Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Monarch Profile: Emperor Valentinian II

The history of the Roman imperial monarchy is complete with stories of every kind; dramatic, bizarre, occasionally comic and tragic. The story of Emperor Valentinian II is one of the tragic ones. To set the scene, a good place to establish the background of this unfortunate monarch is with the glorious reign of Emperor Constantine the Great. As most know, it was Emperor Constantine who reunited the Roman Empire under one emperor, built the second capital city of Constantinople, established a policy of religious freedom for Christians and who was, at the end of his life, the first Christian Emperor of Rome. He also established a dynasty that carried on into the 360’s with his last male descendant being Emperor Julian, better known as “Julian the Apostate” who tried to revert Rome back to paganism rather than Christianity. A new imperial dynasty was then established, in the west, by Emperor Valentinian I, a man who rose from humble origins in Pannonia in what is today Croatia. He was a staunch Christian, a military-minded man who established the Valentinian dynasty, ruling the west himself while his younger brother Valens ruled as Emperor of the East.

Emperor Valentinian I
Valentinian I was succeeded by his son, Emperor Gratian, the man who would hand over the title of “Supreme Pontiff” to the Bishop of Rome. However, Emperor Gratian ruled only from 367 to 383 AD when he was assassinated at Lyons with most of the empire north of the Alps left in the hands of a renegade general named Magnus Maximus. However, he died in 388, a year after invading Italy. The young man who was in charge, or at least who was supposed to be, was Emperor Valentinian II. The son of Valentinian I by his second wife, Justina, he was only four years old when he came to the throne on November 22, 375 AD and had inherited a perilous position. The generals loyal to his father had proclaimed him emperor immediately upon the death of his father, taking no account of his half-brother Gratian or his uncle Valens. It is often assumed that the Frankish commander of the Roman forces in Pannonia, Merobaudes, intended to disregard Gratian, whom many in the military distrusted, in favor of Valentinian II who was, obviously, too young to rule and could not oppose them.

Emperor Gratian was thus left with what is now France, Britain and Spain while the nominal Emperor Valentinian II reigned over Italy, most of the Balkans and Africa. His imperial court was in Milan but tensions were thick. The most influential figure in his life was his mother Justina, an adherent of the Arian heresy, who clashed with the preeminent religious authority, St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan and prefect of Liguria and Emilia who was an adamant opponent of Arianism. This was a dangerous combination as the young Valentinian II became the pawn of those wishing to push their own agendas. Justina used his authority to try to suppress the orthodox Christians in favor of the Arians, though St Ambrose had the local populace on his side. Magnus Maximus, who was trying to claim the throne for himself, also used Arianism as his tool, casting himself as a champion of orthodoxy in order to take power from Valentinian II or, more precisely, those who ruled in his name. After Emperor Valens in the east came the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Great who was also opposed to Arianism and so would be of no help.

Emperor Valentinian II
When Maximus crossed the Alps into Italy, Justina and the teenage Emperor Valentinian II fled to Thessalonica (Greece) from which they obtained the support of Emperor Theodosius to restore Valentinian II in the west by offering in marriage his sister Princess Galla. In 388 AD Emperor Theodosius dutifully launched a military campaign that saw Maximus defeated and Valentinian II restored and though he would begin to establish his own dynasty through his sons Arcadius and Honorius, Emperor Theodosius remained faithful to his agreement with the last of the Valentinian dynasty. However, the young monarch’s troubles were far from over. While Theodosius held court in Milan, Valentinian II was installed in Vienne (in France) with Emperor Theodosius acting as his guardian since Justina had died around 391. As the East Roman Emperor had plenty to keep himself busy, he delegated his duties as guardian to his Frankish general Arbogast.

Emperor Valentinian II occupied himself with peaceful pursuits in Vienne while Arbogast marched off to fight the Germans along the Rhine in his name. However, it was clear that Arbogast was the real ruler in the west, not Valentinian II who he jealously guarded. Though nominally answerable to Emperor Theodosius, it is likely that the Eastern Emperor would not have approved of his tyrannical treatment of Valentinian. Anyone who became too close to the isolated young man could be expected to meet an unhappy end, always with the justification that the person had been guilty of some crime. Harmonius, for example, was a friend of Valentinian who was murdered by Arbogast personally and in the presence of the young emperor himself. Arbogast justified this by asserting that Harmonius had been guilty of taking bribes, but then as now many suspected that he simply wished to keep Valentinian isolated and under his power.

All of this, naturally, greatly disturbed Valentinian who was, by then, certainly more than old enough to be ruling on his own without a “guardian”. He saw an opportunity when word came that barbarians were preparing to attack Italy. Valentinian II planned to lead an army into Italy himself, no doubt hoping that he could establish a source of military strength for himself that would enable him to stand on his own. However, Arbogast could see where that might lead as well as anyone and refused to allow the Emperor to leave. Valentinian II then attempted to simply dismiss Arbogast from imperial service but Arbogast openly defied him on the grounds that he had been appointed by Emperor Theodosius and Valentinian II had no authority to relieve him of his command. Emperor Valentinian II was still little more than a prisoner but did manage to write for help, appealing to St Ambrose in Milan and Emperor Theodosius that he was being overruled by a barbarian general. He also requested to get right with the Church and for St Ambrose to come to Vienne to baptize him in rejection of the Arianism of his mother.

St Ambrose of Milan
However, none of that was to happen and it may be that Arbogast was informed of what had been written in those letters for on May 15, 392 Emperor Valentinian II was found dead, hanging in his palace in Vienne. He was only twenty-one years old. Arbogast said that he had committed suicide and certainly his life had been one to encourage depression and despair. However, many people, then as now, believe that Arbogast had the young emperor murdered, with many accepting this as a matter of fact. Given what he had just written to Theodosius and St Ambrose, it does seem that, while in despair, Valentinian still held out hope for redress of his situation. The timing of his sudden death certainly points to Arbogast being the guilty party. We also know that St Ambrose eulogized him and praised him highly as a virtuous, young monarch, a Christian Roman emperor who should be an example to others. It seems highly unlikely he would have done so if he had harbored any suspicion that the Emperor had killed himself.

So it was with that air of mystery and suspicion that the reign of Emperor Valentinian II came to an end. His body was carried, with full imperial Roman pomp and ceremony, to Milan where his remains were met by St Ambrose and his weeping sisters Justa and Grata. He was buried alongside Emperor Gratian in the Basilica of San Lorenzo. Arbogast, though first claiming to remain loyal to Theodosius by proclaiming his son Arcadius emperor, eventually set up his own puppet usurper in the person of Eugenius. Emperor Theodosius came west, defeated Eugenius and Arbogast and placed his son Honorius on the throne as Western Roman Emperor.

Emperor Valentinian II
As for Emperor Valentinian II, his tragic death marked the end of his dynasty and its replacement with the Theodosian. His all too short life had been spent dominated by others, often treated as a rather well kept prisoner but thanks to St Ambrose, when he is remembered at all, he is generally remembered well, as a good-hearted young man who could have made for a great emperor if he had truly been given a chance. The account of St Ambrose is convincing given that he had no reason to distort the truth and would have gained nothing by it. During the young of Valentinian II, the two had often been at odds. Influenced by his Arian mother, orders given in his name were defied by St Ambrose and he also met Church opposition when Valentinian wished to preserve the monuments of pagan Rome, an act which caused the pagans to try to gain more, such as the restoration of the Altar of Victory in the Senate but to this Valentinian II could not agree. His eventual renunciation of Arianism seems to have been genuine and under different circumstances he may well have become one of the great lights in the twilight era of the Roman Empire. That he was not is unfortunate but, according to St Ambrose, he nonetheless set a worthy example in his own tragic life of strength of character in the face of great adversity. Seemingly drawn to tragedy perhaps, I've always had a soft spot for him.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Russo-American Situation Today

This may be a bit off-topic but I am going to address it because I think its importance justifies doing so. It has become a tradition, sadly, in the United States of America to start out each new presidential term by trying to undermine the legitimacy of the incoming president. Leftists started this with their effort to de-legitimize George W. Bush following the Bush-Gore presidential contest which was so close it had to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the end, Bush won but because Gore won the “popular vote” the Clinton/Gore camp said that Bush was illegitimate. When Obama was elected there was nothing as serious as that but one prominent businessman, namely Donald J. Trump, took up the issue, which again originated with the Clinton family, that Obama had not been born in the United States as he claimed. The Republican Party did not want to touch the issue but Trump was all over it. Despite what many think, there were reasons to be suspicious. In publicizing his first book, Obama’s literary agent put out promotional material saying he had been born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia. This was not changed for 16 years until Obama ran for president. There were assertions that he was registered as a foreign student during his higher education but, as his school records were quickly sealed, no one could confirm this. In any event, Trump was accused of trying to undermine the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency.

Now, once again, the Democrats, liberals, progressives, leftists etc, particularly of the Clinton camp are trying to undermine the legitimacy of Trump by accusing him of being a stooge for Russian President Vladimir Putin and that Trump did not really beat Hillary Clinton in the election but that it was stolen from her by the Russians, aided by once again touting that Hillary won the “popular” vote despite her overwhelming loss in the Electoral College which actually chooses the president. It is unfortunate that this has become standard procedure but it is, I submit, even more dangerous this time because, unlike with Bush and Obama, this effort to de-legitimize Trump carries serious consequences for U.S. foreign policy and national security. The Clinton camp also has many allies in this given that the old boy network of the Republican Party has always opposed Trump, continues to oppose Trump and the issue has also been taken up by the Republican “war hawks” such as Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio who seem to want nothing more than a humanity-ending war with Russia and will work with the Democrats in playing up the accusations that Trump was put in office by Vladimir Putin rather than the American people. This is not only wrong but it is dangerous but, unfortunately, it may have already worked and Trump has not even actually become President of the United States yet.

In the first place, it seems necessary to emphasize that the election was not as “close” as the Clinton camp likes to say. There is no such thing as “the popular vote” there is just “the vote”. Yes, more people in the country as a whole voted for Clinton but most people in most states voted for Trump and America is not a unitary country, it is a federal union of states -that is and always has been the basis of how the country is organized. Hillary gets her “popular vote” argument thanks to New York City and Los Angeles, the first and second most populous cities in the country. The Electoral College was established in the first place so that one state with an extremely large population could not rule the whole country according to its own interests and disregard the interests of all the other states. There is only one vote on election day and that vote is held in every state and determines which candidate that state’s electors will vote for. Most of the people in most of the states voted for Trump so the electors of those states voted for Trump and he was chosen to be President. Talking about the “popular vote” as if that were an actual ‘thing’ is pointless and doing away with the Electoral College in favor of direct democracy would, I think, simply destroy the country because a great many of the other 49 states are not going to be content to be ruled by whoever the voters in California thinks is best.

As to the allegations that Russia “stole” the election from Hillary, this is a more complicated issue because what exactly the Russian government is being accused of tends to be rather hard to pin down. You cannot “hack” an election as Obama himself stated before Trump surprised everyone by winning. There is, as stated above, no single vote in the country but 50 elections held in all 50 states using various voting methods. Some use machines, some use pencil and paper, in Alaska I think everyone shoots a moose with a candidate’s name on it, I’m not sure. The point is, there is no one vote that could be hacked. Even the Electoral College vote does not work like that. The electors get together and cast their votes in their state capitals and the results are then ratified by the Senate. When you boil down the “hacking” issue it basically comes down to this; you cannot “hack” the election but the Russians are accused of hacking into the email accounts of members of the Democrat party and Clinton campaign, passing these emails to “Wikileaks” which then made them public. These emails contained private information that was damaging to the Clinton campaign and, the Democrats argue, swung public opinion against Clinton causing her to lose the election.

Already, there are some obvious problems with this accusation. In the first place, none of the emails have had their veracity disputed. So, what the Russians are being accused of is getting facts to American voters that were obtained unjustly. American voters were told the truth and, evidently, the Democrats did not want that to happen and believes the truth harmed their campaign. But, on the other hand, the Democrats are the ones constantly trumpeting the fact that Hillary won the “popular vote” (as if that were a thing). So, how exactly did this impact the election? Looking at the country as a whole, most people were obviously unmoved by the emails if most people voted for Hillary Clinton, as most people did given that there are more people in New York and Los Angeles than in a number of entire countries in the world. Were the facts revealed in these emails more or less alarming depending on where they were read? Why would people in Michigan be more bothered by their contents than people in California? Can they really say for a fact that it was these leaked emails, supposedly provided by Russia, that caused Hillary to lose Wisconsin and not the fact that Hillary so took their votes for granted that she didn’t even bother to campaign in that state? I do not see how you possibly could.

Nonetheless, we are told that the Russians were “meddling” in the presidential election and that this poses a threat to American democracy and undermines the legitimacy of Donald Trump. Well, when Vice President Joe Biden went to Russia when Dmitri Medvedev was president and said that Vladimir Putin (the former president and then prime minister) should not be President of Russia again, was that not “meddling” in Russia’s next election? When Obama used government funds to try to stop Benjamin Netanyahu being reelected as prime minister was that “meddling” in the Israeli elections? In 2013 when Senator John McCain visited Kiev and told crowds of anti-government protestors that, “…Europe will make Ukraine better,” and, “…the destiny you seek lies in Europe,” could that in any way be seen as “meddling”? When the elected Ukrainian president was subsequently overthrown and replaced by a pro-Europe, anti-Russian one, no one in Obama’s administration seemed to think this was a threat to Ukrainian democracy or that this coup against a democratically-elected (though frankly terrible) president should be invalidated because of “meddling” by foreign powers. Obama himself might well be accused of “meddling” in British politics and trying to undermine British democracy when he went to London ahead of the “Brexit” vote and warned that if Britain left the EU he would put the British “at the back of the queue” when it came to trade matters.

This is all pure absurdity. I have no doubt that, given the choice of Clinton or Trump, the Russians would prefer the candidate who wanted to improve relations rather than the one who openly threatened war with Russia. One does not need a super-secret spy agency to come to that conclusion. Add to that the fact that, as yet, no evidence at all has been produced that the Russians were behind the “Wikileaks” revelations in the first place. All we have is the word of the U.S. intelligence agencies to go by that Russia was behind it all. National Intelligence Director James Clapper says the Russians did it. This being the same James Clapper who said that the NSA was not spying on US citizens only for it to come out that they actually were. I would not, personally, take his word that night is dark and day is light based on his record of honesty. This is when the patriot crowd starts to bellow about taking the word of foreigners over our own, all-American, intelligence agents. Sorry, that will not work with me. They have forfeited any claim to our trust by their own record of incompetence and dishonesty. They say they have evidence but as long as this evidence cannot be made public, all we can do is take their word for it and their word does not mean much to me at this point.

Added to this is how everything in the United States has become bitterly partisan at this point. No one trusts anyone from “the other side” and Russia, nor any other foreign power has any responsibility for that. James Clapper, in my book, forfeited my trust when he publicly lied about the NSA collecting data on US citizens. FBI Director James Comey forfeited my trust when he laid out a long list of infractions on the part of Hillary Clinton only to then refuse to bring charges against her. Of course, he then announced he was briefly reopening the case, in the last days of the election, which now has the Democrats baying for his blood since Hillary lost. And that is an illustrative case. When Comey said he was not recommending charges against Hillary, the Democrats held him up as an example of honesty and integrity. Today they are denouncing him as an untrustworthy political hack because Hillary lost. Prior to the election, Obama laughed off warnings from Donald Trump that the election might not be fair. Now that the Democrats have lost, he has placed sanctions on Russia for “meddling” in the election. Does anyone honestly believe he would have done the same if Hillary had won? When the intelligence community under George W. Bush said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the anti-war Democrats said they were wrong and subsequently trumpeted the news that none were found. Now these same Democrats are ready to take the intelligence community’s word for gospel that Russian “meddling” put Donald Trump in the White House. The loss of faith in American institutions is not the fault of any foreign power but the fault of both parties in the American government playing partisan politics with American intelligence agencies and American foreign policy.

Finally, we have the issue that makes this all particularly dangerous. Tensions between Russia and America are probably higher today than they have ever been since the Cuban missile crisis. Putin has been vilified by the American media and the American government like no Russian leader since Stalin, and even Stalin was portrayed as kindly “Uncle Joe” during the World War II years. The efforts to undermine the legitimacy of Bush and Obama did not involve a foreign power. The effort by the Clinton camp to undermine the legitimacy of Trump does and that makes this partisan game extremely dangerous. Trump said he wanted to “get along” with President Putin, suggested re-orienting NATO and working in cooperation with the Russians to fight Islamic terrorism. Hillary Clinton threatened to impose a “no fly zone” over Syria which, as one top American general told a seemingly incredulous panel of politicians, would mean war with Russia. Trump, against all expectations, won the election. The Democrats and Hillary Clinton in particular, were humiliated. This was not like losing to another Bush or losing to a Rubio or even a Ted Cruz but this was losing to a man they had all laughed at, who they had all discounted as being unworthy of serious consideration, a man they thought was not only “deplorable” but an absolute joke. The hysteria level on the left jumped to DEFCON 2.

Hillary had to have some way to explain away losing to this man for whom they had nothing but contempt. Russia and Vladimir Putin was seized on to serve this purpose. Russia immediately became the great, looming villain of the American political scene. Obama, who had once laughed off any concern about Russia, suddenly put sanctions on Russia, vilified the Russian president and dispatched troops to Eastern Europe. Republican war hawks like John McCain, who favored bombing Iran, bombing Iraq, bombing Syria, bombing Libya, happily added Russia to the list of enemies and it is perhaps no coincidence that he and his comrades too have always despised Donald Trump. However, the problem is that Russia is not like Iraq, Iran, Syria or Libya. Russia has the military capacity to hit back at the United States if it comes to that. Russia has no military forces in any country bordering the United States but the United States now has a great many military forces in a number of countries bordering Russia. Most Americans seem oblivious to that fact but the Russians certainly are not. The current NATO build-up, initiated by Obama is, as the Russians have pointed out, this biggest amassing of military forces on their border since the prelude to the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. This is serious.

It is all the more serious because, with NATO having expanded to the Russian border itself, there is no room for Russia to back up any farther. During the Cuban missile crisis, Russia had military forces on the doorstep of America. A deal was agreed to and Russia removed these forces, the missiles were taken away and Russia backed off. Now America has military forces on the doorstep of Russia. The only way this ends is if America backs off and the anti-Russian hysteria, aimed at de-legitimizing Donald Trump, may have already made this impossible. The well has been poisoned. Before even taking office, Trump has been branded by the Democrats and the “establishment” Republicans as Putin’s pliant puppet, a stooge for the Kremlin. Any move he makes to remove the sanctions on Russia, ease tensions, draw back or even talk about some sort of cooperation with Russia will be immediately seized on as “proof” that all the accusations were true about him being the instrument of Moscow. Thus, the Democrats and their pro-war allies have made coming to any accommodation with Russia the purest political poison. Already I have heard from one European reader here saying that the election of Trump has made America, “Russia’s bitch”. Any hope of coming to an understanding between the United States and Russia may well have been destroyed before Trump even takes the oath of office.

So, if America cannot back down and Russia cannot back down; how does this end? No one in Washington seems to be thinking about or indeed the least bit concerned about the inevitable outcome of their actions. Consider the sanctions Obama just placed on Russia over their alleged “meddling” in the election; how do those ever end? Obama sanctioned Russia for something he says they have already done, so it is not as though they can stop doing anything in order for these sanctions to be lifted. What are these sanctions supposed to achieve? What does massing troops on the Russian border accomplish? These countries are already a part of NATO so they already have, effectively, a war guarantee from the United States to go to war with Russia if the Russians so much as lay a finger on them (a mistake in my view), so everyone already knows that if Russia makes a move on the Baltic republics or Poland that this means war with America. All this increased military presence does then is make the already nervous Russians even more nervous and increase the chances of something going wrong and starting a cataclysmic conflict. Does Obama, the Democrats and the McCain-Graham-Rubio trio hope to collapse Putin’s regime? That is not going to happen and it would not be pretty if it did. In the last century Russia collapsed twice and it is not going to happen a third time without others being dragged down with them. Russians today can remember when Russia had troops in Germany, now the United States has troops in Poland. Their backs are to the wall and a country with its back to the wall and a nuclear arsenal at their disposal should not be the focus of saber rattling for the sake of the wounded pride of one political party.

Finally, before anyone says so, no, I’m not a huge fan of Vladimir Putin and I have the articles here and the angry comments from his fan boys to prove it. I wouldn’t be a fan of any regime in Russia that did not have a Romanov at the top of it. However, Putin is not the worst guy in the world, he’s not Hitler and he’s certainly no threat to the United States. I don’t agree with or like many of his foreign policies and if I lived in certain European countries he would probably worry me but this is part of the problem. Saying we should see things from the Russian point of view, saying it would be better not to have World War III break out because Hillary is embarrassed, or just saying that the relationship between America and Russia should be talked about rationally should NOT cause someone to immediately be labeled as a “Putin apologist”. He’s not blameless, he’s done plenty that I do not like but he’s probably the best post-imperial leader Russia has had, which is not too difficult. Henry Kissinger, a man I am certainly no fan of, was, I think, nonetheless correct when he said that the demonization of Putin is not a policy. Right now, Democrats and Republicans are fond of saying that “Russia’s values are not America’s values” and that may be true but were the values of Soviet Russia or Imperial Russia any closer? The U.S. dealt with them and, in fact, was often quite friendly with Imperial Russia and no one claimed that the values of a secular federal republic were at all the same as those of an Orthodox absolute monarchy. What Americans have to do is stop vilifying, stop blaming, stop the hysterics and think, talk, debate and at least have the discussion.

This is not just serious, it is deadly serious and I know most people will probably just roll their eyes at that, confident in the belief that actual war could never happen. I hope you’re right but people said the same thing in 1939. They said it in 1914 and plenty of Americans probably said the same thing in 1861. There are people in the world who have legitimate disagreements with Russia and genuine causes for concern. The United States is not one of them. The United States has never fought a war with Russia, has no territorial disputes with Russia, shares no border with Russia and does relatively little business with Russia. Trump beating Hillary in an election is not justification for conflict with Russia, nor, in my view, does the fate of Syria, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania rise to the level of being vital to American national security. For most of American history Syria belonged to Turkey and the other countries belonged to Russia and it had no impact on the safety of the United States at all. Let the Democrats find some other way of undermining the Trump presidency if they must because this one could get us all killed. Stop saying that Russia committed an “act of war” against the US and stop trying to get every Trump appointee to publicly call Putin a “war criminal”. It is stupid, it is not helpful and I cannot think they themselves even really mean it. It is just political theater for partisan political reasons, because if they really DID mean it, then they would be giving the orders to fire up the bombers, kiss your butt goodbye and prepare to meet Jesus because the world would be about to end. They are showboating for political reasons but, as I said before, the problem is that Russia is not Iraq or Afghanistan. They can hit back and in this scenario, it is not the United States alone that gets to decide when to go to war and when they have had enough. To repeat, Russia is not at America’s doorstep, America is at Russia’s doorstep. They have no room to back up and they are not going to have another 1917 or 1991. They have nowhere to go and nothing left to lose. The clowns in Washington should think about that or at least the American people should think about that and call a halt to this dangerous nonsense.

Friday, January 13, 2017

King Philippe & Friday the 13th

Long before Jason Vorhees starting cutting down teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake on screens across America, Friday the 13th has been considered a day of bad luck. Why this is so we may never know for certain. Speculation goes back to the "last supper" with Jesus and his twelve apostles (13) and even further. Most of this does, however, more often involve why 13 is considered an unlucky number rather than why Friday the 13th would be considered a cursed day. In modern times, however, the most common explanation involves a rather unsavory King of France and a certain order of knighthood that has been at the center of many wild stories, tall tales and conspiracy theories. The monarch was King Philippe IV of France, often known as "Philip the Fair" though we should note that would more accurately be translated these days as "Philip the Handsome" because, by most accounts, he was actually quite unfair.

He made a good many enemies in his own time and today about the only people who speak up for him are those who hate the people he targeted. Scots or Anglophobes sometimes defend him for being an enemy of King Edward I of England, Protestants or anti-Catholics sometimes defend him for being an enemy of Pope Boniface VIII and anti-Semites find at least one thing to praise him for, which was his expulsion of the Jews from France in 1306. This last act, however, came back to bite him quite quickly and he invited the Jews to return. However, his association with the most unlucky day on the calendar came as a result of something that happened a year after his action against the Jews. That was his suppression of the Knights Templar, with many hundreds being arrested in a coordinated, 'surprise attack' as it were on Friday the 13th, 1307.

King Philippe IV had fought with the King of England for the usual reasons of Anglo-French rivalry and he fought with the Pope basically because of an argument over who had the higher authority. The Jews were targeted largely in an effort to seize their wealth and to take control of their extensive money-lending operation. That, however, as mentioned, did not work out well. The agents he put in charge soon proved even more unpopular than the Jews had been when it came to collecting debts that were owed and he soon faced such a clamor that he asked the Jews to return to France. That still left him in need of money. So, he targeted another group that was known to control a great deal of wealth and that was the Knights Templar who, aside from their fame as crusaders, became known as rather successful bankers. However, the Templars only came to be in that position because of their reputation for honesty, piety and bravery. It was necessary then to first smear their reputation.

King Philippe IV started spreading the word that the Templars were living a double life, that they were getting up to all sorts of unspeakable things in private ranging from blasphemy and sodomy to worshiping Satan. When it came to smearing someone, "Philippe the Fair" believed in "go big or go home". As stated above, he planned his campaign well and had most of the knights arrested on Friday the 13th, 1307 in a mass, simultaneous 'attack' that would prevent them from helping each other and to get it all over with quickly. Hundreds were arrested and after a good deal of good old fashioned torture (more of the hot pokers and less of the water-boarding style) there were naturally confessions. In the end, Philippe had his way and the knights were burned alive for their many supposed crimes. As a Christian monarch, he had a great deal of authority over the religious in his country, and the Templers were of course a military religious order, but it was also not all that difficult to put sufficient pressure on Pope Clement V to have the knighthood suppressed entirely on orders from the Pope.

Given what happened in the aftermath of this infamous event, it is not difficult to see why Friday the 13th should come to be considered a cursed day. The Templars did have a very good reputation and the accusations made against them really were outrageous and too fantastic for most people to believe. More than that though, the King had enriched himself at their expense which did not look good and fairly soon after both King Philippe IV and Pope Clement V suddenly dropped dead which, especially in those days, was taken as a sure sign of divine anger. The Pope reportedly died weeping with regret over what was done to his knights and King Philippe dropped dead from a stroke while hunting which many took as God's justice being done and a fulfillment of a warning made by the last Grand Master of the order just before he was burned that both the King and the Pope would seen meet him standing before the Almighty. It wasn't all that soon after doing in the Templars but time moved more slowly then we presume and people tended to take such omens much more seriously in those day than nowadays when we are so much more scientific and rational and are only afraid of things like cow farts making weather that will kill us all. Anyway, that is the most accepted explanation as to why Friday the 13th became the most unlucky day on the calendar.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Revolution in the Dutch East Indies

Not everyone may know it now, but the Kingdom of the Netherlands was once a major power. After winning independence from Spain (the dominant military power of the day) in a very long war, the Dutch fought off the French, won wars against England and established themselves as a major player in Europe. Long a powerhouse in business and world trade, the Dutch built an empire that stretched from the Americas to South Africa to India and East Asia. It was, however, in Southeast Asia that the crown jewel of the Dutch empire rested, their largest colony by far and the one which was the most productive, contributing a huge percentage of the overall economy of the Netherlands. That colony was, of course, the Dutch East Indies, known today as the Republic of Indonesia, a vast archipelago of thousands of islands that is about as far from one end to the other as the continental United States. For more than three hundred years the Dutch East Indies belonged to the Netherlands, a princely republic and later a very business-minded, Protestant monarchy reigning over a huge territory of disparate Islamic principalities and some of the most abundant natural resources to be found anywhere in the world.

KNIL troops in Java, World War II
There were conflicts, of course, in the establishment of this colony and the occasional unrest but none of it was very serious, certainly nothing that the small but very professional Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) could not handle. An anti-Dutch nationalist movement had been on the rise, but it seemed to be dealt with easily enough and its leader, Sukarno, was captured and incarcerated. Even when World War II erupted in Europe, not much changed in the Dutch East Indies. After an heroic but futile four-day fight the Netherlands was conquered by Germany and the Dutch Royal Family was forced to flee to England. However, the stout-hearted and determined Queen Wilhelmina continued to preside over her government-in-exile and the Dutch East Indies contributed as much as possible to the Allied war effort against Nazi Germany. When the United States of America placed sanctions on the Empire of Japan, including an oil embargo when America had been the primary provider of oil to the Japanese, the British Empire did the same. The Dutch government, likewise informed the Japanese that they could expect no oil from the Dutch East Indies. Their homeland was under occupation by Japan’s Nazi ally and the Dutch stressed that all of their resources were needed for their own struggle to liberate the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Japanese troops in the Dutch East Indies
Not long after, in a major offensive kicked off by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the Japanese launched an ingenious, multi-stage offensive across Southeast Asia. Despite more heroic but futile resistance, the Dutch naval forces and the Dutch colonial army was defeated and the Dutch East Indies came under Japanese occupation. All White people were immediately placed in concentration camps, as were most of the sizeable minority of mixed-race people and any natives who opposed or were expected to oppose Japanese rule were either killed or confined. The anti-Dutch dissident Sukarno was released from his prison and became a willing collaborator of the Japanese. There was talk of absorbing other surrounding territories, particularly British Malaysia, to create a “Greater Indonesia” but the Japanese had no intention of allowing the Dutch East Indies to become independent. The whole point of the invasion was to secure control for Japan of a source of resources and raw materials that no foreign power could withhold from them. It was then, only after Japan had clearly lost the war and the atomic bomb had already been dropped on Hiroshima, that Japan authorized Sukarno to declare independence. It was a final, parting shot at the hated Europeans to make a restoration of Dutch rule as difficult as possible. In that regard, it more or less worked as planned.

The Dutch had previously always been on friendly terms with Japan. In fact, during the long years of Japanese isolation, the Dutch were the only western power to have any contact with Japan at all. When the war was over, the Dutch asked the Japanese military to remain in place to keep order in the colony until they could return. The Japanese did stay until Allied forces arrived but they gave many of their weapons to the anti-Dutch Indonesian dissidents and thousands of Japanese stayed behind rather than return home to carry on their war against the Whites in Asia. Sukarno had also been busy, trying to set up a government of his own, growing out of a committee the Japanese had allowed him to form during the war. It was this body which declared that the Indonesian Republic would include not only the Dutch East Indies but British North Borneo, the Malay Peninsula and Portuguese Timor as well. It would have a dictatorial president and, although Sukarno wanted a secular and unitary state, he later conceded to the powerful Islamic clerics of the country to state that the new country would be based on submission to Allah and would require all Muslims to obey Shariah law (or syariah law in the local tongue).

Mohammad Hatta
There were divisions, Sukarno wanted a unitary state while his deputy, Mohammad Hatta, favored a federal system. Nonetheless, they were united in what they were against and Sukarno simplified his position and his proposed republic by basing it on five principles; Islam, humanitarianism, national unity, democracy and social justice (as he defined them of course). This, of course, will sound all too familiar to people today. You have a Marxist-socialist revolutionary, making concessions to Islam, talking about democracy which he has no intention of actually enacting, national unity but only for those of his own nationality, humanitarianism while carrying out horrific atrocities and the catch phrase so popular with today’s progressives, “social justice” which, then as now, came down to a war against anything White, western, Christian or traditional. No doubt the “social justice warriors” of today would look on the Indonesian revolutionaries with their coalition of socialists and Islamists as their beloved ideological forefathers. This was though, it must be said, also the start of a struggle within Indonesia between the more secular nationalists and the Islamic fundamentalists which is still going on today.

Queen Wilhelmina
So it was that by the time the Dutch were ready to return to their colony, Indonesia had already declared independence, already had a political platform, a flag and national anthem and even aspirations for territorial conquest. HM Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, certainly had no intention of giving an inch of this. She was extremely determined that any concession would be a betrayal of all they had fought and suffered for during the war. She wanted to fight for the full restoration of the Dutch empire and regarded Sukarno and his regime as traitors who had collaborated with foreign invaders and perpetrators of a race war. However, having just emerged from the ruin of World War II, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was hardly in a condition to make an immediate and robust response to this outbreak of revolution in the colonies. Worse, her Allies were far from united or in agreement as to what their reaction would be. The United States had, under President Roosevelt, taken a very hostile attitude to all colonial empires during the war and while it was certainly in the interests of the British who wished to maintain their own empire, also recently decimated by the Japanese in East Asia, to support the Dutch, they were in hardly better condition to offer much support. The Dutch, with a depleted, bombed-out country of their own and “friends” who were either opposed or indifferent to their reclaiming their lost empire faced a huge territory with a large population full of revolutionary fervor ready to fight them using any tactics necessary.

The Dutch were pressured then, both by the situation and their own allies, to come to some sort of a negotiated peace with the Indonesian republicans. This was not the first choice of the Queen, but it seemed the only option available. While Allied, mostly British Imperial, forces landed to disarm the Japanese and liberated the Europeans being held in concentration camps, the Indonesian revolutionaries prepared to resist them, wrongly fearing that they were determined to restore Dutch rule. In the meantime, republican officials were parceled out among the islands to enact the dictates of the revolutionary government. The local Indonesian princes mostly came under extreme pressure if not outright attack either for having collaborated with the Dutch previously or for collaborating with the Japanese more recently. Young people ran rampant, fired by the revolutionary rhetoric of the republicans, led by Sukarno who blasted the native princes for stunting their country with “feudalism” and thus allowing the Dutch to gain control and rule the islands for the last three centuries. Law and order quickly broke down and chaos ensued as different factions and different ethnic groups pursued different goals.

Flag of the Japanese sponsored PETA
There were Marxist radicals, separatists, Islamic fundamentalists and more moderate leftists all jockeying for position. The revolutionaries were, however, aided by the fact that since the Japanese had first broken Dutch rule, most did not want to see it return. Not everyone was opposed to maintaining some sort of connection with the Netherlands but a reactionary return to the former colonial regime as it was seemed completely beyond the realm of possibility. That this would be a vicious fight was made clear early on when violence broke out in Surabaya in East Java, between Indonesian republicans (along with remnants of the Islamic militia force formed by Japan, PETA) and occupying British forces on October 28, 1945. From November 10-24 this escalated to an all out battle and what would be the bloodiest single fight of the entire revolutionary war. The British won the battle but, in what would become an all too familiar pattern, were horrified by the cost and determined that the Dutch cause was hopeless. Thereafter, rather than stand by their Dutch ally, the British would likewise support the republicans in the United Nations.

The republicans began forming a more formal government, though none tended to last very long and Sukarno remained the real power and driving force of the revolutionary movement. The Dutch were convinced that they would have to come to some sort of agreement and the British brokered the Linggajati Agreement between them and the Indonesians. The agreement went into effect on November 12, 1946 and stipulated that the Dutch government would recognize republican rule over Java and Sumatra while the eastern archipelago would be retained and all would remain under the Dutch Crown. There would be a federal system for the islands with the Republic of the United States of Indonesia (RUSI) including Java and Sumatra of course as well as southern Kalimantan and the “Great East” of Sulawesi, Maluku, the Lesser Sunda Islands and West New Guinea. The revolutionaries did not ratify this agreement until March of 1947 and neither they nor the Dutch were satisfied with it when it was signed on May 25, which of course the British took as proof that it was actually perfectly fair and reasonable. It was, however, destined to fall apart very quickly.

Dutch royal troops of the first police action
Revolutionaries had been fired by radical zeal and a compromise solution was not what they had been prepared for. Within hardly a month the republicans committed numerous violations of the agreement and the Royal Dutch government, frustrated with the whole affair, decided that it would take a taste of battle to set things in order. On July 21, 1947 the Dutch launched a “police action” (“Politionele Acties” as the Dutch called it) named Operation Product. The Royal Netherlands military had to rebuild their colonial forces from scratch since they had been completely dismantled by the Japanese but, nonetheless, they fought with skill and determination. Royal Dutch troops drove the republicans out of Sumatra, then East and West Java, finally confining them to the central Yogyakarta region of the island of Java. The action had been quite successful but rather than congratulations on their victory, the Dutch were denounced by the new international community represented by the United Nations. More negotiations were organized, this time held aboard an American warship, and these resulted in the Renville Agreement, agreed to on January 17, 1948. This agreement recognized Dutch control over the territory taken by their forces but only until a vote could be held to determine whether the populace wished to remain under the jurisdiction of the Netherlands or the Indonesian republic.

Dutch military column, first police action
This time, certainly, the Dutch had more cause for discontent with the agreement than the republicans. They had fought a hard campaign and been immensely successful, only to be told their gains would likely be taken away as soon as it could be organized. Meanwhile, the revolutionaries had been knocked down hard by this defeat and seemed to be coming apart at the seams. In 1948 part of western Java broke away under the leadership of Islamic radicals, declaring itself the Indonesian Islamic State (doesn’t that sound familiar too?) or as it was more commonly known, Darul Islam. This separatist Islamic theocracy would continue to bedevil the Indonesian authorities until its founder was finally captured and promptly executed by the republicans in 1962. There were other divisions too such as one faction led by the throwback anti-colonial dissident of a bygone era Musso of the PKI and a Trotskyite faction led by Tan Malaka. In what was called the Madiun Affair, for its location in East Java, a communist insurgency broke out that called for the people to overthrow the republican government as well as the Dutch. None of these ultimately succeeded, Musso being killed and Tan Malaka later being executed by republican forces in February of 1949. However, it made the United States very nervous about the communists gaining a foothold in Indonesia and increasingly put pressure on the Dutch to make an accommodation with Sukarno who, the Americans were convinced, could be kept on the side of the non-communist western camp.

General Simon Spoor
The Royal Dutch military forces, however, were not about to give up while the work of centuries was falling into chaos. The Queen of the Netherlands was fortunate to have a very tough and talented commander of her forces in the East Indies in the person of General Simon Hendrik Spoor, a World War II veteran who had worked closely with General Douglas MacArthur and rather took the “American Caesar” as his example. Originally a colonel, Spoor was given the temporary rank of lieutenant general when he was given command of the Royal Dutch Army in the East Indies. He was a man of seemingly boundless optimism, for whom no task was too great and his first ‘police action’ against the republicans had been very successful. Many did not know, because of the immense confidence he displayed and the great care he took of his soldiers, just how much stress was heaped on the workaholic general. The only real criticism of General Spoor was his efforts to suppress news of atrocities committed by Dutch forces under his command. Such things did happen, though none were officially sanctioned of course, but these were widely used for propaganda purposes by the revolutionaries and were taken up by communist forces in the international community. They never told, of course, that these were prompted by acts of torture and mutilation carried out by the republicans against the Dutch and Dutch-allied native forces. General Spoor was simply concerned with not providing the enemy with such ammunition and protecting the integrity of the Royal Netherlands Armed Forces.

KNIL forces on parade ground
General Spoor, and the other Dutch authorities, could see the international elites aligning against them, they knew they were in an extremely difficult position but they also knew that success on their ground would counteract more of this pressure than anything else could. As such, the Dutch launched a second ‘police action’ in December of 1948 codenamed “Operation Kraai”. General Spoor had excellent intelligence on the enemy thanks to the breaking of the republicans’ secret code which revealed both their military and diplomatic plans. Once again, the focus was on Java and Sumatra, where the “head” of the revolutionary movement was located. The object was to force the republicans to accept the compromise proposed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands which would preserve the federal system and keep the East Indies under the overall reign of the Dutch Crown. The operation began with a formal announcement by the local Dutch civil authorities that, as the republicans had violated the Renville Agreement, the Netherlands forces were no longer bound by it. General Spoor launched a complex, integrated attack on the leadership centers of the revolutionary movement using land, air and airborne forces.

KNIL troops in the jungle
The republican leadership based at Yogyakarta was the primary target and General Spoor thought that the revolutionaries would throw everything they had into the fight. However, he was surprised by how little resistance they ultimately offered, quickly retreating in the face of the determined Dutch offensive. They would resort to guerilla warfare, something Spoor never wanted to consider. However, once again, the Royal Dutch military operation was well-planned and hugely successful. Yogyakarta was captured on December 19, 1948 and very soon both Sukarno and his deputy Hatta were captured and exiled to northern Sumatra or the island of Bangka. It was the second time Sukarno had been apprehended by Dutch authorities (the first being prior to the Japanese attack in World War II) and the revolutionary republic was effectively decapitated by this victorious operation. The republicans quickly cobbled together an emergency government in western Sumatra but their entire operation was in disarray, their forces were defeated and smashed and the Netherlands forces seemed to have accomplished all of their goals of the operation.

Unfortunately, and to the great frustration of Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch authorities, at this moment of triumph, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was effectively undermined by the international community, including their own allies. The British had already turned against them, recently independent Asian countries such as India aligned against them and finally the United States also condemned the Dutch military action. Needless to say the Soviet Union and Communist countries were always opposed to the Dutch and the continuation of any colonial regime. In January of 1949 the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding that the Dutch give up the gains of their victory and allow the reinstatement of the republican government. Pressure was also put on the Dutch to renounce any and all sovereignty over the Indonesian archipelago by July 1, 1950 including the threat of losing Marshall Aid for the Netherlands if they did not. In effect, the UN was coming out against the compromise proposed by the Netherlands and endorsing the Dutch simply handing the Indonesian republicans everything they wanted in spite of having beaten them in the field.

Flag of the Indonesian Republic
The Dutch had little choice, in the face of the opposition of the international community, but to give in. From August 23 to November 2, 1949 talks, known as the “Round Table Conference” were held in The Hague to hammer out the details for the transfer of power between the Indonesian Republic, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Indonesian federal states established by the Dutch in the aftermath of their successful police actions. The Dutch authorities agreed to recognize the independence of the “Republic of the United States of Indonesia”, to withdraw all Dutch military forces and to the holding of elections for an Indonesian Constituent Assembly. West New Guinea, or Netherlands New Guinea, remained under Dutch control although the republicans never relented in claiming it as part of their “Greater Indonesia”. The republicans agreed to pay 4.3 billion guilders of the sizeable debt owed to The Netherlands though this was far from the total amount. On December 27, 1949 the Kingdom of the Netherlands officially transferred sovereignty to the Indonesian republic.

Queen Juliana at her inauguration
This would not, however, be presided over by Queen Wilhelmina who, despite wishing to reign until 1950, had grown increasingly ill and increasingly frustrated at the loss of the Dutch East Indies. The Queen abdicated on September 4, 1948 to be succeeded by her daughter Queen Juliana. It was left to her to formally acknowledge Indonesian independence though the Dutch still hoped to maintain a close relationship with at least the more loyal portions of their former colony. The RUSI, under its constitution at the time of independence, consisted of the Republic of Indonesia plus the fifteen “united states” established by the Dutch and which they were closest with. The Dutch government had ensured that these states would, according to the constitution, have a more equal standing with the much more heavily populated republican territories and thus could influence the new regime in a more friendly direction for the Netherlands or at least for those fifteen states. However, this was not to be as Sukarno quickly made use of his “emergency powers” to dissolve the federal system bit by bit and take control of all of these areas, incorporating them into the Republic of Indonesia as the unitary state he had wanted all along. By May of 1950 the last of these states were gone and the Republic of Indonesia stood alone as one, united, top-down government ruled from Jakarta.

One of the most famous events which led to Sukarno taking emergency authoritarian measures was an attempted coup by Captain Raymond Paul Pierre “The Turk” Westerling, a former Dutch colonial army officer and expert in anti-guerilla warfare in January of 1950. He was backed not only by Dutch loyalists but also by certain powerful Indonesians who wanted to preserve the federal system to maintain greater autonomy for the local authorities, the most notable being Sultan Hamid II of Pontianak, himself also a former officer of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army (KNIL). One of the last areas of resistance was Ambon where, in April of 1950, the Republic of South Maluku was declared. The Ambonese were a rather unique ethnic group in Indonesia with many Christians and a history of friendship with the Dutch. The Ambonese had formed a large part of the mostly native KNIL. By November the authorities had succeeded in suppressing them after which 12,000 Ambonese soldiers, along with their families, were forced to flee to the Netherlands where they established a relatively short-lived government-in-exile.

Flag of Netherlands New Guinea
The only holdout then was Netherlands New Guinea which remained a Dutch colony and was intended to provide a safe haven for the Christian, pro-Dutch population, particularly the large number of mixed-race Eurasians who faced persecution at the hands of the Islamic nationalist revolutionary republicans, for either their race or, if they were Christians, for their religion. This ‘last stand’ of the Dutch in Indonesia lasted until 1962 when Indonesian military forces began to move in following the announcement that a local government would be established. Once again, although the Dutch and especially the locals in West New Guinea were prepared to defend themselves, the international community closed ranks against the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In the United States, John F. Kennedy was President, a long-time admirer of the socialist Sukarno, and he sent his brother to basically threaten the Dutch with economic catastrophe if they did not immediately surrender and abandon Netherlands New Guinea to Indonesia. The territory was handed over to the UN which duly transferred it to Indonesia. There was a plebiscite, much later, after the authorities had time to consolidate, intimidate and indoctrinate which, of course, showed a result in favor of the Republic of Indonesia. This “Act of Free Choice” was known as the “Act of No Choice” by the locals and was so flagrantly unfair that even the international community had to protest but, of course, nothing was done about it.

British troops at the Battle of Surabaya
What is most remarkable about what is now known as the Indonesian Revolution is just how successful the Dutch were yet they ultimately lost everything because of the pressure of the international community, in particular the United Nations. The whole affair revealed just how disunited the western powers were compared to the communist bloc which, while they often agreed on little between themselves, were certainly in agreement when it came to who they opposed and any western, Christian or colonial power was always to be opposed. The Dutch were sold out by their own allies. The British jumped first, believing after the Battle of Surabaya that the whole affair was hopeless, plus they shifted radically to the left immediately after the end of World War II and were determined to surrender their own empire while the United States displayed a very inconsistent and naïve policy in regard to the Dutch East Indies. They effectively backed a regime led by a man who had collaborated with Japan and the Axis powers in World War II simply because colonialism had become very unfashionable and they thought they could win over Sukarno to the side of the anti-communist countries if they backed him in supporting Indonesian independence. Not for the first time, the American government was proven completely wrong. Once done with the Netherlands, Sukarno immediately turned on his naïve sympathizers, aligned himself with the Soviet Union and became virulently anti-American.

This conflict is also much closer to us today than most realize. A leftist revolutionary and insurgent becomes a world celebrity promising “social justice” while stamping out freedom, radical Islamism makes common cause with secularists against a Christian power, what amounts to ethnic cleansing is carried out but is shrugged off by the world community because the targets are people of European or partial European ancestry. A military campaign is fought and won only to have globalist politicians say they are not allowed to win and must withdraw and allow the defeated enemy to reclaim all they had lost. Western powers back fundamentally anti-western forces because they think these can be won over with kindness only to have them turn on them in the end. Does any of this sound familiar? A better question would be; does any of this NOT sound familiar? The aftershocks are still going on today.

Osama bin Laden, he remembered, others forgot
In 1975 East Timor declared independence from Portugal and the place was immediately invaded by Indonesia. Decades of warfare ensued between the Islamic Indonesians and the mostly Christian population of East Timor. The independence of Catholic East Timor from Muslim Indonesia was cited by Osama bin Laden in his 2001 statement justifying the 9-11 terrorist attack. Often upheld as the “model” Islamic country (and Indonesia is the largest Islamic country by population in the world) the divisions that existed at the time of independence still exist today between the more secular Muslims and the more fundamentalist Muslims. As of 2011, almost half of Indonesian Muslims supported Islamic law being the law of the land in their country and abroad, about 70% believed Muslims were not responsible for the 9-11 attacks. From 2007 to 2013 attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia shot up from 91 to 220. In Aceh, where the Dutch fought a particularly fierce colonial war in the 1870’s, the province adopted total shariah law in 2001. There have been an increasing number of incidents, leaving aside the terrorist bombings in Bali in 2002 and 2005 that killed hundreds of people, showing how Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise, lashing out at Christian converts (such as in West Papua or West New Guinea), insufficiently radical Muslims and those who have been rediscovering the Hindu roots of the country.

What is certain is that life has not been a pleasant succession of improvements for Indonesia since the success of the revolutionary republicans and the end of Dutch rule. Despite being a treasure house of natural resources, most Indonesians live in or near poverty while only the top government officials enrich themselves. The government has been tyrannical more often than not, frequently violent and unstable with numerous rebellions and now a growing trend toward Islamic terrorism. The Kingdom of the Netherlands, on the other hand, with virtually no natural resources, a bombed out ruin of a country in the aftermath of World War II, managed to quickly work its way back to prosperity, despite having a lower GDP than Indonesia, having a much higher standard of living. True, Marshall Aid from the United States helped in the recovery, but Indonesia has also received a huge amount of foreign aid including a huge amount of war reparations from the Japanese which is frankly ridiculous given that the man then ruling Indonesia, Sukarno, had collaborated with the Japanese so any harm they did during their occupation was harmed he helped them to accomplish! In any event, far from the socialist paradise that was promised. The overall event does, however, provide numerous lessons which we should all be able to learn from.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Root of the Current French Crisis

Today, France is in a perilous state and that is a cause of great concern. Of course, if it were only the French Republic that was in peril, I would not care in the slightest and would cheer the downfall of that horrid failure of a governing system. France, however, is a pillar of modern, western civilization, a cultural treasure for Europe and the European-descended world that must be saved. France today is beset by demographic decline, economic instability and increasing numbers of terrorist attacks by Islamic radicals. The demographic problem is not simply one of having more immigrants but having more immigrants and fewer French. Would France still be France if the population were African or Arab rather than Gallic? I do not think that it would. Would France, the “Eldest Daughter of the Church” still be France if the population were Muslim rather than Christian? I do not think that it would. I would prefer that France remain a country of Gallic people and I would prefer there not to be minarets around Notre Dame. Can this be prevented? Yes, but it will not be easy and the French themselves are part of the problem.

Today the “Front National” is the most popular political party in France, currently under the leadership of Marine LePen. Many are hoping that, just as “Brexit” and the election of Donald Trump (and perhaps the defeat of Renzi in Italy) upset the political status quo, that LePen will surprise everyone and become the next President of the French Republic. I do not hesitate to say that, were I French, she would be my favored choice among the viable candidates. However, I think she will have a harder time than others in getting elected and while the FN may increase their presence in government in the next elections, I do not think they are on the cusp of saving France from the current crisis. I would regard an electoral win by the FN as a step in the right direction, preferable to the other likely alternatives, but one that would nonetheless still be difficult and which would, at best, postpone inevitable decline. The problem is that the root of the current crisis in France, in deed virtually every problem in modern France, can be traced directly back to the Revolution and nothing will permanently be solved until that issue is dealt with.

In terms of the problem with radical Islam, of course the vociferous attack on Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular in France has done immense damage. The churches in France are mostly empty these days, more of a focus for tourists admiring their art and architecture than a place of worship. Obviously, this has weakened the French when it comes to dealing with militant Islam as it is difficult to oppose a religion when you have no religion of your own. France was, before the Revolution, certainly not perfect but was extremely confident of its Catholic identity. The French were one of if not the primary driving forces behind the Crusades, the French sent missionaries to lands as distant as Canada to Vietnam and it was Catholic France, under Charles Martel, that turned back the Muslim invasion at the Battle of Tours. Although the situation eventually normalized, France was never quite so ‘Catholic’ a country after the Revolution as it had been before though, ironically perhaps, it did see a flurry of pro-Catholic interventions under Emperor Napoleon III in places such as Mexico, Italy, the Middle East, Indochina and Korea. However, the damage done to the dominant faith of France by the Revolution seems so evident as to be inarguable.

Yet, there is much more to it than the anti-Catholic, anti-Christian aspect. If the problems besetting France today had nothing to do with Islam, if the immigrants or those committing terrorist attacks were of another religion or no religion at all, the problem would still remain and France would still be hard-pressed to deal with it because of the lingering effects of the Revolution. In addition to the undermining of religion, the Revolution undermined and is still undermining today, the old sense of righteous pride in French nationalism and in-group preference which makes it extremely difficult to respond to the current crisis. No doubt, some will dispute me on this and say that the French Revolution helped to create nationalism in the first place, citing the Napoleonic Wars, the concept of the “nation-in-arms” or other periods of nationalistic or patriotic fervor seen long after the Revolution such as the famous “Spirit of the Marne” in World War I. All of those are certainly valid points but, I think, can be refuted.

Despite what some think, nationalism was not a purely post-revolutionary invention, though it certainly did become more pronounced in many places after the French Revolution, largely because of the impact the French Revolutionary Wars had on other, neighboring countries such as Italy and Germany. However, long before the French Revolution there was the German First Reich, officially the, “Holy Roman Empire of the German *Nation*” which included all people of the German nationality. France, likewise, clearly had a kind of nationalism before the Revolution. During the Hundred Years War, the French fought long and hard to oppose being overtaken and ruled by the English in spite of the fact that the English looked like they did, worshipped as they did and even had kings who were in many ways more French than English. Yet, they still understood that they were French, the English were not and wished for France to remain French and not become English. Throughout the Middle Ages, everyone knew that a Frenchman was a Frenchman. He was not the same as a German or an Englishman or an Italian or a Spaniard. Pre-Revolutionary Europeans understood the concept of nationalism, it was only that in those days, faith was more important than nationality. That did not mean that nationality did not exist or was inconsequential but that there was more to it than that.

The French Revolution, however, imprinted on the minds of the public and future generations a motto that encapsulated what they claimed to be all about and this was so successful that I am sure everyone reading this knows what they are and can probably even say them in French. I refer of course to, “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” with fraternity being an eloquent term for ‘brotherhood’. Liberty, of course, is a rather vague notion with many countries achieving liberty perfectly well without a revolution nor have the French been very consistent in upholding the concept. However, in terms of the current crisis, the more immediate and damaging concepts to take hold have been those of equality and brotherhood or the “brotherhood of man” as it would be more grandly called. If one takes into consideration the logical conclusion of pushing these slogans, one cannot but arrive at the sorry state France is in now.

Absolute equality is a social and biological absurdity. It was pushed as a means of attacking the monarchy and the aristocracy but the line could not be drawn there. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that equality does not and cannot exist. No two creatures on God’s green earth are equal, not human beings, not animals or insects nor belief systems nor ideas. When it comes to human beings, different peoples have advanced at different rates, in different ways, some have been better than others in the past, some are better than others now and likewise some are better at some things than other people but fall behind in a different area. The only thing that has remained constant is that humanity has never been “equal”. Yet, this is one of the things that the Revolution pushed and which has taken root in French society (as well as many others of course) because of the glorification of the Revolution.

The problem arises from equality being taken to its logical conclusion. To say that we are all equal is to say that we are all, essentially, the same and thus we are all interchangeable. If anyone can be the leader of France, not exclusively the King and his legitimate heirs of the Capet dynasty, why not someone who is not French at all? If everyone is the same, if everyone is equal, then what is the valid reason for restricting who is able to choose the President of France to only French voters? This then coincides with the revolutionary value of “brotherhood”. If all men (and women and these days the inexplicable) are equal and all men are “brothers” then why should there be any distinction between a Gallic citizen of France and an immigrant from Algeria or Senegal or Cambodia? This is the logical conclusion. It did not begin that way but the seeds were clearly there. After all, it was in the name of “liberty, equality and brotherhood” that the French revolutionaries set out to liberate their “brothers” from the “oppression” of their princes in The Netherlands, Belgium, the German and the Italian states. It is the reason why Vladimir Lenin, upon arriving back home in Russia from exile, was greeted by cheering crowds of his Bolshevik supporters with bands playing the French national anthem.

It is the poison of the French Revolution that prevents France from dealing with its current crisis and no solution will be a viable one in the long-term until the legacy of the Revolution is dealt with. The traditional Kingdom of France would never have had such difficulties. The Kingdom of France was not narrow or bigoted in its views, it had queen-consorts who were Spanish, Italian and Austrian and it, while remaining a Catholic kingdom, often made common cause with non-Catholic powers such as a fairly long-standing alliance with the preeminent Islamic power of the past in the Turkish Ottoman Empire. However, the Kingdom of France also had a very healthy and very specific and positive understanding of itself based on faith, history and blood. Today, anyone from anywhere can come to France, take a citizenship oath after being tested on how well they have learned the values of the Revolution, and become “French”. This would have been so laughably absurd to the people of the old Kingdom of France that I doubt they would be able to even take it seriously as a possibility.

Today, because of “equality” and “brotherhood” in particular, anyone from anywhere can by mere means of paperwork become “French”. It is all a matter of simply learning the language, passing a test and professing belief in the “values” of the French Revolution. In the past, France was more than that, was something more real than that. To be French was to be a descendant of the Gauls and Franks, to be the inheritors of the legacy of King Clovis, St Denis, Charles Martel and St Joan of Arc. France was the “Eldest Daughter of the Church” ruled over by a sacred royal line that was unique. It sent forces throughout Europe and later throughout the world to defend its religion and advance its own civilization. They were, as King Louis XVI said, a nation with ‘one King, one law and one faith’ that had a strong sense of themselves, who they were and what they were about.

The Kingdom of France had a specific ancestry, it had its own founding steeped in a sacred tradition that was unique from other peoples. Today we see the result of trying to hold together a country based on nothing more than vague, ideological slogans. If one attempts to hold to these slogans, there is no way one can counter the current crisis. If all men are equal and all men are brothers, then there is no valid reason why someone from Tunisia, Tanzania or Thailand cannot be considered “French” though none seem able to explain why the reverse is never held to be true (I would argue that Tunisians, Tanzanians and Thais have more common sense on such issues than French people who have been brainwashed by the devotees of the Revolution). And the most infuriating thing about this is that the French themselves quickly realized their mistake and tried to undo the damage only to be thwarted at every turn, sometimes, I am sad to say, by the royalists themselves who hated their royalist rivals more than they hated the revolutionary republic.

The French Revolution, in case anyone has forgotten or was never told, was not a result of the democratically expressed will of a majority of the French people. Large sections of rural France, large sections of south and western France actively opposed the Revolution and many more people were terrorized into tacit support or at least passivity by the Reign of Terror which the revolutionaries launched against all who opposed them. The French Revolution was not a triumph of the majority but the beginning of a sad history of the Parisian mob being allowed to bring down governments and ruin things for the rest of the country. After the First Republic led to the First Empire it was destroyed and the Kingdom of France was restored. However, once again, the Parisian mob brought down the monarchy and France had the short-lived Second Republic which mutated into the Second Empire. That was destroyed, not by the combined armies of Europe but by the Kingdom of Prussia and pals at which point a full restoration of the monarchy was prevented ostensibly because of an inability by the royal heir to compromise on the French flag. Divisions among the royalists allowed the Third Republic to take hold but in 1940 it died a largely unlamented death at the hands of Nazi Germany. It was succeeded by the “State of France” which, while not a restoration of the monarchy, was at least somewhat of a renunciation of the French Revolution. However, the ties it necessarily had to have with Nazi Germany in order to simply exist meant that when the war ended in defeat for the Axis Powers, the State of France was demolished and its memory forever tainted by the odium of collaboration with the hated conquerors.

Thus followed the Fourth French Republic which quickly failed to pass muster and so today France is on its Fifth Republic. Obviously, it should be considered no accident that France could have a single monarchy for a thousand years but has gone through five different versions of the republic in less than two centuries. The revolutionary republic clearly does not work, every incarnation of it has ultimately failed and yet, because of the persistence of this zealous devotion to the image of “The Revolution” the French keep being dragged back to it to try and try again. Most of the leaders who have stepped forward to save France in times of disaster knew or at least suspected such from Napoleon to Marshal MacMahon to Marshal Petain to General DeGaulle, one was a royalist, two had at least some royalist sympathies and the other promoted himself to monarchial status on his own.

The bottom line is that, as is often the case with such matters, the Kingdom of France was a natural, organic, living thing. It was a country, a nation, a people with a unique history and culture. The revolutionary republic is an artificial contrivance that tries to replace history and ancestry with ideological slogans. And what is the result? The result is that the church where Charles “the Hammer” Martel is buried is now in a Muslim neighborhood, part of the department with the highest proportion of immigrants in all of France. Is that not a perfect example of the state France is in today? The man who is most famous for winning the battle that defeated the Muslim invasion of France is today in his grave surrounded by Muslims whom the French government has allowed to come in peacefully to live and settle. The man who “hammered” the Saracen invaders could, were he able, probably now hear the cry of the muezzin from his resting place on a regular basis.

But, of course, Charles Martel, this great figure of French history, this savior of France, was everything that the current French Republic, informed by the values of the Revolution, considers deplorable. He did not believe in equality, he did not believe in tolerance, he did not believe that the Arab invaders of his country were to be treated like brothers, that they were indistinguishable from his own people. This, I would argue, is why his France lasted for a thousand years and post-Revolutionary France is stumbling toward oblivion. The Revolution, needless to say, is part of history and as such it cannot be made to have never happened. France can never be exactly as it was before but the legacy of the Revolution is something France must come to grips with if it is to survive as a nation. It cannot be undone but the mistakes that resulted from it, such as the tearing down of the monarchy, the pushing of secularism and the legalistic definition of what it means to be “French” certainly can be but it will require facing the facts about what the Revolution has done to France and breaking the spell that it currently holds over the public.
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