Brutal as it might be, there has been a beneficial side to conquest, particularly to future generations of conquered people. You might think that's awful to say but think about where England might be had it not been conquered by the Roman Empire. Why? The British were, as Julius Caesar said, "barbarians." The Romans through conquest, starting 55 B.C., brought a far superior culture, education, and skills to England. Romans also brought superior road construction, military tactics, and agricultural methods. Four centuries later, when the Romans left, England suffered temporary retrogression. In 1066, the Normans invaded England. Again, England benefitted by imports from a superior culture. As a result of skills gained by being a "victim" of conquest, England became the world's most powerful nation. So much so that it became possible to say, "The sun never sets on the British Empire."
Other peoples have benefitted from conquest. Conquest and colonization surely brought suffering to sub-Saharan Africans. But the importation of European institutions, skills and tools brought benefits just as the Roman conquest earlier brought benefits to England. Europeans introduced plows, wheeled vehicles, medicine, railroads, written language, law and order as well as other fundamental tools of more advanced societies.
Professor Thomas Sowell points out in his book, "Conquest and Cultures," that in addition to improvements in living standards directly attributable to Europeans, the cessation of tribal warfare as a result of domination meant that not only would whites seize and bring vast amounts of land in countries, like Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), under cultivation but Africans cultivated more land as well. Law and order also meant that Lebanese and Indians would migrate to Africa bringing their economic skills.
Under colonialism, and for a brief period after independence, sub-Saharan Africa was self-sufficient in food. Today, Africa is a mass importer of food. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 19 African countries like Burundi, Niger, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda, are on the brink of starvation, euphemistically put "facing exceptional food emergencies." Not on the list are Zimbabwe and South Africa but in a few years they will be. You might wonder why. Let's look at it.
In an attempt to stay in power Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is inciting blacks to take land from white farmers. Blacks are not only taking land but raping, shooting and intimidating white farmers. In the wake of increasing violence, and government complicity, the Commercial Farmers Union has warned 6,000 white families to evacuate their farms as fast as they can and go to "safe" areas. Down the road, many Zimbabwean whites will conclude that the only really safe area is another country. Whites in South Africa will reach the same conclusion.
What's going on in Zimbabwe is part of what has been a general pattern in Africa and elsewhere: the most productive people are forced to flee. Not only do white Africans flee, but the most productive black Africans flee as well. Black Africans do well when they come to the U.S. and Europe whilst their brethren at home perish.
Guess what makes it possible for African leaders to keep their people in misery? It's foreign aid, IMF and World Bank loans that make resources available to corrupt leaders so they can buy cronies, maintain a military and stay in power. Instead of America's black leadership marching and worrying about the Confederate flag, they might use that energy and resources to march on Africa's embassies just as they marched on the South African Embassy during the 1980s - but maybe for America's black leadership it's only the color of the tyrant that matters.
Walter E. Williams
April 24, 2000
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