Monday, November 02, 2020

Conflict with China (1) Great Game

I worry about the growing tension between the United States and China. Some politicians seem to be stirring up antagonism towards China for political benefits. Unfortunately, these hostile speeches often become self-fulfilling prophecies.

A little historical will help us keep things in perspective. The struggle between Britain and Russia was an interesting example.

From 1830 to 1895, the British and Russian empires schemed and plotted over control of Central and South Asia. At the heart of the “Great Game” was England’s certainty that the Russians had designs on India. So wars were fought, borders drawn, and generations of young people met death in desolate passes and lonely outposts.

In the end, it was all illusion. Russia never planned to challenge British rule in India and the bloody wars settled nothing, although the arbitrary borders and ethnic tensions stoked by colonialism’s strategy of divide and conquer live on today.

A large number of people were killed trying to assuage British fears of the Russians. Many modern problems arose out of bad British decisions during this time. The British created a buffer against Russia by splitting the Pashtun people between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and leaving some Central Asian peoples with them, which made Afghanistan an artificial country with the Hindu Kush dividing it through the middle. Pushing different peoples together into one country so the British could divide and rule is the reason why the nation is still unstable.

Nations seem to assume that other nations will do what they have done to them. The British invaded Russia twice, in 1854, and again in 1917, whereas the Russians have never invaded the UK. The Russians actually rescued the British from defeat on two different occasions, first from Napoleon in 1813, and from Germany in 1945. Yet the British still have an obsession with Russia and assume that the Russians want to invade them.

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