The ghost of Alden Pyle (naturalised)

Andrew Sullivan is not a fool. He is, of course, an ideologue of the sort who can’t see creditable reasons for people to disagree with him about the stuff he really cares about. But can even he sincerely believe that “From any rational point of view, the end of the Saddam regime in Baghdad cannot be a huge blow to European interests. In fact, it’s pretty much a no-brainer, a necessary international police action to remove an obvious potential threat from terrorists and weapons of mass destruction”
Let’s try that idea another way round: “From any rational point of view, the persistent presence of a large British occupation force in Iraq cannot be a huge blow to British interests.” Still sounds like common sense, Andrew?
I’m beginning to think that it’s not just the experience of World Wars fought at home which cuts off Euope from America, but the fact that we actually know in our bones and blood why colonialism went out of fashion, while the Americans, still full of sentimental admiration for the Irish Catholics, are picking up the White Man’s Burden as if it weighed nothing at all.

This entry was posted in War. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The ghost of Alden Pyle (naturalised)

  1. Rupert says:

    Do we know this in our bones? Almost everything in popular culture related to our colonial and wartime history is presented in a warm, nostalgic light, while the real, ongoing heritage is turned around and blamed on the post-colonial countries themselves. How many people know about the history of the Middle East in the 20th century? Why are there so many long-standing authoritarian regimes in the region? That’s before we get onto India and Pakistan and playing cricket for Mugabe.

    I know lots of people, otherwise impeccably liberal, who quietly sigh after the idea of sending in the gunships and liberating the downtrodden masses from their evil leaders. I feel it myself in my bones, for all I know it’s wrong. It’s not Christianity and cotton these days but democracy and datacomms, but the motives are there.

    It seems inconceivable to many — even in Olde Europe — that muscular Western individualism isn’t the only way to be, nor that despite the evidence its universal imposition isn’t necessarily to be desired. It might not be the major factor in the Iraq adventure, but it’s there.


  2. Andrew says:

    Oh, I sigh after it quietly myself. I have no doubt at all that Iraq will be better run by Mr Bush than Mr Hussein, and that this is true of a great many countries round the world.
    Who could possibly prefer Algeria in 2003 to Algeria in 1933 or even 1953, before the war had got well under way?
    It’s the fact that many aspects of colonialism were in fact noble that makes its failure such a painful and expensive lesson, of the sort that’s hard to forget.
    Besides, the expense of successful colonialism is immense. The effort required to reshape your governing class is huge. And even if you are prepared to make it, it takes a generation before you actually have a colonial service with the kind of training, traditions, and insitutionalised knowledge that lets them to the job.
    Bob Conquest(the profile will be in Saturday’s Guardian) said to me on the phone last night that it had taken three generations to get a proper colonial service in India. It’s possible that modern American social technology can shorten this period: if people can feel loyalty to a brand, or a corporate image that did not exist ten years ago, why not to ideals of justice and self-discipline for little obvious reward? But I just don’t believe it.

Comments are closed.