Utterances.net edited by Jalel Harchaoui.
Print Button
RSS Button

"Net-net, settler colonialism was a positive for the colonized countries."
Making European-style Imperialism Sexy Again
by Jalel Harchaoui.
Old-school colonial crimes are increasingly lauded in mainstream thought. What does that opinion-management effort preannounce?
Making European-style Imperialism Sexy Again

An oil pipeline that would bypass Sudan. China's Hu and South Sudan's Kiir.

When the business press praises a research paper, it usually means there’s an ideological agenda underneath (pollution denial; etc.). NYU’s William Easterly and Berkeley’s Ross Levine published an academic article recently establishing thanks to very thorough correlation calculations (Third Reich scientists published a lot of those, too) that European genes are more conducive of economic superiority. Again, all of this is sober and serious; and the business press has saluted the findings.

The two professors ‘discovered’ that almost half of the world’s economic development levels today are attributable to human beings of European race. The latter makes up only 15-16% of the world’s population, which implies that the white race is three times more productive than other peoples (WSJ, 25-Jun-12).

The authors even give a tangible example: If Brazil’s population had been penetrated by Europeans at a slightly higher rate during its colonial period (more Aboriginals slaughtered), its average GDP would have been appreciably higher today (15% or 20% greater).

A month ago, U-Penn’s Amy Greenberg published a book dedicated to the 1846-48 conflict, whereby the U.S. launched a war of aggression on Mexico and stole a third of its land. In this case also, the business press (renowned for its interest in history books) chimed in. The author has been squarely attacked for her “loathing” of U.S. president James K. Polk. She was condemned for her poor scholarship and lack of “historical accuracy” (WSJ, 02-Nov-12), classic accusation when one dares state unpleasant facts about any nation in the world.

Across the Atlantic, in France, Gerard Longuet, currently a Senator—and Secretary of Defense during the bombing of Libya in 2011—articulated publicly “his strong belief that France did lots of good for Algeria [via its colonial occupation], and helped it become a much more modern nation, better equipped, and better trained” (31-Oct-12). The standard ‘civilizing mission’ rationale essentially, straight from the 19th century. Substantial chunks of the indigenous population had to be wiped out (just in 1954-62, 15% of the Algerian people was slaughtered). But that detail should not overshadow the benefits: the prestige, the proximity with refinement and the benevolence mentioned above.

In many ways, one cannot criticize those statements. They are factually correct.

If a nation grabs a swath of land as large and rich as North America, eliminates the 10 million human beings that happen to live there, kidnap hand-picked labor out of Africa’s healthiest, and uses that to uniformize the culture, that nation will indeed achieve an economically superior empire. The colonizing nation-state will force its own “institutions” upon its conquest (control), send “human capital” (settlers); and leverage off the “connections with international markets” (economies of scale via a large colonial empire). Economic growth will be helped also by the establishment of ‘cultural norms’ (deletion of local traditions for the sake of uniformity). That is the very definition of settler colonialism; no surprise there.

Why is everybody suddenly defending colonization in America and Western Europe? Why all the positive attention from the corporate sector, and the politicians that serve it?

That is the result of several developments, which became confluent over the last two years. One is the West’s success in Libya. The eastern part of that old Italian colony is oil-rich, and it was taken back by Paris-London-Washington very smoothly in 2011. (The killing of a U.S. ambassador does not much tarnish the positive nature of the enterprise.)

Why was Libya taken in 2011? Why not in 1986? Over the last 10-15 years, Africa has been in the process of being quietly, gradually bought by Beijing. America missed that important development because the Chinese conquest is non-violent (only corruption combined with outright purchases then followed by military protection, but no Reagan-style terrorism). The other reason America missed the Chinese presence in Africa is as follows. Historically, that continent has never been a primarily U.S. domain (like the Middle East or Latin America); Africa has long been intended ‘for Europe to exploit’ . . . But Europe relies on America when it comes to heavy-duty violence. The West as a whole was asleep at the wheel over the last 10-15 years. Hence the urgency to take Libya when the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt provided a good opportunity to move in.

The fact that Iraq’s oil wells resumed pumping reliably in 2011 also contributes to explaining the timing: Libyan exports, finally, could be disrupted.

The Sudan is perhaps an even more apt illustration than Libya. Over the last several years, the U.S. has been building up major troop presence in Uganda and Ethiopia. Those troops are mainly aimed at South Sudan (extremely rich in oil, greatly controlled by China already.

By the time additional resource-rich territories of Africa get taken, it is wise to make sure that brains are all prepared. Since the Decolonization period (1945-1975), Western culture has somewhat lost touch with the ideology of colonialism and its lure. We are bound to see more apologetics such as the above in the mainstream over the next few years. Public opinion must get used to the idea of Washington resorting to old-school ‘European presence’ in Africa. It is important that it be not regarded as a crime by educated people.

Meanwhile, U.S. control and presence in Latin America (at the exception of Colombia and Mexico) has become almost nil nowadays. Latin America has many decades’ worth of experience with U.S. “help"; those folks know better. As far as neocolonialism, Africa is where the focus is—and will remain.

~ Jalel Harchaoui.