The High Seas
On October 7th, 1985, an Italian cruise ship named Achille Lauro was hijacked.
The ship with around 70 to 80 passengers was moving from Alexandria to the Port of Said which is the starting point of the crucial Suez Canal. When the US knew that there were American passengers in the ship the US went for aggressive measures and wanted the hijackers apprehended and prosecuted. As the ship was on international waters the US found an opportunity for armed intervention and created a response detail which included the best of the best of the US military, The SEAL Team SIX. To catch the hijackers a crisis management team in Washington DC gave the responsibility to an Aircraft Carrier USS Saratoga to deploy its aircraft, track the aircraft in which the hijackers were fleeing Egypt and hold them accountable for their actions. And eventually, they succeed. But both instances were nowhere near the USA. The crisis was faced in the Mediterranean Sea which is around 5900 miles from the USA. The SEAL Team SIX was preparing for an operation at the Sigonella Military Base in Sicily. The USS Saratoga was deployed to the south of Greece. Today the USA has more than 800 military bases in around 80 countries and 11 aircraft carriers like the USS Saratoga deployed all over the world. The US Navy is the largest blue water navy in the World. But the purpose of the blue water navy and this behemoth force is not to fight a war with every single country but to ensure control over trade. To keep the economic cycle smooth, we need forces to ensure the protection of trade routes and timely intervention of forces in times of crisis. Today the US can intervene and operate at major trade chokepoints in the world.
90% of the global trade is through oceans and only 5% of the ocean is explored. We have explored the moon more than our oceans and the world’s entire economy would halt if trade among countries stopped, which we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet oceans are the most important aspect for trade. In a globalized world, it is hard to imagine the survival of a country without multilateral trade. For the world to grow trade was always the most important aspect and historically countries with better and safer trade routes have always dominated the world economy. The Silk Road is often seen as the world’s first truly global trade route. Today China wants to achieve that same by its Belt and Road Initiative. The Silk Road was built for trade and commerce to prosper and was no compulsion for China, but the BRI project is a serious compulsion for China because of the nature of trade today. Even if people believe that Megalodon exists and are the fiercest sea creatures, the fact is we don’t know anything about seas and for our survival our necessities have to cross fierce, unpredictable and malign waters of the ocean. The American need for semiconductors is fulfilled by Taiwan though crossing the Pacific Ocean. Ships follow a predefined course displayed on their plotters and the vast mass of the majestic Pacific Ocean
We are following just one route on which semiconductors are our present and will be our future travels. But the world had traded for the longest time. Not only goods were traded, but people were traded, ideas were traded, languages were traded and most importantly the human connection was traded.
Trade was a must for Europeans. Europe was cold, people there were poor, and it became of utmost importance for them to trade, get goods and make themselves and they did. Historians believe that the primary motivation of Europeans to trade was God, Gold and Glory. The Crusades provided the ideology of Reconquista which in turn inspired Atlantic colonization with the sole purpose of establishing Christian dominance. Europeans wanted spices and resources from the East and hence they traded to get rich. But the Europeans were deeply divided and were under clouds of deceit and hence for glory they explored places, colonized them, and purged them. Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs and Steel says that these farm-based European societies have conquered and maintained imperialism through Guns, Germs, and Steel. The invention of guns changed the world forever. It changed the rules and the world as it looked like. The Europeans now dominated every place on earth. This dominance was possible due to high sea explorations. The concept of stock markets came from the Dutch sailors when they were trying to finance these wild expeditions. World Maps as we know today were made during this time. The world was being explored geographically and culturally in every way possible. Magellan proves that the earth is not flat. The myth of California Island was busted. But all these advancements and achievements were possible because strong maritime powers ensured that these highly financed ships which had to pay their shareholders profit reached home safely. The British Navy guarded British ships, the Dutch guarded the Dutch ships and the same goes for the Spanish, French, and Portuguese. This was pure Colonization and its powerplay. Trade was, is and will always remain a power play.