Saturday, December 11, 2004

Bright Star Sound

Bright Star Sound - The story of Stanislav Petrov, a Russian officer whose refusal to launch a nuclear strike, in response to a false report of a US attack, averted a nuclear war in 1983.

From the site:

In 1983 in Russia, there was a man who would have been considered an enemy by the people of America. But as it turned out, he would become for them and for the world an unknown hero — perhaps the greatest hero of all time. Because of military secrecy, and political and international differences, most of the world has not heard of this man. He is Stanislav Petrov.

The extraordinary incident leading to his heroism occurred near Moscow, in the former Soviet Union, just past midnight, Sept. 26, 1983. Because of time-zone differences, it was still Sept. 25 in America, a Sunday afternoon.

During the Cold War at this time, the United States and the Soviet Union were bitter adversaries. These two world powers did not trust each other, and this distrust led to a dangerous consequence: They built thousands of nuclear weapons to be used against each other if a war should ever break out between them. If there ever were such a war, these nations would very likely devastate each other and much of the world many times over, resulting in the deaths of perhaps hundreds of millions of people.

It was Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov’s duty to use computers and satellites to warn the Soviet Union if there were ever a nuclear missile attack by the United States. In the event of such an attack, the Soviet Union’s strategy was to launch an immediate all-out nuclear weapons counterattack against the United States.

Friday, December 10, 2004

History of Guyana

History of Guyana. This is a good but short overview to the history of the South American nation of Guyana.

From the site:

Before the arrival of Europeans, the region was inhabited by both Carib and Arawak tribes, who named it Guiana, which means land of many waters. The Dutch settled in Guyana in the late 16th century, but their control ended when the British became the de facto rulers in 1796. In 1815, the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice were officially ceded to Great Britain at the Congress of Vienna and, in 1831, were consolidated as British Guiana. Following the abolition of slavery in 1834, thousands of indentured laborers were brought to Guyana to replace the slaves on the sugarcane plantations, primarily from India but also from Portugal and China. The British stopped the practice in 1917. Many of the Afro-Guyanese former slaves moved to the towns and became the majority urban population, whereas the Indo-Guyanese remained predominantly rural. A scheme in 1862 to bring black workers from the United States was unsuccessful. The small Amerindian population lives in the country's interior.

The people drawn from these diverse origins have coexisted peacefully for the most part. Slave revolts, such as the one in 1763 led by Guyana's national hero, Cuffy, demonstrated the desire for basic rights but also a willingness to compromise. Politically inspired racial disturbances between Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese erupted in 1962-64, and again following elections in 1997 and 2001. The basically conservative and cooperative nature of Guyanese society has usually contributed to a cooling of racial tensions. Racial tensions, however, do constitute Guyana’s greatest ongoing social stress point.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mongolia in the 1990s: from Commissars to Capitalists?

Mongolia in the 1990s: from Commissars to Capitalists? - Detailed analysis of recent Mongolian history (from the overthrow of the Communist government in 1991) to the present.

From the site:

T he Mongols' natural environment has shaped their history. Their location in North Asia, with its extremes in temperature and resultant short growing season, precludes intensive agriculture. Grasslands in the central part of the country have traditionally sustained most of the Mongol population, who tended sheep, goats, yaks, horses, and camels. Mongol herdsmen traveled to seek water and grass for their animals. They migrated from two to as many as ten times a year to find sufficient pasturelands, and such frequent migrations dictated that the groups be relatively small and readily mobile. Similarly, the Mongols eking out their livelihood in the Gobi desert, south of the steppelands, or in the forest and lakes region, north of the steppes, journeyed around the countryside and were organized into small units.

Influence of the Past

Lack of UnityA country three times as large as France with a population of a few hundred thousand in early days, Mongolia encountered great difficulties in fostering a country-wide identity and in accepting unified rule. The enormous size of Mongolia contributed to localism and local identity, as individual herders naturally identified with their own groups and not with a larger Mongol entity. Unity under these economic and political circumstances offered few benefits. Organization centered around specific tribes, with leadership provided by a chieftain and occasionally a shaman. Defense against bellicose neighbors, the Turkic rulers of Central Asia or the more expansionist Chinese dynasties, would prompt the inhabitants of Mongolia to join together to safeguard their pasturelands or their commercial interests. A belligerent Mongol tribe facing threats posed by ambitious rival chiefs would also cause other tribes to form a confederation for self-protection. Finally, a charismatic leader could persuade tribes to band together for forays designed to obtain booty. These alliances were temporary; once they achieved their immediate objectives, they disbanded. Unity proved elusive because no overarching ethnic or national loyalty to one leader and his descendants existed. Loyalty to one specific individual did not translate into support for any dynasty or hereditary principle he might seek to establish.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

José de San Martín, Knight of the Andes

José de San Martín, Knight of the Andes - Revolutionary fighter against royalist forces and national hero in many South American countries, particularly in Argentina.

From the site:

One of the principal liberators of South America from Spanish rule was Jose de San Martin. He is also known as Argentina's liberator, and was one of the principal revolutionary fighters against royalist forces in South America. He was a master of military strategy, a skill which led him to success. San Martin became a national hero in many South American countries, particularly in Argentina, where he also had strong personal ties, as he was born there, and enforced his ties by later marrying an Argentine. In this paper, I will discuss the biography of San Martin, a person who made important history in colonial America.

Jose de San Martin was born on February 25, 1778 in Yapey'u, located in the viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata', which is now known as eastern Argentina. His mother was Gregoria Matorras, and his father was Juan de San Martin, a professional soldier and government administrator of Yapey'u. In 1784, when San Martin was six years old, the family returned to Spain, where he was educated at the "Seminario de Nobles" from 1785 until 1789. He started his military career early in the Murcia infantry regiment (South Eastern Spain). He served as an army officer against the forces of Napoleon between 1808 and 1811.

Even though San Martin was loyal towards his mother country (Spain) when he fought against Napoleon, he disliked the traditional absolute monarchy and the existing colonial system. In 1811, he decided to resign from Spanish service. After meeting revolutionary Spanish Americans in London, England, he sailed for Buenos Aires, and was almost immediately taken into service in the revolutionary regime. As a very experienced soldier, he was a great asset in the revolutionary movement in South America.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

James Monroe

James Monroe. This is a good and brief biography of American President James Monroe. He is famous for many things including formulating the Monroe Doctrine.

From the site:

James Monroe (April 28 , 1758 - July 4 , 1831) was the fifth (1817 - 1825) President of the United States . He is credited with the development of the Monroe Doctrine .

Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, in 1758, Monroe attended the College of William and Mary, fought with distinction in the Continental Army, and practiced law in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

As a youthful politician, he joined the anti-Federalists in the Virginia Convention which ratified the Constitution, and in 1790, an advocate of Jeffersonian policies, was elected United States Senator. As Minister to France in 1794-1796, he displayed strong sympathies for the French cause; later, with Robert R. Livingston, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase.

His ambition and energy, together with the backing of President Madison, made him the Republican choice for the Presidency in 1816. With little Federalist opposition, he easily won re-election in 1820.

Monroe made unusually strong Cabinet choices, naming a Southerner, John C. Calhoun, as Secretary of War, and a northerner, John Quincy Adams, as Secretary of State. Only Henry Clay's refusal kept Monroe from adding an outstanding Westerner.

Monday, December 06, 2004

History of New Zealand

History of New Zealand. This is a small overview to the history of New Zealand. (Now known as Middle Earth to us Tolkien fans...)

From the site:

Archaeological evidence indicates that New Zealand was populated by fishing and hunting people of East Polynesian ancestry perhaps 1,000 years before Europeans arrived. Known to some scholars as the Moa-hunters, they may have merged with later waves of Polynesians who, according to Maori tradition, arrived between 952 and 1150. Some of the Maoris called their new homeland "Aotearoa," usually translated as "land of the long white cloud."

In 1642, Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator, made the first recorded European sighting of New Zealand and sketched sections of the two main islands' west coasts. English Captain James Cook thoroughly explored the coastline during three South Pacific voyages beginning in 1769. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries lumbering, seal hunting, and whaling attracted a few European settlers to New Zealand. In 1840, the United Kingdom established British sovereignty through the Treaty of Waitangi signed that year with Maori chiefs.

In the same year, selected groups from the United Kingdom began the colonization process. Expanding European settlement led to conflict with Maori, most notably in the Maori land wars of the 1860s. British and colonial forces eventually overcame determined Maori resistance. During this period, many Maori died from disease and warfare, much of it intertribal.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The "Axe Murder Incident"

The "Axe Murder Incident"18 August 1976 at Panmunjom. Describes a 1976 confrontation at Panmunjom in which North Korean forces killed three US soldiers.

From the site:

On Wednesday 18 August 1976 at 1040 hours in the morning, a United Nations Command (UNC) work force of five Korean Service Corps (KSC) personnel accompanied by and UNC security force, including the Joint Security Force (JSF) Commander, Captain (P) Arthur G. Bonifas of Newburgh, New York, First Lieutenant Mark T. Barrett of Columbia, South Carolina, and one Republic of (South) Korean Army (ROKA) officer started to prune a large tree in the vicinity of UNC Check Point #3. This tree partially obscured the view between UNC Check Point #3 and UNC Check Point #5. In addition the unpruned tree was also blocking the view of the "Bridge of No Return" from "Freedom House." Shortly after the KSC work force arrived at the tree and began to cut it back, (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) personnel appeared at the work site. For a short time, the KPA security force observed the pruning without apparent concern. Suddenly, the KPA security force commander demanded that the JSF commander cease pruning or there would be trouble. Captain Bonifas did not order the operation stopped. Senior Lieutenant Pak Chul of the KPA, seeing that he was losing control, took off his wristwatch, wrapped it in his handkerchief and put it in his pocket. Another North Korean rolled up his sleeves. Lieutenant Pak then shouted "MI KUN UL CHU KI GI CHA." Translated, it means, "Kill the U.S. Aggressors."; the UNC security force was attacked by a superior force of 30 KPA guards wielding pick handles, knives, clubs, and axes. Senior Lieutenant Pak jumped on Captain Bonifas from the back forcing him to the ground where Bonifas was beaten to death. 1LT Barrett was also attacked. The KPA soldiers used the mattox and axes the tree trimming detail was using prune the tree as weapons. The North Korean attack was broken up when a UNC soldier drove his 2 1/2 ton truck into the fight and over Captain Bonifas to protect him. The UNC Security Force then withdrew but not before two American Army Officers were murdered and, a ROKA officer, three Korean Augmentees to the US Army (KATUSA) and four US enlisted men were wounded.