Current thinking in international relations is generally based on certain premises. First, there is no God or Leviathan to truly analyze and adjudicate the behavior and policy of nations. That is why the US refuses to join the International Criminal Court, the International Court Of Justice and structured the UN and its Security Council to retain its power and hegemony and insulate it from criticism or sanction by its veto in the third body and non-membership in the first two bodies. Thus might is right and smart nations use propaganda and manipulate facts to justify their purely self-serving actions.
Thucydides’ Melian dialogue, Chanakya’s Arthashastra and Machiavelli’s Prince lay out the hypocrisy, perfidy and intrigue used and to be used by a successful ruler or nation. The shifting allegiance of Britain is a good example. It tried to use its insular status to shift alliances to prevent singular hegemony over continental Europe.
After its unification and expulsion of the Moors in the fifteenth century under Isabella and Ferdinand (united Castile and Aragon by marriage), Spain gradually became the most powerful state in Europe. It funded the conquest of America under Columbus, Cortez and Pizarro, and was enriched by the gold and silver plundered from the Americas by enslaved American Indian labor. England under Queen Elizabeth promoted piracy in the Atlantic Ocean (Drake, Raleigh, Morgan) and assisted the Dutch insurgency to bring about regime change (like currently overthrowing Qaddafi). The low countries were part of the Spanish Empire. Spain was Catholic, supported by the Pope and the Netherlands were Protestant like England. Queen Elizabeth, the first, held shares in the pirate adventures of Sir Francis Drake and others. The plunder of Spanish fleets transporting gold and silver from the Americas, not only made the queen rich, but also paid off England’s national debt.
Lest some reader consider the above as a single transgression, Britain under the Hanover dynasty, once again amassed a fortune first by the trade of the East India Company in spices and textiles, then in renting out its army to engineer coups in India and subsequently by pedaling narcotics to China to balance its trade deficit. It built up an Empire in Asia and Africa and its military conquests of weaker neighbors of India has left us the present problems between Afghanistan and Pakistan (Durand Line) and those between India and China (McMahon Line). It also created the Kashmir problem by dividing India on a religious and princely state basis, for its convenience, geopolitical strategy and divide and rule policy. Of course the greater blame rests on our Indian stupidity.
In Europe, Elizabeth, the first fought the Armada with Spain and destroyed its fleet. In the Napoleonic era and the French Revolution, it lined up with Austria and Russia against France. After defeating Napoleon, it shifted allegiance between France, Germany (Prussia + Austria), Russia and even Ottoman Turkey to ensure that no one of the four achieved overwhelming superiority in Europe. The Seven Year War in Canada, India and Europe in the mid-seventeen hundreds, the Great Game in Afghanistan with the Russian (Tsarist) Empire in late eighteen hundreds, the alliance with France against a united Germany in WW1 and WW2, the Crimean War in support of the Turks with the help of France against Russia, the Sykes Picot agreement with France and Russia against Ottoman Turkey in 1916, all show the fluid and changing alliances, consistent with Lord Palmerston’s profound statement, “Nations have no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests”.
The balance of power system was orchestrated by Metternich at the Congress of Vienna and brought peace in Europe for nearly fifty years. Turmoil and wars started by the 1850s and the last quarter of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century set off the scramble for Africa and the atrocities and genocide by the Europeans. The perpetrators were the Germans in Tanganyika and Southwest Africa, the Spanish in Morocco, the French in North and West Africa, the Portuguese in Angola and Mozambique, the Belgians in Congo, the Dutch in South Africa and the British in Egypt, Sudan and East Africa. Russia was the most backward country in Europe and its Tsars conquered contiguous territory in the Caucasus and Crimea from the weakening Ottoman Empire and the Asian far east from the weak Chinese Empire. It was the British attempts at denial of the exploitative benefits it exercised, to a rising Germany which led to WW1 & WW2 and the forced liquidation of racist Churchill’s racist empire under the bullying and patronage of FDR of America. The same attitude of denial of power to Japan by the US led to Pearl Harbor by the equally racist megalomaniac Japan and its subsequent devastation in WW2.
The US became the world’s leading power by the late 1800s (see my articles- US History - Lesser Known Facts, Analogies & Surmises Parts 1through 7 at boloji.com). Before that the US bullied countries in the Americas by the Monroe Doctrine and after that went on to acquire half of Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, Philippines, Hawaii, and engineer sundry coups and wars all around the world for the benefit of its capitalists by oppressing the powerless citizens, initially of other countries and recently even its own. Germany failed in imposing its will by military force in the two world wars, but it also has learnt to use financial neoliberal colonialism. While there were some good motives, it wanted a large market for its exports and a world reserve currency besides the dollar and thus created the Euro. France started the EU and ECM for fear of Germany and its military aggression in the past. For Germany to run trade surpluses, the other Euro countries have to run deficits. Germany wants a strong Euro and no inflation and has the discipline, talent of its people and wage restraint to rise repeatedly from death and destruction, like the Phoenix. The Mediterranean EU members lack talent, skills and discipline to match the Northern European economies.
China also needs to export and does it by undervaluing its currency to the detriment of the US. Now the US is facing the same problems with China, which Britain faced in trying to deny Germany. The irony is that Britain behaved that way for egotistic and patriotic reasons, while the US is being ruined by the greed and selfishness of its rich capitalists and CEOs who sold their nation and fellow citizens down the river for personal gain like the Indian rulers did with the East India Company and are still doing today. It is explained well in my Part 1& 2 articles “Parasite Influence On Host Behavior”.
China in its weak phase gave up Vladivostok and its far east to an aggressive Tsarist Russia, allowed Japan to takeover Manchuria and Taiwan, relinquished parts of Tibet to British India. The ruthlessness of Mao, but also his understanding of realpolitik need to be understood. When a country is faced with a rival nation seeking hegemony, it has three choices. It can stand up against the bully and arm or fight. This is what an even weak China did when pushed against the wall by the US in the Korean War. At that time the US was a nuclear power and a superpower and China was neither. Mao at a cost of suffering huge casualties attacked at the Yalu river and fought the US to a stalemate in conventional warfare. As Kissinger’s recent book on China and official record of the Chinese government show, Mao like all selfish and power hungry autocrats, was unwilling to risk his own life, but he was willing to fight till all the other Chinese were dead. That is the only lesson the power hungry can teach a which a bully. This strategy is called Balancing.
Mao nevertheless even as he was fighting the US in Korea, used the diverted attention of the US (war weary after WW2 and in the Korean War), to occupy Tibet. He did that with strategic foresight to control the water supply of China (Yangtze and Yellow rivers), Pakistan (Indus river), India (Indus and Brahmaputra rivers), Bangladesh (Brahmaputra river continuation), Myanmar (Irrawaddy and Salween rivers), Thailand (Salween and Mekong rivers), Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam (Mekong river). In 1962 when the nuclear standoff about Cuban missiles occurred between the US and USSR, which preoccupied them, China used the diversion to attack India and takeover parts of Leh and bullied Pakistan into ceding a portion of occupied Kashmir to gain access to Pakistan, Afghanistan and protect Tibet. It built the Karakoram highway and became Pakistan’s most reliable ally to stunt India’s growth and contain it. Its repeated incursions into India, stapling of detachable visas, claiming Arunachal and refusing to settle border disputes are meant to keep India worried and destabilize it. Pakistan, a weaker state unable to match India, has allied with a stronger power (China or America) in what is a second strategy for survival called Bandwagoning. It also acquired nuclear weapons as a form of Balancing.
When it had a fallout with the USSR and skirmishes at the Amur river, it still kept assisting Vietnam in its war against the US. Yet when foolish Nixon kowtowed for peace to extricate the US from the Vietnam War and needle the USSR, of which the US was afraid of, Mao forgot all his animosity and for the good of a weaker China, made an alliance with the US (another form of Balancing and Bandwagonning). It broke with the USSR, but when it had acquired a foreign exchange reserve balance and was ostracized by the US after Tiananmen Square, it cuddled up to the USSR to obtain military technology and reverse engineer armaments. When the USSR fell apart it again got cozy with the US and formed the Shanghai Co-operation Organization. Russia, after the breakup of the USSR tried to form a three nation block of China, India and itself to balance against the US, but met a cold shoulder from China and the usual indecision from India. Our multiply challenged Manmohan Singh snubbed the SCO of China and Russia initially to crawl towards the US, and now is trying to join the SCO. Our previous prime ministers exhibited the same stupidity in not joining ASEAN and turning down America’s offer of China’s UN Security Council Permanent Seat with a veto, to India. Now we are crawling to get those same privileges which our idiot leaders spurned earlier. The fourth and worst strategy which India practices is called Matha-tekking.
China built a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan and is building gas and oil pipelines from Siberia and Kazakhstan to avoid the bottlenecks of the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca for its energy supplies. It also sought energy supplies from Africa. The US is doing the same thing from Guinea, Nigeria. Its setting up of an Africa Command, engineering a coup in Libya and a breakup of Sudan, sending troops to Uganda are all to acquire energy resources outside the Persian Gulf. To get closer to Mexico’s oil and exploit its cheap labor, it signed NAFTA. The plan for the new Canadian oil sands pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf is for the same reason.
The third power strategy (besides Balancing and Bandwagon-ing) is Buck Passing. The best example of that is the UK and France signing the Munich Pact with Nazi Germany. They avoided war and left it to the Soviet Union to stand up against Germany. Stalin signed the Molotov- Ribbentrop No War Pact with Nazi Germany in his own Buck Passing. Eventually all three (France, UK, USSR) had to fight Nazi Germany. Now it is easy to understand what the puny Gulf Sheikhdoms are doing by allowing US bases or fleets and buying US debt with their oil earnings. They are trying to protect their hides and power and offering goodies to their citizens to avoid the fate of Qaddafi or some color revolution instigated by the CIA, as in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan etc. This is how the mighty and the puny fall. Manmohan Singh’s India strategy of survival is the last and worst and called Matha-Tekking. He, like a person under the spell and fear of a dominatrix survives by apologizing and kowtowing to everybody and all nations. Somebody should read him the lament of the gypsies (migrants from India). It says,”Bury me standing, for I have lived life only on my knees”.