America the Victimised!

10 responses to “America the Victimised!

  1. Imperialism. UR doin it wrong.

    America seems to have developed the worst kind of empire. The basic idea of an empire is resource capture. A simple empire is based on plunder; conquer somebody, steal their stuff. This only works in the short term, as you have to keep expanding the imperial frontier to find you plunderees.

    If you’re a bit cleverer, you incorporate conquered territory as provinces and develop them. The Romans did pretty well at this. Instead of plunder, the new provinces supply tax income and manpower for armies. This depends on the Empire providing something in return, primarily stability, protection from other potential conquerers, and sewers, aqueducts, etc. This form of empire expands the civilisation itself so that, for instance, Gaul becomes as Roman as Rome.

    Around any such Empire though is a hinterland of satellite states which the Empire attempts to control by threat, imposition of puppet rulers, etc. Judea was one such satellite of the Romans and, as we know from history, they are nothing but trouble to the Empire.

    The British Empire was not a great success and was rapidly lost because of indecision regarding incorporation of provinces. This was partly due to it being a somewhat historically unique non-contiguous empire, with fragments of red all over the map; hard to defend (needs a massive navy that even so can’t be everywhere at once) and culturally enormously diverse people who are reluctant to become “Roman”. The failure to develop India as a co-equal was particularly disastrous. Treating it as a place to plunder for raw resources made it into an economic burden rather than boon. Even with all the cultural problems, a wisely administrated British Empire could have evolved into an immense free trade area with phenomenal productivity, dwarfing the later EU. But the thought of darkies on an equal basis with Englishmen made that impossible, and doomed the Empire.

    The Americans have gone another step worse. They have no provincial empire at all, just a hinterland. The American Empire is like the Roman Empire, with no Africa and no Gaul, but with tens of Judeas and Britains. It is all hinterland, with the Americans trying to control it all with threat and puppet rulers and sending in the legions to keep a Herod on the throne. Twice they (and we, as partners), deposed one Iranian ruler to impose another Herod, and it has just made matters worse, which is inevitable, because Judean types demanding their own political head never give in. The Romans ended up wiping Judea off the map. The Americans want to do the same to Iran, but are living in an age where butchering the population and salting the ground just isn’t the done thing any more. So they’re a bit stuck in that regard.

    I really can’t see this American Imperium lasting much longer. It’s all costs and no benefits. Rome wouldn’t have lasted very long if all it has was lots of Judeas, and no Gaul or Africa, would it?

  2. Got it in one, though I think the main reason we lost our own empire was a sudden degeneration of the ruling class – something, I think, to do with the Great War.

  3. As I said above, my own view is that it was inevitably doomed due to failure to develop India to English industrial and organisational standards. I always envisage my imaginary post-Imperial federation to have two dominant centres, economically and culturally; England and India. It might make for an interesting alternative history novel. I will call it “The Mountbatten Memorandum”; the plot is about how an inbred aristocratic buffoon nearly messed the whole thing up, heh.

    Seriously, it comes down to economics I think. If you see India as somewhere that grows raw cotton to send to English factories (as we did), then “Empire. UR doing it wrong”. Too many people at the top of British politics saw Indian development as a threat, rather than as an opportunity. We needed more Libertarians :)

  4. djwebb2010

    “The failure to develop India as a co-equal was particularly disastrous”

    Actually, the British Empire went too far along the lines of treating conquered subjects as co-equals, which is what really undid it.

  5. I don’t know how you can come to that conclusion David. Conquered subjects will always be a source of rebellion, because people don’t like to be ruled by foreigners. So a successful empire is one which transforms them into Imperial citizens.

    You can’t hold a society together by force. It always ends up costing more blood and treasure than you can afford. As did ours.

  6. djwebb2010

    Well, there is no point in having an Empire if it is not run in the interests of the metropolitan country, so if as you say an empire held together by force is impossible, the logical solution is to dissolve the empire instead. We mustn’t get into the business of retrospective condemnation of imperialism – no countries were “democracies” at the time the empires were started – and so expectations in all countries were different.

  7. Well, there is no point in having an Empire if it is not run in the interests of the metropolitan country,

    This is the error a lot of empires make. The centre can certainly benefit in the short term from plundering the conquered, but not in the long term. The greatest benefit to the centre comes from developing and integrating the provinces.

    Firstly, because if they are economically developed, they will produce more goods, which will benefit both themselves and the centre via the marketplace.

    Secondly, the greater production will lead to greater tax revenue which will again benefit the centre- and also the provinces. What have the Romans ever done for us? Sewers, aqueducts, baths, roads, schools…

    Thirdly they will contain citizens who are prepared to fight, as citizens, for the Empire.

    Economic development benefits everybody. Using far away imperial lands to grow raw materials (e.g. cotton, sugar) then shipping them to England was woefully inefficient, and left those provinces poor and unhappy at their poverty; the British Empire thus collapsed rather quickly. It ended up costing more to run and defend than it contributed, as we found out when we, who owned a quarter of the globe, couldn’t beat Germany (one sausage factory on Lake Tanganyika, to quote Blackadder). Twice.

    If we’d developed the Empire, we’d have been unbeatable. Instead, we couldn’t even beat the Germans, even with France on our side, without American help. That’s the lesson of history.

  8. westernesse

    Peter Duignan’s “Colonialism in Africa” is instructive. Britain helped to develop Africa.


  9. Ian B, define what you mean by Empire?
    Because to me, it seems like your idea of Empire is creating a Free trade area.
    That’s not what Empire is about.

    Empire is about one group dominating another, which doesn’t mean the Empire has bad intent towards its subjects, but it does want to be the boss.

    If you want to be the boss, whether it be a football manager, a military leader, or simply the ‘man of the house’, etc, you don’t make others equal to your position.

    There no point having an ‘Empire’ if it involves other people telling you what to do as much as the other way around.

  10. That’s the whole problem Tac. If your only purpose in bulding an Empire is willy wavying, you really are doing it wrong. What is the purpose of Empire?

    Ultimately it is power. Now just conquering territories is a *display* of power. But what matters is whether you can back that up when push comes to shove; because the idea of having an empire is the military strength to beat other Empires. That’s why Rome had one, why Persia had one, and so on. It’s not just so you can feel big telling people what to do. IT is so you have a combined might greater than that of your opponents.

    Which is what my posts were emphasising. Our Empire ended up as a cost, not a benefit. When it came to the point where Germany asked us to put our Empire where our mouth was, it turned out we were all mouth and no trousers. We owned a quarter of the globe. We should have been militarily unbeatable in terms of both manpower and production.

    We weren’t. We hadn’t known what an Empire was for. All that poncing around with maharajahs and absurd feathery helmets, and no productive capacity.

    Sure, we were “boss” of a huge territory. And we couldn’t beat the Germans. That is a classic illustration of Empire: Doin It Wrong.