Fred and I sat at a cocktail bar on the Champs Elysées in Paris talking with Napoléon. He had agreed to a four hundred thousand dollar fee to come back from hiding and talk to us about his one hundred days. Our funding was sponsored by anonymous Wall Street backers.
“Mr. Napoléon, thank you for being here. It’s a pleasure seeing you again after we dumped our history books.”
“The pleasure is mine,” Napoléon said. “It’s pretty boring up there in St. Héléna. This comeback gave me the opportunity to frolic with Robert Branson on one of his Virgin Islands. As you know from history, I adore virgins. But I loved Josephine.”
Virgin and Josephine
“We do remember that, your highness”, Fred said. “We also remember you were beaten by the Russians in 1812 and sent to St. Elba. You know we still have problems with the Russians. Our opposition party says they meddled in our recent elections. What’s your view?”
“Meddling in someone else’s business has been Russia’s prime sport during the centuries. Nothing new. Remember Raspoutin? It surprised me that your opposition party kept their doors wide open for them to walk in and take all those pictures and listening in.”
“What would you have done?” I asked.
“I can’t speak for your opposition party but we solved these issues by marrying a Russian princess. Or for your opposition leader having a liaison with a Russian prince. She could have prevented all that. I heard Mr. Putin was available. He has a load of testosterone. Didn’t she give him half of your uranium? That’s a nice dowry.”
“But the opposition party is accusing the other party that it was their good relations with the Russians that made them lose the elections, ” Fred explained.
“I was also told that the losing party had fireworks planned accompanied by Tchaikowsky’s 1812 overture. That’s a major Russian piece of music and composed after they beat me. Mr. Putin may have put a stop to the music because he didn’t want to publicize his laison with the leader of the opposition party. Maybe that’s why they blame the other party now.”
“You know there’s much talk about the first one hundred days in American politics,” Fred said.
“So I’ve heard. My one hundred days coming from St. Elba seem to have gone viral once more. But as usual the American media gets it backwards. My one hundred days came at the end of my illustrious career.”
“Why do you think that 200 hundred years later this is still so important?” Fred asked.
“Because I didn’t achieve anything in those days. You remember I had my Waterloo.”
“But here in the US they want politicians to achieve everything in their first one hundred days. All the media are making that their sole news story,” I said.
“It only shows that in two hundred years you guys have learned nothing,” Napoléon said. “My final one hundred days were only meant to firm up a legacy to be remembered. As you see, I’m still remembered.”
“But here they want a list of major achievements,” Fred tried to clarify.
“Oh, I had achievements all right. I first beat the Austrians, the Prussians, the Russians. Then Wellington got me because I suffered from hemorrhoids in my saddle.”
“So what do you think of our first one hundred days?” I asked.
“The concept has been bastardized. Except warfare, you shouldn’t achieve anything serious in those days. What would you have to show for in the next one hundred days? And the next? All you have to do is sit quiet and blame your opponents for making your country look bad.”
“You think we look bad?” Fred asked.
“You sure do. Everybody in the world wants Obama back. He talked but did nothing, that’s good politics.”
“But when the monarchy took over, they banned you to St. Helena,” I recalled. “And nobody wanted you back.”
“I went there on sick leave,” Napoléon explained. “Then my premiums went through the roof, so I couldn’t pay for them anymore. Otherwise, I would’ve been back again. To fix Napoléoncare.”
“Couldn’t you use your Veterans Care? As the Commander in Chief?” Fred asked.
“I would have to ride a horse for forty kilometers before reaching a hospital or doctor. I couldn’t because of my hemorrhoids. And they couldn’t come to me because they were too busy taking care of the dying and the burying. After two hundred years, you still have the same problem in the US.”
“It seems hard to get things done in one hundred days,” Fred philosophized.
“You said it,” Napoléon agreed. “The previous reign in France gave me a mess! Think of my achievements in the fifteen-some years of my reign! Catholic religion reinstated; monks were no longer suppressed; people got their land back; I reinstated law and order, created the Napoleonic laws and established a Constitution; I modernized education and got rid of common core; I revitalized the sluggish economy and improved agriculture; I sanitized taxation, and rebuilt the military! I made France great again. Vive la France!”
“That’s impressive,” Fred said. “Did you copy that from the Trump Administration?”
“You got your timeline wrong. The Trump Administration copied it from me.”
“How did you do all that?” I asked
“Executive orders, my friend. If they weren’t executed, I executed the non-executors.”
“I wish we had that system here,” Fred said. “Too many chefs in the kitchen and half of them don’t even know how to cook a simple omelet without breaking eggs.”
“Do you think America needs a border wall?” I asked.
“I solved that differently. I conquered my neighbors left and right and made them my soldiers. That’s how I got rid of them.”
“What’s your advice to America now?”
“Ask your Democrats to hire me. They need a leader. At four hundred thousand dollars a consultation I’m cheap.”
I was 5 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. At that time Nazi Germany had already occupied whole continental Europe, including Holland, for a year and a half. I didn’t hear about Pearl Harbor until US soldiers liberated us in 1945 and told us about it. I didn’t envisage the horror of Pearl Harbor and the national significance of December 7 until I saw the pictures in musea when I arrived in the US in 1974. The vivid memories of seeing bombs exploding on Schiphol airport in May 1940 when I was 4 1/2 were the ones that had primarily occupied my mind.
At liberation, we also heard the awful stories of the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942, when Allied ships, including several American, British, Australian and Dutch warships (which were berthed at the Marine base at Surabaja in the Dutch Indies) fought a Japanese invasion under the command of Dutch Rear Admiral Karel Doorman. The Dutch Government in exile in London was one of the first to join the US after Pearl Harbor and declare war on Japan. Japan, short of natural resources, immediately set out to expand its realm in Asia by overpowering Singapore and Malaysia, and Borneo and Celebes of the Dutch Indies, to secure itself of abundant oil supplies. Next was the largest island, Java, of the Dutch Indies, which it approached from the island of Bali it had already occupied.
The allied fleet endeavored to stop the Japanese from invading Java, but the Japanese ships were much better armed with heavier cannons and super torpedos that had a reach of 25 miles. Its air force was superior. The more powerful Japanese fleet, which proved much better trained in sea battle at night, destroyed many of the allied ships. Two Dutch light cruisers, De Ruyter, Karel Doorman’s flagship, and the Java, were sunk and Karel Doorman perished with his ship. Several other Dutch warships sank, including the destroyers De Kortenaer and Witte de With. More than a 2300 sailors, including over 900 Dutch sailors, lost their lives.
Dutch Archive pictures
Thousands of Dutch families, who lived in the Dutch Indies, were imprisoned in Japanese concentration camps, where many were tortured and died. The Dutch never regained full control over the Dutch Indies, and the Japanese invasion meant the end of its colonial power. After the war, a bloody and cruel independence war erupted in the Dutch Indies, which ended in 1949 when Indonesia became independent. Thousands of Indonesians fled to Holland when the independence war started and were lodged with Dutch families to recover and find a new life. A father with three sons stayed with us.
Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Java Sea show some serious common lessons: In both cases, the enemy was much better prepared and armed. In Holland, this led to building a much stronger fleet after the war. Then, under cover of a powerful ally, the US, efforts to keep up a fierce military power slowed down, a pattern followed by many European countries. The lessons learned were soon forgotten.
Fast forward to 2016. While it is said that the American military is the best in the world, the political will to keep up its strength has repeatedly been undermined by several American administrations: Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama emphasized social programs over military strength. 9/11 constituted the second attack on American soil. More than 2400 sailors were killed at Pearl Harbor and close to 3000 people lost their lives during 9/11. The latter was a terrorist attack, but many say it could have been prevented had America been better prepared and kept its eyes open.
A new type of war was added to our human inclination to destroy each other. It took a long time to recognize that there is no real difference between “formal war” and “informal war”: both intend to destroy Western Civilization and its religious and philosophical democratic principles. The expansion of radical Islamic fascism signifies the same threat as German Nazism and Japanese Imperialism did, as do the threats of dictatorial regimes like Russia, China, and Iran.
Come 2017; the world is no better place. The Chinese military is spending trillions on military strength and expansion of its territory by building military islands in the China Sea, helped by the greed of the American market buying its goods and borrowing its money to cover its national debt. Russia invades the Crimea and controls eastern Ukraine, without a significant Western response. Iran undermines the Middle East through proxy wars and support of terrorism, causing tremendous civilian suffering in Syria.
The weeks after 9/11 with jets patrolling the skies aided by nearby refueling airplanes gave me that depressing feeling from WW II that we were at war again, and unfortunately we are. Osama’s escape from Afghanistan felt like Hitler’s escape from several coups against him. The indefatigable US Ops finally caught him, but when they did, the harm was already done: Sunni Radicalism had spread throughout the Middle East, Africa, and even the Far East.
I sat on the fence about the US invasion of Iraq. I could understand it from a defensive point of view: Sadam used similar bluff as Hitler did, he had invaded Kuwait beforehand, he built nuclear facilities and was working on replacements after the Israelis bombed the first one. He continually launched scuds at Israel and did use poisonous gas on the Kurds. Sadam smartly removed everything concerning weapons of mass destruction to where it came from and used the gullible self-destructing US and world media to accuse the US. Although the US invasion was badly implemented, after the surge things began to shape up in Iraq. At the World Bank, we noticed a slow but steady increase in a willingness to restore a badly retarded administration to modern normalcy. Despite internal religious strife, administrators became more responsive to stable government. Northern Iraq regained calm and even became prosperous again. When the reconstruction effort ended, I had good hopes that it might take off (see my blogs “Iraq: A Hands-on Effort to Rational Thought,” (9/13/2014); “Iraq: From Western Dream to Fragile State”; (8/23/2014), and “Don’t Cry For Me, Iraq.” (8/11/2014).
Credit: Fox News
The change in American policy under Obama destroyed all that with one swipe. Al-Zarkawi, the Sunni anti-Shiite leader from Jordan, had begun a fierce fight against the American occupation. Although US Ops were able to exterminate him, his force remained active underground. If invading Iraq may be considered a mistake, leaving it abruptly meant compounding that mistake. When the US military left Iraq, Sunny radicals quickly regrouped and despite their internal differences, created ISIS. The rest is history.
As a WWII kid, I hate war with a vengeance, but also know there will always be enemies as there will always be bullies in school. We have to be prepared to be strong enough to scare them off and defeat them. If we don’t, they’ll take us to the cleaners. Administrations like the Obama-ones open us up to being overpowered like Nazi Germany and Japan’s then Imperialism did to the Western World.
I am sleeping a bit better after the recent national elections. There is much hope things will change.
Credit: Canada Journal – News of the World
In my opinion, the political left of the US has done enormous damage to the fighting spirit and courage of this country. America may be divided (God knows why. Such a great place to live!) but as a foreign guest in the US, I pray they never come back to power. I don’t complain about placing competent generals to head security and military positions. Their decisiveness will keep me from lying awake at night about the future of my American kids and grandkids. We have to stay vigilant to protect our way of life and that of others that share it. Signs in Europe indicate that things are changing there as well.
And if you don’t like my saying these changes are good changes, that’s too bad. Let the other side of the American divide have a chance to show their resolve to make America better and “Great Again.”