Zion Island 28.

United States National Archives.

RG 457.2: Records of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service, 1917-1993. 

TOP SECRET. 

US Army, Signals Intelligence Service. 

Germany.                                                        Ref.  No.: XXXXXXXXX

                                                                        Issued:

                                                                        Copy No.: 221

From: Theresienstadt. 

To: Berlin. 

the Office of the Fuhrer for the attention of SS Brigadefuhrer EICHMANN, BERLIN. 

State secret! 

Subject: Status Report on EINSATZ ERFURT.[1] 

            The doctor reports satisfactory completion of the laboratory stage of the project.  The substantial conceptual and practical problems of vaccine development have been overcome. 

            The delivery component remains under development.  However, the doctor is confident that this essential step will be overcome “in the near future.”  He is very grateful for the generous support so far provided. 

            Human trials will then begin.  Necessarily this may take an uncertain amount of time.  I have communicated to the doctor the urgency of arriving at a viable treatment. 

Commander of Sipo-SD Lange, Theresienstadt, Madagascar, Standartenfuhrer.  

State secret! 


[1] “Operation Erfurt.”  Erfurt is a city in Germany.  Code names are most often randomly selected.  However, at one time the addressee, Lange, commanded the security services in Erfurt.  Nostalgia? 

Zion Island 27.

Garrett Mattingly Papers; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 6th Floor, Butler Library, Columbia University, 535 West 114th Street, New York, New York.

Box #5.

Professor Garret Mattingly

Department of History

Fayerweather Hall, Columbia University

New York, NY USA

Dear Professor Mattingly,

      Coincidentally, October 2015 will mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of Germany’s victory in the Second World War. 

      In light of this anniversary, the Editorial Board of the Encyclopedia Germanica wishes to formally commission an article by you on the history of postwar Europe.  (The board is particularly impressed by your previous works, Sea Lion and Reformation Diplomacy.)  If you accept this commission, please be sure to deal with the following topics. 

                  European political and economic integration under German auspices. 

                  The social welfare, educational, and immigration policies of “Europe.” 

                  Relations between “Europe” and the former Soviet Union, the English-speaking world (Britain, the Commonwealth and Empire, the Free Trade Area of the Americas), the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and the national homeland for the Jewish people on Madagascar. 

                  The fate of the colonial empires. 

                  The impact of generational change in the mid-Sixties and the early 21st Century. 

                  Please append a brief bibliography of, say, five key books for understanding Nazi Europe. 

      We are in a position to pay an honorarium of DM 5,000.  Alas the currency policies of Europe do not allow the exchange of these funds for dollars.  However, you would be free to spend the money within Europe or even in one of the Klub Med resorts overseas. 

                                                      Sincerely yours, G. Grass, Assistant Editor. 

Zion Island 26.

“Notes on the Varieties of Zionism,” by Dr. Emmanuel Ringelblum.

Submitted to General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski at his request.

            “Zionism” is the idea that Jews alone should not be the only civilized people without a nation-home of their own.[1] 

            From the late Roman period through the 18th Century, European Jews had labored under many legal disabilities.  The subsequent legal emancipation of European Jews came soonest where nationalism triumphed.  It came later and more haltingly where multi-ethnic, multilingual, and multi-religious empires resisted nationalism as the price of their survival.  Whenever it came, Emancipation allowed the assimilation of Jews into the various European nations, if they chose to assimilate.  Judaism itself split into several currents. 

            Legal emancipation ran ahead of social acceptance.  “Anti-Semitism” remained a powerful force.  Sometimes it was water flowing underground in the form of snobbery, stereotypes, and social exclusion.  Sometimes it broke out in the open in judicial persecution, or noisy street movements, or even in political parties.  Occasionally it turned violent. 

            Historians commonly tell one another that “You’re right, but it goes back much farther than that.”[2]  The same is true of Zionism.  During the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries, schemes for a “return to Zion” appeared and disappeared like soap-bubbles.  In the 1890s, however, Theodore Herzl (1860-1904) became the founder the movement called “Zionism.”  Repulsed by the overt political anti-Semitism in Austro-Hungarian Empire, Herzl devoted his great abilities and energy to the creation of a Jewish state in the ancestral homeland of Palestine.  He died before the Great War, the “Balfour Declaration,” the partition of the Ottoman Empire that put Palestine in British hands, and the Arab “Awakening.”  It fell to his followers to make “Zion” a reality. 

            These followers were of several minds about the practical problems.  Much Zionist thought amounted to applications of European ideas of the pre-1914 period.  On the one hand, “Labor” Zionism and “Liberal” Zionism represented the left wing of European politics: socialist, communalist, reformist, democratic, tolerant of religious differences, and hopeful of a peaceful resolution of disputes over land with the Arabs.  These forms of Zionism appealed to the best in the Jewish community: idealistic, educated, compassionate, and “practical.” 

            On the other hand, “Revisionist Zionism” represented those harsher times that came after the Great War.  It’s prophet, the fanatic Ze’ev Jabotinsky (1880-1940), argued that “Zion” could only be built by a strong state with a strong army that could, first, define a territorially-large country, and second, force the Arabs to accept it.  “Zionism is a colonising adventure and it therefore stands or falls by the question of armed force. It is important to build, it is important to speak Hebrew, but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot….”  This movement developed a wide appeal in the former Poland.  It had a group, “Betar,” that tried to instill military virtues in the young.  It attracted many ruthless, rigid minds. 

            All these debates have been put to rest by our migration to this place. 


[1] For Pity’s sake, even the Rumanians have a country!

[2] Or, alternatively, “You’re right, but that’s not true in Breslau.” 

Taiwan Troubles.

            Is Zi Jinping a conventional/traditional “Marxist” leader, bent upon using China’s immense power to advance the world revolution?  Or is Zi Jinping a conventional/traditional Chinese emperor, bent upon using China’s immense power to shatter the American-created international system?  Does it matter?  It is an axiom that you plan for the capabilities of other players, not for their intentions. 

            Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has been the most powerful and most influential nation in Asia.  That power and influence has rested on military superiority, economic dynamism, the sheer appeal of America’s values in comparison to those of its rivals, and strategic alliance-building.  Chief among these allies have been Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan. 

            The murkiest of these alliances has been the alliance with Taiwan.  When the Communists won the Chinese Civil War in 1949, many of the defeated Kuomintang (KMT or “Nationalist”) supporters retreated to the island of Taiwan.  Long a Chinese possession, it had been conquered by Japan in one that country’s early forays into imperialism.  Still, at first it seemed that the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) would soon complete the reconquest of territory lost to imperialist during the dark hours of China’s impotence.  After the Korean War began, the United States recognized Taiwan as an independent state.  The KMT created a separate Chinese state, then build a prosperous industrial economy, and eventually moved toward democracy.  In sum, Taiwan is far more of a legitimate state than it was in 1949.  Richard Nixon’s “opening” to China pushed the US-Taiwan relationship into “strategic ambiguity.”  China has always intended to retake Taiwan, just as it intended to retake Hong Kong.  The United States had an interest in Taiwan remaining independent.  The US and China had a big stake in not coming to blows over Taiwan.  So all sides let things sit.  See what shook out. 

            What shook out was Zi Jinping.  China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative, military build-up, and the forced change in status of Hong Kong illustrate his determination to reshape the Asian order to China’s advantage.  Now alarm bells are ringing over Taiwan.[1] 

            By what means might China seek to establish control over Taiwan?  Would it begin by fomenting some kind of low-intensity conflict?  Would it just cut to the chase by staging an out-right invasion with overwhelming force?  Would the Taiwanese fight?  Do they have the means to mount an effective resistance?  How would the United States respond?  Would it huff and puff, then accept Chinese conquest as happened with Hong Kong?  Would it adapt the same policy as it has done with Ukraine: supplying arms, money, and intelligence while avoiding direct involvement?  Would it decide that Taiwan is the Czechoslovakia “of our time”?[2]  If the United States did fight, what would be the outcome?  Could it win a “conventional” (i.e. non-nuclear) war in the Western Pacific and Far East?  How great is the danger that a conventional war could slide into a nuclear war—of uncertain magnitude? 

            Is there an alternative?  Perhaps, but anything that looks like or amounts to backing down would most likely have a devastating impact on America’s other alliances in Asia.       


[1] See, for example, Elbridge Colby, The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict (2021).  On Colby, see: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elbridge-colby-7484a0168/details/experience/ 

[2] That analogy has gotten us into trouble before.  See: Vietnam. 

My Weekly Reader 6 June 2022.

            Stories of individual historical events, the more dramatic the better, command the attention of readers.  Yet those striking events always happen in some larger context that includes cause, effect, and related events happening elsewhere.  Stepping back from the individual event to see the context in which it occurred provides greater understanding.[1]  The farther one steps back, the more the dramatic events recede as the larger patterns emerge.  Always there is a trade-off and the question of where to strike the balance. 

            During the Nineteenth Century, the West rapidly industrialized and international trade grew by leaps and bounds.  These advances required an improved system of reliable and fair international payments.  Answering this need, the Gold Standard set an exchange rate against gold for every country’s national currency.  So nations acquiring gold got piled on top of the eternal human quest for “the color.”  Fortunately for the developing world economy, there were major gold strikes in California (1848), Australia (1851), and South Africa (1886) among many other places.[2]  Gold greased the wheels of economic growth, while creating individual fortunes.[3] 

            They also created unanticipated effects.  The lure of gold drew in many immigrants from distant parts.[4]  Westerners were not alone in seeking their fortunes in a new land.  In the mid-Nineteenth Century, a gigantic civil war racked Qing China. The “Taiping Rebellion” spread death, starvation, disease, and poverty throughout the empire.  Hundreds of thousands of Chinese migrated all over the Pacific.[5]  Some went to the United States, some went to Australia, many went to other places.  Later, others would attempt to go to South Africa. 

            All these were White-ruled societies busily resting control of the lands’ resources from indigenous inhabitants.  They both needed cheap labor and despised the Asian immigrants who would provide it.  Appearance, language, religion, and culture all set the two groups apart from one another.  The white working class and middle class took an especially harsh view of the “coolie labor” that they believed undermined their own efforts at self-enrichment.  Anti-Chinese violence followed in many places.  Both seeking to profit from this hatred and to restore order, politicians stepped forward to give voice to the concerns of the working man.  The American “Chinese Exclusion Act” (1882-1943), the South African Asian exclusion policy (1880s-1980s), and the “White Australia” policy (1901-1973) all manifested this fear of Chinese competition. 

            All this happened in the distant past and most vestiges of the age in laws have been removed.  Yet people still fear Asian states when they become economically powerful, as has been the case with Japan in the Seventies[6] and China today.  The competition is seen as “unfair.” 


[1] The first two essays in Gerhard Weinberg, World in the Balance: Behind the Scenes of World War II (1981) provide a clear and concise introduction to the essential strategic problems of the war.  Steven Runciman, The Sicilian Vespers: A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later Thirteenth Century (1958) uses a small event—the Sicilian massacre of occupying French troops—to examine the complex politics of Medieval Europe, the Papacy, and the Byzantine Empire. 

[2] For an extensive list, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_rush 

[3] As Montgomery Burns chortled, “We’ll be rich as Nazis!”

[4] My great-great grandfather had left his family home in Rhode Island for the “West” of the 1830s and 1840s, the Ohio River valley.  When news came of the gold strike at Sutter’s Mill, he hot-footed it to California. 

[5] Mae Ngai, The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics (2021).  Reviewed by Andrew Graybill, WSJ, 12 August 2021. 

[6] Herman Kahn, The Japanese Challenge (1979); Rush Doshi, The Long Game (2021). 

Zion Island 26.

            Henry Picker, editor, Heydrich’s Table-Talk (1973).  (My translation.) 

            Gruppenfuhrer Klein (extract):  “Well, you know, he wasn’t prone to run on at the mouth.  Not like some people, as I’m sure you know.  Not likely to surround himself with suck-ups either, who would put up with harangues.  Much more terse.  More like those Spartan fellows I’ve read about.  Laconic. 

            Still, sometimes over brandy after dinner he would say things after Lina [Mrs. Heydrich] had taken the ladies away.  Once, I don’t remember the date, he said something like “Perhaps the Fuhrer was wrong.  To let them go, I mean.  They are still very powerful in Britain.  Even more so in America.  No, we have not finished with the struggle.”  Something like that anyway.  Then we rejoined the ladies.  Generally for singing.  He loved music.” 

Biden and China.

            Sailors were the first Americans to reach the Pacific and the Far East: fur traders in Nootka Sound, tea clippers in China, whalers in the South and Central Pacific, and Commodore Perry’s squadron “opening” Japan to the West.  All this happened while the rest of the country was pre-occupied with other matters: industrialization, immigration, urbanization, civil war, and territorial expansion across the continent.  The two strands came together at the end of the Nineteenth Century.  The Spanish-American War (1898) made the United States a territorial power in the Pacific and Asia (Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines).  American Christian missionaries joined those of Western European nations.  The “China Market” became an even more attractive lure for American industry.  Still, American interests and ideals combined to oppose anyone ripping China to shreds.  Instead, the United States defended the idea of the “Open Door.”  All nations should have an equal right to trade in China, while the Chinese Empire should preserve its territorial integrity. 

Color lithograph by J.S. Pughe – Library of Congress – https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012647332/ , Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-28534Color lithograph by J.S. Pughe – Library of Congress – https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012647332/ , Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-28534

            During the Twentieth Century, the central question in the Far Eastern policy of the United States became how to prevent any one power from dominating Asia to the detriment of the United States.   At first, this meant opposing Imperial Japan’s expansionist appetite.  That appetite seemed to grow over time, from the “Fifteen Demands” levied on China during the First World War to the seizure of Manchuria to outright invasion of China to the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” of the Second World War. 

Then the United States shifted to opposing Communist expansionism in Asia.  At the time, many disasters befell American military policy: the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, fighting to a draw in Korea, being defeated in Vietnam.  Over time, however, a different strand of American policy succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its exponents.  The U.S. supported societies engaged in rapid economic development.  As time passed, and in uneven measure, they became democracies.  Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines have become important American partners in the Far East.  Mot striking of all, since the Nixon Administration’s “opening” to the Peoples Republic of China, Beijing has profited enormously from the American-led system. 

More recently, that system has appeared to be in decay.  First, a series of poor presidents with deficient understanding of foreign affairs left the American system badly led for almost thirty years.[1]  Second, the 9/11 attacks required a devastating response against Islamist terrorism, but the decisions to extend that riposte into a long-run nation-building operation in Afghanistan and a disastrous invasion of Iraq soaked up American blood, treasure, and attention.  Third, the United States has been undermined by prolonged economic and social crises that defy easy solution.[2]  The current evening news broadcasts showing the United States Air Force flying advanced weapons to Ukraine and flying foreign baby formula to the United States nicely captures some of our issues.[3]  In any event, it isn’t difficult to understand why American leadership has come under challenge from Russia and China first and foremost, but also by lesser countries which once consulted Washington.[4] 

The Biden administration has now announced steps to reform the post-war American international system to better address the challenge from China.[5]  Declaring that the 2020s will be a “decisive decade,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the United States will work hard to rebuild economic and diplomatic bonds with long-time allies.  The proposed revival falls short on some details and will take time to implement.  Moreover, it is beyond Blinken’s authority to offer a plan for addressing the underlying problems of America.  Nevertheless, partly from preference for the American system and partly from fear of China, there seems to be a deep well of support in the Indo-Pacific region for an American return. 


[1] Bill Clinton (1992-2000), George W. Bush (2000-2008), Barack Obama (2008-2016), and Donald Trump (2016-2020).  Three normal children and one feral child. 

[2] This subject could fill and book and has.  Many, actually.  For social issues, see: https://bookriot.com/100-must-read-books-understanding-u-s-social-policy/  It is perhaps telling about the nature of the crises that it is much easier to find a long list of books on contemporary social problems than it is to find a similar list about American economic problems.  In other words, Americans are better informed about their social problems (almost always to be solved by throwing money at them) than they are about their economic problems (which is where the money will come from). 

[3] Or perhaps I just sent too much time watching the recent George Carlin documentary. 

[4] Notably Israel and Saudi Arabia, but now the Solomon Islands as well. 

[5] Walter Russell Mead, “Blinken’s Indo-Pacific Blueprint,” WSJ, 31 May 2022.