Empire Revisited

EMPIRE REVISITED….Yesterday I suggested that one of the reasons we’re less able to subdue and occupy countries than Britain was in the days of empire is because we’re less brutal than the British (and everyone else) were a century ago. Tyler Cowen votes for a different cause:

No matter how we compare American and British brutalities (we dropped many bombs on Vietnam), I place greater stock in the railroad (later the car and bus) and the radio. In the early days of British control, most Indians couldn’t get within shouting distance of a fight if they wanted to. The Brits had only to control some key garrisoned cities and some trade routes. Local rulers did the rest. Radio, which spread in the 1920s, told people what was going on and cemented national consciousness. Those technologies heralded the later end of colonialism, with WWII hurrying along the new equilibrium.

I agree, especially the bit about radio. More recently, CNN and al-Jazeera have permanently changed the landscape of insurgent war, and it’s a change we haven’t yet come to grips with. Considering the fact that the United States is the acknowledged master of entertainment and mass communication, this is sort of ironic, but there you have it.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation