Tuesday, December 6, 2011

January 17, 1961 – Eisenhower Confirms Restrictions of a Military-Industrial Complex

During his "Farewell Address," President and former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, as well as first Supreme Commander of NATO, Dwight D. Eisenhower confirmed that his administration had done its part in limiting what he called the "military-industrial complex."

In the 1950s, the United States was in the midst of an ongoing arms-race with the Soviet Union that had continued to maintain unprecedented levels of troop mobilization despite the end of the Second World War. Fear of the spread of Communism fueled government contracts for new and better technology, giving birth to supersonic jet engines and even an artificial satellite in orbit of the Earth. However, during his administration, Eisenhower became concerned over the amount of public funds and interest tied into simply maintaining readiness for a war against Communists who, in Russia, were under collective leadership since the death of Stalin in 1953 and, in China, suffered under accidental famine from ill-planned agricultural Five-Year Plans. The Korean War had shown that conventional warfare mixed with modern politics to create a stalemate, and Eisenhower decided to keep the stalemate overt with America's readied nuclear arsenal capable of Mutually-Assured Destruction.

Citing examples from the 1956 work by sociologist C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, Eisenhower's new policy turned to limiting the abilities of lobbyists in "The Higher Circles" who had direct influence and adding new levels of visibility to policy-creation as well as methods of direct review and polling upon budgetary issues. Numerous figures said that the policy was watering-down the leadership of America in tough times as Khruschev seized power in the USSR, but those such as Senator Robert Taft loudly questioned the ethics of those he considered fearmongers and warhawks. The FBI gained a new office investigating potential illicit lobbying, and numerous contracts between the government and large businesses were allowed to run out. The military gradually began to downscale, and research was limited to grants to universities only with direct proof of public benefit. Proposals, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which would largely guide civilian space efforts, were kept to what was pertinent given the defense of the United States.

In Eisenhower's last speech, he commented on having cleaned house in Washington and limited the possibility of special interests to dominate Congress under the table. Many believed that if anyone but the highest-ranking general in American history to become president since Washington had tried to decrease military-industrial spending, it would have blown up in his face. Ike's successor, John F. Kennedy, continued the regulation of Washington spending, preferring to use politics rather than numbers to maintain diplomacy. The standoff in the Cuban Missile Crisis proved that MAD was enough to limit Soviet threats to the United States. Some called for a Space Race after the Russians had put Sputnik into orbit as part of the festivities of the International Geophysical Year, but Kennedy noted that American missions to space would be the realm of private enterprise, much like the settling of the West.

As the twentieth century continued, the Domino Theory proved true with Soviet and Chinese power extending through Central and Southeast Asia, respectively. However, within a generation, the USSR had overextend itself with uprisings in Iran and Afghanistan as well as in old Eastern European trouble spots of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Local resistance drained the authority of Moscow, which would collapse in the late 1980s, while China transformed itself with experimental limited capitalism and made acquaintance with the United States during the Nixon era.

By the end of the twentieth century, the world had changed drastically to what many considered a Pax Americana. There were certainly threats, primarily through terrorism, but international policing agencies as well as FBI were tasked with finding and capturing the nation's enemies. Meanwhile, everyday Americans continued improved lives as private funding took up where public funding had left off. As of the year 2000, radio systems are able to incorporate “mobile” phones as long as they were tied to a power source, such as a car. Personal computers have come into many homes, and many technologists predict a network of integration (or “Internet”) in the coming decades, though the investment required would be staggering. Meanwhile, rocket-launching companies have established a number of satellites in orbit to study weather and relay communications, while others hope for a manned mission to the Moon, although it would need to prove to be economically viable.

In reality, Eisenhower only warned America to be on "guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." His "Farewell Address" made note of the changing America in the heightened time of the Cold War, but America continued its investment in industry, devising new defense technology that would trickle down into public use with items like cell phones, GPS systems, and the Internet.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

January 15, 1919 – Spartacist Uprising Overthrows Weimar Republic

After a humiliating outcry condemning the use of paramilitary soldiers, President Friedrich Ebert was forced to step down and the united workers of Germany created a new, socialist government. It was another phase in what would be a tumultuous decade for what had been the proud and powerful German Empire.

Following the defeat of Russia in 1917, the Kaiser and his generals had great hope for the winter campaigns. The people of Germany had suffered through the Turnip Winter of 1916-17, eating vegetables usually fit only for livestock. It seemed the chance to turn the war around as hundreds of thousands of troops came home from the eastern front and were re-trained with new “storm-trooper” tactics that were designed to break the trench-warfare stalemate before the American soldiers arrived. Unfortunately, the strategy failed in 1918, and Americans began pouring onto the battlefield at a rate of ten thousand a day. Amid the depressed morale of the people and soldiers, orders went out to launch the fleet for a final fight with the Royal Navy, and the sailors refused. The October mutiny spread into outright revolution, and the Kaiser abdicated along with the rest of Germany royalty, which handed control of the state over to the Social Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the Independent Social Democratic Party (USDP) broke away from the SDP with stronger demands for worker’s rights and an overall socialist state. It was joined by the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) led by the “Spartacist” Karl Liebknecht, newly released from prison, and Rosa Luxemburg, whose ideals would form many of the economic policies of the party. The last chancellor of the Empire, Friedrich Ebert, held his power through popularity with the SDP and was elected president in the carefully timed elections in late 1918. For a time, the USDP worked in an uneasy alliance with the SDP, both wary of the Freikorps, a name dating back to voluntary guerilla soldiers against Napoleon and now meaning paramilitary groups made primarily of retiring soldiers who held very right-wing ideals.

When Ebert fired the Chief of Police for Berlin for not using force against strikers during the Christmas troubles, KPD and USDP began a new revolution, forming a “Revolution Committee” on January 5, 1919, that called for a general strike to show support. More than 500,000 workers in Berlin flooded the streets, and the city shut down. After the initial success, however, the Committee began to falter. No one was able to agree on whether to negotiate with Ebert or began an armed revolt to topple him. Liebknecht and other KPD members worked to gain the support of the Volksmarine who had initially begun revolution the October before as well as the army regiments. Most of the soldiers, however, had either given up their posts or sworn loyalties to the present government.

Seeing the failure to bring real soldiers onto their side and the meager arms taken up by the workers that would have been soundly defeated if Ebert’s government cracked down, a new plan was determined. Just as the KPD and USDP were about to break their Committee on January 8, a flyer was discovered telling that Ebert had made a call for the Freikorps to “take revenge” on the leftists that had lost the war for them. Outrage was shared among the leaders, and Luxemburg suggested the outrage could be spread to the rest of the country. Using expert propaganda as had been perfected over the course of the Great War, the workers were persuaded to put away their weapons and Ebert was portrayed as a backstabber who called up brutes while promising to meet for deliberations (an image of the French turning away the 1916 German offer of armistice just before the bloody Battle of Verdun). When the Freikorps attacked on January 12, the workers refused to fight back and were easily defeated. However, as propaganda of the atrocities by the paramilitary flooded the country, outrage turned public support to the socialists. Freikorps members were pelted with clods of earth in the streets, symbolizing their loss of ground during the fighting, and Ebert was blamed for the deaths of over 100 workers as the strike continued.

Under public pressure, Ebert and his government left Berlin and new elections were held. The united USDP and KPD won overwhelmingly, and their representatives attended the Treaty of Versailles that summer. The resulting treaty would be viewed with great suspicion by the Americans, whose Senate soundly rejected it, and the Germans took it as a solid display that the communists had sold out their country. The Allied blockade had stood for months after the armistice, and more Germans than ever had died of malnutrition, which was also blamed on the communists. While France rested on its laurels, Americans fearful of the expansion of communism called for occupation of Germany to settle the matter there as only a Red Scare could overcome the sense of non-interventionism.

When the Socialist government collapsed in March of 1920 in yet another wave of revolution under Kapp and Lüttwitz, a coalition army marched into Germany aiding the institutions established by and the return of a limited monarchy under Wilhelm III (who famously declared the War “the most stupid, senseless and unnecessary war of modern times” as Crown Prince). The international soldiers were begrudgingly hosted as they kept the peace and supported the flow of aid, particularly money under the Dawes Plan of 1921, which not only stymied potential hyperinflation with capital investment but also tied together the two nations’ economies and political theories. After the Great Crash, the monarchy and its vibrant Chancellor Adolph Hitler were blamed for mismanagement, and Germany fell into a civil war that would later return the Republic.


In reality, there was no plan to oust Ebert peacefully. The workers attempted to fight the Freikorps only briefly before surrender. In 1920, Ebert would use the workers’ general strike to thwart the Kapp Putsch, and the Weimar Republic would continue through foreign aid until the Great Depression brought on hopes of genuine prosperity through fascism.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

January 14, 1858 – Napoleon III Assassinated in Bombing

In an organized attack by Italian independence radicals led by Felice Orsini, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, nephew of the famous Napoleon I and reigning emperor of France since 1852, was killed in a firestorm of bombs. The emperor and his consort, Eugénie de Montijo, were on their way to the opera when Orsini and his fellow assassins hurled bombs that exploded on impact, following a design created by Orsini the year before. The first two bombs struck at the front of their carriage, the second wounding animals and breaking the protective glass, while the third and final landed inside the carriage itself. A policeman was the first to reach the wreckage and cried out, "l'Empereur est mort!"

It was a tragic end to what had seemed an epic life. Louis-Napoléon was born in 1808 as the third son of Napoleon's brother Louis, puppet-ruler of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Holland. After the fall of the French Empire, Louis-Napoléon grew up in Switzerland comfortably while his cousin Napoleon II was held under royal trappings under the Austrian court. Following the deaths of Napoleon II and the earlier generation, Louis-Napoléon became the head of the Bonapartist movement and dedicated his life to reestablishing the glory days under Napoleon I. In 1836, he attempted to begin a coup at Strasbourg much like the Hundred Days, but, rather than join him, the garrison arrested him and sent him back into exile. Another failed coup came in 1840, and Louis-Napoléon was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment in the fortress at Ham.

There, Louis-Napoléon began formulating his ideals of the liberal emperor. He wrote L'extinction du paupérisme, defining Bonapartism as autocracy for the good of the masses and outlining economic policies bordering on socialism. Following six years of imprisonment, he escaped after trading clothes with a mason and came to England, where he remained until the Revolutions of 1848 toppled King Louis-Philippe and established a new republic. Louis-Napoléon returned to Paris after the June Days uprising proved the reforming efforts of the Republic were ineffective, and he won the new presidential election with more than 75% of the total vote. He was wildly popular, "all things to all men" with progressive economic policies for the poor, being dubbed "least bad" by the Monarchists, and holding the historic Napoleon name. His term proved beneficial, but problems began as Louis-Napoléon requested an amendment to the 1848 Constitution so that he might run again after his term ended in 1852. The National Assembly refused and instead amended voting laws with a three-year residency requirement, which would cut out many traveling workers of the lower class who would have voted for him. Calling for maintenance of universal male suffrage, Louis-Napoléon secured the support of the army and at last had his successful coup in 1851.

Now ruler of the Second French Empire, Napoleon III worked to create anew what his uncle once held. A new constitution kept universal male suffrage and the Parliament, but all real power lay with Louis-Napoléon. He exiled political rivals to Devil's Island and other penal colonies and married the Spanish Eugénie de Montijo (after being turned down by higher nobles from the houses of Sweden and Britain) to produce his heir, Louis Napoléon the Prince Impérial, born in 1856. Louis-Napoléon also worked to overcome the colonial restrictions placed on France by aiding European powers in the Crimean War (using Russia as an excuse for the return of French influence) and the Anglo-Persian War. More notably, he also gave influence in the militaristic attempts at Italian unification, such as his providing troops to restore Pope Pius IX and defeat the short-lived Roman Republic of Garibaldi and Mazzini in 1849.

This action had caused an uproar in France (which had been calmed by Louis-Napoléon's popularity), but it had also instilled in the minds of Orsini and others that Louis-Napoléon was a stumbling block to an Italian nation, leading to his assassination. The assassins were caught and executed with Orsini notably going to the guillotine quietly and with a sense of satisfaction. Meanwhile, France became a political vacuum as Napoleon IV was only two years old. Bids for an advisor turned into factionalism, and power gradually fell back to the Parliament, making the young emperor a figurehead. Anti-Italian sentiment led to the French assistance of the Austrians (a large reversal from the old Napoleonic enemy) in the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859, which formed the alliance that narrowly defeated the Prussians in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, giving Emperor Franz Josef political clout to build his Southern German Confederation opposing Prussia and its northern German allies.

Prussia would eventually have its victory in the Great War (spawned from another assassination in 1914 of Austria's archduke) when it joined with Russia and Britain against France, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, leading to the dissolution of the latter two and the formation of South Germany and, finally, an independent unified Italy. With its humiliating defeat, France gave up its empire as the aging Napoleon V abdicated. The new republic lasted only briefly before the fascist Third French Empire arose in the 1930s. The resulting imperialism with its Japanese allies would be opposed by a congress of nations, including the century-old Republic of Mexico and the liberated Vietnamese who suffered under years of Japanese colonialism before becoming a republic under American encouragement.


In reality, the third bomb landed underneath the carriage, injuring the police officer but leaving the imperial couple unscathed. Napoleon III survived to put into action many of his foreign policies including military intervention in Mexico, the conquest of Indochina, and aiding Sardinia in victory over Austria and the unification of Italy. In 1870, he would go to war against Prussia after being pressured by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and the resulting loss would give way to the German Empire while the French collapsed. Napoleon III died from complications in surgery in 1873 while in exile in England.

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