March 12, 2002
Pedantry Alert IV: French Uganda?

Beauty of Gray (link via VodkaPundit) prints an amusing anti-French rant, but with a few dubious points. I was particularly struck by this passage:

And don’t get me started on French foreign policy. You’d think the country responsible for 40 years of brutal civil war in Algeria would shut the hell up when it comes to Israel and Palestine, but France brings a unique measure of arrogance to the table to combine with their incompetence, and don’t let their own all too obvious failings get in the way of their strenuous efforts to tell everyone else how to run their own affairs. Of course, Algeria is not alone—there’s a strong pattern of devastation left in the wake of French and Belgian colonialism that contrasts with British and US former colonies. Algeria, the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Lebanon, Cambodia and Vietnam, all enjoyed the mismanagement, tyranny, and civil wars that were the fruits of French and Belgian mismanagement.

It's not entirely fair to put Belgium in the scale at this point, particularly since Belgium's virtues (mmmm, chocolate!) and vices are not considered in the other counts of the indictment. BoG should also have mentioned the short-lived 'Central African Empire' of Bokassa the First (and Last), with its Julio-Claudian combination of luxury and horror: a Napoleonic coach with four white horses for the inauguration of the new emperor (self-crowned, again like Napoleon), dozens of schoolchildren massacred by the army for complaining about the cost of their new uniforms, and some of them allegedly eaten by Bokassa.

However, to get to my pedantic point, Uganda should be removed from the list: it was a British colony. So were several other African disaster areas, including Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and nearly half of Somalia, though not the part around Mogadishu. On the whole, British imperialism probably was less destructive than French, but the balance is not as clearcut as BoG makes it.

So much for quibbling. Here's my twist. As BoG almost implies, it's not France but Belgium whose former colonies are without exception hellholes. Two of the three make his list: Congo (he must mean the-Congo-sometimes-known-as-Zaire rather than the other, formerly French, one) and Rwanda. Though not much in the news, Burundi wouldn't win any prizes either, whether for liberté, égalité, or fraternité. If rule by unelected bureaucrats in far-off Brussels leads inevitably to genocidal civil wars, brutal tyrannies, and total economic collapse, what does that tell us about the prospects of the European Union?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at March 12, 2002 10:00 PM