Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The US Armed Forces and the British Army: Fighting Lesser Foreign Militaries in Pursuit of Imperial Ambitions


Throughout history, various nations have engaged in military conflicts to pursue their strategic interests and expand their imperial ambitions. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, the United States and the British Empire fought lesser foreign militaries in elective wars that were not necessarily in their respective nations' strategic interests. Let's compare the military campaigns of the US Armed Forces and the British Army during these periods, highlighting examples of elective wars chosen by both countries to maintain their empires.

The British Army and Imperial Expeditions: During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the British Empire was at its zenith, and maintaining its global dominance often necessitated military interventions. The British Army frequently conflicts against lesser foreign militaries in regions unrelated to England's strategic interests.

One such example is the Anglo-Zulu War (1879). The British, driven by imperial ambitions, invaded the Zulu Kingdom in South Africa. Despite the Zulu's military prowess, the British prevailed. Still, the war was viewed by many as an elective conflict that expanded British influence rather than securing strategic interests.

Similarly, the British Empire engaged in the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) against the Boer republics in South Africa. The conflict arose from tensions over British influence in the region and the discovery of gold and diamonds. Although the British ultimately emerged victorious, the war highlighted the risks of engaging in elective conflicts that strained resources and strained public opinion at home.

The US Armed Forces and Elective Wars: In the late 20th century, the United States, following the footsteps of the British Empire, found itself involved in military interventions against lesser foreign militaries. These conflicts were often driven by geopolitical considerations, regional stability, and, at times, aspirations for global influence.

One prominent example is the Vietnam War (1955-1975). The United States, motivated by its containment policy against communism, entered a protracted conflict in Southeast Asia. The war's rationale was less about immediate strategic interests and more about countering the spread of communism. Despite the immense military capabilities of the United States, it ultimately withdrew its forces, highlighting the challenges of fighting elective wars without clear strategic objectives.

Another example is the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The United States, under the premise of eliminating weapons of mass destruction and promoting democracy, launched a military campaign against Saddam Hussein's regime. While the invasion successfully toppled the government, it unleashed a wave of sectarian violence and insurgency, underscoring the complexities of engaging in elective wars without comprehensive post-conflict plans.

Lessons Learned: The British Army's experiences in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the US Armed Forces in the late 20th century offer valuable lessons. Engaging in elective wars against lesser foreign militaries carries inherent risks and challenges.

Firstly, such conflicts strain military resources and public support, often diverting attention and resources from more pressing strategic concerns. The drain on manpower and economic resources can have long-term implications for national security.

Secondly, elective wars in regions with cultural, historical, and political complexities can lead to unintended consequences. Occupation, insurgency, and destabilization of the area may occur, creating long-lasting repercussions as Iraq's newly manufactured democracy is now a client state of Iran. In the words of General Brent Scowcroft, There is something to be said for stability.

Conclusion: The British Army's military campaigns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the US Armed Forces' interventions in the late 20th century, demonstrate the perils of engaging in elective wars against lesser foreign militaries. While driven by imperial ambitions or geopolitical considerations, such conflicts often strained resources, tested public support, and resulted in unintended consequences.



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