For All Nails #270: O Joy O Rapture Unforeseen
by Henrik Kiertzner, Noel Maurer, and David Mix Barrington
"Good of you to meet me like this, Your Excellency."
"My dear Permanent Secretary, it is not every day that a humble Ambassador such as myself has the opportunity to sit on an uncomfortable park bench and regard those, those concrete monstrosities along Whitehall with the Cabinet Secretary." FN1
"No, I imagine not. Cigarro?"
The two distinguished looking figures, much alike in their formal black overcoats and greying hair, sat in companionable silence for a moment. "While this spring day is delightful in and of itself, in what way may the United States be of service to you?"
"It's a somewhat sensitive matter."
"Aye." (The Cabinet Secretary was inclined to betray his Argyllshire roots when under stress). "The thing of it is, the Government of Great Britain, in association with a number of cobelligerent Powers, is minded to seek an accommodation in Venezuela."
"Yes, New Granada, as that unfortunate territory was formerly known. The Government would be minded to withdraw Allied armed forces, assuming some friendly Power, a Continental Power, if you will, could be found to take on the mantle of reconstructing a society which has been smashed by terrorism. The associated Powers would not be averse to supporting a mandate to the protecting Power lasting, say, twenty years, to allow a root-and-branch rebuilding of a peaceful, democratic, civic society, perhaps even with a constitutional monarchy in place."
"Do go on, Permanent Secretary. Your words will be of immense interest to my Government."
"Obviously, an Allied withdrawal would have to be accompanied by a similar removal of foreign influence from the territories in question, and such adjacent areas as necessary. The United States might well choose to guarantee such a withdrawal, perhaps even expedite it."
"Let me see if I've got this straight. He wants us to take over Venezuela for a minimum of 20 years para cubrir his sorry ass." After so many years out of Chiapas, Chewy Enciso thought, I'm speaking pure Inglañol.
María del Rey nodded. "That's about the size of it."
Chewy Enciso scratched his head. "How do we know that this is for real?"
"We don't," replied Del Rey. "If we're willing to think about this, then we may want to pursue it further."
"Aaaaaaahhh hah," said the President. "Admiral?"
Admiral Medeiros cleared his throat. Definitely growing into the chief of staff job, Chewy thought, but still nervous in this company. "The security challenges will be formidable. It's hard to say less or more formidable if our mandate included all of New Granada, or just Venezuela."
"Uh huuuuuuuh. What kind of presence are we talking about?" asked the President.
"Well, sir, judging from the depth of the resistance, our experience in Grão Pará, which may not be representative--"
"To do it right, Admiral. How many would you want," said the President.
"500,000 men, tapering off to 100,000 after five years," snapped the Admiral.
"Yo," said Chewy.
"Errrrrrrrm," said the President.
"My," said the Secretary of State.
"Say," said Chewy, "Reconstruction means money. How much?"
"I'm afraid I don't know, sir," said Admiral Medeiros. "I can have my office prepare an estimate."
"State can do that," snapped Del Rey, who was wearing a tight red suit with very broad shoulders. The President was trying not to stare.
"Uh, yes, ma'am," said the Admiral.
"Either way, it's a good question," piped in the President. "Do we have any idea?"
"I have one of ONI's RNG experts outside," said the Admiral. "You want me to bring him in?"
"Yes," added the President. They waited for a young naval lieutenant commander. He was wearing a working uniform, like the Admiral, not dress whites.
"Sir?" asked the analyst.
"What's New Granada's economy like?" asked the Chief of Staff.
"Very bad shape, sir. Total GDP down by half from its pre-war level. Immense physical destruction even before the Easter Rising. No reinvestment outside the oil industry, sir, so they've lost at least a fifth of the prewar capital stock from depreciation alone. And it's not like they weren't in trouble well before the war started, sir. They were just coming out of the 1970-73 depression--"
"So rebuilding it will be--" asked Chewy.
"Very expensive, sir. I couldn't begin to give you an estimate," replied the analyst.
"Uh huuuuuuh. Hrm," mumbled the President. "Get me Monaghan. I want to run an idea past him."
The Governor-General of the CNA was visibly perplexed. "Ah don't get it. Y'all make it sound like they're surrendering."
Michael Murphy had considerable experience in expounding technical material, both as an academic and as a Cabinet minister. Skinner, he knew, was perfectly capable of reading his written report, but as usual he wanted the news orally "to get his brain 'round it." This meeting had been hastily arranged -- apparently interrupting Skinner's evening libation, if the severity of his accent was any indication. Not, Murphy knew, that the G-G's thought processes were at all impaired. Too many late evenings over the poker table in simpler times gone by had taught him that. He hastened to answer the question.
"Not formally, Governor-General, but that's really what it amounts to. The British are proposing terms, by a back channel to Mexico, that fulfill nearly all of our war aims."
"Uh-huh. They get out of New Granada."
"Guayana 'cording to whose boundaries?"
"The British claim, of course, but that's never been a problem for us."
"And why Messican forces?"
"Because officially all of New Granada is supervised by Mexican forces, until responsible self-government can be restored. That's the fig leaf the British want to justify the withdrawal. A fixed-duration mandate -- they asked for twenty years, Moctezuma is offering two."
"And they don' care if them Messicans put El Rey Fernando and El Primo Ministro Elbittar right back in Bogotá jus' like they were?"
"Evidently not, Governor-General. I doubt they'd recognize any royal government until well after the mandate ended, of course. But they'd have to treat with them over prisoner exchanges and the like."
Defence Minister Trevor Freeman spoke for the first time. He had also knocked back a Transylvanian or two, it appeared, and was not holding his liquor as well as was his superior. "What about the inspections? Wasn't that supposed to be the whole point?"
As much as there was any point to Geoffrey Gold's War, Murphy thought. "The British terms call for New Granada to be atomic-free, with regular intrusive inspections--"
"Supervised by the Mexicans?" Freeman clarified.
"Exactly. Of course the British and their allies have been over the country pretty thoroughly while they've been in control of it."
"Not thoroughly enough to find the King or Elbittar, though," said Freeman. "Which means not thoroughly enough to find a hidden M-bomb factory."
"They ain't got no hidden M-bomb factory, Trevor, an' you know it. Ol' Mercator's boys trashed their factory long before Bali. The CBI don' even think Mercator ever had them other bombs he talked about. Oh, the Messicans got a few bombs out of the deal, Ah reckon, but there ain't nothin' more to be found in New Granada." Skinner paused. "So you ain't told me the whole deal yet, Michael, have you?"
"You ain't told me why our new friend El Popo, who'd be purely happy to jes' keep his big ol' army right in its barracks where it won't get hurt, is even thinkin' 'bout tying it down babysittin' New Granada for a couple o'years. Ah reckon El Popo's got some conditions in mind."
"He does at that, Governor-General."
"He's gon' want cash on the barrelhead from us in order to do the dirty work. He got a figure in mind?"
"Governor Monaghan said that the President spoke of two billion pounds a year, Governor-General."
"An' what we payin' for the war right now, Trevor?"
"Three billion, Governor-General. That's just the operational costs, excluding what we'd be paying to keep the same forces in normal defensive postures."
"Now lookee that! We're savin' money already, not even countin' the cost of all those dam' funerals for our boys. Well, offer them one billion to start, Michael, but it looks like we gon' be able to do some bidness here."
"There will be costs for humanitarian aid to New Granada as well," Murphy pointed out.
"All in a day's work, Michael, humanitarian aid is just what we do. We got a reputation to keep up, after all. Ah'm just happy we can be helpin' those poor people, and Ah'll be even happier when they can start pumpin' oil again and get the dam' price back down. Nothin' riles our voters more'n vulcazine goin' above fifty cents at the pump. Now I don' want you givin' away the whole store, Michael, we got to sell this whole deal to the Council and then we got an election to win."
"You think we need a whole peace conference an ever'thing, or just settle it all in the back hallways?"
"Back hallways, I should think, Governor-General. The British want to settle the matter as quietly as possible, and don't want to be seen negotiating with anybody except the Mexicans. Especially after the vulcagel business. FN2 That's been rather a blow to our reputation around the world, if I may say so."
"We've been through this, Michael," Freeman bit off. "The damned Brits killed nearly a thousand of our people. We had to hit them back hard. Apart from the morals of the situation, which I think are clear, I've got a military to run. They have to know that civilian authority is willing to back them up in using whatever force is necessary. Besides," he continued, "how do you know the vulcagel wasn't what brought them to the bargaining table?"
"Oh, Ah think it was a lot of things, Trevor. They didn't want an all-out war with us any more'n we wanted one with them, but they might've gotten one what with our ships bumpin' into each other an' all. But Ah figure it was them New Granadans purely showin'em they weren't gon' be able to run the country the way they wanted, not for a long time. Plus Ah don' know how long their friends in the Orient were gon' keep paying their bills. You think, Michael?"
"Our best information is that there was pressure on Britain from both Australia and Taiwan to offer a settlement, Governor-General."
"Ah can imagine. But what Ah cain't figure is this. We just spent a lot of money and a lot of good boys' lives down there. But we got somethin' for it. Hell, we won the dam' war, though Ah don't think we want to be too loud about it. New Granada for the New Granadans, the CNA standin' shoulder to shoulder with the Messicans, maybe get the dam' oil price down -- it's not the best case in the world but we can make it, we can take it into the election. You gettin' my meaning?"
Murphy and Freeman nodded.
"Now what in hell has Geoffrey God-damned Gold got to show for himself? He's turned New Granada over to the Messicans, who been runnin' it most of the last century anyway. He's got inspections that won't find the M-bombs that the New Granadans don't got."
"He's got Trinidad and Guayana back," offered Freeman.
"Which he could've got at the negotiating table back in January 1975. Hell, all Ah wanted was a dam' conference so the sensible countries could get together an' decide what to do about Bali. We could have sent the millies after Mercator while the trail was still hot, cleared up the Trinidad and Guayana bidness, all like sensible countries. But Geoffrey God-damned Gold decides he's gon' have a war. And his people been all hog-wild for the war while it's been goin' on. But sometime real soon they gon' take a look around at what they paid for his war, and what they got for it. And Ah don't think they're gon' like what they see. Don't that thought give you a kind of warm feeling all over?"
Forward to FAN #271: And You Could Have It All.
Forward to 5 May 1977: Don't Stand So Close to Me.
Forward to New Granada: A Call to Barms.
Forward to CNA politics: Graduation Day.
Forward to USM politics: And This Bird You'll Never Tame.
Forward to Great Britain: Legal Challenge.
Return to For All Nails.