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From 1861-1865 (and less so until 1868, when the Alabama Claims dispute was settled) the nation acknowledged by all as the only true world power — Great Britain — was directly threatened by the fast-rising navy of the United States of America (US). Moreover the very strategic depth of its empire — Canada and its source of Atlantic power — was at risk, and thus the entire calculus of Britain’s world position was for a time in some danger. Yet this window of vulnerability passed without conflict, let alone war.

Although the US was engaged in ‘a great civil war’, this time of intense strategic competition in many ways reminds us of, and speaks to, the current US-China strategic competition, especially in its overriding naval dimensions. In many ways it was a more dangerous tussle, with periods of crisis (especially December 1861-April 1862) when war could have come at any moment.

Yet both the US and Great Britain sought paths of restraint and an implicit strategic demarche that ultimately not only lowered the possibility of war, but also encouraged eventual strategic modus vivendi — without formal elaboration or contentious negotiations. Why was there no conflict at sea? How did both parties come upon a working understanding that reframed a fast-fuse face-off into a stable strategic posture — that met both nations’ larger military needs?

This excursis will compare the US-British relationship along a range of criteria in strategic competition, and contrast it to the China-US relationship today. Its wider objective is to isolate and identify those elements in the mix that helped things turn out as they did positively, for both the US and the United Kingdom. Then, more elusively, it seeks to find similar elements in today’s US-China strategic competition — that we might especially take advantage to defuse a proclivity on both sides toward war as our mutual, on-demand [because we can!] solution.

摘要:1861年至1865年之间(到1868年阿拉巴马索赔纠纷结束时,情况已有所缓和),英国—唯一被公认的世界强国,面临着美国飞速上升海军力量的威胁 。此外,英国的战略纵深—加拿大及其大西洋动力的源泉—也岌岌可危,因此英国在世界上的地位一度不稳。但在这个敏感脆弱的时期,却没有任何冲突爆发,更不要说战争了。




Journal, Book or Conference Title

East Asia Security Symposium and Conference 东亚安全座谈谈论会

Publication Details

Author Information: Michael Vlahos is Professor of Strategy at the United States Naval War College and a senior staff member of the National Security Assessment team of the National Security Analysis Department (NSAD) at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. His is the author of Fighting Identity: Sacred War and World Change, an analysis of how war — as sacred ritual — shapes collective identity: And what it means in culture to be human. His career includes service in the Navy, the CIA, Johns Hopkins SAIS, and the State Department.

An historian-anthropologist of war, he focuses on the relationships between civilizations, and the creative syncretism that is at the heart of change in history. Dr. Vlahos has worked with anthropologists and Islamic Studies specialists to develop a culture-area concept to help the Defense World better understand and respond operationally to the changing environment of the Muslim World. This concept is developed in his two recent monographs, Terror’s Mask: Insurgency Within Islam (2002), and Culture’s Mask: War and Change After Iraq (2004), and his paper Two Enemies: Non-State Actors and Change in the Muslim World. Terror’s Mask: Insurgency Within Islam, is now a text in the Navy War College Strategy Department and the University of Chicago Islamic Studies Department.

He is a former fellow at the Progress & Freedom Foundation and the Center for Naval Analysis and headed the Center for the Study of Foreign Affairs at the U.S. State Department. Previously, he served as the director of the Securities Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has authored several books published by Johns Hopkins/SAIS and the U.S. State Department, and his commentary has appeared in Washington Quarterly, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, National Review and the Times Literary Supplement. He has also appeared regularly on Crossfire, Good Morning America, CNN and Larry King Live. Dr. Vlahos received his A.B. from Yale College in 1973 and his Ph.D. from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University, in 1981.

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This document has been peer reviewed.