What If: World Without the US – Part 2

In our first episode of a world without the
US we looked at the ways that the World War 2 and post War-era may have turned out if
the US had simply refused to engage the world and remained isolationist. We discovered that there would be a near-certainty
of a World War II that ended with a stalemate heavily favoring Germany and positioning it
for unrivaled superpowerdom in Europe. We also saw how US non-interference in Korea
would have led to a unified and communist Korea with strong ties to the USSR and China,
prompting a resurrection of the Japanese imperial state. Today we’re going to see what might have happened
if the US exited the world stage at various points in history after the post World War
II era. Iranian Democracy Without the US’s interference in Iran, the
revolution that brought down the monarchy and ushered in a fundamentalist government
may not have played out the way it did in our world. In fact, a revolution which would end up with
a religious fundamentalist government may have never been necessary in the first place,
were it not for US and British interference in 1953 that saw a democratically elected
Prime Minister ousted by a military coup d’etat organized by MI6 and the CIA. Britain, who owned a majority share of the
Anglo-Persian Oil Company- today BP oil- saw their continued ownership of the Iranian company
as vital to their national interests, as it helped alleviate their budget shortfalls and
also powered their oil-fired navy. However Iranians began to chafe that the British
continued to be the primary beneficiary of the company’s revenues, and in 1953 newly
elected Mohammad Mossaddegh nationalized Iran’s oil industry. This did not sit well with the British at
all, and they immediately besieged the US for help in overthrowing Mossadegh. Initially the US was opposed to the idea,
and saw the British as meddlesome and destructive to the nation of Iran, but when Britain claimed
that Mosaddegh may in fact draw close to the Soviet Union- an unlikely event- the British
played to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s worst fear: communist expansion around the
world. Thus he approved the overthrow of Mossadegh,
and the CIA and MI6 immediately went to work manipulating the Iranian public into supporting
the Sha’s removal of Mosaddegh from his democratically elected position. Without the US, Britain would have been unable
to remove Mosaddegh from power, which would have resulted in a crippling blow to the British
economy as it lost its controlling share of one of the largest oil companies in the world. Iran’s own economy would have flourished,
as would have its democratic values as popular leaders such as Mosaddegh cultured a strong,
secular and socially aware Iran that year by year ate away at the political power of
the Shah. In many respects, Iran could today resemble
Britain- a strong democracy with a nobility that serves as nothing more than figureheads
and who wield no real political power whatsoever. Seeings its own values reflected in a strong
Iranian democracy, the US would have seen Iran as a regional partner, rather than the
potential foe it is considered today, and as a counterbalance to the growing influence
of the Soviet Union in the Middle East. With the Persian Gulf being the main tap for
the global oil supply, the European democracies would have vied to establish strong ties with
Iran, while the Soviet Union would have sought to strengthen its own ties with Iraq- both
sides vying for political influence in the most oil-rich region in the world. The reason why is simple: while contrary to
popular opinion, today governments of the west don’t ‘plunder’ Middle Eastern oil for
their own benefit, rather a strong influence in the region gives them the strategic capability
to shut off the oil tap for potential enemies, such as China or Russia. In essence, one side could shut off the flow
of oil to the other side in the case of war, and that is what makes the Middle East so
strategically important to the world. With Western Europe and the Soviet Union vying
for influence and power in the Middle East, it would have inevitably lead to… Massive Middle East War While it would likely not have been of a scale
appropriate enough to term ‘World War III’, the US’s exit from the Middle East would have
without a doubt launched a regional conflict to rival any of the largest European wars. During the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988, the
Soviet Union heavily supported Iraq, and after the war Iraq was sitting on piles of Soviet
hardware and a huge national budget deficit. This would lead to the invasion of oil-rich
Kuwait- and in our world this invasion was stopped by a US-led coalition. In a world where the US decided to simply
walk away from the world though, Iraq would have very quickly turned its attention on
regional rival and very oil-rich nation, Saudi Arabia. At the time, Saudi Arabia relied heavily on
US protection, and the US saw Saudi Arabia as not just a vital economic partner, but
a vital strategic partner as well who’s location allowed the US to ensure it could control
the global oil tap in case of war against Russia or China. The US thus supplied much of the Saudi military,
and even helped train it- and when Iraq invaded Kuwait it was Saudi Arabia who saw the first
US troops land, and were immediately dispatched into defensive positions to protect Saudi
Arabia’s oil wealth, while the Saudi’s own military largely remained a supporting and
token force. Without the US however, Saudi Arabia would
never have been able to withstand an Iraqi attack, who would have plundered Saudi wealth
in order to pay off its massive deficit incurred by the almost decade long war with Iran. Seizing Saudi oil supplies, Iraq would have
become a regional superpower, firmly entrenched with the Soviet Union and in effect giving
the Soviets control over the majority of the world’s oil supplies. Western Europe would have immediately financed
a war against Iraqi aggression in a bid to avert this strategic catastrophe, but without
US firepower and military coordination, the coalition that took out Saddam’s forces in
the first Gulf War would have been dramatically underpowered. Throughout the campaign, it was US intelligence
and recon assets that coordinated coalition attacks, and US stealth aircraft who launched
crippling blows against what was at the time one of the world’s most formidable air defense
networks. Equally importantly though was American pressure
on Israel and the efforts of US troops to hunt down Iraqi SCUD launchers targeting Israel
that prevented that nation from retaliating against Iraq and thus upsetting the rest of
the Islamic states in the coalition, tearing the alliance apart. Soviet military assistance would have flowed
directly into Iraq, possibly even extending into actual combat assistance such as that
provided to China during the Korean War against the US. In our world the presence of overwhelming
American firepower at the head of a huge international coalition kept the Russians out of the Gulf
War, but in a world without the US the international coalition against Iraq would have been decidedly
weaker, and victory much more achievable for Iraq. The Soviet Union would have thus thrown its
full support behind Iraq, with little fear of facing retaliation from the comparatively
much weaker Western European nations. After an Iraqi victory and the seizing of
Saudi Arabia’s vast oil wealth, a healthy stream of very lucrative oil contracts would
have flowed to the Soviet Union, enriching it economically and perhaps averting its eventual
collapse. Cuba-Centric South America Almost from the moment Fidel Castro took power
and ousted the US-backed dictator ruling Cuba, the United States tried to remove him from
office. Yet in a world without the US, Cuba would
have been free to export its revolution abroad, targeting neighboring countries with its communist
revolutionary fervor. Here in the real world, the US failed to remove
Castro from power, yet it was very successful at limiting or outright countering the influence
of Cuba’s revolutionaries in other nations. For decades the US and Cuba, backed by the
Soviet Union, fought an undeclared war of influence- and sometimes actual weapons- in
countries throughout South and Central America. The US, fearful of communist expansion in
its backyard, did all it could to eliminate that threat, even going so far as to depose
democratic governments such as it did in Chile when those governments became too friendly
with communist Cuba or the Soviet Union. Without the US however, communist influence
would have spread across the southern part of the Western hemisphere, and today Central
and South America would likely be made up of communist states and a small number of
very communist-friendly democracies. Many dictators and the brutal atrocities they
committed while in power against their political enemies would not have arisen or maintained
power. Without US support, Chile’s own General Augusto
Pinochet would never have succeeded in overthrowing the democratically elected Salvador Allende,
and go on to become one of South America’s most oppressive dictators. The Soviet Union Survives And Wins The Cold
War If the United States had decided to pull all
its troops homes after World War II and taken no interest in global politics, there is no
doubt that the Soviet Union would have won the Cold War against the democratic West. Without American firepower in Europe, the
Western democracies would have been forced to stand alone against the Soviet juggernaut,
which vastly overshadowed European forces in both scope and capability. The titanic political clout of an unchallenged
Soviet Union would have easily bent even France and Britain to its will, lest they face the
wrath of the largest mechanized force in world history on their own. For decades the United States carefully outmaneuvered
the Soviet Union on the international front, resulting in a stunning defeat of the Soviet
Union after it was completely economically isolated from the rest of the world. The Soviet Union always fielded a greater
number of forces, and the United States always relied on superior number of nuclear weapons
to keep a parity of power between the two states. However, the end result of decades of sly
US international maneuvering was a world where the Soviet Union’s greatest economic allies
were the small third and second world governments it had backed in Vietnam, Korea, and other
places, leaving the Soviet behemoth slowly starving as the world preferred trade with
the US and its allies over the Soviets. Without America, the Soviet Union would have
been the greatest economic power in the world, and profit alone would have encouraged the
nations of the world to trade with it. This great economic clout would have made
it an untouchable superpower, and given it enough influence to economically isolate western
democracies in much the same way that the US did to the Soviet Union in our world. Interestingly enough though, rather than remaining
a hardline communist power, the Soviet Union would likely have resembled more modern-day
China than the communist stalwart we know from the Cold War. Much like China, its growing exposure to global
trade would have seen it relinquish central control of the economy in exchange for dramatic
economic growth. As China today, the Soviet Union of a world
without America would have been a political communist power, with a free market system. Nukes, Nukes Everywhere! The greatest casualty of a world without the
US however, would have been the cause of international nuclear peace. Today, US allies from Japan, to South Korea,
to even Britain and Germany all live under the protection of the American nuclear umbrella,
with the assurance that a nuclear attack against one of the US’s protected states would result
in an American nuclear response. While Britain and France still choose to remain
nuclear independent, the American nuclear umbrella has ensured that the majority of
nations it covers see no need in pursuing a nuclear weapons program, resting secure
in the knowledge that no matter what, the US will abide by its promise to protect its
allies. A purposeful strategy, the US has for decades
shouldered the burden of protecting other nations knowing that by doing so, it could
limit the threat of nuclear proliferation. Less nuclear-capable states in the world means
that the world at large remains safer from the threat of nuclear war. Yet without the US, many nations around the
world would desperately seek out nuclear weapons of their own. Britain and France, who already have a small
nuclear arsenal, would dramatically increase the number of nuclear weapons they each hold,
specially in light of how powerful the Soviet Union would have become without the US to
counterbalance its military and political influence. The Soviets themselves proved to be less concerned
with nuclear proliferation than the US, and would have likely done little to prevent regimes
in places such as Syria and Libya from developing their own nuclear weapons. Even today in our real world, despite assurances
of protection from the US, nations such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia both desperately want
their own nuclear programs, and Turkey has long sought for NATO nuclear weapons to be
under its own control- something the US flat-out denied. With the threat of a rising China and a nuclear
North Korea, Japan remains confident that it can rely on its American allies- yet without
the US Japan would have been forced to develop its own nuclear weapons program. In the real world, a Japanese government internal
document even went so far as to hypothesize how quickly Japan could develop its own nuclear
weapons if it decided it needed to. A world without the US would look vastly different
than the one we know today, perhaps better in some areas, and vastly worse in others. Like any other nation, the US has its fair
share of villainous and heroic deeds alike, though the consequences of its actions are
magnified on a greater scale than any other nation due to its power. Still, given the state of the world today
it can be hard to argue against the course the US has plotted throughout the 20th century,
despite the many missteps along the way. Today the US stands as the world’s sole superpower
after defeating the Soviet Union, and now at last is the time for Americans to demand
that the US acts true to its declared values, as it will likely never have this opportunity
in history again. What do you think a world without the US would
look like? What other crazy What If scenarios can you
think of for us to explore? Let us know in the comments! And as always if you enjoyed this video don’t
forget to Like, Share, and Subscribe for more great content!

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