The British Empire didn’t just have a fleet that projected its hegemonic will across the planet, it possessed financial networks to consolidate global economic power, and system administrators to ensure the endless efficient flow of resources from distant lands back to London and into the pockets of England’s monied elite. It was a well oiled machine, refined by centuries of experience.
While every schoolchild learns about the British Empire, it seems a common modern-day political malady for adults to believe that reality is organized as their history books were in school - in neat well defined chapters. This leads to the common misconception that the age of imperialism is somehow a closed-chapter in human history. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Imperialism did not go extinct. It simply evolved.
Imperialism is alive & well.
There are several pertinent examples illustrating how imperialism is still alive and well, and only cleverly disguised with updated nomenclatures. What we know today as "free trade" actually derives its origins from economic concessions the British frequently extorted from nations under its "gunboat diplomacy" strategy - that is, anchoring gunboats off the coast of a foreign capital, and threatening bombardment and military conquest if certain demands were not met.
Colonial Southeast Asia circa 1850’s. Thailand/Siam
was never colonized but made many concessions.
In the mid-1800’s, Thailand, then the Kingdom of Siam, was surrounded on all sides by colonized nations and in turn was made to concede to the British 1855 Bowring Treaty. See how many of these "gunboat policy" imposed concessions sound like today’s "economic liberalization:"
1. Siam granted extraterritoriality to British subjects.
2. British could trade freely in all seaports and reside permanently in Bangkok.
3. British could buy and rent property in Bangkok.
4. British subjects could travel freely in the interior with passes provided by the consul.
5. Import and export duties were capped at 3%, except the duty-free opium and bullion.
6. British merchants were to be allowed to buy and sell directly with individual Siamese.
A more contemporary example would be the outright military conquest of Iraq and Paul Bremer’s (CFR) economic reformation of the broken state. The Economist enumerates the neo-colonial "economic liberalization" of Iraq in a piece titled "Let’s all go to the yard sale: If it all works out, Iraq will be a capitalist’s dream:"
1. 100% ownership of Iraqi assets.
2. Full repatriation of profits.
3. Equal legal standing with local firms.
4. Foreign banks allowed to operate or buy into local banks.
5. Income and corporate taxes capped at 15%.
6. Universal tariffs slashed to 5%.
Nomenclatures aside, nothing has changed since 1855 as far as imperialist "wish-lists" go. The Economist argued, as would any 18-19th century imperialist, that Iraq needed foreign expertise to catch up, justifying the evisceration of their national sovereignty and the foreign stewardship (theft) of their resources. Unlike Siam, Iraq refused to concede to the "gunboats" of modern-day Wall Street & London, and often as the British did during the "glory days" of the empire, they made good on their threats.
The Anglo-Zulu War. Causus belli - diamonds & imperial expansion.
And just as the British did when they found diamonds beneath Zululand during the late-1800’s, spurring them to invent a causus belli to justify the destruction of the Zulu Kingdom, the schemers of modern-day global imperialism likewise invented a dubious pretext to invade Iraq before commencing its plundering.
Anglo-Zulu War. Mission accomplished. The city of Ulandi burns and the British go about dividing Zululand into 14 chiefdoms led by compliant, obedient proxies. The British took great care to cultivate rivalries between the 14 chiefdoms to ensure they would never again unite and challenge British hegemonic ambitions throughout the region.
At the conclusion of the Anglo-Zulu War, the British despoiled Zululand, divided it into 14 separate cheifdoms, each led by a proxy obedient to the British Empire. The British ensured that these 14 cheifdoms harbored animosities toward one another and fostered petty infighting between them to ensure British interests would never again be challenged by a unified Zulu threat. Today we see what seems to be the "accidental" consequences of military interventions leadeing to vicious, protracted fighting and in some cases civil wars, in Iraq, now in Libya (which also had a direct proxy installed as PM), Pakistan where plans exist to literally carve up the nation Zululand-style, and Syria. These are not accidental but intentional. Divide and conquer is a classic military stratagem that has not escaped the interests and attention of Wall Street & London.
Dwight D. Eisenhower exit speech on January 17, 1961, warning us of the military industrial complex.
Iraq For Sale. Remember that military industrial complex President Dwight Eisenhower warned America about? The ultimate bottom line with the Iraq War was that it should never have been fought in the first place.
If people can study history and see today’s events are simply the relabeled repeating of what empire has been doing for centuries, the public as a whole will be less likely to go along with what is in reality an exploitative, murderous crime spree of global proportions - merely sold to us as justified intervention. One need only look at how Iraq has been despoiled and the profits that have been garnered by Fortune 500 corporations, while soldiers and Iraqis alike pay the price with their minds, bodies, blood, futile destinies, and lives.
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