2002 September 25 Wednesday
David Pryce-Jones on the end of Pax Britannica
Pryce-Jones argues that the borders drawn up by the British Empire were poorly chosen and that the US now has to clean up the mess:
Yet another quintessential World War I British manufacture is Saudi Arabia. Never a country or a state historically, it was a medley of desert tribes which had warred perpetually. The British held that all this desert warfare was destabilizing the wider Muslim world. The Foreign Office proposed to install a Hashemite king, but the India Office backed Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, the most aggressive of the desert warriors, and paid him to drive the Hashemites into exile in Jordan and Iraq. By way of rationale, the India Office argued that it was choosing the best man to protect shipping routes in the Arabian Gulf.
So a tribe allied with the most intolerant strain of Islam rules the largest oil fields in the world because the British Empire wanted protection of its shipping routes. From what exactly? Pirates?
If we didn't live in an age of weapons of mass destruction I'd be strongly inclined to let the people in the unstable regions fight it out among themselves.
By Randall Parker at 2002 September 25 09:59 PM
Yes, indeed, "pirates", although the Arabian tribes that raided East India Company vessels and potentially disrupted lines of communications between London and its Indian Empire were unlikely to accept such imperial terminology.
There are many problems with Pryce-Jone's WSJ commentary, but implicitly categorizing the tribespeople of the Arabian Peninsula's littoral as 'pirates' is perhaps the least of them.
A much more egregious failing is his fantastical, if not perverse, rehash of the origins of Saudi Arabia. Najdi domination over the vast majority of the Peninsula's territory under the House of Saud has deep historical roots, returning to the mid-18th century; Saudi Arabia was never a mandate nor a colony of the British Empire. The reassertion of Al Saud dominance commencing around 1902 that lead to the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was certainly not of British manufacture although imperial concerns did compel the British to try to contain and control it. And the notion that one part of the British imperial apparatus (the Indian Office)would have 'paid' Saudi Arabia to dispatch one of the Empire's true client states in the Peninsual, the Hashimite Regime in the Hijaz, is laughably ludicrous.
Of course, all the historical distortions so manifest in Pryce-Jone's piece perfectly demonstrates that his intention is not to educate but to promote a political agenda.
I have met Mr. David Pryce-Jones while he gave a talk to The Sydney Institute here in Australia but forgot to ask him forhis email adress. I would like to provide him with some book references he might be interested in. PLEASE SEND ME HIS E-MAIL ADDRESS. If you require more information to identify myself properly, it is available! Thanks.
Dr. Karl H. Wolf