The Perils of (American) Empire (Prof Paul Kennedy in Washington Post 2003)

Eighty-six years ago, another powerful invading army had just entered Baghdad. At the same time, other divisions driving north-eastwards from Egypt were occupying Palestine. Urged on by their own strategists and intellectuals, these forces would soon advance upon Damascus. They would exercise great influence upon Iran and the Persian Gulf states. Donning the mantle of liberators, they would encourage regime change in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They would send out messages of hope that "the entire Arab world may rise once more to greatness and renown" now that its oppressors were defeated. These were folks determined to make the entire Middle East secure and stable — a blessing to the world, no doubt, but a particular blessing to their own hegemonic nation, and that nation was Great Britain.

This story was told years ago by the formidable Oxford scholar Elizabeth Monroe in her classic work, "Britain’s Moment in the Middle East." The title was very deliberate. As she put it, the period of British dominance "is only a moment in the life of a region with a recorded history of four millennia." Forty years after its publication, with the arrival of the American moment in the Middle East, the book makes for eerie reading. The ideas of World War I-era imperialist intellectuals such as Mark Sykes and Leo Amery bear an uncanny resemblance to those of today’s American neo-conservatives and provided their political masters with similar justifications for an expansionist policy. They, too, wanted to diminish French, Russian and German influence in the region. They sought secure access to Middle East oil, and to sites for staging-posts and air bases. They also believed that British genius could reconcile Arab and Jewish interests in Palestine. Does this sound familiar?

As readers know, all this turned out to be a romantic delusion…

The Perils of (American) Empire (Prof Paul Kennedy in Washington Post 2003)

‘The Rise and Fall of Great Powers’ boek Paul Kennedy, 1987 (En.Wikipedia)



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