Friday 17 March 2023

The USA faces a war on two fronts


The USA is facing a very important strategic moment which is similar to that which Germany faced in both 1914 and 1939. Far from the Cold War ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union it merely melted for a while only to come back twofold. The United States now has a Cold War not merely with Russia but with China too. It is a war on two fronts.

You can deal with a war on two fronts like Hitler did in 1939. He made a pact with the Soviet Union and they both defeated and shared Poland. Having neutralised one front, the Germans could take on the French and the British in the West. After these armies had been defeated in 1940, Hitler could then turn to the Soviet Union in 1941.

Alternatively, you can have the Schlieffen plan of 1914. Defeat France and Britain quickly by encircling Paris and later turn to Russia. But the German Army lost its nerve on the Marne and instead of pressing on for Paris it retreated to the sea. Arguably it lost the war in September 1914, just as it presented peace terms that amounted to a German run European Union.

The USA is the greatest of all powers, but it has a tragic flaw. It has isolationist tendencies. It entered World War One in 1917 and barely made a contribution to the defeat of Germany. In World War Two it likewise thought that it could stay out and was lucky indeed that Great Britain still remained in the contest when it chose to join in 1941. Nine times out of ten the British Army should have been anihilated at Dunkirk.

The USA’s present power and influence is almost entirely due to its contributions in the World Wars. It is for this reason that the USA has the world’s reserve currency in the dollar and leads the West without question. The USA has contributed vast sums of money to the defence of Europe, Japan and South Korea, but it gets back this money over and over again because it gives it the super power status that makes it also an economic super power.

Isolationism is short termism. Let’s not get involved. Let’s save some money. America first. But it always leaves the USA in a strategic situation worse than it would have been in if it had joined at the start. Germany would not have attacked at all if the USA was on board in 1914 and 1939.

Now the USA faces perhaps its greatest long term threat. It was folly in the 1970s for the Nixon administration to seek to damage the Soviet Union by developing more friendly relations with China. At the time China had barely progressed economically since the beginning of the People’s Republic and had gone through multiple crises including the Great Famine, caused in part by Mao’s ridiculous decision to kill China’s sparrows and the Cultural Revolution, which sent China backwards by means of vandalism and punishing anyone doing a job that was either useful or required intelligence.

But the USA and other Western countries showed China the way towards development and capitalism. We allowed Chinese students to come to our universities and discover our technologies. The result in 2023 is that we have an opponent who is just as threatening to our interests as the Soviet Union ever was but is economically efficient and produces much of what the West wants to buy. Instead of an opponent like the Soviet Union, which was weak economically and inefficient in everything, we have a China with vast amounts of money, more expendable soldiers and weapons that are almost as technologically advanced as our own.

The USA is in a very fortunate situation. Vladimir Putin foolishly attacked Ukraine underestimating Ukraine’s will to fight and the West’s will to support it. It is a proxy war, like Vietnam. The USA is not fighting Russia, but it might as well be. The prize that is available is to knock out one of the two fronts.

It is this which makes some mutterings about isolationism from Republican candidates so foolish. There is a once in one-hundred-year opportunity to decisively defeat Russia in the field. Obviously, we must be careful not to provoke nuclear war, but if the West spends a relatively small amount of money on arming Ukraine it is reasonable to suppose that the whole of Ukraine including Crimea might be liberated this year or next.

This is the equivalent of Germany capturing Paris in 1914 and the Schlieffen Plan succeeding. It would have meant that Germany could have turned its full attention to Russia with every chance of success.

The point of defeating Russia is that it neutralises Russia as a threat. No longer would we have to spend vast resources on defending eastern Europe. We then could spend those resources on defeating China.

Why is it necessary to defeat China? Because at some point China will attack Taiwan or will so develop that it takes over from the USA as the dominant economic power. At that point the western model of liberal democracy will look weak and poor, and we can expect countries all over the world to prefer the Chinese model of capitalism and autocracy. That is the fight that has to be won this century in just the same way that we had to overcome German militarism in the twentieth century.

So, this is not the moment to think that Ukraine is a far away country of which we know nothing. The Ukrainians are fighting our battle. If we can defeat Russia, we just might be able to deter China from attacking Taiwan we might just be able to stop Xi’s dream of surpassing the USA and turning China into the dominant superpower.

But we can’t do that if Ukraine is defeated or if the war ends in stalemate and rewards Russia with Ukrainian territory. That situation would leave us with the war on two fronts. Russia would be emboldened and would be ready to come to China’s aid in the event that China needed help in the Pacific. At that point the USA might consider itself too weak to defend Taiwan. This would mean that the liberal democracies would have been defeated both in Ukraine and Taiwan, which would amount to the great American experiment with democracy beginning in 1776 essentially having failed. This is what is at stake.

Right now, we need to fling everything we have at defeating Russia. If we don’t ten years from now twenty years from now we will realise this was the moment we were defeated.