Fifteenth century was a critical juncture in world history because since then man has not been able to comprehend as to what “development” actually is. Christopher Columbus discovered the “New World” of the Americas on 12th of October 1492 in an expedition that was sponsored by Isabella, the Queen of Castile and León — the lady who, with the help of her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, caused the fall of Muslim rule in Granada ergo complete extermination of Muslims from Spain.
After the discovery of European states, especially Britain, France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain, turned to this new land where, on one hand, they eliminated the native Red Indians while on the other, brought a huge number of Negros to be used as labourers and farmers. Soon, the feudalism spread its tentacles in the New World. The rule of the English Crown was generally accepted due to the dominance of the 13 British Colonies in North America, though the region was autonomous in terms of economy and finances. However, when, in 1775, the Great Britain decided to levy taxes, the Americans retaliated. They, in a disdainful reaction, dumped the tea shipped to Boston from England into the waters. This incident is known as “The Boston Tea Party”. This War of Independence of American people was against the British colonial rule and was led by the first American President George Washington whereas Lord North led the British troops. This war devoured nearly 20,000 British soldiers, and resultantly, Americans won freedom. This war lasted from 9th of April 1775 to 11th of April 1983. Almost quarter a century later, the American Civil War broke out.
The American Civil War not only helped the US adapt to the contemporary requirements but also became a basis for making the country a formidable superpower. In North, mostly the British people were inhabited while rest of the states were the abode of French, Hispanic, Portuguese and some other European nationalities. When Northern states, with an aim to accelerate industrial development, announced the abolishment of slavery, the other states rebelled against this piece of legislation. The role of former US President, Abraham Lincoln, was pivotal in this War that lasted from 1861 to 1865 and consumed nearly 6.2 million American soldiers with huge number of civilian casualties.
Here, an important event regarding America’s stability requires a special mention.
American State of Louisiana was under the French rule from 1699 to 1803. But, in 1861, the great French statesman Napoleon Bonaparte sold this state of 21,44,000 sq km – 15% of the total area of the United States — for only US$ 10.5 million. This is, probably, the biggest event of selling an entire state in the history of modern world. Had Napoleon not done so, the US would have to struggle even harder for achieving the status of a superpower.
Although the US has fought may wars ranging from the War of Independence to the Afghanistan War, the purpose of this piece is only to highlight a few of them.
The US first emerged as a superpower during the World War I that started on 25th of June 1914 after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Germany, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria were up against the Allied Powers; The alliance that consisted of Russia, France, the Great Britain and Italy, and later, the US. Till the end of WWI, in 1918, almost 55,20,000 soldiers of the Allied Powers were killed whereas there were 43,86,000 deaths on the German-led side. The number of civilian death far exceeded these figures.
The First World War revolutionized the world. A year before the War ended, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin came into power in Russia after the October Revolution in 1917. They pulled the country out of the Allied Powers alliance. The US jumped into the war with fresh troops and first naval fleet. As a result of the war, the Ottoman Empire disintegrated, while the Great Britain, United States, France and Italy started digging their claws in the oil-rich Arab states. Moreover, the hold of the Great Britain on its colonies, including India, started to loosen and the US started replacing it as the new superpower. Interestingly, all countries who participated in WWI bore colossal losses but the US got enormously benefitted from it.
During the WWI, when the world was being destroyed, the US remained not only immune to the vagaries of war but it also became the hub of international trade from where other countries purchased arms, ships, tanks, food items and other commodities. The world’s gold resources were fast being accumulated there and the country was flooded with foreign investment owing to the impression that it was the safest and the most environment-friendly country in the whole world. Thus, it emerged as the land of opportunities and a rapid industrialization also took place; the government too reciprocated the investors with complete security.
Hardly 21 years had lapsed since the end of WWI that the Second World War broke out on September, 1939 with German invasion of Poland. Britain and France also joined the war on 3rd of September. Russia too attacked Poland on November 30 — later Russia and Germany reached an agreement to divide Polish territory between them.
Between April and June 1940, Germany occupied territories of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and France. Like WWI, this time again the US belatedly joined the war.
Like Napoleon, Hitler also committed a grave mistake when, in 1944, he invaded Russia — a vast country with extremely cold weather. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers succumbed to extreme cold and the Allied Forces successfully wrested the control of France from Germany. On 28th of April 1945, Mussolini was executed by Italian partisans. On April 30, Hitler committed suicide and on May 7, the German forces surrendered.
During the WWII, the great scientist Albert Einstein fled his country to settle in the US after killing of hundreds of thousands of his Jewish compatriots. He is the architect of America’s atomic bomb. Just before the end of WWII, the US, in a bid to prove its military might over the whole world, dropped atomic bombs namely “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” on 6th and 9th August 1945 respectively on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The prominent Allied leaders included Britain’s Winston Churchill, USSR’s Joseph Stalin, US’ Franklin D. Roosevelt, France’s Charles de Gaulle and Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek whereas from the Axis side, Germany’s Adolf Hitler and Italy’s Mussolini were important figures. During the WWII, more than 50 million soldiers of Allied countries and their colonies perished whereas in Axis camp, there were 10.2 million deaths. Just like the American War of Independence ensued in the Civil War, the WWI also left some issues which later became the basis for the Second World War.
After the World War II, the USSR, with its Communist ideology, emerged as a great superpower. Communism also earned huge acceptance especially in the poor countries. So, capitalist states, under the name of Nato, aligned with the US while the nations who got independence through revolutions spurred by the Communist ideology sided with the USSR. And then another group was created under the Warsaw Pact. This was the start of a long Cold War in the world. The United States got dual benefits from the Cold War:
First, there were many countries who were either under monarchs or were being governed by the feudal class and plutocrats in a pseudo-democratic style. Such countries needed arms and training for their respective militaries. So, these countries became big markets for the American arms industry. With frequent grants in form of aid or loan by the US, they were virtually mortgaged with the US whereas the skilled people and intelligentsia of such countries started to move to the US and in search of better future and huge incomes. Such people are playing a crucial role in America’s development even today.
The first major conflict of the Cold War was the Korean War that lasted from 25th of June, 1950 to 27th of July, 1953. Korean peninsula is located in the Sea of Japan and during 1910-15, this region was under Japanese rule. During the World War II, former USSR occupied the northern part of the peninsula whereas the US got hold of the Southern part under an agreement. So, two separate governments were formed in this region in 1948. Each government was claiming to be the only legitimate setup and were not accepting the borders. In the open seas, Russia and China started to patronize the North Korean army. In this war, 2,66,600 North Korean, 13,50,000 Chinese and 26,000 Russian soldiers, which means a total of 16,42,600 soldiers, were united under the flag of North Korea against 6,02,902 South Korean, 3,26,863 American and 14,196 British soldiers raising the total number to 9,72,214. When the war ended on 27th of July 1953, the United Nations declared North Korea as the aggressor nation. In this war, more than 7,50,282 soldiers were killed with as many wounded. From the South Korean side, the reports suggested that 1,78,426 South Koreans lost their lives with 5,66,434 injured while 32,935 disappearances.
The Second biggest event of the Cold War was the Vietnam War. In this war that lasted from 1959 to 1975, there were Communist forces under the flag of Peoples Republic of Vietnam also known as North Vietnam, while they were up against the forces of the US and other capitalist countries in Southern Vietnam or Viet Cong. The North Vietnam had the military support and aid from Russia and China. Cuba, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria also provided it with money. On the other side, Southern Vietnam enjoyed military support from the United States, Thailand, Philippines and New Zealand. When this war ended, the North Vietnam lost its 11,70,462 soldiers while 60,82,00 people were injured while on the South Vietnam side, there were 807564 deaths and 14,90,000 people were wounded. The United States and its allies had to bear a humiliating defeat in this war and both North and South Vietnam united to form a Communist country with the name of Vietnam.
During the latter period of the war, American government had to face huge public pressure. The great boxer Muhammad Ali Clay was punished when he refused to be conscripted to the US military for this war. It is said that had there not been mounting public pressure on the US government, this war would have continued for many years to come. This war also became a starting point of public opposition to US military’s deployment in different parts of the world. During the Vietnam War, the United States went on with its indirect involvement regarding the Cold War. A flashpoint came in this war when, in October 1962, the US-Cuba Missile Crisis got intensified. This crisis emerged when Russia built up its missile on the Cuban soil after Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. Since, the US came within the range of these Russian missiles, the US President John F. Kennedy issued an ultimatum of 72 hours for their removal, and in case of failure threatened the Third World War. To cut the story short, Russia removed its missiles.
Similarly, there were wars in the Indian Subcontinent in the years 1965 and 1971, and then in the Middle East in 1967 and 1973. After the end of Vietnam War in 1975, the USSR had an edge in the Cold War until 1977. But, when the Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan after Noor Muhammad Tarakai came into power, the whole state of affairs changed dramatically; on one Soviet border, in Afghanistan, Mujahideen were fighting against it with active support of more than a hundred countries including the US, while on the other side, Solidarity, a trade union led by Lech Wałęsa, revolted against Russian occupation. Nevertheless, the US shied away from direct involvement.
With the dawn of the year 1988, not only the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan started, the President Gorbachev also took steps for the abolishment of Communism and for giving autonomy to the states like Latvia, Lithuania and Serbia. Communist countries of Eastern Europe saw an end to Communism, but Russia got entangled in financial, economic and political crises until President Boris Yeltsin came into the power and during his long rule, Russia saw economic, military and political stability. As soon as the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the whole world abandoned the country. During this period, the US introduced a large number of political and economic terms most significant among which are Global Village, New World Order, and WTO, etc. On the other hand, during the 90’s, Taliban installed their government in Afghanistan but the US vehemently opposed it at all world fora. With the start of the new century, the fateful event of 9/11 happened. Hence, it is as clear as day that the America was prominent since the WWI till the year 2000 in the sense that it got huge benefits from the wars because during all these years, investors from all over the world shifted their assets to the US seeing it as a safer like a citadel for their belongings. Moreover, researchers, scientists and people from all walks of life started to make US their abode.
The US started a new type of warfare in the post 9/11 world and named it the War on Terror. Unfortunately, this war turned to be a war against Muslims because the US, in collaboration with Nato, opened its fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exactly 26 days after the Twin Towers attacks of 11th of September 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan. In this war, on one side were Taliban and on the other were the forces of the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Romania, Georgia, Turkey, Poland and Bulgaria. Later, Afghan National Army was also formed. As far as the number of casualties is concerned, though it is said to be in thousands but there are no authentic figures about the killings of Afghan civilians and of Taliban.
On 20th of March 2003, the forces of the US, UK, Australia and Poland attacked Iraq. At that time, the number of Iraqi forces was 3,75,000 fought up against the Allied forces that numbered 2,65,000. Till the 15th of December 2011, there were 37,344 deaths of Iraqis while on the other side, allied forces lost their 25,266 soldiers with 1,17,961 amputated. Both wars cost 10.54 million dollars per hour as the total expenditures were estimated to be 15.50 trillion dollars.
The US has announced the drawdown of its forces from Afghanistan and now between 12000 and 14000 of US marines will remain in the country. Total strength of US-trained Afghan National Security Forces ranges from 3,00,000 to 5,00,000. After US withdrawal from Iraq, the situation there has gone worse while in Afghanistan too, the unity government of President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah has not held its foot yet. The anti-US forces have also regrouped. This is a bitter truth that if this awkward trans-boundary war is not ended with extreme earnestness, then it may affect many countries of the world.
In this context, a hypothesis is being drawn that after a century of the First World War, this war is being fought but this time against US aspirations. At the time of the WWI, the total population of the world was 1.5 billion but today it has reached 7.5 billion people. When in August 1945 the WWII ended, the US was the only nuclear power but today there are 7 recognised and 3 non-recognised nuclear states. So, at least these nine countries should come together to carve out the policies and plans to save the world from any nuclear disaster. Even today, the most important role can be played only by the US. It brings us to the conclusion that regarding the establishment of peace in the world, the ball is still in the court of the United States.