The Four Horsemen: the Nuclear Apocalypse of 1962

IRBM 2.4MT
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But given Soviet accuracy, airbust may not go off as planned

surface is a lot worse, even when off target
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Now think of the Moscow metro area.
That would be getting around 90 of those, and some a lot bigger than that, US still had some 15MT city killers in that mix.
But recall, that was set for a near surface burst, to make sure the Kremlin bunkers are taken care of, not the City. Then another dozen, just to be sure at nearby command and control elements, like phone exchanges and other utilities
 
Chapter X: Democratic Landslide and Nuclear China, 1984-1986.
It's time for an update. I need to point out that chapters 4 and 9 have both been significantly edited. Now, without further ado, I present the tenth chapter.


Chapter X: Democratic Landslide and Nuclear China, 1984-1986.

The 1984 US Presidential election wasn’t just a monumental Democratic victory, but is also considered a historical breaking point because construction on New Washington DC had already begun that year. In historiography this is considered the end of the Reconstruction Era, during which the United States acted as a hyperpower despite the damage of the war for lack of competition as there was no more USSR. The mid-eighties are seen as the beginning of the Modern Era, i.e. the multipolar world order of the late twentieth century that continued into the twenty-first century. In the 80s, America remained unchallenged, but rivals emerged and in a neo-imperialist world they all vied for influence in a way not much different from the late nineteenth century. As a superpower, the United States would maintain a major influence through alliances with a number of post-war great powers to contain the other superpower: Imperial China.

Though South Africa and Israel were working on nuclear weapons too, the renewed fear of nuclear war primarily stemmed from developments in China. During the civil war began that led to the overthrowal of the communists, Mao’s nuclear weapons program came to a halt and part of the work done on it was lost. After consolidating his hold over China by taking Beijing in 1972 and conquering the last communist controlled areas in Manchuria in the next year, the Shengxing Emperor reactivated the Chinese nuclear weapons program, albeit under the auspices of the Empire of China. The CIA was aware of the nuclear ambition of the new Chinese regime, but reported to the incumbent President (Nixon at the time) that a backward, agrarian and underdeveloped country such as China run by a superstitious idiot, would need decades to develop a working nuclear weapon.

They underestimated the new Emperor’s ambitions, capabilities and resources. Firstly, the Emperor might have had religious views seen as extreme in Western eyes, resulting in barbaric practices, but he was not anti-science. Besides that, he had conquered the steel and coal producing region of Manchuria mostly intact and that gave him a serious industrial base. To increase it, he nationalized key sectors like coal, steel, oil, heavy industry and armaments industry while providing incentives to private initiatives. The collectivization of agriculture by the communists was ended, though voluntary communes where modern large farming equipment could be used were encouraged. This led to a massive rise in agricultural productivity during the 70s. Rather than a communist command economy, he established a mixed economy. When neither the state nor the market could provide, masses of zealotic worshippers of the Emperor were mobilized as volunteers to construct new projects. And when that failed, China too resorted to labour conscription and there were millions of potential recruits. Between 1972 and 1984 there was a 60% increase in industrial output while the industrial workforce doubled, unsurprising since 80% of investments was directed toward the (heavy) industrial sector. Production of coal, steel, oil, pig iron, electricity farming equipment, heavy machinery and weapons increased as the country industrialized, ironically as Mao had desired.

In the meantime, the new regime prioritized the nuclear weapons program as the Americans could cow the country into backing down through nuclear blackmail. By now, the government had managed to round up most of Mao’s nuclear scientists before they could escape the country and the program continued after the research team was “properly motivated” (the Emperor had threatened to execute their families if they failed to cooperate fully). In the late 70s, the uranium-enrichment plants at Baotou and Lanzhou as well as the plutonium sites at Jiuquan and Lop Nur resumed production.

Determined to become a nuclear power as quickly as possible and to conduct a nuclear test before the 1984 US Presidential election, Emperor Shengxing pushed the test of a relatively simple gunshot-type design comparable to Little Boy, i.e. the bomb dropped on Hiroshima: fission would be accomplished by shooting a hollow cylinder of enriched uranium onto a solid cylinder of the same material. Due to the Emperor’s push a smaller amount of fissile material was settled on to push forward the test date. On Saturday November 3rd 1984 (three days before the US elections) the first nuclear weapons test conducted by the Empire of China detonated at the Lop Nur test site, producing a yield of 10 kilotons. It was named Test No. 1, instead of a more prestigious sounding name, just in case this would fail. A second test took place on Sunday February 17th 1985 with an implosion-type plutonium design, producing a 22 kiloton blast named “Heaven One”. By the end of 1985 China had a stockpile of ten warheads. In 1989, China tested a 1 megaton thermonuclear weapon. At this point China also declared a “no first use policy”, stating the weapons would only be used in the event of a foreign nuclear strike against China or its military forces.

After the first test, Kennedy informed the world nine days later on Monday November 12th: “We have evidence that somewhere during the last three weeks an atomic explosion took place in China.” This concerned the American public, not just because their country had lost the nuclear monopoly once again (as was to be expected perhaps) but largely due to the chilly relationship that had developed between the United States and this new Empire of China. China’s ambitions in Asia, Southeast Asia in particular, had concerned the US since the early 70s and friendship between the two powers seemed far off. China’s vision of Asia as its exclusive sphere of influence automatically meant American economic interests would end up second place at best, something the United States therefore understandably opposed. Secondly, China and the United States had a very different view on human rights. In their foreign policy, the United States had proven before they were willing to ignore human rights’ violations if this was in their interest, but now human rights were an issue the US could slap the Chinese with.

One particular ambition that conflicted with those of the US was that, though America no longer recognized Taiwan diplomatically, it still de facto supported its independence from mainland China. The State Department continued its deliberate policy of ambiguity in that regard by adopting the Taiwan Relations Act, which allows contacts between the United States and “people on Taiwan”. Their policy became slightly less ambiguous when it announced its “Six Principles”: the US wouldn’t commit itself to setting an end date for arms sales to Taiwan, rejected a role for itself as a mediator in reunification talks between Taiwan and mainland China, also rejected pressuring Taiwan on the issue, affirmed the Taiwan Relations Act would remain standing, and declared it hadn’t altered its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan. US arms deliveries continued and both countries had continued to have representative offices in the other as de facto embassies. It was clear to China the US would oppose any attempt to annex Taiwan through force of arms, all the more reason to have a nuclear deterrent.

After the new imperial dynasty replaced the communists, Beijing’s opinion on the matter remained unaffected. Beijing considered Taiwan part of China and was hostile to the idea of de jure Taiwanese independence and was adverse to the current situation, in which Taiwan was not diplomatically recognised but nonetheless under American military protection. Initially, after the communists had been chased out of Beijing, there had been some hope of reunification among the Kuomintang. Though not enthusiastic about a new monarchy, they reasoned a unified China under a constitutional monarchy with the KMT as the de facto leading party was preferable to continuation of the split. Quickly, however, they learned that that option wasn’t acceptable to Beijing. The Shengxing Emperor intended to continue his theocratic absolute rule and had nothing to offer except a demand for total submission. Moderation had never been on the table. Though the Taiwanese were used to authoritarian practices by the KMT regime, they viewed the practices on the mainland such as slow slicing and beheading as primitive, barbaric and downright shocking.

A crisis was about to erupt in which the Taiwanese matter and China’s human rights record intertwined. In June 1985, the Emperor felt confident because of his two recent nuclear tests and ordered naval exercises in the Taiwan Strait to intimidate Taipei. The Imperial Chinese Navy existed of the rickety old pre-1962 ships the regime had inherited from the communist People’s Liberation Army Navy, the ones they hadn’t managed to scuttle to be exact. These included Whiskey-class submarines from the 50s, Anshan-class destroyers based on the Soviet Gnevny-class, Chengdu-class frigates based on the Soviet Riga-class, and Type 062 gunboats. The US response was to deploy USS Ranger and her carrier group to the Taiwan Strait. This forced the Chinese to withdraw as the entire Imperial Chinese Navy was unable to go toe to toe with a US Navy carrier group. Tensions remained high as the Imperial Chinese Air Force, a large force with thousands of aircraft (including swarms of MiG-21s made in Chinese factories under the name Chengdu J-7), harassed the Americans with aggressive fly-bys. The F-4 Phantom IIs flying from the USS Ranger were easily better than the Chinese MiG-21 copies, but in an all-out fight the numerically superior Chinese could overwhelm Ranger’s aerial complement. After weeks of crisis, a Chinese fighter was shot down and the pilot ejected, after which he was captured by the US Navy.

Not long after the crisis began the wealthy Jameson family from El Paso, which had gained its wealth from Texan oil and real estate, arrived in Beijing as part of an weeklong city trip. The wife was a sinologist and was so fascinated that she insisted on visiting the country and therefore they’d chosen it as their vacation for the holidays, i.e. the entire week of the 4th of July. The family consisted of the head of the family Jonah Jameson (aged 45), his 42 year-old wife Clarice, their 17 year-old son Ben, their 15 year-old daughter Gwen and their 9 year-old son Peter. Ben had urinated on a statue of the Emperor and witnesses reported this to the police, which included a religious unit devoted to violations of Emperor Worship. This led to his arrest and a torture induced confession to the crime of grievously disrespecting the Emperor, after which a show trial began that didn’t just put him but his entire family on trial: Ben was sentenced to execution through public beheading, his parents to fifty lashes on a public square for failing to raise him properly and his sister to ten lashes, also in public, to instil the proper respect. Only the young Peter was exempt.

President Robert Kennedy was dead set on seeing the safe return of the Jameson family, including the oldest son. A second carrier group centred on USS Independence appeared in the East China Sea, and it was mentioned that she carried shortrange airplane-launched nuclear missiles. Moreover, a battle group centred on big battleship USS Missouri arrived not much later with nuclear shells in her inventory. To up the ante further, the United States carried out its first post-war nuclear test at Bikini Atoll by detonating an experimental 25 megaton thermonuclear weapon, the largest single explosion in human history.

The result was total devastation of the atoll (to this day no inhabitants have returned) and intimidation of China. China folded: the punishment was reduced to ten lashes for Ben, and none for the rest of the family after which they were ordered to leave the country immediately and not return for at least ten years. They also issued a communique stating they desired to resolve the Taiwan matter peacefully (for now, anyway). Furthermore, the US reiterated that their protection also extended to Hong Kong should China try to take it by force. The Americans released the captured Chinese pilot and their naval forces returned to their homeports.

John Lone, born in Hong Kong as Ng Kwok-leung, had come to Los Angeles in the 70s as developments in China meant an education there was not in the cards (the new regime frowned upon “frivolity”, which included acting and dancing). Though originally intending to study performing arts, his family had urged him to choose a field with a better chance of a job: he chose journalism. After working on radio during his college years, and then landed a more permanent job as a local news co-anchor. With his natural aptitude for acting he was capable of an emotional and extemporaneous delivery that audiences described as “touching” and “appealing” and he worked his way up to national prominence in the early 80s as a co-anchor for CNN, which had an office in LA. After being denied a promotion to anchor-man, allegedly because of his Asian appearance, he switched to NBC and successfully pitched his talk show concept. The John Lone Show had been born.

Upon their return, the Jameson family first said they wanted time to recover from their harrowing ordeal and wished to be left alone by the media. Six months later, however, Mr. and Mrs. Jameson agreed to a one time appearance (on the condition that their children were left out and not contacted in any way) of what turned out to be the pilot episode of the first of 27 seasons of the John Lone Show. It remains the longest running daytime talk show in US history. It helped of course that after years of stagnation, television ownership started to grow rapidly in the 80s in the US. There, in that first episode, the couple explained into detail the sequence of events following the urinating incident on the Emperor’s statue: the religious police appeared and the family expected a fine or some other slap on the wrist, but instead they were interrogated separately over the parents’ objections that it was illegal to separate them from their children. The interrogators used techniques that included hitting, beating, burning with cigarettes, choking, beating with tools like hammers, pulling out nails with pliers and the application of psychological torture tactics like sleep deprivation. Clarice Jameson shocked the audience by explaining that the torture became sexual and explained “they gave me the choice of letting it happen to me, or my daughter, so I made the best choice in an impossible situation. So my daughter would be spared, I let a guard sodomize me.” The goal was to make all of them sign a confession concerning some kind of conspiracy against the Emperor, which would have automatically led to the death penalty: the children signed, but their parents did not, and so they all ended up before a judge and that led to the known verdict. They managed to set aside their own suffering by pointing out the massive human rights abuses in China, particularly toward Christians, Muslims and minorities. The first episode was seen by 38 million Americans when it was aired in January 1986. Protests took place near the Chinese consulate in St. Louis. In a statement made years later, Jonah Jameson declared his family had been the victim of a message that China had wanted to sent to America that it was not to be trifled with.

This had several effects. The John Lone Show had received the huge jumpstart that led to the show being continued from 1986 to 2013, seeing countless prominent guests ranging from ex-Presidents and other prominent politicians to fashionistas, religious leaders and musicians. For example, later in the first season in ’86 an explosive episode was recorded when Freddie Mercury, the singer of the hard rock and heavy metal band Wreckage, was suddenly confronted by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Mercury, born as Farrokh Bulsara, and his family had emigrated from the UK to the US after his father had died of cancer ten years after WW III. From psychedelic rock, the extremely popular subgenre of heavy metal had grown into a genre in its own right and Mercury had risen along with it in the latter half of the 70s. He’d later also experiment with a wide range of music styles that included shock rock, blues-rooted rock, party rock, glam metal, reggae, pop and opera, often combining them in a way that demonstrated his three octave range.

After being caught kissing with another man, Mercury had affirmed his sexual status by telling an interviewer “I’m as queer as a daffodil, love.” This was bound to clash with Farrakhan’s views, which were rather homophobic and induced a tirade from Mercury that leaders of the gay community can often quote ad verbatim: “Listen, fucker, if the rules of your religion are anti-gay then that’s your business. You can live by your religious rules, so can everyone else. There’s nobody forcing you to live in a way that you don’t want, but this is America: land of the free and the home of the brave. Like it or not, every single fucker in this country has the right to live the way they want to. If you don’t like it, you’ve got two choices: ignore it or get the hell lost to some shithole on the other side of the world. I’m not a Muslim, and neither are most Americans, so you don’t get to push your views on how people should behave. Don’t like it? There’s the door!” He stormed out of the studio after that. In a second appearance in 1990, Lone apologized to Mercury for putting the two together, resulting in this confrontation. By then, however, 35 million Americans had seen it in the original airing or in a rerun. John Lone became the most well-known Asian American by far. Mercury followed on foot, moving on to pop and power ballads as heavy metal grunting strained his vocal cords, interspersing albums and stadium tours with more intimate theatre shows. He also tried acting, taking on anything from supporting to secondary main character roles in movies and recurring roles in TV shows.

A second major result was a movie in 1991 titled “A Family’s Ordeal”, starring Jon Voight and Meryl Streep as the parents (who were reaffirmed as major actors), Johnny Galecki as Ben, Jessica Chastain as Gwen and Macaulay Culkin as Adam. This launched the careers of these three child actors, who’d come to prominently star in many major productions in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Galecki and Chastain featured in one drama, thriller, sci-fi spectacle or action blockbuster after the other in the 90s and early 00s, establishing diverse careers. They later branched out to lighter genres and productions like comedy and the occasional Indie movie in between bigger projects.

Culkin continued as a child star in the early to mid-90s until he hit a career dead end when he “aged out” of child acting. After a lull in his career and struggling with addiction, he transitioned from the big screen to TV as the main character Anthony Lewinsky in the sitcom Rockstars. The show focused on Lewinsky, who was struggling with his college bandmates to achieve fame while working in blue collar or low-level white collar jobs after graduating. The show ran for fifteen seasons from 2000 to 2015 (in the final season, the band finally achieved international fame). Chinese American actor Victor Wong became famous for his role as the cruel warden and received serious roles in the 90s, though later complained about being typecast. Singaporean-American Actress Julia Nickson appeared as a somewhat sympathetic female guard in the movie and had recurring roles in TV series during the early 90s. She achieved worldwide fame in 1995 by portraying a Japanese American prostitute in a movie set in the immediate post-war US titled “Everything for my Family”, based on a true story. Nickson appeared in supporting roles in multiple Hollywood productions and recurring roles in TV shows after that. She carved out a place for herself as the protagonist of the medical mystery drama “Li M.D.”, which ran for nine seasons from 2002 to 2011. By the end of the series, nine seasons totalling 197 episodes had been produced.

A third result of the appearance of the Jameson family on the John Lone Show was scrutiny of China’s treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, Christians and Muslims in particular. As it turned out, neither Christians nor Muslims were allowed to publicly practice their religion in China, though private worship at home was tolerated. Religious dissidents that were too stubborn and wouldn’t back down about their demands to the right to worship were silenced by permanent imprisonment (until they renounced their convictions and accepted Emperor Worship). Countless religious and political dissidents wound up in concentration camps and plenty were tortured or even executed. America was furious and Sino-American relations couldn’t get any chillier. In US media, China was portrayed as a barbaric country with an obscurantist leadership with values that couldn’t be farther removed from American norms and values. After the Taiwan Strait Crisis and the ordeal of the Jameson family, America’s foreign and defence policymakers came to regard China as America’s primary rival.
 
Last edited:

Ficboy

Banned
It's time for an update. I need to point out that chapters 4 and 9 have both been significantly edited. Now, without further ado, I present the tenth chapter.


Chapter X: Democratic Landslide and Nuclear China, 1984-1986.

The 1984 US Presidential election wasn’t just a monumental Democratic victory, but is also considered a historical breaking point because construction on New Washington DC had already begun that year. In historiography this is considered the end of the Reconstruction Era, during which the United States acted as a hyperpower despite the damage of the war for lack of competition as there was no more USSR. The mid-eighties are seen as the beginning of the Modern Era, i.e. the multipolar world order of the late twentieth century that continued into the twenty-first century. In the 80s, America remained unchallenged, but rivals emerged and in a neo-imperialist world they all vied for influence in a way not much different from the late nineteenth century. As a superpower, the United States would maintain a major influence through alliances with a number of post-war great powers to contain the other superpower: Imperial China.

Though South Africa and Israel were working on nuclear weapons too, the renewed fear of nuclear war primarily stemmed from developments in China. During the civil war began that led to the overthrowal of the communists, Mao’s nuclear weapons program came to a halt and part of the work done on it was lost. After consolidating his hold over China by taking Beijing in 1972 and conquering the last communist controlled areas in Manchuria in the next year, the Shengxing Emperor reactivated the Chinese nuclear weapons program, albeit under the auspices of the Empire of China. The CIA was aware of the nuclear ambition of the new Chinese regime, but reported to the incumbent President (Nixon at the time) that a backward, agrarian and underdeveloped country such as China run by a superstitious idiot, would need decades to develop a working nuclear weapon.

They underestimated the new Emperor’s ambitions, capabilities and resources. Firstly, the Emperor might have had religious views seen as extreme in Western eyes, resulting in barbaric practices, but he was not anti-science. Besides that, he had conquered the steel and coal producing region of Manchuria mostly intact and that gave him a serious industrial base. To increase it, he nationalized key sectors like coal, steel, oil, heavy industry and armaments industry while providing incentives to private initiatives. The collectivization of agriculture by the communists was ended, though voluntary communes where modern large farming equipment could be used were encouraged. This led to a massive rise in agricultural productivity during the 70s. Rather than a communist command economy, he established a mixed economy. When neither the state nor the market could provide, masses of zealotic worshippers of the Emperor were mobilized as volunteers to construct new projects. And when that failed, China too resorted to labour conscription and there were millions of potential recruits. Between 1972 and 1984 there was a 60% increase in industrial output while the industrial workforce doubled, unsurprising since 80% of investments was directed toward the (heavy) industrial sector. Production of coal, steel, oil, pig iron, electricity farming equipment, heavy machinery and weapons increased as the country industrialized, ironically as Mao had desired.

In the meantime, the new regime prioritized the nuclear weapons program as the Americans could cow the country into backing down through nuclear blackmail. By now, the government had managed to round up most of Mao’s nuclear scientists before they could escape the country and the program continued after the research team was “properly motivated” (the Emperor had threatened to execute their families if they failed to cooperate fully). In the late 70s, the uranium-enrichment plants at Baotou and Lanzhou as well as the plutonium sites at Jiuquan and Lop Nur resumed production.

Determined to become a nuclear power as quickly as possible and to conduct a nuclear test before the 1984 US Presidential election, Emperor Shengxing pushed the test of a relatively simple gunshot-type design comparable to Little Boy, i.e. the bomb dropped on Hiroshima: fission would be accomplished by shooting a hollow cylinder of enriched uranium onto a solid cylinder of the same material. Due to the Emperor’s push a smaller amount of fissile material was settled on to push forward the test date. On Saturday

November 3rd 1984 (three days before the US elections) the first nuclear weapons test conducted by the Empire of China detonated at the Lop Nur test site, producing a yield of 10 kilotons. It was named Test No. 1, instead of a more prestigious sounding name, just in case this would fail. A second test took place on Sunday February 17th 1985 with an implosion-type plutonium design, producing a 22 kiloton blast named “Heaven One”. By the end of 1985 China had a stockpile of ten warheads. In 1989, China tested a 1 megaton thermonuclear weapon. At this point China also declared a “no first use policy”, stating the weapons would only be used in the event of a foreign nuclear strike against China or its military forces.

After the first test, Kennedy informed the world nine days later on Monday November 12th: “We have evidence that somewhere during the last three weeks an atomic explosion took place in China.” This concerned the American public, not just because their country had lost the nuclear monopoly once again (as was to be expected perhaps) but largely due to the chilly relationship that had developed between the United States and this new Empire of China. China’s ambitions in Asia, Southeast Asia in particular, had concerned the US since the early 70s and friendship between the two powers seemed far off. China’s vision of Asia as its exclusive sphere of influence automatically meant American economic interests would end up second place at best, something the United States therefore understandably opposed. Secondly, China and the United States had a very different view on human rights. In their foreign policy, the United States had proven before they were willing to ignore human rights’ violations if this was in their interest, but now human rights were an issue the US could slap the Chinese with.

One particular ambition that conflicted with those of the US was that, though America no longer recognized Taiwan diplomatically, it still de facto supported its independence from mainland China. The State Department continued its deliberate policy of ambiguity in that regard by adopting the Taiwan Relations Act, which allows contacts between the United States and “people on Taiwan”. Their policy became slightly less ambiguous when it announced its “Six Principles”: the US wouldn’t commit itself to setting an end date for arms sales to Taiwan, rejected a role for itself as a mediator in reunification talks between Taiwan and mainland China, also rejected pressuring Taiwan on the issue, affirmed the Taiwan Relations Act would remain standing, and declared it hadn’t altered its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan. US arms deliveries continued and both countries had continued to have representative offices in the other as de facto embassies. It was clear to China the US would oppose any attempt to annex Taiwan through force of arms, all the more reason to have a nuclear deterrent.

After the new imperial dynasty replaced the communists, Beijing’s opinion on the matter remained unaffected. Beijing considered Taiwan part of China and was hostile to the idea of de jure Taiwanese independence and was adverse to the current situation, in which Taiwan was not diplomatically recognised but nonetheless under American military protection. Initially, after the communists had been chased out of Beijing, there had been some hope of reunification among the Kuomintang. Though not enthusiastic about a new monarchy, they reasoned a unified China under a constitutional monarchy with the KMT as the de facto leading party was preferable to continuation of the split. Quickly, however, they learned that that option wasn’t acceptable to Beijing. The Shengxing Emperor intended to continue his theocratic absolute rule and had nothing to offer except a demand for total submission. Moderation had never been on the table. Though the Taiwanese were used to authoritarian practices by the KMT regime, they viewed the practices on the mainland such as slow slicing and beheading as primitive, barbaric and downright shocking.

A crisis was about to erupt in which the Taiwanese matter and China’s human rights record intertwined. In June 1985, the Emperor felt confident because of his two recent nuclear tests and ordered naval exercises in the Taiwan Strait to intimidate Taipei. The Imperial Chinese Navy existed of the rickety old pre-1962 ships the regime had inherited from the communist People’s Liberation Army Navy, the ones they hadn’t managed to scuttle to be exact. These included Whiskey-class submarines from the 50s, Anshan-class destroyers based on the Soviet Gnevny-class, Chengdu-class frigates based on the Soviet Riga-class, and Type 062 gunboats. The US response was to deploy USS Ranger and her carrier group to the Taiwan Strait. This forced the Chinese to withdraw as the entire Imperial Chinese Navy was unable to go toe to toe with a US Navy carrier group. Tensions remained high as the Imperial Chinese Air Force, a large force with thousands of aircraft (including swarms of MiG-21s made in Chinese factories under the name Chengdu J-7), harassed the Americans with aggressive fly-bys. The new F-14 Tomcats flying from the USS Ranger were easily better than the Chinese MiG-21 copies, but in an all-out fight the numerically superior Chinese could overwhelm Ranger’s aerial complement. After weeks of crisis, a Chinese fighter was shot down and the pilot ejected, after which he was captured by the US Navy.

Not long after the crisis began the wealthy Jameson family from El Paso, which had gained its wealth from Texan oil and real estate, arrived in Beijing as part of an weeklong city trip. The wife was a sinologist and was so fascinated that she insisted on visiting the country and therefore they’d chosen it as their vacation for the holidays, i.e. the entire week of the 4th of July. The family consisted of the head of the family Jonah Jameson (aged 45), his 42 year-old wife Clarice, their 17 year-old son Ben, their 15 year-old daughter Gwen and their 9 year-old son Peter. Ben had urinated on a statue of the Emperor and witnesses reported this to the police, which included a religious unit devoted to violations of Emperor Worship. This led to his arrest and a torture induced confession to the crime of grievously disrespecting the Emperor, after which a show trial began that didn’t just put him but his entire family on trial: Ben was sentenced to execution through public beheading, his parents to fifty lashes on a public square for failing to raise him properly and his sister to ten lashes, also in public, to instil the proper respect. Only the young Adam was exempt.

President Robert Kennedy was dead set on seeing the safe return of the Jameson family, including the oldest son. A second carrier group centred on USS Independence appeared in the East China Sea, and it was mentioned that she carried shortrange airplane-launched nuclear missiles. Moreover, a battle group centred on big battleship USS Missouri arrived not much later with nuclear shells in her inventory. To up the ante further, the United States carried out its first post-war nuclear test at Bikini Atoll by detonating an experimental 25 megaton thermonuclear weapon, the largest single explosion in human history.

The result was total devastation of the atoll (to this day no inhabitants have returned) and intimidation of China. China folded: the punishment was reduced to ten lashes for Ben, and none for the rest of the family after which they were ordered to leave the country immediately and not return for at least ten years. They also issued a communique stating they desired to resolve the Taiwan matter peacefully (for now, anyway). Furthermore, the US reiterated that their protection also extended to Hong Kong should China try to take it by force. The Americans released the captured Chinese pilot and their naval forces returned to their homeports.

John Lone, born in Hong Kong as Ng Kwok-leung, had come to Los Angeles in the 70s as developments in China meant an education there was not in the cards (the new regime frowned upon “frivolity”, which included acting and dancing). Though originally intending to study performing arts, his family had urged him to choose a field with a better chance of a job: he chose journalism. After working on radio during his college years, and then landed a more permanent job as a local news co-anchor. With his natural aptitude for acting he was capable of an emotional and extemporaneous delivery that audiences described as “touching” and “appealing” and he worked his way up to national prominence in the early 80s as a co-anchor for CNN, which had an office in LA. After being denied a promotion to anchor-man, allegedly because of his Asian appearance, he switched to NBC and successfully pitched his talk show concept. The John Lone Show had been born.

Upon their return, the Jameson family first said they wanted time to recover from their harrowing ordeal and wished to be left alone by the media. Six months later, however, Mr. and Mrs. Jameson agreed to a one time appearance (on the condition that their children were left out and not contacted in any way) of what turned out to be the pilot episode of the first of 27 seasons of the John Lone Show. It remains the longest running daytime talk show in US history. It helped of course that after years of stagnation, television ownership started to grow rapidly in the 80s in the US. There, in that first episode, the couple explained into detail the sequence of events following the urinating incident on the Emperor’s statue: the religious police appeared and the family expected a fine or some other slap on the wrist, but instead they were interrogated separate over the parents’ objections that it was illegal to separate them from their children. The interrogators used techniques that included hitting, beating, burning with cigarettes, choking, beating with tools like hammers, pulling out nails with pliers and the application of psychological torture tactics like sleep deprivation. Clarice Jameson shocked the audience by explaining that the torture became sexual and explained “they gave me the choice of letting it happen to me, or my daughter, so I made the best choice in an impossible situation. So my daughter would be spared, I let a guard sodomize me.” The goal was to make all of them sign a confession concerning some kind of conspiracy against the Emperor, which would have automatically led to the death penalty: the children signed, but their parents did not, and so they all ended up before a judge and that led to the known verdict. They managed to set aside their own suffering by pointing out the massive human rights abuses in China, particularly toward Christians, Muslims and minorities. The first episode was seen by 38 million Americans when it was aired in January 1986. Protests took place near the Chinese consulate in St. Louis. In a statement made years later, Jonah Jameson declared his family had been the victim of a message that China had wanted to sent to America that it was not to be trifled with.

This had several effects. The John Lone Show had received the huge jumpstart that led to the show being continued from 1986 to 2013, seeing countless prominent guests ranging from ex-Presidents and other prominent politicians to fashionistas, religious leaders and musicians. For example, later in the first season in ’86 an explosive episode was recorded when Freddie Mercury, the singer of the hard rock and heavy metal band Wreckage, was suddenly confronted by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Mercury, born as Farrokh Bulsara, and his family had emigrated from the UK to the US after his father had died of cancer ten years after WW III. From psychedelic rock, the extremely popular subgenre of heavy metal had grown into a genre in its own right and Mercury had risen along with it in the latter half of the 70s. He’d later also experiment with a wide range of music styles that included shock rock, blues-rooted rock, party rock, glam metal, reggae, pop and opera, often combining them in a way that demonstrated his three octave range.

After being caught kissing with another man, Mercury had affirmed his sexual status by telling an interviewer “I’m as queer as a daffodil, love.” This was bound to clash with Farrakhan’s views, which were rather homophobic and induced a tirade from Mercury that leaders of the gay community can often quote ad verbatim: “Listen, fucker, if the rules of your religion are anti-gay then that’s your business. You can live by your religious rules, so can everyone else. There’s nobody forcing you to live in a way that you don’t want, but this is America: land of the free and the home of the brave. Like it or not, every single fucker in this country has the right to live the way they want to. If you don’t like it, you’ve got two choices: ignore it or get the hell lost to some shithole on the other side of the world. I’m not a Muslim, and neither are most Americans, so you don’t get to push your views on how people should behave. Don’t like it? There’s the door!” He stormed out of the studio after that. In a second appearance in 1990, Lone apologized to Mercury for putting the two together, resulting in this confrontation. By then, however, 35 million Americans had seen it in the original airing or in a rerun. John Lone became the most well-known Asian American by far. Mercury followed on foot, moving on to pop and power ballads as heavy metal grunting strained his vocal cords, interspersing albums and stadium tours with more intimate theatre shows. He also tried acting, taking on anything from supporting to secondary main character roles in movies and recurring roles in TV shows.

A second major result was a movie in 1991 titled “A Family’s Ordeal”, starring Jon Voight and Meryl Streep as the parents (who were reaffirmed as major actors), Johnny Galecki as Ben, Jessica Chastain as Gwen and Macaulay Culkin as Adam. This launched the careers of these three child actors, who’d come to prominently star in many major productions in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Galecki and Chastain featured in one drama, thriller, sci-fi spectacle or action blockbuster after the other in the 90s and early 00s, establishing diverse careers. They later branched out to lighter genres and productions like comedy and the occasional Indie movie in between bigger projects.

Culkin continued as a child star in the early to mid-90s until he hit a career dead end when he “aged out” of child acting. After a lull in his career and struggling with addiction, he transitioned from the big screen to TV as the main character Anthony Lewinsky in the sitcom Rockstars. The show focused on Lewinsky, who was struggling with his college bandmates to achieve fame while working in blue collar or low-level white collar jobs after graduating. The show ran for fifteen seasons from 2000 to 2015 (in the final season, the band finally achieved international fame). Chinese American actor Victor Wong became famous for his role as the cruel warden and received serious roles in the 90s, though later complained about being typecast. Singaporean-American Actress Julia Nickson appeared as a somewhat sympathetic female guard in the movie and had recurring roles in TV series during the early 90s. She achieved worldwide fame in 1995 by portraying a Japanese American prostitute in a movie set in the immediate post-war US titled “Everything for my Family”, based on a true story. Nickson appeared in supporting roles in multiple Hollywood productions and recurring roles in TV shows after that. She carved out a place for herself as the protagonist of the medical mystery drama “Li M.D.”, which ran for nine seasons from 2002 to 2011. By the end of the series, nine seasons totalling 197 episodes had been produced.

A third result of the appearance of the Jameson family on the John Lone Show was scrutiny of China’s treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, Christians and Muslims in particular. As it turned out, neither Christians nor Muslims were allowed to publicly practice their religion in China, though private worship at home was tolerated. Religious dissidents that were too stubborn and wouldn’t back down about their demands to the right to worship were silenced by permanent imprisonment (until they renounced their convictions and accepted Emperor Worship). Countless religious and political dissidents wound up in concentration camps and plenty were tortured or even executed. America was furious and Sino-American relations couldn’t get any chillier. In US media, China was portrayed as a barbaric country with an obscurantist leadership with values that couldn’t be farther removed from American norms and values. After the Taiwan Strait Crisis and the ordeal of the Jameson family, America’s foreign and defence policymakers came to regard China as America’s primary rival.
Just rename this era the Second Reconstruction or the New Reconstruction for the United States after World War III in 1962. Speaking of which, I think you should cover more in-depth into what culture looks like after WW3.
 
Damn, TTL's Freddy Mercury is a badass; nice to see Screwy Louie (a common nickname for Farrakhan among his enemies) getting the smackdown...
 
Interesting, a possible second Cold War with a theocratic China and that nukes are still a thing; though I wonder how would what remained of the USSR be doing by TTL's 2020? I'd imagine some "nations" would arise there by then, even if they are nothing but over-glorified warlord cliques.
 

Ficboy

Banned
Interesting, a possible second Cold War with a theocratic China and that nukes are still a thing; though I wonder how would what remained of the USSR be doing by TTL's 2020? I'd imagine some "nations" would arise there by then, even if they are nothing but over-glorified warlord cliques.
The USSR is basically a hellhole akin to post-Imperial era China only much worse. China may or may not challenge America especially with it being an Confucian theocracy rather than the communist nation that it is in OTL. American comics have been irrevocably altered by World War III since Marvel and DC were annihilated given that their headquarters were in New York City and anything after it will be completely different. As for Star Wars, George Lucas was still a USC film student living in Los Angeles which luckily wasn't hit by any Soviet nukes whatsoever and thus its possible for the franchise to exist more or less the same albeit in a different political climate.

America and most of the world is far less damaged when compared to the almost Fallout-esque disaster that is 1983: Doomsday given the radically altered circumstances for starters most pre-war cities are rebuilt and replaced with new state of the art versions not to mention that most countries are still intact with the exception of the Soviet Union obviously.
 
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Not long after the crisis began the wealthy Jameson family from El Paso, which had gained its wealth from Texan oil and real estate, arrived in Beijing as part of an weeklong city trip. The wife was a sinologist and was so fascinated that she insisted on visiting the country and therefore they’d chosen it as their vacation for the holidays, i.e. the entire week of the 4th of July. The family consisted of the head of the family Jonah Jameson (aged 45), his 42 year-old wife Clarice, their 17 year-old son Ben, their 15 year-old daughter Gwen and their 9 year-old son Peter. Ben had urinated on a statue of the Emperor and witnesses reported this to the police, which included a religious unit devoted to violations of Emperor Worship. This led to his arrest and a torture induced confession to the crime of grievously disrespecting the Emperor, after which a show trial began that didn’t just put him but his entire family on trial: Ben was sentenced to execution through public beheading, his parents to fifty lashes on a public square for failing to raise him properly and his sister to ten lashes, also in public, to instil the proper respect. Only the young Adam was exempt.
You mean Peter right?
 
Great update, interesting to see how China emerges as the newest challenge to US supremacy, though I fear it may lead to another nuclear exchange... I wonder where the next hotspot in the rivalry will be? Perhaps Vietnam, the Koreas, or the South China Sea?
 
I think the US would strength relations with India and various Pacific Rim states to push against Imperial China. I also see China beginning to modernize its armed forces by purchasing or stealing technologies from Europe and other places.
 
China ITTL has the issue that it is clearly the rival of the US, before it can really start getting access to the world market. There is not going to be an equivalent period of the neoliberal 90's where the US makes massive reductions to trade barriers in favor of China. Without that China is going to be hard pressed to grow into a real threat. In terms of technology they were pretty far behind, it took until the 80's for their Mig-21 clones to be as good as the 60's Soviet version, even with technology transfers in the interim, in most fields of military tech they didn't catch up to 2000-2010 or later, even with substantial tech transfers

That said I'm surprised the F-14 exists ITTL, the program behind it started in 1968, to address the failure of F-111B, which was not authorized until after the War. Given that the USSR evaporated, I figure the US would still be flying Phantoms, no Backfire swarms needing a better plane to counter, huge budget pressures, with maybe a lightweight multirole ala the Hornet starting to replace it in the mid 80's
 

Rostov

Donor
That said I'm surprised the F-14 exists ITTL, the program behind it started in 1968, to address the failure of F-111B, which was not authorized until after the War. Given that the USSR evaporated, I figure the US would still be flying Phantoms, no Backfire swarms needing a better plane to counter, huge budget pressures, with maybe a lightweight multirole ala the Hornet starting to replace it in the mid 80's
To be fair, swarms of J-7's would make a body pause.
 
To be fair, swarms of J-7's would make a body pause.
Swarms might be overstating it, to 2013 the Chinese built less than 2500 OTL compared to 4500+ Mig 19 derived J-6's, 1800+ Mig 17 derived J-5's. In fact the Chinese were still building the J-6 until 1986 OTL, and the Q-5 derivative until 2012

Swarms of J-7's are a different sort of threat. Namely the J-7 has no antiship capability beyond dumb bombs, compared to the long range anti ship missiles of a backfire. It is also a much harder target than a backfire. As a result you don't need the long range of the AIM-54/AN/APG-71 combo to kill them before they launch, and you want something more maneuverable for dealing with fighters than the AIM-54. The only effective aerial antiship capability of the PRC in the 80's was the H-6D, a subsonic bomber with a shorter ranged missile, of which there are maybe 30, not worth developing a dedicated bomber killer for
 
Chapter XI: Nuclear Proliferation and the Iran-Arab War, 1986-1992.
And the story continues.


Chapter XI: Nuclear Proliferation and the Iran-Arab War, 1986-1992.

In American foreign policy the boosted hostility toward China translated to several responses. After WW III, there was massive public opposition in Japan to the presence of American nuclear weapons anywhere in Japanese territory. Negotiations to base American nuclear bombers in Japan had foundered, as the authoritarian militarist regime had sided with the population. After China’s nuclear test, the Americans floated the idea again and the Japanese government, feeling threatened by China, reconsidered and allowed nuclear weapons and the necessary B-52s to deliver them on a to be built new airbase. The police suppressed civilian protests against this decision. For similar reasons, Korea accepted the placement of Pershing II medium range ballistic missiles on its soil despite public discontent.

India was a different case. It didn’t want US nuclear weapons on its soil and wouldn’t settle for anything less than a nuclear deterrent of its own. The first research efforts into nuclear energy had begun not long after Indian independence, but the pursuit of weapons had started in earnest in 1960. In the post-war crisis years in the 60s and to a lesser extent the 70s funds for the program had been reduced to a bare minimum as India had more pressing concerns. Procuring aid to build nuclear fuel processing plants and a nuclear power plant, which could only come from the United States, proved impossible: for a long time the US proved unwilling to help India get nuclear weapons and this meant it had to develop a nuclear fuel cycle from scratch. India entered a secret agreement with Australia to jointly develop nuclear weapons as the latter was a uranium producer, giving the Indian nuclear scientists plenty of nuclear fuel.

After China’s emergence as a nuclear power, America’s position toward India’s nuclear weapons program changed. President Robert Kennedy paid a visit to New Delhi in 1986, and offered Indira Gandhi a deal to build a nuclear power station and fuel processing plant as well as adding US nuclear scientists to the program. Gandhi accepted and this vastly accelerated the Indian nuclear weapons program and concentrated its focus on plutonium production. In March 1989, India tested an implosion-type device that produced an explosive yield of 20 kilotons and began missile tests. India also announced it adopted a “no first use” policy.

Australia followed not much later that same year, followed by several more countries in the 90s. South Africa had six nuclear weapons by the end of the 1980s and Israel had a stockpile of unknown size, though estimated at a few dozen, by that time as well. Brazil was suspected of having a nuclear weapons program, which was in line with its great power ambitions as it was the Latin America’s largest economy by far and the second in the world (after the United States and ahead of India and China). Zaire’s leader Mobutu felt that as the dominant power of sub-Saharan Africa his country should develop a response to the nuclear capabilities of Apartheid South Africa, and with the completion of the Inga Project he had the national income and industrial capacity for it. Iran had begun its nuclear weapons program in 1974 and had an easy time (easier than India) procuring nuclear power and fuel-cycle facilities with civilian as well as military applications from the US. Iran tested its first nuclear weapon in 1991, Brazil in 1993 and Zaire in 1998.

Meanwhile, the American economy continued to grow throughout the 80s and in an election year that was always a good thing for the incumbent President. After his overwhelming victory in 1984 it was speculated that Robert F. Kennedy might become a post-war third termer, but like his brother he refused to seek re-election even if the term limit set by the 22nd Amendment was overruled by a new amendment. The movement against the 22nd Amendment died down again. Instead Kennedy fully endorsed his Vice President Walter Mondale, who chose Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton as his running mate. In the GOP, Kansas Senator Bob Dole tried again and chose the fairly liberal Republican Congressman Jack Kemp as his running mate to draw in pro-Democratic swing voters. During the campaign the Democrats focused on the economy, while the Republicans criticized Kennedy’s foreign policy for allowing nuclear proliferation to occur. In the 1988 Presidential election, the Republicans made a major comeback after their ’84 knockout but still lost: the Mondale/Clinton ticket won 24 states, 305 electoral votes and 50.9% of the popular vote; the Dole/Kemp ticket won 26 states, 230 electoral votes and 48.1% of the popular vote. In January 1989, Walter Mondale was sworn in as the new President of the United States of America and would be the first to reside in the New White House upon its completion in 1992.

The year 1992 would see the solemn opening of the National World War III Remembrance Museum in St. Louis, which had acted as the capital of the United States for thirty years by then. Robert Kennedy had proposed it in 1986 as he considered it “paramount that the story of the greatest tragedy in not only national but world history is passed on to the post-war generations, so it will never happen again.” It took three years to build and has 15.000 square metres for its permanent exhibition (and 5.000 square metres for temporary exhibitions), which up until today displays archival film material, radio broadcasts, pictures and newspaper clippings about the Cold War and the leadup to WW III. This is followed by numerous exhibits about the war including dioramas of battles, photographs of wartime activities, weapons, uniforms, awards, newsreels, letters, model aircraft, model missiles and mock-up nuclear weapons. After the military themed part of the exhibition, visitors move onto the segment detailing the suffering during and after the war: the death and destruction, pillaging, martial law, disease hunger and rationing. This section also includes the original suicide note written by Colonel General Baklanov, the official who’d signed the Soviet Instrument of Surrender as he was the highest ranking figure that could be found. After this, visitors encounter a prayer room (for all major religions) to commemorate the dead before moving on to the gift shop and the exit.

The year 1989 began normal, but a few months into Mondale’s presidency an interesting development faced him in the foreign policy arena because of a radio message heard around the world: on July 17th 1989, the 71st anniversary of the murder of the last Tsar and his family, the foundation of the Tsardom of New Muscovy was proclaimed under the aegis of Tsar Ivan VII. The history of this new state could be traced back to the aftermath of WW III: a surviving colonel with a handful of tanks and armoured vehicles had seized control of a surviving fuel depot and had then taken control of an unhit rural village and the surrounding kolkhozes 150 kilometres east of the burning ruins of Moscow. These soldiers with their weapons provided protection in exchange for food and shelter, resulting in a kind of feudal settlement that commander Ivan Pochenko dubbed Novaya Moskva (New Moscow).

The town was in a pocket with relatively low radiation levels and a bit removed from larger cities, explaining how this became an undamaged oasis. With the protection of a military unit and the construction of earth walls and palisades it stayed that way, but Pochenko had greater ambitions and imbued his speeches to his subjects with ultranationalist and conservative Orthodox Christian ideas. Communism was denounced as satanic, for it had unleashed hell on earth on Mother Russia. He didn’t just create a symbiotic food for protection relation, but created a shared identity and loyalty structure by presenting their microstate as the beginning of a new Russia. In 1963, he was forty years old.

Starting in the late 60s, early 70s he started to send out scouting parties for supplies and they brought back firewood, construction materials taken from ruined or abandoned buildings and surviving pieces of industrial machinery or parts thereof. This allowed them to maintain at least their small arms and produce ammunitions, though fuel was so scarce the tanks and vehicles weren’t moved unless absolutely necessary and instead used as fixed field fortifications. At one point, enough material had been collected to build a primitive zeppelin named the “Flying Ivan”: basically a cigar shaped frame covered in cloth and filled with hot air, carrying a basket big enough for 4-5 people, propelled by a 20 hp engine that drove a propellor. It was used to find other surviving towns. Inevitably, survivors were found and invited to come back and Novaya Moskva’s population grew as a result. A second factor was that, based on Christian rhetoric, Pochenko encouraged married couples to have very many children. Families with 10+ children weren’t uncommon, leading to a steady annual population growth of ~2%. From 1.500 souls in 1962, the original town had grown to almost 2.000 by 1975 and by now territorial expansion was already underway. This led to people migrating to Novaya Moskva.

Pochenko expanded to neighbouring pockets of survivors, who often graciously accepted his rule as his representatives brought food and were impressed by the Flying Ivan (people who’d grown up after the war had never seen flying machines and regarded them as miracles). If violence was necessary, the Flying Ivan was used as a bomber and that was usually enough to scare opponents into surrendering. In the “new territories”, initially a collection of hamlets, superintendents were installed to maintain order, control the distribution of food and scarce medication, and to collect taxes.

Eventually, larger settlements were found similar to Novaya Moskva, but Pochenko’s sense of self-importance had grown to the point that he offered feudal submission rather than cooperation, rejecting the model of a confederation of towns with equal rights and a say in a governing council. This had been proposed by Vladimir, a new town built next to the ruins of the original city and 50 km north of Novaya Moskva. In 1977, a war erupted between Vladimir and a few allied towns and Pochenko’s little fiefdom of Novaya Moskva. He’d studied military history extensively and proved very tactically adept, defeating the armies of Vladimir in a series of pitched battles. He conquered his closest rival, but treated his defeated opponents mildly because, after all, they were fellow Russians. He recruited them for his cause, expanding his legions for new wars of expansion during the late 70s and the entire 80s.

By the end of the 1980s, Ivan Pochenko controlled an area three times the size of France west of the Urals with a population of roughly 3 million people and he entertained monarchist ambitions. The economy of his realm was based on agriculture, but coal and the mining of ferrous and nonferrous metals had been resumed as well. This provided fuel and the metal needed for a basic metallurgic industry able to build the necessary tools or replace broken ones to support the farmers and an emerging class of artisans. With the cornerstone industries of coal and steel up and running, Novaya Moskva tried to set up new industries such as textile production and food processing. With difficulty, small scale production of radio sets began, and the centrepiece of the effort was a large and powerful rotatable shortwave antenna system that had taken four years to build. In July 1989 it was used for the very first time to proclaim the Tsardom of New Muscovy to the entire world and to broadcast its aggressive claim to all territories formerly belonging to the Soviet Union.

The newly crowned Tsar Ivan VII – still feeling self-important and seeing himself as the ruler of all Russians more and more as time went by – now desired diplomatic recognition as the ruler of all of Russia, which would legitimize his wars of conquest. A US carrier group centred on USS America (a Kitty Hawk-class carrier completed much later than planned due to WW III) appeared in the Finnish Gulf. She carried out reconnaissance flights to get clear intel on the nature of this Tsardom of New Muscovy and what it was capable of, ascertaining that it was the dominant power in European Russia (others new states included the Kiev Hetmanate, the Kuban Cossack Republic and the Yakutia Republic while Sweden entered the fray as it extended its influence into the Baltic States, who were worried about a Russian resurgence). In 1990, the Mondale Administration established diplomatic relations with the regime of Tsar Ivan VII, followed by countless other nations. A few years later an American embassy was established in the capital city of Novaya Moskva, which had grown into a city of 75.000 people by the early 90s. John F. Matlock Jr., who had his first assignment to Moscow in 1961, was appointed ambassador and saw a country reduced to pre-1500 population levels and on the cusp of primitive industrialization. New Muscovy had to reinvent much of what had been invented that the Western world had known since the 1800s and 1900s. In the final decade of the twentieth century it would conquer all of European Russia, Belarus and eastern Ukraine. The Tsardom became a regional power toward the year 2000.

In 1990, a crisis erupted in the Middle East with a long background. Part of the cause was the gradual deterioration of relations between Saudi Arabia and Imperial Iran. King Faisal had visited Iran in 1966, followed by a reciprocal visit by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, after which the Shah supported Faisal’s efforts at Islamic solidarity and actively contributed to the creation of multinational Islamic institutions. Because the British had left the Persian Gulf in 1962, a demarcation line between Saudi Arabia and Iran had been agreed upon in 1968. There were also tensions. Firstly, the Shah’s Westernization policies as part of the White Revolution differed greatly from the reactionary policies in Saudi Arabia. The Shah sent letters to King Faisal saying “Please, my brother, modernize. Open up your country. Make the schools mixed women and men. Let women wear miniskirts. Have discos. Be modern. Otherwise I cannot guarantee you will stay on your throne." In response, King Faisal wrote, “Your majesty, I appreciate your advice. May I remind you, you are not the Shah of France. You are not in the Elysée. You are in Iran. Your population is ninety percent Muslim. Please don't forget that.” Secondly, Iran repossessed the islands Big Tunb, Little Tunb and Abu Moussa despite competing claims by the United Arab Emirates. This caused friction.

Friction continued to grow during the regency of Empress Farah as the countries’ political systems diverged further and further. Saudi Arabia stuck with its existing model: a theocratic absolute monarchy not much different from China with its torture and executions, and with almost non-existent rights for women. As regent Dowager Empress Farah developed a model of cooperation and consultation between the court and the cabinet on one side and the Majles (parliament) on the other, resulting in a consensus. This modus operandi, in which parliament was left with a lot of legislative initiative, resulted in a new constitution in 1978 that limited the powers of the Shah to refusal of royal assent (which could be overturned by a two thirds parliamentary majority), command of the armed forces in wartime and the vague power to “take the initiative” in foreign policy.

Iran became a constitutional monarchy with a constitution that guaranteed maximal religious freedom, but also Western-style liberties. It was a Westminster-style system, with a few differences. The ulama, Iran’s scholars, were angered that the Empress Dowager and the Majles didn’t enshrine a role for Shia Islam in the political process aside from some non-voting advisors to parliament. The proposal by the ulama for a fixed number of guaranteed parliamentary seats for them was rejected. People were left free to choose between Western dress or conservative religious clothing, between secular co-ed or more conservative gender separated schools, between drinking alcohol as in the West or not, between following Muslim dietary rules or not etcetera. Those that wanted to were free to follow the strict rules of the ulama, but more and more dressed and behaved in a secular, Western way. Outrageously shocking to conservative religious leaders – Wahhabi or Shiite, Iranian or Saudi – was the decriminalization of prostitution and pornography in the early 80s.

Internal tension between proponents of Western freedom and those favouring more religious influence in the government translated to the growing Saudi-Iranian friction. A major incident was a state visit by Empress Dowager Farah during which she refused to wear the veil, which was mandatory for women in Saudi Arabia. To avoid an embarrassing crisis, she wasn’t made to wear it. A crisis resulted nonetheless as King Khalid cancelled a visit to Iran. Moreover, not long thereafter Farah commented on the rights of women in Saudi Arabia, stating “women in that country are domestic slaves to their male relatives. It’s so primitive and sexist. Women there have no choice.” As if that comment didn’t anger King Faisal enough, given how it painted his country in foreign news outlets, in 1980 the young Shah Reza II added insult to injury by saying “religion, including clothing and composure, is a private matter, not something a democratically elected government should concern itself with. Arabs and Iranians can govern themselves in that regard.” On October 31st 1981, Shah Reza II reached his majority at the age of 21 and started to rule independently and was immediately confronted by a challenge to his rule as well as that of his dynasty: an ultraconservative clique of officers backed by Iran’s ulama and with Saudi support staged a coup d’état, but failed. The leaders of the conspiracy were executed for treason by firing squad. The affair caused Saudi-Iranian relations to reach a freezing point.

The 1990 crisis centred on the Shatt al-Arab waterway, the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Since a treaty in 1937, the entire waterway had been under Iraqi control and Iranian ships had to pay a toll. The Shah had argued that this was unfair to Iran as river borders were usually in the thalweg, i.e. the middle of the river, and had military vessels escort tankers and other ships in 1969. Iraq, militarily the weaker of the two, had done nothing. Iran had abrogated the treaty, something which Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sought to rectify. Given the hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia, he was able to easily secure the latter’s support and that emboldened him into a foolish move.

In May 1990, Iraqi missile boats tried to enforce the tolls that Iran had consistently refused to pay since 1969 by stopping an Iranian tanker. When the tanker’s captain refused to stop, one of the Iraqi missile boat captains unwisely decided to fire at the tanker and caused an inferno. Within a month the conflict had escalated into a shooting war as both sides mobilized more and more army and navy assets, a situation that became a war definitively when Iran declared war on Iraq, going down in history as the 90-’91 Iran-Arab War.

Iran had one of the finest militaries in the world. Its army equipped with M60 tanks and its air force with the F-4 Phantom II was top of the line. The navy had modern American ships like destroyers, Tang-class nuclear attack submarines and aircraft carrier Cyrus. Cyrus was the Independence-class light aircraft carrier USS Cabot, loaned to Iran in the 70s and modernized to act as a helicopter carrier. In the 1980s refit, ordered by Iran before buying the carrier, two M. 141 quad cell launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles and torpedo tubes were added and Phalanx CIWS replaced most of the twenty-six 40 mm guns. Qualitatively, the Imperial Iranian Armed Forces were the world’s second best after the United States Army, and in terms of active troops it was also the world’s fourth largest after China, the US and India with 800.000 men. Iraq by contrast could mobilize only a quarter of a million men and lots of it equipment was of 1950s and early 60s vintage.

In June 1990, the Iranian Army launched Operation Avenger, a massive armoured thrust with massive air cover towards Baghdad intended to split the country in two. Two smaller armoured prongs had Mosul and Basra as their objectives. If the capital of Baghdad was lost to Iran, the Tigris River would be unusable for the Iraqis. With their air superiority and the ability to advance further west, Iran would be able to utterly disrupt north-south connections if it took Baghdad and nearby air bases. The Iranian blitz alarmed Arab leaders. The war escalated as Khalid’s successor King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, unwilling to stand by idly and watch an Iraqi military collapse, proclaimed a jihad against the “Iranian heretics.” He feared the Sunni minority regime would be replaced by a Shia dominated pro-Iranian government, knowing Iran had expansionist ambitions as it had begun expanding into the former Soviet Union’s Central Asian republics in the 70s. Saudi Arabia sent military reinforcements and so did other (Arab) countries like Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon and Egypt. Others, like Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, sent volunteer divisions. Israel and Syria’s Shia dominated regime, by contrast, supported Iran. The matter had devolved into a general war in the Middle East in a matter of weeks.

Iran’s outstanding military notwithstanding, with reinforcements flowing into Iraq from the Arab world Saddam was able to stymie the mass of Iranian tanks before they could reach Baghdad. All along the front, Arab and Iranian forces dug in, creating trench systems WW I style with the accompanying terrors like chemical warfare with mustard and chlorine gas. The trench line straddled the border, but the better part was on the Iraqi side. Both sides launched offensives to break the stalemate, but their efforts shifted the frontline by a few hundred metres at the most. Saddam started to use terror tactics by firing ballistic missiles, mostly at Iranian, Syrian and Israeli cities. A stalemate had emerged that neither side was able to end and which persisted into 1991.

Mondale’s mediation attempts had failed from the start of the crisis, as he’d tried to avoid appearing as aggressive, rejecting the advice to send a carrier group or two to sternly tell the Iraqis to back down and apologize to Iran. The latter had been the advice of the Chiefs of Staff, but the State Department reminded Mondale that the US Embassy in Riyadh had reported Saudi Arabia’s complete commitment to support Iraq and contain Iran. If the US openly sided with Iran in this matter, they risked losing the support of Saudi Arabia, which might then turn to China. The State Department was aware that. Beijing was actively courting several governments in the Middle East. This in turn meant India supported Iran by buying its oil and selling it weapons, such as locally produced version of the M60 tank and the F-4 Phantom II fighter. The US quietly endorsed Indian support for Iran, as it allowed them to keep their hands clean.

Though there were tactical successes on both sides, for over a year neither side could produce a strategic victory to end the stalemate and decide the war. That changed in August 1991 when an experimental weapon was driven out from an underground concrete bunker in the Great Salt Desert (Dasht-e Kavir) in northern Iran and mounted atop a steel tower with an altitude of 75 metres. The country’s leading physicists were located in a hardened concrete observation bunker twenty kilometres away. A program that had begun more than twenty years before was about to bear fruit. Iran had painstakingly built fuel-cycle facilities and nuclear power stations of its own design with limited foreign assistance. It had obtained some designs and had hired experts from Great Britain (a nuclear power, though with less than half a dozen warheads left after 1962) in return for free deliveries of petroleum for several years. The CIA had correctly briefed Mondale in 1989 when they told him Iran was less than five years away from successfully testing a nuclear weapon. The weapon, codenamed Darius, was detonated on Tuesday August 20th 1991 and became the largest first test bomb to date, with a yield of 60 kilotons. It was a plutonium based implosion-type design. In 1995, a 3 megaton thermonuclear test was carried out.

This completely changed the course of the Iran-Arab War. Apart from Iraq, all participating Arab powers pulled out as fast as they could and signed separate peace agreements. All of them wanted to avoid becoming the victim of a one-sided regional nuclear war. Even Saudi Arabia abandoned Saddam, and with a 3:1 numerical disadvantage he couldn’t stop the successful Iranian invasion. In November 1991, the Battle of Baghdad began and Republican Guard units fanatically loyal to Saddam as well as Sunni dominated divisions fiercely defended the city as it was surrounded while Iranian forces split the country in two. Iraqi resistance collapsed. Saddam and his family fled the country and went into exile in Switzerland, taking with him hundreds of millions of dollars, priceless artwork, sports cars, bonds and shares. Saddam rightly feared a new Shia dominated regime would sentence him to death for his crimes.

Saddam’s flight led to a total Iraqi collapse and resulted in an Iranian occupation of Iraq. Following Saddam in exile, a Baathist government-in-exile was set up in Geneva, which didn’t recognize the government that emerged after parliamentary elections in October 1992. The Shia dominated government that emerged tried Saddam in absentia and indeed sentenced him to death, forcing Hussein and his family to stay in Switzerland because otherwise he could end up being extradited to Iraq. His unrecognized government-in-exile continues until the present day, without much success. Iraq and Iran established a “special relationship” after the war, exercising a dominant influence in the Middle East. Iran had become a great power.
 
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A couple nitpicks, USS America is a Kitty Hawk, not a Forrestal class carrier. Iran could not crew an Essex class aircraft carrier like Oriskany, when they considered buying 3 Invincible class carriers they found the crew requirements were too high and Oriskany would need the same crew as all 3 of them put together. You aren't extending the Skate class service life into the 90's, the reactors are aged out, and the Persian gulf is really too shallow for SSN's anyways. The Kidd class would not exist as a name without the US seizing them
 
Chapter XII: Hunter S. Thompson, Bush vs Clay and the Superheroes, 1992-1996.
Update time. The previous installment was edited based on comments.

Chapter XII: Hunter S. Thompson, Bush vs Clay and the Superheroes, 1992-1996.

The year 1992 was an election year and Mondale emphasized the successes of the Democratic administration of the past twelve years. He felt the need to remind the electorate of the successes of the RFK years and his part in that as he trailed behind in the polls and had a mediocre approval rating of 40%. Certainly, the inauguration of New Washington DC in January of that year, with Mondale holding his State of the Union in the new and improved Capitol Building, was a spectacular event. People, however, weren’t entertained by bread and circuses for very long. The war that had gripped the Middle East for more than a year had caused oil prices to skyrocket, which in turn resulted in a sharp recession. The Republicans criticized Mondale’s failed foreign policy in regards to the Middle East and later also his handling of the economic crisis that followed.

The Republican candidate was George H.W. Bush. He’d been elected as Senator from Texas in 1976 and served in that capacity until he was asked by President Nixon in 1979 to replace Connally as Secretary of the Treasury (as Connally in turn replaced Rockefeller as Vice President because he’d died in office). Without a job as his cabinet post ended after Connally lost to Kennedy in 1980, Bush went home to Texas and ran in the gubernatorial elections in 1982 and narrowly won. As Governor of Texas he enacted relatively a mix of liberal and more conservative policies. He increased educational funding, set higher standards for schools and helped make his state the leading producer of wind-powered electricity in the US, but also created a role for faith-based welfare programs to decrease state expenditure on welfare, deregulated the economy and lowered taxes on corporations and the top incomes.

After securing the Republican nomination, Bush became the main voice of Republican criticisms vis-á-vis the incumbent, singling out his mishandling of the Middle East and the subsequent recession that it’d caused. He chose the conservative Republican and African American Maryland Senator Alan Keyes as his running mate. The Republicans hoped to strike two birds with one stone: the relatively liberal Bush could pull in swing voters sympathetic to the Democrats while Keyes could win the African American vote. Bush and Mondale faced each other in a number of fierce televised debates. During the last televised debate Bush reiterated “it’s the belief of myself and my party that the current administration’s mishandling of the conflict between Iran and primarily Iraq has produced the wider war in the region, which has caused our current economic crisis.” Mondale retorted that “if I’d charged in guns blazing, bombing Iraq it would have produced a spike in oil prices and a recession too. Besides that, it would have endangered our good relations with some of our close friends in the region. The oil price will eventually return to normal and our economy will recover, perhaps with a minor stimulus package. What I’m seeing from you is supply side economics, once known as trickle down, which is nothing less than corporate welfare!”

Mondale certainly hadn’t performed poorly in the campaign and also had the advantages of Kennedy campaigning for him and Bill Clinton as a charismatic Vice President, who could sway southern voters as he was from Arkansas (though a sex scandal popped up, which ultimately didn’t stick in court and resulted in Clinton suing his accuser for libel). On paper his chances were good, but this ignores that it remains extraordinarily rare for a party to hold the White House for more than three terms: the only two examples are the Republican Presidencies of Grant, Hayes, Garfield and Arthur (1869-1885) and the Democratic Presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman (1933-1953). The 1992 US Presidential election would not join the list as the third exception to the rule, making Mondale the second (Democratic) President after Humphrey not to win a second term. The Democratic control of the White House was not extended by a fourth term, though the race was close run: the Republicans carried 29 states, gained 275 electoral votes and won 48% of the popular vote; the Democrats carried 21 states plus DC, obtained 263 electoral votes and won 48.3% of the popular vote.

Mondale demanded a recount in the state of Georgia. On election night it remained unclear who’d won, as Georgia’s electoral votes remained undecided. The returns revealed Bush had won the state by such a negligible margin that state law required a recount. Fearing he could lose Georgia which would cost him the election, Bush challenged the decision by taking it to the United States Supreme Court, resulting in a somewhat controversial verdict due to the unusual advice that the ruling “only concerned current circumstances and ought not set precedent.” The second issue was the bipartisan split in the Supreme Court: seven justices voted in favour of letting the recount continue and three against. It demonstrated that a combined total of 32 years of Democratic control of the White House (1945-1953, 1961-1973, 1981-1993) as opposed to only sixteen years of Republican rule (1953-1961, 1973-1981) between 1945 and 1993 had swung the Supreme Court in favour of the Democrats.

The great irony was that the Supreme Court ruling in favour of the recount didn’t matter for the outcome: when it was done, it turned out the Republican Bush/Keyes ticket had won 257 more votes than the Mondale/Clinton ticket in Georgia. Had a few hundred Georgian voters chosen otherwise or hadn’t reached the polling station, Mondale would have had 276 electoral votes and would’ve won a second term. It was the fourth time in US history that the winning presidential candidate lost the popular vote. Since then there’s been plenty of conjecture about how Mondale and perhaps a speculative Democratic successor in ’96 would’ve dealt with the challenges of the 90s. Anyhow, George H.W. Bush was inaugurated in January 1993 as the 41st President of the United States.

Bush initiated a national economic policy modelled on his policies as a Texan Governor by deregulating the economy, lowering taxes for corporations and high incomes, and slashing welfare expenditure. The economy witnessed 1.5% growth again in 1993 and 2% in 1994 and the Bush Administration attributed this to its economic policies of course. Critics argued that with the conflict in the Middle East over, settled in favour of Iran, oil prices stabilized at normal levels in late ’92, early ’93, which they saw as the real cause of the economic recovery. The same critics state that, at best, Bush’s policy of supply side economics stimulated economic growth that would’ve happened anyway after oil prices returned to normal, legitimizing Mondale’s argument made near the end of the campaign on national television. This made it likely that Bush would be re-elected in 1996, which indeed happened.

As to Mondale and Clinton, they did not despair and throw in the towel after their narrow defeat. A book authored by Hunter S. Thomson concerning the Mondale Presidency was heavily contributed to by the pair, to the point that conservative critics accused Mondale and Clinton of writing it and slapping Thomson’s name on it to boost sales. Thompson dismissed this as libellous, pointing out that he and he alone had the copyright. The book, titled On the Wings of Liberalism: the Mondale Years and the Kennedy Legacy, gave a fairly accurate albeit pro-Democratic account of all government policies between 1989 and 1993. It also reflected on the preceding eight years under Kennedy, and Thompson overall tended to favourably compare the entire 1981-’93 timeframe to the Nixon years. This was perhaps because Thompson had an intense dislike of Nixon for some reason, calling him “that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character.” Conservative Republicans have largely dismissed the book as a work of propaganda in favour of Kennedy, Mondale and Clinton, but it’s been embraced in Democratic circles and also ended up in the bookcases of many swing voters. After the original release in early 1994, reprints took place later that year and in 1995, followed by five new editions by 2010.

Thompson’s book had a positive impact on the political careers of both Mondale and Clinton, neither of whom had the intention of retiring from politics. Clinton was the first to try his luck by entering the 1994 Arkansas gubernatorial election to return to the office he’d left to become Vice President. Starting right away in 1993 he’d begun fundraising and campaigning to obtain sufficient funds, stay in the spotlight and increase voter support to defeat incumbent Republican Governor Edward Sheffield Nelson. Lieutenant Governor Winston Bryant acted in Clinton’s stead for almost the entire 1988 Presidential campaign, as the latter was practically completely absent. Bryant subsequently succeeded him as Governor in January 1989. Sheffield Nelson narrowly beat Bryant in the 1990 midterms. Two years later a controversy arose concerning mysterious payments made by CenterPoint Energy that Sheffield Nelson stayed vague about, which led to accusations of conflicts of interest or even nepotism given that he was the former CEO. It turned out that this purely concerned backpay, but Sheffield Nelson’s poor communication worked in his opponent’s favour: Bill Clinton won 57% of the vote and became Governor of Arkansas again. Mondale rode on his former VP’s coattails and won 51.7% of the vote in the 1996 US Senate election in Minnesota, regaining his old Senate seat.

Neither Mondale, who could technically still run for a second non-consecutive term, nor Bill Clinton tried to gain the Democratic nomination for 1996 as they thought it wasn’t the right time given Bush’s positive approval rating. Democratic Kentucky Governor Cassius Clay, on the other hand, had the fighting guts to try as his unlikely career had taught him nothing was impossible. Born in Louisville in 1942 as the son of Cassius Marcellus Clay and Odessa O’Grady Clay, who put bread on the table as a billboard painter and a domestic help, and raised Cassius and is brother Rudolph as Baptists. He was shaped by the segregationist society he grew up in, recalling how he was denied a drink because of his colour and vividly remembering the 1955 Emmet Till murder. The theft of his bicycle and his desire to “whup the thief” catalysed his boxing career, resulting in him making his debut in 1954 and winning by split decision. From there he went on to win six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics. His amateur record was 100 wins, five defeats. His professional boxing career began after that, but was cut short by the war.

Clay was drafted for civil conscription to rebuild America, and realizing the country needed every able-bodied person reluctantly submitted even though his every fibre screamed at him to resist. In the period between his last boxing match shortly before WW III and being called up, he extensively read both the bible and Marx despite his dyslexia whilst observing the misery in the country, that affected all regardless of colour, but not regardless of their bank accounts. When he arrived at a civil conscription office to report in, he loudly proclaimed “I’m doing this only for my fellow black man and my other good Christian working class comrades, not for the capitalist usurers of today, who would’ve been cast from the temple by Jesus just like their counterparts two thousand years back! Why don’t I see them here in this office?”

He was overheard by state governor Bert Combs who made a publicized visit to this particular office and told Clay that “with that sass and wit you could make it a long way in politics, son.” Clay responded characteristically by saying “I ain’t your son, little man.” He remembered this though and later had a Christian religious awakening after flirting with Islam as he witnessed more and more post-war America. He combined his renewed Christian faith and conservative positions like opposition to abortion with leftist big government economic ideas and called it Christian Liberalism (he carefully avoided the term socialism given how tarnished it was in the United States). Clay ran for mayor and used his boxing success, particularly his Olympic gold medal, to his advantage to become the first black mayor of Louisville in December 1973. After his term ended at the end of 1977, he couldn’t run for a second consecutive term as mayor due to state laws at the time, but capitalized on his successes: during his tenure as mayor the city extended subsidies to start-ups to revitalize the economy, expanded and improved the road network, and invested into public transportation to make it accessible for all at symbolic ticket prices of a quarter for a ticket. Clay successfully ran for a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives and kept it until he successfully ran in the 1991 Kentucky gubernatorial election.

Due to state law he couldn’t run for a second term as governor in 1995, so he aimed even higher. He established a grassroots campaign to win the ’96 Democratic nomination and won, making Clay the first black Presidential candidate in US history. It was almost certain the south would go Republican with a black candidate, as the older generation remembered desegregation and still had trouble coming to terms with it a quarter century after the fact. Clay’s advisors didn’t bother with a southern candidate and instead recommended him someone with experience: Senator from Connecticut Joe Lieberman, a grizzled 25 year veteran in politics.

The Clay/Lieberman ticket was the underdog from the start, with initial polls shortly after the Democratic National Convention in August 1996 indicating the Democrats were facing a historical defeat. That changed the longer Clay toured the country and addressed entire stadiums filled with people curious to hear what he had to say. He proved he wasn’t just a champion of the African American community, but could reach out to the rest of the people as well. With his charisma and pro-working class and Christian rhetoric delivered with the fervour of a Baptist minister he was able to mesmerize crowds.

He delivered his most well-known and televised speech at the United Centre in Chicago a week before election day, an excerpt: “As most of you know, I never learned to read well, but I applied myself and read the bible. Then I compared it to what I see every day in America and heard the President say America was the greatest country to live in, with enough to go around for everyone, as long as they’re willing to work for it. He said God rewards hard work and sacrifice. By this standard all the trashmen, factory workers, miners, masons, construction workers, farmhands, teachers, doctors and soldiers who helped to clean up and rebuild this country should be millionaires! Are they? My fellow Americans, you know the answer to that question. Mr. Bush, I will now quote the gospel of Matthew: ‘And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.’ Tell me Mr. President, why is then that Capitol Hill and the White House are infested with lobbies from banks and big business, the modern thieves and money changers, clamouring for less taxes? I invite you to meet people living in the gutter in streets where the glitter doesn’t show, to ask them why they throw their lives to drug dealers or turn to prostitution in despair, to meet hard working Americans who can’t pay their mortgages, to meet people who can’t get an education or a job, to talk to parents who can’t realize the dreams of their children and to all those who lost everything in the war and are still struggling to get back to where they were before. What do you have to say to all these people, Mr. President?”

The speech was watched on TV by 75 million Americans and this bolstered Clay’s budding position as a politician on a national scale, giving him a new cachet. It galvanized the Democrats and drew in many swing voters, but would it be enough? While Clay had certainly touched a nerve, Bush had a strong economy going for him, usually a bonus to the incumbent in an election year, though a proposal for a flat tax from the conservative wing of the GOP fanned the flames of the electoral battle. The Republican reception dismissed Clay’s speech as “standard bleeding heart whining” and criticized it for lack of content, though positively commented on its appealing style. Even more conservative comments called it “a cleverly composed litany of cheap shots and half-truths.” When confronted by these criticism, Clay lost his temper and responded by saying “I dare the people who said that to get in the ring with me so I can set them straight!” He was genuinely outraged and packed a powerful punch. Though he hadn’t boxed professionally since the early 60s, he was still in excellent shape for a 54 year-old man. He demonstrated that earlier on the campaign trial when a white supremacist, neo-Nazi and anti-government conspiracy theorist named Timothy McVeigh assaulted him with a Bowie knife at a rally in Oklahoma City. Clay dodged the knife and knocked the man out cold with a single right hook. McVeigh was convicted of assault and battery with a deadly weapon and sentenced to ten years in prison in 1997, minus time served.

Election day was a tense day for the entire country. The country had to choose between continuing a neoliberal and moderately conservative Christian Republican administration, and a Democratic alternative more leftist than anything after the reconstruction era but also with unquestionably Christian foundations. This was important in a country in which the majority of the population had some faith in God and often subscribed to one Christian denomination or the other. The country had become polarized as the Democratic ticket had unexpectedly grown into a threat to Bush, whose campaign strategists decided on a more aggressive approach by denouncing Clay as a communist with “unrealistic policies.” They dug to find something scandalous to discredit Clay with, but found nothing and in the end could only attack his inexperience. Pennsylvania turned out to be a tipping point state and it swung in favour of Bush by 50.000 votes, leading to the known result: the Republicans carried 29 states, got 278 electoral votes and won 50.2% of the popular vote; the Democrats carried 21 states plus DC, gained 260 electoral votes and won 48.8% of the vote. The combative, trailblazing Cassius Clay had lost in the fifteenth round by a technical KO. He wouldn’t give up and inspired a generation of African American politicians. As the pit bull he was, he couldn’t let this defeat go, knowing he’d been only a few tens of thousands of votes and 23 electors away from winning the country’s highest elected office. He’d be back.

There were reasons for the Republican victory. Bush obviously had the economy going for him, but beyond that there was a widespread sense of optimism. This was exemplified by developments in the film sector. The absolute forerunner was the Star Trek franchise that dominated the sci-fi genre: in 1975 “Star Trek: the Motion Picture” had become the first true blockbuster since WW III, depicting a utopian society that had risen from the depths of nuclear war. Six more films had been produced by 1995. Besides that, cinemas in the first half of the 90s were flooded by superhero movies. Initially it looked like both DC Comics and Marvel were history since the original owners and writers were dead and gone, but Charlton Comics purchased the rights to the characters developed by both and became the titan that utterly dominated the market of superhero comics. Completely new stories were written, as reprints of originals were virtually impossible. Pre-1962 editions of Batman and Superman were worth a fortune: an extremely rare 1957 mint edition Superman comic was auctioned off for $5 million; a tarnished 1961 Batman comic still went for $800.000. Arnold Schwarzenegger starred as Superman in four movies between 1987 and 1995, proving he could act in more than strong silent type or brash action hero roles. The rather neglected Batman finally received a blockbuster movie of his own in 1993 named “Batman Begins”, with the relatively unknown actor Bruce Willis as the main star, with Clint Eastwood boosting the movie as commissioner Gordon and former football player Carl Weathers as Lucius Fox. It was a critical and box office success, and spawned two sequels in 1997 and 2000 after several years in development hell. These two were successes, continuing with the same cast and standing out for superb special effects.

Post-war superheroes made their debut as well: a popular one was the Avenger. He was a wounded ex-soldier named Nick Hart, dishonourably discharged for a crime he didn’t commit and whose parents had been murdered by looters in the aftermath of nuclear war. He turned into a vigilante as well as soldier of fortune, using cleverness, ingenuity and firepower to win, employing self-made highly advanced gadgets combined with blitz and guerrilla tactics. Before the war, the character was an engineer and he used revolutionary sci-fi like cybernetics to improve himself. Charlie Sheen worked out heavily to achieve the muscle mass for the role, and was nominated for an Oscar after the movie’s release in 1992. He starred in the role of Nick Hart in three sequels and later a TV series that ran for three seasons. The first two movies are considered among Sheen’s best movies, but the quality of the franchise declined when directors and writers left over creative differences. The third movie received mixed to negative reviews and the fourth movie was a box office flop, though it has since gained a cult following. The choice was made to go for a TV show instead of a fifth movie. Another popular character was “The Titan”, a man who had mutated due to the radiation of WW III, enabling him to turn his skin into titanium and become bulletproof whenever he was afraid, upset or angry (some consider it a rip-off of The Hulk, which has led to plenty of crossover fanfics from the fans of both characters). Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren became famous by starring in the three Titan movies in the early to mid-90s. These have become cult movies while Lundgren has evolved into a B movie actor, with some prominent support roles in A movies. This was but a small sample of movies released in the 90s, but they represented the era’s mentality.
 
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Chapter XIII: Crisis in the Middle East and the Hong Kong Crisis, 1996-1997.
No replies? I hope a fresh update can change that.


Chapter XIII: Crisis in the Middle East and the Hong Kong Crisis, 1996-1997.

Bush, re-elected to office, would primarily concern himself with foreign policy as a number of challenges presented themselves: among them the Middle East. The Arab world had been orphaned in 1962 with the USSR had evaporated as their sympathetic super power sponsor against Israel and Iran. Except for a bunch of fanatical diehards, most powers in the region considered the Arab-Israeli conflict solved by the creation of an independent Palestinian state. A mini Cold War had unfolded between the Arab world headed by Saudi Arabia and Iran, which had gone hot and led to a decisive Iranian victory in 1991 that coincided with Iran becoming a nuclear power. Iraq became an Iranian ally in the aftermath. In the meantime, Iran’s expansionist agenda in the Stans in Central Asia was highly successful: the Imperial flag was raised over an outpost established at the foothills of the Ural Mountains in Kazakhstan.

Saudi Arabia first unsuccessfully tried to buy some atomic bombs to avoid the expensive and lengthy process of developing them from scratch. When that failed, they tried to persuade the Americans to help them develop nuclear weapons. Bush was opposed to the idea because the region was highly volatile, with regular incidents in the Persian Gulf after the Iran- Arab War. If the Saudis had nuclear weapons too, it would take only one of those incidents to spiral out of control to ignite a regional nuclear war. Besides the obvious humanitarian tragedy, estimated at hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of casualties, this would cut off the oil supply to the world’s petroleum hungry economies and likely produce a depression worse than the one in 1929.

King Fahd was extremely dismayed and reconsidered his country’s relationship with the US. He concluded that Iran was clearly America’s main ally and enforcer in the Middle East while his country was given just enough support so the oil would continue to flow freely. Who could he turn to instead? The USSR was gone, and even if it wasn’t then Fahd would’ve been hostile to it because of its virulent atheism and suppression of religion. Europe, Latin America and Africa obviously lacked alternatives. India was a nuclear power, but it had realigned as a partner of the US and therefore as a friend of Iran after 1962.

King Fahd strongly considered Imperial China, a fast rising power in economic and military terms, as an alternative patron (despite the treatment of Muslims in that country). Imperial China’s economic growth sometimes reached double digits and by 1991 it was estimated it had roughly 400 nuclear warheads. It was a theocratic absolute monarchy that didn’t care about the Saudis’ domestic policies and which was seeking to expand its influence. A Saudi delegation was sent to Beijing and kowtowed before the Emperor in the Forbidden City, a ritual demanded by court protocol that no-one who wished to see the Emperor could avoid no matter how objectionable it was to them to prostrate themselves. For the Saudi delegates it was a bitter pill to swallow as they only recognized one god, Allah, and not an Emperor who claimed to be a living god. They were instructed to do it anyway and then convey King Fahd’s predicament, which was that Iran could just use nuclear blackmail to settle any dispute between the two countries in its favour.

The Shengxing Emperor considered the Saudi King’s proposals, but had the same objections to arming the Saudis with the bomb as the Americans. He floated a counterproposal, namely a military alliance in which Saudi Arabia became China’s chief partner in the region (which would be accompanied by tolerance for Chinese Muslims if Riyadh proved a trustworthy ally). It took several years to hammer out the details in secret talks and in January 1997 the Sino-Saudi alliance was announced to the world, with American forces being ordered to leave the country within six weeks. China deployed 10.000 men to the country and established a submarine base on the Persian Gulf at Dammam. IRBMs stationed in Tibet and Xinjiang could hit targets as far west as Teheran and Baghdad if need be.

The military alliance between the two came as a slap to the face for the Americans. Although the State Department had noticed the overtures between Riyadh and Beijing, they didn’t think much would come of it given previous enmity concerning the treatment of Chinese Muslims. The State Department, however, had underestimated the grievances of the Saudis and their willingness to overlook China’s domestic policies. American diplomats believed fences could be mended and that US mediation between the two juggernauts, staring angrily at each other from across the Persian Gulf, could normalize relations. They were proven false, though in part this was the result of Saudi deception as they continued to pay lip service to US-Saudi cooperation until the end.

In response, President Bush paid the Shah a lengthy state visit in May 1997 to further strengthen ties between Teheran and Washington DC and discuss the implications of the “Arab-Orient pincer” and possible responses. Shah Reza II had fifty nuclear warheads by 1997 and had a strategic missile force capable of striking at targets within a 3.500 kilometre radius of Iran, including large parts of China. He didn’t want American nuclear forces on his territory, but was positive to the idea of a US naval base in the Persian Gulf. A carrier group centred on the brand-new USS John F. Kennedy was stationed on the mouth of the Persian Gulf at Bandar Abbas (she was the third of the Nimitz-class, the world’s first class of nuclear aircraft carriers delayed for a decade by WW III). Besides that, Iran replaced its older M48 tanks with M60A3s and its remaining F-100 Super Sabres with F-4 Phantom IIs. Iran became America’s buffer to Chinese influence in the Middle East, but it didn’t end there. Iran formally incorporated the former Soviet Stans as well as Azerbaijan and now stretched from the Persian Gulf all the way to the Kazakh steppes.

Bush made further visits to Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem and Ankara, all but one of which were allied to Iran. Iraqi, Syrian and Israeli ties were all bilateral alliances with Iran but none amongst each other. Arab-Israeli rivalry had declined significantly ever since the separate Arab Republic of Palestine had been created, made up of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The only real obstacle was the simmering dispute between Israel and Syria over the Golan Heights. By the 90s, plenty of Israeli settlements had been built and evicting these people wasn’t something the Israeli government was going to stand for. Bush managed to negotiate a slight border correction favouring Syria that did not threaten the Israeli settlements in the Haifa Agreement. This did much to clear the air and pave the way toward the goal of Bush’s Middle Eastern policy.

In September, the Baghdad Summit took place, ostensibly as an Iranian initiative though the Americans backed it behind the scenes and were of course invited. The leaders of Iran, Iraq, Israel, Syria, Turkey and the United States with their foreign and defence ministers convened in Baghdad to discuss the formation of a collective defence organization. Like with NATO, which this alliance was modelled on, an explicit response protocol was drafted that stated an armed attack against one member state would be considered an attack against all. It was called the Central Treaty Organization or CENTO (not to be confused with the organization of the same name that existed between 1955 and 1963). It has also been called the Fertile Crescent alliance.

Imperial Chinese expansionist ambitions, amply demonstrated in the Middle East, appeared to be unsatiable and Sino-American tensions therefore continued after the dust settled around the Persian Gulf. In March 1997, Beijing issued the “North Asia communique” which stated that China claimed all former Soviet territories east of Lake Baikal based on the legal principle of Terra Nullius (i.e. nobody’s land, a principle sometimes used in international law to justify claims that territory may be acquired by a state’s occupation of it). They’d been expanding into the former Russian Far East for years and now they formalized it, ignoring American protests. In a brief war, they subjugated the Yakutia Republic. The Americans responded: the Japanese had taken Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands in 1963, and now seized control of the Kamchatka Peninsula with American support.

The Hong Kong Crisis followed in a matter of months. Hong Kong was one of the few colonies and British Overseas Territories that hadn’t declared its independence after WW III, which many had done for fear that the British would suck them try for their own reconstruction. Hong Kong’s experience was dominated by two things: post war scarcity of food as well as fuel and secondly a refugee crisis as hordes of mainland Chinese tried to get in. It got to the point that the city threatened to be flooded by masses of ex-communists and peasants trying to get away from the Yi Dynasty as it took over. The result was that the borders were closed and defended by soldiers.

The ones that had come to Hong Kong before the city closed itself off from the mainland told stories: they spoke of mass public beheadings of those opposed to the Emperor’s theocratic totalitarian rule, severed heads put on display to terrify the people, of cruel practices like slow slicing, massive use of torture and a personality cult that would’ve made Mao blush. While the communist party had offered the illusion of party democracy, the new Emperor rejected even rubber stamp representative institutions and instead solely availed himself of capable executors of his will. The Shengxing Emperor saw the Tao and Zen Buddhist doctrine as the basis for all law. In his eyes this therefore made the legislative process the prerogative of religious scholars and officials, usually from the new aristocracy, who had passed rigorous imperial examinations. They proposed new laws to him, which he reviewed and then passed or rejected, possibly with the demand of an amendment. He was also the only person in China who could also actively request for new laws to be written and determine the demands the proposals from his advisors and ministers needed to meet. This arose as a logical consequence from his divine status, which he felt would be diminished by a parliament. An elected body would shift part of his indivisible divine sovereignty to his subjects, an unacceptable infringement on the Mandate of Heaven bestowed upon him and his dynasty. There was one god, and his will was the law of the realm. No one had the right to oppose that and anyone who did was punished severely.

Needless to say, in the years leading up to the end of the 99 year lease of the New Territories (that had gone into effect on July 1st 1898) resistance in Hong Kong to reunification with China grew massively. A lobby developed to transition from colony to Dominion status, which would make the city an independent country within the framework of the British Commonwealth. This lobby had good reasons for that. While there’d never been general elections, the British had at least ruled benevolently after the war and inhabitants of the city lived in freedom and relative affluence compared to the indoctrinated masses of poor peasants and factory workers in Imperial China. The 90s would see democratic reforms and extended social programmes. Most people in Hong Kong wouldn’t trade that for a religiously fanatical, totalitarian and cruel regime that rejected their Western values and liberties out of hand (they knew British attempts to achieve a compromise, to ensure a special status for their crown colony in China, had been dismissed by the Forbidden City). All polls showed widespread hostility toward reunification with Imperial China. A petition signed by hundreds of thousands of people to organize a referendum on Dominion status and abrogate all agreements with China was presented to Governor Chris Patten.

The British now had to decide how to proceed: the lease on the New Territories ended on July 1st 1997 and without those the city would be vulnerable, as China could cut off water and electricity if the British decided to hold on to the older parts they had taken in 1842 and 1860 (which had been ceded in perpetuity). If they ceded the New Territories they had little choice but to leave the entire city to its fate as they couldn’t afford to support its needs by supplying it by sea. Secondly, if they tried that it was far from certain that the Royal Navy would be able to overcome a Chinese naval blockade. Britain was in no position to pick a fight as reconstruction had absorbed the government’s attention and its financial resources, leaving little for the British Army and Royal Navy. Though Britain had an estimated 4-6 warheads left after 1962, it had no way to deliver them to China. Its conventional forces had very little power projection capabilities as they too had been reorganized to assist in reconstruction and, if necessary, to maintain public order.

However, leaving Hong Kong and its people to Chinese tyranny wasn’t an option either, and British public opinion was opposed to it as well. Anticipating an aggressive Chinese response, Britain could only proceed on the planned course if it could secure military support. Before moving forward, Prime Minister Paddy Ashdown therefore approached President Bush to ask if Britain could count on support from the United States if China tried to take Hong Kong militarily. Bush openly declared military aggression by China against British forces in Hong Kong would be considered tantamount to military aggression against the United States itself. He thought that would suffice.

The Hong Kong Crisis began in earnest in January 1997 when Governor Patten announced a referendum to allow the city’s inhabitants to decide their own future, which was to take place in March. He stated that in doing so he met the strong demand from the population to determine their own fate instead of it being decided for them. Beijing’s response was akin to a beehive that just got poked with a stick, with a flurry of activity starting immediately. Beijing furiously responded that a referendum contravened the Second Convention of Peking, which determined an end to the lease of the New Territories on July 1st 1997. They knew this would make Hong Kong untenable as they intended to cut off water and power to bring the rest of the city to its knees. It’s therefore no surprise that they were so insistent the transfer would go ahead. The Chinese demanded that Britain stuck to the agreement signed 99 years ago with China. The British countered that they had signed the agreement with the Qing dynasty, which now no longer existed, thusly rendering the Second Convention of Peking null and void. Needless to say, China was irate and threatened to invade Hong Kong if the British continued on this course.

MI6 and the CIA both detected the massive military build-up in China, which could only mean a general mobilization order had gone out. A quarter of a million men were assembled near Hong Kong. As promised, President Bush came to the aid of the British, ordering the entire Seventh Fleet to steam out of Yokosuka to the South China Sea. Japan, Korea and Taiwan all raised the alertness level of their armed forces, leading to fears of a regional war with the potential of going nuclear. If the powder keg was lit, it was going to be an enormous conflict. The Imperial Chinese Air Force had assembled 750 fighters, fighter-bombers, bombers and attack aircraft in the south to attack the Seventh Fleet with. The USS Kitty Hawk had forty fighters as well as two Phalanx CIWS and 24 RIM-7 Sea Sparrows and RIM-116 surface-to-air missiles to defend itself with. The Chinese aircraft were less advanced, but there were so many that a swarm of them might be able overwhelm the Seventh Fleet if the Chinese decided on an all-or-nothing attack. That would leave the Americans two choices: back off or use nuclear weapons. To be exact, the Americans rushed AIM-26 Falcon air-to-air missiles (a development of the AIR-2 Genie) to the theatre, tipped with 0.25 kiloton warheads.

Both the Chinese and Americans had proceeded on false assumptions. Bush had not expected it to get this far, expecting the Chinese to back off after the US had declared its support to the British. The Shengxing Emperor in turn hadn’t expected the Americans would risk war over a far flung colony of an arguably third-tier power like Britain, a country that had lost its great power status in WW III and was nowhere near close to regaining it. Now the United States of America and the Empire of China were on a collision course as it turned out America hadn’t been bluffing. US readiness was heighted to DEFCON 2.

The 87 year-old Emperor hatched a plan: his soldiers, who vastly outnumbered the garrison of Hong Kong, would only attack the city and his air force would only establish air superiority over the city whilst only defending against rather than swarming the Seventh Fleet. This would present the Americans with a fait accompli, one they could resolve only with an invasion or a nuclear strike. Chinese intelligence monitored public opinion in the USA through its agents embedded in the Chinese American community and they learnt that American public opinion was opposed to both options. An invasion meant a war that could last for years given that the Chinese could mobilize tens of millions of people. The US would “win” a nuclear war as it had thousands of warheads and plenty of bombers and ICBMs, while the Chinese had 600-700 warheads and less than two dozen missiles capable of reaching US soil. This still meant the West Coast would suffer severely if things went hot. As the US showed no signs of backing down, looting took place in West Coast cities and people fled inland. Knowing this, the Emperor pressed ahead against the advice of his privy council and his heir Prince Li Zao, who knew the US could wipe China off the face of the Earth as they had done with the Soviet Union. Since then it’s been reasoned that the Emperor pressed ahead so recklessly because he was ill with cancer. If he succeeded then his followers had one more glorious feat to worship; if he failed, then he wouldn’t be around to experience the carnage. His risky behaviour, narcissism and his cruelty are considered evidence that he was a true sociopath.

It was perhaps fortunate that the Emperor succumbed to his illness in May 1997, which led to a power struggle within the Imperial Court (conspiracy theories say he was killed on the orders of Prince Zao). Though he’d designated his son Prince Li Zao as his heir, he had plenty of other sons ready and willing to contest their father’s last will and testament to become Emperor, eliminating various siblings in the process. The Shengxing Emperor had several wives and dozens of concubines, for a harem totalling seventy women, and he’d fathered nearly two hundred children with them. The power struggle paralyzed the imperial court and there were fears in China the country would fall apart in civil war between competing court factions.

Prince Zao cleverly concocted a plan to quickly secure power: he founded a regency council headed by the Empress Dowager so as to appear unambitious, feigning disinterest in the throne. Zao’s thirteen year old half-brother Xu was proclaimed Emperor and all the princes returned to the Forbidden City hoping to exert influence over the boy, but once all of the princes had arrived Zao had them arrested. Zao had bribed both the head of the Imperial Guards and the leading eunuchs into supporting him and what happened next demonstrated he was just as capable of ruthlessness as his father if necessary: Xu was found dead before his coronation had even taken place, even lacking a regnal name, and all the other brothers were accused of being part of a conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor. All of them, aged thirteen or older, were exiled to far-flung parts of the Empire like Siberia, Xinjiang and Tibet and the most powerful ones were executed by strangulation. By the time the struggle for succession was over Zao was the undisputed leader and became the new Emperor, choosing a regnal name that seemed to signal a new era of change: Huanxing, which meant awakening.

The Huanxing Emperor knew by now that two more US Navy carrier groups had arrived in the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea, in addition to the Seventh Fleet operating in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. Forces in Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Hong Kong itself had swollen in size as well and US readiness firmly remained at DEFCON 3 (they had lowered their readiness state since the Chinese succession crisis had begun). Besides the obvious threat of nuclear war, the possibility of success of a blitz attack to overcome Hong Kong’s defences and smash the Seventh Fleet by swamping it in aircraft had clearly come and gone. A military solution had clearly become unpreferable, if it had ever been feasible to begin with. It remains a subject of heated debate whether or not Bush would have used nuclear weapons if the Chinese had invaded Hong Kong.

The Huanxing Emperor intended to stay on the throne for many years to come, and not over an Empire invaded by the Americans or reduced to irradiated cinders. He assumed a conciliatory tone and withdrew part of the forces stationed near Hong Kong, offering negotiations. He mostly accepted the referendum and its outcome; it saw 92% of the population voting for independence and against reunification with the Empire of China at a voter turnout of 85%. This led to Hong Kong becoming independent as a member of the British Commonwealth. The Chinese only insisted on a written guarantee that Hong Kong’s foreign policy would strive for neutrality as well as never directly conflict with Chinese interests and that no nuclear forces would ever be stationed there.

Under these circumstances the Commonwealth of Hong Kong became an independent country on September 1st 1997 as part of the British Commonwealth. By the year 2020 it’s a city state of 7.5 million people and its economy is a major capitalist service economy characterized by low taxation and free trade with its currency, the Hong Kong dollar, being heavily traded. Besides that, after its independence it continued to compete heavily with Singapore to become the leading financial centre of Asia and the world by adopting something similar to Swiss banking secrecy. To this day Hong Kong has since become one of the largest commercial ports, being by far the largest transit hub for Imperial China’s imports and exports as China began to trade heavily through the city to circumvent the high tariff barriers from the Commonwealth and the United States. In return for Hong Kong turning a blind eye to China circumventing trade barriers via them through all kinds of shell companies, China sold the city food at below market prices (as a city state with hardly any agricultural land, Hong Kong was nowhere near capable of feeding its own population). Despite its liberal economic policy, it funds a generous socialistic welfare state to address serious income inequality issues. It has one of the highest concentrations of ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

It was and still is one of the most densely populated places in the world, leading to the best public transportation system worldwide. The country has a nominal GDP per capita of $72.000. Culturally, the city is the most progressive liberal in Asia with pornography and prostitution both legal. Its political system is a bicameral parliamentary system. The Lower House consists of 125 members elected through proportional representation by all men and women aged 18 and older once every four years (as long as the government doesn’t fall beforehand). The Upper House consists of 54 seats as each of the eighteen districts sends three delegates, who represent the three largest parties in that district after the district elections held once every three years. In a tie in either house of parliament, the Governor still casts the deciding vote. English and Chinese are the country’s official languages. It’s a small power with a big wallet that has come to play a major role in the region as one of the Asian tigers.
 
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