13 May 2013
Textbook history on the Second World War is inclined to unceremoniously designate belligerent nations as either Axis or Allied. This is not necessarily invalid. However, such designation sometimes leaves out so much nuance that in the sense of actually understanding the past it may be nearly useless. This point is easy to demonstrate. Consider the participation in the Axis and Allied war effort of Denmark and of Bulgaria. The former an Allied and the latter an Axis power.
When war broke out in Europe in 1939 Denmark attempted to remain neutral and stay out of it. But when German invasion forces poured across its borders anyway, its government capitulated on the same day. Consequentially the Germans allowed the Danish government to remain in place and to continue to administer the country albeit under certain constraints. The Danes grumbled, but ultimately went along with this. Danish politicians who left occupied Denmark for exile in Britain found themselves marginalized and without influence in the country.
Thus Denmark was — by the virtue of having been victimized by Germany which deprived it of its external independence — in the Allied imagination on their side of the World War as one of the "overrun nations" of Europe. There is justification for this view in the moral sphere, since Danes overwhelmingly resented the German occupation and sympathized with the allies.
In the material sense, however, the Danes were not doing much about it. The wartime government in Copenhagen which was cooperating with the Germans was not installed by the occupation from political forces on the margins of Danish political life. It was instead a national unity government of all the parties that could boast mainstream popularity before the occupation. Nor was there much armed resistance to the occupation, of the kind that could significantly diminish the economic benefit the Germans derived from their control of Denmark. The fact Danes rooted for the allied side in the war, nonetheless did not influence the fact their manufacturing and agriculture stood at the disposal of the Nazi Empire and the German war machine at essentially full capacity.
Similarly, actually more Danes lost their lives fighting alongside the Germans, rather than against them. Fatalities of Danish fighters on the allied side include 850 deaths among anti-German resistance fighters (of which a minority in actual combat), the deaths of sixteen soldiers during the initial German invasion of 9th of April, 1940, as well as a further one hundred deaths of Danish soldiers in Allied service. On the other hand more than 1500 Danish volunteers fell in German service, majority of which in the Waffen-SS and on the Eastern Front.*
Danes who entered German service were far less representative of mainstream Danish aspirations than were those of their co-nationals who entered into Allied service instead. This, however, does not change some basic math. Ultimately Danish nationals were the most likely to participate in combat action in German uniform. And so in terms of blood shed, the Danes taken as a whole, through the disproportionate sacrifice of a small pro-Nazi segment of the population in the end actually shed more blood for the Germans against the Allies, than the other way around.
12 May 2013
Obviously enough lately I have not been able to maintain the same frequency of new posts on here as was the case in the past. This has been mostly due to real life obligations. I have been able to blog a little more over at the Voluntaryist Reader however, so you may want to check out some of my posts over there. For the readers of this blog I would especially recommend the following: Commentating on Stone’s Untold History of the States, Shock TV: Pavlik Morozov Redux, Raico on Klaus and the Czechs and Wenzel on (some other) Soviet Union.
09 March 2013
Brendan O'Neill has an article at Spiked where he comments on the legacy of the late president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. O'Neill argues the key to understanding how Chavez had been able to defy, irritate and mock the United States without apparent consequences for himself, is to understand just how much the power of the United States has declined, particularly in the moral sense. He argues ideological notions which once spurred imperial America into decisive action against its chosen opponents seem to have lost their persuasiveness and now fail to do so.
"The decisive factor in the Chavez story was not his own political vision, but the creeping incapacitation of American power and influence in global affairs, including in Latin America. Chavez and his influential cheerleaders were energised by, indeed were parasitical upon, the glaring inability of Washington to pursue or even outline its interests on the twenty-first-century world stage."It is an assessment that is impossible to disagree with. Rather than someone who could keep Washington at bay due to his own strength and the potency of his ideas, Chavez was first and foremost a figure who merely moved to enjoy the space he had been offered by the decay of American power. It is what O'Neill styles being "parasitical" upon American impotence.
I would point out, however, the importance of understanding that Chavez nonetheless was a cut above most other state leaders. If it is the case it was the decline of American power, which had opened up room for Chavez to act in the independent manner he did, it is also the case this space had been opened up for everyone else as well. Yet very few chose to take advantage of it. This is more an indictment of Chavez's peers in charge of other states, than it is praise of the president of Venezuela, but it still leaves Chavez looking as one of the better leaders in a very sorry-looking bunch.
A pertinent comparison would be with one Milorad Dodik, the popular political leader of the Bosnian Serbs. As a politician who used to be a part of the American and the general Western agenda for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dodik will not be mistaken for a man with an excessive strength of convictions or an avid believer in an energizing ideology. He is simply a US man who had observed the moral weakness of his sponsors up close and realized he could go off the reservation without consequences.
27 December 2012
Last month saw the publishing of a new proposal for the reorganization of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Muslim-Croat entity in the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina). That is not remarkable in itself. Since most everyone in the Federation, Croats and Muslims alike, agree the entity is dysfunctional and would benefit from a reorganization it is only to be expected various blueprints for reform would be brought forward. What is more newsworthy is the making of this newest draft has been financed by the US Embassy in Sarajevo.
The reform proposal was drawn up by the "Law Institute in Bosnia and Herzegovina", an NGO that is so grassroots the address of its website appears in English (www.lawinstitute.ba). The document it has produced comes with the note it is "financially supported by the Embassy of the United States", but that "all standpoints, opinions and conclusions indicated in this document, do not necessarily reflect attitude of the U.S. Department of State".
Naturally the Americans will not tie themselves down to every detail and turn of words in the document, but it is just as obvious they would not have funded the drafting of a proposal they disagreed with. What is more the US Ambassador in Bosnia has just recently stated constitutional reform of the Federation has the backing of the United States, and the US Embassy is the only entity mentioned as having "financially supported" the making of this draft. It is safe to conclude this is the American proposal for the reform of the Federation of BiH, which the US State Department has paid for in full.
How is This Normal?
Before moving on to the contents of the proposal, let us first take a step back and consider what should by all rights be an abnormal and outrageous state of affairs. Why should one sovereign nation even have a proposal for the reorganization of another, supposedly likewise sovereign, nation in the first place?
Nigeria does not come up with drafts for internal reform in Chile. North Korea does not spend money on drawing up plans for constitutional reform in Tanzania. Russia does not finance proposals for the internal reorganization of Belarus, or Armenia. The United States itself does not waste breath presenting plans for their internal reform to China or France, and Bosnia and Herzegovina certainly does not fund the drawing up of blueprints for the territorial reorganization of the United States of America.
19 December 2012
Just to inform anyone who follows me here, that I've also took up blogging at The Voluntaryist Reader. It is a collaborative blog recently started by over a dozen libertarian radicals with diverse interests such as politics, philosophy, economy and history. So check it out and bookmark it if sparks your interest, either the main page, or else just my archives (two posts so far).
07 December 2012
The arbitrariness of the ICTY may now be shown quickly that much more easily just by comparing its respective records on the Croatian Army (HV), and the army of Bosnian-Herzegovian Croats (the HVO). Given that at the time, Croatia, and the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina were led by one and the same political party (the HDZ) and that Croats of BiH were reliant on assistance from Croatia and sincerely appreciative of Zagreb there is no real reason to expect qualitative differences in their respective armies, as regards their politics, radicalism or propensity for atrocity. Neither should then one expect that HV and HVO members would be found guilty of war crimes at a just court of law at wildly different rates, given that these two forces took part in fighting with roughly comparable gore levels.* Is this the case with the ICTY?
The disposition of the ICTY toward other participants in the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s is glaringly obvious and may be laid out as a few simple rules. The non-natives, the Americans and the NATO Europeans do not get indicted at all. Bosnian Muslims and Albanians are indicted sparingly, and only to be cleared of guilt, or to receive slaps on the wrist. The designated native black hats, the Serbs, are prosecuted with vigor and receive heavy punishment.
ICTY's relationship with the Croats has been less clear-cut. They have been indicted far more sparingly than the Serbs, but also far more frequently than anyone else. Their cases have seen verdicts and sentences all over the place and included instances of dramatic reversals (Blaškić, Kupreškić, Gotovina). In fact in the recent judgment the appeals body split 3-2 to acquit Gotovina and Markač, so at least seemingly it was close to making an opposite decision.
That said, the last month's acquittal of Gotovina and Markač are less of a surprise than had been their earlier sentencing to long-term imprisonment. The latter outcome was unusual, because it went against the rule of thumb for Croats at the ICTY, which could be observed beneath the seeming ambiguity. The two senior Croatian army officers were the wrong kind of Croats to be condemned as criminals of war by the Empire-sponsored court. They were from Croatia when it takes a Bosnian-Herzegovian Croat to really wet the inquisition's appetites.
07 November 2012
So Madeline Albright is another US policymaker to out herself as an anti-Serbian chauvinist. Her charming exclamation the other day ("disgusting Serbs") puts her right there with the most candid of them, Richard Holbroke ("murderous assholes") and Joe Biden ("illiterate degenerates").
As Albright was promoting a book of hers in the Czech Republic the members of a local society, the Friends of Serbs in Kosovo, pulled a Jeremy Scahill on her and attended her book signing in Prague, but asked her if she could sign, not her book, but "her other works that made her famous in the Balkans", meaning the posters with images of the consequences of her policies they had brought along. Rather than attempt an inept and panicked defense like Wesley Clark had done when famously confronted by Scahill, Albright tore up the posters, stood up and shouted, and in the end proclaimed the Czech activists to be "disgusting Serbs".
That is some heavy stuff objectively speaking. That is in the sense that if Albright were to utter an equivalent, say "disgusting blacks" she would rightfully create many problems for herself and tarnish her reputation with the guardians of political correctness in her country. But since she only revealed her revulsion for the Serbs it will have no consequence of that sort. This is because anti-Serbian bigotry is not actually politically incorrect.
It should be kept in mind the anti-Serbian chauvinism was never generated by rogue hate merchants well beyond the margins of polite society, in the way anti-black, anti-Jewish, or anti-Muslim chauvinism are. It was generated by mainstream liberal politicians, intellectuals and journalists, which is to say by the very people who think of themselves as the indispensable guardians of political correctness and are otherwise the first to pounce on anything culturally insensitive or racist. In fact expressing revulsion for the Serbian people (aka 'Milošević's willing executioneers') has perversely been one way for public figures to cement their PC-ness and to demonstrate their moral righteousness with the PC crowd in America. Contempt for the Serbs as such never put one outside trendy, polite society, it could actually help one get in.
While that is offensive, no one needed to care, if it was not that that type of attitude had real life consequences. In the first place a fact should be faced that Western intervention in the Balkans was not driven only by considerations of power and geopolitics, but also a straightforward feeling of hatred and malice against the Serbs, evident from the number of high-ranking officials who at the time, or since have revealed themselves to harbor such feelings. In the second, the xenophobic attitudes toward the Serbs determined what the intervention could get away with. We may recall that NATO conducted its bombing of Yugoslavia in an atmosphere where Thomas Friedman of the New York Times could openly, and without repercussions for his reputation demand the bombing be conducted in a less surgical manner so as to kill a greater number of non-combatants, and his counterpart at the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer could hail Serbian civilian deaths. Crazy and vicious stuff, but coming, not from some obscure KKK newsletter, but from Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion makers, writing for the two biggest American regime dailies.
23 October 2012
The most enjoyable side benefit of the debt crisis impacting the EU has to be the opportunity to observe the distress it is causing its cocky and authoritarian supporters. Take Tim Judah, for example, a reporter from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, but who is better known for his Balkan-themed works of dilettante, bubblegum history, which won him a wholly undeserved reputation for balance and sobriety on the account his fare was 2% less toxic than the poison served up by his still more successful colleagues, the likes of Christine Amanpour and Ed Vulliamy. Judah's beloved EU is in trouble, and it shows. Distressed as he must be, he has penned what is probably his most embarrassing piece to date.
In the piece, spurred by the recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU, Judah admonishes "those who are against it [the EU]". Like a teacher who who implores children to not engage in food fights, but to think of 'poor starving children in Africa' instead, Judah implores Union Europeans to think why the poor "ex-Yugoslavs" appreciate the EU so much, and to support this institution on their behalf, or for the same reason these simpler "ex-Yugoslav" people do. Yepp, it's condescending as hell and the problems with it hardly stop there. Let us address them in order.
First there is the presumptuous title: "Ex-Yugoslavs Know Why EU Deserves a Nobel Prize". Having made a career of writing myths about Yugoslavs and misnarrating their quarrels Judah now thinks he may speak in their name. As an actual "ex-Yugoslav" I can say I do not see that the EU deserves any peace prizes. I can, however, say I believe the EU and the Nobel Prize deserve each other, both being completely worthless. Most of all I think it is not the place of a British hack to try to speak on my behalf.
Judah begins the body of his text by drawing a parallel between anti-EU dissent and nationalism that "ripped apart the former Yugoslavia":
"The bile that has poured from so- called euro-skeptics since the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to the European Union is not surprising. To a journalist who has covered the Balkans for more than two decades, it is also reminiscent of the nationalism that ripped apart the former Yugoslavia. Back then, though, no one spoke of Yugo-skeptics."Here Judah implicitly draws a parallel between the European Union and Yugoslavia. Naturally, this means having to gloss over the crucial role in ripping apart Yugoslavia that was played by the EU itself. Judah attempts to draw a moral alignment between the former Yugoslavia and the EU, when the EU's actual alignment when it counted was with the "Yugo-skeptics".
He follows up with a desperate howl of a man who has found himself on a losing side of an argument and wants to shut down discussion before this is made apparent to all. Apparently unable to counter their points Judah laments the critics of the EU in member states are not finding themselves demonized and dismissed out of hand:
"Today, if Serbs, Croats or Albanians used the language of anti-Europeans further west, they would be labeled extreme nationalists and a threat to stability, without so much as a blink of an eyelid."Consider this is a statement given in a piece attempting to shame the Union Europeans into being more like the allegedly Union-appreciating "ex-Yugoslavs". Judah would actually find it preferable if conditions in Union Europe were such that anti-EU dissent was met with high-pitched accusations of "extreme nationalism" and "threatening stability". He would like it better if the opponents of the EU were not afforded the benign label of 'Euro-skeptics' and the associated access to polite media, but were vilified without a second thought, just as would any "ex-Yugoslav" nationalists not to the West's liking.
02 October 2012
One thing I left out of the review of The Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact below and the book mentions is that it is very likely that in late 1944 the USSR was passing information obtained by espionage against the Western Allies to Japan. Stalin likely decided to do this for fears that Japan may capitulate to the Western Allies before he was ready to attack it himself, which would deprive him of the opportunity to get the Soviet Union into a needless war that would cost it 35,000 casualties.
It is not known how good a use Japan made of the information received from the Soviets, and if Moscow in acting this way indeed prolonged the war in Asia and the Pacific as Stalin had intended. What is certain, however, is that Stalin was successful in purposefully prolonging the war in Europe. He did so when he stopped the fantastically successful Vistula-Oder Offensive when it was apparent it could have reached Berlin in February 1945 virtually unopposed.
Having launched the Vistula-Oder Offensive on January 12th the Red Army made fantastic progress and covered hundreds of kilometers in just a few weeks. By February 1st it had secured multiple bridgeheads on the Oder river which placed it 700 kilometers to the west of its initial positions on the Vistula and a mere 60 kilometers away from Berlin (the Western Allies were still 500km away on the Siegfried Line). Due to how speedy its advance had been and how many German forces it had swept away in the course of its advance the Red Army now gazed at the approaches to Berlin that were only very lightly defended. Accordingly, the Soviets begun the second phase of the winter campaign on the Berlin strategic axis. They were to drive forth again, after only a few days of respite and punch through to reach and take the city as quickly as possible.
It was not to be. As David Glantz, the preeminent American historian of Soviet military operations in WWII explains (1, 2), on February 8th, or thereabout, Stalin suddenly halted the renewed advance in its early stage. The Soviet dictator directed the Red Army forces involved to concentrate on Pomerania and Silesia instead, and transferred others to Hungary from where the Soviets would advance on Vienna. By the time the drive on Berlin was resumed two months later, just a day after Vienna had been taken, the Germans had had time to regroup and a much harder fight awaited the Soviets to reach and take the German capital. In the various offensives that the Soviets launched after the February advance on Berlin had been aborted no fewer than 290,000 Soviet troops were killed and 960,000 were wounded. Many of these losses could have been avoided, but for Stalin's decision to pass over the opportunity to take the Hitler's lightly-defended capital and go for well-defended secondary targets instead.
23 September 2012
|Soviet troops on the march in Korea, October 1945|
What follows is a review of a book, The Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact, from the pen of Russian diplomatic historian Boris Slavinsky. The book is a little dry at times, but that is to be expected considering the source material it tasks itself with bringing to light is mainly made up by reports from diplomats. Despite that there are pieces of very important information in there, some of which may not be found anywhere else. Here are some of the things I learned reading it:
- The Tripartite Pact was presented by Ribbentrop as a treaty aimed at deterring Americans from entering the German and Italian war in Europe and the Japanese war in the Far East. Moreover it was sold to the Japanese as a treaty the Soviet Union would be encouraged to join herself so as to boost the capacity of the alliance to deter the Americans. Specifically to address the concerns of the Japanese the text of the treaty included an article which spelled out that the pact was not aimed at the Soviet Union.
- Albeit the opposite is widely believed, Stalin was actually receptive of the idea of joining the Tripartite Pact under certain conditions. It was actually the case that when the USSR stated its conditions, which included the end of German presence in Finland and German assistance in securing a Soviet presence on the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, that it was rebuked by Hitler and nothing came of it.*
- The Japanese were for the main part taken aback by the German invasion of the Soviet Union and did not regard it as a welcome course of action, but as a severe breach of trust by the Germans. Nonetheless the Japanese continued to see Germany, which after all was at war with the British Empire and on a collision course with the United States, as a key ally.
- Despite the initial shock, the Japanese nonetheless saw the German invasion of the Soviet Union as a likely opportunity for their own territorial aggrandizement and had every intention of eventually breaking the freshly-signed Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact of April 1941. They planned to attack the Soviet Union to take a large chunk of the Russian Far East for themselves, but only once the USSR would be all but beaten by the Germans. Appropriately they undertook a covert mobilization in July-August 1941 as a result of which their army in Manchuria doubled in size. Initially the Japanese figured their own invasion may come in 1941, had by September 1941 moved its projected date to spring of 1942, then again postponed it for the third time to 1943, and finally moved it back indefinitely.