Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Myth of Western Military Superiority

The West is regarded as the world’s great military power. But the history of the wars between Western and non-Western powers shows that whenever the West faces a serious military challenge from a non-Western power, it is either defeated or is bogged down in an endless conflict. The idea of Western military superiority is a great myth. The West is not a civilization of warriors. It is a civilization of marketers, advertisers, propagandists, publicists, fiction writers, and fake historians. Their forte is in bragging, self-promotion, and selling propaganda. They love to project themselves as a military power. But they are not a military power.

The history books written on the basis of the one-sided accounts of Herodotus, Thucydides, and other Greek chroniclers, create the impression that Classical Greece was the world’s great military power in its time. This is not true. The Greeks were a bunch of sparsely populated city-states, which were continuously squabbling with each other. Athens and Sparta fought for more than 150 years, but whenever they fought with non-Greek cultures, they lost. They were defeated by the Egyptians, Syracusans, the Persians, and were eventually conquered by the Macedonians.

Western chroniclers call Alexander the Great the world’s first great conqueror, but he did not conquer any territory that was not first conquered by Cyrus the Great and his two sons and successors: Cambyses II and Darius I. After Alexander’s death, a civil war broke out between his generals. The civil wars went on for five decades, after which three new states emerged, two of which were antithetical to Western culture. Instead of making the Persian Empire a part of the West, Alexander’s conquests had turned the Persian territory into a breeding ground for a new crop of anti-Western powers.

Rome is called a great military power, but from 509 BC (the founding of the Roman Republic) to 476 AD (the fall of the Western Roman Empire), the Romans never defeated any non-European power quickly and decisively. Against a non-European adversary, the Romans used to get bogged down in an endless conflict. Rome’s first major war with a non-European power was with Carthage (the Punic Wars). These wars began in 246 BC and continued till 146 BC. Even after 146 BC, the Romans could not pacify Carthage and the fight dragged on till the time of Augustus.

The Romans could not stabilize the areas outside Italy. Their soldiers could not venture beyond the Danube. The barbarians on the other side of the Danube, told the Romans—you can come this far, but not an inch further. In Britain, the Romans could not expand beyond Hadrian's Wall. When the Romans led by Marcus Licinius Crassus, Roman General and Statesman, attacked the Parthians in 53 BC, they were decimated by a much smaller Parthian cavalry. Crassus and his son were killed by the Parthians along with most of the Roman army. 

The Romans got hold of the Iberian Peninsula not due to their own military might but because these lands were the territory of Carthage. Augustus annexed the Iberian peninsula in 19 BC by claiming that this land belonged to Rome since it was part of Carthaginian territory. He tried to expand the Roman territory in the Levant, but got bogged down in endless wars with the Second Persian Empire and other powers. 

When the Huns (the nomadic tribe from Central Asia) arrived in the fourth century AD, the Romans could not fight them. The Huns rampaged through Europe till the sixth century AD, and the Romans could do nothing to stop them. Eventually the Huns were stopped by the Goths. The Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) was weaker than the Western Roman Empire. The Huns and other barbarian tribes raided their lands every year, but they could not defend their territory. In the fifth century AD, the political elite of the Byzantine Empire built a wall around Constantinople to protect themselves from the barbarian raiders.

Rome could be the most sacked city in history—it was sacked about a dozen times by its own generals. The outside groups which sacked Rome include: the Gauls, the Visigoths, the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Normans, and the Holy Roman Empire (the pillaging of the city by Charles V). In 711 AD, the Umayyad Caliphate conquered the Iberian Peninsula and by 759 AD, they had expanded their territory into Gaul. They held this territory till 1492 AD. If the Mongol campaigns of Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu Khan had not weakened the Islamic movements in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, then a major part of Europe would be under Islamic rule today.

In the eleventh century, the Western powers launched the crusade, and they sent their army to the Levant with the purported aim of saving the Byzantine Empire and liberating Jerusalem. But instead of saving the Byzantine Empire, the crusaders played a seminal role in destroying it. Instead of liberating Jerusalem, they destroyed its intellectual culture and ensured its complete domination by the Islamic forces. They were beaten by almost every power in the Levant—the Zengids, the Abbasids, the Ottomans, the Seljuk Turks, and many other minor groups.

During the Age of Imperialism (16th century to 1945), the Western powers had some success in their attempts to win colonies. But the wars of imperialism were not conventional military wars. The imperialists arrived so suddenly and they appeared so different that the locals in remote areas were psychologically emasculated. They could not fight to save their land, wealth, and lives from the invaders. It took a couple of centuries for a military style opposition to Western rule to develop in the colonies. When they were confronted with a militaristic opposition, the Western powers immediately fled to Europe. By 1950, imperialism was finished.

The First and the Second World Wars were European wars in which the Europeans and North Americans massacred millions of their own people. But even in these two wars, they fared badly against the non-Western powers. In the First World War, the Ottomans caused massive damage to the West and despite losing the war, they managed to create a new nation called Turkey in Anatolia. In the Second World War, the Japanese thrashed the Americans everywhere—had it not been for the American nukes, the Japanese would never have surrendered. 

After 1950, the Western powers have lost in every military confrontation with non-Western powers. The debacles in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba, the never-ending standoff in the Korean Peninsula, the failed interventions in the Middle East, the futile wars in South America, the ineffective campaign against China, and the imbroglio in Afghanistan that has been going on since the 1970s are a proof that the West is incapable of winning wars against a non-European power. In the future, when a war comes to their own shore, the West will not be able to defend its territory and people. They are incapable of defeating the military of non-European powers.

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