Wednesday, June 10, 2020


[Part of Constituting America’s 90 Day Study - Days that Shaped America]

On March 3, 1917, 162 words changed the course of World War I and the history of the 20th Century.

Germany officially admitted to sending the “Zimmermann Telegram”, which exposed a complex web of international intrigue, to keep America out of World War I.  It was this, and not the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915, that led to the U.S. entering the European war.

The Zimmermann Telegram was a message sent by Arthur Zimmermann, a senior member of the German Foreign Office in Berlin, to Ambassador Heinrich von Eckardt in the German Embassy in Mexico City.  It outlined Germany’s plans to support Mexico in a war with the United States should America enter the European War:

We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain, and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President's attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.

The story of how this telegram became the pivotal document of World War I reads like a James Bond movie.

America was neutral during the early years of the “Great War”.  It also managed the primary Transatlantic telegraph Cable.  European governments, on both sides of the war, were allowed to use the American cable for diplomatic communications with their embassies in North and South America.  On a daily basis, messages flowed, unfettered and unread, between diplomatic outposts and European capitals.

Enter Nigel de Grey and his “Room 40” codebreakers.

British Intelligence monitored the American Atlantic cable, violating its neutrality.  On January 16, 1917, the Zimmerman Telegram was intercepted and decoded.  de Grey and his team immediately understood the explosive impact of its contents.  Such a documented threat might force the U.S. into declaring war on Germany.  At the time, the “Great War” was a bloody stalemate and unrest in Russia was tilting the outcome in favor of Germany.

de Gray’s challenge was how to orchestrate the telegram getting to American officials without exposing British espionage operations or the breaking of the German codes.  He and his team created an elaborate ruse.  They would invent a “mole” inside the German Embassy in Mexico City.  This “mole” would steal the Zimmermann Telegram and send it, still encrypted, to British intelligence.  The encryption would be an older version, which the Germans would consider a mistake and assume it was such an old code it was already broken.  American-based British spies confirmed that the older code, and its decryption, was already in the files of the American Telegraph Company.

On February 19, 1917, British Foreign Office officials shared the older encoded version of Zimmermann Telegram with U.S. Embassy officials.  After decoding it and confirming its authenticity, it was sent onto the White House Staff.

President Woodrow Wilson was enraged and shared it with American newspaper reporters on February 28.  At a March 3, 1917 news conference, Zimmermann confirmed the telegram stating, “I cannot deny it.  It is true”. German officials tried to rationalize the Telegram as only a contingency plan, legitimately protecting its interests should America enter the war against them.

On April 4, President Wilson finally went before a Joint Session of Congress requesting a Declaration of War against Germany.  The Senate approved the Declaration on April 4 and the House of April 6.  It took forty-four days for American public opinion to coalesce around declaring war.

Why the delay? 

Americans were deeply divided on intervening in the “European War”.  Republicans were solidly isolationist.  They had enough votes in the Senate to filibuster a war resolution.  They were already filibustering the “Armed Ship Bill”, which authorized the arming of American merchant ships against German submarines. German Americans, a significant voter segment in America’s rural areas and small towns, were pro-German and anti-French. Irish Americans, a significant Democratic Party constituency in urban areas, were anti-English. There was also Wilson’s concern over Mexican threats along America’s southern border.

Germany was successful in exploiting America’s division and its isolationism. At the same time, Germany masterfully turned Mexico into a credible threat to America. 

The Mexican Revolution provided the perfect environment for German mischief. Germany armed various factions and promoted the “Plan of San Diego”, which detailed Mexico’s reclaiming Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Even before the outbreak of the “Great War”, Germany orchestrated media stories and planted disinformation among Western intelligence agencies to create the impression of Mexico planning an invasion of Texas.  German actions and rumors sparked a bloody confrontation between U.S. forces and Mexican troops in Veracruz, on April 9, 1914.

After years of preparation, German agents funded and inspired Pancho Villa’s March 9, 1916 raid on Columbus, New Mexico. In retaliation, on March 14, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered General John “Black Jack” Pershing, along with 10,000 soldiers and an aviation squadron, to invade northern Mexico and hunt down Villa.  Over the next ten months, U.S. forces fought twelve battles on Mexican soil, including several with Mexican government forces. 

The costly and unsuccessful pursuit of Villa diverted America’s attention away from Europe and soured U.S.-Mexican relations.

Germany’s most creative method for keeping America out of World War I was a fifteen-part “Preparedness Serial” called “Patria”. In 1916, the German Foreign Ministry convinced William Randolph Hearst to produce this adventure story about Japan helping Mexico reclaim the American Southwest.

“Patria” was a major production. It starred Irene Castle, one of the early “mega-stars” of Hollywood and Broadway. Castle’s character uses her family fortune to thwart the Japan-Mexico plot against America. The movie played to packed houses across America and ignited paranoia about the growing menace on America’s southern border.  Concerns over Mexico, and opposition to European intervention, convinced Wilson to run for re-election on a “He kept us out of war” platform.  American voters narrowly re-elected Wilson, along with many new isolationist Congressional candidates.

“Patria”, and other German machinations, clouded the political landscape and kept America neutral until April 1917.  Foreign interference in the 1916 election, along with chasing Pancho Villa, may have kept America out of WWI completely, except that Zimmerman’s Telegram, outlining Germany’s next move, was intercepted by British Intelligence. It awakened Americans to a real threat.
Words really do matter.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Time for a 21st century Indo-Pacific Charter

[Dr. Sunil Chacko - Guest Columnist]
Also published in the Sunday Guardian

Tokyo: The Indo-Pacific is fast becoming both the centre of world economic gravity as well as the locus of Great Power confrontations. Indo-Pacific encompasses major economies and military powers, the US, China, Japan, India, Russia, and rising countries with significantly large modern militaries Korea, Indonesia, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, and Singapore, among others. Most, though not all, are maritime democracies. There are a plethora of unresolved territorial issues from the past, while the sophistication and lethality of weapons of mass-destruction have been exponentially rising. The countries of the Indo-Pacific have multiples of the armaments needed to blow up the entire planet.
The Atlantic Charter started off as a press release of a secret August 1941 meeting between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill to discuss the then-intensifying World War II, held in the quiet Placentia Bay off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Later, the document even became regarded as a profound declaration for human freedom and the wellspring of the United Nations. The meeting was the idea of Churchill, at the time losing ground rapidly in both Europe to the Germans, and in Asia to the Japanese, and Churchill provided the first draft. Indeed, it was Churchill’s desperation that propelled him to undertake the dangerous trans-Atlantic ship journey for that first formal meeting with FDR, braving the risk of being torpedoed by prowling German submarines. However, Roosevelt refused military commitments at the meeting, and did not regard the joint statement to be anything akin to a treaty that he would have had to submit for ratification to the US Senate. Further, then-US Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles confirmed that there had been no prior communications on the document — therefore, five drafts and multiple discussions were needed August 9-12 to agree on the wording of the broad principles to guide policies following the end of the War and the achievement of peace. The final joint declaration issued on August 14 comprised of eight points, including a call to enable to “traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance” and “abandonment of the use of force” and also “disarmament of nations that threaten aggression outside their frontiers.” It was Churchill who started referring to it as the “Atlantic Charter” on August 24, thereby elevating it post-event — at the time, the US was neutral in the War. It had been Churchill’s primary goal in attending the Atlantic Conference “to get the Americans into the war.” That goal was accomplished four months later when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, amid miscommunication, misinformation, disinformation, and controversy even today.
Pre-World War II history offers us many lessons on how a Third World War, that will almost certainly occur in the Indo-Pacific, might be prevented. Then, there was certainly a militarist element in Japanese leadership. As an example, a Japanese Colonel returning from a stealth fact-finding trip to the US in August 1941, the same month as when the Atlantic Charter was created, reported to the Imperial Army’s Chief of General Staff that the US had 20 times the steel production of Japan, five times Japan’s capacity to produce aircraft, and ten times overall war production potential. Rather than the information engendering circumspection, the Colonel was fired and his report was burned.
After Japan’s 1905 decisive victory over Russia, the US grew concerned that Japan would obstruct free trade with China and the “Open Door” independence policy that the US favored for China. Therefore, President Theodore Roosevelt asked the US Navy for a plan to confront Japan, even 35 years before Pearl Harbor. The result was the War Plan Orange (Japan was code-named Orange) designed by Admirals George Dewey and Alfred Thayer Mahan, who as young officers decades before had enforced in the American Civil War, the Union’s “Anaconda Plan” against the Confederacy. It was a siege strategy designed to strangle the island nation – of metals, fuel, and even finance. The plan envisaged complete commercial isolation leading to impoverishment and exhaustion and in the end economic ruin. While these severe sanctions were applied against Japan in the 1930s, military-dominated regimes replaced internationalist governments in Tokyo in the run-up to the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. Leading pre-War figures like Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who had spent several years in the US as a student and Naval Attaché, voiced doubts whether the US’ overall fighting capabilities were vulnerable to a preemptive strike. Historical documents show within the Japanese establishment deep divisions between the Imperial Navy and civilian authorities and a flurry of telegrams during international negotiations with multiple bureaucratic confabulations, but strikingly without any coherent strategy showing profound comprehension of the thinking of the US’ and European colonialists’ side.
Sanctions alone do not prevent war, rather may accentuate pseudo-nationalist passions leading to war. Indeed, when do sanctions become an assault on the nation’s very existence, a lethal threat to create mass starvation, and a provocation for a “war of self-defence and self-preservation”? What can we learn from the pre-World War II mistakes so as to apply lessons to today to prevent the immense catastrophe that will undoubtedly befall the entire world, orders of magnitude greater than what the coronavirus has wrought, should there be a major conflagration in the Indo-Pacific?
Unlike pre-War Japan, on steel today China is already the world’s largest steel producer – six of the top 10 steel companies in the world are Chinese. Stainless steel is used to make aircraft and defence equipment, surgical instruments, pipelines and gas tankers. Nickel is essential for steel-making, and Indonesia has the world’s largest reserves of nickel. China opened a large steel plant in Indonesia producing 3 million metric tons, and just 2 years later, Indonesia banned exports of Nickel, clearly favoring domestic steel production including by the Chinese steel manufacturer, that had received concessional loans granted based on alignment with Chinese government policy directives, rather than just creditworthiness or other market factors. Further, China is known to provide cash grants, capital and equity infusion, and debt-conversions. China produces 53% of the world’s stainless steel; and produces 7 times more steel than does India that is the world’s No. 2 steel producer. India needs Nickel for its stainless steel industry and may need to compete with China on diplomatic grounds to get access to Indonesian Nickel. If India is allied with Indonesia via the Quad, for instance, chances are that indeed Indonesia might revoke its ban on exports. Thus, there are varied benefits to building coalitions in the Indo-Pacific. If those are not created, and rapidly, most countries will soon be at the economic or military mercy of China, one way or the other.
The Atlantic Charter broadly set the terms of post-War peace, and that peace between the US and USSR held, albeit with proxy fights in the global South. The Atlantic Charter was also one component of Churchill’s strategy to survive the then-raging battles, since the war continued for more than three and a half years after the Atlantic Charter was released to the media. Today, however, we have a far different scenario where there is the urgent need to somehow prevent a war in the Indo-Pacific, which Great Powers appear to be hurtling into.
Parallel to the Atlantic Charter, a new Indo-Pacific Charter was proposed in early 2020 by India’s first professor of geopolitics, who was appointed by Manipal University in India in 1998. This was designed to shape peace in the post-COVID era that has devastated economies and societies worldwide. Further, a new Charter designed to keep the peace, might just help to deter aggression and mindless belligerence, even during this phase when economic recovery is slow and painful. This Indo-Pacific Charter would include the following elements: 1: No territorial gains to be sought by any major power 2: No creation of artificial territories in the open seas 3: No acquisitions by force or lease of new territories within sovereign nations 4: New global security council 5: Participants will work towards freedom and sovereignty of data 6: Participants will work towards a unified approach to using Artificial Intelligence for the good of humanity 7: Formation of a Space and Biosphere Security Council 8: Participants to work together to promote democracy and participatory government.
As far as most Indians are concerned, there is little difference between various nationalities and at the individual level, Chinese and Russians are just as approachable or interactable as Americans or Japanese. However, in the Indo-Pacific when it comes to governments, core adherents to and proponents of an Indo-Pacific Charter would be the Quad: the US, India, Japan, Australia.
In 2007, Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe, then in his first term, spoke in the Indian Parliament and his scholarly advisors inserted in his speech references to the Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh’s book, Confluence of the Two Seas (meaning mixing of waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans), alluding to the origins of the Indo-Pacific concept from at least year 1655 (and in reality the idea existed from the era of the South Indian Chola dynasty that extended even to Indonesia a thousand years ago).
Together, the Quad represents a formidable blue-water navy armada with tremendous firepower capable of deterring aggression – from nation-states, and even from pirates/terrorists who can use thousands of uninhabited islands as bases for armed robbery, kidnapping, trafficking in weapons/narcotics and other nefarious activities at coastal resorts or on the seas. Some see the Quad as fundamentally a broad geo-political insurance policy against a conflict with China’s armed forces, otherwise known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that has been known to have its own management, industrial and financial structures not entirely under the control of the government or Chinese Communist Party (CCP). That is precisely an issue that has allusions to Japan’s pre-War structures. China has among the largest, oldest and most-diversified military-industrial complexes in the world. Analysts opined that the Chinese defense industrial base today comprises over 20,000 companies with many having factories, research units, trading companies, and academic institutions and at least 3 million workers plus 300,000 engineers and technicians. Its profit is estimated to be over $20 billion. The PLA’s entrepreneurial activities even extend to tourism, pharmaceuticals, entertainment, agriculture and machinery. China produces a full range of military equipment, from small arms to inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), armored vehicles, fighter aircraft, warships, submarines, and nuclear weapons, but until some years ago, it was regarded as broadly technologically backward in comparison to other major powers, especially in propulsion engines, and systems integration. Today, China is closer to military production self-sufficiency, but still imports jet engines for combat aircraft and surface-to-air missile systems, among others, from Russia. China spends more for defence than any country except the US.
The repeated military encroachments into kilometres of Indian territory as well as hostile naval acts in the South- and East-China Seas by the PLA at critical moments make some analysts allude to the possibility of a “State-within-a-State” concept where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the government of China may not be in total control over the PLA as in the case of democracies where the civilian government is expected to exercise absolute control over the military. The PLA’s industrial and organizational autonomy, despite the CCP’s attempts to curtail the PLA’s financial autonomy, may well be factors in this respect. This makes for an explosive mix somewhat akin to the pre-War Imperial Japanese military-industrial structures, which engaged in industrial activities including ship-building, mining, and arms trading within Japan and in its overseas territories.
The Quad today might be regarded as a minilateral/microlateral rather than multilateral grouping. The US and Japan, unshakable allies since the end of World War II, are both among India’s top investors, and do not raise national security concerns similar to what are raised by China or Russia. Today, as has repeatedly been pointed out also by Prof M.D. Nalapat, because Pakistan is a core member of the China-Russia alliance, there is little room for India in that alliance, with associated compounding risks of India facing a two-front China & Pakistan war, and also it has been proved through multiple actions such as repeatedly blocking India’s accession to various groupings including the UN Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, that China simply does not want India as competition in Asia or elsewhere.
Meanwhile, President Trump continues to attempt to wean away Russia from its alliance with China by including Russia in a new G10/G11 grouping he is building to virtually replace the now largely irrelevant G7. That effort might have had a chance to succeed had not over 3 years been wasted on a fake allegation that everyone when testifying under oath denied — of alleged collusion between Trump administration officials and Russia, once a mighty power, and now reduced to a mid-level but nimble one, increasingly dependent on China.
Much of naval history was written with an Atlanticist-fixation. On the other hand, in the Indo-Pacific, Chinese Admiral Zheng He’s expedition fleet included 28,000 sailors on 300 ships, the largest vessels were 122 metres long as compared to Christopher Columbus’ first voyage some 70 years later with 90 sailors on 3 ships, the largest of which was only 26 metres long. Korea has its Admiral Yi Sun-Sin who achieved major victories 1592-’98 against Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s navy using the Geobukseon “turtle ship” with its protective shell-like covering recognized as the first armored ship in the world. Japanese Admiral Togo Heihachiro’s decimation of the Russian fleet in the Battle of Tsushima was naval history’s first decisive sea battle fought by modern steel battleship fleets in which wireless telegraphy (radio) played a critically important role. Admiral Togo destroyed 2/3 of the Russian fleet, and the 1905 May 27-28 Battle is taught in naval colleges even today.
The Quad, aligned with the Indo-Pacific Charter, can provide collective security against aggression, of which there appears to be plenty. But it could well be that passing laws similar to India’s “Enemy Property Act 1968, as Amended” by the US, Japan and Australia may also be a major deterrent to aggressor nations that are also global investors. The Act provides for legal expropriation of all the aggressor nation’s assets in the attacked country. Therefore, thankfully, the aggressor and its own business enterprises have much to contemplate before launching a conventional or nuclear attack. In most countries, the leading businesspeople are firmly guiding policy and nothing bothers them as much as losing their entire investment amidst military adventurism. This is a major change since the 1960s, when few such global investors existed in the then-described “Third World.” Indeed, many wars would not have occurred had such laws been on the books.
Access to trade, investment, immigration, physical and digital infrastructure, as well as a vibrant civil society partnership between the Quad members would be the only way to build long-term support for it. India alone can meet the skilled population deficits of both Japan and Australia, and the US has for many decades been welcoming jobs-creating highly-qualified Indian immigrants. Japan’s population is ageing and declining in numbers, year after year, and India produces more babies, 27 million, every year than Australia’s entire population of 24 million, in other words, making it a “baby superpower”.
The world is just about to split into two groupings — one led by the US and the other by China, and each grouping is imposing sanctions and tariffs on the other — so India would need to choose and decide fast. While some members of the Quad may be reticent to commit to any military alliance, the reality is that their populations have been actively voting with their feet — around 4 milion Indians and Indian-Americans live and work in the US, exponentially more than Indians in China or Russia. India exports IT products and services of about $136 billion per year, mostly to the US. But what about the Indian government’s position? As in the decades post-Independence, is it planning to continue to sit firmly on the fence? A prominent CEO of one of the world’s large investors once told me — “India was with the Soviet camp during its alleged non-alignment, when the USSR was the major adversary of the US during the Cold War, and after the USSR collapsed India started seeking US investment. It cannot be immediate and automatic that the past is easily forgotten,” he added. Nevertheless, it was the mistake of the West and Japan to build up Communist China to that extent, while at the same time trumpeting democracy and human rights in the rest of the world, when China ironically can threaten its erstwhile sponsors and the entire Indo-Pacific — thus hypocrisy is not a phenomenon restricted to any one country. The US and Japan have realised that mistake and therefore have become wary of repeating the same, and hence are unlikely to favor any country to the extent they did for China.
Each dispute is technically about ownership of an island or two, but the reality is that it is all about the struggle to access oil and gas reserves, fisheries rights and protecting sea-lanes. That is because 30-40% of world trade and 40% of the world’s oil pass through the Straits of Malacca which link the Andaman Sea to the South China Sea, thereby making it perhaps the busiest shipping lane in the world with 120,000 ships passing through the Indian Ocean each year and nearly 70,000 of them pass through the Malacca Strait, and so both piracy and conventional military / geopolitical risks pose potentially catastropic consequences. Further, the Lombok Strait (between Bali and Lombok, connecting the Java Sea and Indian Ocean) and the Sunda Strait (between Java and Sumatra) seem to be the preferred routes for Chinese Navy submarines to enter the Indian Ocean region evading early detection more likely in the Strait of Malacca. Hence, the apparently postponed Indian Naval plan to have survellance systems with the Indonesian Navy (well-disposed to India since co-founding the Non-Aligned Movement in 1955) citing budget constraints appears a case of being penny-wise and pound foolish, since prevention is far superior to military “cures.”
Nevertheless, the Indian Navy is using airstrips built on Andaman and Nicobar Islands by the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces, then allied with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army, to undertake surveillance of the area, remotely. The Andaman and Nicobar islands have the distinction of being the first Indian territory liberated from colonial rule and were administered by Netaji’s Provisional Government of Free India.
Fisheries are a core of food security and self-sufficiency for island and coastal nations. China alone accounts for about 17% of world marine fish production, about 14 million tons. It is also the top inland aquaculture nation, with India being the No. 2. Japanese seafood consumption, at 53 Kg per annum has been among the highest per capita in the world, and beyond its own fishing fleets and aquaculture, Japan also imports seafood from 123 countries. China’s per capital consumption of around 31 Kg is smaller, but China has over 10 times the Japanese population to feed, hence China also is a major importer. India too is an important fisheries nation with about 13 million tons production of combination of pond aquaculture and wild catch. Naturally, fishing rights can become a cause for tensions as they have around the Russian-seized Japanese islands.
China has already disrupted efforts of Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in their own economic zones to find new deposits of oil and gas, enhance fishing income for their fisherfolk, albeit it is a crowded area, and the 200 nautical miles (nm) economic zone undoubtedly overlaps with the EEZs of other countries. Recently, Taiwan seeing the plethora of unresolvable claims and counterclaims, has been advocating joint development and sharing of resources.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), if it is categorized as an island, the country can claim 12 nm (22 km) radius territorial waters and 200 nm (370 km) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which gives special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources – fisheries and energy production, including wave and wind power. In one case, there is a dispute between two countries on precisely that point – with one claiming that what sticks out of the water during high tide is a “rock” only the size of a twin-bed and hence cannot sustain human habitation or economic life – essential to meet the entire UNCLOS definition of island. That is why countries build structures, including land reclamation projects, to expand possibilities. China has been constructing artificial islands on reefs and low-lying islands and has constructed airports on artificial islands that are even capable of landing fighter jets. Research is underway by Japan, China and others for coral to grow the “island” naturally. Once such “island” is created and territorial waters and EEZ claimed, it threatens the free flow of goods via very busy shipping lanes. Additionally, even small uninhabited islands can count for important psychological victories in geostrategic tussles and can therefore be decoy or tactical battlegrounds where military resources are forced to be expended leaving other flanks vulnerable.
Beyond the national economic zones, China holds 5 contracts with the Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority (ISA), the agency under the UNCLOS on mineral-related activities in the international seabed area totaling 238,000 square kilometres (almost the size of New Zealand) of the deep sea — including one to explore a 10,000 square kilometres area in the Indian Ocean for “polymetallic sulphide ore” that contain nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese, and another contract for 72,745 square kilometres in the Pacific Ocean. India holds two such contracts for exploration in other areas of the Indian Ocean. The metal needs for mobile phones and electric car batteries is driving demand. Seabed exploitation rules were set to be approved by the ISA in July 2020. The UNCLOS came into force in 1994, and while the US Senate refused to ratify it (there has never been the 2/3 majority needed), the US now recognizes UNCLOS as a codification of customary international law.
China is involved in so many territorial disputes as to make one wonder about Chinese diplomacy — there are more disputes in the Indo-Pacific than there are countries, especially because China is involved in multiple disputes, virtually with every country. And that too is intriguing because there are at the very top, erudite intellectuals like Mr. Wang Huning, Politburo Standing Committee Member, known to be the “alternate brain” of President Xi Jinping.
The Spratly Islands have been one scene of conflict, since the Chinese navy engaged in a battle with the Vietnamese navy in 1988 and sank three Vietnamese boats thereby killing 70 sailors. Then in 1995, China occupied Mischief Reef, part of the Spratlys, located within the 200 nm EEZ of the Philippines, and constructed markers on the Reef. In the South China Sea is also the Paracel Islands, where there are territorial disputes. China, Taiwan, Vietnam claim both groups of islands, while Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei claim part of the Spratlys.
In the East China Sea, there is a dispute between Japan and Korea for the Takeshima Islands that Korea calls as Dokdo, and the Senkaku Islands are claimed by both Japan and China that refers to them as Diaoyu.
These are just some of the innumerable territorial disputes between nations of the Indo-Pacific, and perhaps the most serious potential flashpoint is Taiwan.
There have been diplomatic efforts to resolve long-standing disputes, diplomatically, which have mostly not succeeded. The outreach that Japan has made to Russia comes foremost in mind. Russia seized four Japanese islands, Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and Habomai after Japan unconditionally surrendered following the dropping of the nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1956, then-Japanese Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama’s administration negotiated an agreement with USSR for the two smaller islands to be returned to Japan after a peace treaty was signed, but even today no peace treaty has been signed. Meanwhile Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has done everything possible to reach an understanding with Russia, providing economic assistance, encouraging Japanese multinational corporations to invest in Russia’s vast oil and gas sector, and even delivering a pet dog to President Putin. But it was all to no avail — making clear that Japan may well have misjudged Russia and Russians, and indeed that Russia has little wiggle room as it is an acknowledged junior partner of China’s that may not favor such rapproachment between Japan and Russia. Other observers point to rising nationalism in Russia and deep-rooted resentment at having lost vast swathes of territory as the USSR collapsed; thus the feeling among Russians that no more territory would leave Russian hands. Further, it is said that armies never forget, and the Russian armed forces would remember being soundly defeated in the 1905 Japan-Russia war — the first time in history that an Asian power had defeated a European one. Since then, Russia has been looking eastwards and can also classify as an Asian nation given the expanding importance of Vladivostok, a major Russian naval base, and the Russian eastern oil and gas fields in Sakhalin.

The original reason the elements of “One China Two Systems” were created in the late 1970s was an attempt to induce Taiwan to voluntarily accede to China. They were thus handy in British-Chinese discussions 1982-’84 over the future of Hong Kong. The Ch’ing Empire ceded Hong Kong Island “in perpetuity” at the end of the First Opium War in 1842 and the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War, but those comprised only 8% of Hong Kong. The New Territories, 92% of Hong Kong, was leased for 99 years by Britain in 1898. Thus, there was pressure to conclude the unequal negotiations before the handover in 1997. As is reportedly common in China, the leadership signs agreements quite freely, not expecting to honour them beyond what is convenient for themselves. This is very unlike India, where frenetic haggling takes place and reaching agreement is difficult, but Indians largely plan to adhere as they are particularly leery of Indian courts that can drain resources if engaged in any litigation, that becomes very prolonged. It is important to make that fundamental difference between China and India widely known. Every country is not the same.
It was Marshal Ye Jianying, a top-ranked associate of Vice Chairman Deng Xiaoping, who designed the elements that became known by the “One China Two Systems (OCTS)” Deng-coined catchy slogan. Deng had to redo multiple past economic mistakes of Chairman Mao, had previously served jail-time before being rehabilitated, and was then the public face of the rapidly changing China and the architect of its astonishing economic rise. China is a unitary state, not a federal structure like the US, Canada and India where the Constitution clearly lays down division of responsibilities. Hence, Hong Kong and Macao (then a Portuguese colony) had to be inserted as “Special Administrative Regions” into China’s 1982 Constitution. The imposition by China of a new national security law in May 2020 signals the end of OCTS because Hong Kong residents can be extradited for alleged offences to the rest of China. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee, and not any Supreme Court, is the only body to which any appeal can be lodged on the overriding of the Basic Law of Hong Kong. Even in 1997, when the changeover from British rule was effected with much fanfare, including hosting the Annual Meeting of the World Bank Group, that legal loophole was in place and visible, and only the gullible assumed that the Sino-British Joint Declaration was foolproof.
The general perception is that Japan launched an unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor, as part of its aggressive actions overseas, including taking over much of South-East Asia. But the reality is far more complex and has lessons for today’s entangled web of aggression in the Indo-Pacific and great relevance for the Indo-Pacific Charter.
Japan had seized Manchuria in 1931 by military coup and in 1932 had bombed Chinese cities, and on 7 July 1937 launched an all-out attack on China. On 5 October 1937 in an unsettlingly mysterious parallel to today, FDR delivered his “Quarantine Speech” where he spoke about an epidemic of world lawlessness alluding to Japan’s invasion of China thirteen weeks before. “When an epidemic of physical disease starts to spread, the community approves and joins in a quarantine of the patients in order to protect the health of the community against the spread of the disease…..War is a contagion whether it be declared or undeclared” he stated. He called for quarantining the aggressors. After Japanese bombers sank a US gunboat in China, US Treasury officials provided the President with the legal means, the “Trading with the Enemy Act, Section 5 (b)” that empowered the President to paralyze US dollars owned by foreign nations, whether formally an enemy or otherwise. That gave the US enormous power over Japan as the US dollar was the reserve world currency. At the time, Japan had impeccable credit rating and was even borrowing for industrial development in Manchuria, that was also a source of raw materials, especially minerals, for the motherland. The Great Depression, in the 1930s, and the sharp global economic downturn today, are eerie parallels, and confounding factors as well on cross-border borrowing amidst rising tensions. Since the US public did not want to fight another war after World War I, the US Treasury Department was actively monitoring Japan’s foreign currency and gold reserves, as the yen was not a convertible currency, and seeking to bankrupt Japan expecting that financial ruin would stop the war. Since the 1860s when Japan became a major trading nation, most of its dollar export earnings until the World War were from raw silk exports for fashionable middle-class and wealthy American women’s stylish clothing reaching $363 million in 1929. It is believed that the silk boom in the US financed the Japanese purchase of British warships that Japan used to sink the Russian and Chinese navies in the ensuing decades. Silk cost twenty times the price of cotton and the ankle-length skirts of the era and silk stockings necessitated large quantities of silk. By 1939, however, DuPont had invented nylon synthetic polymer fabric for hosiery, and coupled with the embargo imposed by the US on 26 July 1941, Japan’s silk industry withered away. FDR’s goal was to ensure Japan negotiated for peace, not to destroy the Japanese economy, however, some of his aides like Dean Acheson, then Assistant Secretary of State, indeed sought that end and boasted about it – something we see time and again of bureaucrats’ “overenthusiastic” activities verging on the sadistic. In this case, the same day November 22 that Acheson was boasting via a memo to his boss Secretary of State Cordell Hull about how his relentless dollar freeze was pauperizing Japan, deadly retaliation was being prepared with the sixth Japanese aircraft carrier docking at the Hitokappu Bay on Kurile Islands (then Japanese territory) that four days later set sail for Pearl Harbor.
FDR’s Executive Order froze Japanese assets in the US, import and export, and imposed criminal penalties of $10,000 and 10 years in prison for violation of the Order. FDR felt confident that Japan would not lash out violently against what it regarded as gross injustice, especially as it was only doing what every European nation and indeed the US was up to in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The financial freeze abruptly choked off Japan’s oil supplies. Therefore, contrary to what FDR expected, the Japanese Imperial Navy pressed for a “southern” strategy of attacking Dutch Indonesia to get its oil and British Malaya to control its rubber, and the Imperial Army agreed, and for some years, Japan was able to secure oil and rubber that way.
Likely because Chinese planners of today have studied the past, and can see several steps ahead like chess players, China is already planning to soon release a blockchain-linked crypto-Yuan that will overcome the foreign currency bankruptcy problems faced by Japan in 1941. Other countries will have to play catch-up once the crypto-Yuan is fully functional, and a dollar-freeze will no longer have remotely similar impact on China that it did on pre-War Japan. But might that in turn lead to overconfidence that any type of sanctions can be overcome, with accompanying lashing out — as Japan did?
Adoption of an Indo-Pacific Charter is an urgently needed means of ensuring lasting peace, just as the Atlantic Charter prevented a war between the US and the USSR in the many decades of the Cold War.
Dr Sunil Chacko holds degrees in medicine (Kerala), public health (Harvard) and an MBA (Columbia). He was Assistant Director of Harvard University’s Intl. Commission on Health Research, served in the Executive Office of the World Bank Group, and has been a faculty member in the US, Canada, Japan and India.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


Thomas Moran's watercolor of Old Faithful (1871).
His paintings were the first images of Yellowstone presented to the public.

[Part of Constituting America’s 90 Day Study - Days that Shaped America]

National Parks are the most visible manifestation of why America is exceptional.

America’s Parks are the physical touchstones that affirm our national identity.  Our historical Parks preserve our collective memory of events that shaped our nation.  Our natural Parks preserve the environment that shaped us.

National Parks are open to all to enjoy, learn, and contemplate.  This concept of preserving a physical space for the sole purpose of public access is a uniquely American invention.  It further affirms why America remains an inspiration to the world.

On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the law creating Yellowstone as the world’s first National Park. 

AN ACT to set apart a certain tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River as a public park. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming ... is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people; and all persons who shall locate, or settle upon, or occupy the same or any part thereof, except as hereinafter provided, shall be considered trespassers and removed there from ...

The Yellowstone legislation launched a system that now encompasses 419 National Parks with over 84 million acres.  Inspired by Grant’s act, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand established their own National Parks during the following years.

Yellowstone was not predestined to be the first National Park.

In 1806, John Colter, a member of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, joined fur trappers to explore several Missouri River tributaries.  Colter entered the Yellowstone area in 1807 and later reported on a dramatic landscape of “fire and brimstone”.  His description was rejected as too fanciful and labeled “Colter’s Hell”.

Over the years, other trappers and “mountain men” shared stories of fantastic landscapes of water gushing out of the ground and rainbow-colored hot springs.  They were all dismissed as fantasy.

After America’s Civil War formal expeditions were launched to explore the upper Yellowstone River system.  Settlers and miners were interested in the economic potential of the region. 

In 1869, Charles Cook, David Folsom, and William Peterson led a privately financed survey the region.  Their journals and personal accounts provided the first believable descriptions of Yellowstone’s natural wonders. 

Reports from the Cook-Folsom Expedition encouraged the first official government survey in 1870. Henry Washburn, the Surveyor General of the Montana Territory, led a large team known as the Washburn-Langford-Doan Expedition to the Yellowstone area. Nathaniel P. Langford, who co-led the team, was a friend of Jay Cook, a major investor in the Northern Pacific Railway.  Washburn was escorted by a U.S. Cavalry Unit commanded by Lt. Gustavus Doane. Their team, including Folsom, followed a similar course as Cook-Folsom 1869 excursion, extensively documenting their observations of the Yellowstone area.  They explored numerous lakes, mountains, and observed wildlife. The Expedition chronicled the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins.  They named one geyser Old Faithful, as it erupted once every 74 minutes.

Upon their return, Cook combined Washburn’s and Folsom’s journals into a single version. He submitted it to the New York Tribune and Scribner's for publication. Both rejected the manuscript as “unreliable and improbable” even with the military’s corroboration. Fortunately, another member of Washburn’s Expedition, Cornelius Hedges, submitted several articles about Yellowstone to the Helena Herald newspaper from 1870 to 1871.  Hedges would become one of the original advocates for setting aside the Yellowstone area as a National Park.

Langford, who would become Yellowstone’s first park superintendent, reported to Cooke about his observations.  While Cooke was primarily interested in how Yellowstone’s wonders and resources could attract railroad business, he supported Langford’s vision of establishing a National Park. Cooke financed Langford's Yellowstone lectures in Virginia City, Helena, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. 

On January 19, 1871, geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden attended Langford’s speech in Washington, D.C.  He was motivated to conduct his next geological survey in the Yellowstone region. 

In 1871, Hayden organized the first federally funded survey of the Yellowstone region.  His team included photographer William Henry Jackson, and landscape artist Thomas Moran. Hayden’s reports on the geysers, sulfur springs, waterfalls, canyons, lakes and streams of Yellowstone verified earlier reports.  Jackson’s and Moran’s images provided the first visual proof of Yellowstone’s unique natural features.

The various expeditions and reports built the case for preservation instead of exploitation.

In October 1865, acting Montana Territorial Governor Thomas Francis Meagher, was the first public official recommending that the Yellowstone region should be protected.  In an 1871 letter from Jay Cooke to Hayden, Cooke wrote that his friend, Congressman William D. Kelley was suggesting "Congress pass a bill reserving the Great Geyser Basin as a public park forever".

Hayden became another leader for establishing Yellowstone as a National Park. He was concerned the area could face the same fate as the overly developed and commercialized Niagara Falls area.  Yellowstone should, "be as free as the air or water." In his report to the Committee on Public Lands, Hayden declared that if Yellowstone was not preserved, "the vandals who are now waiting to enter into this wonder-land, will in a single season despoil, beyond recovery, these remarkable curiosities, which have required all the cunning skill of nature thousands of years to prepare".

Langford, and a growing number of park advocates, promoted the Yellowstone bill in late 1871 and early 1872.  They raised the alarm that “there were those who would come and make merchandise of these beautiful specimen”.

Their proposed legislation drew upon the precedent of the Yosemite Act of 1864, which barred settlement and entrusted preservation of the Yosemite Valley to the state of California. 
Park advocates faced spirited opposition from mining and development interests who asserted that permanently banning settlement of a public domain the size of Yellowstone would depart from the established policy of transferring public lands to private ownership (in the 1980s, $1 billion of exploitable deposits of gold and silver were discovered within miles of the Park).  Developers feared that the regional economy would be unable to thrive if there remained strict federal prohibitions against resource development or settlement within park boundaries.  Some tried to reduce the proposed size of the park so that mining, hunting, and logging activities could be developed. 
Fortunately, Jackson’s photographs and Moran’s paintings captured the imagination of Congress. These compelling images, and the credibility of the Hayden report, persuaded the United States Congress to withdraw the Yellowstone region from public auction.  The Establishment legislation quickly passed both chambers and was sent to President Grant for his signature.
Grant, an early advocate of preserving America’s unique natural features, enthusiastically signed the bill into law.
On September 8,1978, Yellowstone and Mesa Verde were the first U.S. National Parks designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Yellowstone was deemed a “resource of universal value to the world community”.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Froehlich Campaign - Mobile Headquarters, Wisconsin 1974
[Published on Newsmax]

Fifty years is a milestone.

It is an important measure of longevity. It marks the memory of a noteworthy event, or the continued existence of a marriage, organization, company, or movement.

Anything that lasts beyond two generations is useful to assess - what sustained it, and what can be learned from it.

On April 22, 1970, as a sixteen-year-old Junior at Wayzata High School, I stood before an assembly of students and faculty to kick-off the first Earth Day, introducing Dr. James Elder, a biologist who worked for my father. He spoke about environmental contaminants.

This was my first public political act. It began fifty years of political activism that led to serving in Congress, the White House, various federal agencies, two Republican National Conventions, three Republican State Executive Committees (Minnesota, Virginia, Wisconsin); and recruiting, managing, or advising 110 victorious candidates for offices at all levels.

I was well-prepared for these fifty years. My mother, Irene Faulkner, instilled a love of reading and a passion for conservative Republican politics. My father, Ki Faulkner, instilled a love of nature and taught me lessons of leadership. They both embedded honesty, integrity, a deep love for America, and the primary life driver being volunteerism - placing the community or a cause before oneself.

My career included superb bosses, who proved you can lead without ego or guile. Fortunately, there were amazing mentors. Brad Nash, Mayor of Harpers Ferry, provided insights about Washington politics from Coolidge to Eisenhower. Who did what to whom for what reason revealed and connected countless and invaluable elements on how things work and why.  Gene Hedberg, office mate in the Reagan-Bush national headquarters, provided similar insights from Truman through Ford. Over many meals at the University Club he connected dots and explained the psyches of Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Jim Baker, and other moderate Republicans.

During the Reagan Transition and early White House, Bill Wilson and Joe Coors, leaders of the President’s “Kitchen Cabinet”, took me under wing. They made me an honorary member of the Cabinet and shared insights into Ronald Reagan going back into the 1950s.

Other mentors proved that being right is more important than being popular. “Bud” Robb was the only Republican Commissioner of Hennepin County, Minnesota. His lone voice and vote were inspirational. Rep. John Ashbrook (R-OH) proved that expertly using procedural rules could grind the wheels of liberal government to a halt and expose waste and wrongdoing. Gerry Carmen, General Services Administrator, proved that common sense and total commitment to doing the right thing can change everything forever, overwhelming institutional inertia and corruption.

During these fifty years, I went from the youngest in the room to one of the oldest. Learning from others, and from experience, instilled life lessons worth sharing on this anniversary.

Be true to yourself.
Many politicians lose their way when the enticements of power swirl around them. Remember why you entered the “arena” in the first place. No short-term fling is worth risking a lifelong reputation.

Remain outcomes oriented.
The goal should remain incontrovertible while the means to achieving it should be flexible. The effort should always be worth the effort. Strategic success comes from extensive preparation, mastering situational awareness, and deconstructing large actions into integrated tactical achievements.

Think holistically.
Success comes from understanding that everything and person is connected to everything else. Persuading people, mobilizing resources, winning campaigns, implementing substantive and sustainable change, comes from pursuing diverse and sometimes unconventional actions. Allies as well as opponents may arise from the most unlikely places. Doing things that have never been done before may be the most effective means of achieving things that have never happened before.

People equal policy.
Who you work with is the root cause of success or failure. Success comes surrounding oneself with trusted, loyal, capable people. Those who do not make personnel their primary focus will suffer leaks, treachery, and failure.

Check your ego.
You should always think beyond yourself. Fixating on personal gain can be the road to riches, but also ruin. A true leader is comfortable surrounding themselves with subject matter experts who are far brighter and more experienced in their selected disciplines. A successful leader fosters collaboration among these experts, gives them inspirational direction, provides the resources critical for success, and flies cover and buffers their activities from petty politics.

Be nonpartisan.
Neither party has a monopoly on honesty, corruption, intelligence, or stupidity. The greatest achievements transcend partisanship. If the goal is large and important enough, common ground can be found across the political spectrum. Finding those of integrity who aspire to the greater good is the winning edge.

Brad Nash, neighbor and mentor, passed at age 97, actively affecting public policy to the end.

That is my goal as well.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


[Part of Constituting America’s 90 Day Study - Days that Shaped America]

America’s bloodiest day was also the most geopolitically significant battle of the Civil War.

On September 17, 1862, twelve hours of battle along the Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, resulted in 23,000 Union and Confederate dead or wounded. Its military outcome was General Robert E. Lee, and his Army of Northern Virginia, retreating back into Virginia. Its political outcome reshaped global politics and doomed the Southern cause.

The importance of Antietam begins with President Abraham Lincoln weighing how to characterize the Civil War to both domestic and international audiences. Lincoln choose to make “disunion” the issue instead of slavery. His priority was retaining the border states (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri) within the Union. [1]

The first casualties of the Civil War occurred on April 19, 1861 on the streets of Baltimore. The 6th Massachusetts Regiment was attacked by pro-South demonstrators while they were changing trains. Sixteen dead soldiers and citizens validated Lincoln’s choice of making the Civil War about reunification. Eastern Maryland was heavily pro-slave. Had Maryland seceded, Washington, DC would have been an island within the Confederacy. This would have spelled disaster for the North.

To affirm the “war between the states” nature of the Civil War, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, issued strict instructions to American envoys to avoid referencing slavery when discussing the Civil War. [2]

Explaining to foreign governments that the conflict was simply a “war between the states” had a downside. England and France were dependent on Southern cotton for their textile mills. “Moral equivalency” of the combatants allowed political judgements to be based on economic concerns. [3]

On April 27, 1861, Lincoln and Seward further complicated matters by announcing a blockade of Southern ports.  While this was vital to depriving the South of supplies, it forced European governments to determine whether to comply. There were well established international procedures for handling conflicts between nations and civil wars. Seward ignored these conventions, igniting fierce debate in foreign governments over what to do with America. [4]

England and France opted for neutrality, which officially recognized the blockade, but with no enforcement. Blockade runners gathered in Bermuda, and easily avoided the poorly organized Union naval forces, while conducting commerce with Southern ports. [5]

Matters got worse. On November 8, 1861, a Union naval warship stopped the Trent, a neutral British steamer travelling from Havana to London. Captain Charles Wilkes removed two Confederate Government Commissioners, James Mason and John Slidell, who were on their way for meetings with the British Government. [6]

The “Trent Affair” echoed the British stopping neutral American ships during the Napoleonic Wars. Those acts were the main reason for American initiating the War of 1812 with England.

British Prime Minister, Lord Henry Palmerston, issued an angry ultimatum to Lincoln demanding immediate release of the Commissioners. He also moved 11,000 British troops to Canada to reinforce its border with America. Lincoln backed down, releasing the Commissioners, stating “One war at a time”. [7]

While war with England was forestalled, economic issues were driving a wedge between the Lincoln Administration and Europe.

The 1861 harvest of Southern cotton had shipped just before war broke out. In 1862, the South’s cotton exports were disrupted by the war. Textile owners clamored for British intervention to force a negotiated peace.

In the early summer of 1862, bowing to political and economic pressure, Lord Palmerston drafted legislation to officially recognize the Confederate government and press for peace negotiations. [8]

During the Spring of 1862, Lincoln’s view of the Civil War was shifting. Union forces were attracting escaped slaves wherever they entered Southern territory. Union General’s welcomed the slaves as “contraband”, prizes of war similar to capturing the enemy’s weapons. This gave Lincoln a legal basis for establishing a policy for emancipating slaves in the areas of conflict.

Union victories had solidified the Border States into the North. Therefore, disunion was not as important a justification for military action. In fact, shedding blood solely for reunification seemed to be souring Northern support for the war.

Lincoln and Seward realized emancipating slaves could rekindle Northern support for the war, critical for winning the Congressional elections in November 1862. Emancipation would also place the conflict on firm moral grounds, ending European support for recognition and intervention. England had abolished slavery throughout its empire in 1833. It would not side with a slave nation, if the goal of war became emancipation. Lincoln embraced this geopolitical chess board, “Emancipation would weaken the rebels by drawing off their laborers, would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition”. [9]

On July 22, 1862, Lincoln called a Cabinet meeting to announce his intention to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. It was framed as an imperative of war, “by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion.” [10]

Seward raised concerns over the timing of the Proclamation. He felt recent Union defeats outside of the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia might make its issuance look like an act of desperation, “our last shriek, on the retreat.” [11] It was decided to wait for a Northern victory so that the Emancipation could be issued from a position of strength.

Striving for a game-changing victory became the priority for both sides. The summer of 1862 witnessed a series of brilliant Confederate victories. British Prime Minister Palmerston agreed to finally hold a Cabinet meeting to formally decide on recognition and mediation. [12]

General Lee wished to tip the scales further by engineering a Confederate victory on northern soil. [13] Lee wanted a victory like the 1777 Battle of Saratoga that brought French recognition and aid to America. [14]

The race was on. General Stonewall Jackson annihilated General John Pope’s Army in the Second Battle of Manassas (August 28-30, 1862).  Lee saw his opportunity, consolidated his forces, and invaded Maryland on September 4, 1862.

After entering Frederick, Maryland, Lee divided his forces to eliminate the large Union garrison in Harpers Ferry, which was astride his supply lines. Lee planned to draw General George McClellan and his “Army of the Potomac” deep into western Maryland. Far from Union logistical support, McClellan’s forces could be destroyed, delivering a devastating blow to the North. [15]

A copy of Special Orders No. 191, which outlined Lee’s plans and troop movements, was lost by the Confederates, and found by a Union patrol outside of Frederick. [15] On reading the Order, McClellan, famous for his slow and ponderous actions in the field, sped his pursuit of Lee.

Now there was a deadly race for whether Lee and Jackson could neutralize Harpers Ferry and reunite before McClellan’s army pounced. This turned the siege of Harpers Ferry (September 12-15, 1862), the Battle of South Mountain (September 14, 1862), and Antietam (September 17, 1862) into the Civil War’s most important series of battles.

While Antietam was tactically a draw, heavy losses forced Lee and his army back into Virginia. This was enough for Lincoln to issue his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, five days after the battle, on September 22, 1862. When news of the Confederate retreat reached England, support for recognition collapsed, extinguishing, “the last prospect of European intervention.” [17] News of the Emancipation Proclamation launched “Emancipation Meetings” throughout England. Support for a Union victory rippled through even pacifist Anti-Slavery groups who asserted abolition, “was possible only in a united America.” [18]

There were many more battles to be fought, but Europe’s alignment against the Confederacy sealed its fate. European nations flocked to embrace Lincoln and his Emancipation crusade. One vivid example was Czar Alexander II, who had emancipated Russia’s serfs, becoming a friend of Lincoln. In the fall of 1863, he sent Russian fleets to New York City and San Francisco to support the Union cause. [19]

Unifying European nations against the Confederacy, and ending slavery in the South, makes America’s bloodiest day one of the world’s major events.


[1] McPherson, James, Battle Cry of Freedom (Oxford University Press, New York, 1988) pp. 311-312.

[2] Foreman, Amanda, A World on Fire; Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War (Random House, New York, 2010) p.107.

[3] Op. cit., McPherson, p. 384.

[4] Op. cit., Foreman, page 80.

[5] Op. cit., McPherson, pages 380-381.

[6] ibid., pages 389-391.

[7] ibid.

[8] Op. cit., Foreman, page 293.

[9] Op. cit., McPherson, page 510.

[10] Carpenter, Francis, How the Emancipation Proclamation was Drafted; Political Recollections; Anthology - America; Great Crises in Our History Told by its Makers; Vol. VIII (Veterans of Foreign Wars, Chicago, 1925) pages 160-161.

[11] Op. cit., McPherson, page 505.

[12] Op. cit., Foreman, page 295.

[13] Op. cit., McPherson, page 555.

[14] McPherson, James, The Saratoga That Wasn’t: The Impact of Antietam Abroad, in This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), pages 65-77.

[15] Sears, Stephen W., Landscape Turned Red (Ticknor & Fields, New York, 1983) pages 66-67.

[16] Ibid., pages 112-113.

[17] Op. cit., Foreman, page 322.

[18] ibid., page 397.

[19] The Russian Navy Visits the United States (Naval Historical Foundation, Annapolis, 1969)