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The Us And The Destruction Of The British Empire


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FDR was adamantly opposed to the British Empire, but not as opposed to the US Empire, and as a result, while supporting the British Empire in WWII, he sowed the seeds of its dissolution. I, personally, see this as a cause of much of the worlds ills right now. I think that FDR as well as the presidents which did things like the Washington Naval Treaty, the London treaty helped accelerate the slide into irrelevance of the UK. WWI did not help, and Woodrow Wilson did not do the British Empire any favors as well.

 

What says the forum?

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They decided slavery was not good, piracy went out of fashion, and the opium trade too. No more Indian market monopoly. They lost the heroin/cocaine train, also.

 

Jokes apart, the loss of the cream of the Edwardian generation in the Western Front trenches was a serious blow. Then there was the anti-Imperialist movement, with more than a bit of Soviet support.

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FDR was adamantly opposed to British imperial rule in India and to various African and Asian colonial bits that made up the "Empire" part of the Empire. He had no problem with British leadership of the Commonwealth.

 

No, the US did not have an empire, but we did have a commonwealth and island territories...which we still have. The Philippines was a special case and was on the way to independence (well, an independence intended to be dominated by American political and economic interests, but...)

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Independence for the Philippines was "when they were ready". With Japan totally defeated and becoming the new home for US forces in the Asia-Pacific, the Philippines was no longer needed, thus the romantic way of putting it.. "the philippines was granted its freedom as 'promised' " was easy to do. Of course economic growth and democracy in the Philippines wasn't really developed so soon afterwards so they were about as ready as was when it was year 1900.

Edited by JasonJ
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Deep Thought, I kind of wonder if you could make the case for Japan in WW2 actually succeeding in a weird way with breaking up the various European empires in Asia.

They did. Some Japanese even remained in Vietanm and Indonesia after WW2 and fought on the side of independece forces. The US was vocally against the dutch going back in Indonesia after the war and criticized them for trying but they backd the French going back into Vietnam because of communism. Without a communists threat, they probably would have been agaisnt the French going in too.

 

In all honestly, brought down to simple terms, the ideal situation for a nation-state is to be the only big country and surrounded by little ones. So the break uo of empires was beneficial for the US and the US sought after that. Old European empires could keep little islands here or there, they don't tip the balance of power. The US was already very big by 1900 si could use thag size as leverage and apply "free determination" arguments to break up other empires.

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Japanese soldiers also fought with the Malaysian CT's as well till about the 70's when they were murdered by their "comrades"

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How much did repayment of war debt to the US influence the British contraction post-war?

 

It didnt help. We didnt actually pay off the last of the war debts till the 1990's I gather.

 

I dont think it drove contraction. I do think it my have concentrated minds on what they could pay for. The most serious effect was that it neutered Britain's ability to disagree with America, not least on Suez. Harold Wilson was censured by the Labour party for not criticizing President Johnson over Vietnam. As he said 'You dont kick your Creditors in the pants'. The mindset still holds sway, even though the debt is long paid off.

 

Id have to check, but I think some of the currency devaluation by President Nixon may also have played a role. That occurred in 1971, and Its notable the British economy flat-lined around that point.

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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It should be remembered that the USA, at the table with the Treaty of Versailles and later, assisted in the break up of the empires of central Europe, and the Ottoman Empire, but left in place the far eastern empires of France and the Netherlands. That didn't sit well with the Indochinese, who expected, in the same way that Yugoslavia was formed out of a motley collection of sub states, that a united Vietnam would be formed. Then again the USA provided support, at least in word, to Ho Chi Min in the fight against the Japanese, only to find betrayal when the USA consented to the French resuming control in Indochina from late 1945.

 

It is apparent that a fear of communism was more important than anti-colonialism in the far east.

 

Indonesia, and the way that it was allowed to simply subsume West Papua / Irian jaya and East Timor is another aspect worth considering.

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They decided slavery was not good, piracy went out of fashion, and the opium trade too. No more Indian market monopoly. They lost the heroin/cocaine train, also.

 

Jokes apart, the loss of the cream of the Edwardian generation in the Western Front trenches was a serious blow. Then there was the anti-Imperialist movement, with more than a bit of Soviet support.

 

Britain in WW1 (and heck, WW2) is what I always bring up whenever anybody starts spouting "war makes our manfolk stronger, rargh!" bullshit. Modern industrialized war kills the best people first.

Edited by Brian Kennedy
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The blood letting of the WWI trenches killed off a generation of Edwardian gentlemen who might have saved the Empire. The British Empire should have let the French and Germans battle it out, and stayed out of it.

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The blood letting of the WWI trenches killed off a generation of Edwardian gentlemen who might have saved the Empire. The British Empire should have let the French and Germans battle it out, and stayed out of it.

 

You could argue that the RAF bomber slaughter in WW2 killed off a lot of the UK's best and brightest as well. But there are a lot of humans out there. Germany and Japan's best people probably died in WW2 as well, and they're doing fine.

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The blood letting of the WWI trenches killed off a generation of Edwardian gentlemen who might have saved the Empire. The British Empire should have let the French and Germans battle it out, and stayed out of it.

 

Wouldn't work. We would end up with the German HSF in Belgium, ready to pounce from the other side of th English channel. That was no more acceptable in 1914, than it was in 1940. Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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Until WWII the main theme of British foreign politics, directly or indirectly, was expanding or defending the Empire.

 

At some time during WWII, starting with the fall of France in 1940 and completed with the fall of Singapore and Tobruk in 1942, it changed into a global fight against Nazism/Facism (and later Communism), but where Britain only played a secondary role.

 

In this fight in you could say that Britain de facto sacrificed her Empire in a process where USA was most "helpful".

 

If Britain should have pursued an Imperial policy she should have made peace with Hitler in 1940 - ie Hitler get Europe, but we keep the Empire - that would have been quite like what Britain did with Napoleon, when he was strongest, but Churchill and nobody really believing Hitler anymore prevented that. Churchill at that time probably hadn't thought about sacrificing the Empire, but British military disasters in 1941 and 1942 set the path.

 

It started with the failure to throw the Axis out of North Africa in 1941, which kept Italy in the war and prevented the Med as being the lifeline to SEA and India. As long as Singapore was on British hands you would still have good options for defending the European positions in SEA and thereafter taking the offensive vs. Japan, but that was of course changed by Singapores humiliating fall in Feburary 1942 and just to ram home the point - the fall of Tobruk a few weeks later.

 

After this Britain really didn't have any realistic option for pursuing her own interests any longer, but had to rely more and more on persuading USA to be as pro-British as possible. Inside the context of fighting the Axis USA was as altruistic as can be expected of a Great/coming Super Power, and probably was served well by British strategic advice (Alanbrooke is IMHO is among the most important persons in recent human history), but USA had never promised to save the Empire - but probably made it a little easier for the British to give up, as they could expect a close relative to take over. Better let the Americans take over than the French, Germans or Russians!

 

If someone hadn't understood it in 1945 it was all made clear in 1956, when Britain and France tried to defend their overseas interests by preventing Nasser from taking control over the Suez canal - and used pulled away the carpet under the British and French.

 

The British officially gave up anything east of Suez and soon after also her African colonies. Nasser didn't really become a friend of America - to put it mildly - and in the decades after the Americans for serious started to pay for taking over global leadership - WWII was only the starting fee.

 

At the end of the day I find it difficult to defend colonial Empires, but a historian like Nial Fergusson IMHO has a point when claiming that colonialism, especially in Africa, probably was abolished some decades too early, Where the British stayed for longest and most intense, like India and Malaya, they left a pretty substantial infrastructure and the former colonies had a decent chance of taking care of themselves. In contrast Africa was left with little more than sergents in the former colonial armies elevating themselves to rulers after 1960.

 

Nothing could have saved the Empires by 1956 (India was gone already BTW), and even if Hitler had bogged down in 1940 and "been taken care of" it would have taken substantial political reforms to keep them together and transform into some kind of Commonwealth - but they would have had intact economical ties - which if continued and not broken - would have made the world look very much different today.

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It should be remembered that the USA, at the table with the Treaty of Versailles and later, assisted in the break up of the empires of central Europe, and the Ottoman Empire, but left in place the far eastern empires of France and the Netherlands. That didn't sit well with the Indochinese, who expected, in the same way that Yugoslavia was formed out of a motley collection of sub states, that a united Vietnam would be formed. Then again the USA provided support, at least in word, to Ho Chi Min in the fight against the Japanese, only to find betrayal when the USA consented to the French resuming control in Indochina from late 1945.

 

It is apparent that a fear of communism was more important than anti-colonialism in the far east.

 

Indonesia, and the way that it was allowed to simply subsume West Papua / Irian jaya and East Timor is another aspect worth considering.

 

Not so fast,Doug. The US did not ratify the Versailles or the other treaties. The US Congress signed its own resolutions in 1921 formally ending hostilities with Germany and A-H.

Edited by Ken Estes
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Also a bit hard to say that the US actually had an empire. We had the Philippines but that was in the way out as well.

Plus the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii, IIRC?

 

 

 

+ Guam, Panama Canal Zone

Edited by Ken Estes
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Re Redbeard's excellent post (which I'm only not quoting because of length), I still think it's surprising that Britain didn't negotiate peace in 1940, since their strategic options were so limited and most people didn't understand at the time that Germany was run by a genocidal death cult. Thank God that Churchill was such a weird guy...

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I largely agree with Redbeard, except I think the point when we became dependent on US intervention was much earlier. If say June 1940. Yes, Churchill was THAT forward thinking. And yes, we were THAT badly off.

 

I don't believe the Americans killed the Empire. Kicked it when it was down? Yes. And it was boneheaded not to realise (for 2 decades!) that when it and the French one retreated, the US would need to step in. It's the schism in America's Empire. They don't want it, they even refuse to recognise it s an Empire.Which is why they are losing it.

 

Just wait till China gets it.

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