Monday, May 03, 2004

Niall Ferguson spouts more of his imperialist nonsense in today's Washington Post.
There are no perfect correlations in history. But there is a suggestive relationship between the duration of American military presence and the success with which occupied countries have achieved economic growth and the transition to enduring democratic institutions. . . . America's patience should not be eternal when it comes to unilateral cease-fires with insurgents. But patience is precisely what the United States needs if it is to achieve long-term success in Iraq.
Ferguson is getting famous for urging the United States to stay in Iraq for the long haul. Just how long that is nobody knows, but the constant comparisons with Japan and Germany post-WWII suggests seven years (the length of the formal US military rule over Japan) as a bare minimum. Ferguson suggests as much by saying the US involvement in the Vietnam War lasted "a mere seven years". In today's Post, Ferguson favorably compares the US occupation of Iraq to that of Britain's in the early part of the last century (as he also did in the New York Times last month) and implies that 33 years might do the trick. If Ferguson's advice to follow the British example in Egypt is to be taken seriously (as proposed in his TNR piece "True lies"), 70 years might be more in order.

But don't worry. After all, empire is good for you -- both colonized and colonizer. And yet it is remarkable that Ferguson could write an entire op-ed on American military stick-to-it-iveness without once mentioning the Philippines. Remember the Philippines? That formal US colony held for nearly 50 years, unlike Hawaii or Guam never considered ripe for formal annexation and incorporation into the US proper. If the seven years in Vietnam, the eight in the Dominican Republic or the nineteen in Haiti didn't ensure "economic growth and the transition to enduring democratic institutions," surely the forty-eight in the Philippines should have done the trick, no?

And yet the Philippines is no more wealthy than anybody else in South-east Asia and had that nasty Ferdinand Marcos interregnum of over twenty years (!). Why didn't US imperialism set the Philippines on the road to inordinate success, apart from the likes of Thailand or Malaysia? Is it perhaps that Ferguson doesn't know what the hell he's talking about?

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