Archive for September, 2014

A Peace to end all Peace

Monday, September 29th, 2014

I can’t take credit for the pithy title of the blog post.  Its the title of a book subtitled , “The fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Modern Middle East”, by David Fromkin.  The middle east of course changed a great deal as shown in the map below, and so of course, did Europe.

In 1992 shortly after the end of the cold war, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union my brother Ed was living in Prague trying to get them to buy Apple computers.  It was very funny / sad to go into a bank there and then, to exchange money and watch all of the work still be done by hand on a ledger.  While I was there I stumbled into this sign and was sort of flabbergasted;

Its in the subway system somewhere.    Having “passed” my “advanced” history courses in HS I, like many, avoided history in college like the plague because I was convinced it simply amounted to looking up answers in the back of textbooks.  Thus I was a bit stunned to see an etching of a US president in a subway of what been behind the iron curtain for 50 years.  How did it get there and what did it mean?

Of course it was from this era that you have just read about.  Some members of the new government and citizenry of Czechoslovakia must have been so happy with their new country they erected this lovely sign.  I wonder how many Slovaks supported it.Interestingly it was not torn down or apparently defaced in any way in the decades of Soviet hegemony.

The entire face of Europe was new.

Look at all of those new nations!  Imagine redrawing the map of the US and carving Texas  and California into a bunch of new states.  How many people would be happy with that?

As to the chapter Kissinger is pretty clear on not being keen on the ToV.  Why?   What exactly were its failings?  Do you agree?  If it was so egregiously bad why has Wilsonianism gone down as such an influential and positive part of US foreign policy?


Thursday, September 25th, 2014

schlieffen plan


So this was what was supposed to happen.  It didn’t.  The consequences are of the most epic proportions and are why so much time has been devoted to the study of these events and why they still fascinate us.

Lena Peterson, from the class of 2010, shared with me, “if WWI were a Bar Fight”.  Google it.  Its pretty funny.   It nicely illustrates the absurdity, or as Kissinger calls it, the Greek tragedy that unfolds after the assassination of the Archduke.

Why WWI becomes WWI is ascribed by the popular British historian AJP Taylor, to the “long dead hand of Schlieffen pulling the trigger on the first WW”.  For, as Kissinger quotes Obruchev as noting, “mobilization means war”, was only really true, according to Taylor, of Germany.  Germany’s mobilization of mechanized and troop forces on its vast Railroad system demanded, under the Schlieffen plan, an invasion of Belgium, a quick decisive victory of France and then an all out effort brought to the Russian front.

Taylor (in the book I gave you) also points out that mechanization and mobilization in this era, really led to defensive strength, not an offensive one.  The troops could be brought to the front lines but once in enemy territory, they moved as slow as ever.  That coupled with the newly invented barbed wire and machine gun, and given that planes and tanks were insufficiently advanced to make a real difference, led to the inevitable trench warfare.

Another book (besides AQOTWF) that I highly recommend from the immediate post-war era is “Johnny got his gun” by Dalton Trumbo, later blacklisted by McCarthy.  Haunting imagery of a man destroyed in so many ways by war.  Read by and inspiring to  ”Born on the 4th of July” author (another great book!) Jon Kovitch, later leader of Vietnam Veterans against the war.

For your comments you can throw down anything of note.  Why do you think Russia wanted a general war?  Why did Austria press their demand against Serbia?  Was the war at all avoidable?




Doom pt I

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

One of my favorite episodes.  I can still here the music of the doomsday machine.

The next chapter is titled, “Into the Vortex: The Military DoomsdayMachine”.  There is Doom all around!

And Vortex!  There is another great word.  You may have heard of Vietnam described as a “Quagmire” and the term was reapplied to Bush Jr’s war in Iraq, with the obvious political intention to equate the two.  In WWI as opposed to Quagmire (Kissinger would know the connection to Vietnam and would not want to compare the two I don’t think) he uses Vortex and it is much the same.  Think of a washing machine on spin cycle, full of water, or the machine in the picture above.  You drop in some suds and they are inescapably sucked into the swirl from which there is no escape.

Another issue that will come up time and time is the separation, as in the two chapters of doom, between the political and the military.   Think of JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  He got military advice and political advice, but they are often not in tune with one another.  Ask the Joint Chiefs for a solution and you get a military solution.   It simply is what they know.  Ask the State Dept. for a solution and you get what they know; a diplomatic solution.

Here, in the years prior to WWI, Kissinger sees both arms, the diplomatic / political and the military, operating on the Doomsday cycle.  Russia is stinging from its defeat by Japan, worried about Austrian and German interests in the Balkans, like when they want to fly German flags in Constantinople, and Austria lays formal claim to the complicated Bosnia-Herzegovina (where Kissinger alludes to but does not name the bloody civil war which broke out there, post Cold War in 1992).  England is feeling under threat from the increasing German fleet the swaggering German “Panther leap” in the Moroccan crisis and France is just feeling all trod upon.

That the political machinations can’t evolve to allow this critical point to pass, as Kissinger says Richelieu would have done, he lays largely at Germany’s feat and Kaiser Wilhem II.  Is this Doomsday machine’s creation all Germany’s fault?  Are there possibly other’s to blame?  What do you think?

Realpolitik turns on itself

Monday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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

Thursday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Friday, 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

Wednesday, 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!