Monday, November 27, 2017

Map Monday: The Gomberg Map

I've been meaning to do more of these Map Monday's and Flag Friday's, so let's start with one of the more famous, and mysterious, of Alternate History Maps for this Monday (and one that I have currently on the wall above my desk): the Gomberg Map, and previously covered by my friend Matt Mittrovich on his YouTube channel, here.

Tada!
Also known as Outline of Post-War New World Map, this map, self-published by Maurice Gomberg in 1942, shows how he believed the world after the defeat of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan would turn out. It's really interesting, the more you look at it, but the version I have doesn't explain much about how this would come about. But, there are a few things I want to bring up, and determine their plausibility.

First: the United States of America, which has more than doubled in size to include Canada and Mexico and almost the entire Caribbean, an old Manifest Destiny ideal, as well as a lot of "USA Peace - Security Outposts" in the Atlantic and Pacific. These include most of the Azores (which was held by Portugal), Bermuda (which was a British Colony), Greenland and Iceland (both held by Denmark before the war) and many Islands that were held by France, Britain and Japan before the war in the Pacific. While many of these islands would be turned over to the US (Guam, Micronesia and the Marshal Islands), most are now independent or still under the control of their old Colonial masters for no better reason than they couldn't survive in the modern world without that help. Also included in the dark blue are Formosa (Taiwan), Mainan, and several island chains of Indonesia, presumably as part of the Philippines.

The other big country on the map is, of course, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, here stretching from the Rhine to Manchuria. Almost half of Europe, including a "Quarantined Germany" is part of the USSR, as well as all of Iran. If we looked at just Europe on this map, we could see the OTL border divisions that occurred, except with all of Germany, including Austria, being in the Soviet sphere of influence, and all being a direct part of the USSR. There are also a lot of other divisions of Russia within the USSR, either as Oblasts or "independent" Socialist Republics. I'm not sure what he meant here, if they are to be further administrative divisions or independent SSR's.

But the one thing that Gomberg loves (and is very much a failing of many a first time alternate history or futurist map maker) is continent spanning nations: the United States of Scandinavia, the United States of Europe (including Quarantined Italy), the United States of South America, the Union of African Republics, the Federated Republics of India (which includes Afghanistan), the Arabian Federated Republics, and the United Republics of China, which includes Indochina, Thailand and Malaya. Australia, New Zealand, the UK (minus Northern Ireland, surprisingly), Madagascar, Ceylon, most of Indonesia not taken over by the US, and New Guinea are part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, as well as small outposts in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.

The Gomberg Map is, very much, an idealized view of what the world would look like, but also somewhat sinister: the fact that many countries that fought brutal wars to overthrow colonialists and unpopular, superpower backed leaders like Indochina/Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan and Cuba are all just grouped in with the closest "big power" is very much a continuation of colonialist mindset, and very much a sign that Gomberg thinks that, only with massive, continent spanning nations like in South America and Africa can smaller nations experience peace. But, at the same time, Gomberg is very much a democrat: there are no true "Kingdoms" mentioned anywhere on the map: everything is a "Republic" or a "Commonwealth," or "United States of ___". Even today, when some of the most stable countries in the world are Constitutional Monarchies, and there are many dictatorships that claim they are Republics, this is a very noticeable distinction.

So, in the end, I personally think that the Gomberg Map, as a map for a true ideal of a post war world, is incredibly idealistic, but incredibly naive. I could already see the Union of African Republics tearing itself apart soon after the War when you have South Africa, which was on the verge of institutionalizing Apartheid, with many black African dominated colonies being thrust together into one nation with little experience and backwards economies and infrastructure. And having so many non Russians directly in the USSR would seriously upset the balance of power, which was a reason that Stalin prefered to set up puppet dictatorships in Eastern Europe instead of bringing them all into the Soviet Union. And I can't see the US willingly take all of South America and the Caribbean into the US: the old "banana republic" system of government served US interests much better than allowing dozens of islands and much, much weaker economies into the US, not to mention that Canada had spent decades (and still continues) to try to differentiate themselves from America to allow themselves to become part of the USA.

But what do you think? Is the Gomberg Map little more than idealism on paper, or could it have actually worked in real life? If you have a comment or a suggestion, leave a comment below, email me at tbguy1992@gmail.com or look for me on Twitter, @tbguy1992.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fictional AltHistory #9: Command & Conquer Red Alert Timeline Headcanon

So lately I've been on a Command & Conquer kick, partly thanks to the excellent work done by the OpenRA Team, who have taken the freeware files of the original Command & Conquer (1995), Red Alert (1996) and Dune 2000 (1998) and turned them into a fully functional, modern RTS for modern computers. If you want to relive an RTS classic, then go check them out!

Since I'm absolutely positive that EA will never make a good C&C again.

That said, I once did a fictional AltHistory scenario on the first C&C here, well over a year and a half ago, and I think it's time to revisit the grandfather of all RTS games, this time with it's slightly loopy and campy B-movie quality of it's brother, Red Alert 1.

So, Point of Divergence. Hmmm... This is actually harder than I thought, mostly because RA1 is an alternate history already, asking "what if Albert Einstein built a time machine and erased Hitler from history?" And, considering all the talk about Nazi's today, I'd rather not get into that right now...

Well, the games themselves feature the heroic Allies fighting the brutal Soviets for control of Europe, introducing new technologies and desperate tactics to try to change the tide of battle: attack dogs, flamethrowers, Tesla coils, double barreled Mammoth Tanks, nuclear weapons, invulnerability and teleportation devices... the list goes on. Oh, and Tanya.

But, there is one thing about Red Alert 1 that popped up, but then never came up again...

Who is that handsome guy in the back there? Zoom in!
... damn low resolutions. Find a better picture for this joke!

Ahah! You magnificent bald, goateed bastard Kane, you!

An aborted attempt to tie the Red Alert series to the original Command & Conquer, the Tiberium series.

Now, over the years, a myth, persay, has developed on how this tie together would work. But this scenario never struck me as likely, because it was that a Soviet Victory in the "Second World War" of this timeline was what would lead to the establishment of the Global Defense Initiative and the emergence of the Brotherhood of Nod. But it just doesn't feel right to me, that, the Soviet Union manages to conquer all of Europe but then allows a United Nations organization (which should never have been established in this alternate timeline) to then build a global military force. It just always struck me as wrong that the Soviet's would allow something like that to happen, or that the United Nations would be formed, and then in turn form GDI, after a collapse of the USSR.

No, my headcanon for tying RA1 and C&C1 together involves an Allied Victory.

"But wait!" the C&C fans would begin to bellow. "The Allied Victory is what leads to Red Alert 2, and then to Red Alert 3! So it can't be used for C&C1. How can that work?"

Ah, well here is where it gets weird: I say that Red Alert 1 and 2 are both in the timeline.

Not sure what he's confused about. Most likely why watermarks are hovering all over him.

Okay, let me explain.

So, we start with Einstein going back in time in the late 1940s, killing Hitler, and returning to his time, just to see the Soviets Rise up, and try to take over Europe. With the United States still isolationist, it's all up to Europe (including a non-Nazi Germany) to unite and hold back the Soviets, forming the Allies, or, rather, the United Nations. It was only after the USSR tried to develop atomic bombs that the US joined the United Nations, sending men, weapons and supplies to help the beleaguered Allies, and invade Russia itself, and topple Stalin, and the USSR.

After this, the US and her European Allies begin to rebuild, and Michael Romanov is placed in charge of the much smaller Soviet Union. But in the 1970s, with the USSR rebuilt and gearing up for revenge, they launch a multi-pronged attack on the United States, which wasn't the great military power it was in OTL because it only helped at the very end of the previous World War, and then went back to a semi-isolationist stance, content that the damn Commies are contained. But now with the US the prime target of the USSR (with their mind control agents, attack squids, missile launching battleships and flying airships of death), and the Allies (which have dolphins, tanks that turn into trees, weather control superweapons and, of course, Tanya), perhaps because the US didn't come to their immediate aid or because they were afraid of the Soviet Union, wouldn't join until later, at which point the Allies manage to overcome the destruction, and bring down the USSR.

Up until now, this is based on the lore of the first two Red Alert games. Now is where the Wibbly Wobbly, Timey Wimey stuff comes into play.

That noise you hear is Daleks allying with the Brotherhood of Nod and the Soviets.

The expansion for Red Alert 2 featured a campaign by the psychic Yuri trying to take over the world. Now, in the Allied Campaign, at the last mission, there is a... thing that happens, where the screen gets all wobbly, and the "timelines merge" with the ending of Red Alert 2. And with the world now at peace, and the United Nations dominate, all the major powers agree to dismantle, or at least decommission their most advanced weapons, with many of the blueprints being destroyed or locked away. And, with all of Europe, North America and Russia now a war torn ruin, and with no "superpower" to easily fill in the slot, the United Nations forms several unified military commands. One of which, after some name changes (including the catchy Operations Group Echo: Black Ops Nine) becomes the Global Defense Initiative.

"But wait! What about Red Alert 3?"

Simple: it's a branching timeline from the end of Red Alert 2, but it's not the "main" timeline of our history. It's an alternate scenario of the events of Red Alert 2, and therefore not associated with the Tiberium Timeline.

"And Kane? And the Brotherhood of Nod?"

Ahh, well here is where they finally come in: they have always been an enigmatic, mysterious organization, and mentioned all the way back in the 1950s. If I remember correctly, there is even something at the end of the RA1 campaign where someone mentions they didn't find all of Stalin's advisors. It's quite simple to assume that Kane and the Brotherhood went into hiding for the events of RA2, and only emerged afterwards when Tiberium finally arrived on Earth.

This was really the Scrin's way of welcoming Humanity to the spacefaring community. A planet warming gift.

"Then why didn't the Allies/GDI just take the weapons from the previous war and use them?"

Well, what says they didn't? Well, some of the technology, at least. For example, Nod's Stealth tank? What if it's a refinement on the Mirage Tanks of Red Alert 2, just they don't turn into trees now. And the Apocalypse tank could have been used to build the first Mammoth Tanks for GDI. But other technology, like the Iron Curtain, Chronosphere, Weather Control Device, Prism Tanks and others would have degraded, or purposefully/accidently destroyed over the forty some years between the war in Red Alert 2, and the late 1990s/early 2000s that Tiberium Dawn takes place. Even if they had the blueprints, it would take time to rebuild it all, if it wasn't seen as not useful: after all, GDI isn't exactly running on a big budget, and even has it's budget cut half way through the campaign after Nod media manipulation. So I don't see GDI investing in trying to rebuild old technology, most of which may only have limited use on the modern battlefield, after years of rusting in bunkers and warehouses around the world.

So, this does take some leaps of faith and assumptions, but this is how I would tie the two branches of Command & Conquer together. Is it perfect? No: after all, why would the allies give up on Prism tanks after showing their usefulness? Though, there have been efforts to restrict and eliminate certain types of weapon over time, so I could see that happening here as well. But, I think it provides a somewhat satisfactory explanation for the two timelines intersecting.

But what do you think? How do you think the timelines of Command and Conquer being tied together, or if they should at all? If you have a comment or a suggestion, leave a comment below, email me at tbguy1992@gmail.com or look for me on Twitter, @tbguy1992.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Alternate History Scenario #30: No "Iron or Blood" German Unification

It's 1848, the Springtime of Nations. Revolution has swept Europe, sending monarchs and autocrats fleeing in the face of popular upheaval. Prince Metternich of Austria, the founder of the post-Napoleonic world order, has been forced from office. A Second Republic has been declared in France. Even the bastion of reactionary conservatism, the Kingdom of Prussia, bows to the demands for a constitution and liberty.

When King Friedrich Wilhelm IV announced a parliament to meet, he summoned many Junkers and nobles to come. However, several refused the call, one being a young, eccentric junker named Otto von Bismarck, considering this a capitulation and illegitimate, and therefore a waste of time. 

Bismarck, here in 1847. Or a younger General Lee. Frankly, everyone in mid-19th century had that kind of beard and mustache.

The national assembly that had been gathered debated what was needed to make Prussia a constitutional monarchy, but King Friedrich Wilhelm had his own plans, and by December, had reoccupied Berlin, dissolved the assembly, and promulgated a conservative constitution that tipped the scales in the favor of the rich, nobles and military. 

Elsewhere in Europe, 1849 turned into a resurgence of the reactionary movement. This was topped off when the liberal nationalist Frankfurt Assembly offered the crown of a new Emperor of Germany to Friedrich Wilhelm, who promptly declined it, considering the Frankfurt Assembly illegitimate (and not wanting to get on Austria's bad side).

As the memory of 1848 drifted off, Europe returned to its conservative, Congress of Vienna roots from a generation before. Nationalism, while not gone, had been suppressed with bayonets and broken promises. France and Britain were more concerned with imperialism in Asia and Africa, while Austria, Russia, Prussia and dozens of smaller states continued to uphold the status quo, but the remnants of of Springtime of Nations was still there: the Prussian constitution, most notably.

King Friedrich Wilhelm suffered a stroke in 1857, and his brother, Prince Wilhelm, acted as Regent for the mentally incapacitated King until Friedrich Wilhelm's death in 1861, at which point Wilhelm ascended the throne as Wilhelm I. The Prussian legislature by this time had become increasingly liberal, and, with their powers over budgets and taxation, began to make demands, including on how the money should actually be spent. When the army asked to raise more soldiers, and increase the terms of conscription from two to three years, the Landtag refused to pass the budget to grant this money. This was a terrifying prospect to the Junkers and the Army: the famed saying of Voltaire that Prussia was not a state with an army, but an army with a state, was just as true a hundred years later. The fact that the people (mostly middle class professionals that chafed under the conservatism entrenched by the Army and King) wanted a say in running the army and how their tax money should be spent set conservative and liberal at each other's throats. 

Because there is nothing in history more vicious than a left and right battle royale.

The problem that King Wilhelm faced was that it was becoming increasingly hard to solve this constitutional crisis: giving into the Liberals would upset the army, but getting rid of the Constitution might lead to another 1848. Wilhelm was also not the most confident of men, prone to self doubt. He considered abdicating, but was convinced to stay on the throne. But the political deadlock continued: Minister Presidents, who served at the King's pleasure, was unable to get the proposals through parliament. New elections were held in 1863, but that only lead to more liberal members being elected. Emboldened, the Liberal majority demanded that the constitution be reformed, and a true constitutional monarchy on the basis of the British be declared. This was even more horrifying to the elites of Prussia, because the monarch of Britain was little more than a figurehead: while Queen Victoria was popular, and nominally in charge of the military and the nation, the Prime Minister was the one that exercised full political control.

King Wilhelm, his nerves straining, finally acquiesced to the Liberal demands, and began discussions on reforming the constitution. The Army was furious, and soon the more reactionary members were plotting to capture the King, dispose of parliament, and reform an autocratic regime. But the coup attempt was badly bungled: the King was shot, and died several days later. The people in Berlin rose up, threw out the army, and declared a republic. The entire nation was in chaos, with many soldiers refusing to follow their officers orders. The Crown Prince Frederick, himself a Liberal, was ignored by all sides. Austria and Russia, fearing the worse, began to mobilize their armies. France, having become the Second Empire under Napoleon III in 1852, sensing an opportunity, marched into the Rhineland while preaching that Prussia should become liberal. War was only averted when the British proposed a conference in Brussels, and began working on a new settlement.

The German states, considered unstable and unruly (and threatening the peace of Europe), where forcibly federated into a new German Confederation. Prussia was to be made part of it, but was carved up into smaller pieces (part of the Rhineland given to France, part of East Prussia to Russia, and a big chunk of Silesia back to Austria) and made an equal of states like Bavaria, Hanover, Saxony and Wurttemberg, as each Kingdom was given a veto on unified action: all decisions on a federal level had to be unanimous. Austria was also technically made part of it, but mostly to give the Emperor in Vienna a veto over anything the other states might attempt. The smaller kingdoms could keep their armies, and only in war were they to be unified. And the German Confederation was not allowed to make alliances without approval from the other Great Powers, which effectively neutered the nation.

It was hoped that by forcibly unifying them, and keeping them squabbling amongst themselves, they would prevent Europe from going to war. But this was short lived. The Federal Parliament, seen as originally as little more than a debating club, soon gained a liberal, nationalist majority. The smaller Kingdoms of the Confederation began to see themselves as Germans first and foremost, began to chip away at the restrictions: central power was centralized in the mid 1870s, Austria relinquished it's veto in favor of massive loans in the face of Hungarian unrest and economic crisis, and the prohibition of alliances was rescinded in 1879. However, the new German confederation vowed to remain at peace, only maintaining an army for defense, and developed friendly ties with other nations in Europe. Militaries were not excessively large, mostly for defense or, in the case of France and Britain, for the defense of Empire. Italy remained a patchwork of independent states under the boot of Austria despite support in France and Germany for Italian unification, though that is still far in the future.

The only time that a unified Italy hasn't disappointed everyone was 1800 years ago...

The German economy began to grow rapidly as railways and a merchant marine was built up, while many immigrants headed for America. By 1900, Germany was rich, had a decent army, and the goodwill of all nations. The problems the nation faced was more between socialists and laissez-faire capitalists as industrialization swept Europe. While some nationalists were furious that Germanic lands like Alsace-Lorraine, Prussia and even Austria were not part of the larger Germany, there was little in the way of military threats in Europe.

At least until Austria and Russian nationalists began to rise up in the early 1900s. But that's another story.

As for Otto von Bismarck: the well known and popular farmer of East Prussia, having built a fortune from land and mining, died peacefully in his sleep in 1898, leaving his vast wealth to his extended family. While a true Junker conservative, refusing to fly the German Confederation flag until his dying day in place of the Prussian standard, he never did participate in politics, refusing to even vote in elections.



But what do you think? What would have had Bismarck never came to power or unified Germany through "Iron or Blood?" If you have a comment or a suggestion, leave a comment below, email me at tbguy1992@gmail.com or look for me on Twitter, @tbguy1992.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Alternate History Scenario #29: What if Gaius Caesar Succeeded Augustus?

September 9, 2 AD: Gaius Caesar, the designated successor to Augustus, had been invited to meet with rebellious Armenians, but, sensing a trap, he declined, and laid siege to the fortress. A couple months later, the rebellious Armenians surrendered, and Roman control of the Armenian Kingdom was assured. While the death of Gaius' brother Lucius had been a blow to the plans of Augustus, the bright and charismatic Gaius easily filled into the roles that Lucius' death had opened for him.

Gaius "Babyface" Caesar... either an Emperor
or a 1930s gangster, I dunno.
For the next twenty years, Gaius continued serving as consul, proconsul and other positions within the Principate, gaining experience, recognition and popularity, especially in the expansion into Germania. The birth of two young boys to his wife Livilla in 4 and 6 AD guaranteed the Julio-Claudian Dynasty as his adopted father began to resign more and more from political life. By 24 AD, Augustus was the Princeps in name only, as Gaius had been named to all the positions and titles that Augustus held, and the power they represented. So when Augustus died in 25 AD, the succession was clear, and welcomed by all.

Almost from the start of his reign as the Princeps, Gaius groomed his sons to succeed him: the eldest served on the border of Germania, while the youngest served in his father's old position in the East facing the Parthians. In Rome, Gaius continued Augustus' work, centralizing the state under his control. The Senate, while it's old prestige and power had waned, began to be revitalized as an advisory council and was allowed, within reason, to propose laws and vote on them. However, Gaius' approval was still needed, and if he dismissed or publically disagreed with the law, it would fail.

However, there was one problem Gaius was unable to tackle, and that was how to continue the growth and prosperity of the Empire. For decades, the conquests of foreign lands had brought in the wealth and resources needed to make Rome the Capital of the World. But even with the capture of Germania, which was mostly wild and untamed, with few settlements, no mines or farms, the question of how much further the empire could continue was left in the air at Gaius' death in 53 AD.

The succession of Gaius' son's was peaceful, but there was an undercurrent of concern. The speed of building had slowed, and military victories were few except against dissatisfied rebels or the ever present Armenian question. The lustre of the Principate was beginning to wear thin as the son's began to exert more overt authority that their grandfather and father never did, and senators, who had been sidelined for decades, longed to return to influence and power. Some began to plot, while others sought to rise to the Principate, and some few even thought that the legal fiction of the Principate should be totally replaced with monarchy. Soon cracks began to grow, as the son's began to be surrounded by opposing camps, and their influence began to tear them apart. 

When in Rome, do as the Romans due: stab possible tyrants on the floor of the Senate
By 59 AD, the split had become irreversible, and Civil War soon broke out again. But this time, there was no strong ruler to unify the widespread lands, and soon the Roman Empire began to fracture: Gaul and Hispania became the home of one of Gaius' sons; Africa, Syria and Egypt the other, while Italy, Illyria, and Greece became home to a new Roman Republic. The fighting between these three nations and their ill-defined borders would continue for decades, but never again would the whole old Roman Empire of Augustus be reformed. The empire he established, with it's complex legal and political machinations to maintain the illusion of the Republic that Augustus had created, collapsed when the ambitions and follies of men became too much. By 100 AD, the Roman Empire was gone, replaced by many smaller, bickering states that once were unified but had drifted apart.

But what do you think? What would have had happened had Augustus' chosen successor succeeded him? If you have a comment or a suggestion, leave a comment below, email me at tbguy1992@gmail.com or look for me on Twitter, @tbguy1992.