Friday, February 27, 2009

Wilson's Enduring Hypocrisy

(Yes, this is another post on World War I. This is a short essay [4 pages] I wrote for my World War I class which I thought I'd share on here. While I'm sure this could be improved as I wrote it in a hurry, I think it's pretty decent.)

When the First World War broke out, American president Woodrow Wilson asked the American people to be neutral in both thought and deed. Of course, simple geography would render such a statement impossible to uphold for economic ties between the United States and Britain came much more naturally than with Germany. As a result, this began the process by which the United States was propelled into the war against Germany. Wilson, however, did not wish to justify intervention in the war based on economic reasons alone, as much of a factor as they may have been in aligning the United States with the British and French. Rather, Wilson saw the United States as the beacon of democracy destined to save the Old World from its own dying autocratic institutions, which he believed led directly to the outbreak of the war, and replace them with the New World’s democratic institutions which would bring peace and prosperity. Originally he called for a peace without victory in his speech to Congress on 22 January 1917, where both sides would lay down their arms and come to a peace where neither side gains nor loses more than the other despite the immense and unprecedented bloodshed both sides have suffered up to that point. Through this there would be no resent on either side, thus making long term peace attainable. However, in reaction to Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare shortly after his 22 January 1917 speech, Wilson took a sudden change of heart. On his 2 April 1917 speech, Wilson declared Germany to be the more despotic of the warring powers and thus advisable that the United States would intervene in the war against Germany. He suddenly changed the war from a war of the dying institutions of the Old World into a war in the name of democracy from the American point of view. Despite that, he still indicated that the United States had a role in bringing democracy into the Old World and bringing it a long term peace; only this time, Germany’s defeat would be necessary for peace. Thus between the two speeches American president Woodrow Wilson made on 22 January 1917 and 2 April 1917, Wilson’s idea of a postwar world where peace and democratic institutions prevail does not change, however, his stance on the belligerents of the war takes a decided shift against Germany where before he believed Germany was a nation neither better or worse than Britain or France, but now is the enemy of democracy and needs to be defeated for a long term peace to be established.

Wilson sincerely believed that any long term peace would require the people to have a say in their government.

"No peace can last, or ought to last, which does not recognize and accept the principle that governments derive all their powers from the consent of the governed, and no right anywhere exists to hand peoples about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were property" (22 January 1917 speech).

Wilson believed that the people of any nation were naturally peaceful and would not wish to bring on war if they could avoid it. As such, he believed that the outbreak of the war was the result of the Old World’s autocratic institutions that had thrust the war upon the people of the belligerent nations. Therefore, he concluded that any meaningful and long term peace would require democracy to prevail, which would do away with these Old World institutions.

Wilson also believed that a peace without victory was essential for any lasting peace.

"Victory would mean peace forced upon the loser, a victor’s terms imposed upon the vanquished. It would be accepted in humiliation, under duress, at an intolerable sacrifice, and would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently, but only as upon quicksand" (22 January 1917 speech).

Wilson knew that there could not be any resentment or exploitation of whichever belligerents lost the war by the victorious powers. If this were to be the case, he feared that the gains of the war would not serve the people, despite it directly harming the people of the vanquished nations, but rather, serve only the interests of the governments of the victorious nations. As a result, he saw a peace without victory to be required in order for democratic institutions to prevail.

However, on his speech to Congress on 2 April 1917, Wilson had taken a sudden change of heart against Germany as a result of Germany resuming its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. Instead of a peace without victory, Wilson now saw victory against Germany as essential for democratic institutions to prevail. “The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind” (2 April 1917 speech). The Old World institutions that Wilson originally believed to be present in all belligerents of the war are now seemingly concentrated in Germany more than any other nation, for Wilson believed that no people of a civilized nation would authorize a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. “I was for a little while unable to believe that such things would in fact be done by any government that had hitherto subscribed to the humane practices of civilized nations” (2 April 1917 speech). As a result, Wilson saw Germany as the most despotic of all the belligerents and thus that their defeat would be necessary for democracy to prevail in the Old World.

Despite Wilson’s change of heart against Germany, the goals of the United States in the war would be the same as before. To promote democracy, which he described as a human right, thereby bringing Wilson’s vision of a postwar peace to life, would still be on the forefront of the agenda of the United States. “Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion” (2 April 1917 speech). The only difference now than before is that since Germany has been declared as the anathema of democracy and must be defeated in order for democracy to prevail, the United States will take a more active role in the war, actively fighting on the side of the British and French against the Germans.

The two speeches Wilson made on 22 January 1917 and 2 April 1917 were at odds with each other only on the position of the United States in regards to the belligerents of the First World War. Both speeches championed the United States as the promoter of democracy in the Old World, destined to do away with the dying Old World institutions which had started the war. Yet for democracy to prevail, Wilson believed on 2 April 1917 that Germany had to be defeated whereas on 22 January 1917, he believed that a peace without victory was necessary. This shift against Germany would prove to eventually create the very peace Wilson had denounced on 22 January 1917. This new peace would create neither long term peace nor democracy in the postwar world, but serve to only lay the groundwork by which the Second World War would be based upon a mere twenty years later. Wilson had seen this coming in his 22 January 1917 speech but would not apply it to the United States and its determination against Germany. As a result, Wilson created an enduring legacy of hypocrisy by which the United States shares the blame in the outcome of the First World War.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Pro-British Bias of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare.

It always amazes me how many Americans today are still predisposed to seeing the Germans of World War I as aggressors more than not, and thus take a pro-British stance as a result. I suppose this may be partially out of memory of the more popular World War II, yet they’ll still try to justify their presumptions using the traditional Allied propaganda Britain flooded the United States between 1914 and 1917. All of this culminates into one general concept – unrestricted submarine warfare.

Literally, unrestricted submarine warfare refers to submarines attacking any and all shipping, whether they be enemy or not, without warning. This was usually done in an attempt to enforce a blockade where regular ships could not be used. In the days before sonar, such as during World War I, this proved to be devastating and shook the entire foundations upon which the naval tradition of the day stood upon as large and powerful ships no longer reigned supreme on the open sea.

However, unrestricted submarine warfare seems to allude to more than just that. Unrestricted submarine warfare, from the American point of view, represents the militarism that Germany was alleged to have. During the first days of the war, countless British newspapers discussed the causes of the war (almost all of which declaring Germany as the aggressor), one of which stood out most – the idea that Germany’s militarism defied not only all guards the world had set to keep a world war from occurring, but also that Germany’s militarism was pervasive throughout German society and made the Germans accept bringing war onto the “civilized” British and French for their own benefit (as opposed to negotiate) more readily.

It was never truly clear as to what exactly this “militarism” entailed, but whatever it was, it was the all-encompassing reason as to what was uncivilized about German society and why Germany brought the war onto the British and French (or so the British and French believed, and indeed, the British made sure the Americans believed this, too, using Germany’s invasion of Belgium just to get the foundations of the idea set in place).

Through this, it was believed that the Germans would do whatever it would take to win the war, no matter how atrocious it may be. Unrestricted submarine warfare, to the United States, became an example of this militarism which largely includes all the other examples of German militarism. Thus instances such as the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a German submarine became symbolic of the German militarism which will stop at nothing, even if it means killing women and children, to win.

But was this really so? Were the Germans so callous? After all, in many history classes throughout the United States, unrestricted submarine warfare is usually harped on as an unbearable evil the US could not tolerate. What reasons do the Germans have? It seems very few history classes in the US touch upon why the Germans might have wished to engage in unrestricted submarine warfare despite the almost certain fact that it would bring the Americans to war with them. Thus using the literal example of unrestricted submarine warfare, I shall answer these questions and dispel much of the commonly accepted pro-British history regarding the issue.

First of all, we must look at the situation from the perspective of the Germans and not the British. While the British may have had a fleet larger and more powerful than anything Germany had, the Germans had an advantage in one key area – submarines. As I mentioned, submarines were a novel ship whose uses in naval warfare were largely unrealized until the opening days of World War I. Being stealthy, submarines could strike and sink a ship, and then slip away without notice. However, the submarines had two major weaknesses – not only were they slow, but they were also extremely fragile. These weaknesses would become a killer for the Germans when the convoy system was developed (though that would be countered later by the “wolf pack” of the Germans of World War II), but for now, the strength alone was enough to undermine the advantages of having an open seas fleet. As a result, the big British warships stayed out of the North Sea. They stuck around in two locations just out of reach from the German submarines – in the English Channel as the Dover Patrol, and at Scapa Flow (just northeast of Scotland) as the British Grand Fleet. At these two points, the British used their big warships to blockade Germany.

With the British blockade blocking vital imports into Germany, including food (necessitating rationing throughout Germany), Germany needed a way to counter and submarines were that. As Britain imported over 50% of its food supplies, starving Britain through a submarine blockade (where every ship in their sight would be sunk) seemed very feasible. As a result, an uncanny situation developed – both enemies were blockading each other at the same time. However, one key difference played out – as quiet as the suffering brought by the British blockade was to British and American ears, the opposite was true of the sinking of many merchant ships with no warning no matter what their nationality may be. Moreover, as many American vessels were sunk and interrupted the US’s economic relationship with Britain (which was considerably larger than the US’s with Germany given simple geography), this put the United States on a collision course with Germany.

As quiet as the British blockade was to the British and Americans, though, it was a fact of everyday life for the Germans. Prior to the war, the average German citizen consumed about 3400 calories per day. During the height of the blockade during the winter of 1916-17, the average number of calories consumed by a German citizen was about 1200 calories per day (just borderline starving). Thus one can sense the desperation of the Germans to do something effective to either bring about either the end of the war or the blockade (both were generally believed to come hand-in-hand) and do it quickly.

Unrestricted submarine warfare was the answer, and it had some successes during the beginning of the war. However, when the Germans sank the Lusitania in May 1915, a large passenger liner that could transport up to 2200 people across the Atlantic in a week, the outcry of the Americans was enormous. Eventually it was enough to convince the Germans to quit engaging in unrestricted submarine warfare and abide by the rules of cruiser warfare, which was considered the accepted international law of dealing with these “prize ships” in blockades.

The rules of cruiser warfare were rather simple, if albeit ill-suited for submarines. Before sinking a ship, the enemy would need to make its presence and intention known. They would be required to escort to the offending ship away, or allow its crew aboard yours before sinking their ship. For the Germans, this meant surfacing their submarines, thus exposing them and giving away their single greatest advantage of stealth, all the while making their two major disadvantages of being slow and fragile that much worse.

The British, of course, would take advantage of this. To do so, they built warships but disguised them as merchant ships and then sailed them under foreign flags, the American flag included. When the submarine would surface to escort the ship away, the guns of the fake merchant ship would be exposed and blast the submarine away. Given their slow maneuverability and fragility, German submarines were easily sunk this way. This, by any measure, was against the commonly accepted international law of the day, but it was downplayed and still is even to this day.

This is compounded on the fact that the British blockade of Germany, denying it vital imports such as food, was also against international law. The Germans complained about this bitterly to the Americans when the Americans expressed their disapproval of unrestricted submarine warfare, and the British justified themselves by equating food to shells, ammunition, and other war materials in importance to a nation’s war effort. Yet the Americans would hear none of it and in general, were slammed with pro-British propaganda to the extent that the reasoning of the Germans was unheard of.

As a result of the poor harvest of the winter of 1916-17, the success of the British blockade was at its peak and it is no exaggeration to say that Germans were dying of starvation (as well as freeze through a lack of coal as well) by the thousands. In January 1917, the need to do something was urgent and the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare was believed to be it.

With the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, the United States cut off diplomatic relations with Germany and as a result, war with the US appeared to be imminent. Thus this motivated Arthur Zimmermann to author the infamous Zimmermann Telegram proposing a treaty of alliance with Mexico in the event of the US declaring war on Germany and was the final straw in turning American public opinion decidedly against Germany.

Given the US’s economic relations with Britain, it is no surprise in the end that they sided with Britain during World War I and perceived Britain as the “good guys” of World War I. The propaganda Britain made sure the US was filled with during the war only solidified this notion further. I suppose that it also shouldn’t be any surprise to know that many Americans today are more inclined to side with the British of World War I rather than remain as neutral as I might wish and do my best to do; however, one should not ignore the German perspective during World War I. Ignoring the perspectives of our enemies, whether they be in the past or present, whether they be German, communist, or Iranian, leads to the same sort of nationalist drivel that fueled World War I. Through understanding, we can criticize and improve ourselves, work with our enemy’s concerns, and in the end, work towards peace and thus build a better world.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Forgotten Argument of the Gay Marriage Debate.

It is interesting how gay marriage has been turned into a civil rights issue. Unless you have reservations against gay marriage, it seems irrational that anyone would wish to deny it. Many proponents of gay marriage argue that there is no rational and secular basis to oppose gay marriage, for according to them, opposition to it is rooted out of either religion or irrational prejudice against homosexuals.

However, looking at gay marriage solely in the context of a civil rights issue leaves one with a very narrow view. Many gay marriage proponents ignore the single most important reason why the gay marriage debate even exists today - the reason why the government began recognizing heterosexual marriages in the first place!

The answer is pretty simple. The government began to recognize heterosexual marriages in an effort to encourage procreation. The rate of marriage has been correlated with the number of births, and indeed, this is the key factor in what caused the Baby Boomer generation. In 1930, the rate of marriage among women 20 - 24 was about 50%. In 1960, the height of the Baby Boom, the rate of marriage among women 20 - 24 was about 70%. In 1990, the rate of marriage among women 20 - 24 was about 30%. Cross culturally, this correlation has been shown to exist. While correlation does not necessarily equal causation, it is believed, and has been shown, that the rate of marriage has a positive impact on the number of births.

The government believes procreation to be a legitimate government interest, as is quoted in the 2007 Deane & Polyak v. Conaway decision in the Maryland Supreme Court:

"We agree that the State's asserted interest in fostering procreation is a legitimate governmental interest."

Indeed, a growing population means a growing economy and more individuals, and thus more money, to tax. In countries with a declining population, it means the stability of the nation's economy and that tax base. It's no surprise that the government sees encouraging procreation as an important government interest. Whether or not you believe the government should have a hand in encouraging procreation, however, is up to you. But that is beside the point.

The way to encourage marriage is to give marriages official government recognition and provide tax breaks for married couples. Theoretically, this will motivate couples who are not already married to get married. And of course, this is where homosexual marriages get sidelined for one obvious fact - homosexuals cannot procreate.

So what sense is it for the government to give tax breaks to marriages where procreation is all but impossible? This is where the gay marriage debate turns into a civil rights issue and goes astray of the true debate - that of which the courts have certainly not forgotten, as the Maryland Supreme Court decision has shown, as well as the Washington State Supreme Court.

Andersen v. King County (2006):
"Thus, the State is required to demonstrate only a rational basis to justify the legislation. ..... The legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers the State’s legitimate interests in procreation..."

Ah, but what of infertile heterosexual couples? They certainly cannot procreate. However, one must bear in mind the differences between the rule and the exception. As clearly most (young) heterosexual couples are fertile, any infertile couple would be an exception to that general rule, and weeding out those infertile couples so that they do not get a tax break on their marriage would more than likely cost more than it would save. As a result, the government gives tax breaks to infertile couples.

But let's also not forget about lesbian couples. A trip to the sperm bank could solve the problem of procreation via artificial insemination. However, one must also bear in mind that a single woman could do the same thing. Unlike in a heterosexual marriage where you might accidentally have a child, it's a bit difficult to accidentally become pregnant in a lesbian marriage. You could argue that a lesbian marriage creates a financial situation more suitable for a child, and indeed it may just fly. I'm unsure of the rate of lesbian couples having children through artificial insemination rather than adopting, but I would imagine it's relatively low; low enough for the courts to rule against it.

Until the proponents of gay marriage address the issue of procreation, they will get nowhere. Demanding the equal right of having the government recognize your marriage will go only so far, especially if the government recognizes heterosexual marriages for a legitimate, rational, and secular reason. I have brought up the issue of procreation and gay marriage to many gay marriage proponents, but I have yet to hear one convincing counter argument. The only true argument I can see being made is getting the government's hand out of the encouragement of procreation entirely and thus recognize no marriage, thereby granting equality to both heterosexual and homosexual marriages again, and this is what I advocate. But until the forgotten argument is recognized and countered, the courts will still be able to oppose gay marriage and the dilemma will not end.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Background Information.

Anyway, I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Curt Pugh, I am 21 and live in a suburb just south of Seattle called Kent. I am a junior (senior after this quarter) at the University of Washington as a major in geography (with a focus in urban and social patterns) and minor in history, and I commute there while living with my dad and step-mom to save on costs. So far, it has been working out swimmingly and I have a surplus of money each month. Also, the picture to the right is me, taken a few years ago.

I hold a part time job at Pizza Hut delivering pizzas and have been since June 2007. The hours vary, but lately it's been a weekend only thing where I work about 20 hours per week. I am also a type 1 diabetic and didn't find out until I was 16 1/2, when I was on the verge of collapse and losing consciousness from starving (as my cells couldn't absorb any glucose, or "sugar," and I was out of my own fat and muscle to cannibalize) before I decided to tell my dad and go to the hospital.

I wish to get involved in urban planning after college and make a career out of that. Originally I was going to do journalism, but after I took a quick look at the state and prospect of careers in journalism right now, I said fuck that and chose what I thought to be a more practical and promising career. So far, all goes well.

I could go on for days about what I value and what I believe in, so I'll spare you of that and let it unfold as I go. However, one thing that I shouldn't neglect to mention is my general political stance, as I have a good feeling I'll mention politics most frequently in here.

My political stance has changed considerably over time. About three or four years ago, I could have been described as the typical liberal. Over the last few years, however, my stance has shifted considerably to right. Below is my favorite political spectrum for American politics on the Internet and the red dot is where I rank:

The horizontal, or x-axis represents social issues (the further to the left, the more government you'd like to have involved in your social life) and the vertical, or y-axis represents economic issues (the further to the bottom, the more government involvement you'd like to have in the redistribution of wealth).

As with all political spectrums, this has its limitations. Many would contend that the republicans are far more socially liberal than that. However, given that most of these political spectrums never reflect what you believe the government's role should be, they generally only reflect what you believe should be the case. So for example, if you think religion in public school is desireable, but that you wouldn't wish to enforce that any further than the local level, it will only reflect that you want religion in public schools (giving the implication that you would wish that to be federally mandated). It's an important thing to consider which I think many liberals, who almost always wish for government mandates at the federal level rather than the local or state levels, don't exactly understand. Despite that limitation, though, it gives a pretty good idea of where each position and party lies and what they tend to advocate, whether on the local, state, or federal levels - better than the basic four quadrant political compass (which my coordinates on that are (4,-4), in the bottom right quadrant).

Anyway, as you can see, I'm about smack dab in the middle of the libertarian section. While I avoid associating myself with labels of any kind, if I had to, libertarian would best describe my political position. In general, my social views haven't changed a great deal, but my economic views have. I am also much more pro-states rights than I ever was in the past, now believing in having a weak federal government and stronger state governments. As far as foreign policy goes, I'm vehemently anti-interventionist in any fashion. I do not believe in giving foreign aid to countries (particularly Israel) and I do not believe that our actions in the Middle East during the last 60 years have been appropriate. I do not support most international organizations and advocate withdrawing from them, or at least reforming them (as is the case of the United Nations - unlike some like Ron Paul, I don't think withdrawing from the UN is necessarily a grand idea).

As far as religion goes, the best way to label myself would be a non-secular agnostic. I really do not give much thought to religion at all - I simply leave the question "Does God exist?" alone and am content with that. I probably will not mention it much at all as it's very rarely on my mind unless I'm talking about secularism, which, while I like the principle of it, I denounce as I find it naturally leads to enforced atheism.

This should give you a fair idea of who I am, what my views are, and what my biases may be. Take care.

~ Curt


Hello all,

It seems whenever I attempt to record the day-to-day activities in my life, I always wind up abandoning it half way through. It's the story of a lot of blogs, journals, diaries, etc. it seems. I used to have an online journal going pretty strongly for a period of four or five years which detailed my daily activities, my thoughts, feelings, and all that, with occasional gaps here and there. Being the perfectionist that I am, those gaps just simply don't do as I feel the need to describe every little thing that occurred with the next update, and the more I have to write, the more I put it off. So I'm taking a new approach.

Instead of talking about the daily mundane things that go on in my life, I'll simply write about whatever thought happens to be on my mind. No pressure to update on a regular basis; only whenever I feel like it. It's curious - feeling obligated to do something somehow saps all the desire to do it, even if it happens to be something you like or want to do. Going by that, I hope I'll feel freer and most willing to keep this blog up. The topics that I usually think about tend to range from politics, history, general life topics (ie. love, attaining happiness, etc.), common sense, things which amuse me, etc.

I strive to be impartial, but as with all things, such perfection is unattainable and thus I certainly have my own biases. Personally, I do not believe perfection to even be desireable for I believe that it is through our faults which we are made to be who we are. It is akin to a sculpture - you have the perfect square block, but the sculpture is only made unique and beautiful through carving each little piece (or "fault"). As a result, while impartiality is to be sought after, it can never be attained nor would it be desireable for me to attain it for I would lose all semblance of me. My own biases are important to who I am and my own perspective.

But do not get me wrong - while I am often opinionated, I do try to be open-minded. It's a difficult balance to hold, but I do what I can.