealing Her Majesty’s support for leaving. Papers also published reports from palace sources that the Queen wanted out. The people vote, “leave” carried the day, the “remain” camp went into hysterics and the government of “Call Me Dave” Cameron was soon gone, replaced by Theresa May. Britain has still not actually left the European Union but the whole affair came as a terrible shock to the political establishment and media elites, all of whom predicted that Britons would vote to stay in. U.S. President Obama even came over to warn the British that leaving the EU would put them at the back of the line, all to no avail.

Major events, though they likely seemed innocuous to many in the rest of the world, were also afoot in East Asia in 2016. The conservative government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan pushed ahead for constitutional reforms that would allow for the strengthening of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, more freedom of action and, perhaps, even officially making HM the Emperor the “Head of State” and placing him above the constitution. There were immediate cries from the usual suspects, as well as some unusual ones, that Japan was reverting back to “fascism” and the pre-World War II days. Most, however, looked at the situation with an erratic and nuclear-armed North Korea next door and an expansionist giant in the form of China and considered the changes Abe is seeking as hardly uncalled for.

It was also in August of this year that His Majesty the Emperor, for only the third time in all of Japanese history, addressed his subjects directly. The Imperial speech was mostly about how the Emperor is feeling his age, is concerned about being able to carry out his duties properly and so on. The real purpose was to express his wish to abdicate without actually saying so as this would be considered “political” speech and there is no section of the current constitution allowing for an Emperor to abdicate. Therefore, this was a way for the Emperor to send a signal to the political establishment that it would be nice if they were to make the appropriate changes to the law in order to allow him to abdicate or at least hand his more onerous responsibilities over to a regent, in all probability the Crown Prince, for the remainder of his era. That may not happen for some time though as politics moves extremely slowly in the Japanese government which sits atop a bureaucratic behemoth that would likely astound even Austria-Hungary.

The other major royal news in Asia was the death of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great of Thailand. The highly revered monarch, who had reigned over “The Land of Smiles” since 1946 had seemed to be near death for quite a long time but it was nonetheless a major and traumatic event. Scarcely anyone could remember a Thailand without him, and no one wished to imagine one. Stocks tumbled, the world worried and Thais took to the streets to mourn their beloved monarch. In a country long plagued by government unrest and the occasional military coup, it was the King who always provided a rock of stability, who saw to it that things never got out of hand and who could be counted on to bring everyone on side. Political divisions in the country could be fierce, but everyone was united by their admiration for the King. The sad event came at a time when the military was in control and it is likely that was part of the plan, to ensure a smooth transition over this event which is unlike anything Thailand has experienced before. It remains to be seen how the country will move forward with the new King Vajiralongkorn.

The biggest news story in Europe for 2016 has likely been the migrant crisis and the increasing occurrence of terrorist attacks by Muslim fanatics. Such events have been pointed to as explaining the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, the rise in popularity of parties that oppose open borders and even the election of Donald Trump in the United States. The Kingdom of Sweden has been particularly hard hit, though Germany is generally regarded as the epicenter. For the most part, the royals involved have their kept their opinions to themselves though the King of Norway cheered many on the left and angered many on the right when he spoke out in favor of open borders and the odd sort of ‘intolerance for the intolerant’ that is so popular with modern-day “progressives” but this was hardly a surprise to anyone who had been keeping up with the words and actions of the current Norwegian Royal Family. The Queen of Denmark would likely never think of saying such a thing and the King of Sweden is probably just trying to keep his head down.

In Britain, Prince Charles seemed to be worried about the rise of parties on the right in his Christmas address as both the National Front in France and the Alternative for Germany party in that country have seen their support increase over the course of this migrant crisis. Some though the anti-immigration Austrian People’s Party was set to win the presidency in that country, but an electoral do-over after some voting shenanigans saw the win go to the open-borders Green Party. In the Italian Republic, however, voters said “no” to constitutional reform and the government of the socialist Prime Minister Renzi and this was all to the liking of the elder claimant to the Italian throne, Prince Amadeus, Duke of Aosta, who had earlier said he intended to vote “no” as well. The talk about town in Italy was that a “no” vote would bring down the Renzi government, which it effectively has, and that this could lead to a new government that will give Italy the chance to, like Britain, vote on leaving the European Union.

Other royal events of 2016 did not attract too much notice. The Arab monarchies in the Middle East continue to carry on as they have been, for all the sense that makes. The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan saw the birth of an heir to the throne with the little Crown Prince Jigme Namgyel, in Britain the Princess Royal’s daughter suffered a miscarriage and the Federation of Malaysia got a new monarch with the term of Sultan Mohammed V of Kelantan, the fourth youngest ever elected at 47. With the ongoing civil war in Syria, Chinese expansion at sea, the election of Donald Trump and numerous ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks, there has not been much room for other news in 2016. If current trends continue, however, the world could be in for a major realignment and a confrontation between the nationalist and internationalist/globalist camps which could have a significant impact on the cause of traditional authority around the world, both depending on who wins and which side the monarchs of the world are seen to take. No doubt 2017 will prove interesting.

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to you all!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Special Birthday

It was on this day (about) in 1885 that the mascot of this weblog, Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, was born in Graz, Austria-Hungary. Every now and then, I still get some bewildered comments and questions over why I would highlight such a figure. “Wasn’t he some sort of murderous lunatic?” they will say. Certainly that is the prevailing opinion of most historians, I have no doubt. Personally, I don’t think he was all *that* bad, he was a rough character on the right side but I cannot refute every lurid tale told about him. The “Mad Baron” has long been my favorite historical character, I find his story fascinating, with just enough mystery and rumor swirling about him to leave room for the imagination to roam just a bit. It’s the same reason I don’t like people trying to prove or disprove stories about Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, a little mystery is good for the imagination. But why make him the mascot of this weblog? (now about to enter its 9th year at this location)

Well, I like where he was going, I like his Eurasian style, I like his priorities. I tend to agree with his choices of who to support and who to oppose. His own actions aside, he fought the reds in the Russian Civil War and restored legitimate authority in Mongolia, both of which were, in my view, the right thing to do. However, I will admit, it was partly his fearsome reputation that did prompt me to feature him prominently here. I knew that not many people know about Baron von Ungern but for those who do, he tends to be the ultimate bogeyman. Yes, before it was really a “thing”, you could say I picked the Baron as mascot because I knew it would “trigger” revolutionary radicals like no other figure could. He’s supposed to be the bad guy! No one is supposed to like him! He was terrible, he was cruel, he was totally nuts! As far as his sanity goes, all I can do is quote Pope Francis and say, “Who am I to judge?” As for the rest, I would never have tried to argue that everything he did in his behavior was totally above board. His overall goals, on the other hand, I do think were right.

What were these goals? He wanted to restore the Bogd Khan to power in Mongolia. He succeeded at that and I think that was a good thing. He wanted to see the Qing Emperor restored in China, as would I, certainly at that time. He wanted to ally with the Empire of Japan and invade Russia to destroy the Bolshevik regime and restore the Romanov dynasty to power. Again, I think that was a noble cause. He did not succeed at that, so I would not advocate repeating his actions exactly (which is a problem as many who admire the losing side often fall into the trap of insisting on repeating the actions which obviously didn’t work) but his aims were the right ones in my view. He wanted to start a massive counter-revolutionary movement that would revive traditional authority around the world and that sounds like a noble aspiration to me. For those who are new, or just unfamiliar and would like some more detailed info about Baron von Ungern, I can direct you to the following posts:

The Life of Baron von Ungern-Sternberg

How the Baron Saved Mongolia

Religion and the 'Mad Baron'

Monday, December 26, 2016

Speaking of the Prince of Wales Speaking

The Christmas speech of HRH the Prince of Wales has caused some uproar, at least in circles the mainstream media largely ignores, mostly because of his request that Christians, thinking about the Holy Family fleeing persecution, also think about the Islamic prophet Mohammed fleeing with his followers from Mecca to Medina in search of, as the Prince says, "the freedom for himself and his followers to worship". He also made some comments, equally popular in globalist circles as they are unpopular to many on the right, about how the current rise in "populist" politics is, to his eye, similar to that seen in Europe in the 1930's. This is a way of saying, without actually saying, that these groups are similar to the rise of National Socialism in Germany. Many people on the right immediately freaked out over this and it's not hard to see why. The Prince of Wales, just in these two examples, used well-worn leftist tactics of attack that people on the right are all too familiar with. Comparing the Holy Family to refugees and equating any right-of-center party with any popular following at all to the Nazis. We have seen this before, over and over again. His remarks were, in my view, annoying and incorrect but likewise nothing to get *too* upset about. The Prince of Wales is someone who has to be taken altogether as his 'outtakes' or 'soundbites' don't do him justice.

First of all, yes, the Prince of Wales was completely wrong in what he said about religion, refugees and politics. The Holy Family was forced to flee persecution, got that right, but Mohammed and his followers did not flee to Medina for religious freedom. Religious freedom is not a 'thing' in Medina even today, centuries after Islam has been the law of the land. Mohammed made war on the tribes around Mecca before gathering and/or subduing sufficient forces to return to Mecca and conquer the place. Not a lot of similarities there with the story of Christ. Then there is the scare-tactic that anyone to the right of a communist must be a fascist of some sort. This is silly and the double-standard is obvious. Liberals who champion democracy are championing a system based on public popularity, yet it is only when the people show signs of going in a direction their liberal masters oppose that this become big, bad, scary "populism". This is never said, of course, when anything left-wing becomes popular. And, of course, the Nazi scare-tactic is just old, tired and flogging a dead horse at this point. It's also ridiculous. I've known some *actual* Nazis in my time, as in people from Nazi Germany, during World War II, not this new lot of kids that have a thing for Arabs, see a Jew behind every bush and wouldn't know genuine nationalism if it bit them on the rump. I've known the real thing and let me assure that the French National Front or Alternative for Germany are *nowhere close* to what the Nazis were. Their policies are totally different, their worldview is totally different, their entire mindset is totally different. Get off it.

Now, that having been said, people should not be getting too excited about what the Prince of Wales said. You have to take it in context, both his remarks and His Royal Highness his royal self. The remarks above were ridiculous, yes. The Prince of Wales does talk some nonsense from time to time but he also gets it right more often than most people of national or international prominence. In this Christmas speech itself, the Prince began by talking about the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. He mentioned other groups too but began his remarks with the plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq. How many other prominent figures ever mention the Christians of the region? Does Obama or Merkl or Hollande ever direct any attention to the displaced Christians (who were in these places long before Islam ever existed btw)? The answer is no. It doesn't happen and the Prince of Wales had brought attention to the Christians of the Middle East before and more often than anyone else of his prominence that I am aware of. Not too difficult since most never mention them at all.

This, however, is typical of the Prince of Wales who is hard for the people who categorize and label things to deal with. Quite a few times when the Prince of Wales speaks out on an issue, I have been entirely in his corner. He defended hunting rights, British farmers, spoke out against the ugliness of modernist architecture, all of which is known but which seems to get less attention than when he says something about multiculturalism or environmentalism. Some days he's the Prince who stands up for rural Britain and other times he's the Prince who talks to his plants. Finally, as I have said before, the Prince is also, to a large degree, a product of his environment. Could anyone imagine his father, Prince Philip, saying anything like his son does? Of course not! Prince Philip is probably the most politically in-correct member of the Royal Family (God bless his heart) who usually only makes the news for telling some "offensive" joke about Blacks throwing spears or the shape of Asian people's eyes. But Prince Philip did not have the upbringing that his son did. Prince Charles was the first member of the Royal Family to go to a 'regular' school with 'regular' people rather than being educated privately by a hand-picked tutor in the palace as was tradition. To an extent, Prince Charles and those royals of his and more recent generations, think the way they do because that is how they have been taught to think by the same education professionals that have been warping the minds of generations.

The problem isn't the Prince of Wales, the problem is the system. Given what is taught in schools, what is fashionable among the opinions of the elites of society, I am frankly amazed that Prince Charles gets it right as often as he does. The last time I really applauded him was when he boycotted the state dinner for the President of Communist China, due to the Prince's longtime support for Tibet and his friendship with HH the Dalai Lama. Now, as I've said before, there is little to nothing in spiritual or political matters which I agree with the Dalai Lama on, but that is irrelevant to the fact that he is the legitimate ruler of Tibet and should be supported as such. Likewise, Prince Charles is the heir to the throne, and I will support him as such whether I agree or disagree with his personal views (and I have agreed with some and disagreed with others). His position, the institution that he is a part of is an ancient part of British culture and heritage. It is under immense attack these days and while I really, really wish royals would stop saying things that offend those who would be their most ardent supporters while gaining no real support beyond an approving nod from those who oppose that traditional cultural heritage, it will never be enough to make me turn against the monarchy. The tragic little Dauphin, son of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France, was forced to say the most vile things about his parents, his royal line, all the sacred traditions of France. That did nothing to deter the royalists and the current things being said by certain royals will not deter me.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas, A Royal Holiday

Infant of Prague
Christmas, for those who do not know, is a very monarchy-oriented holiday. Once upon a time, Christians would have taken such a fact for granted but, these days, it probably needs to be stated outright. The birth of Christ was foretold by the Israelite prophecies of a coming savior king as part of the sacred royal line. The prophecies, as most should know from the traditional stories, was that, on this day “a king” would be born and born in the City of David, the foundational monarch of the sacred line of Israel and their most famous monarch. The heralds proclaimed that “a king is born” and we have the three wise men, sometimes themselves referred to as “the three kings” who came to do homage to this new monarch. The story even has a royal villain in the person of King Herod who launched a campaign of infanticide to remove this potential threat to his crown. All of this is why, in the Catholic tradition at least, there is the figure of the Divine Child as a monarch, probably most famously illustrated by the Infant of Prague. None of these facts should surprise anyone, yet few seldom think about how dripping with royalism the holiday of Christmas is. And, it goes far beyond the time and place of the birth of Christ.

The pagan ancestors of the European peoples had their part in the Christmas story as well. As we have talked about here before, the birth of Christ was said to have been prophesied to the Emperor Augustus by the Tiburtine Sybil. This, the story goes, caused Augustus Caesar to refrain from allowing the Senate to declare him a god. It was also, of course, the command of the Emperor for a census to be taken which prompted the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Later, in the Christian era, when there was much debate on the subject, the date chosen on which to celebrate Christmas was that of the Winter Solstice according to the Roman calendar. This was when the pagan Romans celebrated the festival of Brumalia, in honor of the god Saturn (later becoming the Saturnalia, mostly in the East). The incorporation into the Christmas celebration of pre-Christian traditions such as the Yule log, exchanging presents and general merriment, later put off the more Puritanical Protestant sects of Christianity who considered the holiday altogether ‘too Pagan’ which is why Christmas was suppressed in Britain during the dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell, only to be restored when the monarchy was restored under King Charles II, the “Merry Monarch”.

The coronation of Charlemagne
Christmas, as the day marking the birth of the King who would save the world, had a huge significance on the monarchies of Christian Europe. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, when it was determined to try to revive this entity in some way, Pope St Leo the Great famously crowned Charlemagne “Emperor of the Romans” on Christmas day in 800 AD. So it was that the birth of the first German Empire occurred on Christmas. This seemed to set a trend in the western world as later, in 855, King St Edmund the Martyr of East Anglia was crowned on Christmas day (King Edmund being a highly revered royal figure until his shrine was destroyed when Protestantism came to power in England) and when Saxon England was eclipsed by the Normans, King William the Conqueror also chose to have his coronation on Christmas day in 1066. Local custom caused Christmas celebrations to be quite different across Europe, though there were always elements in common. The Germans, French, Italians, Spanish and so on all had their own traditions associated with the holiday. St Nicholas, whose image was rather painfully smashed together with various folk legends to create the figure of Santa Claus, was and still is very prominently revered in the Eastern Orthodox Church, particularly in Russia, though not necessarily in connection to Christmas. That, again, only came about later due to the melding of St Nicholas with other figures. In any event, Russians & their neighbors have Ded Moroz as a substitute for Santa Claus and would not take kindly to any tinkering with St Nicholas.

In the German lands, Christmas has always been extremely important and tied to the imperial legacy due to the coronation of Charlemagne (or Karl der Grosse as he is in German) on Christmas day. In the British Isles, Christmas gained noticeable royal support during the reign of the House of Stuart. King James I ordered a play to put on for the occasion (something which used to be common in schools but is likely forbidden these days) and King Charles I would dismiss his courtiers at Christmas time in order that they might go home to preside over the traditional Christmas festivities in their locales. Suppressed by Cromwell, as stated, Christmas came back with King Charles II and King James I, at least in England (the Scots actually continued to refuse to make it a public holiday until 1959!) and it carried on after the so-called “Glorious Revolution” under King William III and Queen Mary II. The Dutch Reformed Church had always celebrated Christmas and, of course, the German Hanoverians had no problem with it either.

Victoria & Albert around their Christmas tree
As a matter of fact, many of the current traditions associated with Christmas around the world, spread by the British Empire and the popularity of American culture, actually have German royal origins. The most prominent example of this is the Christmas tree which first came to the British Isles when King George III married Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz. However, it remained only a tradition of the Royal Family until the time of Queen Victoria and her marriage to another German, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. It was due to his influence, and the establishment of the Royal Family as a model for the public, that Christmas trees came to be a common feature in every home, first in Britain and then across the English-speaking world (it had, of course, long been a tradition in German lands). Princess Henrietta, wife of Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen, introduced the custom to Austria and the Habsburg domains, the Duchess of Orleans (Princess Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin) brought it to France. In fact, the Christmas tree was so associated with royalty and nobility that it was initially banned by the communists in Soviet Russia until 1935 and even then was allowed only as a secular symbol with a mandatory Red Star on the top.

Many of the traditions associated with Christmas in the United States only appeared in the Victorian era due to their popularity with the rest of the English-speaking world. Partly because of the lingering effects of Puritanism in New England and the pushing of egalitarianism and opposition to anything associated with royalty or aristocracy, the early United States was devoid of most of the customs modern Americans think of as being traditionally associated with Christmas. These would not start to take root in America until roughly the 1820’s, increasing with their popularity across the British Empire thanks to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In fact, the only thing similar, previously occurring on American soil, was probably the celebrations of Hessian or other German mercenaries employed by the British during the War for Independence. We do know that the first Christmas tree in Canada was featured at a party held in 1781 by the commander of the troops from Brunswick, Germany General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel and his wife in Quebec, where they were stationed in the event of another attack by the American forces.

Good King Wenceslas
Another example is Christmas music, with popular Christmas songs first becoming widespread due to St Francis of Assisi (who also popularized the Nativity Scene). With popular carols such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” (“Glory to the new born King”), “Good King Wenceslaus”, or “Come, All Ye Faithful” (“Born the King of Angels”) they are soaked through with royal symbolism and monarchical references. Most of this stuff is so taken for granted, most never realize how present it is but if one could stop and consider each case and how different things would be if anything with any royal connection was taken out, what would be left would be hardly recognizable at all. In lands far distant from western Europe, Christmas traditions were imported from abroad, usually by colonial empires which invariably had monarchs at their head. Even countries closer to hand, such as Russia, did not have any sort of Christmas traditions westerners would recognize (though they of course observed the holy day of the birth of Christ) until Emperor Peter the Great brought these into fashion after his travels around Europe. In Estonia, the tradition of announcing the “Christmas Peace” began with Queen Christina of Sweden. Today it is done by the President, which seems far less special.

Frederick Barbarossa
Finally, on a deeper level, the Christmas story itself followed a pattern that many people in many various lands would revive again; that of a foretelling of a famous monarch coming back to save his people from misery. Christ was the divine king who was to come as the Savior of the world, offering spiritual salvation to all peoples, and of course this story continues with the Christian prophecy about the end of the world, that ultimately Christ will return to save the faithful and destroy the wicked. On a more secular level, similar stories were once quite common about monarchs that achieved legendary status. In Britain there was King Arthur who, according to legend, never really died but would return one day in Britain’s darkest hour to save them. Many centuries later the Jacobites would adopt a similar attitude about “the King across the water” who would return and bring about a state of affairs they considered ideal. The Welsh had a similar folk tale about a giant king named Bran the Blessed. In the German Empire there was the story that Emperor Frederick Barbarossa never really died but simply went to sleep deep under a mountain (the actual location and details vary with telling of the tale) and that at some point, in Germany’s darkest hour, he would wake up and lead them to greatness once again. The Sicilians used to tell a similar tale about Emperor Frederick II and some tradition-minded romantics, in the time of the foundation of the second German Empire actually went so far as to declare the prophecy fulfilled in the person of Kaiser Wilhelm I.

Taken altogether, Christmas can be considered one of, if not the, most monarchist of holidays. Just as Christ was crucified as a king, so too was His birth heralded as the birth of a king. Many of its traditions had monarchial origins and were spread by kings and princes around the world and the Christmas story set a narrative in the minds of the people that was later imposed on earthly monarchs. Today, few people, if any, give any thought to this at all. However, none of it is hidden, it simply is not a topic. If any person was to consider it for more than a moment, they would see that royal symbolism permeates Christmas at virtually every level. For myself, this Christmas will be a difficult one but I hope every adherent of traditional authority will take the time to consider the many connections discussed and, for all Christian readers certainly, will have a very happy Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Japanese Submarine Campaign of World War II

At the outset of World War II the Empire of Japan was one of the major naval world powers with a powerful fleet of numerous aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and a very innovative force of submarines. In East Asian waters they had no equal and worldwide stood alongside the United States and the British Empire in having the most powerful fleets on earth. Japan possessed short, medium and long-range submarines, were not afraid to try to new things and had what was probably the best torpedo in the world at the start of the war. And yet, Japanese submarines failed to deliver results, falling far short of what they should have been able to achieve. Naval historians have studied this issue and almost invariably came to the same conclusion: Japan simply did not use their submarines effectively and thus they performed far below the awesome potential that the Japanese submarine fleet represented. In all, 190 Japanese submarines served in World War II and 129 were lost in action. In return, the Japanese subs sank 185 merchant ships and a little over 14 Allied warships. By comparison, the German submarine fleet sank over 2,500 merchant ships in the course of the war. The Italians (with fewer boats than Japan) sank 130 Allied merchant ships in the Atlantic and Mediterranean as well as 13 Allied warships. To illustrate the point another way, Allied submarines (mostly American) sank 19 Japanese submarines during the war while only one Japanese submarine ever sank an American submarine.

I-25, which bombed the continental United States
This does not mean that the Japanese submarine force was substandard; far from it. Japan showed immense ingenuity and innovative thinking in the design of their boats. It also does not mean that the threat posed by Japanese submarines to the Allies was negligible. Japan produced the largest submarine in the world during World War II as well as the submarine with the fastest submerged speed, even besting the famously high tech German Type XXI. Yet, both of these sub types came too late to ever see combat. There were Japanese submarine commanders who scored amazing victories, sinking major Allied warships and one, though it was not known until after the war, who launched the single most devastating attack in submarine history, sinking an aircraft carrier, a destroyer and badly damaging a battleship with one spread of torpedoes. Japanese subs had their weaknesses of course but also produced boats that were bigger or faster or able to dive deeper than anything the Allies had. The Japanese sailors certainly did not lack in courage, skill or training so, therefore, the only possible explanation for the disappointing results of the Japanese submarine fleet must be attributed almost entirely to how they were used. Japan had the tools and the talent but simply failed use these resources to their best advantage. Part of the problem was specific to the Japanese submarine force itself but it was also partly due to a broader failure in overall naval strategy.

With the experience of World War I, the Germans and Italians knew that the most effective way to use submarines was to focus primarily on the enemy merchant fleet and in this, as shown above, they performed extremely well. The Imperial Japanese Navy, on the other hand, was intent on using their submarines primarily against enemy warships and incorporated them into their plan for a climactic naval battle that would settle everything with one blow. This is often attributed to the great Japanese victory over the Russians at the Battle of Tsushima in which the entire Russian fleet was totally pulverized by the Japanese ships under the great Admiral Togo. Japan hoped to repeat this same success against the United States, unfortunately, the Americans refused to play by Japanese rules and that great clash of fleets, for which Japan had been saving her best ships, including the largest battleships in the world, never happened. The U.S. Navy fought at a distance mostly with airpower while most American battleships were only ever used to shell island fortifications. The United States also used its own submarines extensively against Japanese merchant vessels, effectively wiping out the entire Japanese merchant marine by the time it was all over. They too scored victories against Japanese warships, no greater success being the sinking of the Japanese super-carrier Shinano (largest warship in the world) by the American submarine USS Archerfish.

I-58, which sank the cruiser USS Indianapolis
This also reveals a lack of appreciation of the submarine in general by the Japanese naval high command. Just as Japanese submarines were not utilized to their fullest potential, Japan did not place sufficient focus on anti-submarine warfare and the American “silent service” made them pay dearly for the oversight. Other navies had tried the idea of surface ships and submarines working close together and invariably found the idea unworkable but when the big clash of fleets that Japanese naval strategists had planned for failed to materialize, no one came up with much of a substitute so that the Imperial Japanese Navy was left to simply react to whatever the U.S. Navy was doing at the time. Originally, the idea was to use submarines to scout for the surface fleet and to weaken the approaching enemy fleet where possible as the two sides came together. This accounts for the numerous Japanese submarines that were equipped with scout aircraft to increase their ability to spot the enemy fleet. However, such a confrontation never happened and so Japanese submarine strategy seemed to lose focus. What is frustrating for fans of the Japanese submarine force is that when Japanese subs were used to sink merchant ships, what most submarine experts at the time agreed was their greatest avenue of success, the Japanese boats performed very well, particularly in the less defended waters of the Indian Ocean. However, the naval high command repeatedly pulled them away for other duties.

Those “other duties” usually involved acting as cargo carriers themselves, taking supplies to beleaguered Japanese forces defending islands in the South Pacific. This is both understandable and tragic. It is understandable because the situation was desperate and any way to get any supplies to these forces in the face of American air and naval superiority over the combat zone had to be looked at. The suffering that Japanese soldiers and sailors on these islands, especially Guadalcanal, was so immense as to defy description. Wracked by starvation, exhaustion and tropical diseases, as long as the poor soldiers were not evacuated, it is understandable that any means of getting supplies to them had to be considered. However, it is tragic because they simply should have been evacuated at that point as submarines are simply not effective cargo vessels. They amount of supplies they could possibly carry would necessarily be quite small and this prevented the subs from doing their real job which was sinking enemy ships, a job they were quite good at when given the chance. Subs were also detailed to undertake operations such as shelling the U.S. coast or dropping incendiary bombs in the hopes of sparking massive forest fires which, even if successful, would not have had any major impact on the war and, again, diverted them away from what they were best suited for.

When it came to combat operations, the Japanese submarine fleet had weaknesses as well as strengths. Japan, like the other Axis powers overall, lagged behind the Allies in sonar and radar technology. Radar sets were not adapted for Japanese subs until 1944 and even then were of very poor quality which, combined with the fact that Japanese subs were necessarily large (due to the fact that they had to have a long range to fight effectively in the massive Pacific) and thus slow to dive meant that being caught on the surface, particularly by Allied aircraft, was a real danger. Likewise, Japan possessed only rudimentary passive sonar which was not as effective as that used by the Americans which, combined with the fact that Japanese submarines tended to make more noise and be less maneuverable (due to their size) put them at a disadvantage when it came to underwater operations. However, Japanese submarines also had advantages over their Allied counterparts at least for a period of time and, unfortunately for Japan, the most innovative sub types were not completed until the war had already been lost and never saw action before Japan surrendered in 1945.

At the outset of the war the biggest advantage Japanese submarines possessed was the Type 95 torpedo which had a very long range (up to 13,100 yards), packed a powerful punch and which ran on oxygen rather than compressed air which meant that it left no tell-tale trail of bubbles behind it, making it much harder to spot by surface ships before it was too late. In comparison, at the beginning of the war, the standard American torpedo was a complete disaster that frequently failed to hit its target, often failed to detonate when it did and sometimes posed a greater threat to the boat that fired it rather than the enemy. The Japanese naval technicians were also constantly working to improve their boats. The Kaidai 6 a/b type, produced in 1934-38, had the fastest surface speed of any sub in the world at 23 knots. The AM Type boats were built to carry attack aircraft and supplement the famous SenToku class boats and had the potential to be quite effective. However, only four were ordered and only two were actually completed before the high command ordered production halted to focus on smaller subs for the defense of Japan.

The gigantic SenToku-class submarine aircraft carrier
This highlights another problem of the Japanese submarine fleet which relates back to the overall problem of a lack of focus. In production as well, Japan produced a wide variety of sub types which was expensive and time consuming while never producing very many of any one type so that even the most effective boats were too few to have much of an impact. Other navies, most especially the Germans with the medium-sized Type VII, settled on one type of submarine that best fit their needs and then produced as many of them as possible. For Japan, where resources for construction were scarce, producing so many different types of submarines with orders often being cancelled before construction was complete to switch work to another type proved to be wasteful of both resources and time which, especially as the war progressed, Japan had very little of to spare. Probably the most innovative sub type Japan built during the war, the SenToku class, is an example of this. The great Admiral Yamamoto, a far-sighted commander by any standard, supported this type of submarine with enthusiasm. However, after his death, the project was put on the shelf and work was not taken up again until later in the war so that, as we know, by the time the I-400, I-401 and I-402 were put into service, none had a chance to see action.

Certainly there are two types of submarines produced by Japan which most illustrate the great potential that the Imperial Japanese Navy had for submarine warfare if only it had been properly utilized. The first is the most well known, the aforementioned SenToku class which was the largest submarine type ever built and would retain that status all the way until 1965 with the launching of the U.S. nuclear ballistic missile submarine USS Benjamin Franklin. These were huge boats built to be, essentially, submarine aircraft carriers to launch surprise air attacks on extremely distant targets that would never be expected. Their design was highly innovative and a brilliant example of the creativity of Japanese naval engineers. Each could carry two small Seiran bomber aircraft as well as sufficient parts to be used to either repair the other two or put together for a third plane. The subs were coated with a special material, passed along from Germany, to make them more resistant to underwater search gear, special equipment was developed to allow for the aircraft to be prepared for flight while the boat was still submerged so that the boat could surface, launch its aircraft and submerge again as quickly as possible to avoid detection. These boats also had the longest range of any submarine ever developed and would hold that record until the development of the first nuclear submarines by the United States. Even today, there has never been a conventional submarine with a longer range than the Japanese SenToku class.

The 'super sub' I-401
Their great range was critical as the original intention for these boats was to cross the Pacific Ocean, hopefully undetected, rounding Cape Horn, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to then launch what would essentially be terror-raids on urban targets such as Washington DC or New York City. Everyone realized that the actual damage they could inflict would be rather limited, however, the intention was to spread terror among the American populace by attacking the United States where they least expected it and where they seemed most invulnerable. It could have had a considerable impact, forcing the American military to redeploy resources to defend against attacks on areas they never would have thought to be within reach of the enemy. That was the real aim of the I-400 boats, it was a way to send a message to the Americans that Japan could hit them almost anywhere, that no coastal region was safe. However, as we know, by the time the boats were launched the situation had changed and so when finally put to sea for their first, incomplete, war cruise, their target was instead to be the locks on the Panama Canal, the destruction of which would cripple shipping in the area, make Central America a virtual ‘dead zone’ and force all ships to sail the long way around Cape Horn at the bottom of South America. The war ended before this attack could be carried out but the potential represented by the SenToku class boats was lost on no one and one of the early American guided missile submarine designs seems likely to have been based on the I-400.

The other class of submarine produced by Japan, which highlights Japanese submarine innovation and unrealized potential is less well known but deserves to be celebrated. This was the SenTaka class of which three boats were completed before the end of the war, I-201, I-202 and I-203. In terms of their design, these boats were years ahead of their time and were precursors of the design changes in submarine hulls that would most come to be associated with the age of nuclear submarines. These boats had anything that could cause drag either removed or made retractable so that they were extremely streamlined, making them much faster and more maneuverable underwater than anything the Allies had. The electric motors were twice as powerful as the diesel engines and they were equipped with high-capacity batteries that allowed for huge bursts of speed so that these boats were capable of achieving speeds of over 21 knots while submerged, something unheard of at the time. No other submarine in the world could go so fast underwater as the SenTaka class and they were also fitted with a snorkel so that they could recharge their batteries without having to surface. As a result, though they were small boats with a rather short range, they could conceivably have operated entirely submerged for the duration of their patrol which would have made them almost impossible to detect until they started sinking Allied ships. With four forward tubs and ten torpedoes with two deck guns they also packed a respectable punch for such a small boat.

The highly advanced HA-201
The I-400’s may get the most attention for being so big and scary but the I-200’s actually represent an even greater potential of Japanese submarine success. With the underwater speed and underwater endurance these boats were capable of, they would have been extremely difficult to locate and destroy. If they had been completed earlier in the war and in larger numbers they could have taken a devastating toll on Allied shipping, perhaps even playing a decisive part in the Pacific War. These little boats would have changed almost all the rules that the Allied navies were playing by and could have had a tremendous impact, possibly even affecting the outcome of the war. Who can say? However, as it happened, only three were produced before it was all over. I-201 and I-203 were taken to Pearl Harbor after the surrender where I-201 was sunk in an ordinance test and I-203 was sunk as a test target (though we can be sure the U.S. Navy studied them intensely before doing so). The I-202 was damaged in an air raid from an offshore U.S. aircraft carrier while in port and later scuttled off the Japanese coast in 1946. None saw combat but these boats perfectly illustrate the immense creativity and potential the Japanese submarine force was capable of but never fully utilized.

Finally, if all of this seems rather depressing for submarine enthusiasts, we have to keep a few things in mind. For one, the submarine force was not alone in being robbed of the chance to achieve its greatest glory. Japan famously produced the largest battleships in the world, saved for the hoped for decisive fleet battle with the United States, and none were ever able to really show what they could do in a ship-to-ship shooting match before they were sunk. It should probably also be mentioned that, like the Americans, the Japanese had little to no submarine combat experience before World War II. That does make a difference as we can clearly see what the German U-boats were able to achieve under the command of Admiral Karl Doenitz who was a veteran submarine commander who saw action in World War I as captain of UB-68. Even for the United States, while lacking the combat experience that the Germans had from World War I, it made a difference that the American naval commander in the Pacific was Admiral Chester Nimitz who, as a young officer, had commanded the USS Skipjack and held numerous submarine flotilla commands prior to World War II. He may have lacked combat experience but he certainly knew and appreciated what submarines were capable of and used them to best effect.

I-58 carrying Kaiten 'human torpedoes'
The results achieved by the submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy are, ultimately, deemed unsatisfactory in large part because anyone can see that they had so much potential. It is not that they had no victories but that they were capable of having much, much more extensive victories if only they had been properly utilized. It should not be forgotten then that the toll taken by Japanese submarines during the war, over 900,000 GRT (gross register tons) of Allied merchant shipping, was a loss that was certainly felt by the Allies. Japanese submarines sank ten small warships, two cruisers and two American aircraft carriers during the course of the war. Let that fact sink in for a moment. That was more than anyone else has done against the U.S. Navy. The problem was simply that the Japanese naval high command refused to change their thinking when their original strategy proved unworkable. They lacked focus, building massive submarines that never saw service and tiny, suicide weapons, the famous “kaiten” which ultimately did very little damage to the enemy, rather than mass-producing a greater number of one or two submarine types such as the Germans did with the Type VII and Type IX or as the U.S. did with the Gato, Balao and Tench-classes. Japan had the largest, the smallest, the fastest, the deepest diving submarines and Japan made the most destructive single submarine attack in history. However, the lack of adaptability, technological deficiencies and a lack of focus by the high command prevented the Japanese submarine force from accomplishing much more, even, on perhaps more than one occasion, being a decisive weapon in the Pacific War.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Trouble with Russia and Turkey

Most have probably seen the news, and even video, of the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey yesterday. There were immediate fears that this could cause some serious trouble, though from the first I heard of it, I doubted that the Turks were about to feel the full fury of Russia. For one thing, the Turks shooting down a Russian fighter jet last year, despite a great deal of big talk from Moscow, resulted in little more than a minor bump in the road for Russo-Turkish relations. Turkish President Erogan has been given VIP treatment on a high-profile visit to Russia and the Russians quickly lifted trade and travel restrictions on Turkey after the incident. Erdogan expressed his regret about the incident but continued to assert that the Russian jet had violated Turkish airspace and has continued to refuse to recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea. The law pertaining to Crimea was passed by the Turkish government about a week before Russia resumed regular flights to Turkey.

After the assassination of the Russian ambassador, which the assassin claimed was in retaliation for Russian support for the Assad regime in Syria, which Turkey opposes, talk out of Turkey quickly went to allegations of a “false flag” operation by the United States, a clear effort to shift Russian anger toward a common enemy. Despite being a NATO member, the pro-Islamic fundamentalist Erdogan has had very strained relations with the United States, blaming America, for example, for the military coup attempt against him in July of this year. In short, my initial view, which could yet be proven wrong, was that if the Russians did not take serious action against Turkey over the shooting down of their jet, Turkish support of anti-Assad rebels and Islamic fundamentalist groups and opposition to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, there is no reason to believe the Russian bear will now suddenly show its claws. To this observer it seems that the Turks have the stronger hand here and Russia desires good relations with Turkey more than the Turks desire good relations with Russia.

The history of Russo-Turkish relations is long and closely tied to the monarchist cause in both countries. For most of their histories, the Russian Empire and the Turkish Ottoman Empire have been implacable enemies. There have been no less than twelve wars between the Russian and Ottoman Empires with the Russians being successful more often than not. These were due to a number of circumstances such as the prevailing international politics of the day, the Russians taking up the cause of defender of the Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire and the Russian wish to end Turkish domination of the Black Sea. However, looking at the bigger picture, the animosity was mostly inevitable and due to geography. Russian emperors for centuries have wanted to have secure Russian access to the eastern Mediterranean and a few have dreamed of taking Constantinople and restoring it as the heart of Orthodox Christianity. The Russian Empire also fought to liberate the Slavic and Orthodox Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans.

The Ottoman Empire, throughout this time, was mostly on the defensive and fought most of these wars to defend themselves against the Russians. Turkish domination of the crossroads of the world rose up at a time when the Russians were still dominated by the successor states of the Mongol Empire. The Turks were able to gain a strong position before the Russians first started to go on the attack under Czar Ivan the Terrible. The aim of the Turkish Sultans was thus to defend their massive empire and domination of the region. Just as the Russian Empire, in those days, championed the cause of Orthodox Christians under Ottoman rule, so too did the Turks make common cause with the Islamic peoples conquered by the Russians or threatened by Russian expansion. So, in those days, the situation was fairly clear-cut, it was the Orthodox Christian Russian Empire against the Islamic Ottoman Empire, there could be no reconciliation, one would have to win and the other would have to lose.

World War I, however, saw events overtake both empires. Neither the Russian Empire nor the Ottoman Empire would ultimately survive the conflict. As the Russian monarchy was destroyed and finally replaced by the Soviet Union, the Ottoman Sultan was overthrown and replaced by a secular Turkish republic. Turkish nationalism, rather than pan-Islamism became the fashion in Turkey while in Russia, once the defender of Orthodox Christianity, became militantly atheist and Soviet founding father Vladimir Lenin immediately reached out to the revolutionary regime in Turkey, renouncing traditional Russian claims and establishing friendly relations between the Turkish Republic and the USSR. This only changed as a result of World War II in which the Soviets believed the neutral Turks to be rather too friendly with Hitler’s Germany (though Stalin himself had been friendly enough before the summer of 1941). Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin revived some of the old Czarist Russian claims against Turkey and, in response, the Turks shifted over to the Western Allies for guarantees of protection.

This return to the traditional antagonism was never quite as intense as it had been under the monarchy, with the Soviets even secretly backing the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in the hope that this would result in a split in NATO between pro-Greek and pro-Turkish factions. However, it all ended with the fall of the Soviet Union which has seen Russia make many unprecedented changes in policy, supporting, protecting and even arming neighboring countries which have been traditional enemies of Russia and which have historical grievances against Russia. Turkey, on the other hand, has been, particularly under Erdogan, shifting away from secularism and more toward Islamic fundamentalism. Turkey has been adopting a more robust foreign policy, supporting other Islamic powers and even Islamic powers that had been enemies of the Turks in the Ottoman days. In 2006 the King of Saudi Arabia visited Turkey for the first time in forty years and Erdogan has voiced his support of the Saudi intervention in Yemen against Iranian-backed factions. Turkey has been returning to a more ambitious, Ottoman-style foreign policy whereas Russia has been reversing many of the foreign policy attitudes of the Romanovs, sticking to Soviet-era relationships except, bizarrely, for those which coincided with Czarist policies.

Some of this has been understandable, given the extent to which many western countries continue to view Russia in the same way they viewed the Soviet Union. Western non-governmental organizations in particular practically pillaged Russia in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and NATO and the EU have been steadily encroaching on Russia’s western border. Imperial Russia was always careful to never take a blanket anti-western foreign policy, preferring to ally with certain western powers against others as benefited their interests, the primary aim of which was access to a warm water port. Any Russian emperor would have thought it pure insanity to shelter, support and strengthen countries such as China, Iran or Turkey, all of which are within striking distance of Russia and have historical grievances against Russia which, even if the Russians have forgotten these pages of history, these powers certainly have not.

Will anything come of this latest incident? It is possible but, again, I am not too alarmed. Russia has shown that they want no trouble with Turkey in spite of even very blatant hostile actions. The Turks can, likewise, try to shift the blame and the Russians seem anxious to accept such a course. Turkey has their opposition to Assad and their threat to release more “refugees” upon Europe to maintain at least the grudging support of the western powers while Russia has never taken retaliatory measures in the past and the displeasure they have shown before was always of limited duration. Turkey seems to be in a strong position, able to annoy both sides of the east-west divide but with neither side being willing to do anything about it. They can maintain their current policy in the Middle East and negotiations with Europe. The Arabs are on their side and the NATO countries will almost certainly not wish to irritate all of them and if Russia has taken no action up until now in spite of Turkish support for anti-Assad radicals, opposition to the annexation of Crimea, the shooting down of the Russian fighter jet, it seems doubtful that they will suddenly decide to draw the line with this assassination.

Many have commented that Turkey, under Erdogan, is taking on a more Ottoman style. Relations were good between Turkey and Egypt when Egypt was ruled by the Islamic Brotherhood but have since soured. However, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been on the same side in most regional conflicts, the Turks have invested in Iraq, Erdogan being the first Turkish PM to visit the Kurdish-populated area of Iraq in 2011 (to open a Turkish built airport), going on to visit several Shiite holy places. Turkish relations with Iran have improved, as have those with the Gulf states and Pakistan. In Syria the Turkish government has partnered with the Saudis and Gulf states in backing Islamic rebels against the Assad regime. Erdogan has been expanding Turkish involvement and influence throughout the Middle East, throughout the former Ottoman Empire. He has so mimicked the Ottoman style that some have suggested he intends to make himself Sultan. Rather than laughing off such an absurd suggestion, Erdogan replied that he would prefer to have a more ceremonial position, like Queen Elizabeth II of the UK which is not exactly a denial.

Russia, on the other hand, has reversed most of the long-standing foreign policy positions of the old Russian Empire. Imperial Russian opposition to the Turks, Persians and Chinese has been replaced by generous trade, military and energy agreements with Turkey, Iran and China by the Russian Federation. No danger from any quarter other than Western Europe or North America seems to be recognized and yet when it comes to the NATO countries, Russia has steadfastly refused to take a hard line. Whether this is good or bad depends on whether one takes the side of Russia or the west. If you side with the west, it has been good, because Russia has refused to actually challenge the west. If you side with Russia, it has not been good because the west carries on whereas, I have not the slightest doubt, if Russia were to ever actually do as NATO does and say, “do this and it means war”, the west would want no part of that. The current leadership of the western world are the sort to threaten war but not the sort to actually commit to it, at least not a war in which the other side has the capacity to hit back.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Thoughts on Current Monarchy Types

Many people with whom I am in sympathy on political, social, spiritual etc issues have been becoming increasingly critical of the institution of monarchy and, of course, look to me for a defense of the institution. Usually, this involves the Middle East but the European remnants of monarchy also come up from time to time. My response, I confess, may not be adequate. Overall, in terms of people I have direct contact with these days, I have some time ago stopped trying to persuade them of the merits of having monarchies in foreign lands or defending the current situation of the United States being allied to and pledged to defend practically all the remaining monarchies in the world (there is the odd exception such as Swaziland or Bhutan). I have not seen any benefit for the United States from this situation, nor any reciprocal support and, based on my interaction with monarchists online, it seems to retard their progress by making them think that the U.S.A. controls *everything* and thus they think they have no power and are reduced to an apathetic state of inaction and playing the blame game.

None of this, however, means that there is not a case to be made. It is just that it is one I think best suited to people in other countries. I think it makes sense for Americans as well but that would include the caveat that, at this point, it seems better for America to stop trying to be supportive of any monarchies, or, I should say for the benefit of those readers I most often hear from, simply end the current relationships as they stand because these people certainly do not believe the U.S. has been at all supportive. Fair enough, let them make their way without us. There are certainly those abroad, just as there are those among the few here, who question the value of monarchies they either see as in some way villainous at worst or completely useless at best. This is not, I assure you, a new question. Personally, as most know, I am a pan-monarchist who favors traditional authority in almost every part of the world (and in absolutely every part of the world were there time enough for sufficient change). Certainly, the different types of monarchy operating today are extremely different. You have faith-based absolute monarchies in the Muslim world, a few business-like Christian absolute monarchies among the micro-nations and you have the largely or completely ceremonial constitutional monarchies in which even the "Crown powers" are exercised by politicians.

These different types of monarchy may be vastly different but there is no fundamental reason why they should be antagonistic toward each other. Certainly, not being an Arab or a Muslim I would certainly not wish to live in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, as I am so far removed from it, what they do and how they order their society is none of my concern. The current situation with the absolute monarchies of the world, be they Saudi Arabia, Swaziland or Brunei, calls to mind some memorable lines from Bishop Jacques Bossuet's book, "Politics Drawn from Holy Scripture". In it the Bishop writes, while explaining the difference between absolute power (which he is for) and arbitrary power (which he is not) and laying out exactly what constitutes arbitrary power that,

"I do not wish to examine whether it is permissible or illicit. There are nations and great empires which are content with it; and it is not for us to awaken doubts in them about the form of their government. It suffices for us to say that it is barbarous and odious. These four characteristics are quite far from our own customs; and so among us there is no arbitrary government."

As usual, I think Bossuet is absolutely correct here. As I said, I would not wish to live in Swaziland, Saudi Arabia or Brunei and, happily, I do not. What makes such states repellent to me is, to the Swazi, Arab or Bruneian people, perfectly normal. Bossuet also comes close to making a blatantly pan-monarchist statement here by saying that, "it is not for us to awaken doubts" in other peoples about their form of government. Just because it is not the way that we do things, does not mean it does not work perfectly well for them and to disrupt that would most likely cause chaos. According to our legal, cultural and moral standards, what goes on in these places would be considered, frankly, barbaric but it is the way these people have been doing this for many, many centuries and if they are to change it must come slowly, naturally and by their own accord. In the time of Bossuet, of course, he was most likely thinking of the Ottoman Empire, the Mughals of India or possibly the early Qing Empire in China but I would apply it just as well to Oman, Qatar or Swaziland.

Half of what defines "traditional authority" is, obviously, "tradition" and while it is not the tradition in western countries to have arbitrary authority, in others it is. We have also seen that, even by western standards, what may be a monarchy a Dutchman or an Englishman would have no desire to live in, can, and invariably does, become worse with the end of the traditional system rather than better. Has modern Turkey become better or worse since the fall of the Ottoman Sultan? Certainly China has not been better off without an emperor under the Communist Party. There is also the example of Iran. Look at it from the British perspective; the traditional Qajar dynasty was overthrown by the more modern-minded Pahlavi dynasty which came to power via an anti-British coup. Obviously, from the British perspective, this was not an improvement. Yet, the fall of the Pahlavi and the monarchy as a whole with the Islamic Revolution, did not mean a government more favorable to Britain but one that regularly chants, "Death to England" though this seems to attract less attention than their other chants of "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" but it is no less real. Things can always get worse.

For those western monarchies that have been reduced to a totally or almost totally ceremonial status, I find this situation less than ideal but still preferable to having no monarchy at all. That is the direction that the arc of history has, unfortunately, taken. Personally, I prefer the traditional absolute (but not arbitrary!) form of monarchy but just as I would prefer a monarch that shared power to a monarch with no power at all, so too do I prefer a monarch with no power to having no monarch at all. There is, however, the added difficulty that, for me and most in the circles that I move in, a rather different set of circumstances than what most other monarchies have to deal with that takes priority. This is that, alongside the problem of having fewer monarchs with increasingly less authority, you have an overall decline in the traditions, culture and even the populations themselves of these nations as a whole. Between the centralizing, secularist forces of the European Union, the "social justice" movement, the open borders obsession and so on, the cultural and even physical distinctiveness of western monarchies is under immense threat.

This, I can only attribute to a flaw in the European character since other peoples certainly do not have this problem or at least certainly not to the same extent. One cannot and, I think, should not be hermetically sealed off from the outside world but others have been able to be open to foreign ideas and fashions without allowing these to destroy the native culture. In the monarchies of Africa and Asia, the traditional cultures of these places is still going strong compared to Europe. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that these countries also tend to be much more if not entirely homogeneous compared to western monarchies. The traditional dances in Swaziland, featuring bare-breasted young women, would likely be considered extremely offensive to Muslims but there are no Muslims in Swaziland so there is no talk of doing away with this custom out of consideration for their feelings. Christians in Saudi Arabia might object to the practice of polygamy but as there are no Christians in Saudi Arabia, this is not a problem. One can go to Japan and see Torii (a symbol of Shinto) all over the country while, in western countries, a cross on public land attracts criticism and legal battles to have it removed on the part of militant atheists. Plenty of Japanese people are effectively atheists but they do not object to the site of a Torii because it is as much part of their culture as the kimono or the tea ceremony. They are also, again, a very homogeneous country where few foreigners are permitted to settle and, for those who do, the idea that they could ever become Japanese or have the Japanese adjust to their culture, would be considered laughably absurd.

In the case of European monarchies, I would urge everyone to put aside what a monarch or other royal might say on some social issue that they disagree with and keep in mind the overall struggle for cultural preservation. After all, the monarchy is part, in fact a core, central part, of the culture you are trying to defend. They may only be a shadow of what they once were but that is no reason to give up on them. Personally, I tend to think that if the monarchs of Europe had a more secured and powerful position, in other words, if they actually had something personally to defend, they would tend to take a very different attitude. I also think the micro-nations of Monaco and Liechtenstein can serve as important examples for a possible way forward, a different way of doing things. Both are, effectively if not technically, absolute monarchies. They have very strict immigration laws, being in the case of Monaco practically one of 'by invitation only' and both have legally established religions. In short, they are everything that modern society says is supposed to be wrong, backward and doomed. Yet, both are fabulously wealthy, modern, safe countries that are not shut off from the world. Even with no natural resources of their own, their economic and political policies have created societies where there are virtually no poor people at all, no uneducated people and no crime to speak of. Obviously, what works for them will not work for everyone, but just as obviously they must be doing something right!

In short, I think all are worth defending, whether for what they are or for what they could be. The constitutional monarchies of Europe may not look like much today, but has a European republic ever done better? The most sustained example one could point to would be France and history clearly shows that most of their strength came from the gains they made during their on-again, off-again periods as a monarchy. No, all of these countries rose to their grandest heights as monarchies, the monarchy is integral to their cultural heritage and that alone should make them worth holding on to. Most also came to be what they are because of their own unique history, over a great length of time. This is because monarchies, in their purest form, are organic. Despite the best efforts of the Stuarts, the history of the British Isles, the growth of the parliamentary system in England, the tribal feuding of Scotland and Ireland, meant that Great Britain was never going to become a centralized, absolute monarchy like Bourbon France. The Dutch monarch should not be powerless, but given the history of the Netherlands, no Prince of Orange was ever going to be like the Czar of Russia. By that same token, although many advocate for it today and I am all for them, it is quite impossible for me to imagine Russia having a largely ceremonial monarch. Nonetheless, I want them all to have one.

"Tomorrow in the Senate, let them offer the sands of Libya
as my kingdom ... I will accept."
If the monarchies of East Asia or the Middle East are not to your liking, just remember that while you are under no obligation to support them, you should likewise do them no harm as the law of probabilities says that what replaces them will be something far worse rather than being in any way better. If it works for them, that is fine and no European or American should concern themselves with them. For the ceremonial monarchies of Europe, I say do not abandon your kings just because the revolutionary crowd has so distorted them. Rather, take as your example the monarchists of the past who sought to save their monarchs from their malevolent officials, in some cases even from themselves. Do not hand the enemy a victory but allowing them to so sully a key element of your cultural heritage to the point that they can easily toss it aside because everyone has been put off from defending it. In my more conspiratorial moments I sometimes wonder if that was not the point of some secret, master plan but that's beside the point. A monarchy, once lost, is almost impossible to restore, so do not let it be lost, no matter what it is reduced to.  As long as there is something, there is something to build on. As Cleopatra said to Caesar in the 1963 film, "Take a little, then a little more, until finally you have it all. Let them declare you king. Even if it's only of a tree in Asia Minor. The rest will come to you."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Archduke and the Failed Reich

The history of the Germans has been one of a disparate people organized into small states interspersed by relatively short periods of three major empires or, as the Germans would call them, the First Reich, Second Reich and, the most short-lived of all, the Third Reich. Each were quite different though the first and second obviously had more in common with each other than the third. Prior to the First Reich the Germans had been a primitive, though fierce, collection of warring tribes. A taste of Roman civilization and conversion to Christianity culminated in the establishment of the First German Empire, officially known as the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Peoples”. This represented the longest period of time that all the German people were at least nominally united under one Crown. However, it was, in a way, an intermittent empire. For most of its history it was more of a confederacy of loosely associated autonomous states that generally went their own way. It was only occasionally, under such monarchs as Otto the Great, Frederick Barbarossa or Frederick II a united and powerful empire.

The First Reich
The Second Reich was that established in 1871 dominated by the Kingdom of Prussia and excluding the many German-speaking people of the Austrian Empire. It too was a collection of states but one more solidly united by the central government and it lasted until 1918, doomed by the German defeat in World War I. However, in between these two was an attempt at another German Empire which tried to bring about the unification, or reunification, of the German people earlier than it actually happened. The effort was unsuccessful and so it receives relatively little attention in history but it is still quite significant in understanding why the actual Second Reich was formed in the way that it was, how it was established and who it would include and who it would not. This was the German Empire of 1848-49, established by the vote of the Frankfurt Parliament, regarded by historians as the first freely elected Parliament representing all Germans. Born out of a revolutionary movement, it was nonetheless intended to be a hereditary monarchy though it would ultimately be a Reich without a Kaiser (emperor). The most lofty leader it could manage was an Imperial Regent which was Archduke Johann of Austria.

Born in 1782 in Florence, Italy, the thirteenth child of the very prolific Habsburg Grand Duke of Tuscany, later the Emperor Leopold II, Archduke Johann was given command of the Austrian Imperial Army at the start of the wars with Napoleon. He did not think he was up to the job and was ultimately proven correct. Though personally brave and intelligent, he was no great commander and his forces were soundly beaten. Afterwards, he was put in charge of overseeing military fortifications and later the military academy which were jobs more suited to his particular skill-set. Called back into service by the outbreak of the War of the Third Coalition, he proved much more capable as a defensive commander in the mountainous Tyrol region, fighting the French and their Bavarian allies. When the Austrian Emperor was forced to cede this territory, Archduke Johann supported the resistance of the Austrian population in the Tyrol led by the famous Tyrolean hero Andreas Hofer. In the War of the Fifth Coalition, he was once again given command of an army and did have some success but was ultimately defeated by the Franco-Italian army of Napoleon’s stepson Eugene, Viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy.

When the Austrian statesman Metternich determined to make peace with Napoleonic France, Archduke Johann was shoved aside because of his continued support for resistance and encouraging irregular warfare in the Austrian territory ceded to the French allied states. He left the military and devoted himself to intellectual pursuits, becoming very popular with the Styrians, founded a number of institutions of higher learning, climbed mountains and got married in 1829. As it was an unequal marriage, his brother Emperor Francis I excluded him from the Habsburg succession. This, naturally, caused some tension at court and, his wife being from a rather upper-middle class background, his promotion of modernization in Styria, all probably came together to give Archduke Johann a reputation for being more liberal than he really was.

Doubtless though it was that very reputation which was at least somewhat responsible for him becoming Imperial Regent of the short-lived German Empire of 1848. At the height of the March Revolution of that year, which in the German-speaking lands had started in Austria and quickly spread to Baden, the Palatinate, Prussia, Saxony, the Rhineland and Bavaria, leading German revolutionary nationalists got together in Heidelberg and organized an elected pan-German parliament that met in May in Frankfurt. All the German states had agreed to this elected assembly and all sent representatives. This National Assembly, known as the Frankfurt Assembly today, tried to come to a consensus for the creation of a new pan-German Reich that would include all German-speaking peoples. The first question was what form it would take. The most liberal proposed a federal republic similar to that of the United States of America but they lost to the more moderate majority that favored a constitutional monarchy.

The president of this assembly was Baron Heinrich von Gagern but they needed someone to occupy the position of Head of State, at least temporarily while this new German Reich established itself. So it was that the position of regent, or officially, “Imperial Vicar” was established and given to Archduke Johann of Austria. Baron von Gagern pushed for his election but this itself was something that was argued over. For many, the idea of a German Reich with a Habsburg in the highest position of leadership was only natural given how the Austrian Imperial Family had become, effectively, the Imperial Family of the First German Reich (the elections having long become a mere formality). However, there were those who thought that the Austrian lands, united with so many non-Germans such as Slavs and Hungarians, should be excluded from the new Reich whereas the adherents of the “Greater Germany” ideal, argued for their inclusion.

Archduke Johann actually had little to do since so much was still being debated and the situation in the various German states was changing so rapidly. He signed bills into law passed by the Assembly and appointed chosen officials to their post, such as Prince Carl von Leiningen (half-brother of Britain’s Queen Victoria) as head of government. However, while the Austrian sympathizers had history on their side, the wave of German nationalism sparked by the war against Napoleonic France had been largely focused on the Kingdom of Prussia and the Archduke was not so enthusiastic about the direction the Frankfurt Assembly seemed to be heading in with such a heavy emphasis on Prussia. Still, some actions taken were to linger for quite some time. It designated as its flag, and that of the German Confederation of which the head of the House of Habsburg was hereditary president, the black-red-gold tricolor that is the German flag today, the black and gold colors of Habsburg Austria overlaid with a red stripe to represent the Hanseatic states of the north. They could also claim descent from the colors of the arms of the First German Reich, a black eagle with red beak and talons on a gold field. The Imperial Fleet, established by the Assembly, was to outlive it by a number of years, continuing on until 1852. The pan-German colors would go on being used by the German Confederation until it was replaced by the Prussian-dominated North German Confederation after the Austro-Prussian War.

King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia
However, the greatest problem for these assembled revolutionary nationalists was that there were people in the streets putting events into motion while these delegates debated and voted in Frankfurt. When the Austrian Imperial Army put down the disorder in the streets, a representative of the Assembly was arrested and executed, taking Austria out of the picture and putting to rest the arguments in favor of a “Greater Germany” in a rather dramatic way. In other states, the various German princes began to put down the liberal unrest and ignored the Frankfurt Assembly which carried on for a time, seemingly oblivious to what was going on around them. When they finally decided on a constitution, Archduke Johann had no hand in it but signed it into law. It established the new German Reich as a constitutional hereditary monarchy with the crown and title of “Emperor of the Germans” going to the King of Prussia and his heirs and successors. However, the Prussians were likewise busy suppressing revolutionaries and in 1849 when a delegation arrived to formally offer King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia the title of “Kaiser” he firmly refused, famously saying that he would not accept, “a crown from the gutter” but only one offered by the traditional German Prince-Electors of the old First Reich. The King was a very conservative minded, staunchly Lutheran man who very much believed in the Divine Right of Kings and did not want a crown he would owe to an elected assembly, no matter how lofty it might seem.

The King of Prussia further undercut the liberal nationalist movement by enacting his own constitution for Prussia, one that would keep power in the hands he trusted most. For the Imperial Vicar, Archduke Johann, he took this in stride, asserting that he could carry on exercising executive authority, however, with the Austrians removing themselves from the movement and the Prussians also rejecting it, the refusal of the King of Prussia really spelled the end for the whole concept. Some states enacted liberal changes, others did not but the Revolutionary movement ultimately ground to a halt and rendered the Frankfurt Assembly powerless, ignored by all. Archduke Johann officially resigned his position on December 20, 1849 and the effort at a new German Reich came to an end with the German Confederation remaining the only pan-German government organization. He later became the only member of the Imperial Family to ever be elected mayor. The Archduke died ten years later in 1859.

Reichsflotte / Imperial Fleet
Archduke Johann of Austria had taken up the cause of a new pan-German Reich with enthusiasm. However, he was never quite so liberal as many of the others engaged in the same enterprise. His personal life and disagreements with Metternich tended to make him seem more “radical” than he really was. This perception, however, won him the support of the liberals whereas the monarchists and the “Greater Germany” proponents favored him because he was a Habsburg Archduke of Austria. He wanted greater unity among the German peoples, more academic freedom, less censorship and greater scientific and technical advancements such as he had seen in England. However, a revolutionary or ideologue he was not. This was the same man, after all, who had organized the Landwehr in Inner Austria and Tyrol, who had supported the resistance fighter Andreas Hofer and who, in fact, was banned from the Tyrol for years by his brother for fear that he would instigate trouble with Napoleonic France after the Austrian Empire had made peace with them. As it was though, that effort at German unity proved unsuccessful and the world would have to wait for the official Second German Reich, arranged by Otto von Bismarck, which would be very different indeed from that envisioned by the Frankfurt Assembly and Archduke Johann of Austria.
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