05 July 2012

An Apologia for Colonialism

Conrad Black writes in the National Review what can only amount to an entirely shortsighted apology for colonialism. Here is a taste:
The Belgians were frequently inexcusably heavy-handed in the Congo, but they never generated the horrific casualties that have routinely occurred in the civil strife in that country in 50 years of independence, much less the approximately 1 million dead in a single month in the Rwandan massacres of the Tutsi in 1994. It need hardly be said that there were no Darfurs (another million dead) in the Anglo-Egyptian (i.e., governed by the British) Sudan, once Khartoum was liberated from the Mahdi in 1885 (two days too late for General Gordon). The Dutch were no joy in Indonesia, but the natives did not run amok, as they did in 1966 when 700,000 alleged Communists, including the party leader, D. N. Aidit, were massacred. The Portuguese were relatively enlightened in Brazil and Macao, and not overly bad in Angola and Mozambique, again, in the light of the prolonged civil wars that racked both those countries after they left.

It must be said that the motives for colonialism were discreditably greedy and largely based on racial and sectarian arrogances. In the case of the United States, colonial acquisition was almost an accident, after the hokey Spanish–American War, which was caused, effectively, by spontaneous combustion in the USS Mainein Havana in 1898. The Americans departed Cuba quickly and voluntarily pledged to leave the Philippines after less than 40 years.
It's written in a tone that is serious and without any acknowledgement that colonial policies played any part in the trajectory of the DRC and Rwanda. If you are looking for a short and sweet take down of the piece's loose facts, look no further than Texas in Africa.

For extra measure. This is the concluding paragraph:
If the Americans had maintained their British status, they would control Britain and Canada and Australia and New Zealand now (another 120 million people and over $5 trillion of GDP), have all their energy needs met, and enjoy better government than they have actually endured for the past 20 years. It would have been much easier to abolish slavery and, if there had been a Civil War, it would not have lasted long, nor cost a fraction of the 750,000 American lives that it did. There would have been no World Wars or Cold War, or at least no conflict remotely as perilous as those were. The United States would also have less than its current 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated people, and wouldn’t have a legal cartel that devours 10 percent of its GDP. These are matters that, though they verge on secular heresy, Americans may want to consider, in between singing splendid anthems and rereading Jefferson’s defamation of poor old George III and his blood libel on the American Indian in the Declaration of Independence, this national holiday.
Wow.

Permissions