Monday, December 6, 2021

Western Warfare and Western Trade

“Trade cannot be maintained without war, nor war without trade.” ~ Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the most ruthless and successful conqueror of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the seventeenth century. 

In a single line, Coen has described the two pillars of Western success in the last 500 years: warfare and trade. Since the fifteenth century, Western trade and Western warfare have marched hand in hand. Without the genocides, enslavements, rapes, mass murders, mass evictions, drug smuggling, and destruction of whole civilizations—visited on the world by the European powers—the West would not have raced ahead of all other civilizations. History of the West in the last 500 years is not a fairytale of progress. It is also a horror story of barbarity and violence.   

Only a naive and ignorant person would accept the “remarkably arrogant theory” that the ideals of freedom, equality, and democracy are an outcome of the Western philosophical tradition. Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, and Smith are not the fountainhead of Western success—ruthless imperialists like Jan Pieterszoon Coen are. Before Thomas Jefferson and other founders could announce their Declaration of Independence in 1776, the land of North America had to be conquered and tamed. Who did that? Answer: The conquistadors, enslavers, and imperialists. 

The case can be made that to a significant extent the Europeans learned about the ideals of freedom, equality, and democracy from the colonies that they had conquered. Many of the colonies had a far better political, agricultural, industrial culture than most places in Europe. The Industrial Revolution would not have happened in Britain in the eighteenth century if the British had not colonized a significant part of India.

The Age of Imperialism was over by 1950, but America continued to wage wars to preserve Western hegemony. By the 1960s, American troops were stationed in 64 countries—America had defense treaties with most of them. Between 1946 to 2015, the Americans used military force overseas more than 370 times. They were involved in several coups to install their puppet regimes in geopolitically important countries. Most of the American wars and coups were for ensuring the supply of cheap petroleum and other natural resources, and for safeguarding trade interests.

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