The history of global superpowers has often been characterized by long periods of peace followed by abrupt, destructive conflicts. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, these powers, such as the UK and the USA, have enjoyed seemingly endless periods of peace, only to be shocked by unprecedented wars. But are we destined to repeat this cycle in the 21st century? Given the current global dynamics, it’s worth exploring the lessons we can learn from history to anticipate the challenges of tomorrow.

The British Empire: Peace and War (1814 to 1914)

Following the end of the Napoleonic War in 1814, the UK found itself bathed in tranquillity within Europe. Their attention turned to international relations, with key conflicts representing the Opium War with China in 1839 and the annexation of India in 1858.

Despite a proxy war over the Crimea War with the Russian Empire, the direct sovereignty of the UK was never in imminent danger. This absolute domestic peace lasted for a solid century until the gruesome reality of World War I and II.

The Pax Americana Era: A Peaceful Run (1945 to the Present)

Just like the UK in the 19th century, the USA emerged as a leading superpower after World War II. This period, often referred to as the Pax Americana, saw several conflicts involving the USA, including the Korean War, Vietnam War, Grenada War, Gulf War, and Afghan/Iraqi Wars. Despite these wars causing immense destruction and loss, none threatened the actual existence of the United States. As of 2023, US seems to be getting more invovled with wars happening in Ukraine and Israel, that is still a proxy war far away from the main land.

This era of peace has lasted for 78 years and counting.

The Perception of Perpetual Peace

One key issue with the modern Western conception, particularly among younger generations, is the assumption that a major conflict will not occur in the future. Interestingly, this mirrors how the Britons might have felt after Napoleon in 1814. However, historical cycles suggest otherwise. No period of peace lasts forever, and disruptive wars often emerge to challenge established global orders.

Potential Challenges for the Future

Looking forward, it's less likely that a global confrontation would involve China. Its location on the far edge of the western sphere of influence shields it from being the epicenter of conflict. However, as history has taught us, threats also lurk closer to home borders. Taiwan conflict resembles the left over romanticism from the WW2 era proxy war, but the history doesn't repeat. The US and the world today has moved on from the period of 1945.

Over the next few decades, South America's increasing reliance on China could potentially throw this region into a state of disorder, possibly leading to otherwise avoidable conflicts.

In conclusion, history is filled with cycles of long-lasting peace abruptly interrupted by periods of major conflict. It is essential to learn from these periods and remain vigilant to navigate the challenges of the future. Whether we're heading towards another global war remains uncertain, but the signs are there if we choose to read them.