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World Association of International Studies

PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post North Korea and Sanctions; Italy in Ethiopia
Created by John Eipper on 03/08/13 4:03 AM

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North Korea and Sanctions; Italy in Ethiopia (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 03/08/13 4:03 am)

About North Korea's nukes, I have some questions.

The US has thousands of bombs, as does Russia. China, UK, France, Pakistan, India and Israel are also nuclear-armed nations, yet they are afraid of a couple of real bombs from North Korea and another couple but very hypothetical bombs from Iran?

Is it "democratic" that some nations may have nukes and other not?

In 1935 Italy was seeking friendship with the Western Countries and was standing up to Hitler. In the previous year, Italy was the only country to mobilize its army to confront Germany. At the same time, it had to solve the problems of the slaveholding nation of Ethiopia (UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, The Netherlands, and USA had their empires), so it was war.  Now it could be called a "humanitarian" war to bring freedom from real chains, but the Western nations responded with sanctions against Italy.

That the Ethiopians were liberated from their real chains, is for sure very controversial, but at that time enslaved people were a reality in that nation.  As soon as the Italian troops entered, the newspapers and magazines published photos of Italians breaking the chains of local slaves. The most famous song of war was "Faccetta Nera," about a girl liberated from her actual chains.

Now NATO is engaging in "wars to bring democracy or humanitarian wars"; likewise the Ethiopian war can (and was by the Italians) assumed to be a "war for individual freedom."

By the way, did WAISers know that in 1939 Mussolini was planning to send to the region of Javello-Avello-Neghelli, the best part of Ethiopia, the first 1400 families of foreign Jewish refugees from the Third Reich who were arriving in Italy? (This plan enraged Hitler.)

Of course looking at the Ethiopian war now, we can see it was a mistake, but we now know that the Iraq war was a mistake too.

The sanctions against Italy reinforced Fascism and turned Italy toward a friendship and alliance with Germany, which (together with the USA) did not adhere to the sanctions.

In order to fight the sanctions, the Italian people donated gold wedding rings, medals, and bracelets. They were inspired to do so voluntarily; my parents said they were not forced. Now the Italian people will not donate anything to the present politicians...except perhaps for "donated" (or better thrown) rotten eggs.

Therefore sanctions can be a good thing, but be prepared to go to war, too.

JE comments:  I've never studied Italy's war in Ethiopia, but I always assumed it was an evil-vs-good war of bald conquest.  Eugenio Battaglia acknowledges the imperial motivation when he cites the other nations that had empires at the time.  Why should Italy be denied its place in the (Abyssinian) sun?  However, Eugenio also makes it clear that many Italians viewed their military adventure as a "liberation"--this precedent, if nothing else, should give us pause when we justify invasions as humanitarian interventions.

The connection between Italy then and North Korea today concerns the use of sanctions, which drove Mussolini into the arms of Hitler and now lead Mr. Kim to threaten the US with nuclear attack.  Putting aside the terrifying if unlikely possibility of a bomb detonating in California or Hawaii, do the Western Democracies speak with "forked tongue" if they deny N Korea's entry into the Nuclear Club--as they sought to do earlier with Italy's imperial ambition?

Let the onslaught of responses begin.


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  • North Korea and Sanctions; Italy in Ethiopia (Istvan Simon, USA 03/09/13 4:25 AM)
    Eugenio Battaglia (8 March) asks if it is "democratic" to deny certain nations nuclear status if others are nuclear powers. This is also the logic of David Krieger for nuclear disarmament, but in my opinion this is a completely wrong way of looking at the question.

    When it comes to nuclear power, it is absolutely irrelevant whether it is "democratic" or not to deny other countries entry into the nuclear club. This is not a question of democracy; it is a question of power. We deny the right of North Korea to enter this club, and in my opinion rightly so, especially in the case of this pariah regime that is not able to even feed its own population, yet spends billions on its military and its nuclear weapons, because it is the only sane thing to do, and because we can.


    Second, in the case of nuclear weapons, who has them is very much a major factor whether their possession is a threat or not. I am a United States citizen and I do not feel threatened at all by the nuclear weapons possessed by Great Britain or France, for example, or not even by the weapons possessed by China. Great Britain and France are democracies, which for me is a very important criterion in this question, but China is not. Even though I abhor the Chinese Communist Party, and I wish that the government of China were more democratic, China is not threatening the United States with these weapons and neither are we threatening China with ours.


    In fact, possession of these weapons tends to make governments more responsible, not less, because their possession is a sobering reminder that they must be safeguarded, multiple controls installed to prevent their unauthorized use, multiple overlapping controls must be put in place to prevent them from falling in the hands of terrorists, to prevent accidents, and so on. The use of these weapons is unimaginable today, and no sane government would ever use them. So how sane a government is, is very much again at the center of the question whether they constitute a threat or not. In my opinion, North Korea and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran fail that test. They are a threat to the United States.


    Third, we must ask the question why Baby Kim wants nuclear weapons? I think that the answer is that he wants them to perpetuate his illegitimate fiefdom, the worst possible reason for wanting to be in the nuclear club.


    Fourth, with respect to Eugenio's thoughts on Mussolini, he did not stand up to Hitler, at least not for long, because as we already mentioned previously on this subject, he soon had no objections to Hitler taking over Austria. Also, Mussolini's attack on Ethiopia was an unconscionable invasion of a peaceful country on which it had no legitimate claim of any kind, an adventure and attempt at military conquest that fortunately did not go well for Il Duce. The fact that Great Britain and other European countries had colonies at the time did not in any way excuse Mussolini's desire to become also a colonial power. That Mussolini attacked Ethiopia to free its slaves is a rather fanciful interpretation, which clearly obscures much less noble desires. It was not a humanitarian war at all; it was a war of conquest by a tin-pot dictator.


    Contrast this with the United States' truly humanitarian intervention in Somalia. The United States had no colonial desires in Somalia whatsoever, and President George H. W. Bush intervened to save its war-ravaged people from starvation. Which we did. Subsequently the United States got enmeshed in the civil war going on among the warlords in Somalia, that had caused the famine in the first place. In the now infamous attack on the United States in Mogadishu, 18 of our soldiers were killed. They should be forever honored as heroes of this country.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mogadishu_(1993)#Known_casualties


    President Clinton then promptly withdrew US forces, thus proving once again that we had no colonial desires in Somalia, and that indeed our intervention had been entirely humanitarian. Somalia still today is a failed state, the land of pirates and Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists.


    Similarly, the war in Iraq may or may not have been a mistake, this is legitimately debatable, but the United States military is out of Iraq and soon will be out of Afghanistan as well.


    JE comments:  Why did North Korea develop nuclear weapons?  Sadly, because it's the only way the world would take such an isolated and impoverished nation seriously.  Without nukes, North Korea would carry no more gravitas on the world stage than, say, Myanmar/Burma in recent years.  Cameron Sawyer has written that it's rational for a nation to seek entry into the Nuclear Club, and unfortunately I'll have to agree.


    Has the "international community" ever successfully stopped a nation determined to acquire the Bomb?  With the debatable exception of Iraq in 1981 and again in 2003, I cannot think of any examples.

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    • North Korea and the Bomb (Henry Levin, USA 03/09/13 5:38 AM)

      Even with the Second Amendment in the US and its outrageous interpretation, we still deny guns to those who are mentally unstable or have criminal records. It seems that this standard should also be applied to nations that seek nuclear status. No hypocrisy there.


      JE comments:  I believe Henry Levin is presently in Stockholm--best wishes to him for a pleasant visit and a successful conference. 


      I'm curious:  What's been going on in Sweden lately?

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    • Italy in Ethiopia (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/11/13 6:38 AM)
      Very interesting posting from Istvan Simon (9 March). Istvan brings up strong arguments which should be taken into consideration.



      However even if, as Istvan says, the interpretation that Italy conquered Ethiopia to free the slaves is seen as rather fanciful, the fact remains that the conquered people were free to go to the movies with the conquerors from a "non-democratic" country, with no discrimination (and of course this was not the only benefit). As far as I know, that was not happening in the other European-dominated empires.  And I am sorry to say, in some democratic countries of the time, certain citizens experienced discrimination at the movies, on the bus, at school, etc.

      About the example of Pres. Clinton's withdrawing from Somalia, I believe this should be presented in a different way.


      For instance, in Italy (which unfortunately lost some personnel in the ambush of Check Point Pasta on July 2, 1993), many observers considered Somalia a horribly planned intervention, in which Italy had to participate because a good colony has to obey the orders of the Empire, but the Empire and its colonies could not tolerate the unexpected heavy losses, and so they withdrew like they did from other places some years before and after.


      JE comments: I doubt many Ethiopians got to attend films before or after the Italian invasion, but Eugenio Battaglia's recent postings have made me think about identity politics under Mussolini. First and foremost, we should be careful not to lump Fascist Italy together with Nazi Germany on race matters.


      And yes:  the US in the 1930s had a huge log in its eye with its treatment of non-white citizens.


      I believe the "Empire" in Eugenio's last paragraph refers to these United States. If so, this is a metaphor, but metaphors can have power and a grain of truth: do the Italians still consider themselves colonized by America?  Has this sentiment passed in the eurozone era?



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      • Italy in Ethiopia; US in Somalia (Istvan Simon, USA 03/12/13 4:46 AM)
        Eugenio Battaglia (11 March) is right that the United States had a history of racism in which some citizens were discriminated against on buses, schools and so on. I am a proud United States citizen, but that does not mean that I do not recognize shortcomings of our society, past or present.

        But Eugenio is on exceedingly thin ground when he tries to suggest that our Somalia intervention was an imperialist one, and that President Clinton withdrew our forces because "our losses were heavier than expected."  With all due respect, this interpretation is incorrect.


        The United States withdrew not because our losses were excessive--we suffered in our long and proud history thousands of deaths on a single day on Normandy's beaches on D-Day. We withdrew from Somalia not because we could not tolerate 18 deaths; clearly we could tolerate hundreds or even thousands, if it was in our national interest. But it simply was not in our national interest in Somalia to suffer even a single additional American death.


        JE comments: I see no disagreement here between Istvan Simon and Eugenio Battaglia. In Somalia, US losses indeed were "heavier than expected," and because of this, we decided it was no longer in our national interest to remain.


        Shall we put the phrase "national interest" under the WAIS microscope?  Note that those who decide about national interest are rarely (OK, never) the ones who die for it.


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        • on "National Interest" (Robert Whealey, USA 03/13/13 2:05 AM)
          JE asked for thoughts on the notion of "national interest" (see Istvan Simon, 12 March). Historians and Political Scientists have an important function in debating the complex meanings of the several national interests. The seven great powers who fought in World War II claimed dozens of different interests. The conflict between the overlapping interests were the causes of both World Wars I and II.



          The problem of the United States was that Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt announced their personal ambitions to the public, as to what America's national interests should become. Members of Congress can voice their claims for their own state or opposition party interests to the Chairpersons of the two Foreign Relations committees for discussion. That is the purpose of representative and democratic governments.



          What has happened to the US, during the administrations of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush, is that three arrogant authoritarian personalities used naive radio and TV pundits to claim their own war programs as the only national interest. The largely ignorant members of Congress and their voting blocs fell hook, line and sinker for three imperial presidents.



          The amateur and modest Harry Truman was captive of Dean Acheson in Korea, and started a "police action" without clear war aims. A wiser Dean Acheson in October 1950 could have declared victory in the original police action program. North Korea had been driven back to the 38th parallel.



          What happened, in fact, was that a fanatic anti-communist Congress assumed that Truman should draft the classes of 1950, 1951, 1952 for some kind of ideological crusade to control an unstable China still in revolution. If Truman and Acheson had submitted the Korean problem as it existed in October to Congress for an up or down vote for the proposed truce, or a declaration of war, I doubt an informed public would have voted taxes to pay for a wider war.

          JE comments: And thus we have Korea 60 years later, a war that never ended, even if for the US it never began (no war was declared).


          "National interest" is such an overwrought and manipulated term. Robert Whealey mentions NI as the causes of both World Wars. Cause or justification? I'm leaning towards the latter.  Do I sound too dovish if I say that in reality, peace is every country's foremost national interest?

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          • on "National Interest" (Istvan Simon, USA 03/14/13 5:31 PM)
            Robert Whealey (13 March) is entitled to his opinions about national interest, as we all are, but he should not assume that the rest of us will agree, just because he makes the statements under the mantle of a historian.

            Historians write history and interpret it. But there is no universal agreement at all among historians about how to interpret events, and the particular interpretations given by different historians carry their own biases. This is quite evident in this particular post by Robert, where he makes highly personal, debatable, and controversial statements about Congress, various Presidents, and presents rather reductionist views about major events like the Korean war. These observations have little if anything to do with history. For example, Robert makes sweeping generalizations, e.g. ignorant Congress, arrogant Presidents, and so on. This is not history--it is a reflection of Robert Whealey's personal biases.


            Every citizen of the United States is allowed to make judgments about what the national interest is. We do have a public debate about these things, because this is a democracy, and a free country, and we do so daily and listen and contribute to the arguments about it daily. We read newspapers and write letters to the editor which are published, listen to commentators, experts, university professors, politicians, economists, ordinary people and even historians. So the national interest emerges as a consensus from these debates.


            Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and George W. Bush were not arrogant, and they had an advantage that Robert Whealey does not have: they were elected. The last two twice. This is important in this debate, because in a democracy those in government govern with the consent of the governed, the people, and as I mentioned above we do make judgments about what the national interest is, and whether they do a good job or not in following it, and vote accordingly.


            Dean Acheson could have declared victory in driving North Korea back to the 38th parallel, but that is not what the national interest was in my opinion, or in the opinion of General MacArthur. We failed to suppress the abhorrent regime that committed the aggression in the first place, because China and the Soviet Union intervened to keep that abhorrent regime in place, and Truman ultimately chickened out, fired MacArthur and decided to accept the more modest goal. We are still paying the price for those decisions, and to me it is not clear that these decisions of Truman were correct or in the national interest.


            President Truman was right to fire MacArthur for insubordination, because he had been guilty of that. But in my judgment MacArthur was right and Truman was wrong about the larger question, the question about how to conduct the war, and what its aims should have been. It is counter-factual speculation of what would have happened if Truman had decided otherwise, but it is not obvious to me that the ultimate outcome might not have been much better than what we ended up with. Had we succeeded in actually defeating North Korea and its allies, the Soviet Union and China, and deposed the aggressor, rather than merely drive him back to the 38th parallel, it seems likely that many American (and Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Chinese) lives would not have been lost. Perhaps the entire Vietnam war would never have happened, where once again a Communist aggressor subverted a non-Communist one.


            JE comments: Should the Korean war have been continued until final victory? That's a big question that this mostly pacifist editor will avoid...but pursue the war until North Korea and its allies (China and the USSR) were defeated?  This may have been a larger undertaking than WWII.


            What do you think, WAISers: shall we open up our hypothetical toolbox and have a go at it?

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            • Should the Korean War Have Been Continued? (David Fleischer, Brazil 03/15/13 2:51 AM)
              I would suggest that Istvan Simon (14 March) and other WAISers check out a book written by my International Relations professor at the University of Florida in the late 1950s.



              John Spanier. The Truman-MacArthur Controversy and the Korean War. Harvard, 1959 / Norton, 1965.



              By crossing the 38th parallel and driving north, MacArthur "provoked" thousands of Chinese soldiers to march south and join the North Koreans against the UN force. MacArthur disobeyed Truman (who eventually fired him), but reportedly, MacArthur wanted to decide this conflict with the atomic bomb.



              In 1954, the French pleaded with Pres. Eisenhower to use the bomb to save their butts in Dien Bien Phu.

              Reportedly, Sec. of State John Foster Dulles tried to convince Pres. Eisenhower, but he refused.


              JE comments: For refusing to use nukes in Korea and Vietnam, let's give credit to Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. Imagine the precedent this would have set--is there any chance our planet would still exist if MacCarthur or Dulles had had their way?


              As Istvan Simon asked on 14 March, should the Korean war have been continued until final victory?  One definite vote against visiting this topic comes from Korea veteran Miles Seeley. Miles's post is next.

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            • Should the Korean War Have Been Continued? (Miles Seeley, USA 03/15/13 3:07 AM)

              No, JE, don't open the hypothetical toolbox on the topic of continuing the Korean war. (See Istvan Simon, 14 March.)  Such a discussion goes nowhere.


              PS:  While it was going on and we were there, we thought we were in a
              war. Sure seemed like one. Then, when we got home, we were told it was
              technically just a "police action." We groaned and laughed about that
              peculiar distinction, but were told that it had to be made because
              Congress never declared war. Well, we said, that's interesting. What
              would have been different if Congress had declared war?


              JE comments:  Toolbox closed.  Miles Seeley reminds us that it's way too easy to engage in "armchair generalship" in Korea and elsewhere, and what's worse:  this type of exercise is offensive to the thousands who suffered and died there.


              Korea was the first time the US government cloaked a full-blown war in the rhetorical mantle of "police action," and it wouldn't be the last.  It's interesting that this was shortly after the Departments of War and Navy were folded under the umbrella of Defense (1949).  War continued as before, but under different names.  There's something of a loss of innocence here.

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              • The US "Police Action" in Haiti, 1915-1934 (David Duggan, USA 03/15/13 5:10 PM)
                The US Marines' occupation of Haiti from 1915-34 may not have been called a "police action," but it was at least that: an effort to protect US economic interests from depredation or seizure by the dominant German economic class, which had integrated more successfully with the former black slave population than the French. This "engagement" stoked the careers of three of the most famous Marines in US history, and perhaps in all of military history: Lewis "Chesty" Puller, Alexander Vandegrift, and Smedley Butler, all later generals, who helped make the modern Marine Corps. Butler, known as the "Fighting Quaker," is one of only two Marines to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor twice, the second for his 1915 counterattack in Haiti while surrounded by a far more numerous force of indigenous rebels. He later gained fame for his pacifism and for claiming that while in uniform, he was essentially running a protection racket for big business:

                "I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."


                As a captain, Vandegrift was assigned to the "Gendarmerie d'Haiti," the constabulary force in Port-au-Prince, where Puller was one of his lieutenants. Vandegrift, later the Marine Commandant, is known for his "bended knee speech" to Congress, which in early 1946 was buying into the Navy's plan to disband the Marines (something that Eisenhower favored):


                "The Marine Corps...believes that it has earned this right--to have its future decided by the legislative body which created it--nothing more. Sentiment is not a valid consideration in determining questions of national security. We have pride in ourselves and in our past, but we do not rest our case on any presumed ground of gratitude owing us from the Nation. The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps. If the Marine as a fighting man has not made a case for himself after 170 years of service, he must go. But I think you will agree with me that he has earned the right to depart with dignity and honor, not by subjugation to the status of uselessness and servility planned for him by the War Department."


                Note that this was two years after the then Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, had said to Gen. Holland "Howlin' Mad" Smith while going ashore at Iwo Jima: "Holland, the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years."


                Puller, the most decorated Marine in history with five Navy Crosses, is right from central casting, chiseled, no-nonsense, with a mouth down-turned at the ends. His son, Lewis Puller, Jr., lost both legs and most of his fingers to a booby-trap in Vietnam, but lived to write the story: "Fortunate Son." He died in 1994, 21 years after his father, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after battling alcoholism and addiction to painkillers.

                JE comments:  I had no idea that the USMC was nearly disbanded in the wake of WWII.  How is this episode remembered in Corps lore?  Perhaps Gens. Sullivan, Steele or DeLong could comment.
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              • Should the Korean War Have Been Continued? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/16/13 8:44 AM)
                In response to the hypothesis on the Korean War (see Istvan Simon and Miles Seeley, 14-15 March), there is no substitute for victory but at the same time it is very unwise to impose unconditional surrender. Historians should not use adjectives unless they're referring to the weather during a battle.

                What would have been the long-term impact, had Truman/MacArthur used nuclear weapons in Korea? We can speculate. For instance, at that time the total population of the world was almost 2.5 billion, and a nuclear war against China and the USSR probably would have reduced the world's population by half. We could therefore assume that the total population would now be only 3 billion, instead of 7, with less pollution from cars and industry but great amounts of radiation. And what about the heating up of the atmosphere?


                I have very much appreciated Miles Seeley's comments on the war packaged as a "police action."


                JE comments: Grim speculation indeed.  Our planet would be happier and more sustainable with 3 billion instead of 7 billion inhabitants, but nobody wants to contemplate the path it would have taken to get there. Remember Marinetti's Futurist pronouncement, "War--the world's only hygiene"? After the trenches of WWI, nobody was saying this anymore.

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            • on "National Interest" in Vietnam (Robert Whealey, USA 03/17/13 4:22 AM)
              Istvan Simon (14 March) makes one good point, that all historians are biased. But my opinion that both Johnson and Nixon were arrogant and ignorant about Indochina for intervening with military force into Indochina's politics for no good reason is based on reading a vast bibliography about warfare in Laos, Cambodia, North and South Vietnam. Johnson and Nixon lost their wars at great cost of lives and dollars.



              Some of these books were written by David Halberstam, Bernard Fall, Stanley Karnow, George Herring, Jeffrey Kimball, and George McTeague Kahin.  If Istvan wants to pursue the idea that Johnson or Nixon could have defeated the NLF [Viet Cong], he should explain his own readings. History is about what did happen, not what might have happened. The great debate about Indochina 1963 to 1975 is over.

              JE comments: For historians, is a debate ever really over? I'd say not, for the simple reason that it wouldn't leave historians with anything to do!


              Sadly, I just learned that journalist and historian Stanley Karnow died earlier this year (27 January), at the age of 87:


              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Karnow



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              • Is a Historical Debate Ever Really Over? (Robert Whealey, USA 03/18/13 2:08 AM)
                JE is right when he commented on 17 March: "For historians, is a debate ever really over? I'd say not, for the simple reason that it wouldn't leave historians with anything to do!"



                Professionals historians never retire. I continue to read WAIS, Angel Viñas, Paul Preston, and the New York Review of Books to keep up with new discoveries. What I meant about the great Indochina debate is that for the voters, the Congress, members of the Democratic and Republican parties at the state level, the story is by this time basically over.



                There are new dissertations still to be written about the US Civil War. But the sympathizers of the CSA are fighting a lost cause. When the 11 states of the Confederacy reapplied to Senate for their 22 Senate seats, they had to ratify the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. At that point they accepted the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the land.



                There will always be a small party of reactionaries who think "the South will rise again." French reactionaries want to bring back the Monarchy. There are a few Catholics who called themselves The Pius X Society, who think Pope John XXIII was a mistake. As a Protestant, I shall wait a few years to see how Pope Francis performs in Rome. My understanding of Christianity is based on reading the New Testament, plus many later liberal and socialist commentaries on a progressive church which evolves in light of science. Today's task is to tame technology with Christian/Jewish morality and ethics.

                JE comments: In a sense, a historical debate is "over" only when it no longer interests historians, not because any definitive account has been published. Literary scholarship works the same way--the more authoritative an interpretation, the more it generates subsequent interpretations.

                It must be a daunting task these days to write a dissertation on the US Civil War or WWII.  The volume of bibliography could be measured by the metric ton.
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                • Is a Historical Debate Ever Really Over? Sanchez Perez's *Mitos del 18 de Julio* (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/18/13 8:35 AM)
                  I've been in Spain for ten days, and missed a great part of recent WAIS discussion. I must agree with Bob Whealey´s post and John´s reply (18 March) about historical debates among historians. They only die when they're of no interest any longer to professional historians or--dare I say it?--novelists. Hilary Mantel's trilogy on Thomas Cromwell, for example, has led to a new perspective on a well-trodden field in England.

                  WAISers interested in the origins of the Spanish Civil War (also a well-trodden area) might find that not everything had been said. New facts and new interpretations have now become available in Francisco Sánchez Pérez (ed.), Los mitos del 18 de julio, Barcelona: Crítica (published on March 12). "July 18" is the historical jargon for the day the Spanish Civil War was supposed to have broken out.


                  I've contributed to this book, which is likely to lead to some controversies with a chapter detailing how and why Mussolini decided to help the Spanish Monarchist conspirators with war matériel prior to July 18th. The old left-wing axiom that Fascist powers helped engineer the military coup has turned out to be right, but only for Mussolini, not for Hitler. The civil war was internationalized before it broke out.


                  Obviously I don´t want to publicize this collective work, but it´d be stupid of me not to call interested WAISers' attention to it.


                  JE comments:  When there are new discoveries about the SCW, you'll see them here on WAIS!  Fascinating.  What was the "smoking gun" document that proved Mussolini's role in July 18th?


                  Another factor that leads historians to re-focus on a specific event is the anniversary.  Presently in the US we're in the Sesquicentennial period of the Civil War--and the Great War centennial starts next year.  Columbus was all the rage 20 years ago, but now he seems to have been forgotten.




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      • Views of US in Italy (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/12/13 10:00 AM)
        In reply to JE's comments on my post of 11 March, unfortunately too many people in Italy are unhappy about relations with the USA. There have been too many military bases since 1945, including the very controversial bases of Aviano and Niscemi, the first with an airborne division and the second where MOUS may be built. Moreover, there are many useless at best or self-defeating "peace interventions" or wars to bring democracy, or humanitarian wars with loss of men and money.

        Of course, those who call the USA the Empire use a metaphor, but for many there is some truth.


        My thanks to JE for underscoring the distinction between Fascism and Nazism, Mussolini and Hitler. I have long been trying to say that there is difference, but at the same time what Mussolini's Fascism did in 1938 with the racist law, in spite of all the excuses and the clear position of International Zionism against Italy, was horrible.


        Just two examples:



        On November 29, 1938, a famous Jewish editor Angelo Fortunato Formiggini, who had been a mentor to Mussolini, killed himself to protest the new discrimination law. Mussolini confessed to the reporter/writer Yvon de Begnac that this tragedy was making him extremely sorry and was forcing him reflect on his responsibility. Perhaps for this reason he saved so many Italian Jews (by the way, the Italian Jews residing in Germany could not be touched by the Germans), but also foreign Jews who arrived in Italy or in the occupied areas. Perhaps one of these days I will write a WAIS post about that.


        Unfortunately, some Jews who were exempted by law from any discrimination were so outraged that they did not use it.


        On December 23, 1938, Colonel Giorgio Morpurgo, a volunteer in Spain with the "Camice Nere" (Fascist Black Shirts), when he found out about the law went on a suicide attack against the enemy lines without taking any precautions. Slowly walking forward, he was first wounded in the arms, but in spite of the exhortations to stop he kept advancing until he was shot in the heart. He was posthumously awarded the Gold Medal for bravery.


        Presently there are two surprising items in the news:


        Italy, seeing that India wants to try the two soldiers (marò of San Marco = marines) according its own laws without any international involvement, has decided not to return the two men to India.  However, Italy is prepared to accept arbitration. Do not call me a chauvinist/nationalist, but I am happy about this.


        Cardinal Dolan is looking for peanut butter, because apparently he cannot find it in Rome.


        Yesterday we had a couple of friends visit from Houston (we know them from our time in Chicago) for lunch at our home. Then we went around for a tour of Savona ...a fantastic day. Can someone explain to me why the Americans are such a nice people, perhaps the best in the world, but going back to my first topic of this post, their government is not liked around the world?


        JE comments: I could respond with an oversimplification: the more hegemonic you become, the more you are resented. This would probably explain the new phenomenon of Germanophobia in the EU countries of Southern Europe.


        A couple of followups:  I translated Formiggini's relationship with Mussolini as that of "mentor," although Eugenio Battaglia originally used the word "maestro."  Hope I got that right.  Second, most WAISers will be unfamiliar with the case of the two Italian marines who, in February 2012, killed two Indian fishermen they mistook for pirates.  Here's an item from the Hindustan Times:


        http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Italian-marines-defy-India-PM-says-Italy-action-unacceptable-BJP-seeks-govt-explanation/Article1-1025010.aspx

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