It would be best to establish from the start that the present writer is not anti-American: quite the opposite in fact; but this proven fact does not prevent said writer from managing to see things clearly, and he is thus able to put them into historical perspective. This is not as easy as it sounds, indeed it seems most difficult, as not a single American historian with tenure in a respectable University in the United States is able, either by conviction, or because of fear of losing that tenure, to reach the same conclusions as mine.
Since the grand old days of Theodore Roosevelt, the Americans have had far reaching ideas of Empire. They did not have one, and it rankled. They should have one, because following the superb timing of only entering the First World War in 1917, when most of the damage in Europe had been done, they expected to get something more for their effort than a few measly, malarial colonial islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean. They got absolutely nothing in Africa, which the naturalized-American explorer Stanley had told them they should have. The old British Empire, bowed, shaky but still there, had India, and partition was still to come. Canada still resisted annexation, as did the whole of Central and South America, with the exception of Panama and Puerto Rico which was about to become the 51st State until the Puerto Ricans (ungrateful fellows all) selfishly voted in 1993 to remain independent and not American.
World History continued, however, as it seems always to do, and another great chance to terminate the relics of the British Empire came with the Second World War. First came the perfect timing of entry after Pearl Harbour. In December 1941 France was occupied by the Nazis, as was most of Europe, and Britain was on its last legs. Now was the time for America to be magnaminous. When the War ended so did the British Empire, but somehow America missed out on picking up the bits. Britain still had bevies of islands everywhere plus India, Canada, huge chunks of central and southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and important city/states in China and the Far East. How had this come about, the disgrunted Americans asked themselves, after violently dealing with the nuisance of Japan by nuclear dissuasion. The answer came in the form of foreign intelligence, covert operations, and that ineluctable spy centre at Langley.
Clever Americans, of which species there has always been a macro-supply, got together and began looking around the world; plenty of maps were available. Where could they do the most damage to the reputation of the Old World? Good fortune came with Nasser and Egypt, after the settlement (always disputed and still disputable) of Israel. After waiting for Britain and France to do a militarily-focused deal with Israel over the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, and set up a little war with Nasser, with their usual immaculate timing the Americans stood up, were counted, and hauled Britain, France and even Israel over the coals. This nonsense was to stop! The premiers of Britain and France were disgraced, their careers and health ruined; their efficient armies (until US intervention highly successful) were sent home. A great point had been scored, and the politically correct and headmasterly authority of the US had been proclaimed for the world to see and mourn. In Cyprus, an insignificant island in the Mediterranean protected by the British and used them as a strategic base, the Agency found an even better platform. There might be a problem or two to resolve first, for instance, the Cypriot Greeks did not dislike the British who protected them from their hated Turkish neighbours, and it would need something very peculiar and un-Mediterranean to happen to change that.
The Cypriot Greeks had their Enosis to shout about, which indeed their youth did ceaselessly, but until a certain moment in the Fifties they had had no support for their dissidence in Athens. In the Thirties, when thoughts about Enosis in Cyprus began to emerge, there was no support at all from the Cradle of Democracy. The trouble was that British rule had its many faults, but the Governors General of Cyprus were by and large efficient and charming. There were bread and circuses. Beautiful young people danced a lot and married, producing more beautiful people. But here was the ideal ground for a litle Empire-bashing, as long as it was done discreetly, subvertly and proficiently. You cannot make mousaka without mashing up a lot of egg-plants.
Great Minds in Washington met together and reached the conclusion that even if they didn’t exactly resent the little influence the British still grasped with weakening fingers, the one thing Americans cannot stand for is that the British still had possessions. After two massive World Wars which should logically have left the USA as undisputed Top Nation, the British dared to have possessions. It hardly bore thinking about. Some of the possessions were colonies, some protectorates – but possessions they were. Now Americans are sentimental people, and as long as any British colonies still existed, they were (and are) quite unable to forget that they were themselves once a colony; thirteen of them to be precise. In the XVIII century they had achieved independence by the use of force, from a weak King despite the historical fact that slightly less than half of them did not actually want independence (they were not asked anyway). Enough colonists did want independence, however, and the United States of America entered History. But in order to stay in History, and enlarge one’s place in it, one must do something; which is why Theodore R. later charged up a very small hill in Cuba with a bugle and became President, and the Panama Canal was annexed.
What made the Americans so furious about Suez is not that it was being efficiently carried out (until stopped by force) by two dear old Aunties, acting in their old territories in the good old military way. If anyone should be guaranteeing the freedom of the Suez Canal, thought those clever minds in Washington DC, it should be American arms. What to do after denying the Aunties the right to protect their canal against the satrap Nasser? Ah, said the Agency, ‘encourage and finance subversion’ in the remaining colonies. So Uncle Sam’s helping hand was seen, or rather very carefully not seen, in Kenya, where black terrorists wearing jockstraps suddenly found themselves armed to the teeth with the very latest weaponry and the ammunition to go with it; and Cyprus. In this troubled and insanely beautiful island, the Agency found everything to suit its paternal and religious feelings. Ammunition could be carried round the mountain tracks by sweet young boys, directed by sweet old priests. Cypriot Greeks and Cypriot Turks murdered each other, and any British soldier who tried to stop the mayhem was elimiminated. A clever youth could manage to get a bomb under the Governor General’s bed. Young men with very expensive machine guns could fire at unarmed women shopping in a queue. No-one asked where the men had obtained their very expensive machine guns, or the very costly hand grenades they all wore under their shirts. Of course there was a leader, Colonel Grivas, rather an unassuming man with good manners, who had done very well (and been decorated for it) against the Nazis during the War. But the money which paid for the brains, the bombs, the costly machine guns did not come from Soviet Russia, which could not care less. It came from the Agency, as it would come again and again, in the future.
The very latest example of cunning American diplomacy comes with the ‘invasion of Libya’ (18 March, 2011), which is not of course an invasion at all. Just as soon as the United Nations says it is all right with its No. 1973, in go the Americans, the French and the British, even though Germany, an integral part of NATO, refuses to join the party. Again with perfect timing, after the British and French (joined by the Spanish, to the growing incredulity of the Spanish people) have actually started shooting at Gadaffi, the Agency instructs the President of the United States partially to back down, withdraw his General, admit that he will send no ground troops (so what is the point of the invasion?) and intimate that he will leave anyway within three months. So what goes on? The answer is too simple: the British and the French will find themselves accused of trying to repeat the Suez Fiasco (which would not have been a fiasco if for once the US had minded its own business), and Gadaffi’s forces will regain total control of Libya, murder a quarter of the native population in reprisal, capture the British and the French and hang them in Tripoli; one more massive dent in the Franco-British skull. But one must see that the brainwork that goes on behind the scenes is awesome. It is obvious that The Great American Empire as such, unless it is based on Coca Cola, can never be a fact. But formerly colonial powers like Britain and France must be chastised every so often for actually founding and maintaining empires in the past. There lies the nub of the matter.