The five global empires that I’m writing about are the permanent members of the United Nation’s Security Council.
Three have surrounded themselves with their colonies, and two have had overseas colonies.
France and Britain
France and Britain had overseas colonies, the conventional type where it’s obvious that the national aspiration is to extract the wealth of raw materials from the colonies and then to render the colonies entirely dependent on the colonial power for finished goods, often basic ones.
The International Organisation of La Francophonie serves as a reminder of the former French Empire. The French language cements the members. I don’t know any more about the status of the former French colonies.
A remnant of the British Empire is the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Commonwealth). At one time, Queen Elizabeth II (or forebears) had been Queen/King of most of the realm. The Commonwealth still remains, but Elizabeth II is now Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
So what about the U.S.A., Russia, and China?
The People’s Republic of China is home to about 1.3 billion Han Chinese – people of Han ethnicity. The colonies around the Han people are (in counter-clockwise order): Inner Mongolia, the Xinjiang Uygur Region, Tibet, small autonomous reserves of people who are anything but Chinese, and Taiwan. China also maintains a sphere of influence around the People’s Republic’s borders. North Korea is notable in this respect.
What remains of the Russian Empire is loosely organized as the Commonwealth of Independent States – independent from Russia for the first time since 1791. Some former Russian colonies, such as the Baltic States, are more recent conquests from the era of World War II. The former colonies are, again in counter-clockwise order:  Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (the Baltic States), Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Mongolia.
Not so long ago, Russia made efforts to expand its empire into Afghanistan. Poland and Finland have often been within Russia’s sphere of influence. The Soviet Union spread its influence westward into Germany after World War II.
The United States
The first vision of a greater U.S. was the Monroe Doctrine (expressed in 1823) which determined to exclude European nations from interfering in the Americas. At the same time, the U.S. continued to colonize westward across North America, and eastward from California and the Northwest.
The U.S. captured Florida from Spain and its southwest from Mexico. People who were living in sparsely populated Tejas, a colony of Mexico, broke away. Anglos had being migrating to Texas, so it’s not surprising that the independent Republic of Texas joined the Union.
Puerto Rico and part of the Virgin Islands are colonies except in name. Alaska and Hawaii were former colonies and then joined the Union as States.
Cuba is an interesting case. Early in U.S. history, politicians saw Cuba as a natural part of the nation. Some regarded it as a matter of time before Cuba became a state. Never mind that the population mostly spoke Spanish. The riches of Cuba were ripe for the taking, and take the U.S. did. The U.S. wrote Cuba’s constitution. Cubans had a pro forma opportunity to ratify this constitution. Cubans asserted themselves by trying to amend the constitution, but they only succeeded in small ways.
Until the Cuban Revolution, Cuba was useful for an American lifestyle. Organized crime from the U.S. fed the vices of vacationers. The biggest losers at the time of the revolution was organized crime in the U.S. The open criminality in Havana could not be duplicated anywhere on the mainland.
It’s not a stretch to see that mobsters expected that President John Kennedy would vigorously wrest Cuba away from Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. President Kennedy was, after all, the son of a mobster.
To an extent, Canada is within the U.S. sphere of influence although they vigorously assert their political, cultural, and economic independence.
Looking at the United States of America, we see again a nation surrounded by its colonies.
Rafael Domingo. 2010. The New Global Law. American Society of International Law Studies in International Legal Theory series. New York: Cambridge University Press.
“The dislocations of the worldwide economic crisis, the necessity of a system of global justice to address crimes against humanity, and the notorious ‘democratic deficit’ of international institutions highlight the need for an innovative and truly global legal system, one that permits humanity to re-order itself according to acknowledged global needs and evolving consciousness.
“A new global law will constitute, by itself, a genuine legal order and will not be limited to a handful of moral principles that attempt to guide the conduct of the world’s peoples. If the law of nations served the hegemonic interests of Ancient Rome, and international law served those of the European nation-state, then a new global law will contribute to the common good of all humanity and, ideally, to the development of durable world peace. This volume offers a historical-juridical foundation for the development of this new global law.”
One can see U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s Press Statement from December 6, 2017.
However, I mistakenly took Kemal’s article as an academic piece. He published it by uploading it to academia.edu. This web site is called an Open-Access Journal for anyone who registers with an email address (which I have done). “Open access” contrasts with the peer-reviewed journals that have survived through subscriptions.
Some sites accept donations or are supported by nonprofit agencies. Some open-access publishers charge Article Processing Fees (APFs). APFs must be paid by the author(s) or by their funding agencies or universities.
Some open-access sites are more accurately characterized as publishers. Some have characterized Academia.edu as a social networking site for academics, but not a journal publisher at all. If reactions to published pieces are then measured and weighted, though, it might become possible to distinguish rigorous science and careful research. Such post-publication reviews separate academics from “opinionators” and “bloviators.” On the other hand, unfiltered reactions are the “wisdom of crowds” where some crowds are simply gangs and wise in the ways of creating mischief.
In fairness to Professor Kemal, I encourage you view his article in a parallel window as I comment by right-clicking this link to open a new window, and then to minimize it to half the view port. Minimize my post into the other half of the view port.
Kemal’s thesis lies in his last paragraph. To paraphrase, U.S. President Donald Trump is imposing a unilateral understanding of the local reality without knowing much of its complex past and present.
I see nothing new here. It is a rare person who knows much of the complex past. In fact, most of the past is in dream time. The dream time for observers is only a view of their own dreams. Other observers are unaware of the specifics of my dream until I share it. Dream time is very real in the sense of how it impinges on present activities. For instance, conflict in Ireland and Northern Ireland was rooted in a dream time of dead generations. Peace and reconciliation in recent times changed the space of the island.
I am especially amazed that Kemal’s dream time is suffused with images of Canaanites, a culturally extinct people. Perhaps, a Canaanite dream time narrative is preferred today de rigeur in the halls of Harvard (he was a Visiting Post-doctoral Fellow) and even in the Hebrew University (he attained an MA in Israeli Society and Politics). However, where is the dream time of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh)?
Dream time is very real in the sense of how it impinges on present opinions – le jour. Le jour is the place of journalists. Whether we think about a daily news cycle or a weekly one, time at a distance before these cycles is dream time. I rarely notice a journalist who has studied history from primary and secondary sources. Even more rare is the journalist who has a grasp of deep history. One who grasps deep history, studying from a panoply of sources, peels back dream time for the careful student.
Where does contemporary dream time begin? I suggest that a fait accompli is on the edge of where dream time morphs into le jour. I will not dispute different frames of le jour according to the availability of reliable sources.
One dream time leads up to the reunification of Jerusalem, the expansion of its municipal borders, and the de facto annexation when the laws of the State of Israel became the laws of the enlarged municipality of Jerusalem. Another dream time ends with the the Oslo Accord. A le jour for this second event is asking the questions “Why has Oslo failed?” or “How devastating has the Oslo process been for Palestinians and Israelis?” Most journalists are unable to write about these subjects as I explained above. Academics can compose cogent studies of the issues so long as they do not fall into the traps of rehashing partisan narratives, gossip, and innuendo.
A characteristic of dream time is that we cannot reenter it. We can propose counterfactuals, the more extreme ones as we reach farther back.
My own dream time
I visited Jerusalem on a summer program shortly after the Six Day War. I was not quite 16 years old and I neither understood nor spoke Hebrew. I have a distinct memory of reaching the construction where the Western Wall’s plaza stands today. Nonetheless, this event has a strong quality of dream time. I have lost contact with friends and acquaintances. In the summer of 1971, I began my junior year abroad at the Hebrew University. My transcript is evidence that these years are not dream time. At the same time, I mainstreamed into Hebrew-language geography courses. Since I still had no mastery of the Hebrew language, this time was virtually dream time, but my social life was not. By the time I returned to the U.S. during the summer of 1973, I was speaking basic Hebrew but well-versed in the Hebrew of the Bible and of the Mishnah.
For our son (born in 1982) my life before he was a toddler and even onward was his dream time.
I returned to Israel during the summer of 2003, mostly visiting Jerusalem and going native. I was fluent in Hebrew, although I was unable to figure out how that came about. This month in Jerusalem is vivid in my mind. I still keep in touch with people who I had met. The visit has not receded into dream time.
I again returned to Israel during the summer of 2007 and lived in Jerusalem for a month. A vivid part of the trip was learning a few Arabic expressions – ma feesh mushkala. “No problem.” The visit has not receded into dream time either.
These pictures in my mind can be validated somewhat from primary sources (I still keep in touch with some people) and they comprise a sort of history, a biography.
President Donald Trump’s fantasies
I have no quarrel with Kemal’s assertion that “U.S. President Donald Trump … is imposing a unilateral understanding of the local reality without knowing much of its complex past and present.” Even more so, President Trump, I can safely say, knows virtually nothing (perhaps even less than nothing) about contemporary Jerusalem and the related Israeli and Palestinian issues. I write this sober assessment as a U.S. citizen and from a nonpartisan viewpoint.
Then consider ignorance of nuances of a divided Israeli polity and a divided Palestinian polity. I am referring to evidence from primary and secondary sources, not from the binary mindset of American culture.
Consider studying –
Ross, Dennis. 2004. The Missing Peace: the inside story of the fight for Middle East peace. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Ross was a chief Middle East peace negotiator in the presidential administrations of both George H. Bush and Bill Clinton – 1988 through 2001. Dennis Ross has also been a special advisor to President Obama and a senior director at the National Security Council for the Middle East.
Ross, Dennis. 2009. Myths, Illusions, and Peace : finding a new direction for America in the Middle East. New York: Viking.
Ross, Dennis. 2015. Doomed to Succeed:
the U.S.-Israel relationship from Truman to Obama. New York:, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
I apologize for citing only one author from one part of the world.
Kemal quotes Oscar Wilde, “Truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Wilde’s conceit here is to speak of truth, a nebulous proposition. Does he refer to the truth of your or my dream time? Concerning history, Arnold J. Toynbee studies history; he authored A Study of History – just one person’s study.
(As it is, I am only somewhat familiar with the abridgment of his ten volumes.)
Most of Kemal’s reportage concerns dream time. In dream time we can pose counterfactuals and then proceed to a present that probably differs little from le jour.
If there had not been a Lord Arthur Balfour, another peer might have taken his place.
Whether Jerusalem’s inhabitants lived in mixed neighborhoods at the beginning of the 20th century is a factoid. What does it mean?
Jews preferred to use Islamic Sharia courts rather than their own rabbinical courts, writes American historian Amnon Cohen. Why? As excerpted by Kemal, this is a factoid without context.
Cohen is again quoted. “Jews of Ottoman Jerusalem enjoyed religious and administrative autonomy within an Islamic state, and as a constructive, dynamic element of the local economy and society they could – and actually did – contribute to its functioning.” How is this different from Moorish Spain until the invasion of Berber fanatics? Compare and contrast Jerusalem at the beginning of the 20th century with Jewish life in Fatimid Egypt (the time of Maimonides). In both cases Jews enjoyed the same advantages.
During the above times, and perhaps at other times and places in the world of Islam, Jews enjoyed autonomy and citizenship – second class citizenship with disabilities but citizenship nonetheless. So long as Jews paid the head tax, the jizia, they enjoyed protection. Until the age of modernity, Jews were not citizens in Christian countries, although they did enjoy autonomy at times. One period was in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until the Cossack invasion of 1648.
These periods are not Jewish dream time. Primary and secondary sources support the framework of historical accounts.
The defeat of the Ottoman Empire by the Allies
But what has happened since World War I? The Ottoman Empire was defeated. The Sharif and Emir of the Hejaz (primarily Mecca and Medina), Hussein bin Ali, had agreed to open a front against the Ottomans by attacking the port city of Aqaba. As a reward, an Arab kingdom would be realized from Mecca northward into Damascus. However, in a secret agreement with Britain, France’s foreign office insisted that Damascus and Syria be within their sphere of interest. The League of Nations mandated Britain to supervise an entity called Palestine whose borders were drawn by colonial powers.
From about 1917 until 1924, Sharif bin Ali continued to rule the Hejaz. However, the ibn Saud clan conquered and annexed the Hejaz without a peep from the British. This led to the hegemony of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The British Foreign Office consoled Sharif Hussein bin Ali by elevating one of his sons, Abdullah, to rule Transjordan — British mandated Palestine east of the Jordan River. The British exited Transjordan in 1946 and recognized the fully independent Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Its kings have been descendants of Abdullah.
British and French colonization of southwest Asia is not in dream time either. The rare journalist who has studied history and ethnography of the region may possibly mention Lord Arthur Balfour, but this same journalist will fail to mention the flip-flopping British politician and diplomat Sir Mark Sykes who initially seems to have supported the Balfour Declaration. However, Sykes then negotiated a secret agreement with French diplomat François Georges-Picot that would marginalize Jews and Arabs in favor of British and French colonial enterprises. This became realized as both nation’s foreign policy.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement Map
Map of the Sykes–Picot Agreement showing areas of control and influence agreed between the British and the French. Royal Geographical Society, 1910-15. Signed by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, 8 May 1916 (lower right corner).
I won’t argue whether Lord Balfour had “limited knowledge of the local reality” of Palestine, as Kemal writes. I insist, though, in mentioning Sykes and Picot who also had “limited knowledge of the local reality” of people living and migrating in southwest Asia during the early 20th century. What they seem to have known very well was how to exploit the region to the benefit of France and Britain.
The juridical aspects concerning the status of Jerusalem that Kemal mentions are colonial jurisprudence. Nation states serve nationalistic and colonial purposes more than they serve law and order within their jurisdictions.
The most infamous institutional juridical failure since World War II has been the United Nations. What the world trumpets as international law has come about from a vote of five (initially) colonial powers. Sometimes the colonial nature of the members of the U.N.’s Security Council are pushed out of sight. Instead, the five are called “world powers.”
The United Nations is one of a several international institutions with notorious “democratic deficits” (see Domingo, The New Global Law).
In a recent visit to Israel, Mr. Pence addressed Israel’s Knesset – its Parliament – in Jerusalem, the capital. He announced, “… just last month, President Donald Trump made history. He righted a 70-year wrong; he kept his word to the American people when he announced that the United States of America will finally acknowledge Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. And, as such, President Trump has directed the State Department to immediately begin preparations to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, and that United States Embassy will open before the end of next year.
“Our President made his decision, in his words, ‘in the best interests of the United States.’ But he also made it clear that we believe that his decision is in the best interests of peace. By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction. And fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace.”