That’s why The Spectator should be wary of lending credence to phrases like ‘Western imperialism’. There’s no such thing. There’s Belgian imperialism, which, as the Congo continues to demonstrate, is a sewer. And then there’s Anglo-Saxon nation-building, which, from India to Belize, works quite well, given the chance. St Lucia, Mauritius, Tuvalu and Papua New Guinea, to pluck four at random, have enjoyed the attributes of a free society a lot longer than, say, Greece, Portugal and Spain, which were dictatorships a quarter-century ago. The argument of our old friend Ghazi Algosaibi, the Saudi minister of water, that freedom is ‘European’ is not borne out by the facts. If Latin Americans, Pacific islanders and even the Muslims of south Asia can live in liberty, it’s surely a little racist to suggest that Arabs are uniquely incapable of so doing. Had Britain begun administering Mesopotamia in 1877 instead of 1917, we wouldn’t even be asking the question.
But if you want to turn a long shot into a surefire failure, there’s no better way than handing postwar Iraq from the Americans to the UN — the successors to the Belgian school of nation-building. At best, you’ll end up with Cambodia, where the UN has colluded in the nullification of democracy; at worst, you’ll wind up with the Balkans, where once functioning jurisdictions are reduced to the level of geopolitical tenements with the UN as slum landlord in perpetuity.