Wednesday, July 16, 2008

19th Century British India = 21st Century American Imperialism?

The recent news concerning Iran, the United States, and Israel is rather alarming. There is talk of an actual war brewing in the Middle East. Iran has been pressured to discontinue nuclear development which it says is for nuclear power plants. The United States on the other hand asserts that Iran is using its scientists to develop nuclear weapons. Within the midst of all this, Iran has 'supposedly' said that it wishes to wipe Israel off the map. With Israel, the wild card country, there is no telling what might happen.

Although I would like to believe that all nations involved in this dispute could come to some agreement, it does not seem like this will happen. With Israel's strike-first-ask-questions-after attitude, and the United States wishes to destroy 'terrorism' around the world, war seems to be on the periphery.

What I find most interesting, being a history major, are the parallels between 19th Century British Imperialist policy and the United States foreign policy at present. I was recently learning about Lord Dalhousie, who was the Governor of India working for the Honorable East India Company (EIC) in the mid-1800s. While he was in power, there were many rulers of smaller states within India which Dalhousie saw as corrupt. He wanted to annex these states, and place them under the governance of the East India Company. The only problem was the EIC had signed agreements with these rulers that the Company would not infringe on their sovereignty. Now Dalhousie had to find a loophole in the agreement that could justify invaded the previously mentioned states.

What Dalhousie schemed was to take over states if, for example the Maharaja of certain state did not leave an heir after he died. Dalhousie would take this window of opportunity and invade the state while the government was in disarray. For example, in the state of Jhansi, the Maharajah was older, but before he died he had adopted a son and married a young woman Laxmibai. When he died he left her in power until his son became of age. Dalhousie saw this as an opportunity and invaded saying he rejected the rule of the widowed wife.

Although this may seem like a history lesson, there is a point to be made. Do you see anything common between the policy of Dalhousie and President Bush's policies in fighting terror? The common element is that both used any excuse they could to invade and (officially or unofficially) annex a state. Dalhouse went on to annex another state called Awadh, while Bush has unofficially annexed Afghanistan and Iraq. Under false pretenses Dalhousie invaded the states of India and took control, while Bush has accomplished similar goals under the guise of the 'war on terror.'

My concern is that if a war is started with Iran, will it be because Iran strikes first? Or because Bush deems it necessary under the axiom of Iran's nuclear weapons program. Only time will tell. Although the cartoon depicted above is from 1898, it mirrors the world that, I think, Bush would like to see (with Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, etc. etc. placed under the watchful eye of the Bald Eagle as well).


Caledonian Jim said...

If Islamic countries had no oil, the West might well just leave them to stew in the heat . The increased incompatibility between Islam and Western values now convinces me that traditional policies of colonialism are "old hat" .

What's now needed is a concerted effort by the West to use its technology to replace oil, thereby ending its dependency on the Middle-East . That might annoy a few rednecked Texans but in the long run it will obviate the requirement to care about what Iran or anyone else does. And when points of friction with Muslim countries are thereby reduced, they can go their doctrinal way and we can go ours . I'd much prefer peaceful co-existence with Islam based on geographical separation as opposed to the current state of affairs which is a nuclear war waiting to happen, triggered by either a Muslim lunatic or a Republican one .

DC said...

No doubt that I agree with you on finding another source for energy besides oil, but can we really separate ourselves? The world is now 'smaller' in the sense that we can travel from one end to the other in a matter of days. People from foreign countries enter Canada, the United States, Britain, etc. everyday.

There is always going to be that mingling of races, cultures, and societies. I am a big believer in the idea of living with our differences. "It is better to make bridges, not fences" is what I say.

I think that if we are having so many problems with the two doctrinal ideas of two socieites, I think society needs to change. I know that societal change will be very hard to accomplish as many people are set in their ways, but it seems to me to be the only way to go.

L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

seriously does the US foresee a threat to itself from Afghanistan. Those people live in the medieval ages.

L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

oh and why was it the "honorable" East India Company?