Reunification Day

Big, festive holiday in this country today, marking the fall of the Saigon government.

AP Photo

North Vietnamese tanks rolled through the gates of the Presidential Palace on this date in 1975. Here is a calendar page from that day, as displayed in the museum of the Presidential Palace, now the Reunification Palace, here in Ho Chi Minh City.

These (mostly) daily photos from a slow trip around the world are collecting on Earthphotos.com. See the archive page Around the World, Slowly.

Quotes: Carry That Weight

My due diligence for a trip to southeast Asia has taken me down an obscure path. Exploring French efforts to regain their Indochinese colony after WWII has led me to Theodore White’s Fire in the Ashes: Europe in Mid Century. Teddy White went on to write the Making of the President series of books starting with the 1960 Kennedy election, books that made his career.

He started his book with a lengthy description of intercontinental air travel because then, few people had had that experience. He wrote, “in our years almost as many men cross the great ocean by wings as travel it by boat,” revealing not only a no longer acceptable sexism (“men” cross the ocean) but also that when the book came out in 1953, more people still traveled across the Atlantic by ship.

But the quote I mean to highlight comes a few pages later:

“It is obvious that new leadership in both America and Russia is now wrenching the whole course of world affairs into new patterns and perspectives. What is less obvious is that in this wrenching process Europe, forgotten through the postwar years as a factor in power, must contribute as greatly as either of the two new titans.”

The Americans have urged the Europeans to take more responsibility for their own defense for as long as I’ve been grown up. Here is an exhortation to Europe to rise up and carry its weight in world affairs that is sixty-six years old.

Don’t Become Hostage to Somali Pirates

I have read 135 pages of The Desert and the Sea just in a few hours yesterday and tonight. It’s the frightening memoir of Michael Scott Moore’s time as a hostage in Somalia. Sample quote, from being driven around in his captors’ khat-infused paranoia on a particularly bad night:

“The sheer alarming stupidity of breaking off a wheel in the middle of the desert while running from a plane, or a drone, or nothing at all, made the blood pound and slosh in my head.”

Mr. Moore’s hostage experience chimes with the way others have defined war: “months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.” Don’t try this at home, in Somalia, or anywhere else.

How Is Bullying Working Out for You?

This morning’s cancellation of the US/DPRK summit comes as no surprise. It turns out that the president who threatens “fire and fury” can’t countenance similar rhetoric from his interlocutors.

It’s not just the threat of “fire and fury” that the North Koreans have been responding to. The other day the American vice-president went on a friendly news channel to say that “There was some talk about the Libya model … as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal.”

This was a straightforward threat to the life of the North Korean leader, thuggish and anti-diplomatic. But boy, he sure is a big ol’ tough vice-president, yessiree.

The vice-president was referring to an appearance by the new national security advisor John Bolton on the same friendly Fox News channel, in which Mr. Bolton provocatively laid out a maximalist negotiating position, demanding the unilateral disarmament of North Korea along the lines of the “Libyan model.”

Libya’s ruler Moammar Gadhafi was persuaded to transfer his nuclear equipment out of the country in 2003 and 2004. This came under the George W. Bush administration. Later the Obama administration, along with European allies, mounted military action against Libya in 2011 to prevent a threatened massacre of civilians. In that conflict, rebels hunted down Colonel Gadhafi and killed him. This was the “Libya model.”

Since everyone knows this, Mr. Bolton’s remarks were artless and, as we see this morning, if the U.S. is really seeking to pursue diplomacy, counterproductive.

The United States, along with the United Kingdom and France, was instrumental in the death of Colonel Gadhafi. The United States has meanwhile just unilaterally abrogated an internationally negotiated treaty with Iran.

In this light, consider how much weight a member of the North Korean leadership would give President Trump’s remarks on Tuesday that “I will guarantee his (Mr. Kim’s) safety, yes … He will be safe, he will be happy, his country will be rich, his country will be hard-working and prosperous.”

We now enter a period of blistering tit for tat rhetoric between the US and the DPRK.

That Nobel prize will have to wait.

That’ll Show ‘Em

To the long list of stiff upper lip-wielding Brits, including the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, Sir Francis Drake who defeated the Spanish Armada and Henry V, the king who defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt, we may add King George VI, father of the current Queen Elisabeth.

King George woke one desperate May morning in 1940 to a call from Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who was just then desperately holed up in an air raid shelter in a palace garden against an ongoing assault from the Germans.

“She begged me to send aircraft for the defense of Holland. I passed this message on to everyone concerned & went back to bed.”

Attaboy.

Quoted in Last Hope Island by Lynne Olsen.

More Trouble in Turkish Cyprus

Earlier this month I published the post Erdogan & Northern Cyprus, in which I admitted ignorance about the aggressive Islamification of Turkish Cyprus. Now that it’s on my radar, I have found new news in the Washington Post today, which may be behind a paywall for you, so here is the first bit:

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The editor of a left-wing Turkish Cypriot newspaper on Monday accused Turkey’s president of instructing supporters to launch a violent attack against his publication’s offices over criticism for Ankara’s military offensive into Syria.

Sener Levent said his newspaper Afrika won’t be silenced in calling out Turkey’s policies either in the breakaway north of ethnically-split Cyprus or elsewhere.

This has to be seen in light of Turkish President Erdogan’s Afrin moment, obviously. The question now, in both incidences, is where will Mr. Erdogan stop. The so-called international community should have something to say on Afrin, though I continue to search in vain for a White House response. In Cyprus, the question is, is Mr. Erdogan is content to merely boil frogs, or does he mean to cause real trouble?

For a little bit of a longer view, here is Cypriot hopes for unification are on life support, but not doomed from theconversation.com.

Mladic Convicted

Today’s conviction of Ratko Mladic on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by a UN tribunal will come as cold comfort to those terrorized by his renegade Bosnian Serb forces. Mladic served the President of Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadžić (who was captured in 2008), as chief of staff of Bosnian Serb forces,

Mladic went underground at the end of the Yugoslav wars and was reported in poor health when finally tracked down and captured in 2011. On entering court today Mladic appeared in altogether better health, smirking at the camera – “a gesture that infuriated relatives of the victims.”

Mladic and his forces are most remembered for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of about 8,000 men and boys, but the “Butcher of Bosnia” also terrorized the capital Sarajevo, where the 1992 – 1996 siege killed about 14,000 more people, including 5,434 civilians.

Here are photos from Sarajevo in November, 1997.

The Bosnian parliament building, top, and detail below.

Bullet-ridden tram stop.

Danger! Sniper!

The SFOR, or Stabilization Force, patrols the main street.

The flower market, where a mortar shell killed 66 in 1994.

I think this photo sums up the term “abject misery.”
A Sarajevo tram crosses in front of the rubble of a shelled-out building.