Wednesday, November 30, 2011

National Review misses good ol' civilian-slaughtering imperialism

The ransacking of the British Embassy in Teheran is a very serious, ugly affair. At National Review, it makes Charles C.W. Cooke wistful for the good ol' days—with the Empire would've responded by killing a lot of innocent people. He fondly remembers one Lord Palmerston:
With the British embassy in Tehran under Iranian control, the Foreign Office issued a statement expressing “outrage” and confirming that the move “is utterly unacceptable. The Iranian government [has] a clear duty to protect diplomats and embassies in their country and we expect them to act urgently to bring the situation under control and ensure the safety of our staff and security of our property.” This, to put it mildly, would not have been Palmerston’s response. Having fumed for a while that Tehran was not close enough to water for a quick naval bombardment, Henry John Temple would have sent a blockade to the Caspian Sea and knocked out coastal towns one by one until an apology was forthcoming and a restoration assured. And then he would have taken to Parliament to defend his decision. Moreover, those who would take over the embassy of another nation while their elected representatives shouted “Death to Britain” would be made aware of the consequences of their actions. Were Palmerston around today, his response would ensure that nobody touched a British embassy for 100 years.
Cooke, apparently, is also nostalgic for the days when the British Empire would slaughter civilians in the name of ... trade policy:
When the Chinese had the temerity to restrict trade with the West — in particular by blocking opium exports from British India — Palmerston sent gunboats up the Yangtze River, indiscriminately destroying the small towns along the banks with such confidence that the Chinese quickly changed their minds. The result was the Treaty of Nanking, by the terms of which various trading posts were ceded to the British, and restrictions on imperial trade were summarily lifted.
Good times!

I don't know. Seems to me we can make a vigorous show of expecting Iran's government to honor international norms, with regards to embassies, without pining for the days when Western governments would impose their will on different continents through indiscriminate slaughter. Cooke's nostalgia is morally contemptible.

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