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Are the Days of American Gun-Boat Diplomacy Over?

MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a notable writer on military history.



History is a dynamic phenomenon and it keeps changing and that is the reason that it brings forth eras and periods. From the 19 century, the British Empire ruled the world, and their policy was based on what is known as gunboat diplomacy. What does gunboat diplomacy mean? it means the furtherance of the interests of a nation through military power that is used to destabilize the opponent or enemy nation. The British Empire during a period of 200 years had spread over half the world and they enforced their will through a strong navy and an army supplemented by a mercenary force from India.

This was the age of colonialism and the British colonized vast areas of Asia and Africa. The modus operandi was simple; military and naval power. There is no justification why a small country like England should be operating in an area as far as China and East Africa but this was the age of imperialism as well and the British were an imperialist power out to subjugate the people who they had conquered.

The British were eminently successful and at the end of the first world war were recognized as the omnipotent power all over the world. Partly this was based on their Indian colony from where they recruited a massive army that served them all over the globe. The Indian army, then known as the British Indian Army took part in operations like the Opium Wars and the Boxer Rebellion in China. There is also a record of the British conquering in what is known as the shortest war in world history when they conquered Zanzibar in three minutes.

The British were responsible for the break up of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire during World War I, which once again was on the back of the Indian army which was one of the major constituents of the force of Field Marshal Allenby in Mesopotamia.

Till the beginning of World War II in 1939 Britton was the greatest power on earth. They were however challenged by Adolf Hitler and he sounded the death knell of the British Empire. The British were able to defeat Hitler and for this, they had the support of a 2.5 million British Indian Army. Despite massive economic and military support from the USA England was greatly emaciated at the end of the war. It became so weak because Adolf Hitler unleashed forces that devoured the Empire. Despite the best of efforts, the British lost their empire within 2 years of the end of WWII. It was the beginning of the end.

The eclipse of the British brought to the fore the United States which donned the mantle of the British empire and England began to ride piggyback on the Americans.

The present

There is a very old adage that says if wishes were horses beggars would ride. This about sums up the American attempt to dominate the world. So far they have been successful to a degree but the 21st-century has seen them slipping. They have burned their fingers in Afghanistan and now in Ukraine, they are facing a threat not forgetting the Taiwan Strait. America could drop the atomic bombs with impunity on Japan because they was no chance of any retaliation but times have changed and that one-way traffic is over.

The American plan in Europe has gone sour and Ukraine is going to burn a big hole in the pocket of Uncle Sam. It could well lead to something worse; the destruction of western civilization.

In the east, the Americans have to contend with China which is now in a belligerent mood. It is also an ally of Russia. America has no comparable ally other than small countries like the United Kingdom which in any case is an irrelevant power in the world. The French have distanced themselves from America and India is not playing the American tune.

In the Middle East, there is rethinking and even allies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are having second thoughts about America after the catastrophic retreat in Afghanistan. The world has watched how the Americans instigated the Ukraine crisis but then those who sow, reap the whirlwind and President Biden perhaps is not fully alive that there could be a whirlwind and history will record the end of the American era. In the bargain like Samson in the Bible, the Americans along with their own destruction could take Western Europe to doom.

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America after WW II -20th Century

At the end of World War II, America was the most powerful nation on the globe but its thinking was the same as the British as it believed in global domination. It started operations in China where it began to back the Nationalists led by General Chiang Kai Shek against the Communists led by Mao Tse Tung. Despite the best efforts, the nationalists were defeated, and Chiang and his coterie escaped with their skin to Formosa.

After this defeat the Americans were worried and they decided that the time has come when they must stop the expansion of communism; for this a policy decision was taken to actively fight against the Communists and shore up the regimes which were opposing them. The first test was Korea where the North launched an invasion of the South but the Americans were defeated and the situation was so bad that the World War II-era commander General MacArthur recommended the atom bombing of China. America could not carry out this because of the Soviet threat which also had the atomic weapons and also because the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee was not in favor.

The Americans, under General Eisenhower, set up a string of military pacts to ring the communist nations, in particular China and Russia. This saw the emergence of NATO in Europe, the Baghdad Pct (later CENTO), And SEATO in Asia. As allies, the Americans collected a motley of dictators and autocratic regimes as partners, and among them was the Shah of Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, South Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and western Europe.

The Americans made the first effort in Vietnam but despite a 10-year battle, the Americans were defeated. This led to a change in thinking and realized that they could not fight China and decided to befriend the country. They decided to oppose the Soviet Union and this helped them bolster NATO and they were able to enforce their hegemony over the western European nations. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union the American think tank was convinced that Russia must be kept as an enemy otherwise NATO would collapse and in return, the American hegemony over Western Europe would be finished. The application of Russia to join NATO was not approved and the Americans continued to treat Russia as an enemy. They began to move NATO eastwards to surround Russia. The aim was to try and finish the Russian state and is the reason for the Ukraine war. Unfortunately, America has now burned its fingers because this war could very well lead to World War III and the destruction of Western civilization. The small countries of Western Europe will simply cease to exist on the world map. Russia is a formidable military power with nuclear weapons and they have already made it very clear that they will not hesitate in using them. Nikita Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Soviet communist party in 1961 had stated that England would not survive 5 to 6 thermo-nuclear bombs and would cease to exist on the map of Europe.

All over the world, the Americans continue to destabilize the regimes. They brought in the Shah back to power through a CIA coup in Iran and they were backing regimes like Iraq, Jorden, and Arabias but these fell in the march of history and now Iran is an impeccable enemy, and Iraq which the Americans wanted to dominate has now gone in the Iranian influence.

The American plan to befriend China has fallen flat and the Chinese have made it very clear that they will take Formosa which is part of China. This has been recognized by the United States which subscribed to the one-China policy when Nixon threw in the towel in 1973. It has to be seen how much willpower and muscle they have to support Taiwan.

They had earlier tried to prop up Pakistan against India and brought many resolutions in the security council in support of Pakistan but all these were vetoed by the Soviet Union.

The Americans have destabilized the nations all over the world or made significant attempts for the same in their quest for world domination. We have Cuba, Iraq Afghanistan, Bolivia, Venezuela, and countries in East Africa. The Americans are not opposed to killing leaders as well, like Allende, the Chilean president's killing was inspired by the CIA.

The future

The 21st-century donned with America continuing on its self-appointed goal of trying to reform the world. Many thinkers have pondered on why it was so, that America should take on the other powers and many have concluded that basically because of the American thinking they were superior to other people. Even now there are many in America who opine that whatever America is doing is right and China and Russia be isolated. This is easier said than done because there is no comparable power on the side of America as France has distanced itself from American goals. The Americans only have England on their side and it is a country with no military strength or power.

The Americans have yet to realize that the days of gunboat diplomacy are over and Ukraine may sound the death knell of Western civilization. This will be sad but then the small nations of Western Europe have played into American hands. The second flashpoint is Taiwan which is going to be the acid test for America. The Americans have only themselves to blame as they recognized the one-China policy when Nixon threw in the towel in 1973.

Another aspect is the American leadership where nondescript men with average/below average intelligence have been propelled as presidents of the USA and the latest example is Joe Biden.

© 2022 MG Singh emge

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