When the Great War broke out in 1914, it came to be known as the “War to end all wars” but years later it was known, and to this day, as World War I. Germany lost the war to the western powers and on November 11, 1918, she signed the Armistice of Compiegne; thus, ending the war that was supposed to end all wars. Wrong!
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. Thus, the “Second Period” began, which otherwise was known as World War II. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies, which included the major powers, US, UK, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
On August 6, 1945, the US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima followed by a second bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9. On August 15, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced over radio Japan’s surrender. World War II came to an end. The geopolitical landscape changed with Europe divided into two blocs. The western European democracies and the US and Canada formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) while the eastern European countries, who were taken over by puppet communist regimes after the war, formed the Warsaw Pact to counter NATO. Thus began the Cold War.
Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung went to Moscow in March 1950 to ask Stalin’s permission to invade South Korea. Stalin gave his permission and on June 25, 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea. Armed with a United Nations resolution, the US led a multi-national expeditionary force to Korea to fight alongside the South Koreans. On October 25, 1950, China entered the war on the side of North Korea. On July 27, 1953, the US, North Korea, and China signed an armistice to end the war. It was a geopolitical stalemate and Korea remained divided. To this day, the two Koreas are still in a state of war.
But no sooner had the Korean War began than the Vietnam War erupted in 1956 when the French left Vietnam and the US sent military advisers to train the South Vietnamese to fight the Viet Cong. In 1965, a brigade of US marines arrived in Vietnam. It didn’t take too long for the US to get knee deep in the Vietnam quagmire with 543,400 combat troops.
On January 27, 1973, the US, South Vietnam, Viet Cong, and North Vietnam formally signed “An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam” in Paris. A cease-fire took effect the following day with the US agreeing to withdraw all troops within 60 days. However, South Vietnam refused to recognize the Viet Cong’s Provisional Revolutionary Government and the conflict continued between South Vietnam and the Viet Cong. On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell and South Vietnam surrendered to the Viet Cong. It was a geopolitical defeat for the US.
In 1991, the Cold War ended when the Soviet Union disintegrated and all the republics in the union went their separate ways. This signaled the end of Stalinist communism in Europe. The remnants of communism – China, North Korea, and Cuba – survived; however, communism ceased as a threat to world peace. The US remained the sole superpower.
After a decade of relative peace, the new millennia began with an attack on America on September 11, 2001 by al-Qaeda suicide bombers. The following month, the US invaded Afghanistan to go after al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden. On May 2, 2011, a team of US Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
US troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Afghanistan is America’s longest war; however, from a geopolitical standpoint, it was a victory for the US.
On March 20, 2003, the US invaded Iraq on the belief that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. No WMD was found but Hussein was captured and subsequently executed. On December 15, 2011, the Iraq War officially ended with the withdrawal of all American troops. It was a geopolitical victory for the US.
While the US was fighting two long wars, Russia and China were busy building their military capabilities. Recent events in Ukraine and the South and East China Seas saw the emergence of Russia and China from a low-profile leave-me-alone-I-am-not-causing-any-trouble stance to an aggressive land-grabbing behavior.
Tensions in the east
When Xi Jinping took over China’s three most powerful positions as President, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, China took a quantum leap in her attempt to dislodge the US as the world’s only superpower. In 2012, China grabbed Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. The following year, China imposed an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) covering most of East China Sea, which overlaps Japan and South Korea’s airspace over the Senkaku islands and Socotra Rock, respectively.
Recently, it was reported that China was creating artificial islands on several reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago. It is believed that China is going to build naval and air bases on these outcroppings in the South China Sea. Once these artificial islands are fortified, they will provide China with the ability strike at the countries — the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam — with overlapping claims on the Spratly islands, which China claims exclusively as an extension of her territory.
Tensions in the west
This year, Russia grabbed Crimea from Ukraine and annexed it. It is also believed that Russia is behind the unrest in East Ukraine where pro-Russia separatists are fighting Ukrainian forces. It is also believed that Russia would eventually invade East Ukraine and create Novorossiya (New Russia), which covers a large swath of southeastern Ukraine.
The question is: How would NATO react to a Russian invasion of Ukraine? Since Ukraine is not a member of NATO and therefore doesn’t benefit from the provisions of NATO’s Article 5, which says that an attack on a NATO member is an attack on all NATO members. However, it is expected that NATO wouldn’t idly stand by and watch Russia run over Ukraine just like when Hitler’s Germany ran over Czechoslovakia in 1938, which triggered World War II.
Looking back to all these turmoil and unrest going in flashpoints around the world, it makes one wonder what’s driving Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping into taking the risk of a nuclear Armageddon with their aggressive disposition? Or is it their megalomaniac thirst for power that propels them to go to war against those who resist them?
History tells us that nations tried to settle geopolitical conflicts by going to war. It also tells us that war seldom settles geopolitical disputes. Yet war has always been the favored way — Napoleonic complex — of settling geopolitical conflicts. Indeed, one can say that geopolitics and war are mutually complementary – war as an instrument of geopolitics and geopolitics as the seed of war. But what ends war is diplomacy, which begs the question: Why not substitute diplomacy for war to settle geopolitical disputes, which would make Planet Earth a lot safer?
Ahh, strange as it might seem, such is the politics of war.