Monday, April 24, 2023

Guest Post: NATO invasion of Dominica - October 1982

This post courtesy of Sea Lion Press.

The small and poor island of Dominica in the Caribbean had lunged from crisis to crisis since independence in 1978. Its initial prime minister was the incompetent and brutal Patrick John of the Dominica Labour Party, who in his first year oversaw civil service strikes, loss of banana crops due to the banana board's failure to provide antiviral sprays, and a bitter fight with a gang of Rastafari criminals known as the Dreads who grew marijuana in remote farms and raided nearby towns and plantations for food, money, and young girls they kidnapped and whose attacks on tourists had reduced tourism. John had four years earlier passed the the Prohibited and Unlawful Societies and Associations Act, better known as the Dread Act, which made it illegal to be a Rastafari, to have dreadlocks, or to support the political philosophy of the Dreads, who had openly talked about burning down Dominica's towns. More than that, anyone who was covered by this law could be arrested without cause and, if killed or injured by anyone within a dwelling, the person who assaulted them was immune from prosecution. Essentially, John had made it legal to kill anyone with Dreadlocks, despite committees he appointed to look into this confirming that the vast majority of Rastafari on the island were peaceful activists with the violent criminals being a small minority.

He had also created a full-time professional army called the Dominica Defense Force, which John was personally in charge of and which was de facto a militia of men loyal to Patrick John as a person rather than the government he represented. In May 1979, John banned public gatherings, protests, and strikes altogether, a desperate attempt to silence his critics. It didn't work. Huge crowds gathered outside the Government Headquarters, and, when the DDF came to move them on, they threw rocks at them. The DDF then opened fire, wounding several protestors and killing Phillip Timothy, a nineteen-year-old. This led to the collapse of John's government due to outrage and, at the next election, Eugenia Charles of the Freedom Party became Prime Minister.

Charles's government would not last long. In May 1981, the DDF, whose leaders were publicly suspended due to accusations of drug dealing, launched a surprise attack against the Dominican police force in an attempt to overthrow Charles's government. The police had the better of the early fight, but the DDF had unexpected reinforcements from a band of American and Canadian mercenaries led by Mike Perdue and recruited primarily from racist hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. While the mercenaries were poorly trained and suffered large casualties, with the likes of Don Black dying early, they were well armed and added extra bodies to the fight. Soon, the DDF were able to accept the surrender of Charles and her government, with them leaving the island at gunpoint to go into exile. Charles would ask for support from Ronald Reagan to overthrow the regime, support that was initially hesitant as the USA came to grips with what exactly the second John government would look like.

However, things had not gone all the way of the DDF. Their plan had also involved an alliance with the Dreads, but the Dreads had double-crossed them and, forewarned about the battle, had attacked both sides, further reducing the number of armed men available to John. Thus when the socialist firebrand Rosie Douglas retreated to the northern town of Portsmouth and declared a shadow government there, John couldn't immediately attack him. Moreover, John quickly fell out with his mercenary allies who treated him with contempt and demanded large amounts of money and for him to let them run the island as a criminal's paradise, a center for cannabis and cocaine production and trafficking, to meet the increasing demand in American cities as well as a hub of the arms trade and a gambling center where dirty money could be spent in casinos, something that John felt would lose him his allies on the island who viewed him as a tough on crime leader.

The island quickly spiraled into chaos with Perdue, Douglas, and John vying for control and the Dreads thriving in this chaos. The increase in crime also burdened John's remaining international reputation, especially when he allowed the Barbadian arms dealer Sidney Burnett-Alleyne to use the island as a depot to sell to Apartheid South Africa, which was condemned by François Mitterrand, who had Dominica surrounded by two French islands. While the Reagan administration had hoped to come to a deal with John and wanted any intervention to be against the Communist rulers of nearby Grenada, the possibility of Libyan-backed Douglas gaining control scared them enough that they soon openly supported a restoration of the rightwing Eugenia Charles. In October of 1982 NATO forces invaded the island to restore order.

Note: In real life, the plan to restore John was discovered and stopped prior to it being carried out.

Provine's Addendum

Vice President George H.W. Bush had already been hoping to expand the CIA and U.S. military in the growing international drug war, but seeing all of NATO step in promoted ideas of stronger, Western-capitalism-driven involvement. Through international anti-drug treaties, the U.S. and allies could find open doors into just about any third world country to step in militarily to crack down on drug operations. While many supporters praised successful operations, critics accused it of being a new wave of colonialism or simply a waste of taxpayer money and soldiers' lives. Efforts at home to dry up demand for drugs such as the DARE program proved largely ineffectual. By the time of the Obama administration, it was evident that a change was needed leading to the legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of harder drugs, instead focusing on addiction treatment.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Guest Post: UN adopts P5+N9+R1 formula

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Robbie A. Taylor and Thomas Wm. Hamilton.

Oct 25, 1971

The official recognition of the People's Republic of China (PRC) was accompanied by a structural change to the Security Council that was adopted without amendment to the UN Charter.

The problematic one-permanent-member veto had been a safeguard that had been designed to prevent a World War breaking out and, in a sense, was a legacy of the failed League of Nations. UN membership had quadrupled since 1945, and the rise of new nations created an appetite for change as the superpowers vied for allies. All parties broadly agreed that the current structure was outdated and required more balanced representation but geopolitical differences prevented reform. For example, Brazil becoming a permanent member of the Security Council was blocked by the Soviet Union as they felt it would just be an American proxy.

US Ambassador to the UN George H.W. Bush called for a super-majority (four-fifths of the whole 15-member Security Council) override of a single member veto, a voting mechanism granting more power to the nine non-permanent members (in the event of two or more vetoes, the super-majority would not prevail). This "weakened" voting scheme (or the alternative minimum two permanent member veto) had always been blocked by the Soviet Union. Arguably, the weakening of the Soviet veto would be less objectionable now that there would be two communist states on the Security Council. This was why Bush had chosen the expulsion of the Republic of China (ROC) as the ideal time to make his move.

This democratic initiative might well have been well received in Moscow if not for the Sino-Soviet Split. This division led Leonid Brezhnev to fear that the US was seeking to encircle the Soviets by forcing a permanent wedge between the USSR and PRC. Certainly he lacked confidence that Soviet influence would prevail over the super-majority simply because the US had a greater number of allies and client states in the Third World. Nevertheless, this was the age of détente, and Brezhnev wanted to reciprocate in some limited form. He sought to favor countries in the Soviet orbit as well as non-aligned nations such as Albania and India, boosting the prestige of the USSR by demonstrating global leadership. His counter-proposal was the creation of a sixth veto on the Security Council held by a rotating member from the General Assembly as an alternative to the American four-fifths override mechanism, not as an amendment or addition to the override, but in outright opposition to it.

Ultimately, a compromise was reached that added a rotating voting member with the right to veto under the P5+N9+R1 ("five permanent, nine non-permanent and one rotating") formula proposed by Bush, raising his profile as a global statesman. Under the existing rules, non-permanent members were elected by the General Assembly and could be involved in global security briefings. However, in practice, frequent voting disputes delayed certain ambitious nations from being elected.

Of course, none of these changes favored the ROC's government in Taipei; they merely took the bitterness out of the pill for their American allies. The ROC had used its Security Council veto only once, to stop the admission of the Mongolian People's Republic to the United Nations in 1955 on the grounds it recognized all of Mongolia as a part of China. Support from the United States and her allies Britain and France slowly weakened, most obviously in 1961 when they were persuaded to pressure the ROC government to accept international recognition of Mongolia's independence. Thereafter, Albania brought annual votes to replace the ROC with the PRC. With this part of the Cold War struggle clearly lost, the ROC was formally expelled from the UN by a vote of the General Assembly. Repeated attempts to rejoin would continue long after Chiang's death four years later.

To reduce the consequential damage to relations with the US, Brezhnev made a magnificent gesture of goodwill, suggesting that Brazil was invited to serve as the inaugural rotational member. A rotation scheme was then developed that saw any member of the General Assembly join for a month, in tandem with the change of Presidency. This mechanism would see Israel, Cuba, South Africa, Iran, Albania, and many other ambitious nations participate in contentious debates during the dramatic years leading up to Bush's election as President in 1980.

Author's Note

In reality, just the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, Albania's motion to recognize the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations, was passed.

Provine's Addendum

There were soon tests of the system with overrides of vetoes such as the UK in Dec 1971 and Feb '72 over Rhodesia, China in '72 over entry of Bangladesh, and the USA over Israeli occupation in '73. The USA was soon seen as the loser in Bush's gambit as more UN involvement was seen in Vietnam, Africa, and the Middle East. However, Bush held that it was fear of UN action that persuaded the USSR to refrain from unilateral action in Afghanistan, which would later be divided into North and South by UN resolution. The UN gradually came to be seen as a protector in the post-colonial world with votes overriding neo-colonial efforts between the USA and USSR, especially in the division of spheres of influence in the Middle East. Analysts sometimes suggest that there could have been warfare beyond the UN-led removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq leading to the independence of Kurdistan.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Guest Post: Dunkirk Halt Order Countermanded

This post originally appeared on Today in Alternate History.

24 May, 1940

With the Wehrmacht in complete mastery of the Western Front, Colonel-Generals Gerd von Rundstedt and Günther von Kluge recommended a three-day pause outside the Dunkirk pocket. Approximately four hundred thousand troops comprising the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French 1st Army were bottled up in this corridor to the sea. A flooded fenland with partial fighter cover from Kent and extra artillery support from the Royal Navy, British Commander Lord Gort fully intended to make a desperate last stand here. There was a compelling argument for avoiding such a costly struggle, taking Paris and forcing a French surrender. From a purely military perspective, the Colonel-Generals' justification was perfectly sound: the terrain was unsuitable for armour, the troops were exhausted, and their vehicles and equipment urgently needed maintenance.

Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering concurred with their reasoning, but he had his own secret agenda: a vainglorious victory for his air force made possible because the RAF had largely been withdrawn for the defense of the home islands. He asked for the chance to destroy the forces in Dunkirk. Hitler actually wanted "to help the British," avoiding a Battle of Britain altogether by signing a peace deal. This would allow the Heer to prepare for the forthcoming invasion of the Soviet Union, which Hitler considered to be the main prize.

In these command circles, it seemed almost certain that a consensus would be reached. But these specious arguments were swept aside by Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, who managed to convince Hitler that the best bargaining chip was a defeated and captured BEF. He won the argument, stating that the scale of British losses in the Battle of France demonstrated steely determination to fight on afterwards. He believed that the British required a "brutal beating," a final moment of violent closure to convince them that they were as roundly defeated as their fellow Allied nations.

Having studied the advanced plans for Operation Sealion, Brauchitsch had anticipated a reverse invasion, an evacuation attempt of the scale actually being considered for Operation Dynamo. The fruit of his labour was Hitler's proceed order for Army Group B of the Germany Wehrmacht's permission to assault Dunkirk. With the BEF and French surrounded, and the Belgians gone, the Battle of Dunkirk ended swiftly. In the biggest military disaster since Yorktown, the British lost three hundred thousand men trapped in France.

The scale of Churchill's folly now became abundantly clear. His main critic in the cabinet Lord Halifax was way ahead of Brauchitsch, having issued a defeatist warning about "fighting to the end after Europe was lost," which proved to be prescient. The coalition government in office less than three weeks fell to a vote of non-confidence; Halifax took office as Prime Minister promising to end the war through negotiation.

However, von Rundstedt and von Kluge's fears of overextension were also proven right. In his post-war diary, Halder would note "[Hitler] was constantly oppressed by a feeling of anxiety that a reversal loomed..." He dismissed Brauchitsch abject with the new fear that the Soviet Union would take advantage of the severely weakened state of the Wehrmacht. In fact, Stalin had already prepared Operation Icebreaker, his maniacal plan for the conquest of Western Europe.

Author's Note:

In reality, Churchill hailed their rescue as a "miracle of deliverance". While more than 330,000 Allied troops were rescued, the British and French sustained heavy casualties and were forced to abandon nearly all their equipment; around 16,000 French and 1,000 British soldiers died during the evacuation.

Provine's Addendum

Though the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that had divided Poland between Germany and the USSR promoted non-aggression, its defined spheres of influence in the Baltic states proved to be hardly realistic. Lithuania was a particular question as Germany wanted to hold it as a frontier for the historic East Prussia region. Finland, too, became a quasi-battleground as Germans supported Finnish independence against Soviet incursion, especially after Finland proved itself by holding off Soviet attack for two months in the Winter War of '39-40. It was only a matter of time, international commentators thought, that one side invaded the other, especially after Stalin began to restrict raw material exports to Germany in August 1940. In September 1940 when Germany joined with Italy and the Soviets' eastern nemesis Japan in the Tripartite Pact, the fate of war was sealed. Molotov and Ribbentrop met again in October and November of 1940, and the message was clear: the USSR must join Hitler's Axis or face a two-front war. Stalin, refusing Hitler's offer to shift Soviet influence southward to Iran and even India instead of a warm-water Baltic port, chose war. Soviet troops moved into Bulgaria, and Hitler ordered his armies westward. Japan followed suit with a surprise attack on Vladivostok before marching back into Mongolia, where they had been ousted in 1939.

Meanwhile, the United States stood by, enjoying an economic surge by supplying both countries as a neutral party, though the bulk of the material did sell to German interests. The UK also remained neutral and more nervous, wondering what would become of its empire when the giants wore themselves out fighting in Asia and the winner began to look abroad.

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