This is fascinating stuff, as much for the blood and gore of Age of Sail naval warfare as for the legal complications associated with impressed Americans in the War of 1812:
At Plymouth we heard some vague rumors of a declaration of war against America. More than this, we could not learn, since the utmost care was taken to prevent our being fully informed. The reason of this secrecy was, probably, because we had several Americans in our crew, most of whom were pressed men, as before stated. These men, had they been certain that war had broken out, would have given themselves up as prisoners of war, and claimed exemption from that unjust service, which compelled them to act with the enemies of their country.
This was a privilege which the magnanimity of our officers ought to have offered them. They had already perpetrated a grievous wrong upon them in impressing them; it was adding cruelty to injustice to compel their service in a war against their own nation. But the difficulty with naval officers is, that they do not treat with a sailor as with a man. They know what is fitting between each other as officers; but they treat their crews on another principle; they are apt to look at them as pieces of living mechanism, born to serve, to obey their orders, and administer to their wishes without complaint. This is alike a bad morality and a bad philosophy.
The beacon of freedom burns a bit dimmer this morning:
Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann, who last year ran for the Republican presidential nomination, announced on Wednesday that she will stand down from her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In a video posted on her website and on YouTube, the stressed that her decision to stand down from her Minnesota seat was not due to any concern she would be defeated at the next election in 2014 or the inquiries into activities of her former presidential campaign staff.
And she said she would continue to fight for the policies she believes in and that her future was “limitless and my passion for America will remain.”
Do not weep, America; I’m certain that Bachmann will continue to fight for liberty from the Sarah Palin slot in the right wing speaker’s circuit.
Yesterday I served on a Kentucky Tonight panel, talking foreign policy. Several subjects touched upon, including Obama’s drone speech, the Pacific Pivot, the Middle East peace process, and U.S. policy in Africa under the Obama administration. Also participating were Christopher Leskiw, political science professor at the University of the Cumberlands; Lori Hartmann-Mahmud, professor and chair of international studies at Centre College; and Michael Cairo, political science professor and international affairs program director at Transylvania University.
A few weeks ago Brad Plumer noted some theories as to why Americans don’t move as much as they did in the past. My theory: Moving is objectively horrible, and that we increasingly shun the experience is the best evidence we have that the arc of history bends towards justice.
Some links for your pleasure:
On other subjects… with book and move (mostly) done, I hope to have a little more time to commit to the blog (both this one and ID). That said, I also have a couple of mediumish summer trips that will intervene between me and my desired level of engagement.
My latest at the Diplomat talks a bit more about Nate Jones’ work at National Security Archive:
Like in the United States, the political and military elite of the Soviet Union disagreed on the likelihood of war, and on the predisposition of the new administration in Washington. Soviet hawks took the exercises as evidence of American aggression,focusing on the parallels between the German attack in 1941 and NATO preparations in 1983. It didn’t help that US-Soviet relations were already at a low in the wake of the September 1983 shoot down of KAL 007.
According to Nate Jones, the editor of the series, the documents indicate that Able Archer included several non-routine elements that could have alarmed the Soviets (or at least given ammunition to the most hawkish elements in the Kremlin). These included a massive, silent air-lift of U.S. soldiers to Europe, the shuffling of headquarters command assignments, the practice of “new nuclear weapons release procedures,” and various references to B-52 sorties as nuclear “strikes.” It wasn’t entirely clear to the U.S. policymakers how the Soviets were interpreting the exercises; Robert Gates, among others, argued that the Russians were taking them very seriously indeed, while Reagan wondered whether ” Soviet leaders really fear us, or is all the huffing and puffing just part of their propaganda?”
Interesting (slightly old) piece on Isoruku Yamamoto in Japanese historical memory:
Unlike the Yushukan museum at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, the Yamamoto museum does not appear to re-write or glorify Japan’s war history. A small exhibit notes Yamamoto’s role in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the devastating defeat at Midway. The main hall is dominated by a mangled wing from the aircraft Yamamoto was flying in when he was shot down in the Solomon Islands.
Yamamoto’s legacy may be evolving, at least in the popular media. Several generally sympathetic books have been published in recent years and a well-received movie was released in 2011. The film deals largely with Yamamoto’s clashes with the Imperial Army, which initiated the war in China and pressed for a wider conflict. Indeed, Japan’s small but vocal nationalist fringe has little use for Yamamoto today, considering his lack of greater support for Japan’s war aims to be nearly treasonous.
The degree to which Yamamoto supported Japan’s expansionist policies and colonial ambitions in Asia has not been closely examined in public. Nor is it clear that the architect of the pre-emptive strike on Pearl Harbor would have been spared charges of war crimes had he lived longer.
I suspect that Yamamoto would have been tried for war crimes, although how such a prosecution would have measured up legally and historically is a different question. While some of the senior operational commanders of the IJN (Kurita, for example) avoided prosecution, many of those involved with strategic planning (Nagano) did go through the procedure. Given how well known Yamamoto was in the United States, it would have been very curious indeed if he hadn’t wound up on trial. And while Yamamoto certainly believed that war against the United States was a mistake, it’s not so clear that he was opposed to the war in China, or to the rest of the Japanese imperial project.
There’s an interesting compare and contrast to be done with historical memory of Robert E. Lee in the American South; efforts to distance Lee from the cause of slavery (as opposed to Southern secession) began almost immediately, but serious questions about Lee’s strategic and operational choices emerged in the years after the war, and have periodically re-emerged as Lee’s reputation has evolved over a century and a half. Given that there are grave questions about the wisdom of the Pearl Harbor and Midway operations, and about the strategic wisdom of the Guadalcanal campaign, I also wonder about Yamamoto’s reputation in Japan as strategic and operational commander. The debate over Lee has proceeded under far more open conditions that discussion of Yamamoto, although it’s not obvious that the openness has really helped.
Or, if you prefer, Monday morning…
National Security Archive has put together an interesting collection of material on the 1983 Able Archer exercise, which freaked the Russians out.
“Do you think Soviet leaders really fear us, or is all the huffing and puffing just part of their propaganda?” President Reagan asked his Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Arthur Hartman in early 1984, according to declassified talking points from the Reagan Presidential Library. President Reagan had pinpointed the question central to the 1983 War Scare. That question was key to the real-time intelligence reporting, the retroactive intelligence estimates and analyses of the danger, and it remains the focus of today’s continuing debate over the danger and lessons of the so-called “Able Archer” War Scare.
Some, such as Robert Gates, who was the CIA’s deputy director for intelligence during the War Scare, have concluded, “After going through the experience at the time, then through the postmortems, and now through the documents, I don’t think the Soviets were crying wolf. They may not have believed a NATO attack was imminent in November 1983, but they did seem to believe that the situation was very dangerous.” Others, such as the CIA’s national intelligence officer for the Soviet Union, Fritz Ermarth, wrote in the CIA’s first analysis of the War Scare, and still believes today, that because the CIA had “many [Soviet] military cook books” it could “judge confidently the difference between when they might be brewing up for a real military confrontation or … just rattling their pots and pans.”
“Huffing and puffing?” “Crying wolf?” “Just rattling their pots and pans?” While real-time analysts, retroactive re-inspectors, and the historical community may be at odds as to how dangerous the War Scare was, all agree that the dearth of available evidence has made conclusions harder to deduce. Some historians have even characterized the study of the War Scare as “an echo chamber of inadequate research and misguided analysis” and “circle reference dependency,” with an overreliance upon “the same scanty evidence.”
To mark the 30th anniversary of the War Scare, the National Security Archive is posting, over three installments, the most complete online collection of declassified U.S. documents, material no longer accessible from the Russian archives, and contemporary interviews, which suggest that the answer to President Reagan’s question — were the Soviets “huffing and puffing” or genuinely afraid? — was both, not either or.
I while ago I chatted with Nate Jones on this subject:
At the Diplomat I post my thoughts on the legacy of Kenneth Waltz:
On Sunday evening, Dr. Kenneth Waltz passed away at the age of 88. Waltz is best known for his books Man, the State, and War and Theory of International Politics. The first book set the terms on which researchers would approach the study of international relations, dividing theories between first image (individuals and human nature), second image (regime type, such as communist or democratic), and third image (systemic effects). Waltz himself preferred the third; Theory of International Politics formed the basis of Waltz’ answer to what he believed was the most important question of international relations: “Why do balances recur?” His answer: states in anarchy, whether communist, capitalist, or monarchist, sought security, and most readily found that security through balancing behavior.
Waltz hardly believed that states and individuals didn’t matter, as he regularly engaged in policy recommendation. Rather, he believed that systemic factors, largely beyond the reach of states and statesmen, explained the most important international phenomena. In part because of his belief in the robustness of balancing tendencies, Waltz had little patience with what he regarded as unnecessary military interventions. The United States would not lose the Cold War because it lost Vietnam; rather, we would expect that other states in the neighborhood would balance against Soviet, Chinese and Vietnamese power, and even that the three communist states would balance against one another. The developing relationship between Washington and Hanoi, based on concerns about China, vindicates this belief. Similarly, Waltz warned against America’s pointless war in Iraq.
On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, long-time friend of the blog Colin Snider and I talk about the conviction of Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt:
See also Corey Robin’s review of “The Last Colonial Massacre.”