Thursday, January 18, 2007

America's Opium War

Forget Vietnam, forget Korea. The best analogy for America's misadventure in Iraq is the Opium War of the 19th century, when a small British naval force (read Iraqi insurgents) humiliated the Middle Kingdom (read United States). And like China's defeat in the Opium War, the disaster in Iraq could lead the US into decline

An Interesting Perspective
By Dmitry Shlapentokh
Asia Times

"......Similarly to the Chinese of that era, most Americans believe that the US is the most efficient society and has the best of everything: economy, education, health service and military. This

new "Middle Kingdom" is the best of all possible societies, surrounded by "barbarian" Europeans, who have a bastardized, low-quality version of US culture and need to work hard to achieve the US level of perfection.

According to this view, Orientals such as the Chinese are truly barbarians, for they do not have democracy or human rights, use slave labor, and are totally unconcerned with "multiculturalism" and "sexism". Nothing good could come from this society, and if "barbarians" produce better and cheaper goods than do residents of the "Middle Kingdom", it is only because of "unfair practices".....

The army is part of US society, and has followed the same model of existence. The Iraq war soon revealed that there is nothing more important than to have numerous soldiers on the ground and a constant stream of willing recruits. Recruits should join the army not because they have no other option - as is the case with the majority of present-day soldiers - but because it is one of the best-paid jobs with the most enviable benefits.

Yet even the petty brokers on Wall Street make far more money than soldiers on the battlefield, who are sometimes even compelled to buy their own body armor. At the same time, trillions of dollars are spent on expensive military gadgets that are absolutely useless in the present war but enrich the companies that produce them.

These arrangements could be compared to the actions of the Dowager Empress Cixi, who requested money supposedly for building a Chinese navy but actually spent it on a marble pleasure boat for herself and her court. The Qing state had an extremely inefficient military machinery that was intimately connected with the entire arrangements of the state, a fact that explains why a few British vessels defeated what seemed to be a huge empire with enormous resources. And the same model can also explain why a few guerrillas are defeating what seems to be the biggest military machine in the world......

A victory in Iraq would secure US access to oil and, even more important, reaffirm its position as the global imperial power. Defeat would be similar to the Qing defeat in the Opium War. Far from being a minor episode, it became a crucial turning point in modern China's history, leading to the speedy decline of the Chinese state. The same could be expected from America's geopolitical default, or at least from a strong "correction" of the United States' geopolitical values, which would be immediately be taken into account from Tehran to Beijing......"


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