December 16, 2011

The Nature of Empires

Posted in The Archives · 20 comments ·

As the US pulls out of Iraq and we in Ireland are faced, in 2012, with choosing between a tighter relationship with core Europe or something looser with Britain as our key ally, the article from ten years ago this week on the nature of empires and diplomacy is still valid. Remember this was written three months after 9/11 well before the invasion of Iraq when America was regarded as a “hyper-power”.

The article from five years ago this week discusses the rise in obesity in Ireland back then. The trend continues unfortunately

  1. Juanjo R

    Looking with a bit of hindsight at these two pieces;

    The diplomacy and empire article;

    I think D McW was overestimating the role of oil as a motivator for American policy.The article didn’t mention the US defense industry/complexes desire and role in promoting and prolonging these wars.

    The US, I think and its been admitted openly too, wants a permanent state of war to keep its population in line – fear and patriotic fervour are instilled to distract from the continiued beggaring the great masses to pay for these extravagently rich people.

    Is Iran next?

    On the obesity article;

    I only scanned through but alcohol dosen’t get mention in realtion to that problem. I guess D McW was focusing more on kids here. I wonder wheres its all at today?

  2. bonbon

    I learnt this rubbish at school too.
    1)To mark the Battle of Kinsale as the beginning of the British Empire is nuts. It started in 1763, officially after defeating the other European powers in the 7-years war.
    2)By 1783 it was defeated, marked by the Battle of Yorktown, and signed the Peace of Paris.
    3)Since 1783 it has started wars. Bismark’s final speech remarked “they will start a 7-year war”, known as WWI.
    4)There is no doubt the British Empire has and had its assets in the USA. It alone supported the Confederate secession, to no avail. Today Obama is their man.
    5)After WWII the USA emerged as the leading economy, as in 1865 after the Civil War. Eisenhower’s stern warning about the “military industrial complex” is very pertinent, but this is not an empire.
    6)The British Empire today is essentially the Transatlantic financial collapsing system including Wall Street.
    I could go on, but let’s see.

    • Juanjo R

      This is a quote from Empire by Niall Ferguson – Chapter 2, White Plague, end of p.57 of a peguin ‘celebration’ paperback edition from 2007 that I own. Its a book on the history of the British Empire supposedly one of the better recent ones. Ferguson is, or was at the time at least, a senior Professor or Research Fellow in History at Harvard Uniiversity, Jesus College,Oxford and at Stanford Unversity. His writing didn’t affect the Irish school curriculum to my knowledge. Here it is;

      “So Ireland was the experimental laboratory of British colonization and Ulster was the prototype plantation. What it seemed to show was that EMPIRE ( my capitals ) could be built not only by commerce and conquest but by migration and settlement”.

      Why I wasted 10 mins of my life writing this reply to an inaccurate and unsupported comments by an irriating poster named fanifully after a sweet on an blogroll like this I will probably never know. Perhaps it is a hatred of lies and lying?…I’m not sure.I’m going to go away and think about it…

  3. bonbon

    I know Ferguson. Still anyone knows the British Empire was officially declared in 1763. I do not see any problem with that. Earlier massacres or genocide were amateur. Empire is something else entirely.

    The USA stopped Cornwallis, who later became Ireland Viceroy, seemed to be a professional military person, complained to the King about Parliaments Irish policy. Lafayette, the hero of Yorktown was in his twenties – how embarrassing!

    Too bad if I irritate, nothing to what the Brits felt when a small little island threw them out in 1921. This is no place for delicate nerves.

    Still having problems with Arthur Griffith, the first Irish President?

    So now seriously take up a study of Empire, its history over 5000+ years in various forms, Plato’s warning, the subject of “The rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”, how they always function and fail, the blueprint for the British.

    Takes more than 10 minutes, but serious study always does.

  4. Morning from Israel which is an interesting place to be when thinking about the first article above.

    Thanks for the comments. The point of the archives is just to see where we were a few years ago and to see whether we can learn anything from the repeating cycles we witness. BTW I tend to agree with Ferguson on this. I remember interviewing him in 2003/4 when Empire was published and thinking here is a guy on the move.



    • bonbon

      Israel right now is a dangerous place to be, with Bibi and Barak intent on starting WWIII with some crazy action against Iran. That or Syria.
      You are in the cocKpit!

      I wonder what Ha’aretz says today about this…


    • Praetorian

      Whenever a person may think another person is ‘on the move’, one always has to ask ‘to where’.

      I don’t take Ferguson seriously.

      • Juanjo R

        I disinctly remember you quoting a non-existent passage from “the open veins of south america at me here” once, something about an argentine genocide of blacks.I have the a copy of the orginal in Spanish right here.

        I found a wikipedia page – an inaccurate page in actuality in relation to the links it quoted in support of its contents – and it sounded JUST LIKE what you said about a supposed act of genocide, one there is no record of, and that you quoted at me voraciously. here.

        I pointed it out and you were not big enough to admit your error deliberate or otherwise.

        The fact is you are a bad wikipedia plaigarist – nothing more. Your opinion has no integrity nor fact to back it up!

        • Praetorian

          @ Juanjo R – You are clearly confused or deliberately out to blacken my name.

          I have quoted Galeano’s brilliant book on several occasions but I did not cite it in relation to the African population in Argentina. That story was covered by Al Jazeera in a very interesting report. From what I remember of the issue, it was in relation to the exclusion of blacks from South American life, their marginalisation etc especially in Argentina which some on the ground are trying to rectify by highlighting the issue.

          Jere R. Behrman, Alejandro Gaviria, Miguel Szekely in “Social Exclusion in Latin America: Perception, Reality and Implications” found “that Indians and blacks are disproportionately represented in the lower quintiles of socioeconomic status.” while “In Argentina and Uruguay, where racial makeup is much more homogenous, the poor are perceived as being the most discriminated against.”

          Get your facts straight before you attempt at haphazard character assassination. But thanks, I needed a good laugh before Christmas and you certainly provided it.

        • Juanjo R


          You are a LIAR too.

          I spoke about Argentina ONLY! and I live in South America, speak portuguese and spanish, and my wife is black…how dare you talk down to me on any ot it you utter twat!

          Here is the whole exchange where you talk about an invented genocide;

          Juanjo R says:
          June 14, 2011 at 9:52 am

          Looking at the penguin history of Latin America here I’m really finding it hard to back up your historical claims.

          There was no huge slave population there and I can’t find any talk of extermination of slaves due to an order for emancipation. That is actually a heavy accusation to level at a nation.

          Most immigration and the essential formation of Argentina as we now know it occurred between 1870-1914.The immigrants were needed to exploit the pampas for cattle raring. They were to own their own land slavery had nothing to do with it.

          Peron was no more than a charismatic version of right wing regimes that existed in most of South America at that time. I see no overriding parallels with Hitler/Mussolini.


          Praetorian says:
          June 14, 2011 at 11:45 pm

          @ Juanjo R

          You should acquaint yourself with Eduardo Gaelano’s ‘Open Veins of Latin America (1971)’ or Noam Chomsky’s ’501: The Conquest Continues’ (to name but two excellent pieces of work).

          Native people’s were slaughter (conservatively estimated at between 70-100 million) from the Caribbean islands to the tip of Patagonia and still it goes on, it never stopped. The killing of so many in the mines and plantations in the early years of Latin American colonisation led to the mass transportation of slaves from Africa, again an obscene amount of people hence the mixed populations.

          There was a very interesting documentary on Al Jazeera which revealed that a census was carried out in Argentina by an NGO which directly challenges the standard narrative of denial of the very existence of a black population in Argentina, which was a complete ‘white wash of history’, authorities claimed those that did arrive ‘died out’ over time, this has now been proven untrue in this ground breaking piece of sociological work, and the ‘unpeople’ of the past and present have thankfully been brought back into the discourse of Argentinian life.

          In Argentina, as in other countries of America, racism directed against people of colour/African origin dates back to the days of colonial rule. In the caste system imposed by Spain, the descendants of people from Africa occupied a place lower than the descendants of persons belonging to aboriginal peoples and they were completely written out of the picture. Thankfully with ongoing efforts like ‘Africa Vive’, a new picture is emerging around the African socio-economic contribution to Argentina.

          Indeed, in 2006 there was a pilot census on this issue in the neighborhoods of Montserrat, in Buenos Aires, and in Santa Rosa de Lima, in Santa Fe, revealing that 5% of the Argentine population admits having ancestors of African descent and that an additional 20% believes it could share this ancestry but is not sure. A larger study recently revealed a more extensive connection which was previously thought impossible.

          Other researchers have argued that there was a deliberate policy of genocide against the Afro Argentinian and was probably implemented by using repressive policies during epidemics and wars as a tool of mass destruction.

          All the above should come as no surprise to anyone with any knowledge of imperialism/colonialism.

          ( All the above is copied VERBATIM from a false afro-argentine genocide from an inaccurate UNSUPPORTED Wikipedia article here )
          Juanjo R says:
          June 15, 2011 at 5:15 pm

          Well done Pretorian you can quote unsupported wikipedia entries! So who wrote what you are quoting?
          I have looked about and I see NO mention of EVIDENCE of ANY such genocide despite these PURPORTED events having occured 150 years ago or so.
          Chomskys book doesn’t mention anything about it and as for Hugo Chavez’s favourite book I have it right here on my desktop ( in Spanish no less ) so why don’t you point me to the bit about genocide? The best I can find is a reference to the (mainly poor) creole ( i.e. inter-racial black and white ) population taking a lot of causalities in patriotic wars and being treated badly despite (p.154 of my version) “El criollo bravío, que había servido de carne de cañón en los ejércitos patriotas, quedaba convertido en paria, en peón miserable…” — The brave creole, who had served as cannon fodder in the patriot armies, was turned into a pariah, a miserable pawn…

          On the ACTUAL TOPIC heres a direct quote ( referenced) from a review essay titled AFRO-ARGENTINE HISTORIOGRAPHY by Miss Claire Healy of UCG — p.114;

          “The apparent disappearance of the Afro-Argentines, however, is also related to a high
          level of assimilation and acculturation in the nineteenth century community, a positive aspect of Afro-Argentine history which is commonly overlooked. Lewis considers acculturation in purely negative terms: ‘‘Aware of their precarious situation in a society that placed primarily negative emphasis upon blackness, they sought alternatives to perpetual
          otherness. Acculturation and miscegenation were the options most often pursued.’”20 — 20 Lewis, Afro-Argentine Discourse , 133.

          Actually going into one of the few links I found in the wikipedia pages I found the exact opposite mentioned in the link as opposed to the inflammatory ( Wikipedia ) article — from in an 1970s article purely African American (US) magazine which repeated the above ( as per Miss Healys more recent essay) more or less.

          Also going on to Argentine Spanish language academic or similar websites I found no mention of this ‘genocide’ either.

          Can you please stop tarring everybody with the one brush and painting huge sections of history wide broad strokes!

          • Praetorian

            It seems pretty clear that you are confusing things.

          • Praetorian

            But since you brought this up (the 70 million or more slaughtered refer to the estimated number of indigenous Indians from the Caribbean, down Central American to South America who may have been wiped out during the colonial period), their descendants still suffer discrimination, poverty and exclusion. Galeano and Chomsky write in detail in relation to this.

            But on Africans and South America and Argentina, I found this rather interesting and would be interested to see if there are studies which have looked at the issues the Al Jazeera programme touched on:

            “The census project is part of a campaign by a new office launched early this year by the Organization of American States. “The Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons of African Descent,” which says African descendants compose 40 percent of the poor in the Americas, plans to investigate reports of racial discrimination as well as prepare special studies on Latin American citizens of African descent.

            The number of Argentines with African ancestry is difficult to gauge. Although Africa Vive says there are a million Afro-descendants, anthropologists say the number may be no higher than 10,000. The widespread belief that blacks died off from yellow fever epidemics and during Indian wars in which they were promised freedom for fighting on the front lines is deeply rooted.

            Miriam Gomes, a professor of literature at the University of Buenos Aires, says historians are somewhat to blame for the stereotypes.

            “Argentina’s history books have been partly responsible for misinformation regarding Africans in Argentine society,” she said. “Argentines say there are no blacks here. If you’re looking for traditional African people with very black skin, you won’t find it.

            African slaves were first brought to Argentina in the 1770s to toil on large haciendas and serve as domestic servants. Slavery wasn’t abolished until 1853.

            The 1778 census showed that 7,236 of 24,363 Buenos Aires residents, or 30 percent, were African. That figure dropped to 2 percent by 1887 — the final year blacks were included as a separate category. Some rights activists say the government eliminated a black category to promote an image of homogeneity. In its place, census takers introduced euphemistic race classifications.

            The military junta that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983 further marginalized Afro-Argentine culture as part of a larger wave of repression, according to Alejandro Solomianski, a professor of Latin American Cultural Studies at California State University at Los Angeles. Only after the economy collapsed in 2001 did Afro-Argentines begin to question their identity and resurrect their past culture.” – Chronicle Foreign Service

            While this is quite an interesting related article

            “Aboriginal victims of Argentina’s ‘silent genocide’”

            “”El Impenetrable sums up the situation of aborigines in Argentina,” said Rolando Nuñez, a solicitor who runs the local Nelson Mandela Centre for Social Research and Human Rights. “Hunger is growing day by day in the area, and that, added to the constant presence of tuberculosis and Chagas, and lack of medical attention is making this to seem like the mechanism of a silent genocide.”

            Ricardo Sandoval, a young aborigine activist whose aunt died four weeks ago weighing just four stone, says Argentina has forgotten its aborigines. “Aborigines are condemned as soon as they are born. They are condemned to hunger, to illness, to discrimination … They are condemned to be forgotten,” he said. Such allegations are swiftly dismissed by Enrique Mayol, Chaco province’s health minister. “The situation is not out of control … [and] regarding the aborigines, we have intensified our work. We are aware of the cases,” he said.
            But some, like Hubert Oswin Arkwright, a local pro-aboriginal activist of British descent, are not convinced and see more sinister motives beyond the way Aborigines are living.

            “There is an ongoing extermination of the aborigines in the Chaco … land is a big issue here,” he explained. “They are aware “the whites” [non-Aboriginal Argentinians] are violating their rights. But they are too weak — physically and politically — to protest.”


  5. Juanjo R

    Boa noite do Brasil.

    The cyclical or openly repetive aspects of the nature of history interest me greatly also. I never undersatnd is why it rarely changes.

    To be honest art/design history is what I’m most familiar with and it is completely cyclical in nature. It rotates between poles of art/design excess and restraint. all you have to do is simply think of baroque vs austere neo classical or 80s post modern faux clasical excess vs 90s minimalism – round and round it goes.

    In the past a number of books in particular were important for me in trying to find out what was going on with Ireland, the EU, and the world economically and where it was heading for and in particular as far as it concerned me( I’m an architect not an economist ). History featured strongly in what I read, as did a variety of viewpoints for contrast and comparision. I read books by Stiglitz, Naomi Klein, Paul Krugman and books from the Economist alongside your own writings and also various pieces and books by many others.

    The earnest work of both those above mentioned and omitted has been important for me in making key decisions in my life. I’m thankful to you all equally for informing me in taking my life altering decisions.

    I now live and work at a good distance from the emerging mess of the eurozone, here in a country thats more concerning with the upcoming copa of 2014. This all has new different challenges for me personally.

    All I can say is thats its very, very different here! However a warm summer barbeque with a few cold beers with some welcoming brasileiros like I enjoyed today greatly helps…

    Até mais.



    BTW David you visited my hometown, Loughrea, and wrote some articles about some iniatives there. I drank a one ot two bevies with my Brasilian wife and friends in the same bar that you drank in and wrote of ( Harneys ) just on Stephens night of last year. it will be one of my last Christmas there or (quite possibly) in Ireland, ever.

    That town as much as any other in Ireland has an economic story of the effects of an artifical boom the downturn thats waiting to be told and analyazed in depth. Think of it or any other as a microcosm of whats happened in Ireland. It could help focus minds…

    Just an idea!

  6. coldblow

    Interesting article, David.

    Michael Hudson would take the view that dollar primacy has allowed the US since the 70s to run up a huge deficit to finance their military bases around the world – ie a free lunch plus the rest of the paying for the cost of those bases which encircle them. They have no alternative, he argues, to buying US debt as sitting on the dollars leads (apparently) to their own currencies appreciating and removing their competitive advantage.

    The British, as I recall, favoured informal empire where possible as it was cheaper. Argentina would have been a prime example.

    The geo-political stuff is hard to figure out as there are lots of different ways it seems you can interpret the facts. Still, one has to try to make sense of it all the same.

  7. Praetorian

    American Empire
    Noam Chomsky interviewed by Matthew Kennard
    Global Empire: Interviste su globalizzazione, dominio petrolifero, libertà, Roma: Datanews, 2005 [interview conducted on November 21, 2004]

    Matthew Kennard: Do you think Empire bring any benefits to the colonized? Historians like Niall Ferguson have talked about the economic benefits…

    Professor Noam Chomsky: To England yes. Actually even in the case of England it’s a mixed story. There have been some attempts over the years to try to do a kind of cost benefit analysis of the British Empire – how much did England gain? how much did it lose. You can’t really do a careful calculation – its too complicated. But the rough estimates are probably that it’s basically in balance – that England gained approximately as much, took from the Empire as much as it cost to run the Empire. Well let’s suppose it’s true. It doesn’t tell you very much. You have to ask what happened inside England. Who gained and who lost. Well the stockholder of the East India Company they became fabulously wealthy. How about sailors in the British navy? They didn’t gain. So it was essentially a class war inside England with winners and losers. And the same is true for the American system of domination. American workers don’t gain, but American multinationals gain enormously. As for Ferguson’s story, yeah it’s true that most imperial systems lead to some benefits for the victims. So for example, take East Europe under the Russians. It developed, Bulgaria for example, developed under Russian domination from a poor Third world country to a low level industrializing country. We don’t give Stalin plaudits for that. The fact that development is usually done for the benefit of the home country. So, for example, in India there was considerable development of infrastructure under the British. Almost all for export of raw materials and resources to England. There was an Indian upper class which of course benefited but every imperial systems is mostly run by domestic clones. Like under the Nazi’s there were people in the Vichy government who benefited greatly. We don’t therefore praise the Nazi imperial system. But for most of the people in India it was a disaster. I mean when the British took over India, started taking it over in the 18th century – it took a while to conquer it all – when they started taking it over, India and China were the commercial and industrial centres of the world. England was a backward country. It was much more powerful in military force but not in other respects. In fact, England had to impose high tariffs to protect English industry from superior Indian goods. It forced on India a market system which enabled Indian production to be overwhelmed by British goods and stole Indian technology – we now call it illegal, then it was illegal. Just as England did from Ireland. And over time England became the richest country – highest per capita country in the world – and India became an impoverished peasant society. Right through the hideous famines of the Victorian era India was being compelled to export food to England instead of for itself. But if you look there are more railroads, there’s a lot of rich people. Find any system of domination in which that isn’t true. It was true of Russian controlled areas, its true of Nazi controlled areas.

    Full article:

  8. crazy cat

    On the oil game,
    Playing chess in Eurasia
    By Pepe Escobar

  9. bonbon

    Since Argentina is discussed, and Empire, here is up-to-the-minute 2011 news directly relevant to the debate from Dec24 LPAC. There is danger of a new Malvinas war, in the context of a general WWIII thermonuclear conflict, and assassinations.

    British Empire Targets Argentine President With Malvinas War Hysteria

    In his annual Christmas message to the residents of the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands Dec. 23, British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed that he would “never negotiate the sovereignty” of the islands with the Argentine government, unless of course the residents decided otherwise.
    This is just the latest of a series of provocations coming from London in recent weeks, targeting Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over the issue of the Malvinas, portraying her as a war-monger, and demanding she be shunned and isolated by neighboring governments. All the while, Britain ignores numerous UN resolutions demanding it negotiate the sovereignty issue with Argentina.
    Beginning a year ago, British oil companies provocatively started exploring for oil in the North Falkland Basin and announced some initial discoveries. In her speech before the summit of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) Dec. 19, Fernandez thus warned her fellow heads of state that Britain is openly seizing Argentina’s rich oil and marine resources and could very well threaten other nations’ resources as well. Reflecting the imperial strategy, the London {Times} reported earlier this month that the British intend to establish a huge 1 million square-kilometer marine protection zone around the entire island of South Georgia, sovereignty over which is claimed by Argentina. The Foreign Office piously said it would of course support such a move to “preserve the rich biodiversity of the islands” and its many endangered species.
    At the Dec. 23 Mercosur summit, President Fernandez sought and received the support of Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay in a motion to prohibit any ship flying the illegal Malvinas/Falklands flag from using any of these nations’ ports. An enraged Foreign Office responded with a sledgehammer, threatening each of those governments with retaliation and slamming President Fernandez for “bullying” her neighbors as well as the poor Malvinas residents.
    The {Daily Mail} tabloid reported Dec. 22 that “Britain’s military are drawing up plans for a second Falklands war,” in response to Fernandez’s action. Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy, demanded that Britain deploy a nuclear submarine to the Malvinas, given that Argentina is “becoming more and more aggressive,” and “intimidating” fishing boats operating with U.K. licenses in the region.

  10. bonbon

    Further detailed intelligence on Argentina, now.

    Close Adviser to Argentine President Dies Under Suspicious Circumstances

    Ivan Heyn, Argentina’s Undersecretary of Foreign Trade and an economic adviser to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was found dead in his hotel room in Montevideo, Uruguay, on the afternoon of Nov. 20, allegedly a suicide victim. However, the circumstances surrounding his death are highly suspicious, as there is no apparent motive, and he had been seen just hours before in excellent spirits, laughing and joking with associates, and expected to contribute to discussions at the heads-of-state summit of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), where he was a member of the Argentine delegation. Heyn had only been named to his post ten days earlier by the President.
    Nothing has been officially confirmed as to the cause of Heyn’s death. Uruguayan police are still investigating, and Argentine government officials have refrained from speculating. Some Argentine media and intelligence sources hypothesize, however, that the young economist, who was one of the President’s closest advisors on economic policy, as well as extremely close to the President’s son Maximo — both were militants in the Peronist group La Campora — was murdered to “send a message” to President Fernandez.
    The Argentine leader’s fierce defense of the general welfare and her country’s national interests are constant irritants to Wall Street and the City of London, whose killer financier oligarchy would like nothing better than to see her “eliminated.” Recall, too, that Zionist Lobby mouthpieces — not to mention Barack “Nero” Obama — have been clobbering Fernandez recently on the Iran issue, charging her with “going soft” on Teheran, and warning her to either get into line behind the World War III drive, or face the consequences.
    Hector Alderete, a former official of the Argentine intelligence service, SIDE, and founder of the normally anti-Kirchner Seprin news agency, wrote today that there are reasons to suspect murder, given Heyn’s membership in La Campora and the fact that “he had the support and friendship of the President.” Moreover, Cristina had recently taken measures negatively affecting powerful business, political, and economic interests. For obvious reasons, the government won’t call it murder, Alderete wrote, but if it were, “the message is clear: [the government] can’t do what it wants without measuring the consequences of its actions. And this may be just the beginning.” He reports that intelligence and investigative sources consulted are leaning toward the murder hypothesis.
    Fernandez was so deeply affected by the news of Heyn’s death, that she had to withdraw from Mercosur summit deliberations to be treated by her personal physician. In paying homage to him today during a speech in Buenos Aires, Fernandez said that Heyn was like a son to her, just as were so many of the young people who became politically active in recent years. He was an “untiring militant” and “brilliant economist” who had distanced himself from the destructive monetarist policies “that had done so much damage to politics and the country.” She added that she would nonetheless not be deterred in defending her economic model, and “serving as a soldier” in defense of Argentina’s 40 million citizens.

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