Tuesday, November 18, 2003
A clarification here, the vaunted sense of British fair play means fair play just for the British. When ruling the world, we were entirely justified in sending gun ships up Chinese rivers to support the opium trade and would have very miffed if some Yankee upstart had been going around shouting "no blood for dope" at Disraeli. Burger-scoffing surrender baboons in the war against yellowism, John Bull would have said. Jingoism? We invented it.Note that I'm not one to say that the British colonial era was a particularly bad thing in itself: Hong Kong would never develop into the free, capitalist metropolis it is today without it. Nonetheless, there is something to be said about the difference between the Opium Wars and the Iraqi liberation: the former produced a good for people out of a war of commercial interest, and the latter will likely turn out to produce commercial interest, but out of a war to produce good for the people of the free world and the oppressed Iraqis.
Oh, and if you're going to shout "blood for oil," let me remind you that the Opium Wars were about making a moral stance against buying something and getting attacked for it. The war in Iraq was the exact opposite: America held on for over a decade to the sanctions punishing Saddam's regime, despite the immense commercial opportunity in abandoning them, and afterward launched an invasion that could've devastated whatever oil infrastructure was left.But I digress. This article is about Britons, and their cosy prejudices about America (they have them too!) being disturbed by President Bush. Alas, even the Brits are some time away from understanding the true cosmopolitan nature of America. But they're getting there. As opposed to the French, moving in the opposite direction.