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Category: Robert Farley


[ 273 ] November 7, 2016 |

Here’s a smoking hot take:

Well, at least one part of that is likely to be correct. I also predict that #unprecedentedbipartisanunity is going to be an extremely useful hashtag for the next four years.


I Like Big Boats and I Cannot Lie…

[ 16 ] November 7, 2016 |
CV-17. Andreas Rupprecht.

CV-17. Andreas Rupprecht.

Because things happen in the world that aren’t the election, I take some looks at big Chinese ships.  At the National Interest, CV-17:

Slowly but surely, China’s first indigenous carrier is coming into being. Laid down in 2015 with an expected launch date in 2017 or 2018, China’s second aircraft carrier may enter full service sometime around 2020. The lack of transparency around the project has spurred a tremendous degree of speculation, down to some very basic questions. As was the case with Liaoning (CV-16),China’s first carrier, analysts have a name problem; no one is quite sure what to call the new ship. For years as Liaoning underwent construction and refit, China-watchers guessed as to the correct name, generally settling on the accurate but inelegant “ex-Varyag” (other guesses included Shi Lang and Zheng He). While some have suggested “Shandong,” most commentators have settled around “CV-17.”

At the Diplomat, the Type 055 destroyer:

Guesses regarding size have ranged from 12,000 to 20,000 tons, with most estimates concentrating on the lower end. Expectations about employment of the ships vary quite a bit, but there is general agreement that the PLAN has determined that it needs a large ship able to operate at great distance from home bases, and that will presumably include anti-air, anti-submarine, and anti-surface capabilities. Like many modern surface combatants, the Type 055 will apparently have features designed to reduce its radar cross section and thus enhance survivability.

Also at the Diplomat, the Type 075 amphibious assault ship:

If estimates of the size of the Type 075 ships are correct, these ships will give the PLAN an amphibious assault capability second only to that of the U.S. Navy. Expeditionary warfare vessels extend the reach of an entire military, enabling distant deployments by concentrating helicopters, landing craft, troops, and command and control facilities in a single platform. Globally, the construction of large, flat-decked amphibious ships has ticked up in the 21st century, with states such as Egypt, Australia, and South Korea getting themselves into the game. It’s worth noting that the United States regularly uses such vessels as light aircraft carriers, taking advantage of the STOVL capabilities of the AV-8B Harrier and the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.



[ 13 ] November 6, 2016 |
Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson.jpg

Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, and Creighton Abrams, 1968

My latest in Counter-Factual Theater:

What if Nixon had never gone to China?

China’s shift of weight towards the United States had major international implications. It heightened Soviet military vulnerability, while also providing what would become an engine of global economic growth. Within China, the pivot opened space for major domestic economic reform, although the Chinese Communist Party would not take advantage of this for several years.

We think of China’s shift as an inevitability—the consequence of timeless currents associated with the balance of power. But in fact, the summit between Mao Zedong and Richard Nixon demanded bold thinking from Chinese and American policymakers, thinking that ran against decades of foreign-policy orthodoxy in both countries. Even then, the summit required careful choreography, played out across several countries.


Foreign Entanglements: Intervention!

[ 9 ] November 6, 2016 |

On the latest (albeit not election-themed) episode of Foreign Entanglements, Matt speaks with Shadi Hamid about Syria, war, and intervention:

The Cubs Must Not Win (VI)

[ 63 ] November 1, 2016 |

When the Cubs last won the World Series, the Habsburgs ruled Austria-Hungary:

The earliest known ancestor of House Habsburg is a figure known as Guntram the Rich, who lived in 10th century Germany. Guntram’s grandson, Radbot, built Habsburg Castle in what is now the Swiss town of Aargau. Radbot’s son, Werner, used the title “Count of Habsburg” and lived roughly from 1030 until 1096. By 1199, under Albrecht, the Habsburgs controlled most of the German speaking parts of Switzerland. Albrecht’s great-grandson Rudolf became embroiled in the bitter thirteenth century conflict between the Hohenstaufens and the papacy, enduring excommunication in 1254. After the fall of the Hohenstaufen, however, Rudolf was well placed to pick up the pieces, and in 1273 was elected King of Germany. Rudolf was unable to hold things together in Germany, and failed to secure the election of his son as King, but nevertheless was able to expand the power and holdings of the Habsburg family.

Albert I, son of Rudolf, managed to secure election as King of Germany some time after the death of his father. Over the next 150 years, two more Habsburgs would serve as Holy Roman Empire, and two as King of Hungary. Between 1379 and 1485 the Habsburg lands were split between different branches of the family, but this split ended with the reign of Maximilian I. Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, lost Swtizerland but managed to gain control of the Netherlands. Through a complicated series of marriages, Maximilian managed to secure for his grandson, Charles, control of much of the known world, including Spain and Naples. After Charles (V in Austria, I in Spain) the empire was split into Spanish and Austrian branches.

The Habsburgs ruled Castile and Aragon until 1700 (and Portugal from 1580-1640), during the most vigorous period of Spanish colonial expansion into the New World. The Austrian branch secured the title of the Holy Roman Empire for itself until 1806, although it rarely controlled much of Germany. Without going into too much detail, the Habsburgs were involved in pretty much everything worth being involved in regarding European affairs from roughly 1400 until 1918. The Spanish branch died out in 1700, leading to the War of Spanish Succession, while the Austrian line technically became the House of Habsburg-Lorraine following the rule of Archduchess Maria Theresa. Along the way there are too many stories to tell; the life and death of Philip II, the defeat of the Turks at the gates of Vienna, the Battle of Lepanto, the “enlightened absolutism” of Joseph II, and a host of other conflicts and scandals that beset the family over its hundreds of years of rule.

By the time of the French Revolution, it was clear that the Habsburgs would not rule all of Europe. Napoleon ended the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, and helped put the Habsburg Empire on the path that would be described as “hopeless, but not desperate” in the 19th century. Prince Metternich managed to hold things together for a while, but the revolts of 1848 forced the abdication of Emperor Ferdinand I in favor of his nephew, Franz-Joseph. Franz-Joseph would rule until 1916, reigning over a brief recovery for Austria power before the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the imposition of the “Dual Monarchy” in 1867, wherein Hungary enjoyed administrative equality with Austria.

The questionable suicide of Prince Rudolf, son of Franz-Joseph and presumptive successor, left a surprised Franz Ferdinand as heir apparent. In order to marry the woman he loved, Franz Ferdinand was forced to disavow succession rights for his children. While visiting Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated by a young Serb named Gavrilo Princip. Princip failed to successfully commit suicide, and was 27 days short of the age of maturity (20) necessary for a death sentence. Consequently, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison, although he died of tuberculosis less than four years into his sentence. The assassination set into motion a series of events that led to World War I, and the eventual collapse of the Austro-Hungarian state.

Franz-Joseph finally died in 1916, leaving the throne to Charles I. Charles began back channel overtures to the Allies for peace, but these failed and led to the weakening of the German-Austro-Hungarian alliance. Notably, Charles banned the use of chemical weapons by Imperial forces after becoming Emperor. Towards the end of the war Charles began an effort to reform the empire, with the goal of reducing the power of the monarchy and giving the various nations greater autonomy. Sadly, in my view, it was not to be; the United States failed to support Charles’ efforts, and the empire crumbled away in October and November of 1918. Charles didn’t abdicate, but he did “relinquish participation in affairs of state” and both Austria and Hungary shortly thereafter declared themselves republics. In 1921 Charles attempted to regain the throne of Hungary, but was thwarted by opposition from Miklos Horthy, who ruled Hungary as regent. Charles died of pneumonia in 1922 in Portugal. In October 2004, however, Charles was beatified by the Catholic Church for curing the varicose veins of a Brazilian nun. Earlier this year, Charles was formally recognized for performing a second miracle (this time for the healing of a Florida woman) which opens the possibility for canonization as a Saint.

SKKH Erzherzog Karl von Österreich.jpgThe death of Charles left his son, Otto, as the pretender to the Austrian throne. Born in 1912, Otto spent most of his youth in Switzerland and Portugal, fleeing to the United States after being sentenced to death for opposing Anschluss. He returned to Europe after the war, and to Austria in 1966. Since that time Otto von Habsburg has been active in pan-European politics, serving as a German MEP from 1979 until 1999. In his later years, the nonagenarian pretender warned of the dangers posed by Vladimir Putin, whom he saw as another Hitler or Stalin. Otto passed away in 2011. Otto’s son and the current head of the House, Karl von Habsburg, served as an Austrian MEP from 1996 to 1999, and has held a variety of other political positions. Karl’s titles-by-pretension include Emperor of Austria and King, respectively, of Hungary, Bohemia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Illyria, Jerusalem, and Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia. Prospects for a return to the throne appear grim. The only Austria party favoring a restoration of the monarchy is an obscure group called the Black-Yellow Alliance, which appears to be running on a platform of restoring the Habsburg’s to the throne and re-creating a central European empire consisting of Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. As the actual surviving Habsburgs seem to prefer the European Union, the prospects for success seem uncertain. While Karl still use the forms of royalty, he does not seem to favor any political restoration.

The Cubs Must Not Win (IV)

[ 24 ] October 29, 2016 |

When last the Cubs won the World Series, the Qing ruled China:

The tribal peoples of northeast Asia had been of concern to the Chinese Empire well prior to the 17th century. In the 13th century, the Mongols had descended upon China and created the Yuan Dynasty, only to be chased out less than a hundred years later. The Yuan were replaced by the native Ming Dynasty, which reinforced the northern defenses and forced many the tribes into vassalage. In 1583 the Jurchen chieftain Nurhaci, whose father and grandfather had died in service to the Ming emperor, began to consolidate the northern tribes under a new system of military organization. Nurhaci also carried out military campaigns against the Mongols, gaining their respect and a degree of allegiance. In 1612 he renamed his clan Aisin Gioro, and in 1616 founded the Later Jin Dynasty, centered around the town of Mukden. Wars against the Koreans, Mongols, Ming, and other northern tribes expanded the Jin until Nurhaci’s death in 1626. His son and successor Huang Taiji further expanded the Jin, renaming in Qing and mandating that the Jurchen people would henceforth be known as the Manchu people.

The rise of the Qing corresponded with the decline of the Ming. Internal disputes and a major peasant rebellion had weakened the aging dynasty such that the Qing were able to press successfully on its northern territories. A series of victories in the early 1640s led to the conquest of the imperial capitol at Beijing in 1644. The Manchus, uncharacteristically for foreign invaders, showed immense respect for Chinese imperial forms and styled themselves the direct inheritors of Ming imperial rule. Over the next thirty years the Manchus, under the rule of Emperor Kangxi from 1661, would destroy the remnants of the Ming and subjugate various other opponents, including the Mongols. The last serious resistance on the part of Ming loyalists would be conducted on the island of Formosa, which had previously been occupied by Dutch traders and non-Han tribesmen. The Qing extinguished this resistance in 1683, occupying and annexing, for the first time, the island to the Chinese Empire.

Emperor Kangxi served from 1661 until his death in 1723. His grandson, the Qianlong Emperor, served from 1735 until his abdication in 1795. Although the Qianlong Emperor’s reign is remembered both as a time of plenty and an age of significant cultural achievement, by the end some strains were beginning to show. Pressure inside and outside China began to increase, as corruption rose and the military threat of encroaching European powers grew. The Opium Wars, an unfavorable balance of trade, the Taiping Rebellion (led by a man who styled himself the younger brother of Jesus Christ), and an increase in nationalist (and anti-Manchu) feeling significantly weakened the dynasty. Efforts at reform were bitterly resisted by the Manchu aristocracy, personified from 1861 by the Empress Dowager Cixi. Cixi dominated Chinese imperial politics until her death in 1908. Shortly before dying, she installed Puyi, not yet three years of age, as Emperor of China.

The Qing Dynasty survived Cixi by three years. Puyi was allowed to remain in the Forbidden City in Beijing until 1924, and enjoyed a very brief restoration in 1917. Eight years after his expulsion from the Forbidden City, Puyi became emperor of the Japanese puppet state of Machukuo, built around territory seized by Japan from China in 1931. Puyi held virtually no real power, and what supporters he had were steadily replaced or undermined by the Japanese. Manchukuo was instrumental in the Japanese Fugu Plan, a rather odd effort to attract Jews (and their presumed innate ability to make money and dominate the minds of men) from Nazi dominated parts of Europe to the Far East. In any case, the Japanese effort in World War II went poorly, and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945 brought Manchukuo to an end. Puyi was captured by the Red Army and eventually extradited to the People’s Republic of China.
27china_heir_ent-lead__200x257After undergoing re-education (immortalized in Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor) Puyi lived in Beijing until his death without issue in 1967. The imperial line passed either to Puyi’s cousin Yuyan, who endured two long terms of imprisonment before his final release in 1979, or to Puyi’s brother Pujie, who had a similar prison career. Although Yuyan became the subject of a British documentary, the evidence seems to favor Pujie, who died in 1994.  The line then passed to Jin Youzhi, Pujie’s half-brother, who died in 2015. The most plausible current heir is Jin Yuzhang, son of Jin Youzhi.  Mr. Jin, 74 years, is a retired Beijing district-government vice-director. Mr. Jin spent time during the 1960s as a Red Guard, and lived for a while with Puyi after the latter’s return to Beijing.

Prospects for restoration seem quite grim. Very little sentiment for a return to the monarchy exists in China, and it is unlikely that, in the unlikely event of a monarchical restoration, the Manchu Qings would be selected for imperial honor. The Manchu ethnic minority has been substantially assimilated by the Han Chinese, making a return to the throne in an independent Manchukuo equally unlikely.

The Cubs Must Not Win (III)

[ 66 ] October 28, 2016 |

When the Cubs last won the World Series, the Ottomans ruled Turkey and much of the Middle East:

The House of Osman began as one of many small noble families that ruled the Turkic peoples during their migration west around the end of the first millennium CE. The Osmans steadily accrued power and influence, and in the disruption following the Mongolian invasions established its lands as an independent power center in Anatolia. Although he did not claim the title of Sultan, Osman I, who lived at the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th century, is understood to be the dynastic founder of the Ottoman Empire. After securing his territory from Turkic rivals, Osman looked to the crumbling Byzantine Empire, which the Osman’s would eat at for the next two centuries. This would grant them access not only to Europe, but also gave the resources to extend their power in the Islamic world.

Critical in the expansion of Ottoman power was the victory at the Field of Blackbirds in 1389, which helped stem Serbian power and ensure Ottoman access to the corpse of the Byzantine Empire. Sultan Murad I died on the battlefield and was replaced by his son, Bayezid I. As was common custom at the time, Bayezid had his brother strangled upon his ascension in the wake of the battle. Succession in the House of Osman did not operate on the principles of primogeniture, seniority, or even on the selection of the current Sultan, but rather most often depended on a free-for-all between sons upon the death of the Sultan. The new Sultan would often, although not always, follow up his ascension with the murder of any remaining brothers. Over time this practice, which of course proved quite destructive both within the family and without, was replaced by a general preference for the principle of seniority. Unfortunately for Bayezid I, the invasions of the Tartar under Tamerlane prevented him from following up his success in Kosovo. The Tartar captured Bayezid I, and although the story is probably apocraphyl, it is said that Tamerlane used the Sultan as a footstool.

The disruptions associated with the Tartar invasions weakened the enemies of the Osman’s more than the Osmans themselves. In 1453, Sultan Mehmed II captured Constantinople, putting the Byzantine Empire (and, by extension, the ancient Roman Empire) to effective end. The last Byzantine Emperor was presumably killed in the fighting, as he was last seen throwing himself into hand-to-hand combat after the breaching of the city walls. Upon the fall of the city, Constantinople became the new capitol of the Ottoman Empire. The Osman’s continued their expansion into Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, reaching the gates of Vienna in 1529. The Empire reached its apogee under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who reigned between 1520 and 1566. Periodically, Sultans asserted the title Caliph of Islam, although this was not used with any regularity.

Of course, ever empire that rises must eventually fall. The growing borders of the Empire extended its responsibilities beyond that which was economically and bureaucratically efficient. Ottoman military forces became victims of their own success, as tactics and formation became hidebound and increasingly vulnerable to military advances in the West. The succession process tended to leave young (and, eventually, older) men without any education or policy experience, and incited unrest and dissension. The Sultan would typically have an enormous harem with many children, which created a poor incentive structure for the training of any given successor or for vigorous political action. Although the Empire experienced several periods of rejuvenation, the period from 1566 on can be understood as one of long, slow decline. This decline accelerated in the 19th century, when the superiority of Western military practice became evident.

The Ottoman Empire slowly shed its external territories and influence over the course of the 19th century. It lost Greece in 1829, Egypt in the Napoleonic Wars, Cyprus in 1879, and various parts of the Balkans throughout the century. Further efforts at reform helped lead to revolution and the curtailment of royal power. In 1908, the “Young Turks” seized the reins of policy. The Empire joined the Central Powers in late 1914, and although it saw some initial success, eventually suffered dramatic defeats in the Middle East. The end of the war resulted in the loss of virtually all remaining European territories and most Asian territories outside the Turkish peninsula. Sultan Mehmed VI accepted an Allied peace plan that threatened to partition Turkey, enraging Turkish nationalists. After much jockeying for power, the Sultan boarded the British battleship Malaya on November 17, 1922, and fled to Malta.
osmanbayezidefendiSeven men have headed the House of Osman since the end of the Empire. The next-to-last was Ertugrul Osman V, ten years old when the last Sultan fled. Ertugrul Osman lived for decades with his wife, Princess Zeynep Tarzi of Afghanistan’s ruling  in a two bedroom apartment on Lexington Avenue around 70th Street. Reportedly, he and his wife paid $350 in rent. After Ertugrul’s death, the apartment became the focus of a dispute between Princess Zeynep and a local real estate developer. The Sultan maintained political pull into his later years; when they roof in his bathroom collapsed, he contacted Mayor Bloomberg and a crew of city workers repaired the damage in short order. Ertugrul Osman returned to Turkey in 1992, and was granted Turkish citizenship.  He passed in 2009, on another visit to Istanbul.  The current heir to the throne is Bayezid Osman, who moved to the United States in 1941, joined the US Army, and later worked for forty-five years in the New York City Public Library system.  Mr. Osman, 92, currently resides in New York City.

Prospects for a restoration are grim.  Mr. Osman has no apparent interest in resuming the duties of the Sultan.  However, he has argued that the House of Osman should change its rules of succession to allow women to ascend to the head of the dynasty.


Chances for a restoration of the monarchy appear extremely grim,

Shopping Around

[ 10 ] October 27, 2016 |
FA-50 Golden Eagle (Philippine Air Force, February 19, 2016).jpg

FA-50 Golden Eagle (Philippine Air Force, February 19, 2016). Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, Public Domain

Some thoughts on some of Duterte’s claims about widening Manila’s military procurement strategy:

What would Duterte want? The Philippine’s need for modern military equipment is substantial, although its resources are fairly meager.  In recent years Manila has concentrated on helicopters, light aircraft, light patrol boats, and a variety of munitions.  Much of this has come from the United States, although Japan has also played a role in supporting Manila’s maritime ambitions.  However, either Russia or China could ably fulfill these relatively modest requirements.  The Chinese JF-17 fighter would fit Philippine requirements nicely, as would refurbished MiG-29 models (Duterte has already criticized a deal to acquire modernized F-16s). Altogether, while capturing the Philippines military market would be only moderately lucrative, it would fall right into the wheelhouse of either the Russian or Chinese military-industrial complexes.

The Cubs Must Not Win (II)

[ 81 ] October 26, 2016 |

When last the Cubs won the World Series, the Romanovs ruled Russia.

The Romanovs seem to have emerged, along with a number of other important Russian families, from a minor 14th century noble named Andrei Kobyla. The Romanov branch of this large family came to prominence in the mid-16th century, when Anastasia Zakharyina married Ivan the Terrible. The marriage produced two sons, Ivan and Fyodor, who by tradition were considered part of the ruling Rurik dynasty. In 1581, twenty-one years after his wife’s death, Ivan the Terrible beat his daughter-in-law into a miscarriage, angering her husband Ivan. Ivan the Terrible then proceeded to (accidentally) beat his son to death as well. This left only Fyodor, the Fredo of the late Rurik dynasty, to ascend to the throne upon his father’s death. Fyodor’s relatively short and indifferent reign produced no heirs, but did see brutal competition between the Romanov and Gudonov families over succession to the throne. The Gudonovs, a family of Tatar origin, won the first round, and Boris became Tsar upon the death of Fyodor in 1598. The Romanovs were either murdered or dispatched to Siberia.

Seven years later Boris I died, leaving the throne to his sixteen year old son Fyodor II. Fyodor II was promptly murdered and replaced by Dmitri, who claimed to be the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible. After several years, plenty of blood, and much confusion, the young Mikhail Romanov was elected Tsar by a national assembly of nobles. Only seventeen at the time, Mikhail was a weak leader, but he managed two things that helped set the course of Russian history; he survived on the throne for 32 years, and produced a viable heir. Mikhail’s grandson, Peter I, came to be known as Peter the Great for his expansion of Russia’s borders and his modernization of the Russian state.

Unfortunately, the dynastic situation remained complicated. None of Peter’s sons survived to succeed him (in shades of Ivan the Terrible, he had one of his sons murdered by torture), so he installed his wife, Catherine, on the throne before his death. Catherine, a Latvian peasant, was herself succeeded by Peter I’s grandson, Peter II. The Romanovs would have done well to learn the lesson of the French Capetians (who were remarkable in assuring the production and survival of male heirs), as Peter II died of smallpox two years into his reign. A couple more Romanovs down the line, Elizabeth, daughter of Catherine and Peter the Great, ascended to the throne. Elizabeth steered Russia through the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War before dying in 1762. She was followed by Peter III, another grandson of Peter I. Peter III married a woman who was far smarter, more ruthless, and more capable than himself. This arrangement works out well sometimes, but not for Peter; his wife (probably) had him assassinated several months after he ascended to the throne.

Catherine II was a princess in a minor German noble family. Originally a Lutheran, she joined the Russian Orthodox Church shortly before marrying Peter III. Catherine’s 34 year reign would later be recognized as a golden age for Russia; in addition to further expanding Russia’s borders and consolidating the Russia state, Catherine proved a great patron of the arts. She claimed that her son, Paul, was the produce not of her marriage with Peter but rather of one of her many extra-marital liasons. This claim remains in doubt, as consequently does the relationship between the later Romanovs and Peter the Great. Paul succeeded his mother in 1796, and was assassinated in 1801. Under the leadership of Paul’s son, Alexander I, Russia survived the 1812 French invasion, and its armies later marched across Europe to put a bullet in the head of the zombie that the French Revolution had become. Although a liberal early in his reign, Alexander moved right as he grew older, and was replaced by his even more conservative brother Nicholas I. Nicholas I helped, in his own way, to undo the efforts of Peter and Catherine to remake Russia on a European mold. He was succeeded by the liberal Alexander II, who was succeeded upon the latter’s assassination by the conservative Alexander III.

It’s important to keep in mind that, throughout all of this, Russia probably had the least well-developed political institutions in Europe (and that didn’t compare particularly favorably with those of the Ottoman, Chinese, or Japanese empires). Unlike in most other countries, there was only a very limited cushion between the preferences of the Tsar and government policy. This is not to say that the Tsar’s could do anything they wanted; not even the absolute monarchs are absolute, as the state always has to compete with other societal groups. This is especially important to note in Russia, which due to size and institutional weakness has always been difficult to govern. But in terms of institutionalized means of insulating government from the preferences of the leader, Russia lagged.

In any case, on November 1, 1894, the 26 year old Nicholas Romanov succeeded to the title of Tsar Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All Russians, King of Poland, and Grand Duke of Finland. He reign would not be pleasant. Under his watch Russia was defeated and most of its fleet destroyed in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, which helped bring about the Revolution of 1905. Nicholas II survived the Revolution but was forced to create the Duma, a basic representative institution, and to issue several proclamations guaranteeing certain rights for subjects. In 1914 Russia became involved in the Great War, winning substantial early victories in Galicia against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but suffering a catastrophic defeat against the Germans at Tannenberg. The war overtaxed the capabilities of the Russian state, and helped both create and empower a group of revolutionaries who were, if anything, more bloodthirsty than the autocrats they sought to replace. Nicholas II’s wife also became enamoured of a monk named Grigori Rasputin, who appeared to display remarkable abilities for treating Alexei, the hemophiliac heir to the throne.

In early 1917 the rubber hit the road, and the Tsarist state collapsed into revolution. On March 15 (Gregorian calendar) Nicholas abdicated in favor of his brother, the Grand Duke Mikhail. Mikhail did not take the throne, however, and seven days later Nicholas and his family were arrested. In October the Bolsheviks seized power, and the situation of Nicholas and his family began to deteriorate. In March the family was dispatched to Yekaterinburg. On July 17 a forty year old Bolshevik named Yakov Yurovsky led a Cheka squad to the house in which the Romanovs were imprisoned. Yurovsky personally executed Nicholas, his son Alexis, and his daughter Tatiana, while the rest of the squad finished off the remainder of the royal family. Some people say Nicholas II got a bad break, but I consider him the luckiest deposed monarch on the face of the earth. Were I the last tyrant of a brutally oppressive, yet majestically opulent dynasty, I would rather be massacred with my entire family by revolutionary sociopaths than waste away in decades of exile. We remember Nicholas II and Louis XVI for a reason; who remembers how or when Kaiser Wilhelm II died?

Grand Duke Mikhail had been murdered a month earlier, leaving the succession in doubt. Over time, surviving elements of the family gathered around Cyril Vladimirovich, a cousin of Nicholas’ who had fled to France after the October Revolution. In 1938 the claim passed to Vladimir Cyrilovich, who held it until 1992. In 1969 Vladimir designated his daughter Maria as official heir. However, for various complicated reasons this succession is contested by another branch of the Romanov family, one that recognizes Nicholas Romanov as the legitimate heir. The issues differentiating the two are too complicated to discuss in this space; in a bygone age one would simply have had the other imprisoned or killed. Prospects for a return to the throne appear grim. Although the collapse of the Bolshevik regime opened space for the mobilization of public opinion for the restoration of the monarchy, this mobilization never manifested. The Romanovs remain relatively unpopular in Russia in spite of the measured support of the Russian Orthodox Church. Unless Vladimir Putin somehow manages to have himself declared a Romanov, it is unlikely that the family will return to the throne anytime soon.

Trivia: What dynasty went from being the target of one Crusade to being a participant in another in two generations?

Sad Fighter Planes

[ 17 ] October 26, 2016 |


Full disclosure: Somebody gave me the IDEA to write this, then PAID me for it!

The Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition, staged at the end of the Cold War, yielded a pair of remarkable fighter designs. The United States would eventually select the F-22 Raptor, widely acknowledged as the most capable air superiority aircraft of the early twenty-first century. The loser, the YF-23, now graces museums in Torrance, California and Dayton, Ohio.

How did the Pentagon decide on the F-22, and what impact did that decision have? We will never know, but going with the F-22 Raptor may have saved the Pentagon some major headaches.


The Cubs Must Not Win (I)

[ 119 ] October 25, 2016 |

When last the Cubs won the World Series, the Hohenzollerns still ruled Germany.

The Hohenzollern are first mentioned in the eleventh century. Holding lands in southern Germany and the Black Forest, the family slowly expanded its territory until it acquired Brandenburg in 1415. The center of Hohenzollern power moved north, and Berlin became the chief city of the realm. The Hohenzollerns took advantage of the decline of the Teutonic Knights to expand into east Prussia. In 1525 Albert I converted to Lutheranism, took the lands of the Teutonic Knights, and assumed the title Duke of Prussia. A later Duke converted to Calvinism, and House Hohenzollern became known for its religious tolerance. Frederick William I, also known as the Great Elector, helped build the army that Prussia would become renowned for in later years. In 1701 Frederick William’s son Frederick declared himself King ofin Prussia, which helped sever the ties between Prussia and the Kingdom of Poland. Frederick II, or Frederick the Great, used the army to good effect against overwhelming odds in the First and Second Silesian Wars, the War of Austrian Succession, and the Seven Years War. Frederick the Great also patronized Voltaire and Kant, and granted Jean Jacques Rousseau refuge from France.

In the 1860s Otto Von Bismarck, Chancellor to King Wilhelm I, engineered wars against Denmark, Austria, and finally France. Victory in the last catalyzed German nationalism, bringing Wilhelm the title Emperor. After the ninety-nine day reign of Frederick III, Wilhelm II assumed the throne. Although Wilhelm II wasn’t the only source of Germany’s militaristic approach to the international system, he certainly didn’t help the situation. In 1890 he fired Bismarck, and through the last decade of the nineteenth and the first of the twentieth he lent heavy support to German plans for colonial and naval expansion. Trauma during birth left Wilhelm II with a withered arm and may have caused some brain damage. Nevertheless, Wilhelm cannot be held solely responsible for World War I; there’s enough blame to spread around liberally.

Germany’s situation began to deteriorate rapidly in November 1918. With revolution in the air and the Reichswehr at the breaking point, pressure grew on Wilhelm to abdicate. Although he realized that holding that Imperial crown might become untenable, he hoped and believed that it would be possible to remain King of Prussia. One can sympathize with this feeling; having lost the war, Wilhelm at least hoped not to undo all of the work that his family had accomplished over the last five centuries. Nevertheless, under the advice of Paul Von Hindenburg, a committed royalist, Wilhelm abdicated both crowns and fled to Holland. Wilhelm II’s most significant redeeming quality was a loathing of Adolf Hitler, although he did send Hitler a congratulatory note after the conquest of France in 1940. Of Nazi policy toward the Jews he may have written “for the first time I am ashamed to be a German,” although the source of that quote remains questionable. Although the Allies had requested the Wilhelm be turned over for prosecution, Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands refused. Wilhelm II died on June 4, 1941, and was given an honor guard of German soldiers, an act which almost resulted in the firing of a general by an angry Adolf Hitler. Although Hitler wanted to bring Wilhelm’s body back to Berlin for a state funeral, the former Emperor had explictly provided that his body not return to Germany prior to the restoration of the monarchy.

The actions of Wilhelm II should not prejudice us against Georg Friedrich, the current head of House Hohenzollern. He seems like a very nice young man. Great great grandson of Wilhelm II, Georg Friedrich does not claim the imperial throne, but does use the title Prince of Prussia. He served two years in the Bundeswehr, and has travelled extensively. An anglophile like his great-great-grandfather, he finished college in the United Kingdom, later studying business economics in Germany. Chances for restoration appear extremely grim, as there is almost no sympathy for the monarchy in the contemporary German political scene. Georg Friedrich is, however, 150th in line to the British throne.


[ 24 ] October 25, 2016 |
Arihant 4.jpg

By Gagan11111 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link



Will INS Arihant and her sisters provide stability in South Asia, or increase the dangers of a crisis? A recent article in the Washington Quarterly suggests the latter. Diana Wueger argues that, contrary to the experience of the Cold War, the development of a sea-based deterrent will probably not contribute to the stability of the South Asian nuclear balance. Instead, it could lead to a dangerous spiral between India and Pakistan, or between India and China.



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