Tuesday, November 30, 2004

On Colonialism, yet again.

Now that's prolific. My ADSL connection had been broken since Sunday, and I haven't been able to access the Internet. Now it's up. And in that time, Steve Gilliard has posted - not one, but nine posts (as of writing) on colonial wars. And why it's a bad thing. He's dealt with insurgencies in Indonesia, the Belgian Congo, and the United States' folly in the Phillipines. Perhaps you can start with the first post, which gives a much needed smackdown to wannabe neocolonialist Niall Ferguson. It's all good. Read it all.

All of this is offered as a (to some, obvious, and to others, not) parallel to the current SNAFU in Iraq. It's not that the Americans want to spend the next 100 years in Iraq, like the Poms did in India. But there are parallels between the two cases:

1) Colonial Warfare is a losing proposition
There are a never ending series of wars which comes with colonies, because people dislike being subjected to the rule of strangers

2) Colonial Warfare rarely brings about the benefits attributed to it.
Unless you can enslave people, the benefits of colonies are rarely seen

3) The rulers rely on the disunity of the ruled.
It is in their interest to keep the ruled at each other's throats and to prefer one group to another. Ethnic strife is the colonial ruler's best friend. They start out picking sides and then divide and conquer.

4) Disorder is the friend of colonial rulers
The more strife they can suppress, the more power they will ultimately have.

5) You have to kill a lot of people to rule a colony
The only way to have a colony is to indiscriminately kill everyone who might oppose you.

The problem with number 5 is - apart from being a BAD thing, is that most people - especially Americans - do not like indiscriminate killing.

UPDATE: Steve is now up to post 14, describing the 1947 French colonial war in Madagascar, with a death toll of 100,000. And he's not even YET up to Algeria. He'll probably get around to Điện Biên Phủ, but his interest is what happens after the battle.As he says in comments:

The whole series has a two-fold purpose. One, to explain to Americans that Colonial Warfare is almost always genocidal. Unless we kill a lot more Iraqis, we are doomed to fail and even then, wholesale murder is only a temporary respite before failure.

Two, to get Europeans to think about why they suddenly live in multiracial democracies. That it wasn't an accident and it's not just the result of immigration. If you consider the years 1945-50, we could be talking 200,000 dead at a minimum in Indonesia and Madagascar alone, over a million killed in the partion of India.

Barring any accident, there's more to come.