Neo Colonialism: Was the British Empire a Good Thing?


Look son. you are very critical. You do agree, don’t you, that the British Empire was a good thing? Well Dad, it all depends on what you mean by a good thing, doesn’t it? There were a great many good intentions. On leaving we did give these teritories democratic institutions, embyonic education,  an independant judicial system, better transport infrastuctue and all  that But much of this glossy democratic superstructure is looking pretty tatty now.

Well, yes son, fair comment but WE are not responsible for the decline, for all these tin pot dictators hanging on to power. Well we do have some responsibility, to be fair. But that is a very big subject in its own right. What you do not seem to have grasped, Dad, that the British were forced out by an irresistible force: the belief that self-government is morally superior to good government.

But look you upstart is that really true? What if self-government is demonstrably bad? Bad for who Dad? Well for the peoples concerned and for those who trade with them and who invest vast sums of our money in helping these colonial territories? Careful, don’t you mean former colonial territiories? Well, you know what I mean. I don’t think I do know what you mean. Do you mean that the former African colonial powers, Britain, France and Italy  have a right or duty to intervene in these countries if things go badly wrong? Or are you saying that the intenational community acting through the UN has a right and duty under interrnational law to intervene and to call on Britain, France and Italy to act on its behalf.

Isn’t this a quibble? If you see your neighbour in a distressed state, isn’t it right to intervene? Look Dad, use your nous. The world is full of nasty and dangerous regimes. Do you really think we should divide it up between the former colonial powers (or the USA acting as a great power) and Russia as a former occupying power: that the world should be divided up into zones of influence? No of course not. We should be pragmatic and intervene when it makes sense. Makes sense to whom Dad? Well us, of course, to us. So we should intervene wherever we can give some petty dictator a good kicking. Well , yes, I suppose I am saying that. Well, Dad, I have news for you. That kind of interventionism is known as neo-colonialism. A question for you. Why not get rid of the regime in Zimbabwe? There would be popular support for this in Britain. Isn’t that taking the argument too far. There are no strategic issues that should concern us in Zimbabwe. Precisely so, Dad. So it isn’t about common humanitarianism and the rule of law, is it. Its about economic and strategic interests, trade and brass. Let me refine your question Dad.  You do agree, don’t you that neo-colonialism is a good thing. Enough said, let’s clear the table for your mother.

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2 Comments

Filed under Bahrein, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Egypt, France, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Middle East, NATO, Politics, Russia, Syria, Wlliam Hague, Yemen

2 responses to “Neo Colonialism: Was the British Empire a Good Thing?

  1. Posty

    A reasonably well thought out argument, however its flawed. Especially using zimbabwe as a consolidating example to prove the point. British military intervention in zimbabwe was repeatedly put on the table by the then prime minister tony blair, for purely humanitarian reasons. The only reason it didn’t happen was because the british military chiefs said it was an unwinnable war, against tony blairs wants – probably compounded by his duty to his god. Every action is strategic, a stable world is in everyones strategic interests. However its a cynical mind to deny that all interventions are devoid of humanitarian or rule of law aspirations, bosnia, kosovo and sierra leone all spring to mind. Africa is in trouble, they are about to be colonised again by the chinese. Only this time
    its going to be based on pure figures and profits. At least under british rule
    there was an undercurrent of morality, although sometimes conveniently Forgotten by those less honourable types that still exist today. China has human rights issues with its own people… How will the africans fair in all this? Its also been calculated that the british industrial revolution was the main driver of imperialist power, and that outward investment into the colonies was greater than monetary returns from its possessions. Britains imperial legacy is a complicated topic, africa being one of its most troubled chapters. American propaganda has compounded Ill feeling to its concept. But its stupid to deny that the british empire sometimes got it wrong or indeed get it completely right. Neo colonialism may have a place if certain areas are unable to create a stable enough environment for their population to live a decent modern life, in fact it might be even favourable to the current enslaught of faceless corporations that are slowly ‘ colonising’ the world without the promise of social, technological and future representative development.

    • As I understand you argument it is this: ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ and better we British fill it for if not us some other evil power will do so.But can we fill it? This is an open question in Africa and it is not at all certain that we can, or other than in the very short term that any African power would permit us. I say Africa for the Africans. Sort it out boys we will certainly help you, if we can

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