Geopolitical Cartoons: Depictions of the Spanish-American War (1898)

This weeks geopolitical cartoons is brought to you by William Randolph Hearst! Well not quite, I’m pretty sure Hearst would balk at my political tendencies. However, the cartoons do stem from the conflict that he assisted in creating, the Spanish-American War. In this post we’ll explore some of the not-very-subtle propaganda messages in various geopolitical cartoons. Know your sources!

The first image below comes from a satirical German newspaper first published in 1848 (according to wikipedia) and printed the day before hostilities ensued, or were declared, or when scholars agreed the war started (published April 24, started April 25). Coming from a German perspective, its primary focus is on the effects of the impending conflict on “poor Cuba.” The caption reads “this encounter does not seem, at present, exactly a happy one for poor Cuba.” Indeed, as the picture shows Cuba is being ground underfoot by Uncle Sam (the United States who is strolling over to the Caribbean island via Florida) and Don Quixote (Spain who is stretching across the Atlantic from Spain). Quite clearly, the Germans are making a call on who is going to win the conflict. Who would you bet on? A modern Uncle Sam walking over? Or an insane Spanish minor noble, armored and armed with lance in the late-1800s, with a penchant for charging windmills, accosting monks, and generally not following up on his deeds?

“Poor Cuba”, 24 April 1898 (via Ohio State University)

The Spanish, of course, saw things rather differently. The cartoon is apparently from a Catalan source and depicts a greedy Uncle Sam hungrily eyeing Cuba from the United States. His groping hands are hovering over the island. Though I have no idea what “fatlera” means, wikipedia tells me that the caption reads “Protect the island so won’t be lost.” Righteous nationalistic fury indeed! But I have to agree with a comment made in a Blue Sky GIS post, “Spain complaining about anybody else’s imperial ambitions is very much the pot calling the kettle black.” Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Greedy Uncle Sam, 1896 (via wikipedia)

The next two images are from the U.S. The first, from the Minneapolis Tribune, depicts President McKinley holding onto a savage-looking child, the Philippines. He is contemplating whether to “keep” the archipelago, “return” it to Spain, or setting it on his own path. The editors at the Minneapolis Tribune clearly believe that President McKinley should keep the islands. After all, handing them back to Spain is akin to throwing the child off of a cliff. Moreover, it is just a savage child after all, hardly ready for independence. As the world looks on, history is made. McKinley holds on to the Philippines. The aftermath is for another post.

McKinley and the Philippines, 1898 (via wikipilipinas)

The final poster is from the 1900 election campaign season, which McKinley/Roosevelt subsequently won for the Republicans. The poster compares the effects of four years of party rule in 1896 (after four years of Democratic rule under Grover Cleveland) and in 1900 (after four years under McKinley and the Republicans). Two things worth drawing attention to from the geopolitical standpoint. First, is how the United States justified (and continues to justify) its foreign intervention “the American flag has not been planted in foreign soil to acquire more territory but for humanity’s sake.” I wouldn’t be the first person to suggest that Americans are uncomfortable with the sort of power they wield. As a society we take pains to justify our adventures abroad, yellow journalism and yellow cake. When the conflict is said and done, and righteous American power is in place, the shining city upon the hill bring the light of liberty, we have the the last two pictures in the campaign poster. Cuba is compared under Spanish rule and under America’s rule. I think these two messages are one of the most interesting omnipresent debates in American foreign policy. The isolationist trend, content to guard its power and prosperity while the world goes to shit, and the righteous, liberty-exporting revolutionary trend.

Liberty under McKinley, 1900 (via wikipedia)

Immigration to Japan: Demographic and Geopolitical Perspectives

Discussion of Japan’s demographic decline is proving to be a popular topic for the blog (based on reader hits) so I thought it’d be nice to delve a little bit more into the topic by discussion one way of reversing the trend, immigration (in-migration). In the original post, I mentioned in passing that Japan has a “strict” immigration policy (quoting a National Bureau of Asian Research article). While I can’t comment on the strictness of the immigration policy, I can say that it is apparently modeled after the United States’ in that it favors skilled, rather than unskilled, labor. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, I’m confident that most states would prefer skilled laborers, such as doctors, nurses, technologists, and the like, to immigrate than “unskilled” laborers, typically those involved with manual labor occupations.

Looking at statistics for immigration to Japan (from the Ministry of Justice) reveals some interesting points. But an introductory note, if you do decide to take a look at the Ministry of Justice data be sure to keep in mind the two “loopholes” which the Migration Policy Institute relates in a 2006 article. That article mentions the establishment of the 1993 Technical Internship Trainee Program. The MoJ data reports numbers of immigrants (arrivals and registrations) in table 7-1/2, “Changes in the number of New Arrivals of ‘Thechnical [sic] Intern Training (1)’ by Nationality”. The other loophole was through recruitment of Nikkeijin (descendants of Japanese emigrants, i.e. persons from Japan who left and settled elsewhere). The article notes that the primary beneficiaries of this loophole were Brazilian Japanese. One should also note that there are a number of categories related to various “trainees” but whether these are all “unskilled” workers is subject to speculation. An additional word on Brazilian Japanese, I can’t remember where I read this now but one of the reasons why the Japanese went with a much more open policy of immigration for descendants of Japanese emigrants was due to the prevailing assumption that they would be culturally similar to resident Japanese. Of course, we know better now – but that’s for another post.

What can we glean from the immigration data? First, is the widespread presence of Chinese immigrants in the Japanese economy. Probably two-thirds to three-quarters of the categories tracked list Chinese immigrants as the largest population group (among new arrivals). Other notable mentions are Filipinos, Koreans (from South Korea), Brazilians, and Americans. The most ludicrous one first, Americans, this group comprise the largest number of immigrants in two categories, “Specialist in Humanities/International Services”, of which there were 986 Americans of 4,113 immigrants in 2010. This reflects the generally services-oriented economy that the United States currently operates. The other category is, wait for it, “Entertainer”, where Americans represented 6,785 of 28,612 immigrants in 2010. The second largest is the United Kingdom in this group. To the Japanese, Americans are the equivalent to troubadors and wandering minstrels (and we’re just as annoying).

China and (South) Korea of course have some, shall we say negative, history with Japan, as this blog has touched upon in 1, 2 geopolitical cartoon posts. Many Koreans, in particular, are considered part of the “old wave” of immigrants having come to the Japanese archipelago over a century ago. Chinese immigrants are relatively more recent, many arriving after World War II (the MPI article discusses this). Other countries, such as the Philippines and Brazil, are much more reason and coincide with the relative loosening of immigration policy. Beyond this, Chinese (and to a lesser extent Korean) immigration to Japan is interesting from a geopolitical standpoint. Much has been made over the past year over the Japan-China dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands (which shall be yet another Z Geography post). Admittedly the decision to go to war is primarily political but an era characterized by rising Asian nationalism (Diaoyu/Senkaku island dispute for instance), the large numbers of Chinese immigrants present in Japan, and supporting the Japanese economy, is worth a mention. Would we think that Japan’s government would shoot first, assuming they’re aware of Chinese nationals contribution to society? Of course, this assumes that Chinese workers in Japan would side with China during a conflict. This “fifth column” potential isn’t a foregone conclusion, as the United States learned during World War II with Japanese and German immigrants. However, in that case its worth remembering that both groups had been present in the United States for about a century, the Germans longer. Incidentally a good book on Asian migration to the United States is “Strangers from a Different Shore”. A book review is forthcoming.

The second interesting point is the collapse in new arrivals of Brazilians (see Table 14-1) from 2008 to 2009 in the “spouse or child of Japanese national” category. The number dropped from 2,895 arrivals to 483, though this corresponds (roughly) to a general decline in new immigrant arrivals, it was the greatest proportional drop. Another group disproportionately affected by the immigration decline were Filipinos, whose arrivals decreased from 5,133 to 3,308. Undoubtedly, this drop in immigrant arrivals is partly explained by the global economic decline. Since this category partially represents “unskilled labor”, its reasonable to assume that the global economic decline both dropped incomes for immigrating families (thus making it harder to immigrate abroad especially from places far away, like Brazil or the Philippines) as well as resulted in tighter restriction in Japan for “unskilled labor” immigrants (in order to protect low-skilled work positions at home). For perspective on Japan’s view of immigration check out, this Japan Today article, quite insightful. I mention it here because the Philippines might strike many as strange.

According to that article, nurses are “being groomed” (interesting choice of words) in Indonesia and the Philippines for the “Japanese system.” I assume the nurses are being trained, not only to Japanese medical standards, but also given a healthy dose of Japanese culture. Under the “trainee” category, the Philippines and Indonesia place 2nd and 4th, respectively. Behind China (first) and Vietnam (third). Why the call for Indonesian and Filipino nurses? You know without me telling you, Japan’s aging population (see chart below). With legions of elderly set to arrive in the not-too-distant future, Japan is attempting to import labor now to meet that eventual demand. With fewer and fewer younger Japanese able to take care of aging parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, not to mention however many children are born, it will increasingly fall upon the state, hospitals, and private nurses, to make up the care gap. While the MoJ’s numbers highlights the Japanese government’s identification of one part of the demographic decline problem, that is the scarcity of healthcare workers for the elderly, it misses another entirely, the actual demographic decline.

Japan Population Pyramid, 2000 (via U.S. Census)

Japan Population Pyramid, 2000 (via U.S. Census)

With disappearing populations, Japan’s answer (as reported by the MPI article) has traditionally been to automate the workforce, rather than expand the labor pool with immigrants. One wonders if immigrants are likely to remain in Japan indefinitely if their status doesn’t change and they have little say in the government, despite their burgeoning numbers. The MoJ’s numbers tell this story too, of the 2.3 million Korean immigrants in 2010, some 2.2 million were codified as “temporary visitors”, 124 were codified as “long-term residents.” Among Brazilians, we see that the liberal policies for Japanese descendants continue, of 22 thousand new arrivals in 2010, about 10% were codified as “long-term residents”. To a certain extent, Chinese immigrants also benefit from this policy as many Japanese took Chinese wives or had mixed children. Of 1.1 million Chinese immigrant arrivals, about 2,000 were marked “long-term resident”. Finally, Filipino immigrant arrivals may reflect the long-term nature of their stay (or perhaps a large number of Japanese-descended children?) of 66 immigrant arrivals, 2,195 were marked “long-term resident.”

Japanese immigration statistics offer us valuable insights into the country, its economy, and its society. As we saw here, Japanese preference for highly skilled workers continue though an informed read of immigration policies reveals certain loopholes for the “unskilled”. Moreover, we saw in detail the Japanese government’s “cultural” preference for Japanese-descended (in the case of South America) or Asian (particularly East Asian) immigrants. In this latter group, East Asians, we speculated on the geopolitical implications of the presence of large numbers of Chinese immigrants (nationals) in the economy. Finally, we explored the meaning behind the large numbers of Filipino migrants and the Japanese actions, and inaction, in regards to population decline.

Geopolitical Cartoons: Depictions of Imperial Germany (World War I)

This week’s geopolitical cartoons comes from World War I, or The Great War as its sometimes known. I stumbled on the first picture while looking for an explanation of Germany’s animal symbol from a few weeks back. I thought it was a vulture, and I ended up finding the image below, turns out the avian symbol of Prussia and Imperial Germany is an eagle.

France taunting Imperial Germany, World War I (via eBay)

The postcard above shows the personification of France, Marianne, preparing to stab the German eagle. Its most certainly from World War I because of the German pickelhaube lying in the foreground. Pictures of from the period (such as the one found on that wikipedia page) often show Otto von Bismarck or Kaiser Wilhelm II wearing the helmet, doubtless a symbol of German military might (and as it turns out, aggression). The pickelhaube itself was a symbol of the German empire during the war, as shown in the enlistment poster below. Another piece of evidence are the word “pro patria” located in the bottom right of the foreground. World War I is generally recognized as the first major conflict motivated by “nationalism”. While choosing individuals choose to participate in a conflict for a variety of reasons these days, World War I was characterized by widespread conscription and levée en masse, specifically in Europe. I deliberately used the last term because of its links to Napleonic France, that revolutionary place where nationalism was first introduced as a guiding principle in a state in the late 18th century. The inscription on the top reads: “Infamous and barbaric monster back! I curse you! Our dead will be avenged, your crimes will be punished!”

Imperial Germany to invade the U.S.?, World War I (via wikipedia)

The propaganda poster deserves some explanation as well. It depicts the German Empire (actually Kaiser Wilhelm II) as a slobbering, “crazy”, “brute”. Probably issued during the war (rather than before), the story line is that after the German Empire lays waste to Europe (as it has in the background), it will come to the United States, as its shown coming up from the water to the shores of “America”. The brutish gorilla is Kaiser Wilhelm II, as it bears that ruler’s characteristic mustache (see below reference material). Interestingly, the pickelhaube bears the inscription “militarism”. In other words, coming to the shores of the U.S. with “militarism” on his mind. He bears the club of “Kultur.” I ended up doing some digging on this (these posts really take on a life of their own) and found a digital copy of a book written in 1917 title “Conquest and kultur: aims of the Germans in their own words”. How awesome is that?

Kaiser Wilhelm II (looking not so brutish), 1902 (via wikipedia)

At any rate, if you check out that link go to page 17 (on the web, page 13 of the report) there’s a quote relevant to “Kultur” (German for culture): “The more it [German kultur] remains faithful to itself, the better will it be able to enlighten the understanding of foreign races absorbed or incorporated into the Empire, and to make them see that only from German kultur can they derive those treasures which they need for the fertilizing of their own particular life…” That quote comes from Otto von Geirke a “most distinguished professor law in Berlin” in 1914. In other words, some in Imperial Germany saw the war as bring “German culture” to the rest of Europe, something like a modified “white man’s burden,” where that phrase was used to justify colonial and imperial policies in Africa, Asia, and the “New World” where Europeans were bring “civilization” to an “uncivilized” landscape. I suppose this can be considered the logical conclusion of that logic, the German Empire formed as a coherent state five decades prior to World War I found itself one of the most populous, industrialized powers in Europe. Why not bring the successes of Germany to the rest of Europe, under German supervision of course.

The rest of Europe, of course, didn’t quite see it that way, as the French postcard, American enlistment poster, and French-Italian geopolitical cartoon below show. In this last cartoon, Kaiser Wilhelm II (Imperial Germany) is taking a bite out of the world but finding it a tough nut to crack. The inscription reads “L’ingordo” (“the Glutton”) “trop dur” (“too hard”). Apparently, it is French and Italian symbolizing half of the Entente powers (Great Britain, France, Italy, and Russia) with Italy entering the on the side of Great Britain, France, and Russia in 1915.

“The Glutton” finding the world “too hard” to eat, World War I (via wikipedia)

Book Review: The City, A global history (Joel Kotkin)

Kotkin, Joel. The City: A global history, Modern Library: New York, NY. 2006.

Joel Kotkin’s The City: A global history is a worthwhile, short read for those interested in the history and development of cities. Though he presents an overarching framework in the first chapter (more on this in a bit), he doesn’t always explicitly state the links between historical and current cities and this framework. Thus, it is useful to recall the points made in the first chapter as you read in order to evaluate Kotkin’s framework. From the standpoint of Geography, I think Kotkin does an effective job of introducing his readers to urban geography and the history of urbanity. They key word is introduction, at 160 pages of text and covering major cities from Mohenjo-daro (2600 BCE) to contemporary developing megacities like Mumbai or Shanghai Kotkin can only offer a brief introduction to each city and the trends and factors affecting each city’s development. Despite this wide-breadth in temporal and geographic scale, The City is a great introduction for high school students to the study of the city in Geography.

Kotkin’s framework is summarized in the title of the first chapter “Places Sacred, Safe, and Busy.” Joel Kotkin argues that a city’s prominence is due to three factors that determine “the overall health of cities…the sacredness of place, the ability to provide security and project power, and last, the animating role of commerce.” When these factors are present, a city can be “great,” when they are not the city can wither and fade. The first section (comprising three chapters) is devoted to the ancient cities and how they set the standard of all cities being places of sacredness, security, and commerce. In these short chapters he primarily focuses on the cities in Mesopotamia, the progenitor of modern civilizations, as he further develops his framework of scared, safe, busy with ancient examples.

Parts two, three, and four focus on what we know as classical and renaissance civilizations. Here he covers the development of cities from the Greek city states through Rome to the collapse of the “classical city.” In part three, he switches the focus from Europe to the Islamic, Chinese, and Indian civilizations, during Europe’s descent into the Dark Ages. Of particular interest to me was the rapid de-urbanization of Europe following the fall of Rome, Kotkin does an effective job of highlighting the population loss in just a few generations in a number of European cities. In part four, Europe reasserts its primacy as the hub of urbanity. Chapter Nine “Opportunity Lost” sets the stage for part four but is worth a mention because of its wider applicability.

In this chapter, Kotkin points to the “problem of prosperity” as the culprit of Asian and Islamic stagnation and ultimate decline. He points to ethno-centric attitudes borne out centuries of political, economic, and social domination. He also points to the limits of autocracy among kingdoms prevalent at this time in world history, which stifled innovation and entrepreneurship. Though Europe suffered autocracy as well, Kotkin points to the rise of the urban merchant and artisan classes as effective counterweights to the political elites, who often had the ability to influence policy.

The second chapter of part four, “Cities of Mammon,” and part five take us from Europe’s imperial cities, Venice, Amsterdam, and London through to industrialization and the creation of high rise cities (especially in New York). The industrialized city, Kotkin primarily points to the U.S. and UK as his cases, is counter-balanced in the cities’ of industrialism’s discontents, Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union. The problem, as Kotkin argues, with the Western industrial city was the overemphasis on commercialism. The primary conflict underpinning this discontent was also found in the “West”, the environmental and social degradation of an earlier society. Discussing the effect that the Soviet Union had on its urban architecture, Kotkin argues that the Soviet Union “stripped” city’s of their sacred function. Formed in response to the excesses and perceived lack of moral order in the industrialized “West”, the Soviet Union created cities with a “destitute urban legacy.”

The final section brings us to the rush to suburbia and the population loss (notably of whites) that Western cities endured throughout this century. Kotkin points to the automobile, mass transportation (to a certain extent), the fear of crime in the inner city, and prevailing cultural preferences for “a six room house with a big yard”. Of course, the ultimate manifestation of this kind of city is Los Angeles. While suburbanization gripped the “West”, the former colonies and imperial territories of Africa and Asia grappled with their colonial legacies. In this chapter, Kotkin highlights the impact that Europeans had on the urban landscape of conquered territories (often creating capitals despite an existing infrastructure elsewhere, like Calcutta instead of Delhi). Importantly, Kotkin also discusses the dualistic nature of many former colonial cities. This dualism is in the relative affluence for a small proportion of the population, often very visible in social and international media (think of Mumbai and Cairo) and the near destitution and poverty afflicting the vast majority of the rest of these urban dwellers. In the concluding section to this chapter he describes these socially stratified cities in the Middle East and Africa (in particular) as “social time bombs.”

I agree.

The final chapter (a brief description of the preceding chapter: it examines the growth and success of eastern cities like Singapore and Hong Kong) deals with the future of urbanity, particularly in the United States. There are three points that stuck with me, the first is the “destruction of distance” and can be seen in the rise of such modern concepts as “tele-commuting” and “tele-working”, in effect, being able to do a job that was formerly in the city, but from wherever you live (not in the city). Obviously, this sort of phenomena is primarily oriented to service-based economies in the “West”, rather than manufacturing centers elsewhere. This destruction of distance also threatens the megacities of economically developing countries, which have outrun their colonial infrastructure. In the “West”, its becoming apparent that it is no longer necessary for humanity to congregate in an area to maintain an economically viable enterprise. In response, Kotkin sees cities everywhere becoming “ephemeral” and relying on their cultural industry to set trends and to become places for tourism and wonder. Perhaps most interestingly, Kotkin sees a limit to “gentrification” by wealthy youths and relative social elites. As middle-class urban families are priced out and banished to the suburbs, Kotkin sees a loss of “economic and social vitality” characteristic of urban stagnation and decline. A word here on gentrification as Kotkin sees it, rather than urban revitilization by young families, he references “older affluents…’wealthy cosmopolites'” seeking to convert cities from “economic centers” to “residential resorts.” The final threat is the lack of a common moral vision to hold cities together. Kotkin points to the lack of religion or any other binding force in contemporary cities as a serious problem to the lack of stable communities. Most interestingly in this regard, he notes that academics and planners rarely discuss the lack of a “powerful moral vision.” In quoting Daniel Bell he says that “the fate of cities still revolves around ‘a conception of public virtue.'” Here again, I agree.

Kotkin’s The City gives us plenty of points to ponder and discuss, I’ve presented a number of the most interesting in this review. I’m inclined to agree with Kotkin’s assessment that our city’s lack a “powerful moral vision”, though I don’t think that religion is necessarily the answer, I generally believe that an overemphasis on the individual and lack of emphasis on individual responsibility for the community is a serious problem. A Washington metropolite for over a decade now, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen young men (and some women) refuse to budge for elderly women (and men) or pregnant women on public transportation. A similar symptom of the lack of personal responsibility is the wanton way in which we flout laws. Cars (taxis in particular) driving well over posted speed limits, running red lights, failing to stop at stop signs, pedestrians jay-walking or crossing against the light, bicyclists running through lights or weaving between traffic. While I don’t think we should be mindless automatons while in a city, some consideration for others (a general acknowledgement of their humanity, for instance) would be a welcome change.

Beyond the “moral vision,” I find other interesting parallels between America’s decline and the stagnation of China and the Middle East before the Renaissance. Would many of us really argue that a certain ethno-centrism is well-entrenched in the United States and that its almost celebrated here, and elsewhere in the West? While Europeans continue to struggle with its persisting irrelevance politically and economically, Americans are beginning to understand what it feels like. And yet, despite the widespread knowledge that Americans are geographically illiterate, we seem surprisingly ok with this condition. I suppose we’re content with our ephemeral fads and styles (so long as we can pay for them), confident that we’ll remain the jewel of the world. As a rule, we seem to be completely unaware of the increasingly disparate and rigid social hierarchies in our, and other societies, which occasionally explode into violent conflict.

Joel Kotkin’s The City provides a brief introduction to the geography and history of humanity’s urbanity. Using a framework emphasizing the city as sacred, secure, and commercial places, he not only highlights the myriad cities that came to dominate the surrounding landscape (sometimes the known world) but also provides useful insight into their eventual decline. It is this latter perspective that is most important for planners, politicians, and students, because as a rule, we tend to learn much more from our failures, than our successes.