Sunday, February 25, 2007

American occupations of Germany and Japan

I've heard so many references to America's post-WWII occupations of Germany and Japan that I had to look into them more.

The most striking fact about them I think is that they began during a rapid demobilization of the U.S. military. The U.S. Army (which included the Air Force at the time) shed 7 million troops in a little under 2 years.

U.S. Army strength:

Summer 1945 - 8 million
End of 1945 - 4 million
Summer of 1946 - 2 million
Summer of 1947 - less than 1 million

Another interesting point is that they were quite unpopular.

Not only was President Truman under pressure from Congress and the American people to "Bring the Boys Home," but in the summer of 1946, when the troops still waiting to be shipped home were informed that they were being kept to participate in the occupations, riots broke out at many U.S. bases around the world. Truman had to relent and continue the demobilization.

The two occupations were quite different. The Japanese government was kept largely intact while their constitution was written and members of parliament elected. Germany was much more like Iraq, where the government was de-nazified and then restaffed over many years.

In both cases, though, they went quite smoothly. It was the rise of Soviet (and later plus Chinese) Communist spheres of influence that forced the conversion of the relatively lax occupation forces into defensive forces by early 1948.

By 1950, the U.S. Air Force had split from the Army and the Army itself was left with a troop strength of 592,000 volunteers. Roughly half of them were stationed in Germany and Japan (100,000 in Germany, 130,000 in Japan).

Country populations - 1950:

U.S.A - 158 million
Japan - 84 million
W. Germany - 50 million

The Soviet and U.S. spheres of influence were established, leaving divided Korea in a no-man's land with only a few Soviet and American advisors in their respective halves. When the North Koreans invaded South Korea, the U.S. forces occupying Japan were sent to support the South Koreans.

Our occupation forces in Germany and Japan grew rapidly during the Korean War. After the Korean War, the number of troops stationed in Japan steadily declined from a peak of 220,00 to about 50,000 today. Troop numbers in Germany remained at about 250,000 until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s then fell rapidly to about 60,000.

It's hard to find comparisons between America's post-WWII occcupations of Japan and Germany and our current occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The German and Japanese occupations met with little resistance. They weren't popular domestically. And they were soon overshadowed by the beginning of the Cold War.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

America's shrinking slice of the pie

The 2006 numbers are in at the CIA and they show that America's share of the global economy has fallen below 20% for the first time.

I dug up the numbers since 1999(in billions):

Year........U.S. GDP............World Economy...........U.S. share
1999.........$9,255....................$ 40,700...................22.74%

I think many people still have the idea that America accounts for a quarter of the world's economy. China and India's high rates of economic growth seem to be taking their toll on that figure. It's been quite a while since America's economy grew at the world's average economic growth rate.

What policy changes this will lead to is hard to see, but I think America is already starting to question whether it can afford to be the world's policeman for much longer.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Constitutional Amendments since the Bill of Rights

I got interested in the six Constitutional Amendments that have been passed by Congress but haven't been ratified by the states yet (ERA, Statehood for Washington, D.C., legalizing slavery!, etc.), which led me to look at the Amendments that have passed.

I figure the first ten Amendments, The Bill of Rights, are actually part of the original Constitution as they were ratified so soon after the Constitution itself. That leaves 17 actual Amendments that have passed Congress and been ratified by the states:

11th ratified 1798 - Prevents states from being taken to federal court by citizens of another state or foreign power.

12th ratifed 1804 - Splits The vote for president and vice-president to avoid possible ties.

13th ratified 1865 - Outlaws slavery.
14th ratified 1868 - Citizenship for former slaves and equal rights for all American citizens.
15th ratiifed 1870 - Voiting rights for former slaves.

16th ratified 1913 - Legalizes federal income taxes.

17th ratified 1913 - Allows direct election of Senators.

18th ratified 1919 - Prohibition.

19th ratified 1920 - Woman's sufferage.

20th ratified 1933 - Shortens Lame Duck period between elections and the winner taking office.

21st ratified 1933 - Repeals Prohibition.

22nd ratified 1951 - Linits President to two terms.

23rd ratified 1961 - Gives Wahington, D.C. some electoral votes for president (no more than least populous state (3)).

24th ratified 1964 - Eliminates Poll Taxes.

25th ratified 1967 - Clarifies presidential succession.

26th ratified 1971 - Gives 18 year olds the right to vote.

27th ratified 1992 - Raises Congress votes itself don't take effect until the next session.

So, 17 Amendments in 218 years.

Is the Amendment process working as intended?

Does it still have relavance?

Numbers: 1 Amendment in the 18th century, 4 in the 19th century, 12 in the 20th century.

So, at least the numbers are picking up, but are we really just seeing bursts of reform?

How important are each of the 17 Amendments?

Two, the 18th and 21st, cancel each other out, so they are practically worthless unless chalked up to "lessons learned."

Seven, the 12th, 17th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd, and 27th, are essentially bookkeeping Amendments, of minor importance, really. (The 27th was actually part of the Bill of Rights, but was one of two Amendments that weren't ratified).

That leaves eight that, IMHO, could be considered important.

The 11th Amendment, that prevents certain people from suing states, is interesting, but not really that important (legal scholars may differ).

The 24th Amendment, that outlaws Poll taxes, is of modest impotance. Only five states used them at the time it was ratified and I believe Civil Rights legislation was far more effective in preventing discrimination.

The 15th, 19th and 26th, allow, respectively, former slaves, woman and 18 year olds the right to vote. Very important to certain groups. In a class of their own, really.

So that leaves my top three Constitutional Amendments:

1. 14th - This one, again IMHO, is the number one Amendment. Citizenship defined, Due Process and Equal Protection clauses. As far as impact on average American citizens today, none come close.

2. 13th - Banned slavery, 'nuff said.

3. 16th - Allowed income taxes. Before, fedearal taxes had to be divided equally among the states based onpopulation.

I guess I'd have to say the Constitutional Amendment was important in spreading rights to all Americans over the years, but it is no longer an important part of modern governence.

Amendments are proposed these days are more publicity stunts for certain groups than actual attempts to change the Constitution.

America is deeply divided now, and the bar to pass an Amendment is so high (2/3 of both Houses of Congress plus 75% of the states), that it's hard to imagine another meaningful Amendment will be ever be passed again.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dubious celebrity speaking engagements

Doing some research on cruises, I came upon this one hosted by The Nation.

Booking actor Richard Dreyfuss, who last starred in a remake of The Poseidon Adventure, a movie about a cruise ship that gets hit by a giant tidal wave and flips over, might not be the best marketing move they could make.

Then again, if you have to eat all your meals sitting next to Ralph Nader, you might actually start wishing for a tidal wave to hit your ship...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Out of Africa

The recent discovery of a village near Stonehenge and the battle over the classification of the "Hobbits" got me back into reading about archaeology. But this recent foray, like all the ones I have done in the past, ended up in disappointment.

"Modern" humans have been around 250,000 years or more.

Yet we only have written records dating back maybe 6-7000 years.

Beyond that, all we have are tools, cave paintings, pottery and bones to try and guess, from scraps, what the most interesting (IMHO) period of human existence was like.

Our earliest ancestors were just as smart and creative as we are now and they conquered the planet. They fought Ice Ages, some rather fierce beasts and even earlier hominids along the way. And then they took to farming and founded empires.

Sad to think that the wisdom of countless Paleolithic Einsteins, Shakespeares and Caesars are probably lost to us forever.