History Doesn't Start Wars; Governments Do

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Whenever a
historical debate over foreign policy emerges, the British Empire's
intervention in global affairs — through colonization — is normally
blamed for many of the problems the world faces today.

The main argument
blames the creation of new states in various areas during the occupation
and colonization; the way England shaped these areas forced groups
of people who did not want to live with each other to coexist under
one government.

No one can
dispute some of the turmoil caused by colonization. But at second
glance, the English aren't the ones who shoulder the blame. Recent
issues involving borders aren't solely the fault of British Imperialism.

Did the British
kill innocent Kurds in Iraq under Saddam’s regime? Well, no. Has
Britain perpetuated a war with India and Pakistan in the Kashmir?
No. So how can we blame the actions of the British Empire for events
that are happening right now? The British Empire ended most colonization
a long time ago. Yet, they are still blamed for numerous wars.

The common
belief is that ill-planned borders created the conflict. But borders
don't create conflicts. The governments that attempt to enforce
certain borders or make certain territorial claims make conflicts.
It is not the fault of the British for putting undesirable groups
together. It is the fault of the newly formed governments for not
relinquishing power given by the British and by keeping those groups
together.

Yes, the British
blundered the border between India and Pakistan. Pakistan says a
certain part is theirs and India says that a certain part is theirs.
How was the British Empire to know anyway? Should they have gathered
votes from every backward village to determine the wishes of each
population? Even now, a majority of people living in the Kashmir
are Muslim. India could care less. Nonetheless, India still attempts
to forcefully exert its power over the territory.

The new governments
of India and Pakistan are responsible for this war. Both governments
have had the power to peacefully negotiate the disputed territory.
India could have peacefully traded away — or relinquished control
over — certain territories. The two countries could have engaged
in a peaceful negotiation, or, even, let the Kashmir rule itself.

The British
Empire made the border, but the capability of each country to negotiate
the border peacefully was in their hands, not the hands of the British
Empire.

The heart of
the problem lies in something much more terrible than colonization.
It is the fact that any government does not want to relinquish
power. No country wants to give up their land. The real culprit,
then, is the nature of government, not any government in particular.

Iraq faces
the same issues imposed by British rule ongoing today. Saddam Hussein
could have easily divided the country into Sunnis, Shiites, and
Kurds. Was he going to give up power? Of course not! The British
cannot be blamed for actions obviously taken by ruling regimes.

Even post-Saddam,
Iraq isn't willing to give up power. Why not let the Sunnis
have their own country, and the Shiites theirs? It is disingenuous
to blame an old regime for the structure of the new regime. All
regimes are power hungry. Therefore, all regimes will operate with
power-hungry motives. And these motives do not allow for secession
by culturally variant territories.

The British
Empire at one time was one of the most tyrannical powers on the
earth. However, the blame cannot be specifically on them. The blame
rests on the nature of government itself. Our own government, even,
would not relinquish power during the War of Northern Aggression.
Yet, somehow, we expect other nations to act differently. All nations
generally behave the same way, because all governments are concerned
with power and control, not the wishes of the people.

It’s time to
stop blaming wars on loose historical facts, but instead blame them
on the regimes that start them. After all, history doesn’t start
wars; governments do.

July
12, 2006

Vedran
Vuk [send him mail] is a student
of Economics at Loyola University of New Orleans, and a 2006 Summer
Fellow at the Mises Institute.

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