Realpolitik turns on itself

September 22nd, 2014


In the end the machinations of Bismarck are even too great for “the Master”.  By 1890 the concept of the balance of power had reached the end of its potential.  So today, ATK we should not seek to meaningfully discuss a balance – of – power.  Its part of the Old, old, old world.  The next “world” after WWI will be characterized by morality, international law and above all, “collective security”.  The stability of that “world” is almost fated from the start, by not allowing Germany or Russia to negotiate on their own behalf at the Treaty of Versailles, By Wilson, presiding too closely over the negotiations and not remaining presidential.  The following World Order, that of the Cold War, is a zero-sum game (a move for advantage on one side is by necessity a move of disadvantage for the other) dominated by two spheres of influence both of which are terrified of direct conflict with the other.  The post-Cold War world has yet to be defined.  I think thats the subject of HK’s most recent book.

So what happened?  Why does realpolitik “turn”?  What happens in Bulgaria?  Was this all Germany’s fault?  Was it inevitable? Were the French simply set upon Revanche?  Russia’s polyglot-ness and vulnerability are interesting.  What does it do in return?  Both Bismarck and Disraeli for all of their greatness get forced to play a hand they don’t want to play.

The collapse into an arms race was for some reason at some point, inevitable in HK’s perception.  What do you think?

Two Revolutionaries

September 17th, 2014



napoleon iii

And Napolean III both thought the Congress of Vienna system was an Albatross


A terrible burden that they both sought to overturn and allow their countries to emerge as the great state of Europe.  The Congress system is overturned.  Only one becomes that great state, Germany.  Thats the story here.

Napoleon III is “mercurial” ATK which I take to mean unreilable, quick to change.  Bismark is the man of Blood and Iron.  Good things for Kissinger.  Strength.

The high point of this story for me is the Ems dispatch (not the Master Dispatch).  The beginning of the manipulation of the press.  The importance of public opinion.  By make it appear the King of Prussia had dissed France (when he had not) the French demanded war, and got it, and got beat.

No one want to be seen as the instigator of war.  Remember Senator Lincoln and “show me the blood on Americccan soil” vis-a-vis the Mexican American war?  Lincoln knew it was a ruse, a fake. But the US got its war and then most of Mexico.

Bismark also gets his war and with it a unified Germany and a weakened France.  There is much much more detail here of coursebut the key is Bismark’s manipulation of France (and Austria before that) to bring about a unified Germany under Prussian leadership.


The Concert of Europe

September 15th, 2014

concert of europe GD

No not that concert.

It is a Concert in the sense that the nations behave harmoniously.  This is mostly because of the successes of the Congress of Vienna ATK (according to Kissinger) and his main man Metternich.

Ambrose and Brinkley in “Rise to Globalism” will accuse Kissinger of trying to “Out-Metternich-Metternich”  What do you supposed they meant by that?  Why do you suppose Kissinger was so impressed by him?  

One thing which is key to all of this is the German Confederation.  Think “Articles of Confederation”.  Think….think…. AoC.  Remember?  For defense purposes such confederations can be great.   Everyone bundles together to protect one another but then gets to go off and do their own thing. This will make the Germanic area neither too strong or too weak.  Of course it won’t last.  Why not is the subject of the next two chapters.

Key players here are pretty well summed up in the quadruple alliance and the Holy Alliance   Know who they are and what they wanted and what (they thought) they stood for.    Watch words like “conservative, liberal-institutions, and legitimacy” carefully.

The quadruple alliance, born out of the Congress of Vienna and, along with the Holy Alliance, Kissinger says were responsible for 100 years of peace (except for Crimea) and if something similar had happened after WWI we may not have had WWII.

Do you buy it?  Was it really all that?


Richelieu and Raison d’ e’tat

September 11th, 2014


Richelieu gets a little sexing up here though Kissinger’s man love for the father of Raison d’e'tat is already hard to contain.  The Reason for the State, in the interest of the state, as opposed to the Church, is the lesson of the day.  Why was there no European Empire?  Why did the Holy Roman Empire fail, at least according to Kissinger?  Did you look up “hegemony”?

If you could think of one Example of Richelieu’s employment of raison d’ e’tat what would it be?  The Grace of Alais of 1629 you say?  Spot on I say.  You’re really getting this.  In granting freedom of worship to French protestants he gives a blow to the empire which he is afraid will threaten French dominance.  Yet at same time through rather convoluted reasoning can argue he was also supporting the church.

Interesting here also is the role of Great Britain.  Remember this when we get up to the run-up to the first World War.  Great Britain will serve as the great balancer in the balance-of-power and when HK claims they have a historic protection of the low countries (Netherlands/Belgium) it is here that he is pointing to.

So have fun, keep an eye on those terms.


Diplomacy Chapter 1 – A New World Order

September 9th, 2014


Is the US a beacon?


Or a crusader?

Give examples of either.

It’s somewhat sad reading this chapter again.  Diplomacy was published in 1994.  1994 was just two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, five years after the collapse of the Berlin wall, the year of Clinton’s first interim election year and the “contract with America/Newt Gingrich”.  It was also six years before the contentious election between Al Gore and George W Bush (George HW being the father, VP under Reagan 82-88, President 88-92) and seven years before 9/11.

9/11 is pretty easy to point to and say “here lies a great change in international relations”.  Here is our first confrontation with a non-state actor.  We were attacked, but not by a nation.  Our “War on Terror” remains much more nebulous than Korea, or WWI.

HK recognizes in 1994 America’s diminishing role. Will we fall into, have we fallen into, something that resembles a “balance of power”?  The book is 20 years old now.  How has it stood up?  Is its Eurocentricsm a real thing, or is that just me?  Are these “New World Orders” really about the world?  What about what we just read about China?  How does that fit in?

Oh, and sorry.  No real terms here.  Understand Balance of power, Empires vs. nations, keep an eye on claims by US presidents.  It’s a short chapter.


The Kowtow question

September 5th, 2014


To kowtow or not to kowtow?  That, is the question.  I think the potrayal here by Kissinger of the disctinct difference between cultures is really great.  Its sad to see what we know is going to happen.  We know the Europeans will force their way in, take over ports and Hong Kong.  We know the emporer will fall but here we see a story on the middle rung of the circles-of-causality where, maybe, just maybe, things could have come out different.

In terms of your terms (ha ha) the McCartney mission is obviously a big deal and you’ll want to know it in some detail.  The other ones are King George and Palmerston.  Remember Lord Palmerston for later as he will factor into Kissinger’s “Concert of Europe” and the “Political Doomsday machine” chapters in Diplomacy.


Happy Reading!

Kissinger on China

September 3rd, 2014


Ping-pong diplomacy indeed.  So here we are. Your first dance with Kissinger.  How did it go?  Did he step on your toes, or did he spin you around the floor?  Did you fall down?

This is very interesting for our former BH students as HK claims China had no origin story.  Acording to David Christian all civilizations have an origin story. I even asked him after reading Kissinger’s claim and he brushed it off retreating to insist that the story of the mythical egg is China’s origin story.

Thats not important here though.  Whats important is how China is so different from Europe and why.  Why don’t they circumnavigate the world and conquer and spread their faith? Why don’t they have princes and Dukes?  Answer these questions, keep an eye on the terms and you’re well on your way to a solid first quiz score.

Good luck!

Welcome IB HL class of 2015

August 31st, 2014

Welcome all.  I am very excited about our upcoming year here.  Many of you I know from years past in TOK and even from my very first year teaching Big History.  It’ll be very nice to see you again. Others I haven’t had the pleasure of knowing but seeing you here, in what is generally regarded as one of the most demanding classes on campus, already tells me somthing about you.

There is much going on in the world today.  There are events in the Ukraine which are the subject of the article we will read on the first day and events in China and Hong Kong which are likely to unfurl in our first few meetings.  How has the world gotten this way?  Why do we live where we live with the particular culture that we have?  Why do we live next to the world’s busiest border and the world’s longest border fence?

These are the questions that historians are likely to ask.  Historians deal with the deeper past than yesterday’s news of course but they are often inspired by yesterday’s news to look into the deeper past to come to some understanding of our world today. If you know your history, as the famous song goes, then you know where you’re coming from.  In this course you will get to know “where you’re coming from” in a much deeper way.

We will have many guides in this investigation.  dr. Henry Kissinger;


The author of the piece we will read on the first day and of the book “Diplomacy” which you will carry with you throughout the year.

Stephen Ambrose and Douglass Brinkley;


Oh wait.  Wrong picture.  Who are those guys?

Anyway, we will have many guides including myself, your humble servant.

This website is one you should bookmark.  You should check on it every single day before class.  If you make an intelligent comment on my entry of the day, which is usually my personal musings about what is interesting or important about the reading along with some interesting (I hope) tangents, it will net you one extra credit point on the day’s quiz.  The comments section is protected from trolls so I have to approve you once.  Go ahead and leave a comment now and try to say something unique, like not, “this is the greatest blog ever!” which is likely to excite my filtering efforts.  Once I approve you you are in and your future comments will post immediatly.

I am very excited to meet you all (but I do hope my AC is fixed).  Welcome 2015ers.  Its going to be a great year.


School closed

May 15th, 2014

Schools closed tomorrow Thursday May 15th.  No IB testing.  If schools reopen Friday you test Friday.  If closed Friday expect to test Saturday.



May 7th, 2014


So here is a post for review.  Start by naming/explaining the above cartoon.  Second by asking any, any question that comes to mind about the IB test and history.  I will keep an eye on the comments section and respond to questions there so you’ll have to keep coming back.

Come on.  You can do it!  Ask a question!