The Second Pax Britannica (17sep01)
The New Colonialism
Even before Yugoslavia exploded, I had been struck by the world's reversion to a colonial system without admitting it. The Idi Amin phase in Uganda, and later the genocide in Rwanda, caused all parties to argue that we had to intervene in the internal affairs of a country. However, Political Correctness forced all parties to not notice that we were retreating to colonialism. Thus, we were not in a position to discuss the various colonial systems, and debate which pattern we should follow in future.
The eruption of Yugoslavia failed to cause a backward look at colonialism. The colonial era had certain characteristics, which may not be discussed in the new era. They included Mandate, Mercenary soldiers, and the taxing of the local population. Some years ago, the report that the U.S.A.'s sworn enemy, Iran, complained that the U.S.A. did not intervene in Yugoslavia hit me like a bombshell, but hit nobody else. This was an ex-colony demanding the return of the colonialists.
Wilfully lacking the concept of Mandate, each decision in Yugoslavia had to be made by a unanimous decision of a committee composed of 23 governments, and many lives were lost as a result.
Evasion of the concept of Mercenaries meant that the U.S.A. in particular drew back from intervention in many cases. The return of American soldiers in body bags was unacceptable.
The idea that if the locals want us to intervene to stop them from killing each other, they should pay the cost, still does not exist. (This will in due course be compared with the ruling concept, that the colonial powers stripped subject nations of their assets.) Thus, consideration of cost will deter us from keeping the peace.
While the concept of Mandate continues to not exist, exigencies of time caused Australia, in spite of its allegedly poor record in East Timor, to be given a de facto Mandate in East Timor by the United Nations. Thus, merely because it was so far away, each decision involved in the intervention of the incipient world government had only to be made by one country, Australia, as opposed to a committee of 23.
Thus, Political Correctness forces us to drift imperceptibly into a new colonial era, rather than move rationally.
After the United Nations botched their own entry, the democratically elected leader of Sierra Leone recently welcomed the intrusion of British troops to help against the anti-democratic indigenous forces.
I am prompted to write this by an article in The Guardian, 7th July 2000, page 20, by Victoria Brittain;
Africans say UN must pay for genocide.
The Organisation of African Unity is demanding payment of "significant reparations" to Rwanda by the countries that failed to prevent the genocide of 1994, when 800,000 people are believed to have died.
The uncompromising report names the United States and France in particular, along with the UN security council as a whole, as guilty parties who allowed "this terrible conspiracy to go ahead".
It is written by a team headed by two former African heads of state, ….
We have reached the stage, first in Yugoslavia and then in Rwanda, where other ex colonies demand that the new colonial powers intervene. However, we insist on not learning anything from the ample historical precedent.
The new colonial power - a mixture of UNO, NATO and Britain, impose their own criteria in the face of local democracy and self-determination. Through fiscal pressure, the new colonial power obstructs corruption even when indulged in by the democratically elected local government. The new colonial power also imposes its own view of proper government by the threatening to withhold financial aid and other financial constructs which are necessary if the local elected government is to survive. A local democratic government knows it will not survive financial collapse.
The tragedy is that Political Correctness (which includes the dogma that colonialism was totally bad) prevents rational discussion of these issues. The truth is, that in the face of local opposition, we now support the local forces which want to impose our version of democracy and fiscal probity. These local forces believe they see that the alternative is financial collapse, starvation, and civil war. The parallel with the way Britain was drawn to intervene in the internal affairs of numerous countries, leading to the growth of the British Empire, is more or less exact. The British Empire was probably the largest because it was the most humane. Each subject country then sent an elite to Britain to study law, which enabled that elite, in the name of independence and democracy, to oust the British and impose their own form of exploitation on the rest of their (often illiterate) population. We need to learn from history.
Ivor Catt 12july00
24oct01. The book which I have read seems to support my view. Lacking proper mandate, lacking proper definition of spheres of influence by the new colonial powers - USA, UNO, UK, Europe, Nato, the result is distrust and their jockeying for position and influence in the new colonies. Thus, the pretence that we continue to live in a world of independent states, rather than a world of client states whose excesses are limited by the new colonialists, causes, and will continue to cause, misery and death on a large scale. The solution is to study the British colonial system, and compare and contrast it with other less successful systems. Ivor Catt
28oct01. Jockeying for position and influence caused such damage in Afghanistan. Perhaps "Mandate" should be tried. That is the unstated lesson I learn from the Cordovez book (below).
Out of Afghanistan
By Diego Cordovez and Selig S, Harrison, pub. OUP 1995
Just as Brezhnev's decision to invade Afghanistan was one of the last spasms of a dying Stalinist old guard, so the withdrawal marked the triumphant emergence of a new generation of leadership. The account that follows puts the last decade of the Cold War in a new light by showing the importance of perestroica - and diplomacy - in bringing about a withdrawal often explained almost entirely in terms of military pressure.
At the same time, this account makes clear that Soviet objectives in Afghanistan were limited from the start. Moscow did not launch its invasion as the first step in a master plan to dominate the Persian Gulf, as most observers believed at the time. Rather, after stumbling into a morass of Afghan political factionalism, the Soviet Union resorted to military force in a last desperate effort to forestall what it perceived as the threat of an American-supported Afghan Tito on its borders. Difference surfaced soon thereafter within the Soviet leadership over the wisdom of this decision, leading as early as 1983 to serious probes for a way out that were rejected by an American leadership bent on exploiting Soviet discomfiture. The advent of Gorbachev in 1983 immediately resulted in the intensified pursuit of a settlement more than eighteen months before the introduction of the Stinger missile often credited with bringing him to the bargaining table.
Despite the widespread stereotype of a Soviet military defeat, Soviet forces were securely entrenched in Afghanistan when the Geneva Accords were finally signed on April 14, 1988 …. Perestroica was the indispensable prerequisite for the withdrawal, and diplomacy, reinforced by military pressure, made it happen.
To say that the Afghan war brought the Soviet Union to its knees and led to the unraveling of the Soviet system, as some observers do, is to turn history on its head. It was precisely because Andropov and Gorbachev recognised the shortcomings of the Soviet system that they began to question the relevance of the Soviet model for other countries, notably Afghanistan, and to search for a way to disengage. [Note 1] …. Disengagement from Afghanistan was the logical first step. … To be sure, the Afghan debacle contributed to the psychological malaise that made the unraveling of 1991 possible.
…. The internecine conflict enabled Afghan Communist leader Babrak Karmal to feed Soviet fears of American links with his rival, Hafizullah Amin, thus tipping the scales in the Soviet debate in favor of intervention. ….
…. Neither the Afghan Communist Party nor Pakistan-sponsored Islamic fundamentalist elements of the resistance represented the unorganised majority of Afghans. Afghan leaders did create a representative resistance coalition - the Loi Jirga movement of 1980 - but Pakistani intelligence agencies killed this promising indigenous initiative. Pu9rsuing its hiustorically rooted objectives, Islamabad insisted on channmeling the lion's share of U.S. aid to fundamentalist-dominated resistance groups as the price for its role as a conduit. The United States paid the piper but did not call the tune. American acquiescence in the Pakistani demand for a fundamentalist-dominated government in Kabul with no Communist representation strengthened those in Moscow who believed that only a Communist-led regime could survive for the "decent interval" desired after Soviet forces left. ….
Although the regime of Najibullah did in fact survive for four years, the end result of the Soviet-American failure to cooperate with the U.N. in establishing a coalition regime has been continual bloodshed in Kabul and the emergence of well-armed fundamentalist forces in a society traditionally hostile to fundamentalist dogma. Moreover, the fact that the United States tolerated or was unable to stop Islamabad's support of fundamentalist factions has had ugly consequences. The CIA inadvertently colluded in the training of fundamentalist zealots from a variety of Islamic countries who have been implicated in terrorism against the World Trade Centre and even Islamic targets. ….
Note 1. The philosophy of the British colonial system, and probably of the Roman, was to support local satraps, who would ideally rule using the local version of what benign rule (possibly democracy) should be. The British would intervene in extremis, for instance to stop suttee. Whether British colonialists actually acted in this way, or used it as a cover for brutal exploitation, does not undermine my contention, which is that such a philosophy is the basis for the New Colonialism which events are forcing on us. The destruction of Afghanistan's boundaries by Bin Laden is only the latest in a series of events, which force us to intervene throughout the world. We must urgently get over our negative knee-jerk reaction, which prevents us from studying colonialism, good as well as bad, with a view to learning about our future
- Ivor Catt, 24oct01
26oct01; I would quote the following further items;
p148; [About resistance fighters against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan;] The most flamboyant local warlord with the most unabashed indifference to which side he served was Esmatullah Moslem, who started out with a resistance faction and then shifted back and forth several times until he ended up in command of the [Russian backed] government's Kandahar militia. Whether or not it is true that "thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, or mujahideen fighters lost their lives in intergroup combat, it is clear that continual internecine skirmishes greatly vitiated the effectiveness of the resistance. Most of the armed clashes between resistance groups were over control of the saleable booty acquired either in battle or through the [US, channelled through Pakistan] foreign aid cornucopia.
p151; But Moscow had its own growing worries about Afghanistan as illness and drug abuse spread in the ranks of the Soviet forces. With dysentry, typhoid, hepatitis, and pneumonia rampant, some reports indicated that half pf the men in certain combat units were ill at any given time. [This stage of our current incursion into Afghanistan is still in the future. IC, 26oct01]
p152; My visit to Kabul sentisized me to the tensions between Moscow and Karmal [head of Afghan state] that were to lead to Karmal's replacement by Najibullah two years later, especially their differences over the nature of the proposed U.N. settlement and the need for power-sharing by the Communist regime with non-Communist elements. Above all, I became convinced that the Communist city-state in Kabul would prove to have much more staying power than generally expected despite its inability to establish control over much of the countryside.
P160; In this new strategy, Yousaf [Director of Pakistan's ISI] recalled, "I was now cast in the role of overall guerilla leader, presiding directly over the strategy sessions of the Afghan resistance groups. It was supposed to be a secret that Pakistan was funnelling weapons to the resistance, but "even more taboo was the fact that ISI was training the mujahideen, planning their combat operations, and often accompanying them inside Afghanistan as advisers. Although the involvement of Pakistan in the field was guessed at, it was never , ever publicly admitted.
The ISI operated seven training camps where a grand total of eighty thousand resistance fighters were trained during the course of the war [against the occupyung Russians], Yousaf said; the flow of one thousand a month in 1984 increased steadily in number. In addition, there were eleven Pakistani teams of three men each operating inside Pakistan, generally consisting of a major and two junior officers dressed like Afghans. Playing a role similar to that of special forces advisers in the U.S. Army, they guided local commanders "on all aspects of military operations," conducted training activities, and prepared intelligence reports.
The ISI devised a system for the distribution of U.S. weaponry calculated to strengthen the power of its fundamentalist allies. Instead of dealing directly with the local commanders, as the CIA urged, Yousaf turned over the arms to the seven resistance leaders, who then allocated the aid to the commanders of their choice. Local commanders had to join one of the parties in order to get weapons. Thus, since "67 to 73 percent" of the weapons went to the four fundamentalist parties, the ISI distribution system gave the fundamentalist leaders powerful leverage. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezbe Islami and Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamaat Islami got the lion's share both of the weapons and of the cash support that was also doled out by the ISI for salaries of the party faithful and for transport costs. The ISI distribution system contributed to the pervasive corruption and smuggling in the aid pipeline, including narcotics trafficking on a colossal scale. A U.S. government estimate stated that heroin from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region accounted for 51 percent of the U.S. supply in 1984.
P163; The United States did not make a serious effort to prevent the consolidation of fundamentalist control ovee the resistance or to encourage support for Zahir Shah and the moderate elements. One of the few officials who raised the issue in interagency meetings was Elie Krakowski, an adviser to Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle. Krakowski was an active proponent of an upgraded Afghan aid program but objected to giving the ISI a free hand in allocating aid. Like Perle, he emphasised the importance of Israel in U.S. policy. While he did not foresee that Pakistani-trained fundamentalists would one day be implicated in attacks on targets in the United States itself, such as the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, he argued that building up the Afghan fundamentalists would damage the long-term U.S. regional interests in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle East. But "no one at State was interested," he said, "and the agency was definitely against putting pressure on the Pakistanis." Part of the reason the the CIA's "pandering" to the ISI, he said, was its desire not to disturb valuable ties that went beyond the Afghan war. "The agency was interested in a variety of things there," he explained, "They were collecting lots of interesting stuff on the Soviet Union and other things."
"We knew we were involved with Islamic fundamentalists," Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger recalled in an interview. "We knew they were not very nice people, that they were not all people attached to democracy. But we had this terrible problem of making choices." Asked whether the Unites States had ever tried to promote nonfundamentalist moderate elements, he replied that "there was some attempt to do that, but the real point is we had to make choices. Remember what Churchill said, 'If Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.'"
Dawn chorus for the new age of empire
Nation states are failing to settle the world's differences, but a new kind of imperialism can do it, says Robert Cooper, Sunday Times, News Review, 28oct01, sect. 5, p6.
The complete article can be found at www.prospect-magazine.co.uk [but not by me. I Catt. 28oct01]
All the conditions seem to be there for a new imperialism. There are countries that need an outside force to create stability (recently in Sierra Leone a rally called for the return of British rule). And though there are few missionaries today there is a new class of imperial auxiliaries in the form of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) preaching human rights - the secular religion of today's world. ….
Nevertheless, empire is sill about control. It involves control, above all, over domestic affairs. The conditions that the International Monetary Fund sets for its loans are almost all about domestic economic and political management. In return for accepting these conditions, states in danger of dropping out of the global economy receive help, not just from the IMF but also from rich governments and Wall Street. These days, aid programmes are less often about dams and roads, instead it is recognised that having a good government is essential to progress. ….
…. The relationships are similar to those of empire: it is a relationship between strong and weak and it is about the organisation of domestic affairs. ….
It is not just soldiers that come from the international community, it is also policemen, judges, prison officers, central bankers and others. Local police are financed by the UN. As auxiliaries to this effort are more than 100 NGOs. ….
Many parts of Europe have lived longer and more happily in an imperial framework than as nation states. The Balkans with its patchwork of ethnicities has known little else. …. …. Dynamism and democracy. But the clarity and vigour of the nation state also brought bloodshed - both in wars among themselves and in the way they handled their minorities. Armenians, Albanians and Kurds lived more safely in the Ottoman empire than in its more modern successors.
In those times, the empire could sometimes function as a third party, above the ethnic groups and keeping the peace between them. Today that role belongs to the international community. [via Mandate? IC]
[Rather a scrappy article which echoes my earlier ideas. Ivor Catt. 28oct01.]
Alan Judd, "Brute force and national interests worked in Barbary", Telegraph, 7jan02, p22.
This article continues the gradual, tentative drift towards a reappraisal of the colonial era. I find it exraordinary that all parties prefer to have many millions die rather than face up to the key issue; whether Blair's and President Brown's present behaviour is in any way different from the colonial policies that Blair and possibly the Queen were so very recently apologising for, in India of all places as I remember. As the son of someone who served in colonial India, I was greatly offended by his behaviour.
Alan Judd risks discussing activity by colonial powers in around 1800, and fails to admit that when the Americans finally put an end to piracy on the coast of Barbary (North Africa) in 1815 by using the big stick (as now in Afghanistan) they benefited everyone, not just themselves.
The ordinary UK and US voter, confronted on his television by genocide and the like in distant lands, will not allow his government to stand idly by. Thus, whether intervention is morally justified or not, it is going to happen. What is immoral is to conduct it incompetently, which is what we are apparently prepared to do rather than face the awful truth, that the colonial era was not altogether bad. Once the bullet is bitten, we can start to study the tactics of the various colonial powers with a view to adopting what was best and avoiding their errors. However, that cannot begin so long as the 60s generation clings to the myth that colonialism was altogether bad, which it was not. I myself find it difficult to distinguish between Britain's colonial policies and the politics that Blair and Bush are presently stumbling towards. The four key factors that I identified two years ago as needed were; Mandate, Mercenaries, Local taxation, and one other. We have at last stumbled into using mercenaries, but using some dreadful ones because of wilful lack of thought - the Northern Alliance. We still avoid thinking of local taxation ( called Colonial Exploitation). However, we are even deciding who should take part in the Afghan government - Satrapy or Quislings are the proper terms. That is the same as our past support for the local Maharajah in India, so much criticised in the 20th century, and even apologised for.
What is new in the present situation is that we do not have competing colonial powers, so our colonial rule can be much more effective, but only is we face up to it honestly. (Judd talks of this in the past, as what resolved the piracy problem, but avoids pointing out that that is the current situation. Moving too far from PC will end his journalistic career.) This honesty must include the acceptance that, since we are now copying them, the colonial era, and the colonial powers, were not evil and destructive. They were similar to us, with similar motivation. However, they were more honest. They had the honesty to recognise that some cultures were worse than others. They also recognised that, in extremis, they would not allow the native to go beyond certain limits in his behaviour to his neighbour. Are we able to have the honesty to recognise that using the ballot box, the voter will not allow our politicians to stand idly by while genocide occurs in (say) Rwanda? Will the chattering, guilt-ridden classes at least admit that democracy entails limits to what they can do against the wishes of the electorate? If so, they need to study history soon and thoroughly. Not, of course, the re-written history of the 1960s. We will have to go back to texts written in 1850 at the height of empire. There we will find honest discussion on how to control an unruly colony at minimum cost of life and economic cost. This may entail ruling through a client elite (e.g. the Catholics in Indochina) or other strategy - perhaps the vilified Divide and Rule (Note 1). These matters need to be urgently discussed. They bear immediately on how we should handle the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. We need to use a strategy which has been tried and tested, not invent one unless we really have to.
Ivor Catt 7jan02
Vilified "Divide and Rule" needs to be compared and contrasted with "Separation of Powers". African leaders often argued that the proper system in Africa was a one-party state.