Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Guest Post: "Empire Reborn"

This article originally appeared as a mash-up on Today in Alternate History based upon two timelines conceived by Vincent Longobardi, Italy 1936 - An alternate Italian history of World War II and An Empire Reborn, which are under development at Long Vin's Writing Den on Tapatalk  "It is humiliating to remain with our hands folded while others write history. It matters little who wins. To make a people great it is necessary to send them to battle even if you have to kick them in the pants. That is what I shall do" ~ Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, (29 July, 1883 - 16 January, 1965)28th October, 2022 - The New Roman Empire Celebrates a Century of Fascism As the one-hundredth year of Fascist era dawned, twenty-first century liberal historians continued to argue that the New Roman Empire (N.R.E.) was an accident of history, even the misbegotten child of random political violence. Surely, they argued, the 1815 Congress of Vienna was the real turning point, if not then surely the wars of independence that formed the Kingdom of Italy in 1871. Or perhaps then the defeat of Austria-Hungary and the resulting 1918 Armistice of Villa Giusti.

Whereas the N.R.E. itself marked the pivotal decision after the March on Rome, which led to King Victor Emmanuel III appointing a Fascist Government. This was formed on 28 October, 1922, by Benito Mussolini, the youngest Prime Minister in Italy's history. Hoping to unite the country, and quite simply forced to make a choice between Fascism and martial law, the conservative establishment had little choice but to place their trust in Mussolini when he was not yet forty. He certainly enjoyed strong support from the industrial and agrarian elites, but the truth was that the king had acted out of a mixture of fear and delusion.

And yet only the protagonists really knew that the actual turning point had occurred on 5 May, 1936, at a historic meeting between Il Duce, the Monarch, and Grand Council of Fascists where Latin emotion once played an unspoken part in events. For all his many flaws, Mussolini had legitimised Fascism, although he lacked the unguarded, maniacal obsession of Adolf Hitler. After his treatment of his fellow countrymen during the Austrian Civil War, the Fuhrer could self-evidently not be trusted. Both dictators had megalomaniac visions of the future, but Il Duce was a much smarter, shrewder politician in the realm of international relations. A dangerous course was therefore chosen by the Council: Foreign Minister Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law, was ordered to forge closer relations with Britain, France, and Germany secretly to see which side would offer Italy the best deal.

Contrary to their howls of protest of new imperialism, the so-called Liberal Democracies were not interested in freeing their colonies; they were just unhappy Italy was joining the ranks of Empires. Given the wrong move, they might retaliate in the same way that they reacted the same way to Japanese expansion into Manchuria and China.
Italy's Ethiopian situation had soured relations with the West but even so the common front that the former Great War Allies had declared at Stresa in 1935 had serious flaws. The appeasers were also secretly negotiating with Nazi Germany. Italy offered up trading concessions that were sufficient to nurture the necessary goodwill for the signing of a treaty of Italian Neutrality after the Fall of France.

These moves were very much in Italy's national interests, but in that moment the future was highly uncertain as Hitler's Germany was rapidly gaining power. The successful invasion of Ethiopia, and the formation of Italian East Africa, had left the Fascists isolated diplomatically. Weaker men would have felt compelled to make a choice, but in a larger sense, the recent history of the Kingdom had taught politicians the power of calculation in Council. Ultimately, it was getting right that fine judgement that had really led to the rise of the N.R.E. and an Empire Reborn.

Key lessons were learnt by the Italian military during the Spanish Civil War. During the late 1930s, Italy abandoned the binary division system and returned to a trinary system, such that the Army had less divisions but they were more capable. It is not completely impossible to imagine that a well-timed threat of invasion might have prevented Anschluss and actually stopped Hitler in his tracks. But that outcome would have been counter-productive to Italy's national interests; instead, Il Duce steadily maintained his gaze on expansion to the south and the east. Neutrality meant freedom of action in a sphere of little interest to the Germans and, for the time being at least, abandoned by the Western Allies. Mussolini carefully reaped the seeds of his neutrality with a strong thrust led by the highly capable General Giovanni Messe in Southern Europe that would yield Albania and Yugoslavia and a slow coup that forced Greece more and more into its camp over many years. Italians managed even a toe-hold in the former British Protectorate of Palestine, which included the city and surrounding area of Jerusalem following a border conflict with Lebanon, a lira-block member. Jerusalem became a Free City under nominal Italian oversight following the Easter War,which forced the fledgling state to give up control of territory as part of the peace deal.

Meanwhile, the rebalancing of relations with Britain had occurred at the Fall of France when any prime minister other than Churchill would have sued for peace. Instead, Britain agreed that Italy could expand in the eastern Mediterranean as the price of continued neutrality. Because, after all, the unfair Treaty of Versailles had taught an important lesson to Italy that Britain and France just could not be trusted to make territorial concessions. Aside from that lack of trust, had the animosity been less pronounced, then Italy might well have declared war on Nazi Germany at the death. This could perhaps have yielded Malta or Djbouti at the peace conference, maybe even a veto seat at the United Nations (U.N.).
Meanwhile, with Italy independently pursuing military operations to establish their Empire in the south and east, Nazi Germany narrowed their focus on domination of northern and central Europe. And even though he managed to seize Moscow, Hitler's quest for world domination eventually came to naught, whereas Il Duce's strategies to restore the glory of ancient Rome actually brought his vision to fruition. His former antagonists Britain and France were exhausted and bankrupted by victory. They embarked upon a long retreat from Empire, affording only to retain overseas forced only in Colonies that bordered Italian territory. Fascism had also survived in neutral Spain; nevertheless, it was clear that the N.R.E. was the true beneficiary, if the not the victor, of World War Two. In the end German hubris and Hitler's megalomania led to Germany's downfall and Hitler's suicide. This outcome cemented in Mussolini's mind the deeply held conviction that his destiny was to be the true "man of the 20th century."At the Yalta Conference, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt met to discuss the post-war world. Stalin wanted to invade Italy immediately following the end of hostilities with Germany. Roosevelt, however, believed that diplomacy and sanctions would be able to win the day. Churchill, while privately wanting a war, realized that Britain could not stay at war much longer since they were already disbanding a division a month to keep their front line forces at full strength. Churchill also worried that Stalin would try to gobble up the Balkans. They all agreed that Italy would not be allowed into the U.N. Nevertheless, the Soviets secretly provided Yugoslav rebels with arms and support for a low-level partisan war occurring in the Balkans up until the early 1950s. A strong Italian Empire became increasingly vulnerable to attacks by "communist insurgents" backed by the USSR, but there were effective strategies for dealing with this: for example , encouraging fascist insurgents in bordering Warsaw Pact countries that led to an understanding between the U.S.S.R. and N.R.E.

Following the War, France and Britain initially kept their strong ties and common goals, but French revanchism over the years has put strain on between the two nations, though when Italian aggression reared its ugly head, the two nations had been known to set their differences aside and present a common front.

Surely then Il Duce had been wildly exaggerating when he predicted that "the twentieth century would be known in history as the century of Fascism." Yet contrary to global expectations, the decades after his passing in 1965 saw the N.R.E. surge ahead on all fronts. During 1970, the Imperial Space Agency put an Italian on the moon and the Grand Council could certainly take some credit for selecting the hardliner Salvador Medici over Ciano for the role of First Consul. Perhaps even more significantly, King Solomon's Mines had been discovered on N.R.E. territory just outside Jerusalem. This significant discovery was followed ten years later by the Ethiopian Motherlode.
In March of 1980, Alfonso Scordato, an Italian farmer in the Ethiopian Highlands, found himself suddenly wealthy when he discovered gold nuggets in his farm's runoff water. By July of that year the local surveying and mining company brought in realized that what they thought was only a small vein of gold was much larger than anything they have ever encountered before, larger than anything anyone has ever accounted by.

By February of 1981, surveyors sent from Rome announced that the Ethiopian Motherlode held more gold than even King Solomon's Mines. Conservative estimates put the amount of gold contained in the Motherlode as doubling the global supply. Following this Consul Medici of the New Roman Empire quickly moved to have the mines nationalized and exploited. Scordato initially attempted to resist the nationalization plans but quickly acquiesced after being offered a small percentage of all future profits. That deal would make Scordato and his descendants some of the richest people in the world.

Silvio Berlusconi, the then Minister of Industry and a man who held controlling interest in a media enterprise, smelled the profit to be held in those mines. Unfortunately, even though the contracts for the excavation of those minds were being reviewed by his Ministry the final decision would be that of the Consul. Ever the bold businessman, Berlusconi sold all of his interest in the media companies which made him a wealthy man and reinvested his entire fortune in the three companies most likely to obtain the Motherlode contract. Berlusconi's gamble would pay off in the summer of 1982 when one of those companies was chosen as the lead company to oversee operations.

Initial excavations begin in February of 1983 but poor infrastructure in the region kept the output small at the start. This would not do for Medici and Berlusconi and they quickly declared the "East African Initiative Fund." The EAIF would see tens of thousands of Italians and Eastern Europeans moved into Ethiopia and thousands of miles of roads, tracks, electric lines and other utilities laid down for the express purpose of exploiting the Motherlode. The EAIF would pay off and by 1987 the Motherlode mines were operating at peak efficiency.
These finds gave Italy control of two huge gold reserves that transformed the economic fortunes of the entire lira bloc with a doubling of the world's supply.In response to this massive influx of gold into the market the vast majority of developed countries peg the price of gold at fixed rates in order to keep some stability within the gold market and keep the value of gold up and at acceptable rates. Even with these measures in place the N.R.E. is able to bring in billions of dollars on the gold market.

The Consul's office and the Berlusconi uses these billions heavily investing in the Empire's infrastructure system throughout Italy and its territories in South-eastern Europe.

Other initiatives are given to countries in the Lira Block in order to keep those regimes stable. The N.R.E. also focuses heavily on education and technology seeking to close the "Technology Gap" that exists between it and the United States.
The N.R.E. single-handedly dominated the gold market and the Italian Lira backed by vast reserves of gold that quickly come to rival and surpass those at Fort Knox is generally regarded as the world's strongest currency. Many of the nations outside of Europe choose to use the Lira the primary currency of trade and some nations even back their own currency with the Lira. Clearly, history was on the side of the N.R.E., and these events led to diplomatic relations being restored with America. A famous state visit from US ("only Nixon could deal with Rome") occurred over the protests of England and France.

Many economists and historians believe that the discovery of the Solomon Mines and the Motherlode allowed the N.R.E. to weather the storm that was the late 1980s. While that decade and the 1990s saw the fall of the iron curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet Union the N.R.E. managed to stay strong and united. By 2000, the technology gap between the US and the N.R.E. has largely been closed and even Western Europe has begun to begrudgingly accept the Lira's dominance in Foreign Markets.

Author's Note: In this article we have merged Robbie Taylor's scenario and Vincent Longobardi two timelines Italy 1936 - An alternate Italian history of World War II and the sequel An Empire Reborn. As Scott Palter has noted, OTL Mussolini was more of a failed Franco than a Hitler, Jr, as imagined in the West.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Guest Post: Two-Term President George H.W. Bush (#39)

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

"General [Richard Rohmer], nobody knows this, but by the end of 1941, just before December 7th that year, I was planning to come to Canada to join the Royal Canadian Air Force" ~ Rohmer's 2004 memoir Generally Speaking
November 30, 2018 - On this day George Herbert Walker Bush died aged ninety-four. A scion of a wealthy family of primarily English and German descent, his life was forever changed by his rash decision to join Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan.

Like many of his excitable contemporaries at the exclusive Andover Prep School, he dreamt of flying Mustangs over Normandy. Even though the conflict was then in its third year, the United States was still a non-belligerent power. In fact, the Neutrality Acts actually prevented Americans from the swearing the oath of loyalty to the King of England and this was a prerequisite for joining the RCAF. Potentially, the nine thousand Americans who did so risked the loss of their US citizenship.

Of course this was a relatively minor concern for the future given the current circumstances. This was because the inside of a Canadian aircraft was one of the most dangerous places to be in the present day; only 25 percent of crews would survive their tour of duty. Bush also had to falsify his age as he was still only seventeen. But the Canadians were training up crews within six months, and the temptation was far too great to deny. Events were to move now at a pace, and six months later by the time he reached eighteen, America had joined the Allies Powers , and he was old enough to use his active flight service to request a transfer into the US Navy (USN). At this desperate stage, Japan has just sunk two carriers at Coral Sea and Midway in May and June including loss of very many pilots in combat even from surviving carriers, and the USN was desperate for pilots. Bush was eagerly taken into service without too many questions being asked.

He resumed his university studies after the war, becoming a successful businessman in west Texas and a millionaire in the oil business before he age of forty. A third career, this time in politics, followed. He was elected to the House of Representatives from Texas's 7th district. During this period, he formed a close working relationship with fellow GOP Congressman Gerry Ford. After an unsuccessful Senate run, President Richard Nixon appointed him as Ambassador to the United Nations. Then in 1973, Bush became the Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Positioned at such a nexus in the GOP during the immediate aftermath of Watergate, Bush was a natural choice for Vice President to his friend Gerry Ford. Fatefully, he convinced Ford not to pardon Nixon, and together they won election in 1976.


With the assassination of the Shah of Iran January 15, 1979, and the declaration of the Islamic Republic in April, the Kurdish region of northern Iran revolted with aid from the USSR.
The resulting turmoil in the Iran allowed Iraq to conduct a surprise invasion that was successful in grabbing hundreds of square miles of Iranian territory along their southern border. The suicidal fanatic Islamic Republic threw its military into the war on both fronts using human wave attacks to try to create pathways through minefields deployed by Iraq and the Kurdish forces aided by the USSR.

Iranian F-14 fighter/bombers attacked targets in Iraq leading to retaliatory strikes by the Iraqi air force, also supplied by the USSR, deep into Iran destroying petroleum refineries and pipelines used to transport their crude to the ports for export to the world market. As a result , world oil prices reached record highs, but with swift action by President Ford and VP Bush American drilling reached all new record levels and the Alaskan Pipeline, finished in 1977, rapidly increased its flow rates to help offset lost imports to the USA.

The boom in drilling across the nation off set the recession caused by the higher prices despite all predictions to the contrary by the Democratic party in the 1980 election cycle. Federal subsidies reversing the fuel tax on diesel for trucking and rail and replacing it with a $0.30/gallon federal grant artificially lowered transportation costs back down to where they had been in 1972 before the first OPEC crisis further stimulating the economy.

In addition, the US Government in 1980 made it a requirement that all future federal vehicle purchases after 1982 would be flex fuel Stirling engine vehicles. These engines were the ultimate in fuel flexibility. They could burn methanol, ethanol, propane, butane or any petrochemical liquid fuel that would flow at room temperature. With tank heaters installed, they would even burn grease, melted asphalt or old cooking oil. They also did not need leaded fuel to maintain a proper balance for an internal gasoline compression engines so they allowed for a great reduction in lead being released into the air of dense cities like Los Angeles and New York City. 


As a companion to the Stirling 'revolution' in vehicle engines encouraged by the government, there were also subsidies for pilot production of kerogen extracted from the Green River formation in Colorado and the bitumen sands in Utah much like the Canadian pilot project to do the same in Alberta with their Athabasca bitumen sands. Unlike internal combustion engines, the steam engines with suitable burners and fuel pumps installed could directly consume the recovered Kerogen and Bitumen after it was mixed with an emulsifier and distilled water without the need of it going through a petroleum refinery. This allowed the US Navy to quickly and easily modify all of its older heavy oil burning ships to burn abundant American fuel instead of imported oil and further reduced the world oil demand putting a cap on the world oil price despite the three way war taking place in Iran.


Due to term limits, Ford was ineligible to run for the White House again in the 1980 election having already served over six years. Ironically, the outcry about his compromised patriotism was muted only by his role in putting away the legacy of Nixon. The familiar face of Bush discouraged Ronald Reagan from running in the primaries, and Bush easily defeated Walter Mondale in the fall.
 
During his eight years as President George H.W. Bush constantly sought rapprochement and balance with the USSR. The President did not believe the Cold War could be won but felt it could easily be lost if a hot war were to result leading to an exchange of nuclear weapons between the USA and USSR. In the long run, this balance between appeasement and confrontation was a very difficult act, but the USSR was focused to a large extent on the Kurdish S.S.R. and defending it from the Iranian regime while encouraging oil exploitation which benefited the entire Warsaw Pact organization by holding their internal fuel prices at a manageable level.

As a result, by the time he left office in 1989, the 39th President left his successor, Democratic President Gary Hart, a world that was stable and relatively at peace. While the Cold War continued apace, the reforms of General Secretary Gorbachev had allowed back room deals to contain military spending by both the USSR/Warsaw Pact and USA/NATO alliances at sustainable levels.

The Iranian civil war concluded in 1988 more as a case of exhaustion by Iraq and Iran having spent the lives of their military aged populations profligately to move the border between them no more than a few miles either direction repeatedly. Historian regarded the Gulf War as much like World War I in that it destroyed an entire generation while accomplishing very little for the benefit of the nations themselves. The Kurdish S.S.R. remained secure as an ally of the USSR and its own version of the Iron Curtain had been built on its frontier with Islamic Republican Iran which considered the USSR the Great Satan of the modern world. Turkish and Iraqi Kurds were welcome to emigrate to the K.S.S.R. but few came, though they did receive some covert aid across the borders.

In March 1989 when Iraq invaded Kuwait and seized its oil fields, the USSR staunchly vetoed every attempt in the UN to place sanctions against them for the invasion. In return, Iraq agreed to send all of the oil extracted in its Kurdish regions to the USSR using the Kuwaiti reserves to maintain its world exports.

The USA and UK vigorously protested in the UN but neither nation was willing to start a war without the backing of the UN to evict Iraq. After a few months when world oil supplies resumed their normal patterns of flow from the Kuwaiti fields world prices dropped back into the $35/bbl-$45/bbl range where they had stabilized in 1984 as American import demand had been reduced by the increased flow from Alaska and decreased demand from the exploitation of the Colorado and Utah alternative fuels for the military. By 1985 the US Military and Warsaw Pact military combined were actually the worlds largest consumer of liquid fuels. The constant military aircraft patrols and naval ship deployments consumed far more fuel than the general public realized. If there had been a collapse of one or the other of the superpowers the resulting crash in oil demand would have put fuel prices at levels not seen in a generation.

Author's Note: in reality he joined the US Armed Forces after the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbour and the subsequent declaration of war against Germany and Japan.

Further note, in terms of economics most people associate higher oil prices with recessions but this is for the most part perception bias. A study of economic impacts of higher oil prices without the political rhetoric usually injected shows that higher prices harm some industries but this is mostly offset by the increased drilling and extraction which it encourages. IOW while a few manufacturing jobs are lost an equal or larger number of oil field jobs are created causing the economy to shift focus more than forcing it to go into recession. When a recession does take place whatever political forces are not in control at that time frequently point at the price of oil and the value of the stock market as indicators that the recession is being caused by the party then in power.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

January 15, 2013 – White House Inadvertently Spurs Secessionists


Later blaming harsh words on a bout of food poisoning, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Jon Carson addressed a series of petitions asking for an executive order to allow secession with a response that the petitioners had “no idea how the nation worked.” What was meant as an appeal to the legal system (Congress would have to grant secession, not the president) was instead taken as an admission of rigged government by the secessionists, who spun Carson’s words into a campaign that rattled and ultimately split the nation.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
The petitions arose on whitehouse.gov’s We the People online petitioning system following the 2012 elections. Those upset by Obama’s reelection joined ranks with those already disgruntled by federal government to sign petitions asking for the right to secede. The notion was ridiculous to many, citing the obvious example of the Civil War, but the petitions actually gained momentum despite not having legal status as actual requests from states themselves. By January, eight states had petitions above the required 25,000 names to affirm a response from the White House. The petition from Texas garnered signatures into the six figures.

With the secessionists dominating the news cycle in objections to the White House’s response, more and more politicians made their feelings known, such as Texas legislature Speaker of the House Joe Straus III noting, “Our economy is so vast and diverse that if Texas were its own country — and no, don’t worry, that isn’t something we’re going to do this session — but if we were, we’d be the 14th-largest economy in the world.” Texas Governor Rick Perry admitted sharing frustrations with federal government, while Tennessee governor Bill Haslam stated, “I don’t think that’s a valid option for Tennessee.”

Even though Tennessee and others refused to go forward, proposals began to materialize from five states: Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. The issue divided the Republican-dominated House of Representatives as the party would lose their control with so many departing Republican seats. Believing the bill would be killed in the Democratic Senate, however, the House passed the Independence for FGALT Bill. The plans behind closed doors were said to blame Democrats for tyranny and build momentum toward shifting control in 2014 elections. To their surprise, along with the rest of the nation, the Senate passed the bill.

Many reasons were cited for voting for IFGALT, such as many just wanting to say “good riddance” to that whole voting block, but the primary voice was economics. Other than Texas, the states were a drain on federal spending, sending more tax dollars into the states than were procured out of them. After major efforts in balancing the budget over the past four years, a single bill would create a federal budget surplus, the first since 2001. The bill passed with more than the numbers needed to override presidential veto. President Obama, who said he would have refused to sign the bill into law if fewer senators had voted for it, stated that the hard actions of the day would make a stronger union for those who remained, though he feared for his legacy.

The transition toward independence for the states was surprisingly smooth as each formed new constitutions and representatives joined NAFTA to ensure continuance of open trade. The Republic of Texas and the Republic of Louisiana maintained independence while Alabama, Georgia, and Florida joined together in a new nation: the Allied States of America. The name prompted a lawsuit from CBS Paramount as it had been used in their 2006 television series Jericho. The suit was quietly settled in the end, but it did establish precedent between the nations to serve later legal issues.

A sizeable migration followed the 2013 departures of the five states with many citizens dedicated to the ideals of independence moving into the new nations while others departed to maintain their United States citizenship. Texas grew in population while the ASA remained steady; Louisiana, however, suffered as a major economic collapse that caused people to pack up in search of work. Politics became radicalized in Louisiana with many calling for a return to the Union. The Hillary Clinton White House, which handily won the 2016 election, dispatched aid but could do little more without congressional approval. The Republic of Texas, too, refused Louisiana’s request to join as a partner state despite close ties to its oil industry.



Other secessionist movements broke out across the nation, although most went silent seeing the collapse of Louisiana, shocking legal changes in the Republic of Texas, and the ASA’s struggles to find international relations distinct from the US. South Carolina had several factions calling for independence, but they could not come to agreement on how the new nation would be governed afterward. The state of Oklahoma campaigned to break in two, with the southern and western parts planning to join the Republic of Texas while the northeast sought to maintain US ties. East Oregon did succeed in splitting away from the more liberal coast, though it did not leave the Union. Several Native American groups announced their own campaigns for independence; however, none were recognized on a large enough scale to win congressional approval.


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In reality, the White House’s Jon Carson wrote that the framers of the Constitution “enshrined in that document the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot — a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all. But they did not provide a right to walk away from it.”

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