The New Burkeian

Reflections on the Revolution in Conservatism

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Great Game

The New Burkeian recently researched the Anglo-Russian rivalry in 19th century Central Asia. A research paper that began as an examination of imperial pedagogy in late-Qing China emerged into a sweeping study of 'The Great Game'. This term applies to the diplomatic and often militaristic rivalry between Russia and Great Britain throughout the 19th century in Asia.

From Constantinople to Peking, Russian and British agents staked out empires. While Russian influence grew from Turkey to Persia the British worked on the defense of India from Persia to China. The 'great' gamesmen fought it out in Central Asia, though. Afghanistan and the Central Asian Khanates were the focus of much of this period. British concern for India and consequent aggression were the main reasons for escalation, but the Russians did little to assuage British fears. Russophobia prevailed in Great Britain with Russia's continuous advances into Central Asia.

As my research unfolded I became aware of the implications this rivalry had for recent history. The Great Game, to some extent, was a precursor of the US-Russian rivalry in the Cold War. The US emerged as the leader of the Anglosphere post-WWII, but the same misconceptions and mistakes drove this rivalry. The end of the Cold War brought this competition to an end for a decade.

Recent allegations against the Russia-Iraqi/Iran link suggest otherwise, though. It appears Russia is up to her old game in Asia. Under the auspices of the international rule of law, Russia appears to be undermining Anglosphere prestige in the region. The unilateral talks between Russia and Iran certainly appear to be a continuation of their relationship from the time of the Great Game.

Without succumbing to complete Russophobia, the New Burkeian is highly skeptical of Russian intentions in this new era. There were certainly glimpses of a great new partnership between Russia and the rest of the West in the beginning of the WoT. Old Russian fears of invaders at their extensive borders may reawaken the Bear, though. This certainly does not imply that Democracy is dead in Russia, but even a minor rivalry with the Anglosphere in Asia could undermine much of the WoT. Without sounding a call-to-arms, there is certainly a need for American players in Central Asia to peddle our influence and advantages. Democracy is the future of this world, and the Anglosphere must do whatever it can to advance that goal. Will the Actionaries stand up?

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