Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Daily Dissembler: News From The Diplomacy Game

The Daily Dissembler, Special European Gazette Issue, January 15, 1902
We make sense of a complicated, far-off world so you, dear reader, can enjoy the Gilded Age.

Fierce Debates In Italian Parliament!
Count Rossi, the Foreign Minister, today made the following address to a crowded Parliament:

Italy’s Camera dei Deputati in a recent (and raucous) session.
“Despite the current manoeuvres and saber-rattling by other European powers, Italy has no belligerent intent towards anyone [Laughter].  No, gentlemen!  I affirm: our only aim is to spread peace.  The scenes of celebration as Italian troops liberated Trieste from the Austrian yoke were truly warming to my old heart [Cheers].
“With these peaceful aims at the forefront, it is my great pleasure to announce the establishment of an agreement with France.  She has removed her troops from Piedmont and we on our part have guaranteed her south-eastern border.  The Italian position is clear: there is no room for foreign troops south of the Alps!  [Prolonged cheers].
“Italy also publicly declares that it has no plans to seek territory in the Iberian Peninsula and will not establish a presence there unless powers (other than France) should do so first [Groans].”

"No Battle of Amsterdam”, Says Germany

A communique from the German ambassador to the Hague, Herr Meyer, accuses irresponsible journalists of “the Yellow or otherwise press” of inflaming reports of fighting between British and German forces in Amsterdam last fall.

In the official statement of the German embassy to Holland, the Kaiser “is very disappointed to see a simple hotel booking error and a few beer-fuelled but fraternal games of football characterized as a “Major Battle” in some less responsible news publications.    With both parties returned to their home stadiums, perhaps nursing a few sore heads and hangovers, there is no reason to presume that relations between Britain and Germany are anything other than familial and cordial.”  The communique concludes by saying that the German government is “looking forward to the ’02 World Cup”.

The Daily Dissembler’s man in Holland, Mr. Bork, reports that his route to the German Embassy in Amsterdam, where the conference for the press, “ yellow or otherwise”, was held, has mostly been cleared of rubble from the “fraternal games of football”.   

 In related news, the Dutch government has announced that the Red Cross is welcome to visit camps established near Groningen for British and German “football fans” interned after the recent fighting.

Interned “football fans" at Gronigen, Holland.  Photo courtesy of the Red Cross.
At the White House, President McKinley said that the Government of the United States deplored the violation of Holland’s sovereignty.  However, he went on to say that “Since almost every other two-bit neutral nation in Europe has been violated, I don’t see how this is America’s problem to solve.  I am sure things will work out for the best, and that trade, diplomacy and gentlemanly manners will win out in the end."

A Report From Trieste: An Exclusive Interview With Italy’s Leading Soldier

Story filed by the Daily Dissember’s own Miss Amelia Roosevelt, Intrepid Girl Reporter and niece of the Vice President.

Following after a long and eventful journey towards the front line, I was finally granted an interview with Generale di Brigata de Graspi, the commander of the Italian Expeditionary Force.  There was some confusion about this - at first I had been intended to meet him in his field headquarters in the former Imperial Navy Yard, but there were administrative difficulties. Under the new passport system all unaccompanied female travellers under 35 years of age are now required to present papers and photographic identification on enter the Imperial City.  After personal examination of my papers the General’s private aide de camp, after giving me dinner as compensation for the delay, arranged for me to meet Count de Graspi in his private apartments in the Hotel Trieste.

Count de Graspi

Count de Graspi is far from what expected of a military leader.  Tall and charming, he would not be out of place in any salon in Europe, or even Philiadelpia.  As I explained to him that I represented the blossoming interest of young militant American womanhood in European politics, he positively beamed – how unlike those men of Washington or New York! – and signified his appreciation.  Young womanhood, he explained, was very dear to his heart.

After several minute’s knowledgeable discussion of women’s position in America, I asked him why the Italian Army had invaded the Austrian Littoral...

No, no, no, mio caro!  This is not an invasion!  We are here at the request of the people.  Trieste, as I am sure you know is not Austrian!  These Hapsburgs have no real claim to it.   The situation is too difficult for one so pretty as yourself, but a great part of the population has always wanted to be Italian.  In the current international situation and with the success of our recent intervention in the Tyrol, the population as a whole asked that we extend our protection to them.  This of course, our Government felt obliged to do.

What of the stories of the army meeting heavy resistance, I asked...

Well, there are always those who seek to maintain the status quo.  The members of the regime who serve the Occupation - the army, the navy, the civil service, the post office, teachers and some railway staff – did oppose us, it is true.  But that was to be expected.  

The survivors are currently in detention centres awaiting processing and de-Hapsburgastion.  There is no reason why they shouldn’t eventually be released and form a productive part of civil society.

And the atrocities?

My dear young lady!  You have been listening to some very foolish talk! (Umberto, take the names and addresses of the signorina’s contacts).

First, you must realise that we live in a new century, and that you need to adapt yourself to it.  My good friend and son-in-law the Foreign Minister, says that we soldiers are no longer war-bringers but peace-makers, and I agree!  Talk of ‘invasion’ and ‘resistance’ is outdated.  In the twentieth century there will be no invading armies or conquered peoples: merely coalitions of equals.

You must remember that Italy is a constitutional monarchy.  It lies much closer in spirit to your own Great Democracy than the tyrants who rule the other Powers could ever hope.  If those under the yoke of oppression cry out for our help, how could Italy not answer?
As to the supposed atrocities...  On hearing of them, I personally ordered an investigation and I am pleased to say that it has found the reports to be without substance.  You must realise that we are visitors to this country.  My men simply did not know that the bridge would not take the weight of the train taking the government into exile.  Lack of investment by the late regime in the rail network and recent storm damage is surely to blame for that incident.  Equally, the Chief of the Imperial Police was well-known as a conjuror: there would have been no difficulty in him tying those knots, opening the window and arranging the noose despite the heavy shackles and restraints he wore.

In that last case there is evidence of premeditated aforethought.  The Colonel knew that by killing himself in such a way, he would cast doubts on our good intentions.  The Austrians (and other governments, for now in the shadows) are spreading malicious smears!

What next for Italy?

I am a simple soldier, and have no say in politics, but unlike some of her neighbours, Italy has no expansionist plans.  Already, I hear, the Government is in negotiation with allies.  She will protect herself from attack and, if in order to do so, has to strike first,she will strike hard!

There are rumours that the General is seeking a political career, are they true?

It may not appear to be the case, but I have grown old in the service of my country.  The time for warriors of my kind has passed.  Like the Roman of old, I shall retire to the plough.  Perhaps I will spend my twilight in simple retirement on my estates (Umberto!  Give caro Amilia the address of the villa!).  Perhaps I will travel the word.  You talk of America awakens a thirst in me.  I want to reach out and embrace your readership - to touch them, as it were; those young women whose fertile minds are awaiting instruction.  

Yes, I hear America is a land of opportunity.  A godson of mine has opened an import-export business in the Wild West (New Jersey, I believe).  I shall visit him.  I am told that America has an almost endless thirst for olive oil.

Yet for an old soldier, the call of duty is a hard one to resist.  There is talk of making me (‘The Lion of a Trieste’ they are calling me!) a Senator-for-Life.  In these difficult times, it would be hard to refuse a new way of serving my dear country.  

The stallion may be put out to pasture, but he still rises to the bugles’ call, eh dear?

Insightful commentary on the European situation by General Sir Erasmus Blatt (ret), geo-political and military correspondent for the Rioters News Agency, on contract to the Daily Dissembler..

What a coup! In one fell swoop, the Emperor of Austria-Hungary has forfeited his status as a maritime power. The loss of Trieste has left his orphaned fleet languishing at Pireaus. Its survival must now be at the Porte's sufferance, for it is difficult to see how Austria-Hungary can retain for long its fleet without the means of sustenance nor support.

But what were the Central Powers about? Neither Germany nor Austria-Hungary has come out well from the early exchanges. The Kaiser can congratulate himself on at least achieving one build this fall. That is one more than the Emperor can count on.

The Emperor will need allies, and those soon. Having no reason to look for friendship from the Kaiser (what IS that army doing in Bohemia?) nor from the Czar (did the Emperor really believe he could 'liberate' Warsaw?), and with Italy unlikely ever to give back the 'Jewel of the Adriatic', there remains only the Sultan to offer the slightest hope. Whatever the Sultan will be buying in the coming year or two, it will be in a 'buyer's market.'

Irony of ironies. Italy re-enacts the Fourth Crusade by stabbing in the back the defender of Christendom from the dreaded Turk. Finding little solace from his co-religionists, the Emperor must needs turn to the Infidel... Well, he may well get more honest dealings thence, at that. The 'Sick Man of Europe' seems to have benefited from some revivifying physick - haply Austria-Hungary will receive a dose of the same. At least as the winter gloom brightens into the 1902 spring, the Emperor might after all have better reason for optimism than the Kaiser. Much depends upon where Turkey goes from here.
For the Porte seems to well on the road to re-establishing itself as a European Power, and a force to be feared. The Czar had best look to his southern realms, for the Black Sea is in danger of becoming a Turkish lake before long. This might lead after all to the Czar and the Emperor patching up their differences in order to present a united front against Turkish expansion. If, however, Italy and Turkey are working in concert, your correspondent likes not the chances of the Austrian Empire lasting much longer, nor yet the Russian.

What of Western Europe? Your correspondent suspects that by keeping its hands off the Iberian Peninsula, France is playing a very deep game. With nothing to fear from Italy, who will have its hands full in the Balkans and the Eastern Med for the time being (and Italy will also want shortly to secure the wealth of Tunisia), the Second Republic will its free for operations in the Low Countries, possibly continuing into the Rhinelands and Bavaria. But France can afford to prevaricate whilst she picks the low hanging Iberian fruit during the course of 1902. She could have afforded it better still had she plucked at least Portugal during this past year, then she could have picked up Spain on the return journey, having secured two builds during the autumn months (Holland having been seized as well). No doubt the Republic had pressing reasons for deferring the otherwise agreeable task of securing its south-western flank - for instance, to ensure Italy kept its eyes averted eastwards.
From its own point of view, Italy has begun well by inflicting a stunning defeat upon the Empire. The Kingdom is well placed to make further gains, especially if she has some kind of Understanding with Turkey. No doubt the rest of Christendom will blame Italy for its betrayal, but Italy owes little enough to its alleged co-religionists. Indeed, had your correspondent the ear of King Victor-Immanuel, he would be advising him to watch his back at all times. 'Perfidious Albion' has nothing on France for duplicity...

Meanwhile, are we looking here at a Brittannic-Gallic detente after centuries of enmity - an entente, withal? With just two supply bases available in the Low Countries, one of which is already in France's grip, who will win the remaining one? That Britain and France have some sort of Understanding seems likely - but what is its true nature? Non-aggression or full Alliance? No doubt events during 1902 will better inform us.

That leaves the Kaiser, more than likely without a single friend upon whom he can rely. He will have to deal, and deal as none other of the Hohenzollern House has dealt before. He may find a friend in the Czar, but he will probably need one among the Western powers as well. Which should the Kaiser prefer? In any case, even if anyone is prepared to listen, it will be as a supplicant - a mendicant indeed - that he will be entering talks. That is not a good harbinger of Germany's future.

Your correspondent's prognostications for the next year or so: The Kingdom of Italy, the Second Republic and the Porte in the ascendant; whilst the Central Powers, and possibly Russia, struggle simply to survive. What of the Island Kingdom, then? It is too early to state with certainty, whether triumphs or disasters await her in '02 or '03.

Dateline Rome: Ministry Totters!

Or Man in Rome Ernest Harrison reports.

As inevitably as 1902 follows 1901 a Spring Crisis has hit the Italian Government.

There are two parties.  The Northern Party headed by General de Graspi, the ‘Lion of Trieste’ (elsewhere profiled by my young colleague, Miss Roosevelt, now reportedly and repeatedly enjoying his hospitality in Venice) believes Italy’s future lies in Mitteleuropa.  They argue that Austro-Hungarian territories are up for grabs and demand a place at the table.   This party is currently in the ascendancy, as is demonstrated by the recent adventures in the Tyrol and Austrian Littoral.  

A second, Southern (or more properly Mediterranean) party argues that Italy’s strengths lie in more familiar stomping grounds.  This party, led by a group of predominately naval officers argues that the Ministry has overlooked the fact that Italy’s weaknesses lie there also.  They point to the failure to occupy Tunisia in 1901 and argue that this led to the poor decision not to mobilise a fleet to counter the ‘Turkish Menace’ that has since arisen.

Questions have also been asked about the wisdom of the recent treaty with France – was too much conceded in order to preserve the ‘sacred ground’ of Piedmont?  Frankly, neither party is above making such concessions to foreign powers if it furthers their own position.

Much depends on how the International Situation develops.  Will Austria crumble?  What will the Ottomans do?  Will England intervene in Portugal?  On such questions does the future of Italy depend.  


Note to Ed – 

Bill, send more Havanna Cigars and rum – I have a chance of an ‘in’ with the navy. And what the hell is that Roosevelt girl up to?  Does she know the damage she is causing?!  



  1. Letter to Editor (Daily Dissembler) -

    My dear Sir -
    Please allow me to present my compliments to yourself, your journal, and especially correspondents. I commend particularly the excellent reportage from Miss Roosevelt and Mr Harrison/Harriman(?): most entertaining and informative. Will Italy undo its early successes by indecision? I am all agog.

    I will with alacrity be renewing my subscription to the Daily Dissembler in the coming 1902 year, second to none in telling it as it is, as it happens.

    I remain,
    Yours very sincerely,
    Jos. Throgmorten Publick (esq).

    1. Thank you, gentle reader. We at the DD endeavour to make a complicated world less frightening and more entertaining to our readers in a spirit of genteel and thoughtful exploration of the issues of the day, unlike our gutter competition with their page 3 girls, fear mongering over Chinese plots to invade California, and trashy exposes of decent, hardworking millionaires.

  2. Count de Graspi is now my new hero.

    " I want to reach out and embrace your readership - to touch them, as it were; those young women whose fertile minds are awaiting instruction. "

    Indeed. ^_~

    1. Count de Graspi is a total rock star.

    2. Count de Graspi is a 'seize the ... erm ... day' sort of fellow, by the sound of it...

    3. "The stallion may be put out to pasture, but he still rises to the bugles' call..."

      Hopefully we'll hear more from Count de Graspi.

  3. Rumour has it that "the bugle's call" is a reference to a certain herbal supplement that the Count takes for a certain gentleman's affliction.

    1. Can he get it over the counter?
      Only when he's taken three...


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