We are all Uyghurs

We are all Uyghur too

(Photo credit: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr565)

Je Suis Charlie? United We Stand, #BostonStrong, even, BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo. We Americans are a sympathetic, but sometimes selectively sympathetic people. To me, the most common limitations to our sympathy are limitations to our identity formation, limited education, and the reality of power dynamics domestically and internationally.

Limitations to Identify Construction

          It’s my opinion that if we look at what I call the Big 5 in Identity Construction -Race, Ethnicity, Nationality, Religion, and Gender- the more closely we identify with the dominant demographic group, the less likely we are to understand or sympathize with the non-dominant groups. Or, to put it another way: Uyghurs (also spelled Uighur, Uigur, and Uygur) are a stateless, Central Asian ethnic group who practice Islam. Since most Americans are not Central Asian, nor Muslim, and have never met a Uighar then it is harder to notice or sympathize with their plight; it is far easier to ignore.

Limited Education

It is harder to notice because, after all, who’s going to tell us? Our education system favors American history -which is understandable up to a point, but I personally studied US History in 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th, and 12th grades. And that doesn’t include state history in 4th grade that certainly overlapped with US History. And when our social studies classes do study other nations and nation-states, it does so with a Western European bias. After all, not only are most Americans of Western European descent, but Western Europe has been the dominant part of the world for centuries prior to American hegemony and has influenced American culture far more than, well, Central Asia for example.

So, if not our education system, what about the news? We have print news, radio news, TV news… surely, we’d hear about a looming genocide in our news, right? No, of course not. The 24-hour news culture is obsessed with the Swamp Soap Opera in Washington, DC, business news and imagined wealth from Wall Street, NY and LA pop culture… more seriously, there are stories of #MeToo, #LivesMatter, #NFLKneelers, crime, school shootings, and stories of local interest that eat up our attention span and clog our access to news outside of America, let alone news about a small stateless group of people in the middle of Central Asian.

Power Dynamics

          Really, its an issue of Power Dynamics. Textbooks, for example, are an expression of political and economic power. How else would you explain pages after pages about the Texas Republic, when Texas was not part of the US, in a US History textbook? Do we have pages after pages on the Hawaiian Kingdom? Pages after pages on the Shay and Whiskey Rebellions in the populous states of MA and PA, but rarely even a mention of Dorr’s Rebellion in the littlest state in the Union, Rhode Island? While most Americans are of Western European descent, Americans are certainly aware of India and China, as there are 1 billion people in each country and the US does considerable business with both countries. Heck, both countries have the nuke too, right? The Uyghurs have no worldly significant population (15 million), no nuke and, heck, don’t even have a nation-state…

You’re Forgiven

          So, if you’re still in school, you can be forgiven; if you’re an average guy like Joe the Plummer or Rosie Riveter, you can be forgiven for not knowing about the Uyghurs detention and incarceration. After all, the corporate media chooses what news to cover, right? But if you’re a teacher, perhaps you can help change the paradigm of neotribalistic news coverage, if you’re involved in your religious community or a church leader, perhaps you can speak up and speak out. If you’re a politician in Washington, perhaps, just perhaps, you could live up to the ideals of this country. This country which proudly remembers ending the Second World War and stopping German Nazism… and has done little to stop every genocide since. On February 19, 2005, I wrote this in the Providence Journal:

“During its commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps, those present chanted, “Never again.” Yet since 1945 the world has ignored, or been extremely slow to deal with, the genocides of Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Milosevic’s Yugoslavia, Rwanda-Burundi, and, today, Darfur.
 
How can someone say, “Never again,” and then fail to stop the slaughter of innocent people being killed simply because of their ethnicity and/or religion?”

And not much has changed since. The Darfur Genocide, the Yazidi Genocide, the Second Assyrian Genocide, the Rohingya Genocide, and now the beginnings of a Uighar Genocide. If you’re a member of Congress who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations or House Foreign Affairs Committee, how dare you deposit your paycheck, how dare you run for re-election?

Because Uyghurs look differently than you, pray differently than you, it’s not an issue to bring to the attention of American people?

We have a subcommittee that is literally called the Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Terrorism led by Republican Jim Risch of Idaho and Democrat Tim Kaine of VA. Where are our Senators on the Uyghurs internment camps? The House Foreign Affairs Committee is led by Republican Ed Royce (CA-39) and Elliot Engle (NY—16). The Committee has a subcommittee named Asia and the Pacific led by Republican Ted Yoho (FL-3) and Brad Sherman (CA-30)… And where are they on this crisis; where are our Representatives on the Uyghurs internment camps?

Even more specifically: If you’re Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who introduced the Save Christians from Genocide Act, or Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) who introduced the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief Accountability Act for the Christian Genocide… then you are hypocrites and grandstanders, not leaders. And what Americans need are leaders in Congress, leaders in the State Department, leaders in the White House who stand up for the stateless people of the world, stand up for human rights, and stand up for the Uyghurs people.

Uighars, Uyghurs or Uygurs

The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group in Central Asia. Ironically, most Uyghurs live in a section of China called the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. Like many populations of Central Eurasia, they are genetically related to both Caucasoid and East Asian populations. There are about 15 million Uyghurs in China, 80% of whom live in the Tarim Basin of Xinjiang. In fact, the Uyghurs city of Ürümqi is the largest city in western China as well as all of Central Asia, 3.5 million people.

Outside of China, according to the World Uyghur Congress, the Uyghur population is believed to number 1.0–1.6 million; which may be part of the reason that the world is ignoring the Uighars. The main diasporic community of Uyghurs are in Kazakhstan (200,000), with much, much smaller communities in Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and in Turkey. The largest Uyghurs population in the West is believed to be in Australia and number about 10,000. Canada has about 2000 Uighars. Uyghurs are a small stateless ethnic group, with few allies on the World Stage. Uyghurs are also predominantly Muslim, eliciting little sympathy from the Western Christian world. Look at the Darfur Muslims and Rohingya Muslims. In fact, the only Muslim genocide that the West (albeit belatedly) stopped was the Bosnia Genocide, perhaps because they were European Caucasians? Apparently “Never Again” meant, never again if you’re Jewish or European?

According to a 2018 report by The Economist, Uyghurs in Xinjiang suffer under a “fully-fledged police state” with extensive controls and restrictions upon their religious, cultural and social life. Chinese officials refer to Uyghurs as terrorists, justify their repression as anti-terrorism surveillance. And, to be fair, there have been Uighar successionist movements, and acts of violence against the Chinese government apparatus in Xinjiang. Laying aside the “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” argument; do the actions of some members of a population justify the repression of an entire people? Are all Italians in the Mafia, all Germans are Nazis, all Irishmen are in the IRA, and -of course- all Mexicans are drug-dealers, murderers, and rapists. When, oh when, are we as Americans and as human beings going to break out of this tribal mentality? When are we going to protect the rights of those who don’t look like us, as much as we defend and demand rights for those who do look like us?

Because, what? The Uyghurs terrorists? Uyghurs extremism? Well, in the Xinjiang Autonomous Uyghur Province of the People’s Republic of China, “Religious extremism” is defined as owning books about Uyghurs or quitting smoking or drinking. Government cameras have been installed in the homes of private citizens. Between 120,000 and one million Uyghurs are detained in mass detention camps, termed “re-education camps,” aimed at changing the political thinking of detainees, their identities, and their religious beliefs. Some of these facilities keep prisoners detained around the clock, while others release their inmates at night to return home. The New York Times has reported inmates are required to “sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write ‘self-criticism’ essays,” and that prisoners are also subjected to physical and verbal abuse by prison guards. The families of inmates are monitored, and women have been detained due to actions by their sons or husbands…

A student of mine asked me this week, I just finished listening to your podcast about the [first] Uyghurs, but I still don’t think I know who they are… I’ll tell you, they are just like you and me. They are parents and children, they are husbands and wives, they are farmers and businessmen, they pray and they go to school.

First, the PROC came for Chang Ki-Shek and the Nationalists,
And the US did nothing because it was busy in Europe and Korea;

Then the PROC came for the Tibetans,
And the US did nothing because there are few Buddhists and fewer Tibetan-Americans;

Then the PROC came for the Uyghurs,
And the US does nothing because there are few Muslims and fewer Uyghurs-Americans;

And then the PROC may drive your company out of business through corporate technology theft, low labor costs, and currency manipulation….

And you think we should care about you and your job?

Native Americans who were here already and the descendants of enslaved West Africans know a lot about persecution. But so do those who chose to immigrate to the United States. We are a nation of castoffs, of people persecuted and looking for a better world. If we can say Never Again about the Holocaust, we can say no to Uyghur concentration camps too. If, in the face of Sovietization, our president said Eich bin ein Berliner, then today in the face of Hanification, our leaders can say “We are all Uighars too!”

Je Suis Urumqi!

Uighars and other Stateless Peoples

(Photo Credit: Public Domain file shared by QuartierLatin1968.)

A Return to Civility, Part II

In our last podcast, I spoke about the history of recent Supreme Court confirmation proceedings. But why? With so much animosity in the news, why just point out the problems in the nomination, confirmation, and SCOTUS decision-making processes?

To think, there are so many other issues facing our Federal government. Debt-ceiling gamesmanship, deficit-spending, questionable tax policy, exploding entitlement budgets, delusionally bloated Pentagon-spending, ACA, insurance premium-gouging, prescription price-gouging, questions about social media censorship and regulation, environmental regulation and climate change, election interference from overseas, immigration policy,  NAFTA, NATO, ICC, WTO, TransPacific Partnership, human rights… and on, and on…

So why obsess about the deterioration of the Supreme Court confirmation process? Well, because its symptomatic of what I see as the reductionist, myopic, and selfishness that has, while it has always been there, has now completely overtaken the American corporate and political landscape. Identity politics has replaced political debate; Political disagreement is now seen as evidence of a moral or patriotic flaw in those with which we disagree. The neo-tribalistic perceptions of political ideology have become the norm, and compromise is a now bad word. There are fewer and fewer true leaders left in elected government. Common purpose and Noblesse oblige have been subsumed by personal and partisan Machiavellianism. Relativism is now the dominant moral philosophy of Congress and the White House.

But, maybe that’s just me. It seems, to me, that the lack of political courage domestically and internationally has brought us closer to the edge – the point of no return in terms of climate change, the edge of losing the stability of international NGO regimes that were developed in the ashes of the Second World War, instead of recognizing our collective human destiny, the national and international actors seem to desire a return to the competition for international resources and hegemony that brought us colonization, jingoism, racism, two world wars, and near use of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

To use psychological terminology, both internationally and domestically, we are regressing, not maturing. We’re playing Hungry Hungry Hippo and zero-sum games, as opposed to incorporating game theory and win-win into our mindsets and guiding principles. We need a long game, not a putting game; as the Iroquois often said in deliberations, we need to think about the Seventh Generation, not our personal checkbooks and neotribalistic aspirations.

Because, what the world needs, if American leadership. Yes, for decades, there has been a robust debate between those who support unilateral American leadership and those who believe in multilateral world leadership with a strong, active, and an engaged American presence in the world stage. What the world has now, is an international power vacuum.

Today, as we speak, there is a genocide against the Rohingya in Burma… and the Burmese say, what happened to the Native Americans, don’t you still keep them on reservations even today?

Saudi and other US allies bomb Yemenese civilians with US-made bombs, and whisper that it’s their Vietnam, their Nicaragua after all, right?

Russia commits assassinations and attempted assassinations of dissidents in the UK, and says, hey, the US did it too in 1953 Iran, 1954 Guatemala, 1963 South Vietnam, and 1973 Chile.

Russia annexes Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, and intimidates its neighbors… and sends social media bots to exacerbate divisions between Americans; all the while, the President of the United States says he respects Putin and believes the Head of State of a foreign power, over his own government’s non-partisan intelligence community.

Of course, it is not just Putin that Mr. Trump admires, he has also expressed his admiration for Duarte of the Philippines, Kim of North Korea, and Xi of China.

Yes, China, where the decades-long Hannification of Tibet is essentially complete, during which the US let China into the WTO and facilitated the transfer of technology through not just corporate espionage but nation-state espionage against US corporations… then the US became dependent on borrowing money from the very people who have stolen US technology, and even imprisoned the Panchen Lama. Would the US react so banally if the Vatican Secretary of State were kidnapped, or the heir to the Chief Rabbi of Israel?

Which brings us to this week. This week news broke that there are nearly a million Uighurs interred in concentration camps in the People’s Republic of China. Once again, the US hems and haws. Officials toss the word ‘sanctions’ out again like a panacea, whereas it is more like a placebo.

After all, China has weathered the steel sanctions well enough, while American soybean farmers suffer and Harley-Davidson has announced it is moving some production to Europe. Not overseas where its cheaper as the jingoistic narrative goes, but to the land of socialism, free university, and free healthcare… Europe.

So, how does the US tell China to stop the internment of Uighurs. The US still imprisons foreigners in GITMO without Due Process and separates asylum-seeking families at the US border. And just this week, as news of the Uigher re-education camps broke, leader of the United States has denied the death of thousands of Puerto Ricans…

And our response, as Americans and human beings, our response has been to double-down into neotribalism and identity politics. The problems facing the world are not the fault of one man, but it has been exasperated by him.

Trumpism needs to be rejected and filed away in history with fascism, Stalinism, McCarthyism, South American Caudillos, and rulers from across the globe including the Middle East and Africa who use cult-of-personality strongman tactics. I hear conservative voices cry out against the increasingly violent Left, the so-called AntiFa; but many of the same voices have been silent about the violent Right… from the the continuous presence of the KKK in America, the institutional racism of Southern law enforcement that attacked Civil Rights protesters, right up to the militia movement, the Sovereign Citizen movement, Ammon and Randy Bundy, etc.

Violent rhetoric and political violence from all sides of the political spectrum must be stopped. Instead of complaining about political violence and violence rhetoric from our ideological opposites, we all need to remove the log from our own eyes and ideologies before pointing out the splinter in others’ eyes and ideologies.

Democratic politicians who play the same games of manipulative populism and fearmongering need to be voted out; we used to talk about who we are, not who we’re not. We used to promote vision, not vitriol. Yes, its hard to be the minority party, but it doesn’t mean you have to lower your standards to the lowest forms of politics. It is also hard to be the party in power, to govern not gripe. The traditional Republicans need to regain their moral standards. Since 2010, traditional Republicans have thought they could use the Tea Party movement, only to become controlled by them… don’t believe me? Just as Speaker John Boehner. Ask Jeb Bush. The Republican leaders who have tolerated Trump in exchange for tax cuts and Supreme Court seats need to go. We need new leadership in both parties. We need national unity, not national dysfunction. The New Jerusalem is shrinking from its promise as the beacon on the hill for the world to look up to, no, America has become dystopian, not Utopian.

It’s possible. Rhode Island, long one of the most nepotistic judiciaries, implemented reforms that have ushered in candidates of qualification, not political affiliation. A return to a supermajority for Supreme Court nominations. An end to the gerrymandered districting in the House of Representatives. Bi-partisan co-sponsorship for legislation. Guaranteed up/down votes on bills offered by the minority party. Depoliticalization of the debt ceiling. Ending dark money. Rebuilding partnership with historic allies, and maybe taking a break from questionable new allies. A commitment by politicians, especially presidents, that recognizes treaties are -according to Article VI of the US Constitution- the supreme law of the land and cannot be withdrawn from, but need to be renegotiated or unratified legislatively at the 2/3 threshold in the Constitution.

We can meaningfully address the myriad of issues facing our Federal government. Debt-ceiling gamesmanship, deficit-spending, questionable tax policy, exploding entitlement budgets, delusionally bloated Pentagon-spending, ACA, insurance premium-gouging, prescription price-gouging, questions about social media censorship and regulation, environmental regulation and climate change, election interference from overseas, immigration policy,  NAFTA, NATO, ICC, WTO, TransPacific Partnership, human rights… and on, and on… We can do it if we collaborate and compromise with a win-win mentality, not the reductionist neotribal mindset that has become the norm in recent years.

It’s possible. And, even if it wasn’t, are we willing to live in the tit-for-tat Banana Republic as we’ve become, or do we want the new America to be like the old America: imperfect, but searching to be a more perfect union.

PHOTO CREDIT (Public Domain):  https://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/american_originals_iv/images/jfk_inaugural_address/inauguration.html
Photographer/Painter: Record Group 111, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (111-SC-578830)

A Return to Civility in SCOTUS Nominations is Long Overdue

(Photo: Public Domain, Library of Congress)

On this day, September 15, 1981, The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Republican-nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to become the first female justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. A few days later, on September 21st, O’Connor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a vote of 99–0. (According to Rebecca Loew, Senator Max Baucus of Montana was absent from the vote, and sent O’Connor a copy of A River Runs Through It as an apology. O’Connor became the 102nd Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Since then, eleven justices have been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, with a twelfth confirmation and appointment imminent: Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, RBG, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch.

103. The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee reported Republican-nominated Scalia unanimously out of committee. The full Senate debated Scalia’s nomination only briefly, confirming him 98–0 on September 17, 1986.

104. The Republican-led U.S. Senate confirmed Republican-nominated Kennedy on February 3, 1988, by a vote of 97 to 0. Absent from the vote were three Democrats: Paul Simon and Al Gore who were campaigning for the Democratic nomination for US President and Joe Biden who was sick.

105. In 1990, the Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee reported Republican-nominated Souter out the committee by a vote of 14–3, the Senate confirmed the nomination by a vote of 90–9.

106. In the 1991 Thomas’ confirmation process, the Democrat-led Judiciary Committee split 7–7 on September 27, sending the nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation. Republican-nominated Thomas was confirmed by a 52–48 vote by the Democrat-controlled US Senate on October 15, 1991, the narrowest margin for approval in more than a century. The final floor vote was: 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted to confirm while 46 Democrats and two Republicans voted to reject the nomination.

107. The Democrat-led United States Senate confirmed Democrat-nominated RBG by a 96 to 3 vote on August 3, 1993.

108. Democrat-nominated Breyer was confirmed by the Democrat-controlled US Senate on July 29, 1994, by an 87 to 9 vote.

109. On September 22, 2005, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee approved Republican-nominated John Roberts’s nomination by a vote of 13–5, with Senators Ted Kennedy, Richard Durbin, Charles Schumer, Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein casting the dissenting votes. Roberts was confirmed by the full Senate on September 29 by a margin of 78–22. All Republicans and the one Independent voted for Roberts; the Democrats split evenly, 22–22. Roberts was confirmed by what was, historically, a narrow margin for a Supreme Court justice. However, all subsequent confirmation votes have been even narrower.

110. In 2005, Republican-nominated Samuel Alito was reported out of the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee on a 10–8 party-line vote. After a failed filibuster attempt by MA Senator John Kerry, on January 31, the Senate confirmed Alito to the Supreme Court by a vote of 58–42, with four Democratic senators voting for confirmation and one Republican and an Independent voting against.

111. On July 28, 2009, the Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee approved Democrat-nominated Sotomayor; the 13–6 vote was almost entirely along party lines, with no Democrats opposing her and only one Republican supporting her. On August 6, 2009, Sotomayor was confirmed by the full Senate by a vote of 68–31. The vote was largely along party lines, with no Democrats opposing her and nine Republicans supporting her.

112. On July 20, 2010, the Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13–6 to recommend Kagan’s confirmation to the Democrat-led US Senate. On August 5th the full Senate confirmed her nomination by a vote of 63–37. The voting was largely on party lines, with five Republicans (Richard Lugar, Judd Gregg, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe) supporting her and one Democrat (Ben Nelson) opposing.

113. On April 3, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Republican-nominated Gorsuch nomination out of committee along a party-line vote of 11–9. On April 6, 2017, Senate Democrats filibustered the confirmation vote of Gorsuch, after which the Republicans invoked the so-called “nuclear option”, allowing a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee to be broken by a simple majority vote. On April 7, 2017, the Republican-led US Senate confirmed Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court by a 54–45 vote, with three Democrats joining all the Republicans in attendance.

It is worth noting, that only from 2009–2011 in the 111th Congress did either party have a super-majority. In most other years, the U.S. Senate was split roughly 50-50, plus or minus two to 5 seats.

What has happened? We have increasingly politicized the Court, we have nominated more and more ideological candidates to the U.S. Supreme Court instead of nominating people, we’re nominating party. A return to civility in SCOTUS nominations is long overdue.

 

Podcast: Who Cares About NYT Op-Ed?

Who Wrote the Anonymous Op-Ed?

(Photo: Daniel Schwen)

Who’s the anonymous Op-Ed writer? Like FBI Agent Jack Baer looking for Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects (1995), the first question is, does the anonymous writer exist? If only President Trump had Jack Bauer to figure it all out in 24 hours, instead of Jack Baer looking in all the wrong places with all the usual suspects.

Does the Op-Ed writer exist? Yes, more than likely the writer exists. The New York Times is not going to publish a fake Opinion Editorial. But there are other possibilities as well. First, is the author a singular writer, or an amalgamation of authors? People in the Executive Branch aren’t exactly standing up next to Kirk Douglas shouting, “I am Spartacus!” “No, I am Spartacus!” (By the way, Senator Orrin Hatch’s tweet yesterday was perhaps the funniest tweet by any politician in the social media era, just sayin’.) No, instead, we’re meant to believe that there an Illuminati-like club inside the Trump Administration whose members banally walk the halls of the White House with facades of loyalty while hiding their true intentions like armies of Londoners wearing Guy Fawkes masks in V is for Vendetta (2005).

So, did one person write the Op-Ed, or was one person chosen to write for the group, or did the group of White House officials who are concerned write the Op-Ed together? After all, if there are “many of the senior officials in his [Trump’s] own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” then my question is, do these senior officials met together? Do these senior officials coordinate with each other? Because, if there is a ‘Resistance’ in the White House working together, then why would a singular member write an Op-Ed to the New York Times?

Which brings me to the next question, why was the Op-Ed written? What was the point of the Op-Ed? It seems to me that the author could idyllically-speaking be genuinely seeking to force a conversation about the 25th Amendment. Ulteriorly-speaking, however, the author or authors may be simply trying to inoculate themselves from a future fallout. Because, the writer’s career in this Administration is over, and probably any career in public office. When the identity is ultimately revealed, the best financial hope for the writer is a book deal, compensation for TV appearances, and the long-term goal of resurrecting one’s reputation in 20 years like Watergate’s John Dean. In international relations, there is something called Rational Actor Theory, in which we assume that people make decisions rationally in their own best interests and/or the best interests of their country. Presumably, then, the author wrote the Op-Ed for a rational reason, whether we agree with the decision to write or not.

So, why now? First of all, why September 5, 2018? Is it a coincidence that the Op-Ed was published the day after parts of Bob Woodward’s new book Fear was released? The only person that I can think of who is that calculating in the release of information is Bob Mueller. And, for the record, I don’t think Mueller is the writer. I do think it’s a fascinating coincidence. Because the Woodward book was released by CNN, whereas the Op-Ed was published by the New York Times. It is also worth pointing out that, if the Times published on September 5th, the Op-Ed was written several days earlier, before the Woodward scoop by CNN.

To discuss the why now? returns us to the question of why? again as well. I’ve already discussed the personal interests of the author(s), but are their other considerations? Strategically-speaking, who benefits from the publication of the Opinion-Editorial? At face value, the biggest winners from the publication of the Op-Ed are the New York Times, as well as the partisan media from both sides of the political spectrum, Democratic candidates for Congress in 2018, and Trump himself. Yes, Trump benefits from the Op-Ed. The Op-Ed reinforces partisanship of both those who loathe, as well as those who love, President Donald J. Trump.

As far as I can tell, the losers in this situation are the White House senior officials, whether the staffers are the author of the Op-Ed or not. Because, if the author(s) are real, there must be a rational impetus to write the Op-Ed now, because it’s the “senior officials in his [Trump’s] own administration [who] are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” who now have a harder job.

While Dick Armitage et al. may have outed Valarie Plame to deflect criticism of the Bush Administration, in this situation the covert operatives have outed himself, herself, or themselves. Because of the publication of the Op-Ed, senior officials may now be required to take polygraphs, sign affidavits, live under a cloud of suspicion, work in a more chaotic work environment, all the while helping to run the government of the United States and clandestinely “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations.” Why would someone(s) risk exposure?

And, after all, what does the word senior mean anyway? There is always the possibility that the author of the Op-Ed has an overly self-indulgent sense of his/her own importance. But, if it was not a recognizable senior official, why would the New York Times not only go to lengths to hide the identity, I’m more interested in how the New York Times would even know the person in the first place? Imagine how many letters-to-the-editor and opinion editorials each and every day; How and why did this Op-Ed get noticed? Because the author is recognizable and/or a verifiably senior official. And that official’s (or officials’) own job(s) just got harder. Inevitably, the senior official(s) who wrote the supposedly anonymous Op-Ed will be identified. The senior official will be fired. Perhaps the author cares not about being fired; the writer is so angry or so concerned, that rational thought has exited the building and the senior official (Kevin Hassett or Kirstjen Nielsen) will ride into martyrdom like the Charge of the Light Brigade.  But, rationally-speaking and according to Rational Actor Theory, the senior official would only take that risk if the official was already leaving (Don McGahn and Jeff Sessions), an official with enormous stature who has already retired once (Dan Coats), or one of the only two senior officials in the White House who cannot be fired: President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael Richard Pence.

Yes, Trump benefits from the publication of the Times’ Op-Ed, but I’m not sure Trump has the strategic calculation skills to plant an anonymous Op-Ed like a Straw Soldier (the Times certainly would not publish an anonymous Op-Ed that the editorial staff knew to be President Trump). And then there is Mike Pence, who increasingly reminds me of the fictitious Vice President Ted Matthews in the (1996) film My Fellow Americans. The only senior official in the administration who cannot be fired and who also has a penchant for using the word lodestar. Which raises the question, why would an anonymous writer use a word that could so easily be tied back to the senior official? The anonymous author is also a little too happy to use the word resistance for me to believe Sessions is the Op-Ed writer, though he certainly has become a significant roadblock to Trump’s impulsiveness.

I suspect that a lawyer who has no interest in running for political office or being in the public spotlight, who already met with Bob Mueller’s team for 30 hours, and who has already announced his departure from the White House might be well considered one of the usual suspects. After all, it is already well-known that McGahn blurred the truth to prevent Trump from firing Mueller in December 2017. But why would McGahn write an anonymous opinion editorial to the New York Times now, at this juncture in time? Quit now and write it with a byline or wait until the announced departure in December 2018 to write an opinion editorial.

I can, however, envision a scenario in which the Director of National Intelligence is cognizant enough to intentionally use lodestar as a red herring, and use the word resistance too without too much discomfort. There is little question that the former U.S. Senator, who served with John McCain, would always choose country over party and, frankly, maybe be inspired to write an anonymous Op-Ed to the New York Times as he watched two memorial services and watch non-stop praise for McCain’s patriotic independence. I suspect Dan Coats would be aware of “many of the senior officials in his [Trump’s] own administration [who] are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” whether those officials are cooperating with each other or operating as patriotic lone wolves. Dan Coats, former Representative of IN-4 and former U.S. Senator from Indiana, also knows both Vice President Dan Quayle of Indiana and Vice President Mike Pence of Indiana quite well. He knows Mike Pence, the only senior official who cannot be fired and is the beneficiary of any impeachment proceedings or invocation of the 25th Amendment.

Thoughts on the Revolutions of 1848

(Photo: Barricade Rue Soufflot by Horace Vernet)

Revolutions and Economics

Revolutions are caused and driven by economics, and the Revolutions of 1848 are no exception. The Agricultural Revolution, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Dot Com Revolution: nearly all revolutions are economic. In the case of 1848, it was the economic factors that caused the social and political upheaval that we now call the Revolutions of 1848.

One of the economic factors were increased agricultural productivity combined, ironically, with poor harvests. Technological improvements in farming meant less manpower was needed on the farm. Specifically, from the 1830s and 1840s, Prussia, Saxony, and other German states reorganized agriculture, introducing sugar beets, turnips, and potatoes, yielding a higher level of food production that enabled a surplus rural population to move to industrial areas. Later, however, a series of poor harvests that drove hungry farmers to join the surplus farming populations to seek food and employment in the urban areas of Europe. The infamous potato light of Ireland actually affected many places in northern Europe as well as the Czech region of Central Europe. The Rhineland had drastic shortages of rye and, these combined shortages then also increased the prices for food in Europe according to the economic principles of supply and demand.

The increased urbanization also served the needs of increasing industrialization in Europe as well. Urban workers labored long hours with little or no days off in order to eke out a basic living. Child labor in the mills and factories, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. Extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities, and breaks.

While historians usually avoid using the term Industrial Revolution in France because of the slow development, there was significant growth in railroads and banking (Banque de France). France became a luxury location, fueling perceptions of class inequality. Belgium was the second most industrializing state next to the United Kingdom, and the German states had truck line linking all major cities even in the absence of a central government.

In the German states, the industrial revolution in the textile and railroad industries created an economic boom for the nascent middle class of managers and engineers. The rising middle class had rising economic and political expectations that blossomed further with the Zollverein starting in 1834. Thus, the political expectations versus the political realities contributed to the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states.

These agricultural and industrial economic factors thus bred dissatisfaction with the political leadership in Europe and demands for more participation in government and democracy. The governments of Europe affected were authoritarian monarchies, Sicily, France, Austro-Hungary, the various Germanies, etc. It is worth noting that the United Kingdom, the most democratic government in Europe, did not have a Revolution in 1848; the other non-revolution that stands out is Russia. As has been said, Russia did have a Revolution of 1948, but it happened in 1905.

Theoretical Models of Revolution

There are many theories of how and why revolutions happen. One of the most read theories is “Anatomy of Revolution” by Crane Brinton. In 1938, Brinton outlining the uniformities of political revolutions: the fall of the Old Regime, the rise of revolutionaries, moderates share power with radicals, radicals achieve total power and the corresponding reign of terror, then the convalescence stage. This model has also been described as the fever model: incubation, symptomatic, crisis, and convalescence. Antelope Yunglang has a very pro-revolutionary model called the Four Stages of the Revolution that identify the Insurrection Stage, Maintenance Stage, Development Stage, and the Final Period.

In addition to Brinton, Fever Model, and Yunglang, there is also the four-stage Common Process Model.  The “common process” holds that revolutions begin with (1) mobilization of liberals and nationalists, (2) these people win success and political concessions initially, (3) tensions within ranks lead to splits between moderates and radicals, (4) making a counterrevolution possible.

Both the Revolutions of 1848 in France and the German states fit the common process model well, though it perhaps is most fitting to the French experiences of 1848:

In France, liberals and nationalists rose up in February, created a provisional government, began to disagree, and then the conservatives and moderates won the national election in December. The election of Louis Napoleon effectively ended the Revolution of 1848 in France.

In the German states, the March Days led to the creation of the Frankfurt Assembly in May of 1848. This a primary distinction between the two revolutions. In France, the Provisional Government was, well, the government. Louis Philippe had abdicated and gone into exile. In the German states, the revolutionaries never took control of the Prussian, Austrian, or other German governments. While the revolutionaries won success and political concessions initially, the inability of delegates to become the legitimate government ended the revolution at that point. The Stage Three of the Common Process (tensions between moderates and radicals) was meaningless because the moderates and radicals never achieved the power of the purse or the power over the army in the German states. Thus, there was no need for a counterrevolution because the revolution stalled after Stage Two. The withdrawal of the Austrian delegates from the Frankfurt Assembly, the October Declaration by Kaiser King Frederick William IV of Prussia, and the arrest of the remaining members of the assembly in Stuttgart by Imperial soldiers effectively ended the German Revolution of 1848.

Success or Failure?

While historians have stated that over 50 countries were affected by the Revolutions of 1848 which began in Sicily in January, then spread across Europe after the more significant February revolution in France. However, the major revolutions only occurred in France, the German states, and the Austrian Empire. Major revolutions in 3 out of 50 countries is hardly a spectacular success. A monarchy in France under King Louis Philippe was ultimately replaced with an Empire under Louis Napoleon. Hungarian rebellions in the Austrian Empire achieved a name-change; The Austrian Empire became the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The proposed new Germany was rejected by the Junkers and ultimately by Prussian Kaiser Frederick William as well.

The Frankfurt Assembly of German states failed over the Greater or Lesser Germany question as well as the delegates of money, land, or army (John Merriman, 1996; Mike Rapport, 2008). Revolutions need armies and money, as well as ideas. The revolutionaries of 1848 failed to control the ‘power of the purse’ in both German and Austria. In France, the rural populations ended the revolution by their conservative votes in the election of December 1848, returning the power of the purse and the army to the monarchists and counter-revolutionary members of the government.

A spectacular failure indeed.

The Effect of the Metternich System

While the Metternich System may have ended the Revolutions of 1848, the Metternich System was also responsible for creating the Revolutions of 1848 as well. The reactionary governments installed at the Congress of Vienna became the lid on the boiling pot of liberalism and nationalism that exploded in 1848. The reduction in the number of German states at the Congress of Vienna, however, strengthened the position of Prussia. The stronger Prussia, therefore, was in a more entrenched position to resist the revolutionaries from the March Days and subsequent demands by the Frankfurt Assembly. Metternich’s reestablishment of Austria dominance in the Italian peninsula after the defeat of Murat’s Naples also indirectly limited the success of Italian revolutions in Sicily and Sardinia.

The Congress System created the very international communication and coordinance that was absent from the Revolutions of 1848. While the Revolutions of 1848 were short-lived, not all the revolutions ended with the original or similarly repressive governments in power.

In the Netherlands, King William II preemptively and proactively altered the Dutch constitution to reform elections and effectively end the absolute monarchy. In Ireland, the German states, and Italy, the Revolutions of 1848 fueled nationalism that ultimately led to independence and unification respectively. In France, while the December elections led to the conservative Second Empire, the universal suffrage achieved in the Revolution of 1848 was never taken away.

It is interesting that the United Kingdom, perhaps the most democratic government in Europe, supported the Metternich System while even the monarchist Duke of Wellington pushed democratic reforms and Catholic Emancipation in Ireland. In the years between the Battle of Waterloo and the 1848 Revolutions, the anti-absolutist Whig Party led the British government for nearly 12 years. In fact, the Whig Party controlled the British government during the Revolutions of 1848.

Why did the democratically inclined and anti-absolutist Prime Minister John Russell not do more to support the Revolutions of 1848? Perhaps the success of the Metternich System was to discourage British interference in Continental Europe, not the establishment of reactionary regimes on the Continent.

Metternich and the Metternich System may have been important in the relative failure of the 1848 Revolutions, but the absence of British agitation for increased democratization in Europe is probably as influential as the role of the Metternich System.