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Sunday, February 22, 2015

The People Power Revolution

Movements frequently gather steam in the wake of violent repression.  People were galvanized, rather  than cowed, by the Boston Massacre, the Amritsar Massacre, and even the Kent State Massacre.  Neither Ninoy Aquino's assassination in 1983 nor the Escalante Massacre in 1985 stemmed a rebellious tide in the Philippines that began on February 22, 1986:

The overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship remains one of the world's more remarkable nonviolent uprisings.  Despite more than a dozen similar successful movements during the subsequent years in South Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe, the Philippine "people power" revolution remains one of the most impressive in terms of the numbers of people involved, the level of nonviolent discipline and the way it capture the imagination of observers around the world.

President Ferdinand Marcos, who had ruled under dictatorial powers since 1972, had ordered a snap election in February 1986 as a means of legitimizing his control.  When it became apparent that the election had effectively been stolen, the opposition called for a massive campaign of civil disobedience.  However, in the international media, quotes were placed around the word "nonviolent," implying a dubious assessment, or at the least a skeptical outlook, of the strategy or its significance.  

Even after Marcos fled, there was difficulty in the foreign press in describing exactly what happened.  An editorial in Asiaweek noted that "political scientists will have to come up with new words to describe the four-days' wonder that convulsed Manilia...the whole phenomenon...fits no standard category."  Similarly, on the left, there was widespread skepticism over the prospects of success, prompting Cory Aquino to state that "Those who are prepared to support armed struggles for liberation elsewhere discredit themselves if they obscure the nature of what we are doing peacefully here."

The Filipinos could have reacted completely passively, just accepting the old dictatorship and the games Marcos played in stealing the snap election.  Or they could have opted for violence.  Instead, they doubled their chance of victory by resisting nonviolently:

Our findings [using data on major resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006] show that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns.

There are two reasons for this success. First, a campaign’s commitment to nonviolent methods enhances its domestic and international legitimacy and encourages more broad-based participation in the resistance, which translates into increased pressure being brought to bear on the target. Recognition of the challenge group’s grievances can translate into greater internal and
external support for that group and alienation of the target regime, undermining the regime’s main sources of political, economic, and even military power.

Second, whereas governments easily justify violent counterattacks against armed insurgents, regime violence against nonviolent movements is more likely to backªre against the regime. Potentially sympathetic publics perceive violent militants as having maximalist or extremist goals beyond accommodation, but they perceive nonviolent resistance groups as less extreme, thereby enhancing their appeal and facilitating the extraction of concessions through bargaining...We assert that nonviolent resistance is a forceful alternative to political violence that can pose effective challenges to democratic and nondemocratic opponents...

There is never a guarantee of success in any endeavor, nor is there such a thing as a risk-free revolution.  Yet I'd rather use a combination of the 198 different NV tactics cataloged by Gene Sharp as part of a strategic nonviolence campaign than picking up the proverbial pitchforks and torches.

Just look at the odds.  Violence dramatically favors the house.  If you if you go with nonviolence most of the time you beat the house and walk away from the table much, much richer.


February 22, 2015 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Quakers And Selma

Friends Journal:

[V]iolence erupts during the first march on March 7 when Alabama State Troopers attack the 600 unarmed civil rights demonstrators; the result is mass chaos and injuries, giving rise to the day’s nickname “Bloody Sunday.” Two days later, a second march took place with more people joining the cause, including clergy and other sympathizers. Later that night, a white group beat and murdered a white activist: James Reeb, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston who was working for the American Friends Service Committee at the time. Reeb died of head injuries two days later in the hospital; he was 38 years old. The violence of “Bloody Sunday” and of Reeb’s death received much attention from the rest of the country, leading to greater sympathy for and support of the Civil Rights Movement.
The April 1, 1965 issue of Friends Journal (published three weeks after the passing of Reeb) includes editorial comments on the impact of the marches and the tragedy of Reeb’s death. The excerpt here speaks to what many in the Quaker community were feeling at the time: shock, shame, and sorrow.

Sometimes it takes a shock like the tragedy of James Reeb to make many of us realize, to our shame, how inadequate is our normal capacity for identification and sharing. For months, for years—for more than a century, in fact—we have been reading and hearing about the grave indignities suffered by Negro American citizens who never have been permitted to enjoy the most fundamental of citizenship’s rights. We have felt vaguely sorry for them, but how seldom have their sufferings moved us to any significant action, even when their search for freedom has brought death!

Why must we need the murder of James Reeb to move us to action? His death (according to John Sullivan, the Service Committee’s executive secretary for New England, where Reeb was working) “stirred the consciences and the moral responsiveness of the highest officials in our land—of the clergy and church people of America, of simple Negro and white men and women who wired, prayed, marched, and wept because of his sacrifice in the human struggle that now goes on without him—but not without his spirit, his memory, and his unfailing determination that justice and right will overcome.”

Yes, sometimes it takes a shock to remind us of our common humanity.  Even Quakers could be complacent while the Other was suffering, until one of our own was swept up in the bloody tide.

And remember when that nice old man called Code Pink 'scum'?  Yeah, it's out of the same playbook as Selma's police commissioner used against people of conscience.  It has been observed, however, that scum rises to the top...


February 19, 2015 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Apparently She Wasn't Just A Peace Creep

I see, Kayla Mueller is going to be Rachel Corried by the Right.  Oh, what a fine bunch of reubens.


February 11, 2015 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Peace Creeps Redux

Have any RWNJs called Kayla Mueller a peace creep yet, or is that just so 2006?

Regardless, peace be to her family, and all who knew and loved her.  One hopes someday we'll stop creating conditions in which people like Ms Mueller, the people she helps, and our troops have to endure so much sacrifice.


February 10, 2015 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Sunday, February 08, 2015


Scarred Justice.


February 8, 2015 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

"Sympathetic with the efforts of any group to enjoy the rights of equality..."

After Congress passed the proposed 13th Amendment in 1865:

The President signed the joint resolution on the first of February. Somewhat curiously the signing has only one precedent, and that was in spirit and purpose the complete antithesis of the present act. President Buchanan had signed the proposed amendment of 1861, which would make slavery national and perpetual.

But many held that the President's signature was not essential to an act of this kind, and, on the fourth of February, Senator Trumbull offered a resolution, which was agreed to three days later, that the approval was not required by the Constitution ; that it was contrary to the early decision of the Senate and of the Supreme Court; and that the negative of the President applying only to the ordinary cases of legislation, he had nothing to do with propositions to amend the Constitution.

Though thus decided, that the signature of the President to an act of this kind is not required, there was a peculiar fitness in sending the joint resolution to Mr. Lincoln. It may well be believed that he never set his name to a public document with deeper satisfaction.

Seldom in the history of a nation have two men, whose character and capacities are in so marked contrast, been elevated to such vast power as James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln. They typify two irreconcilable ideas in human government; ideas fully comprehended in the amendments, to the Constitution, which they signed.

An important step forward.  Yet even after ratification, there obviously was a lot of work left to be done.

That includes the efforts of four North Carolina A&T University students on February 1, 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina, which launched a major activist movement.  One of those brave young men was Franklin E. McCain, Sr (who died in January '14):

There was a little old white lady who was finishing up her coffee at the counter. She strode toward me and I said to myself, “Oh my, someone to spit in my face or slap my face.” I was prepared for it.

But she stands behind Joseph McNeil and me and puts her hands on our shoulders. She said, “Boys, I'm so proud of you. I only regret that you didn't do this 10 years ago.”

That was the biggest boost, morally, that I got that whole day, and probably the biggest boost for me during the entire movement.

But this created a lot of inconvenience which made people mad and unsympathetic to the cause, so they really shouldn't have done it...


February 1, 2015 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Friday, January 23, 2015

We Have Guided Missiles And Friendly Regimes Who Need More Of Them

Louie connects the dots from nonviolence in Selma to giving weapons away:

See, Louie Gohmert does not watch movies like you or I watch movies. His version contains running commentaries that only Louie Gohmert and certain breeds of dogs can hear.

"People in Egypt know about Dr. King," he continued. "He wanted a peaceful demonstration and they were part of a peaceful demonstration. Unfortunately, radical Islam did not like being removed. They burned churches. They went after Christians. They went after Jews."

This comparison would suggest that white Southern segregationists are the U.S. equivalent of "radical Islam," what with the church burnings and going after peaceful protestors. Louie Gohmert does not think these things through. Ever.

The observation came at the end of a long monologue, in which Gohmert interweaved words of support for Israel, condemnation of Boko Haram, and praise of the military takeover of Egypt's Islamist government by the secular dictator Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

All of which was mere decoration around the real reason for Louie Gohmert's speech on the House floor, which was to explain that Barack Obama is bad for not supporting Egyptian junta leader al-Sisi by giving him more helicopters and tanks. Which is what Martin Luther King, Jr. would have wanted, we presume, or at least it would have made the movie Selma more of a high-budget, Michael Bay affair.

I'm honestly surprised the good Congressman didn't call for sending ground troops to support freedom, just like Dr King did during Vietnam (LBJ never gets any credit for that).


January 23, 2015 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Monday, January 19, 2015

To Resist Is To Exist

Over at Raw Story, SEK has a compilation of "12 statements by Martin Luther King Jr. you won’t see conservatives post on Facebook today."  I'll note that #10 is probably one you also won't see most liberals post, either--I even have anecdata about that!

Anyway, I think a fuller context for that one sentence from The Social Organization of Nonviolence (1959) is warranted:

[O]ne must be clear that there are three different views on the subject of violence. One is the approach of pure nonviolence, which cannot readily or easily attract large masses, for it requires extraordinary discipline and courage.

The second is violence exercised in self-defense, which all societies, from the most primitive to the most cultured and civilized, accept as moral and legal. The principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi, who sanctioned it for those unable to master pure nonviolence.

The third is the advocacy of violence as a tool of advancement, organized as in warfare, deliberately and consciously. To this tendency many Negroes are being tempted today. There are incalculable perils in this approach. It is not the danger or sacrifice of physical being which is primary, though it cannot be contemplated without a sense of deep concern for human life.

The greatest danger is that it will fail to attract Negroes to a real collective struggle, and will confuse the large uncommitted middle group, which as yet has not supported either side. Further, it will mislead Negroes into the belief that this is the only path and place them as a minority in a position where they confront a far larger adversary than it is possible to defeat in this form of combat.

When the Negro uses force in selfdefense he does not forfeit support-he may even win it, by the courage and selfrespect it reflects. When he seeks to initiate violence he provokes questions about the necessity for it, and inevitably is blamed for its consequences.6

With that as backdrop, now listen to Congressman John Lewis on The Art and Discipline of Nonviolence, as heard on NPR's On Being last week.  There will be a quiz later.


January 19, 2015 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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Monday, January 12, 2015

The People Should Be Neither Seen Nor Heard

The Power Elite is very upset that some of the People mobilized and interrupted a self-congratulatory gathering after reneging on single-payer promises.  Be more polite, or nothing will ever change!


January 12, 2015 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ain't Gonna Study Violence No More

I'm sure this will solve everything:

The White House plans a conference next month on efforts to counter violent extremism — in light of this past week's shootings in France, and earlier attacks in Canada and Australia.

The meeting will highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting and inspiring others in the United States and elsewhere to carry out violent acts.

The White House says the Feb. 18 summit will build upon a current U.S. strategy to address the threat of violent extremism. The White House says cities such as Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul have taken a leading role as part of their approach to crime prevention and community safety.

Now that he's a lame duck with a Republican Congress, perhaps Obama could also push for a Department of Peace.  This ain't something you figure out in a day-long confab, but requires ongoing study in a different frame from our usual MO of "when all else fails, bomb shit."


January 11, 2015 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Truce In The War On Xmas

Saw this at RMJ's place:

I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence ... We all went out ... and just stood listening ... All I'd heard for two months ... was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets, ... machinegun fire and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted 'Merry Christmas', even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.

The words of Alfred Anderson, "last living veteran who'd been present at the 1914 Christmas Truce."

An important conclusion elsewhere:

The 1914 Christmas Truce of one hundred years ago was an extraordinary example of how wars can only continue if soldiers agree to fight. It needs to be honored and celebrated, even if it was only a flash of a moment in time. It represents the potential of human disobedience to insane policies. As German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht proclaimed, General, your tank is a powerful vehicle. It smashes down forests, and crushes a Hundred men. But it has one defect: it needs a driver. If commoners refused en masse to drive the tank of war, the leaders would be left to fight their own battles. They would be brief.

Peace on Earth, goodwill toward Humankind.


December 24, 2014 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Justice Paused Is Justice Denied

I'm sure he means well:

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio implored protesters on Monday to wait until after the funerals of two policemen shot dead in an ambush before resuming rallies that have roiled the city and beyond over the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

But de Blasio's plea was quickly dismissed by several activist groups that vowed to continue protests that have stirred the city daily after grand juries chose not to indict police officers who killed Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

I'd reject the call myself.  While the killer himself had nothing to do with the movement, clearly these murders are part and parcel of our overall struggle for justice and mitigating the cycle of violence.

Certainly the tone and messaging could change to reflect the latest developments, but there's no need to pause the work that needs to be done.


December 23, 2014 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Path Of Truth Is The Path Of The Brave

I've been in some discussion about non-violence given the various forms of protest we've seen since the Darren Wilson Exoneration Jury.  I naturally agree that rioting is counterproductive in general, but I both empathize (in the sense I posted about yesterday), and to a certain degree sympathize, with people engaging in such rebellion.

It's particularly important to recognize that people need the "space" to practice NV, and that's not necessarily available to the dispossessed.  By that I mean people need the opportunity to move up Maslow's hierarchy (or however you want to describe it, knowing that model might not be perfect) beyond meeting bare survival needs, be exposed to NV action and strategy, develop connections to others for coordinating NV efforts, etc.

So yeah, NV methods might be the "best" to achieve justice in Ferguson and elsewhere (both from a moral and practical perspective), but that's easy for me to say from my privileged position.  I was raised in the Quaker tradition more or less, spent decades learning about NV movements and how to apply NV tactics in a variety of circumstances, and of course benefit from the current power structures rather than being oppressed by them, so don't really know what it's like to suffer from repeated injustices.

With that as backdrop, I ran into some resistance to what I've expressed here (admittedly a little more thought out than when I'm quickly typing on Facebook).  I don't just mean the usual "that shit'll never work" canard, but also my allowing for even violent (or at least destructive) responses to oppression.

I'll not get into the exchanges' weeds, but merely (re)state my thesis: violence is a natural, human response to negative exogenous developments so engaging in NV can be rather hard, which is why it's a tool of the strong and really has to be learned and practiced.  Yes, even Gandhi and King couldn't get everybody to adopt their philosophy, despite all the charisma they brought to bear--both also understood the reasons for violence by the oppressed, and sought to not only educate but foster the conditions where more people could join them.

I don't have much of a narrative beyond that, but wanted to share some excerpted writings that have long formed the basis for my ideas on NV.

One thing that still surprises me that people are surprised by is that even Gandhi himself didn't expect everybody to follow his path of satyagraha.  One reason he undertook satyagrahic fasts was to interrupt default violent processes and shame people a little so they'd reflect and perhaps do a better job going the NV route, but he also hated the idea of passivity, impotence and cowardice.

For example, he wrote in The Gita and Satyagraha:

I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death, may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden. 

I don't mean to suggest that he advocated violence per se.  Rather, he decried inaction, and while he practiced NV and wanted others to as well, the Mahatma saw acceptance of evil to be worse than violent resistance to evil.  This was an extremely common theme in his writings.

It seems clear to me that Gandhi understood how non-obvious his form of NV was.  He noted this in Young India (November 5, 1919):

The way of satyagraha is distinct from the beaten track and it is not always easy to discover it. Few have ventured along that path and the footprints on it are few and far between and indistinct, and hence the people's dread of it. And still we clearly find people taking that course, be it ever so slowly.

Ever so slowly, as Dr King still had to observe in Why We Can't Wait (1963):

Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.

And when accepting the Nobel (1964)

[N]onviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. 

Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. 

I see all of this as acceptance of the immutable fact that humanity's conscience and society have to evolve as much as all other aspects of our existence.  Not unlike MLK (and Thurman) built upon the learning and practice of Gandhi--the former not even admitting the value of violence over impotence as the latter did, yet still understanding why the downtrodden might rise up in less constructive ways.

I'll have more to say about that in a while, following up on King's language of the unheard.  For now digest the offerings above, and consider that if you're judging rioters in the way I've seen people do ("I respected King, not that" or "it doesn't win my sympathy") then you are not being a part of the solution.


December 6, 2014 in Conscience, Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Setting The Movement Back

Something from a while back:

 [Robert E Lee] wrote in response to a message to Congress from President Pierce:

Although the abolitionist must know this, must know that he has neither the right nor the power of operating, except by moral means; that to benefit the slave he must not excite angry feelings in the master; that, although he may not approve the mode by which Providence accomplishes its purpose, the results will be the same; and that the reason he gives for interference in matters he has no concern with, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbor,—still, I fear he will persevere in his evil course. . . . Is it not strange that the descendants of those Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom have always proved the most intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others?

I'm sure most of the General's sentiment comes from the same disdain for "outside agitators" as was common through the ante bellum, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and modern eras.  But it inherently must at least be based in part on a disdain for people who criticize and/or disrupt the status quo.

Yes, it's certainly true that some abolitionists were extreme, and some extremely violent--Harpers Ferry comes to mind--which did "excite feelings" in the South and put Northern gradualists in uncomfortable positions.  That said, the problem is solely with the people resisting change and justice, not the people who refuse to wait for God or the President to finally do the right thing.

It's a mystery why this comes to mind...


December 4, 2014 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Speaking Of Excessive Force

Oh yeah, since I had fun with John Quincy Adams, I'll note he spoke on July 4, 1821:

[America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.  She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.  She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

Fast forward a couple years, when Britain and the US were concerned about a resurgence of European monarchial/colonial power in the Americas.  George Canning proposed a bilateral announcement warning everybody off.  President Monroe wasn't sure how to respond, so he sought advice.

JQA recorded in his journal in November, 1823:

13th. Morning occupied in making a draft of minutes for the message of the President upon subjects under the direction of the Department of State. I took to the President's my draft of minutes and copies of the instructions to R. Rush dispatched last summer. I read and left my draft with him.

I find him yet altogether unsettled in his own mind as to the answer to be given to Mr. Canning's proposals, and alarmed, far beyond anything that I could have conceived possible, with the fear that the Holy Alliance are about to restore immediately all South America to Spain. Calhoun stimulates the panic, and the news that Cadiz has surrendered to the French has so affected the President that he appeared entirely to despair of the cause of South America. He will recover from this in a few days; but I never saw more indecision in him...

15th....[President Monroe] asked for the correspondence relating to the intercourse with the British American Colonies, with a view to the particular notice which he intends to take of it in the message; which I thought should have been only in general terms. He also showed me two letters which he had received—one from Mr. Jefferson, 23d October, and one from Mr. Madison of 30th October, giving their opinions on the proposals of Mr. Canning. The President had sent them the two dispatches from R. Rush of 23d and 28th August, enclosing the correspondence between Canning and him, and requested their opinions on the proposals.

Mr. Jefferson thinks them more important than anything that has happened since our Revolution. He is for acceding to the proposals, with a view to pledging Great Britain against the Holy Allies; though he thinks the island of Cuba would be a valuable and important acquisition to our Union. Mr. Madison's opinions are less decisively pronounced, and he thinks, as I do, that this movement on the part of Great Britain is impelled more by her interest than by a principle of general liberty.
The subject of Mr. Canning's proposals was resumed, and I soon found the source of the President's despondency with regard to South American affairs. Calhoun is perfectly moon-struck by the surrender of Cadiz, and says the Holy Allies, with ten thousand men, will restore all Mexico and all South America to the Spanish dominion. I did not deny that they might make a temporary impression for three, four, or five years, but I no more believe that the Holy Allies will restore the Spanish dominion upon the American continent than that the Chimborazo will sink beneath the ocean.

But, I added, if the South Americans were really in a state to be so easily subdued, it would be but a more forcible motive for us to beware of involving ourselves in their fate. I set this down as one of Calhoun's extravaganzas. He is for plunging into a war to prevent that which, if his opinion of it is correct, we are utterly unable to prevent. He is for embarking our lives and fortunes in a ship which he declares the very rats have abandoned.
21st....I took with me the draft of my dispatch to R. Rush in answer to Canning's proposals, with the President's projected amendments and my proposal of amendment upon amendment. We had a very long discussion upon one phrase, which seemed to me to require none at all. The sentiment expressed was, that although we should throw no impediment in the way of an arrangement between Spain and her ex-Colonies by amicable negotiation, we should claim to be treated by the South Americans upon the footing of equal favor with the most favored nation.

The President had proposed a modifying amendment, which seemed to admit that we should not object to an arrangement by which special favors, or even a restoration of authority, might be conceded to Spain. To this I strenuously objected, as did Mr. Calhoun...The President did not insist upon any of his amendments which were not admitted by general consent, and the final paper, though considerably varied from my original draft, will be conformable to my own views...

My purpose would be in a moderate and conciliatory manner, but with a firm and determined spirit, to...assert [principles] upon which our own Government is founded, and, while disclaiming all intention of attempting to propagate them by force, and all interference with the political affairs of Europe, to declare our expectation and hope that the European powers will equally abstain from the attempt to spread their principles in theAmerican hemisphere, or to subjugate by force any part of these continents to their will.

The President approved of this idea; and then taking up the sketches that he had prepared for his message, read them to us. Its introduction was in a tone of deep solemnity and of high alarm, intimating that this country is menaced by imminent and formidable dangers, such as would probably soon call for their most vigorous energies and the closest union. It then proceeded to speak of the foreign affairs, chiefly according to the sketch I had given him some days since, but with occasional variations.

After hashing out the US stance, Adams sent instructions to Ambassador Richard Rush in London on the 30th:

As a member of the European community Great Britain lias relations with all the other Powers of Europe, which the United States have not, and with which it is their unaltered determination, not to interfere. But American Affairs, whether of the Northern or of the Southern Continent can henceforth not be excluded from the interference of the United States. All questions of policy relating to them have a bearing so direct upon the Rights and Interests of the United States themselves, that they cannot be left at the disposal of European Powers animated and directed exclusively by European principles and interests.

Aware of the deep importance of united ends and councils, with those of Great Britain in this emergency, we see no possible basis on which that harmonious concert of measures can be founded, other than the general principle of South-American Independence. So long as Great Britain withholds the recognition of that, we may, as we certainly do concur with her in the aversion to the transfer to any other power of any of the colonies in this Hemisphere, heretofore, or yet belonging to Spain; but the principles of that aversion, so far as they are common to both parties, resting only upon a casual coincidence of interests, in a National point of view selfish on both sides, would be liable to dissolution by every change of phase in the aspects of European Politics.

And so President Monroe unilaterally declared on December 2:

The citizens of the United States cherish sentiments the most friendly in favor of the liberty and happiness of their fellow-men on that side of the Atlantic. In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy to do so. It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparation for our defense.

With the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers. The political system of the allied powers is essentially different in this respect from that of America. This difference proceeds from that which exists in their respective Governments; and to the defense of our own, which has been achieved by the loss of so much blood and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their most enlightened citizens, and under which we have enjoyed unexampled felicity, this whole nation is devoted.

We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere.

But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintain it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

And there you have it.  Monroe's Doctrine has been expanded and tweaked a number of times over the intervening years.  

F'rinstance, Teddy Roosevelt had something to say about it on December 6, 1904:

It is not true that the United States feels any land hunger or entertains any projects as regards the other nations of the Western Hemisphere save such as are for their welfare. All that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous.

Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States.

Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power...

While they thus obey the primary laws of civilized society they may rest assured that they will be treated by us in a spirit of cordial and helpful sympathy. We would interfere with them only in the last resort, and then only if it became evident that their inability or unwillingness to do justice at home and abroad had violated the rights of the United States or had invited foreign aggression to the detriment of the entire body of American nations. It is a mere truism to say that every nation, whether in America or anywhere else, which desires to maintain its freedom, its independence, must ultimately realize that the right of such independence can not be separated from the responsibility of making good use of it.

In asserting the Monroe Doctrine, in taking such steps as we have taken in regard to Cuba, Venezuela, and Panama, and in endeavoring to circumscribe the theater of war in the Far East, and to secure the open door in China, we have acted in our own interest as well as in the interest of humanity at large.
We continue steadily to insist on the application of the Monroe Doctrine to the Western Hemisphere. Unless our attitude in these and all similar matters is to be a mere boastful sham we can not afford to abandon our naval programme. Our voice is now potent for peace, and is so potent because we are not afraid of war. But our protestations upon behalf of peace would neither receive nor deserve the slightest attention if we were impotent to make them good.

It appears Roosevelt's Corollary was fundamentally spurred by the Venezuela Crisis of 1902 (which he'd brag about for years), although he'd been formulating his philosophy and policy stance for quite some time:

The Roosevelt Corollary was a departure from previous hemispheric policy in that it proceeded from a global vision of U.S. security... 

Roosevelt's thinking on the Monroe Doctrine and the U.S. status and duty in the hemisphere went back a long way and fed on his reading and research as a young historian. Following the Venezuela Crisis of 1895. during which he enthusiastically supported Olney's vigorous reassertion of the 1823 warning, with its defiant reminder of U.S. invulnerability in the Americas, he penned in the March 1896 issue of The Bachelor or Arts an article that set forth his own interpretation of the celebrated pronouncement.

According to Roosevelt, the doctrine existed even before its actual formulation, as evidenced by American opposition to Napoleon's purchase of Louisiana from Spain in 1802. No territorial transfer, grant, or aggrandizement was to be permitted in favor of any European power.

Although he accepted the status quo, he looked forward "to the day when not a single European power [would] hold a foot of American soil.” His defense of the Monroe Doctrine then was unmistakably nationalistic; it was "not a question of law at all" but "a question of policy." It was also subtly imperialistic, as the corollary would later show; Roosevelt claimed rather disingenuously that it was "distinctly in the interest of civilization that the present states of the two Americas should develop along their own lines," while implicitly postulating U.S. superiority and trusteeship over “Spanish America." The future president's vision was essentially strategic.

In 1896 he advocated the instant annexation of Hawaii, the construction of an isth- mian waterway, and the revival of the Monroe Doctrine, backed by a “first-class fighting navy" without which it would stand as "an empty boast."
Shortly after his accession to the presidency, in view of the upcoming International Conference of the American States to be held in Mexico City, Roosevelt instructed Secretary of State john Hay to remind the "sister republics" that their stability and pros- perity were vital for the United States, to offer them generous commercial cooperation, and to invite them to iointly champion the Monroe Doctrine so as to better defend their sovereign rights and territorial integrity against possible encroachments by a European power. As vice president he had similarly urged its recognition as "a great international Pan-American policy, vital to the interests of all of us."

Now...in light of all our intervention in Europe since we put on our Superpower Pants, I found an interesting article about the Doctrine by Rear-Admiral Colby Chester (the only naval officer to have served in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and WWI) from July, 1914, not long after Archduke Ferdinand has been assassinated:

In defending the continental policy of "America for the Americans" the United States will have ample cause for keeping up an efficient navy, and to protect the seven thousand miles of coast line, including "the greater Panama Canal zone," she will need every ship that our non-military people will authorize to be constructed. It has been well said that the Monroe Doctrine is as strong as the navy of the United States, and in view of the fact that our country- men insist on maintaining but a small navy as compared with those that might be brought against it in combination, our people should avoid creating enemies, who might be tempted, in order to protect their own interests, to form an alliance with more power than we could bring to bear against them. 
Let the United States...in the words of the Hon. John Barrett, director of the Pan-American Union, "take advantage of the opening of the Panama Canal, to signalize formally, as it were, the beginning of a new Pan-American era in which the Monroe Doctrine, which represents the dictum of one government in the family of nations, shall evolve into a greater Pan-American doctrine, which shall represent the mutual interest and protection of all." 

It is better to make friends than to build guns.

Indeed.  But a few years later Yanks with their guns turned the tide in France and--demobilization notwithstanding--we had fundamentally reversed the European side of Monroe's equation.

So, is it dead as SecState John Kerry declared last year?  Dunno.  I'm inclined to think the American Doctrine has always been to be: do whatever the fuck we can get away with (which was less early on, more as we got bigger guns).


December 2, 2014 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Monday, December 01, 2014


Been seeing the usual complaints about traffic shutdowns and whatnot by Ferguson protesters.  

"Get a job!"  

"Must be nice not to have to be somewhere on time."

"This is not the way to get my sympathy."

Yeah, well, they got your attention, which apparently they didn't have before since you're all wrapped up in your own special snowflake world.  Imagine the inconvenience of being a black citizen of Ferguson.  Every day.  Or imagine the inconvenience of being, you know, shot to death.

If you're bitching, you clearly benefit from the status quo.  If getting your attention doesn't make you realize that and start doing something about it, you're part of the problem.  Wake the fuck up.


December 1, 2014 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Changing The Dynamic

A general strike would be great:

Activists are calling for students to walk out of school and employees to walk off the job nationwide at 1 p.m. ET Monday to protest police violence.

Good on the Rams, fuck Police Officers Association:

Several St. Louis Rams players sent a silent but strong messagebefore they took the field Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

The players raised their palms in the air, repeating the "hands up, don't shoot" gesture that protesters in Ferguson have been using for months.

But the move infuriated the St. Louis Police Officers Association, which issued a statement saying it was "profoundly disappointed" with the group of Rams "who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week."

You want people to stop protesting like this?  Help change the system instead of bitching about dissent.

Anyway, I'm not sure this is going to end any time soon.  The powers that be and everybody comfortable with the status quo ought to take notice...


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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Well how do you do Private William McBride?

Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside?

I know this is Veteran's--not Memorial--Day in the US, but it marks the Armistice ending the horrible war that began 100 years ago.  And I can't think of veterans without thinking of the waste that is all war.

This song also reminds me of a particular anti-recruitment action from a few years, or a few lifetimes, ago.  No more lost generations...


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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Maximum Overload

Loomis writes about the Wobblies in 1909:

Conditions in northeastern Washington were as bad as the rest of the nation. This was farming and logging country and both industries relied on itinerant labor. Working and living conditions were terrible and pay was poor. What really made workers angry was the employment agency scam. Companies and farmers would contract out with employment agencies, forcing workers to use them for a job. Workers paid for this service. If a job wasn’t there when they arrived, no money back! Return to Spokane and try again. Same if the job just lasted a couple of days. This was rank exploitation of the poor.

These conditions made Spokane an early IWW organizing hotspot. By mid 1909, the city and surrounding region had up to 1500 dues-paying members and a nice headquarters. It expanded its presence through street speaking. This is the literal meaning of “get on your soapbox” in action here. In angry speeches denouncing the exploitation workers faced, Wobbly speakers attempted to convince the workers passing through Spokane from job to job to fight back. As 1909 went on, the Spokane police began cracking down against this. In March, the city council passed an ordinance banning public speaking to all “revolutionists.”
As arrests grew, the IWW moved toward a larger action. When local Wobbly leader Jim Thompson was arrested for speaking without a permit on October 25, the IWW demanded his release and threatened to send speakers from around the country to city and flood the jails. Spokane called the IWW on its bluff and the IWW began its first major free speech fight on November 2. Spokane police began arresting everyone who tried to speak. Soon 400 people were in jail, overwhelming the prison system. As the members cycled out of jail, often after a 30-day sentence, they got themselves rearrested.

Overloading of systems is a nice little tactic, used in a variety of contexts including the Salt Satyagraha.  Yet Loomis also notes the failure to follow up on IWW victory, illustrating my usual point that you can't just employ one method without others in a larger strategic arc.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bellum Americana

Ah yes, American Exceptionalism seizes the moral high ground:

Keith Ablow, a doctor and Fox News analyst, thinks that the United States should aggressively export its system of government to every single country on earth. What could go wrong?

In a comically unhinged column posted to Fox News' website on Tuesday, Ablow calls for an "American jihad" in which the U.S. would aggressively move to America-ify the entire world, which totally makes sense because "the Constitution is a sacred document that better defines and preserves the liberty and autonomy of human beings than the charter of any other nation on earth."

How would this ambitious plan work? Well, Ablow explains, "we would tie American aid to incremental changes not just in the attitudes, but in the fundamental structures, of countries. These changes would move those countries, slowly but inexorably, toward reflecting our Constitution in their own charters." The plan would also involve doubling the budget for the CIA and Special Forces, presumably to counter any foolhardy resistance to American domination. There's more, but you get the idea.

It's like the Marshall Plan with just a touch of Mein Kampf and total cray...


October 29, 2014 in Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack