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A defense of colonialism?

July 5, 2012

In an article for the National Review, Conrad Black writes what can only be interpreted as a defense of colonialism:

No one could seriously dispute that almost all of sub-Saharan Africa, all of North Africa except Morocco, all of the Middle East except Israel and Jordan and most of the oil-rich states, and the entire former British Indian Empire were better governed by Europeans. The Philippines and Cuba and, during the piping days of the U.S. Marines’ occupations (even if they were deployed at times by the United Fruit Company), Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic were all better off under the Americans.

The Belgians were frequently inexcusably heavy-handed in the Congo, but they never generated the horrific casualties that have routinely occurred in the civil strife in that country in 50 years of independence, much less the approximately 1 million dead in a single month in the Rwandan massacres of the Tutsi in 1994. It need hardly be said that there were no Darfurs (another million dead) in the Anglo-Egyptian (i.e., governed by the British) Sudan, once Khartoum was liberated from the Mahdi in 1885 (two days too late for General Gordon). The Dutch were no joy in Indonesia, but the natives did not run amok, as they did in 1966 when 700,000 alleged Communists, including the party leader, D. N. Aidit, were massacred. The Portuguese were relatively enlightened in Brazil and Macao, and not overly bad in Angola and Mozambique, again, in the light of the prolonged civil wars that racked both those countries after they left.

Seriously? This is an extremely shortsighted view of colonialism. I’m not sure how Black has managed to miss the fact that most of the  problems these countries have faced and continue to face is a direct result of the consequences and byproducts of colonialism.

The other problem with this article are all the factual errors it contains. For instance, Mr. Black states that the Belgians never generated the horrific number of casualties that have occurred since they left. Really? The best estimates are that the Belgians killed roughly 10 million people, which is certainly a whole lot more than the 6 million deaths from Congo’s most recent wars and civil strife. Laura Seay (Texas in Africa) has done a great job of pointing out and correcting these errors.

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