The end of imperialism? (originally published on inteldaily.com March 2011)
What the world is witnessing in the Middle East is an unprecedented revolt against dictatorship and oppression. Of course similar revolts against this form of government have occurred around the world over millennia, but these have generally been forgotten.
Much of the Middle East was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and retained for hundreds of years, this situation was overturned as a result of another imperial struggle that the Turks were dragged into – the first world war. Having promised the various nations of Arabia their freedom, the British gained their support, (largely due to T. E. Lawrence) and eventually defeated the Turks. As usual, the British and French who between them had control of north Africa and Arabia, reneged on the deal and kept and divided the entire region as spoils
Ostensibly the British and French empires collapsed following the second world war, with India starting a trend that would sweep most of the colonial world. Some countries retained close links with their former imperial masters e.g. through trade and the British Commonwealth, but in theory all of these former colonies became independent sovereign nations.
In reality these countries never became truly free – corrupt government, commercial coercion and unserviceable loans have meant that most of these former colonies are free in name only – the imperial powers, in the guise of corporations still plunder the natural resources of the former colonies while the bulk of the populace remain in poverty.
This situation has continued and even progressed in some cases, with countries forced to hand over their nation’s wealth to repay the IMF and individual countries, whilst at the same time giving corporations free reign to exploit both the land and the population. As the former imperial nations (such as Britain, America and France) have increasingly depleted their own resources, the need to further exploit the poor but resource rich former colonies has become increasingly urgent.
It is only now, in this new century, that the downtrodden are beginning to realize that their so-called emancipation was in fact a sham - that is why rioting and rebellion is tearing across the globe in all the nations that are puppet states of the ex-imperial overloads. It would appear that the game is up, if the ex-imperial powers want to continue to lord in over these nations it will have to be the iron fist alone from now on, the velvet glove will no longer conceal their intentions. It is highly likely that America/Europe will try to oversee the installation of a new set of puppet dictators to ensure their interests are maintained, however I doubt that such a ruse will work given the new level of sophistication and understanding amongst the populace of these countries.
If this fails then that leaves only two options for America/Europe – using their massive technological advantage to invade and control these nations through military might, or to renegotiate terms of trade in a way that is fair for these resource rich countries. At the moment the former option might seem attractive to America especially, however I believe that the prohibitive cost of gaining control and maintaining it would be so large that it would be unsustainable even if it initially succeeded. As the balance of power shifts away from America and the European former super-powers their machinations become more desperate, but ultimately they may well be forced to accept governments that are unfavourable and also be forced to cut trade deals that actually give a fair price for what was formerly plundered or bought for a pittance.
The final outcome is still very much ‘up in the air’ but it is likely to lead to downgrading of western wealth to the benefit of resource rich developing nations, the only other possible scenario is an endless war over resources which would ultimately benefit no-one and be to the great detriment of humanity and the planet as a whole.