RCH: 10 countries that didn’t survive the Cold War

My weekend column over at RealClearHistory is worth a gander. An excerpt:

Aside from the Soviet Union, this list is loaded with countries from Asia and Africa, thanks to the process of decolonization that occurred after World War II. The French and British empires crumbled under the weight of the Nazi war machine, and Paris and London tried to oversee an orderly transition of their colonies from administrative units within an empire into sovereign states in an international order.

This transition saw three different competing worldviews, two of which were much more successful than the third. Socialists and traditionalists (or conservatives) both argued that colonies should be independent, sovereign states to be placed on equal footing in the international arena with the likes of France and the U.K. The arguments of these two worldviews largely won out, and when it came time to actually govern as sovereign entities, the blood started to flow.

Please, read the rest.

RCH: Grenada and the polarization of democratic society

I’ve been so busy enjoying Jacques’ series on immigration that I almost forgot to link to my latest over at RealClearHistory. A slice:

Grenada is a small island in the Caribbean about 100 miles to the north of Venezuela. The island gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1974 and held elections that year. In 1979, communists violently overthrew the democratically elected government of Grenada and installed a dictatorship. By 1983, infighting between communist factions produced yet another coup, and the leader of the first coup was murdered and replaced by a more hardline Marxist faction (the New Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education, and Liberation, or New JEWEL, movement). Pleas from democrats inside Grenada were heard by Reagan and he ordered the invasion of Grenada, which was bolstered by troops from most of Grenada’s neighbors. Today, Oct. 25 is celebrated in Grenada as Thanksgiving Day, in honor of the United States coming to the defense of Grenada’s fledgling democracy.

Please, read the rest.

RCH: The Crimean War was the 19th century’s most important

That’s what I argue in my weekend column for RealClearHistory, anyway. Here’s a peep:

5. Russia’s alienation from Europe, culturally. Russia had long been the odd man out in European affairs. Was Russia European? Asiatic? Russian? For most Russians, the Crimean War answered this question, as Christian Europe sided with Muslim Turks against it in a war Russia lost decisively. Russian efforts at integrating culturally with Europe began under Peter the Great in the 17th and 18th centuries, largely ended officially, though, of course, informally ideas still spread throughout the empire.

Please, read the rest.

RCH: America and Russia use to be friends

It’s true, and it’s the subject of my latest Tuesday column over at RealClearHistory. Check it out:

The two future superpower rivals had more in common than mere future greatness, though. Both were expanding rapidly, gobbling up huge swaths of territory at the expense of isolated polities like the Khiva Khanate and the Sioux confederacy, and hapless autocracies like Mexico and the Ottoman Empire. Russia and the United States also shared common foes – France and the U.K. – due mostly to the fact that American and Russian expansion was beginning to step on French and British toes. Both empires – one democratic, the other autocratic – also had looming labor crises that overshadowed everything they did in international affairs: slavery and serfdom.

Yes, I’m writing about the widely-ignored Crimean War. Please, read the rest, and don’t forget to tune in Friday for ten cool facts about the Crimean War!

RCH: 10 key World War I events in October

I’ve been busy in real life, so my weekend column over at RealClearHistory is a bit lightweight, but I thought some good stuff came out of it. I can definitely build off of it in future columns. An excerpt:

4. Battle of Fort Dipitie (1915). In October of 1915 the United States had managed to keep out of the tragic events going on in Europe, but Washington had still managed to find military action in its backyard, as troops had been sent to Haiti at the behest of the island nation’s dictator, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. The Battle of Fort Dipitie was a relatively minor affair, with only one Marine being wounded and fewer than 100 people dying altogether, but the entire occupation of Haiti by the U.S. military was frowned upon by most of the American public. The occupation of Haiti inspired decorated Marine General Smedley Butler to write his classic 1935 book War is a Racket.

Please, read the rest.

RCH: The battle that shaped Texas for one hundred years

That’s the topic of my latest at RealClearHistory. (Remember, I have a Tuesday column and a weekend column over there.) Here’s an excerpt:

In the mid 16th century, then, in what is now Texas and Oklahoma, world powers and regional polities bobbed and weaved with each other in an intricate, unpredictable game of geopolitics to settle who gain hegemony over a region destined to be important for transcontinental trade for centuries to come. The defeat forced Spain to give up its designs for the region entirely, and France was never interested in the region being anything other than a resource-rich frontier for its American port cities in New Orleans and Quebec.

The defeat also caused a minor rift between Tlaxcala and Spain, which was a big deal at the time because without Tlaxcala, Spain would have never been able to conquer the Aztec Empire as thoroughly as it did.

Please, read the rest. Texas ain’t no joke…

RCH: Religion in the USSR

That’s the topic of my weekend column at RealClearHistory. An excerpt:

4. Buddhism was also outlawed and persecuted to the fullest extent of the Soviet law. Buddhism was practiced by a few different non-Russian ethnic groups in central Asia, and these small ethnic groups were given more leniency than most, but Buddhism came to be viewed by the Soviet intelligentsia as extremely dangerous, due to the fact that many left-leaning scholars abandoned socialism for Buddhist principles. The work of Andrei Znamenski, a historian of religion and ideology at the University of Memphis, is particularly useful for finding out why this happened.

Please, read the rest. Dr Znamenski, of course, blogs here on occasion, but I do wish he’d do so more often…

RCH: law schools and Thurgood Marshall

Yesterday’s RealClearHistory article was all about law schools, with a little bit of Thurgood Marshall thrown in for good measure (he took his seat on the US’ highest court Oct 2, 1967):

If the Supreme Court’s liberal and conservative justices all come from one of two law schools, the prevailing mode of thinking about the law is going to be not only out of touch with most of the legal profession (and general populace), but also with the idea of a judicial branch dedicated to overseeing the laws of a vast, continent-spanning republic. Marshall’s supreme courts were elitist and aristocratic, which is what they were supposed to be, but what do you call a court that is so insular and so self-selecting that only two law schools are represented?

This is not a plea to lower standards in order to broaden the field, but there are a lot of good law schools in America, which is, after all, a republic governed by laws, not men. If the Kavanaugh debacle proves too much of a problem for federal politicians (Kavanaugh went to Yale’s law school), perhaps President Trump should think of looking elsewhere for a nominee.

Please, read the rest. In it, I include 3 people who would be good SCOTUS Justices. Feel free to add your own…

RCH: 10 most divisive Supreme Court justices in American history

It turns out that SCOTUS appointments have had a long history of dividing American society. An excerpt:

9. Roger Taney (1836-64). Taney rose up the political ranks as Andrew Jackson’s right-hand man. Jackson tried to get him on the Supreme Court in 1835 but his nomination was rejected by anti-Jacksonian Whigs in the Senate. After the Whigs were swept away in the 1836 election campaign, Jackson renominated Taney, but this time for the position of Chief Justice, and he was confirmed 21-15 after a bitter debate in the Senate. The Taney court is responsible for the Dred Scott case that tore the fledgling republic apart, and for helping Jackson abolish the national bank. Taney and Lincoln clashed often, too, as Taney ruled that Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus was unconstitutional, but Taney never did go home during the Civil War and served out his term as Chief Justice until his death in 1864. He holds the second-longest tenure of any Chief Justice.

Please, read the rest, and try to remember: this divisiveness is a feature of the system, not a bug.

RCH: 10 corporations that gave capitalism a bad name

That’s the subject of my weekend column over at RealClearHistory. An excerpt:

5. Dutch East India (1602-1799). The VOC, as the Dutch East India Company was known, exemplified corporate plunder and colonial oppression in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its demise was only met after Napoleon’s revolutionary armies conquered the Netherlands, and for nearly 200 years the VOC brutally oppressed and exploited Asian lands in the name of monopoly and Dutch interests of state. The VOC was created to give the Netherlands a presence in the burgeoning world of global trade that had been started by Spain and Portugal after the former’s colonization efforts in the New World. The VOC wanted to cut off Spain and Portugal (and, later, the U.K., France, and U.S.) from world trade, and monopolize industries in order to benefit Dutch society. This logic led directly to not only the horrible things that happened in VOC-governed territory, but also to the corruption and unnecessary wars that happened in the Netherlands.

Please, read the rest.

RCH: 10 Dead Nazis You’ve Never Heard Of

Yup, dead Nazis. That’s the subject of my weekend column for RealClearHistory. An excerpt:

8. Karl Haushofer (died 1946). While it is perhaps unfair to include Haushofer in this list (he denied being a Nazi and his wife and son were, under Nazi law, considered to be “half-Jews”), his ideas about the world and how he went about promoting them are too important to leave out of the Nazi story. Haushofer became a geopolitical theorist after World War I and is credited with introducing to the German public (including the Nazis) the idea of “Lebensraum,” or “living space.” According to Haushofer, Germany could only compete with the Western powers if it had control over areas of Europe stretching from Norway to the Caspian Sea. Once the German military controlled this geographic space, the Nazis could begin exterminating the indigenous people there to make room for German colonists. Haushofer also viewed Japan as a natural ally of Germany and was instrumental in convincing the Nazis to partner up with Tokyo. One of Haushofer’s former students, Rudolf Hess, was one of Hitler’s closest confidants, and it’s unlikely that Haushofer, bitter about the terms of peace imposed on Germany by France and the U.K. after World War I, did not exploit his former student’s position as Deputy Führer. He and his wife committed suicide together in 1946. Their son had been murdered by the S.S. in April of 1945.

Please, read the rest (if you haven’t already!).

RCH: The United States and the Middle East

My latest for RealClearHistory is all about ‘Murica and the Mideast. An excerpt:

2. The Iranian Regime. During the Cold War, the U.S. government supported a number of regimes that were illiberal in the name of fighting communism. The necessity of such tactics are beyond the scope of this article, but the Pahlavi “dynasty” of Persia was one such illiberal regime. The Pahlavis were anti-Communist and pro-Western, which meant that women could dress how they pleased and go to university, and that religion was pushed to the sidelines of political life. This made the Pahlavi’s enemies of not only the socialist reformers of Persia, but also the majority of the conservative religious clergy. One Pahlavi was ousted by a joint British-Soviet invasion in 1925, and his son was deposed in the 1979 revolution that turned Persia into Iran. After the British-Soviet invasion, the United States became heavily involved in Persia and supported the secular autocrat almost blindly, which is why the anti-Shah revolution of 1979 was also anti-American.

Please, read the rest.

RCH: the Peace of Paris (1783)

My latest at RealClearHistory is up. An excerpt:

The Americans did not like this proposal one bit, and they went around the French and their Spanish allies and negotiated a separate treaty with the British, who were all too happy to give up some land in exchange for sticking a thumb in France’s eye. The French foreign minister at the time of the treaty negotiations, Charles Gravier, Count of Vergennes, bitterly complained that “the English buy peace rather than make it.” London also anticipated a rapprochement between itself and its now-former colonies, and a favorable treaty with the rebels would buy the British some much-needed diplomatic capital down the road. The American diplomats who negotiated such a generous truce were led by Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams.

Please, read the rest.

RCH: 10 rivalries that shaped world history

My weekend column for RealClearHistory, in case you missed it, was fun to write. An excerpt:

4. The Mughals versus the Persians (1600s -1739). The Mughal Empire, an Indian polity that ruled over much of the subcontinent, fought three wars against two Persian dynasties (Safavids and Afsharids) and lost all of them. Much of the fighting was done around the city of Kandahar, in what is now Afghanistan. Kandahar was for a long time an important fortress for empires and dynasties that lorded over both Persia and India. While the Mughals had their pride stung by the losses, they could at least find solace in the fact their realm was the most economically successful on the planet at the time. India and Iran have long been weary regional rivals and sometime allies, but geographic distance and terrain have made outright wars between the two civilizations rare and limited. The rivalry between Iran and India has been a cultural one rather than a military one.

Read the rest (if you haven’t already!).

RCH: death and taxes

I’ve been so busy I forgot about my Tuesday column over at RealClearHistory (I have a Friday column, too). Last week’s column was about the trial and execution of two Italian-born anarchists in Massachusetts:

The anarchism of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti was left-wing and violent. Very violent. The two young men were admirers of Luigi Galleani, an Italian anarchist who advocated violence as the best way to achieve a more anarchist world. Sacco and Vanzetti, the executed, were part of an American syndicate dedicated to Galleani’s ideals. This syndicate was responsible for bombings, assassination attempts, printing and distributing bomb-making books, and even mass poisonings in the United States. The Galleanists were so violent that they sat atop a list of the federal government’s most dangerous enemies. On April 15, 1920, an armed robbery at the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, Mass., went awry and two men, a guard and an accountant (“paymaster”) were killed by the robbers. Sacco and Vanzetti were accused, convicted, and sentenced to death.

This week’s column focused on Shays’ Rebellion:

The Shaysites, as supporters of Daniel Shays came to be known, eventually grew to thousands of men, and the movement grew confident enough that it planned to seize a federal armory. However, the governor of Massachusetts, James Bowdoin, directed a local militia leader (William Shepard) to protect the armory. The armory, though, was federal property, and the militia was operating under state direction, so the seizure of the armory in the name of protecting it from rebels had the potential to ignite a powder keg of legal ramifications throughout the war-torn eastern seaboard.

Y’all stay sane out there!