Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Niall Ferguson in the Boston Globe

Take a read of Niall Ferguson's interview with the Boston Globe (you may need to register but it is free and quick). He is in superb form which is nice to hear as the reviews of the War of the World have been mixed at best.

In particular, this is an incredibly controversial statement but one which has to have more than a grain of truth in it:

"For one thing, nation states are a relatively recent phenomenon: Even at the beginning of the 20th century, 82 percent of the world's population lived in empires. And the problem with transforming empires into nation states-Woodrow Wilson's central idea, and that of nationalists in Asia and Africa-is that the process is extraordinarily bloody. To imagine an ethnically homogeneous nation state is often to imagine ethnic cleansing."

By couching anti-imperialism in terms of rule by an ethnic other being wrong rather than in terms of liberty within ethnically diverse nations and empires the movement has encouraged the bloodshed that comes from attempting to form ethnically defined states from populations which are never distributed so neatly. As such, there are two motivations for anti-imperialism:

1) A struggle against imperial rulers who mistreat their subjects and do not allow them important freedoms.

2) The kind of struggle that has as its aim being ruled by someone of the same ethnicity as your own.

Most independence movements will be moved by a mixture of both motivations but the more it is about 2) the more it is likely to lead to awful bloodshed.

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