David Pryce-Jones shoots a reply back to Claude Salhani defending the idea of restoring Hashemite rule in Iraq. Putting aside the issue of the feasability of the idea for the moment, the points he raises are controversial but interesting.
The world is a good deal more complicated than Salhani thinks. He’s trapped in the mindset of the Fifties which held Western powers to be bad because they were guilty of colonialism, and emerging nationalist rulers to be good because they defined themselves as victims. But colonialism, like the tango, requires two parties. The colonizer succeeds only because the colonized are in a state of political or social collapse, unable to rule themselves. It was always so, and always will be. In a recent example, the winners of the civil war in Sierra Leone have just invited the British back to rule them because among themselves they can only fight.
Western colonizers tried to put democratic systems in place. They didn’t do it too well, but a great deal better than the nationalist rulers who succeeded them and then spent the Fifties and Sixties closing down parliaments and law courts and building up secret police. That’s why we have Islamists in some countries, and ugly thugs in others. If the people in those unhappy countries can’t help themselves to be free, then outsiders have to help them, which may mean expedients as unlikely or imperfect as a Hashemite restoration. Unlike Salhani, I want for others the freedoms I enjoy for myself.
Certainly this stance is politically incorrect to the extreme, but there is some merit to it. Colonialism has gotten a bum rap as being exploitive and tyrannical, charges which certainly have merit. Yet there were aspects of colonialism which were beneficial to the colony states. India is a prime example of this – even Gandhi benefitted from the educational opportunities provided by Great Britain. The colonies often recieved infrastructure, developmental aid, and basic elements of civil society necessary to democratic governance. In the case of India, these elements helped create a much stronger state post-independence.
The problem with colonialism as it was were due to the fact that the colonial powers really didn’t have too much interest in building democratic institutions in their colonies. They were more concerned with natural resources and cheap labor. It is clear that kind of colonialism is morally and political unacceptable, and does nothing for the interests of peace and security. Nor is it economically beneficial for the colonizing nation, as the historical records have shown.
However, we should not allow criticisms of past sins dissuade us from instituting democratic governments in other states. Individualism, pluralism, and democracy are all values that should not just be limited to the Western world. We can no longer afford to be inactive while failed states becomes breeding grounds for terrorism. Western society has given its citizens the kind of life and freedom that no other society has matched. We should not let the failures of colonialism dissuade us from exporting those values to where they are needed most. If that means radical regime change as it does in Iraq, or supporting native forces as in Iran, then that is what must be done.