As Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish informed T.E. Lawrence in the 1962 film “Lawrence of Arabia”: There are no Arabs, and there never have been. From the outside looking in, there appears to be a race commonly referred to as “Arabs”; they are in truth multitudinous tribes and clans who have been struggling for preeminence in the region for many centuries.
This was most recently illustrated during the reign of Saddam Hussein, whose minority Tikriti clan ruled Iraq with the proverbial iron fist. The same tribal dynamic remains in play throughout the Middle East, Africa and much of Asia.
The decline of imperialism as historians understand it (as opposed to international socialists) began with the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence of 1916, the agreement between Britain (via Sir Henry McMahon, British high commissioner in Egypt at the time) and the sherif of Mecca (Hussein ibn Ali) that if “Arabs” successfully revolted against the Ottoman Empire, Britain would support claims for their independence – whatever that meant.
In this, which became known as Pan Arabism, Britannia began its transformation from the nation that ruled the waves to the one that waived the rules. The British Empire had a longer history of imperialism than the United States, whose leaders saw that imperialist practices were becoming out of vogue as it became a world power. Thus, although powerful Western nations maintained strong foreign policy for a time, intellectual dishonesty with respect to objectives and world opinion led to weak commitment in the areas of policy – these, I believe were the seeds of political correctness. Nations and races wouldn’t be enslaved or exploited outright, but they would remain second-class. The advent of socialism and Marxist thought lent more fuel to the fires of resentment and suspicion between developed and underdeveloped nations.
The recent threats against the West by al-Qaida’s terror chief Aymen al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, along with Iran’s recent defiance relative to their nuclear buildup, make a strong case for the imperialism practiced by nations like Britain, France and Holland in times of old.
We cannot turn the clock back, but it occurs to me that such policies might have prevented the necessity for the War on Terror. This would have required the will of Western nations, but these unfortunately had begun to operate under the naive notion that Third World nations had the wisdom to adopt democratic concepts of liberty, justice and benevolence.
Suppose that the West had correctly realized that despite our healthy respect for others’ right to self-determination, our lofty ideals were not likely to be easily embraced by cultures in which these principles had not naturally evolved. Suppose further that instead of outright exploitation of these nations and the support of dictators who would dance to our tune for a time (which of course led to resentment and revolt under our weakening socialist-influenced foreign policy), we had realized that our high regard for the self-determination of others made imperialism a moral imperative – but perhaps, an imperialism of a different kind.
Might it have been more prudent – and intellectually honest – to have maintained true puppet governments in the Third World, but with the social, economic – and yes, military – provisions in place necessary to acclimatize these cultures to Western concepts, rather than simply exploiting them economically and then withdrawing when the chips were down?
Am I saying that a program of culturally colonizing the Third World in a systematic and deliberate fashion would have been an appropriate course of action? Keeping culturally underdeveloped nations “down” rather than allowing them the self-determination we so highly value?
Yes – that is exactly what I am saying. Societies that eschew slavery, mass execution, stoning, rape as a criminal penalty, beheading and impalement are – to be blunt – culturally superior to those that do not. It was the West’s moral obligation to see that overwhelming economic and military power did not fall into the hands of culturally immature societies, but lack of conviction, moral weakness and intellectual dishonesty caused us to drop the ball.
For the record, despite all that has been done in the areas of humanitarian, economic and military aid, the nations in question still accuse the West of having “kept them down.” It’s one of the reasons so many of them want to kill us.