Great Britains experience - a warning to USA


SampanViking

The Capitalist
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I very much enjoyed the "U-Sank my Carrier" and whilst the legitimate aspect of the thread had probably run its full course, it did lead into areas, which although Off Topic, were very interesting and touched on a broader problem, of which, the previous topic was really just a symptom.

The area of interest to me, I described as "The Arrogance and Vanity of Superpowers" and it is this area, with which I wish to continue. In keeping with the title I will use the British Empire; the worlds previous superpower, as an example of how over confidence can blind a superpower to potential danger. This is a line of discussion which is relavent to the USA; the worlds current superpower and I hope, of interest to US forum members.

I think few people would wish to question the power and achievement of the British Empire, over two hundred years it conquered a quarter of the Globe, created the worlds first truly global economy and laid the groundwork and framework for todays Free Trade based Global economy, achievements which include the foundation of two of the worlds great Financial/Trade centers in the far east, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Since the defeat of Napoleaon, Britian had enjoyed a centuary of near uninterrupted success. Its military was state of the art, indeed it defined the cuting edge. This formidable war machine was kept busy dealing with a succession of local uprisings in the colonies, and performed its tasks with ruthless efficiency, crushing one insurgent rebal after another. On the High Seas the Royal Navy ruled supreme keeping the Sea Lanes of the Oceans open, certainly for its own trade, if not everybody elses.

Where their were hiccups, The Crimea and South Africa, the line from HM Goverment was "that lessons must be learned" and "We are stronger for it" Indeed the Crimea led to a realisation that the Officer Corps must be proffesionalised and that Military Medicine could greatly increase the fighting ability of Expedetionary Forces. South Africa was a victory of spin, with thew Zulu's dealt with and the prolonged resistance of the Boers attributed to covert assistance from Bismarks Germany.

On the face of it nobody in their right mind would want to have engaged in combat with early 20th centuary Britain, so what actually happened when a real fight came, was a very rude shock.

In some ways the contest between Germany and Great Britian has some interesting parrallels between the "Strategic Competiton" between China and the USA. (These parallels only go so far and should not be pushed beyond the boundaries).

Germany like China was a country that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The Bismark revolution was every bit a seismic as Mao's, and significantly altered the balance of power, as Prussia united the Germanic states into a new major European country, turning a series of rural backwaters into a thrusting Industrial Giant.

When Germany started the arms race to build as many Dreadnaughts as the Royal Navy, many Britains were outraged by the Impudence, but few really beleived that the German navy had any chance of seriously challanging the Royal Navy, after all, Britian had centuries of Naval Excellence, whilst Germany was a novice.

This of course is why Jutland was such a shock. It had been intended as a Haymaker, but the Germans ran off with a Black Eye and left the Royal Navy with a very bloody nose. Whilst as Yimmy reminds me it was a strategic victory, it was one that came at a high cost. The Royal Navy still had to remain in its North Sea positions to check any further venture from the High Seas fleet, no operations or landings into North Germany were possible by the British and, most importantly, a lot of RN ships were prevented from entering the Atlantic to counter the Germans highly effective U Boat Atlantic War, which was causing Industrial and Food Shortages in Britian.

On land the shock was just as bad, High Explosive Artillery Shells and Machine Guns, obliterated in weeks, two hundred years of militart tactics and tradition. Any notion of the Gallant Cavalryman and the Thin Red Line was quickly drowned in the mud of Flanders.

Britian was ultimatly a victor in WW1 and WW2 but the shock of the new turned Britain from Hero to Zero in little more than Fifty years, the Empire Heamorraging before its very eyes. Today it is a sattelite trying to decide which body to orbit.

Time restraints prevent me from elucidating further, but I hope my point is made.
 

Lavi

Junior Member
It is a very intereting comparison, and as I believe that histroy at least resembles, if not repeats, itself, there are lessons to be drawn.

I have, however, been thinking about a kind of opposite approach, with the USA being in the position of Germany in the early 20th century. I don't claim that this model is right and the other wrong, I think both offer something to learn from regarding the downfall of superpowers, and as such complement each other rather than substitute.

Germany back then was a superpower, in fact it had the best army in the world, having easily defeated a number of the major powers in Europe most notably the mighty Habsburg Empire and France. Germany was also a relatively new superpower, compared to the others in Europe (France, the Habsburgs, U.K. and Russia), and had in a very short time under Bismarck grown very strong. In fact, Germany grew to strong for its own good.

Realising that Germany probably could beat everyone in any ordinary war, the countries that felt threatened formed an alliance. It is debated wheter the Germans actually constructed their fleet planning to become strong enough to make sure that the only way for the RN to be sure of its supreme rule over the sea was to have the German High Sea fleet as an allied. This seems logically, remebering that France and UK had been enemies for almost a thousand years, with few exceptions. A German-British alliance against France only seemed logical.

The British reacted in another way though, forgetting and forgiving their competition with the French government in the Fashouda crisis, and instead siding with them to form a untied front against Germany. This alliance was made complete by the addition of Russia, who also felt threatened by Germany.

The rest is history, soon a world war erupted, and although Germany seemed to be the one winning as late as by the Ludendorf-offensive in 1918 they finally lost.

The reason why Germany lost its position as the strongest military power, with the exception of the RN who still was the strongest navy in the world, was that it was so powerful that to many countries started fearing its power, whether they were right or wrong is hard to tell.

Now, this isn't meant to insult anyone, but I think that there is at least some parallels to the situation today. There is a pattern that a number of nations are felt alienated by the US, and what that might lead to in the end is hard to tell, this is one model of what has happened earlier.

It is said that when Sparta was at their greatest moment, they asked the oracle at Delfi if anything could damage them, the oracle answered "Yes, pride". All superpowers so far have lost their position, so I think that sooner or later today's powers will be gone as well.
 

Yimmy

New Member
Overall I think that was a very well written post, and certainly has an argument.

I would like to make a few points however. Firstly, the British Empire had two distinct doctrines of warfare, one being for "heathen savages", the Zulu et al, which used largelly European tactics from a by gone age, while very different tactics were used for a war against a first class European army. There were never any plans for using an experience against African rebels, to enforce doctrine against a nation such as Germany. For instance, in the 1870's, with single shot cartridge rifles, it was common to use box formations of volly fire against savages, a tactic which had long ceased being useful against modern armies. I believe America is correctly moving in this direction, with their fast deployable Stryker brigades, suitable for dealing with lower intensity conflicts in backwards nations better than heavy armour, which is designed for a modern high intensity power.

Secondly, British foreign policy concerning Europe, had been for centuries to ensure a balance, and that no nation should be allowed to expand its power base drastically. Hence the many treaties which led to the downfall of Napoleon, the Keiser, Hitler etc.

Thirdly, the British Empire was given away freely, it did not fall apart, but was the result of deliberate decisions, largelly the result of pressure from the US post WWII, but the process had started prior to the war. Churchill was in the minority in the UK in wanting to retain the Empire. You understand, the Empire was built largelly by accident, in that we would trade with far flung powers, our trade routes would be attacked, and so we would take control of the attackers country (in very simplistic terms), and many lands we counqured were contracted to be given back after a certain number of years. An example, if I remember correctly, would be Hong Kong. We took Hong Kong from China, for 99 years, as a result of the Victory in the Opium wars, where the Chinese government fought against our trade of Opium into their country. I am not saying this was a moral policy of the UK, however it largelly describes how an Empire sprung up largelly unwanted, which was to become unaffordable to maintain. It is a great pity the UK didn't have the stomach to keep at it for another 50 years - as Africa was far from ready to leave colonialism.
 

EternalVigil

Banned Idiot
Yimmy said:
Overall I think that was a very well written post, and certainly has an argument.

I would like to make a few points however. Firstly, the British Empire had two distinct doctrines of warfare, one being for "heathen savages", the Zulu et al, which used largelly European tactics from a by gone age, while very different tactics were used for a war against a first class European army. There were never any plans for using an experience against African rebels, to enforce doctrine against a nation such as Germany. For instance, in the 1870's, with single shot cartridge rifles, it was common to use box formations of volly fire against savages, a tactic which had long ceased being useful against modern armies. I believe America is correctly moving in this direction, with their fast deployable Stryker brigades, suitable for dealing with lower intensity conflicts in backwards nations better than heavy armour, which is designed for a modern high intensity power.

Secondly, British foreign policy concerning Europe, had been for centuries to ensure a balance, and that no nation should be allowed to expand its power base drastically. Hence the many treaties which led to the downfall of Napoleon, the Keiser, Hitler etc.

Thirdly, the British Empire was given away freely, it did not fall apart, but was the result of deliberate decisions, largelly the result of pressure from the US post WWII, but the process had started prior to the war. Churchill was in the minority in the UK in wanting to retain the Empire. You understand, the Empire was built largelly by accident, in that we would trade with far flung powers, our trade routes would be attacked, and so we would take control of the attackers country (in very simplistic terms), and many lands we counqured were contracted to be given back after a certain number of years. An example, if I remember correctly, would be Hong Kong. We took Hong Kong from China, for 99 years, as a result of the Victory in the Opium wars, where the Chinese government fought against our trade of Opium into their country. I am not saying this was a moral policy of the UK, however it largelly describes how an Empire sprung up largelly unwanted, which was to become unaffordable to maintain. It is a great pity the UK didn't have the stomach to keep at it for another 50 years - as Africa was far from ready to leave colonialism.


I disagree with the heavy armor part. The US still has a very large heavy armored force, and is incorporating a stryker brigade for assymetrical warfare mostly. Anyhow, attack helos like the Apache and Super Cobra reduce
the effectivness of armor. Yes you need armor to take territory from ground forces but only a few attack helos can wreak total havoc on a large deployment of armor, not to mention fixed wing craft with jdam's and laser guided bombs. The US uses the Air Calvary very effectivly. No tank armor can withstand 1 hellfire 2 missle.
 
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Yimmy

New Member
My point concerning Stryker and heavy armour, was not that heavy armour was being replaced, but that Stryker adds a new ability to flight nations of lower abilities, the Zulus of today, and low intensity peace keeping, more effectively. This being while the MBT's are to fight modern powers. I was using the point as a modern day contemporary to the British use of different tactics for heathern rebels and European professional armies, as I believe the general idea to be a sound policy, making the force more adept.

Attack helicopters are a different discussion on their own, which will only side track the debate. For my 2 cents - my money is on modern day air denial weaponry such as the Israeli SPYDER, European MICA, or Swedish RBS23, not the helicopter gunship.
 

IDonT

Senior Member
VIP Professional
Here is a great article from ATIMES

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Why Western governments fall apart
By Spengler

Never have the governments of the old Atlantic alliance appeared as weak as they do today. President George W Bush, his popularity ruined and his political agenda junked, is boxed into a corner, but his position seems enviable compared to that of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who just lost a decisive battle over anti-terror measures.

But both appear strong compared to President Jacques Chirac, who has let France slip into civil unrest. Germany, despite last week's appointment of Angela Merkel as federal chancellor, in effect has no government, for the parallelogram of political forces neutralizes all parties. Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi




must do his best to avoid prison after the seizure of funds from his media company.

The leaders of the West seem to somnambulate through affairs of state, oblivious to the disaster around them. In her mercy, history anesthetizes those whom she intends to destroy, wrote Leon Trotsky in his History of the Russian Revolution. He had in mind Czar Nicholas II's diary entries for the days before the October Revolution of 1919, full of court gossip and the minutiae of family life, but without a glimmer of the doom soon to befall him.

No part of the political spectrum can take comfort from this predicament. Those who want to subject American policy to the counsel of the world community, as Senator John Kerry proposed, now have difficulty identifying who that world community might be ? surely not France, which has become an embarrassment, and surely not the United Nations, which has a black eye from its scandal-plagued Iraq oil-for-food program. Only in Beijing and Tokyo do we find strong governments in powerful nations.

Is it simple coincidence that the West cannot field a single functioning government? The punditry dismisses Bush as dumb, Blair as smarmy, Chirac as arrogant, Berlusconi as bent, and Merkel - well, when they discover some identifying characteristics of the new German chancellor, the punditry doubtless will find grounds to dismiss her as well. Perhaps it is just the luck of the draw, but the odds do not favor the interpretation that all the big nations of the West had the misfortune to find themselves led by ninnies at precisely the same time.

What is it about the personalities of Western leaders, though, that might explain their common predicament? Perhaps it is the fact that the leaders of the West mirror the qualities of the people who voted for them. Americans are obstreperously anti-intellectual, and chose a president with whom they can identify. The British always have been hypocrites, and elected the most hypocritical of prime ministers. The average Frenchman is no less arrogant than the president of the republic, while the Germans, at least since 1945, have devoted their storied thoroughness to becoming as nondescript as possible. Almost every Italian is on the fiddle, and it is fitting for their prime minister to be fiddler-in-chief.

That leads to a simple interpretation of the general crisis of Western politics, namely, that the people of the West, as it were, are the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is not the leaders of the West per se, but rather the voters who put them in office, who comprise the problem.

To make clear why the French are the wrong sort of people to begin with, consider why American Muslims do not sally out by night to burn cars. A very different sort of Muslim emigrates to the United States; according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, more than half of American Muslims hold a graduate degree. Among the brightest Arabs, Persians or Pakistanis, a high proportion seeks graduate training in the United States, especially in engineering, computer sciences, physics and chemistry. The median income of Muslim households in the United States is above average.

American immigration laws, to be sure, favor the rich, the talented and educated. But that sheds some light on the character of the United States, which absorbs immigrants directly into its elite. Europe, which allows barely one in eight of its school leavers into university, does not want immigrants who might displace the local talent. It has recruited an immigrant population of dustmen, whose children burn cars out of frustration. As their numbers diminish, the Europeans confront an army of 30 million unemployed young Arabs, which they neither can absorb nor expel. The reason that the leaders of France can offer no solution to the present crisis is that no solution exists, given the present demography and predilections of the population of France.

The tragedy of the Americans, I have argued in the past, is that they cannot understand the tragedy of other peoples. With force as deadly as the mounted hordes of the past, America's influence has swept through the world and overturned the traditional order, leaving ill-prepared peoples to fend for themselves in the chaos. The president's presumption that Americas can lead Iraq towards American-style democracy ignores the fact that Americans selected themselves according to precisely the criteria that make democracy succeed. Those who remained behind are the other sort.

Survivor bias is the most insidious of logical flaws. Americans selected themselves out of the nations of the world. Americans believe that Chinese and Indians are clever, simply because most of the Chinese and Indians they have met are clever. I can assure the Americans on the basis of personal observation that rural India is teeming with dull Indians, and that rural China is full of dull Chinese. Those are not the ones who have immigrated to America. Rather it is clever Indians and Chinese who have emigrated, either by accumulating capital in business or by passing competitive examinations to obtain a university degree.

"Many will be the night during his second term that Bush will wish he were still in Texas, and still drunk," I warned before America's last elections (Careful what you Bush for, August 3, 2004). Tragedy entertains us on the stage because tragic protagonists do not know that they are tragic, even after the chorus admonishes them that this is the case. Bush will go into retirement wondering what he did wrong. The trouble is not what he did, but what he is, and what Americans are.

In the classic tragedy of Greek religious festivals, the tragedy of the individual is the tragedy of a culture; the case of Orestes can be resolved only by a cultural change, in this case trial by jury at Athens. Bush, whose second administration has failed on all fronts after 10 months in office, may be less articulate than Pericles, but he is no less tragic, and his tragedy is that of the Americans as a people, just as Chirac's tragedy is that of the French.
 

Lavi

Junior Member
IDonT said:
Is it simple coincidence that the West cannot field a single functioning government? The punditry dismisses Bush as dumb, Blair as smarmy, Chirac as arrogant, Berlusconi as bent, and Merkel - well, when they discover some identifying characteristics of the new German chancellor, the punditry doubtless will find grounds to dismiss her as well. Perhaps it is just the luck of the draw, but the odds do not favor the interpretation that all the big nations of the West had the misfortune to find themselves led by ninnies at precisely the same time.

[...]

Americans are obstreperously anti-intellectual, and chose a president with whom they can identify. The British always have been hypocrites, and elected the most hypocritical of prime ministers. The average Frenchman is no less arrogant than the president of the republic, while the Germans, at least since 1945, have devoted their storied thoroughness to becoming as nondescript as possible. Almost every Italian is on the fiddle, and it is fitting for their prime minister to be fiddler-in-chief.

[...]

It is not the leaders of the West per se, but rather the voters who put them in office, who comprise the problem.
And what exactly do you want to prove with this article?

I am strongly opposing several of the points made in this article, points which has nothing to do with whether I like the policies the persons in question or not (some of which I do, and some of which I don't).

To begin with, personal assaults, generalisations and blackmailing does not fit into what I would categorise as good journalism. Surely I believe in freedom of speech, but when you write an article you are supposed to do more than just express opinions taken out from the air with little or none proof.

Secondly, such factual errors as that the west can't field a single functioning government. Last time I checked Finland had a functioning government, AND belonged to the 'west'. The same is true for most other western countries.

Thirdly, and this is the most serious: "It is not the leaders of the West per se, but rather the voters who put them in office, who comprise the problem." This is a pure plitical opinion, having nothing whatsoever to do whit the rise and fall of great powers, also I think it is a post that is both offensive to westerners and a meaningless argument.
 

Gollevainen

Colonel
VIP Professional
Registered Member
Do I smell political conversation in here???

lets try to focus on bigger picture and general devolpment of hegemonyes, not coming too close to actuall political life. that article that IDont posted should have been deleted away, but since Lavi managed to answer it, Only option would be closing the whole thread. So I give you now a change. Dont test it by sending Humourous (how you say Pakina in english:confused: ) out of its contest to just flame up things. Function of the government has never been major factor of what is becoming of downfall of empires. All sort of govenrment types have engaged to become world dominator, and all of them have failed, and thus resempeling each others in their rottenes, but it would be missleading to judge them all as similar and preidictate possiple future of some empires out of possiple past of others. Similarityes can be found, but also lots of differences. Thougth that doesent mean that the differences between current US hegemony to british empire automaticly provens Vigings orginal point false.
Its rather naieve to point out how some penny US tactial achievment in terms of low-end warfare somehow provens that US doesent face the same ending that occures every achievment to bite bigger piece that you can
swallow.

I personally believe that the basic concept of ruling others whitout their permission contains the seeds of destruction that whatever scale you conduct it, it will end up to your doom.
 

SampanViking

The Capitalist
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  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #9
I did not find IDonTs reproduced article too offensive, I enjoy satire and the subtext was actually relevant.

As Gollie says, the style of governement is irrelevant, it the quality of Leadership that matters. Technically Inferior, but well led nations, can often punch above their weight against superior but poorly led opposition.

This is major component in the Strategic Competion between Western Liberal Democracy and Eastern Authoritarianism. Most western countries probably wish China were a basket case like Zimbabwe or North Korea, enabling them to sit secure in the knowledge that only Liberal Democracy can deliver sustained economic development and progress.

China however is not a basket case and the West, if it wishes to defend its philisophical position, should not be complacent. We do see some action through the promotion of India's democracy, as a model for other developing countries. Indeed a week ago I heard the BBC claim that "India is the worlds fastest growing economy, with China not far behind". Obviously incorrect but indicitive perhapse of the spin we may increasingly see when dealing with both emerging Asian giants.

The true sub-text though is that the Wests ability to Compete Strategically on a philisophical basis, will be seriously undermined, if Western democracies continue to elect lack lustre Politicans and Governements. Developing Nations will look at, for example, the French response to Civil unrest and then the Chinese, no contest as any Uzbek will tell you.

Political weakness is dangerous as it promotes complacency and instability. These are the weaknesses that can so easily sleepwalk into war.
 

Knarfo

New Member
SampanViking said:
This is major component in the Strategic Competion between Western Liberal Democracy and Eastern Authoritarianism. Most western countries probably wish China were a basket case like Zimbabwe or North Korea, enabling them to sit secure in the knowledge that only Liberal Democracy can deliver sustained economic development and progress.
One might as well argue that there is no such competition, since all succesful eastern counties either are democracies or are in a process of democratisation like China (albeit fairly slowly). Democracy is clearly no requirement for economic success. However certain economic freedoms are, i.e. capitalism in one form or the other. At least if a country likes to prevent grinding to a economic stand still like SU the likes. The US policy towards China was at one point called positive engagement or some such meaning that by increasing economic relations, trade, co-operation, bilateral relations in general and such would in the end advance democracy and freedom in China while making a bundle of $$ on the way. Seems to work. I am always amazed by statements like "Most western countries probably wish China were a basket case..." . I have not heard anything supporting such views from any serious politician, commentator or political/economic analyst in the west. What the regular John/Jane Does bitch about is that "his/her" jobs are "exported" to china (and other cheap labour countries, includin eastern europe turkey etc). Nevertheless even these people greatly benefit from booming economies (China India etc) with their ample business opportunities for all (well at least many). This IS recognised, confirmed, acknowledged spelled out in big bold letters by any serious politician and busines type in the west. It is a win-win situation.
Capitalism in one form or the other and at least "enough" rule of law, is required to ensure sustained economic growth. Democracy in the western sense is not. The wish that countries become democratic is related to security. To a democratic country another democracy appears more recocniseable on all levels easier to understand, more predictable and thus more thrustworthy and friendly. Just like any other member of the flock, so to speak.

In my opinion the reason for the confusion is that china is ruled by a party that calls itself communist while it is implementing capitalist economics. in the olden days communism was a economic system too. Democracy is not a economic system and never has been.

China however is not a basket case and the West, if it wishes to defend its philisophical position, should not be complacent. We do see some action through the promotion of India's democracy, as a model for other developing countries. Indeed a week ago I heard the BBC claim that "India is the worlds fastest growing economy, with China not far behind". Obviously incorrect but indicitive perhapse of the spin we may increasingly see when dealing with both emerging Asian giants.
Journalists screw up all the time. It will take much more to convince me that there is a campaign against china.


The true sub-text though is that the Wests ability to Compete Strategically on a philisophical basis, will be seriously undermined, if Western democracies continue to elect lack lustre Politicans and Governements. Developing Nations will look at, for example, the French response to Civil unrest and then the Chinese, no contest as any Uzbek will tell you.
Currently the governments in several big western countries are in some trouble. All for different reasons. Business as usual.
So should the french crack down harder or spend their way out of it?? What is your point? The north africans are immigrants in france. The Uzbek (uighurs?) are not immigrants they are the natives.


Political weakness is dangerous as it promotes complacency and instability. These are the weaknesses that can so easily sleepwalk into war.
The troubles in France are not the result of political weakness. The problem did not appear yesterday. It is however a product of complancency and bad policies. But not weakness. Most french governments in last couple of decades have enjoyed a majority in the parliament and they could have enacted policies to prevent or att least wastly reduce the risks for riots by investing in the suburbs and their people.
BTW I do not think that France is anywhere near a civil war. If anything excesses when expressing dissatisfaction with policies is very french.
 

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