The Truth about Western Colonialism

It is all too common to hear the woes of the Middle East (not to mention Africa and elsewhere) described as resulting from “colonialism” or “Western imperialism,” terms that have come to signify an evil in itself. Bruce Thornton questions this way of thinking:

Rather than describing a historical phenomenon—with all the complexity, mixture of good and evil, and conflicting motives found on every page of history—“colonialism” is now an ideological artifact that functions as a crude epithet. As a result, our foreign-policy decisions are deformed by self-loathing and guilt, eagerly exploited by our adversaries. . . .

This leftist interpretation of words like colonialism and imperialism transforms them into ideologically loaded terms that ultimately distort the tragic truths of history. They imply that Europe’s explorations and conquests constituted a new order of evil. In reality, the movements of peoples in search of resources, as well as the destruction of those already in possession of them, is the perennial dynamic of history. . . .

Both Islamists and Arab nationalists, with sympathy from the Western left, have blamed the European “colonialists” for the lack of development, political thuggery, and endemic violence whose roots lie mainly in tribal culture, illiberal legal traditions, and sectarian conflicts.

Moreover, it is blatant hypocrisy for Arab Muslims to complain about imperialism and colonialism. As the Middle East historian Efraim Karsh documents in Islamic Imperialism, “The Arab conquerors acted in a typically imperialist fashion from the start, subjugating indigenous populations, colonizing their lands, and expropriating their wealth, resources, and labor.”

Read more at Defining Ideas

More about: History & Ideas, Imperialism, Middle East, Postcolonialism

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy