Historical events have so many unintended consequences, and some of them are very ironical. For example, the West has dominated the world for the last 500 years, and it’s because of the accidental “discovery” of the Americas by the Europeans. And this discovery happened only because of Islam, India and China. Here’s why:
Individual European countries were never very powerful for too long because they kept fighting with one another and the population of each country was quite small. The original Roman Empire was the sole exception, but the peak power was around 120 AD. Then the Roman emperors fled to Constantinople (what’s now Istanbul in Turkey). From about 400 AD to 1400 AD, Europe was mired in “dark ages.” Europe was poor and was ravaged by diseases like the plague. But they were still trading with India and China, and this trade was essential in keeping afloat the European economy. During the “dark ages” of Europe, the Islamic countries were prospering. And even the Mongols became very strong during the 13th and 14th century, occupied vast lands of Europe, and came all the way up to Germany’s borders.
Then, in 1453, the Islamic Ottoman Empire defeated the last vestiges of the Roman Empire in Constantinople.
The Ottoman Turks soon controlled the Mediterranean Sea and put an end to Europe’s trade with India and China.
This is why Europeans were forced to find a westward route to Asia. Thus, Columbus got funded by the Spanish kingdom to go west, and he landed in what’s now the Americas. Of course, he thought that he had landed in India, and that’s why the natives were called “Indians.”
It was gold and other natural resources of the Americas that made Spain, Portugal, France and England very rich. Without the Americas, all those countries would have stayed insignificant. There might not even have been any Renaissance at all. The enormous wealth from the Americas propelled stupendous growth in science and literature in Europe.
Unfortunately, the discovery of Americas also led to slavery and slave trade, which led to unfathomable suffering for Africans. Then, having tasted colonialism, Europeans ventured into Asia and Africa more, conquering one piece of land after another, and growing stronger with each land grab.
Thus, ironically, the defeat of Europe by the Ottoman Empire led to a strong Europe.
In the next interesting event, the US declared independence in 1776 and kicked the British out. Having lost the Americas, the British were forced to find new colonies. So, they went to India and started taking over one region after another. There the British stumbled upon the wonders of Opium, which soon accounted for 25% of British Empire’s revenue. Then they used the Opium to defeat China. (The US also engaged in a lot of opium trafficking — ironically, the Americans bought opium from Turkey (Ottoman Empire) and smuggled it into China).
Eventually, the Western powers grew strong enough to totally defeat the Ottoman Empire during WW1. Thus, in summary:
1453: Ottoman defeats Europe
Next 300 years: Europe grows strong through colonialism in the Americas
Next 150 years: Europe grows stronger through colonialism in Asia/Africa.
Also the USA grows stronger by expanding from 13 original states to 48 contiguous states, and then venturing into colonialism and imperialism beyond the borders (conquering Cuba, Philippines etc., and exploiting Latin America).
1918 — Europe (with some help from USA) defeats Ottoman
So, you see, sometimes defeating your geopolitical rivals is not a good idea. In the 21st century, the US is trying to sabotage the reemergence of China and Russia. But this may force China to work harder, become technologically advanced, and even surpass the US. Only time will tell, as hindsight is always 20-20.
Just started reading your blog. Great analysis of geopolitics. Keep it up thank you.
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