Something doesn’t love a power vacuum
In 9th-grade science class, we learned that Nature abhors a vacuum. Create a vacuum and surrounding forces will fill it. The so-called Arab Spring has created a number of giant sucking sounds across the Middle East.
In 1781, the American Revolution created a power vacuum when Great Britain, the world’s leading military power, was defeated by General George Washington’s mostly rag-tag Army and the French navy. The vacuum was so tempting to the British that they tried to fill it once again with the War of 1812. In 1814, the Redcoats almost succeeded and were in the process of burning down Washington, D.C. when Mother Nature or God (take your pick) intervened by sending an Oklahoma-size tornado ripping through the British troops who either died on the spot or fled.
The French Revolution created a power vacuum that was filled by a Corsican captain of artillery who deposed most of the crowned heads of Europe and filled their places with his friends and relatives. Mostly, relatives. After Napoleon was overthrown (twice), the 1815 Congress of Vienna tried to pacify the various European powers in the Concert of Europe which lasted until Bismarck contrived the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 which unified the various German states into one mighty nation and filled Germany’s own internal power vacuum.
France, which had yet to get over its revolution and its humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, was a power vacuum that proved all too tempting to the military poseur, Kaiser William II, who set in train World War I which was, inevitably, followed by World War II.
After World War II, the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Red China contested over various power vacuums around the world. President Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, created a power vacuum when he made a speech saying that South Korea was outside America’s sphere of influence. Almost immediately, the North Koreans invaded South Korea, killing thousands of South Koreans and Americans.
After 19 Islamists killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11/2001, the U.S. retaliated in both Afghanistan and Iraq, creating power vacuums in both countries which are still trying to be filled by warring internal factions egged on by outside powers that cannot resist the lure of a vacuum. While history will give the U.S. good marks for the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. will get a bad mark for our failure to produce a General MacArthur to rule over the Iraqis for awhile and bring order out of chaos as General MacArthur did with post-war Japan. As for Afghanistan, it is the galactic black-hole in the world of power vacuums. No sane nation tries to stay in the Graveyard of Empires.
As the world watches the United States withdraw from the world and watches the American military being cut in half, power vacuums are being created and big powers are eager to fill in the voids being left by the withdrawal of American power. The U.S. Navy is now the smallest it has been since 1917. The full consequences of the world-wide power vacuum that the U.S. is creating are yet to be fully known; however, if history tells us anything, it ain’t gonna to be pretty.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2013. William Hamilton.
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