History Doesn't Start Wars; Governments Do

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