Editor’s note: This is part III of my review and reflection upon Bennett’s book on the Anglosphere. This part covers SDI, Anglosphere technical superiority as well as the Anglosphere impact on Africa.
SDI and Anglosphere Technical superiority
In 1988, I managed the campaign of then-GOP candidate Mary Ellen Lobb, who was running against Democrat incumbent Alan Wheat in Missouri’s 5th District One of the issues that we highlighted was Ronald Reagan’s “Strategic Defense Initiative”, known in the media as Star Wars. When discussing SDI, Ms. Lobb would tell me that “we must remind the voters that within the next decade, we’ll need strategic defense not just against the Soviet Empire but various Third World Regional powers such as Iran.” We would not always be in a world, separated into two armed camps led by the Soviet Union and the United States. Within a year after the election, the world that Mary Ellen Lobb foresaw became a reality. The Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Empire imploded. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the rise of Regional powers that threaten our own national interests-including Iran in the Middle East and possibly China in the Far East. Missile technology is no longer “high technology”, and it is spreading to rogue nations such as North Korea, making them become “superpowers” on the cheap.
In the 19th century, Great Britain was the dominant world power based on her Navy, which allowed the English to project force throughout the globe. England maintained bases on every continent to defend her status and empire. Britain’s population was relatively small, precluding a dominant standing army, and her statesmen understood that her superpower status was delicately poised. British defense plans were based on maintaining Naval superiority supplemented by continental alliances against whatever nation was threatening to dominate the European continent.
When the Hohenzollern German monarch decided to challenge British Naval hegemony, English statesmen took this as a challenge to British world dominance. Throughout the 19th century, Great Britain maintained technical superiority over all opponents, taking advantage of its industrial might as the world’s strongest and freest economy. This allowed Great Britain to maintain its military superiority.
The collapse of the British Empire after World War II ended the British dominant role in world affairs. The United States, through the Marshall Plan and the GATT system of trade, inherited England’s mantle as the defender of Western Democracy while the Soviet Empire assumed Hitler’s role as the exemplar of socialism. The Soviet Union dominated the Eurasian landmass, with the largest standing army in human history and by the time Ronald Reagan became President, the Soviet Empire stretched from the Berlin Wall to the Pacific Ocean, with satellite nations on every inhabited continent, including North Vietnam, Angola, Ethiopia, Cuba and Nicaragua. The threat was real.
To humanity’s benefit, the Cold War ended with a whimper, not a bang, as the Soviet command-economy collapsed. This felicitous outcome was due in part to the Reagan administration’s military buildup and the beginning of the SDI program. The Soviet economy could not compete with technological advances that a free economy adapted to military use. The West’s superiority in military hardware was showcased during both Gulf Wars. The same conflict also illustrated the security threats of the impending Century. Iraq, a regional power, launched Scud missiles against our allies throughout the first war. As Patriot missiles dueled Scuds, we saw the first field demonstration of why strategic defense is essential. In the Gulf War, this missile duel was a sideshow. In the next regional conflict, it may prove the “main event,” whether the payloads are nuclear, chemical or biological.
The major impediment to missile defense is not technology, but America’s will to deploy. As Professor Frederic Seitz, a leading expert in missile technology, concluded, “ The science behind missile defense is solid, and we certainly do possess the capabilities to defend ourselves.” Professor Seitz observes that Missile-defense technology has been around for decades. The key to its modern success is the ability to destroy enemy missiles in their boost phase, when decoys can be more readily defeated. The difficulties of boost-phase intercept are best approached through space-based and Naval platform systems. With the demise of the ABM treaty, the last legal restraint is no more.
American missile defense allows Americans to protect potential land based allies, freeing them to divert their energies toward trade, currency reform, and capital formation. Pax Americana- the extension of democracy and -economic development throughout the Third World- depends on America’s ability to prevent aggressive regional powers from becoming international powers “on the cheap.” Strategic defense is a key component of this strategy. The sea-based Aegis missile extends a defensive shield to our allies, and expands our naval superiority over any potential enemies. A space-based anti-missile capability ensures the defense of our key command centers in space and allows protection of American people. With our technical superiority, we will be able to neutralize the nuclear capabilities of most Regional powers such as Iran and China. SDI is a manifestation of the Anglosphere’s technical superiority.
During the 20th century, the United States became the dominant superpower. SDI will allow America and the Anglosphere to continue to exert its influence throughout the world- with the result being an expansion of economic and political freedom, worldwide. The United States is a commercial state similar to 19th century Britain, and depends upon the freedom of voluntary commerce to ensure its economic well-being. NATO was established land-based alliances to ensure that no power dominates the Eurasian continent. This has ensured the general peace of Europe.
Going forward, the reader can decide what is most conducive to human peace and prosperity: a renewed Pax Anglosphere or the expansion of aggressive regional powers spreading chaos and war throughout the world.
A few years back, I had the opportunity to interview African economist Dr. George Ayittey, a veteran commentator for various journals and newspapers as diverse as the New York Times, The Ghana Drum and the Wall Street Journal. His book, “Africa Betrayed” presents a myth- shattering view of the myriad problems of his native continent.
No friend of western imperialism or black African tyranny, Ayittey contended that the pre-colonial cultures of the African continent were rich in both social and economic institutions – a past that provides the implicit key to a future African renaissance today. Africa’s abysmal realities belie its amazing potential. Compared to the Asian economic tigers – South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan- Africa is blessed with an abundance of mineral wealth and a relatively low population density.
Pre-colonial Africa was poised in many respects to follow a development curve similar to that of late-medieval Europe. Authoritarian regimes, such as those of the Fertile Crescent, the Nile, the Indus, and the Yellow River were not part of the African heritage. “Land was abundant,” Dr. Ayittey wrote, “and tribes that found themselves subjugated could always move elsewhere.” The most successful African empires were loose confederations of vassal states. The Ghanaian Empire lasted for some 900 years. By contrast, the Zulu Empire of Shaka, centralized and authoritarian, lasted a mere ten years. Pre-colonial Africans, members of 2,000 tribes were ill inclined toward the authoritarian systems, which impeded modernity in the great empires of the East and Middle East.
Pre-colonial Africa was rich in nascent free market institutions as well. “The means of production in traditional Africa,” says Ayittey, “were privately owned and never owned by the Chief or the King…. Village markets were free and the Chief did not fix prices.”
Imagine what Europe would have looked like if the twin bulwarks of the Franks and the Byzantines had not prevented the establishment of a trans- Mediterranean Islamic Empire in the middle Ages. Decentralized Europe, isolated in the backwaters of the great authoritarian civilizations, leapt from feudalism, to commercial empire, to industrial empire and finally to political hegemony.
Africa was less fortunate. Successive waves of slavers – first Islamic, then European-were followed by the colonialists. The abrupt departure of the Europeans resulted in totalitarian states based on the structures they’d left behind – bureaucracies not organic to African institutions, unbounded by popular restraints of any kind.
Post-colonial African leadership looked not to indigenous institutions, but to European models, including Marxism and ultra-nationalism. “Our leaders failed us,” Ayittey told me, “It is not racism to say that. We need to distinguish between the African people and their leaders.” For almost two generations, the African experiences has been characterized by one party dictatorships, unrivalled kleptocracy, and declining economic performance, leaving many nations on the continent worse off than ever before. The color of the oppressor’s skin gives scant consolation to those who are starving or dying of AIDS.
Ayittey saw any future renewal must stem from a rebirth of the decentralized political and economic traditions of the continent. The West can help in minor ways. First, Western nations must demand real reform in exchange for aid. Leaders who reject property rights and civil liberties may benefit from Western aid—their peoples do not. Ayittey believed that Africans need training in the art of democracy, much like the residents of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Ultimately, Ayittey maintained Africans must solve their own problems. Aid administered through corrupt centralized governments merely exacerbates the continent’s problems, reinforcing regimes that ought to fall. Ayittey took the contrarian view that Africa needs less aid not more. Africans must turn to their pre-colonial roots. According to Dr. Ayittey, societal rebirth required loose-confederated government, which protects tribal rights; political freedoms; and reestablishment of property rights.
One aspect that could improve Africa status is the development of South Africa. The English speaking aspect of South Africa do belong to the Anglosphere and if South Africa government can maintain the domestic conditions to encourage while South Africans to stay, then the South African experiment can succeed and become an Anglosphere outpost in Africa. James Bennett writes, “South Africa would also be advised ….radically decentralize the South African Federal State.” This move could encourage a free South Africa and provide a portal of freedom in sub-Sahara Africa. A free and democratic South Africa may allow Dr. Ayittey vision of a free and prosperous Africa to progress.