Sunday, May 5, 2019

Guest Post: Icebreaker Begins

This article originally appear in Today in Alternate History as 5th, May 1940 - Icebreaker begins

In retrospect, the timing of Josef Stalin's first stroke during early 1936 was precipitous. Certainly, the Soviet leadership's weak handling of the Spanish Civil War was a short-term boost to the Fascist dictators. For the Western democracies, it was rather fortunate, then, that powerful new figures in Russia were exercising an iron grip of the Kremlin four years later. The real significance ultimately was the end to a cleansing of Communist Party ranks, stopping short Stalin's planned purge of the officer corps in the Red Army.

A second, far more debilitating stroke followed shortly after high representatives of the Nazi German government concluded negotiations leading Moscow on the evening of August 23, 1939. In fact, both parties had signed a dead letter even though the ink was hardly dry on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. From a strategic perspective, the neutrality of the USSR prevented Great Britain from using the dominance of the Royal Navy to impose a WW1-style embargo on the Germans. Despite the steady flow of supply from the USSR to Germany, there was never any realistic prospect of the Western Allies actually declaring war on both the Soviets and the Nazi, even though both countries had blatantly violated sovereignty of a neutral nation when they partitioned the Second Polish Republic. The opportunity for the Western Allies to strike Soviet oil-fields in Baku was passed up by Chamberlain, even though an earlier Churchill Government might well have calculated otherwise. Clearly, the Western Allies could not afford to fight both great powers.

As plainly evidenced by the articulation of his own megalomaniac vision in his prison diary Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler had every intention of invading the USSR as soon as his Western flank was secure. However, he badly miscalculated Soviet intent when he massed seventy percent of the Wehrmacht in Western Europe. The Red Army, having abandoned their defences to occupy Poland, seized the opportunity to pounce as soon as the Battle of France was underway. The so-called Operation Suvorov was actually a variation of a secret operational plan devised by Stalin to use Nazi Germany as an "icebreaker," i.e. to take control of the continent by manipulating Hitler into a wider war that he could not possibly win. The so-called "Man of Steel" would not live to see victory, because "Dr." Beria saw fit to relieve cranial his pressure with a 9mm drill.

The critical period of time for the Soviet strike was 11-12 May when German supply dumps and  100% of the Luftwaffe had been irretrievably committed to the West. Only eight divisions of German troops were deployed on the Eastern front, and none in defence of Hungary or Romania. Even though the Wehrmacht had struck decisively and the Dutch had surrendered, the British, French and Belgians were undefeated. This was the point of vulnerability when the Soviets chose to strike.

Ironically, a purge of the Red Army would have probably have made Icebreaker infeasible. In the present moment, however, with the Red Army at full strength, this was a tactical masterstroke but only time would actually tell whether Soviet logistics could sustain such a risky initiative. As the old military truism goes, "Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals talk about logistics." In all probability, the Soviets lacked the logistical capability to defeat Germany in 1940. 

Consequently, it was decided to attack on two fronts. About 400,000 Soviet troops crossed the border from occupied Poland into Germany. Meanwhile, a 100,000 strong Soviet force attacked the small Romanian army and occupied the oil-producing region of Plioesti. It was anticipated that this strategic strike would cause acute resource shortages for the Wehrmacht within six months or less. By then senior officers of the Wehrmacht had overthrown Hitler and called for a ceasefire.

Communism had won the day and post-1940 Europe was a transformed continent. The Soviets and the Axis Powers entered a Cold War Period that frequently threatened to, but never quite broke out into open conflict. All of these countries would collapse to popular democratic movements during the late 1980s. Meanwhile Britain and France had lost their global leadership and lay in the shadow of the two neighbouring super-powers, USSR and Germany. Both WW1 victor powers would de-colonise and form a Western European Community with the Low Countries as they struggled to remain relevant as the millennium approached.

Author's Note: In reality between twenty-five and fifty percent of officers were purged, which seriously weakened the operational fighting strength of the Red Army prior to the outbreak of war.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Guest Post: 15th March 1935 - Aleppo Canal opens

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

Against all expectations, the "sick old man of Europe" was re-born as the new country of Ottomanistan, a rich oil-producing Caliphate, in the two decades that followed the Empire's humiliating defeat in the Gallipoli Campaign. Inevitably, the victor powers' influence in the region sharply declined during that same period.

The reason for this reversal of fortune was the growing revenue from the kerosene trade that had rejuvenated the Caliphate's coffers. This was a welcome development because the old empire had been heavily burdened by the still unpaid debts to Western banks that dated back to the Crimean War. At last the return to Great Power status was surely marked around the world by the iconic picture of Jamal Pasha the Bloodthirsty and tribal leaders opening of the Aleppo Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Euphrates River. This shorter route offered advantages over the Anglo-French owned Suez Canal although it required a complex series of engineering works to succeed. This included dams and fresh water reservoirs in order to prevent salt water from polluting the agricultural hinterland.

The end of six centuries of empire had been widely predicted prior to the outbreak of the Great War. It was the British Admiralty that had conceived the breakthrough idea of triggering this collapse. They planned to capture the Dardanelles using outdated naval ships unfit for combat against the German fleet. This initial gambit ended in failure, but in a second attempt, the New Zealand and Australian Division and the Australian 1st Division made landfall. Of course, had the Entente Powers not switched the invasion point to Suva Bay, then Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal would be alive and Enver Pasher perhaps still in charge of the military triumvirate.

Instead, Ottoman participation in the Great War ended with the Armistice of Constantinople. The ancient Greek province of Thrace was returned to the Hellenic Kingdom, and Anatolia was formed into an independent new buffer state. Western Allied forces occupied the straits and the city of Constantinople was ceded, under existing Treaty obligations, with some reluctance, to the Tsar. This was justified because keeping Russia in the war was a strategic objective of the Western Allies. Even though Russian forces had been less than twenty miles away, this marked the historic (if arguably, undeserved) achievement of a long-term Imperial policy objective. Not only was the Russian Black Sea Fleet now engaged, but massive Anglo-French supplies and reinforcements could be sent to relieve the pressure on the Eastern Front. To support this thrust, the Royal Navy was given freedom of the straits and a port in the Aegean. Consequently, the outcome was a win-win for the Entente Powers, if not actually a war-winning game changer as originally hoped for.

Of course the departure of sixty million citizens of Turkic origin transformed demographics for Ottomanistan. Declaring a new capital in the Syrian city of Aleppo, the sixteen million remaining Ottoman citizens were predominantly Arabic, and Ottomanistan retained control of the Islamic religious centre of Medina. The new Grand Vizier would be Jamal Pasha, the former Governor of Aleppo, following Enver Pasha's resignation due to the humiliation of defeat. A confident and charismatic national leader, this proved to be the first step in the recovery of Ottoman fortunes. As world demand for petroleum increased, the country that was seen as a shadow of its former self suddenly found great wealth in its natural resources and power in competing offers of alliance with old enemies and allies in Europe.

Author's Note:

In reality the failure to secure the high ground at ANZAC Cove led to a tactical stalemate with the landings contained by the defenders in a perimeter less than 1.2 mi (2 km) long. In this scenario we have used the more favourable landing site of Suva Bay that was used later in the campaign under the hopelessly incompetent generalship of Sir Frederick Stopford. The picture shows Djemal Pasha with Iraqi tribal leaders, celebrating the completion of the al-Hindya dam on the Euphrates river near al-Hilla, south of Baghdad.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Guest Post - VJ Day Delayed

If there was irony as well as tragedy in the propaganda phrase "Loose Talk Costs Lives" then it was because the experimental physicist Luis Walter Alvarez was shocked and appalled by Truman's wildly inaccurate depiction of the bombing of Hiroshima. The president had mistakenly said that the energy of the blast was equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT, the measurement of the test bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico. Of course he might have been exaggerating simply because he had threatened the "complete and utter destruction" of Japan in his Potsdam Declaration. Alvarez, however, knew for certain that it was only 13 kilotons. This was because of the radio transmitter-based measurement device that he had parachuted out of a chaser plan flying directly behind the Enola Gay.
Even had it been blatantly ignored by the military hierarchy, the measurement would still be required for the bombing of Nagasaki even though Alvarez was not assigned to the operational mission. This proved to be a costly miscalculation because he decided to take matters into his own hands. Whether through guilt or anger, but certainly for the wrong reasons, Alvarez took the fateful decision to attach to the device a warning letter addressed to a scientific colleague called Ryokichi Sagane, a physicist working at the University of Tokyo. The letter was edited by two of Alvarez colleagues, Bob Serber and Phil Morrison.

The Japanese military recovered the letter and handed it to Sagane on August 11th. The emotional Alvarez liked to think that maybe his persuasive words would play a role in the rapidity of the Japanese surrender. If so, he was very badly mistaken because Sagane deduced from his words that the United States had exhausted its stock of enriched uranium.

The Imperial Japanese Government agreed with him but in the present moment were equally if not more concerned by the rapid advancement of Soviet forces. This fear was actually shared by the Americans who would have a third bomb (fourth if one counted the test) ready by August 18th. Due to Alvarez breaking the rules, it would be necessary to drop this device on the city of Kokura in order to end Japanese procrastination before the Soviets could make a move on Japanese territory.

As events were to transpire the shape of the post-war world had been transformed in the very moment that Sagane opened the fateful letter of warning. The Soviets learnt of this development via intercepted signal traffic. With their forces crossing the Yalu River, they decided to act upon this intelligence by declining the American request to pause the invasion of Korea at the 38th parallel.

Meanwhile, the Chinese cities of Nanking, Tientsin and Shanghai were occupied by the Red Army. The consequence of this would be that China, rather than Korea, would be partitioned along the Yangtze River following VJ Day. In the long-run this outcome might well have saved Chiang's Nationalist regime but in the present moment the Soviet expansion in the Pacific was unexpected. Indeed it seemed to many in the West that the atomic bomb had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. This proved not to be the case because Nationalist China, strongest of the Asian economic Tigers, became the bulwark of American power in the Pacific long beyond Chiang Kai-shek's death in 1975. The continuation of his rule had enabled the government of South Vietnam to weather the storm of civil war.

Author's Note: In reality, Sagane did not pass the letter until after the war, and Alvarez did not actually sign it in his name until much later in 1949.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Guest Post - Viking Gunpowder

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

25 September, 1066 - Supremacy of Vikings assured at Stamford Bridge

By the time that the incomparable Norseman Harald Hardrada was born it appeared that the age of the Vikings was drawing to a close. Their once-feared sea raiding parties were increasingly met with organised resistance and fortifications as Christianity spread and centralised authorities developed across the continent of Europe.

But their shock troops simply needed to find the right weapon in order to defeat organised troops led by a monarch. Necessity is the mother of invention, and a game-changing technology eventually arrived in the nick of time during the middle of the eleventh century. A priest of Loki had been experimenting with a flash powder effect, and his student conceived of using it for military purposes. The result would be a "grenade," an explosive weapon of gunpowder in a clay pot that could thrown by hand on a rope. The tight control exercised by the priesthood would ensure the Viking monopoly lasted for half a century.

This powerful weapon transformed the invasion of 1066, creating even more awe than the Viking destruction of the monastery on Lindesfarne. After the proud English king's boast of only giving Harald Hardrada land for a grave, he himself was buried six feet under at Stamford Bridge. Thereafter followed the Viking Conquest of Britain, including the use of grenades to defeat the invading Normans as they came ashore at Hastings. Fifty years later, Sigurd I Magnusson would carry the grenades back to Byzantium where Greek fire had been placed in stone and ceramic jars seven centuries earlier. This weapon would later be used to devastating effect in the First Crusade as Scandinavia stood at the helm of continental Europe.

Addendum by Allen W. McDonnell:

Roman Catholics had already learnt the secret of gunpowder by the time that Sigurd the Crusader entered Constantinople during 1107; however, they had to wait their chance until the arrival of the Bubonic plague. Armed with Arquebusies and light artillery, Papal forces reconquered the Viking lands in its wake. The pandemic triggered the start of a new era of enlightenment; not culturally inclined, the Viking had only accumulated knowledge about the limited subjects of nature and geography.

But the collapse of Viking authority was not to overshadow the sea-raiders' tremendous success in protecting Europe from the invasion of the Mongols. This achievement was due not only to the use of gunpowder, but the bold decision to train every man to fight the Mongols and not just the nobility.

Thus the Papal Forces were fortunate to be able to occupy a continent largely free of external invaders. From his Vatican in the city of Prague, the Pope was able to expand Roman Catholicism from Moscow to Montreal and Narvik to Sicily during the long period of expansion, 1350-1800. However, the continent of Europe entered the nineteenth century without steam technology, with engines still to be invented. Armies built and maintained a few dozen weapons each with no standardized designs. The continent stood on the edge of a new industrial revolution.

Certainly new advancement was needed by Papal Forces, for technology constraints had brought them to a pivotal moment much like their predecessors, the Vikings during the mid-eleventh century. Undefeated Islam still controlled Spain/Portugal and after taking the Byzantine Empire the border between Catholic and Islam lie in Greece. Prague's armies struggled to hold back Muslim armies from entering the Balkan states. Further east, Roman Catholic control ranged from the Ural mountains across northern Europe. But the real threat was from the Protestant reformation that was taking place across the Atlantic ocean in North America. This is where Prague's influence was greatly weakened by distance and events appeared to be moving in a totally new direction...

Author's Note: in OTL the Battle of Stamford Bridge was the end of the last major Viking incursion into Europe.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Guest Post: The Loyalist Easter Rising of 1915

This post originally appeared on Today in Alternate History.

What happens to Ireland if WW1 were delayed (or avoided)?

In a desperate attempt to prevent the full implementation of the Irish Home Rule Bill, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) occupied key buildings across the city of Belfast. 

Edward Carson's Barmy Army demanded an exclusion zone for Ulster, but their rebellion only triggered a violent crackdown by the forces of the British Empire. Despite widespread sympathy from officers in the British Army, this fierce reaction was considered justifiable because there was a whiff of Communism in the air. In fact, the Unionists had been encouraging protests from workers in Glasgow, Liverpool and London, and there was a risk of civil war. Ironically, the Home Rule bill had passed the House of Commons in 1912, but a defeat in the House of Lords placed a two-year hold until their veto timed-out. 

A federal structure was require to unify the thirty-two counties and make a single home rule territory governable. This imperative would require a separation of Church from State and a variation of the Westminster System that would empower the four provinces. Devolution brought a level of autonomy to areas of Protestant Plurality and, despite the tremendously high cost, created a new dominion within the British Empire. For Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, it was a triumph of Liberal Statesmanship, although in truth, he had been forced to accommodate the Irish Parliamentary Party as a result of the Tory gains in the 1910 General Election.

The Irish Republic would finally come into existence in 1948 as the British Government was forced to withdraw from Empire, cutting her overseas security and defence costs as a result of the bankrupting costs of the Great European War. Giving up her Empire was never going to be enough, since the Imperial markets had now been lost and, as a result, economic activity continued to rapidly decline during the next twenty-five years. 

Both Great Britain (GB) and also the Republic of Ireland (RoI) were essential forced to join the European Economic Community in an effort to gain access to the expanding market on the continent. This development eventually led to freedom of movement across the European Union (EU) which had the effect of re-integrating GB and RoI. While the Irish became enthusiastic Europeans (even moving to the common Euro currency), not so much for the British, who were still struggling with internal questions of identity. By the middle of the second decade of the twentieth century, GB held a referendum and voted to leave the EU and build a "global Britain."

This restart affected trading between GB and RoI and Dublin required significant injections of funds from the European Union in order to weather the storm. GB however was unable to ratify a withdrawal agreement and entered a "hard Brexit" on 29th March, 2019 that was the long-standing desire of many Tories. At the current time of writing, this has thrown the whole country into a cyclone of economic problems. But in the long run perhaps Tory statesmanship will demonstrate that the high initial were worth the price, much as Liberal Statesmanship claimed for Ireland over a century earlier. And surely there is a great irony in the Conservative Party resisting Home Rule and later taking Britain into Europe, only to regret both movements later on as they were correctly shown to be on the right side of history.

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.

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