By Serge Kreutz
Many Third World countries that obtained independence after World War II would have fared better if they would have chosen integration with the colonial powers.
For most former Third World colonies, to seek and obtain independence after World War II was a waste of an historic opportunity.
Please note: I speak of Third World countries, not of New World countries. (Europe and the Mediterranean rim = Old World; the Americas, specifically North America = New World; Africa and distant Asia, as well as other corners of the globe not considered Old World or New World = Third World).
Independence was objectively wrong because overall, it was not advantageous for the Third World nations that obtained it; it independence didn’t benefit the average man, woman, and child.
Of course, independence was beneficial to local elites in the newly independent nations. In their exploitation of the common man, local elites don’t like to be policed by European masters. Yes, for the likes of Mobutu, Marcos, and Mugabe, the independence of their respective nations worked out just fine.
At least for some time.
But for the average Zairean, Filipino, and Zimbawean, as well as the average Indian, Algerian, and Vietnamese, integration with the colonial motherland would have been much nicer, if not initially, then for sure in the long run.
The main benefit would have been access to the motherland’s educational infrastructure (in educational institutions as well as character-forming pear pressure).
If Algeria in the 1960s would have demanded full integration with France rather than independence, then one third of the current French legislature and government would be in the hands of Arabs.
The three French departments on Algerian soil already were constitutionally equal to departments in the French motherland, though average Algerian Arabs had no voice in them, only the French settlers who made up 10 percent of the population.
Nevertheless, this was a base Arabs could have built on, and indeed, one of the options offered by General de Gaulle to the Arab Algerian population was full integration with France. (France 1946-1969 (http://www.sunderland.ac.uk/~os0tmc/contem/fifth.htm)
And, mind you, Mahatma Gandhi started his political career not by demanding independence for India, but full citizenship rights for Indians in the British Empire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi).
French colonies that didn’t acquire independence, such as French Polynesia and New Caledonia, today are far, far better off than Haiti and non-French Cambodia.
It’s a similar story for Hawaii, which initially really was just colonized by the US.
Yes, the colonial powers exploited the colonies. But the eigendynamics of Western political culture, with their strong egalitarian and legalitarian foundations, virtually guaranteed emancipation in the future. And yes, this was predictable. Even at the height of the colonial era, British state philosophy held that integrating Third World nations into the British colonial empire was beneficial to the colonized countries. Using a term coined by Rudyard Kipling, it was considered the “white man’s burden” to improve the lot of uncivilized nations.
White man’s burden
Nowadays, the big prize for any Algerian is to make it to France, and for any Indian to make it to England, and to become a legal resident, if not a citizen, there.
Yes, the colonial powers exploited the colonies. But did independence for the colonies stop the exploitation? No, because the only difference is that now, Third World countries can be exploited without the West feeling a moral obligation to return benefits to the general population there (not our responsibility!).
Typically, after Third World nations obtained independence, it was sufficient if some generals, not the general population, benefited from the exploitation by Old and New World entrepreneurs. That came much cheaper, so exploitation accelerated.
In many Third World countries, the standard of living of the general population has clearly declined since colonial times. I quote the following from an African social scientist:
“There is a disparaging joke that never tires of making the rounds among Africans. This joke suggests that given a truly open, free, fair and fearless referendum, a majority of Africans would vote to bring an end to Independence and bring back colonial rule.”
The fact that in many Third World countries, foreign investment has contributed to a European skyline is misleading. The skyline often is either not locally owned, or has been paid for by credits received from Old or New World governments and banks.
Credits are an elegant means to handcuff the governments of Third World countries. Once Third World countries have used their initial credit lines (and largely spent it for representative purposes), they are easily blackmailed by the IMF. “Yes, we will restructure your debt, and you can draw emergency funds, but listen, that trade barrier for US corn and EU milk will have to go. And the patents for US music must be honored. And hey, stop gangling the pro-Western opposition, the Christian churches, and the independence movement in this or that corner of your country.”
And if Third World governments don’t obey the prescribed political regimen?
Nowadays, the sharpest weapons of the West are not swords or words but trade embargoes. “Hey, Third World governments, if you don’t want to pay old credits, then you can kiss good bye finance guarantees for the importation of the machinery you need to develop your country. And if that threat won’t do, and especially if you don’t want to stay in line with our policies on free trade and human rights, we just impose a trade embargo. That means: you won’t even have the computers you need for your country’s administration, nor the antibiotics to treat your sick children. Mr. President, you are in government now, but if you can’t assure basic supplies, your own population will take care that sooner or later, you are out of government (and probably in jail).”
The above illustrated mechanisms result in a typical government/population pattern in countries as far apart as Peru and Pakistan, or Morocco and Malaysia. In the general population, anti-US sentiment is high, and there is either silent happiness or outright joy if the US is hit by events such as what happened on 9/11. However, the local heads of government typically are pro-US, simply because they don’t have any other choice if they want to save their skin.
The development of Third World countries brought about by foreign investment often isn’t as beneficial as it pretends to be. Each Carrefour puts out of business hundreds or thousands of independent shop owners, and the industrially produced corn and rice from the US, and the industrially produced milk from the EU totally undermine the livelihood of local farmers until a country no longer is self-sufficient even for its basic nutritional needs.
Instead, there is an ever growing part of the population that has nothing to offer but their horsepower by the hour. The dependence of a country on foreign investment steadily grows, as only foreign investment can create the jobs for the growing number of unemployed.
Foreign investment erodes a country’s political independence without giving it the benefit of the responsibility of a colonial power. The more a country’s economy is dominated by foreign investment, the more vulnerable it is to any trade sanction imposed by the US. India, which used to emphasize self-reliance at the cost of developmental velocity used to be difficult to blackmail for the US.
India is also large enough to remain independent. It is obvious that the more human society develops, the more segmented will be its structure. For a viable size of each segment, a developed country needs a larger population base than an undeveloped country.
A country as small as newly independent East Timor, with a population of less than 1 million, will never be able to have an own range of agricultural, industrial, and service sectors as does the US with more than 300 times the population. Actually, contrary to what US diplomats usually stress, a Third World shattered into many small nations is highly advantageous to the US.
Nations of the size of Grenada, or even as large as Panama, are easily controlled politically, and they can even be invaded within a day by a handful of US troops for whimsical reasons.
If we hold that the purpose of human reasoning is to justify what is advantageous to us, it is not by accident that the West is silently in support of practically every independence movement that springs to life anywhere in the Third World.
This policy, of course, has been pursued since the times, former colonies have become independent. And Al-Qaida isn’t just a terrorist organization driven by religious hatred for the US but also a political one with a well-defined program: the reversal of the splitting of the Muslim world into many small nation sates.
Osama bin Laden’s Scary Vision of a Grand Muslim Super State
Only large countries, such as China and India are today, and a grand Muslim super state certainly would be, have, in the long run, the power to resist complete US domination. Which is why it is a known, albeit non-official, US policy to fractionize countries into smaller units.
One such fractionizing policy has been presented, complete with a map, by retired US Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, who is considered an influential think tank contributor.
Map for a New Middle East
One has to be aware that even unofficial US support can lend enormous momentum to regional forces that intend to split away from certain nations (in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey). Anyway you turn it, the proposal sows conflict, which of course makes it easier for the US to control this part of the world. Thus, putting forward this map will anyway benefit the US, even if there is no serious intention to have the maps withdrawn.