The topic of a revived imperialism continues to murmur softly in the background to current events, this time with a piece from Prospect Magazine. Many of the arguments it advances are quite familiar by now; that many of our transnational institutions are essentially Empire by proxy and that Imperial governance proved more succesful at creating peace and prosperity than Independent regimes. That said, it goes further than the usual arguments at this juncture;

"Behind the claims for democracy often lies a very Enlightenment optimism about human nature… But the Anglophone white settler democracies of the 19th and 20th centuries were the most democratic yet also among the most racist polities of their time. The economic and cultural interests of indigenous peoples were usually safer under bureaucratic or aristocratic imperial rule than under settler democracy… Algerian natives fared better under the military rule of Napoleon III than under the democratic Third Republic, for all the latter’s incantations about liberty, fraternity and equality."

My suspicion is that this betrays a certain confusion as to what is meant by democracy, wherein terms like democracy and liberal democracy are frequently conflated. In its full sense democracy implies a great deal more than mob rule; civil liberties, church-state separation and the rule of law, for example. However, one of the most interesting points in the article is that the term Empire cannot be taken as a given; I would argue that Iraq had suffered from multilateral imperialism for many years before the recent war, at the behest of the UN security council.

As ever, when this topic is raised, a piece from Niall Ferguson is never far away, and this does indeed prove to be the case here. On the whole, I’m inclined to agree with him. I was always sceptical that sufficient evidence for weapons of mass destruction existed, and subsequent events have done little to make that matter any less ambiguous. Accordingly, my feeling remains that the US should, on the whole, be judged on its ability to create a stable democratic state in Iraq.

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