Lesson from Ancient Greece influencing the trajectory of America’s war with China - ABDULLAH MURADOĞLU

Lesson from Ancient Greece influencing the trajectory of America’s war with China

The Indo-Pacific is a geopolitical fault line between the U.S. and China in the “great power struggle.” An extremely significant portion of global trade flows through the aqueducts in the region. The established U.S. military forces in the region are represented by the “Indian Pacific Command”; and this command’s area of interest includes 36 countries, which corresponds to more than half of the world’s population. 

The Indo-Pacific is reminiscent of the Ancient Greek region, which encompassed dozens of city-states competing against each other. The Peloponnesian War, believed to be the coup de grace that ended the Greek civilization, broke out in areas enveloping both the Aegean Sea and the Peloponnesus. The wars that lasted 27 years had taken place between Athens and Sparta, the two majors powers of the region. Athens’ and Sparta’s local allies also played an important role in the conflict. Gen. Thucydides of Athens included striking information in his book on the underlying reasons of the wars.

According to Thucydides, war between the region’s sovereign land forces and the emerging trade-maritime forces was inevitable. The Peloponnesian War, which happened 2,500 years ago, has now drawn the attention of modern-era political scientists. Today, American historians compare this pattern to the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In their version, the U.S. represents Athens, and the Soviet Union is none other than Sparta. As Sparta won the Peloponnesian Wars, it was even recommended that the U.S. avoided directly engaging with the Soviet Union.

When the Soviet administration left the table unilaterally, the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, without firing a single bullet. The fall of the Soviet Union gave the U.S. a temporary sense of victory. The term “American arrogance” was used as a phrase for the first time during this period.

Yet, China’s globalization and swift rise in becoming a major economic power as of the 1980s is seen as an ill-intentioned development aimed at changing the U.S.’s position in the global system. Prof. Graham Allison, among other American historians and political scientists, adapted Thucydides' writings this time to the rivalry between the U.S. and China. In this adaptation, the role of Sparta was given to the U.S., and the role of Athens was ascribed to China. Accordingly, the competition between established sovereign power U.S. and emerging power China would lead to war.

According to the anti-China hawks in the U.S., if China’s economic-military rise cannot be stopped, the U.S. will lose its sovereignty over the global order.  Though not openly stated, the U.S.’s “Quad Summit” with India, Australia, and Japan is, of course, aimed at balancing out China’s power in the Indo-Pacific. Meanwhile, Taiwan is the main bone of contention between China and the U.S. as Beijing is adamantly against U.S. support for Taiwan.

Another move by the U.S. was the AUKUS pact in September 2021 with the U.K. and Australia. According to the pact, the U.S. and the U.K. are going to build nuclear energy-run submarines for Australia. After Russia revealed its use of hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, AUKUS parties announced they would be cooperating to build hypersonic missile systems. Wasn’t it the U.S. that slammed China last year, claiming that it conducted hypersonic missile tests on the South China Sea? Hence, the word through the grapevine is that the hypersonic missile deal is also related to China.

The U.S. aspires to trap China through cooperation and alliances with Indo-Pacific countries in conflict with Beijing. On the other hand, it is trying to portray its “great power competition” with China as an existential battle between “techno-democracies” and “techno-autocracies.”

The U.S., Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan reacted to China’s security deal with the Solomon Islands administration, north-east of Australia, which also includes military cooperation. On the other hand, Beijing was delighted when the Solomon Islands cut off ties in 2019 with the Taiwanese government. Meanwhile, note that the Solomon Islands occupies a militarily strategic position near the maritime routes connecting Australia to the U.S. and Japan.

According to analyses, China is using this deal to gain ground in the region against AUKUS. There is an extremely dangerous overt-covert conflict in the Indo-Pacific transpiring between the two great powers that is also pulling in regional powers. Gen. Thucydides seems to be turning in his grave.


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