White Man's Burden

In his Dilbert Blog the other day, Scott Adams proposed that maybe one day all George Bush's faults would be forgotten and he would be remembered as a good President, even as a candidate for the further chiseling of Mt Rushmore.

Stop laughing, this is serious. At least facetiously serious.

Then Dick Headley linked to a Huffington Post article about the The White Fleet, an American good-will mission (with guns) of steamers chuffing around the world in the early 20th Century, sent off by President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt - one of the faces on said Mt Rushmore.

In that article, Mark Twain was quoted as saying the following about the Philippines War in which maybe 1,000,000 Filipinos were killed, and which dragged on as a particularly cruel and frustrating guerilla-style insurgency right throughout Roosevelt's presidency: (The used of water-boarding, an issue in the current war against terror, was not an infrequent method of severe interrogation there either.)

“There is the case of the Philippines. I have tried hard, and yet I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess. Perhaps we could not have avoided it — perhaps it was inevitable that we should come to be fighting the natives of those islands — but I cannot understand it, and have never been able to get at the bottom of the origin of our antagonism to the natives. I thought we should act as their protector — not try to get them under our heel. We were to relieve them from Spanish tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own, and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial. It was not to be a government according to our ideas, but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the Filipinos, a government according to Filipino ideas. That would have been a worthy mission for the United States. But now — why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation.”

Obviously, you can substitute "Iraq" for "Philippines" here without too much trouble.

If Teddy can get his moustachioed visage up on Mt Rushmore after a completely horrendous balls-up like the Philippine-American War ("Kill everyone over 10", called General Jacob Smith), then maybe Dubya's droopy-lipped narrowed-eyed vacuity could make it as well thanks to the total and utter fuck-up that is Iraq.


p.s. Kipling's poem, the title of this post, was supposedly written with reference to the Philippine-American War.


Posted by: expat@large on Dec 18, 07 | 10:53 am | Profile


Yet, are the Filipinos any better off being independent? I don't think so. The place would be a hell of lot better off if the Stars and Stripes still flew over Manila.

And so would the US strategic position against China.

The PI never had it so good.

Posted by: Skippy-san on Dec 18, 07 | 2:04 pm

Mmm... that's one man's opinion.

"Since the US was withjout colonial experience, the only practical way to run the Philippines was by co-operation with the existing power brokers. As a result, Manila-based and regional elites were not just back in business, they were centre stage. The Americans did bring an element of political idealism with them, but it was insufficiently applied - a bastardised US political system was grafted on to the Philippines that left cntral government weak, while landed potentates from the regions dominated a new congress, controlling the requisite votes in their localities even as the franchies expanded." A shonky bank was set up (the PNB) and the elites borrowed freely and grabbed a lucrative sugar monopoly exporting to the US - "It was a scenario guaranteed to throw up rent-seeking tycoons who were able to sell uncompetitive agricultural products into the US market while manipulating a political system that was ostensibly democratic..." After the war, trade agreements (the Laurel-Langley Act), reconstruction aid and US military bases fed millions into the coffers of politicians who jumped from party to party according to where the money was going next. "The political trajectory was one that led, unsurprisingly, to the kleptocracy of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1960s."

(quotes from Asian Godfathers, by Joe Studwell. Italicised paraphrasing, mine.)

In other words, American colonial incompetence set the Philippines up for what it is today, by supporting the entrnched croneyism... just as British, Dutch and Portugese colonial incompetence (and sheer greed) have mired most of South East Asia today in the same sort of thing. They never got these economies into anything like real free markets. (Which is NOT the same thing as democracy - viz Singapore.) It was/is all Cartels Croneyism and Corruption.

But in regard to the drawn out shambles of the Philippines-American War, what can we expect of Iraq in a century?

And should GWB be on Mt Rushmore or under it?

Posted by: expat@large on Dec 18, 07 | 3:03 pm

Doesn't matter what you do for the bloody wogs....greedy buggers always want more.

Posted by: Dick on Dec 18, 07 | 11:52 pm

I vote for under it.....

Posted by: jen-hk on Dec 19, 07 | 10:46 am


Posted by: Skippy-san on Dec 20, 07 | 9:26 pm

i find that picture terribly disturbing.

Posted by: Angeline on Dec 25, 07 | 1:29 pm

Yeah... I got you that book for christmas last (last) year... Didn't I?
Hmm.. the meaning of 'my' in the context of gift giving is somewhat blurry.
It does seem to be especially difficult to use language clearly when two people are involved in a transaction. Nominative vs Accusative. One person's credit is another's debit... (but whose transaction is it?)
Thus when I say that they are *my* books, I mean they were *my* presents, to you. They are *your* presents, from me...
Enjoy, and stop being paranoid about my inheritance.

Posted by: rambeaux2 on Jan 19, 08 | 9:55 pm

Moi paranoid? - I got that message through my teeth fillings...

Posted by: expat@large on Jan 19, 08 | 11:13 pm


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