You will remember that India fell under the control of the
East India Company around 1757, and was annexed directly by Britain a
century later. Ironically, the improved educational system introduced
by the British spread ideas that helped form a movement to work for
In the days after WWII, it looked like the time for
come. India had plenty of well-educated, experienced people who should
have been able to run the country successfully. But there was one
major worry: ethnic violence. The British were afraid that, once
they were gone, Hindus and Moslems would be at each others
What was the solution? Well, how about leaving behind two
separate countries: one for the Moslems, one for the Hindus?
That's what happened in 1947: the Indian subcontinent was
into two separate nations, Pakistan (for the Moslems) and India (for
It wasn't an easy transition. Hindus in dominantly Moslem
Pakistan, fearing persecution, fled their homes and went to
India. Moslems in dominently Hindu India, fearing persecution,
fled their homes and went to dominently Moslem Pakistan. Millions
of people were uprooted, and tens of thousands died in the
process. And the problem of ethnic violence wasn't solved.
Further, the newly-formed countries of Pakistan and India hated each
other, and wanted to expand at the other's expense. Particularly
troublesome was the dispute over Kashmir. India and Pakistan have
three major wars with one another, largely over this disupted
territory. Both sides have developed atomic weapons, and (when I
first taught this class in 1988), my guess was that, if there were to
be an atomic war, it would be between those too countries. That
war nearly happened in 1998, and it may happen yet.
Nevertheless, independence worked out well for the people of
India. They established a pariliamentary democracy similar to the
government of Britain. But political freedom was not quite
enough. For years, India struggled rather unsuccessfully with
But in the early 1990's, there was a great break-though.
India's government abandoned its socialist leanings, and moved toward
free-market economics. The result was dramatic: a 6% average
growth in GDP for 20 years! Companies like GE, Motorola,
IBM, and even GM made major investments in India, and the Indian
economy soared. India has created a fine university system, and,
in terms of things like engineering and the sciences, it seems like
they are surpassing the United States. And then there's
Bollywood--not too shabby for a once basket-case country. In the
long run, Indian independence has worked well. There have been
some economic ups and downs in recent years, and plenty of problems
with corruption: poverty relief programs haven't worked as well as they
might have. But, as of 2016-2017, India had one of the fastest
growing economies in the world once again.
The story in Pakistan is not quite so bright. Pakistan
established a (theoretically) democratic government, but the
constitution has frequently been "suspended" by the party in power, and
elections have often been marred by violence. Further, Islam is
the official state religion, and the push to adopt harsh Shariah law is
strong. From time to time, economic growth has been strong, but
less consistently so than in India. In 2013, Pakistan was on the
verge of bankruptcy, and concerns that the country may default on its
debts remain. Moslem militants are poised to take advantage of
any instability, and the future of Pakistan is hard to predict.
The real tragedy in Pakistan, however, occured some years ago
East Pakistan, what came to be called Bangladesh. The East
Pakistanis have virtually nothing in common with West Pakistan except
their religious faith. They don't even share a common language:
Urdu is the language of West Pakistan, Bengali the language
of Bangladesh. The government focused its efforts on West
Pakistan, neglecting Bangladesh--or, rather, explointing the resources
of Bangladesh to create opportunities in West Pakistan.
In 1970, a tropical storm hit Bangladesh. The government
little to help, and, as a result, 300,000 people died--many of them
needlessly. This made the people of Bangladesh unhappy enough to
want to seceed. The government launched a crack-down. "Kill
3,000,000 and the rest will grovel," said one government
official. And that's pretty much what happened. In
addition, the Pakistan government had its forces rape Bangladeshi
women. There were some 400,000 to 800,000 rapes--particularly
devastating in a country where a rape victim is considered unsuitable
for marriage and therefore likely destined for a life of poverty.
This cruel strategy on the part of the government provoked
resistance. Helped by India (!), the Bangladeshi people won their
independence in 1973. But their hardships were not over.
The economy had been ruined. Many millions (ten million is a good
estimate) fled the country, ending up as refugees in places like
Calcutta. In recent years, Bangladesh has finally seen some
economic growth...but it was a very long time in coming, and, for
years, Bangladesh was one of the poorest countries on earth.
Also having a difficult time making the transition to
the areas once controlled by the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The
"Sick Man of Europe" had finally died during World War I, and the great
question, as always: what would happen to the territory controlled by
In the case of Syria, the newly-formed League of Nations
that the French should step in, and so, for a time, the French
controlled Syria under League of Nations mandate. During World
War II, however, the French had too much on their plate to govern
successfully, and they had to give up control. They worried,
however, that if they simply left Syria, the Christian population might
fall victim to another Muslim attempt at genocide. To prevent
this, the French divided the territory, forming two nations: dominantly
Muslim Syria and majority-Christian Lebanon.
How did the transition work? For Syria, not so
While most Syrians were Muslims, Syria still wasn't ethnically
homogenous, and the Syrians fell to fighting among themselves. As
usual in such situations, eventually one strong, ruthless man claws his
was to the top. In this case, that man was Haffaz Assad,
head of the Baathists, a socialist party favoring the "Alawite"
Syrians. Hassad ruled with an iron hand, slaughtering 30,000
people is a
single day to suppress dissent. Syria had stability, but neither
economic nor political freedom.
When Haffaz Assad died in 2000, his son Bashur Assad took his
place. Bashur Assad had studied opthamology in London, and
his wife was U.K. born. Many hoped for a liberalization in Syria,
more personal and political freedom. It didn't happen, and many
Syrians were disappointed.
Then in 2010 began the "Arab Spring," attempts by Arabs in many
countries to force their autocratic rulers to grant more freedom.
America (under President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton)
applauded, encouraging the protestors to continue and expand their
demands. Ultimately, this meant the destabilization of Libya and
(with the direct support of NATO forces led by the U.S., Libya's
presdident (Khadaffi) was deposed and executed--throwing Libya into
chaos and creating a huge refugee problem.
Basshur Assad wasn't going to let his happen to him, and he
began cracking down on dissidents. The U.S. drew a red-line: use
chemical weapons against dissidents, and we intervene. Well Assad
crossed the line, and America was committed to forcing Assad out.
But this was a tricky business. Assad was opposed by those who
wanted more political and personal freedom, but also by ISIS (the
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). ISIS wanted a restored
Caliphate, hoping to see their leader as the recognized spiritual and
political head of all the Islamic world. While dismissed by Obama
as the "J.V. Team," ISIS soon had control of much of Iraq and
Syria. Note on the map how much territory ISIS controlled in
January of 2015.
In the areas it controlled, ISIS carried out a campaign of
genocide against the Yazidi, Orthodox Christians, and any Muslims
that wouldn't accept their version of the faith.
This three-way civil war was awful for Syria. Hundreds of
thousands have died, and more than 5 million are refugees.
Interestingly, the Trump administration is helping push ISIS to the
brink of extinction (see the map above). [This BBC
article does a nice job summarizing the rise and fall of ISIS.]
My guess (November 2017) is that we will eventually see
some sort of compromise between Bashur Assad and those wanting greater
freedoms: Putin and Trump will probably figure out a way to help put
the compromise solution in place. But, right now, Syria is still
dealing with problems left over from the way the nation was formed in
the first place--back in 1944!
In Lebanon, the transition to independence at first seemed much
better. The Lebanese had a democratic government right from the
beginning with each ethnic group guaranteed a role in the
government. The economy boomed: the tourist industry,
agricultural, and banking gave Lebanon a solid base, and the Lebanese
had the highest standard of living in that part of the world. For
thirty years, things were fine. But there was one problem.
The constitution adopted when Lebanon was established set up a a 6:5
ratio of Christians to Muslims and Druze in the Lebanese
parliament. However, the Muslim population grew more quickly than
the Christian population, and Muslims were eventually a majority in a
country where the constitution guaranteed Christians a majority in
The Lebanese Muslims, unhappy with the situation, started a
war--a civil war that lasted from 1975-1990. Civil wars are
always miserable affairs, and this one was particularly bad. The
Syrians backed the Muslim side, the Israelis backed the Christian
side. Both Israel and Syrian eventually sent troops directly into
Obviously, this was a disaster economically and in other ways
Lebanon. At least 100,000 civilians were killed, and there were 900,000
refugees: huge numbers in a country of only 5 million people or so.
In some ways similar to the Syrian story, what happened in
territory, too, was once part of the Ottoman empire. After World
War I, the League of Nations asked the British to take control under
League of Nations mandate. The British continued to govern the
area through World War II. Eventually, though, Britain was
prepared to leave the area once a reasonable arrangement for doing so
could be made.
A major worry for the British: ethnic violence. Palestine
a majority-Muslim population, but a growing number of Jews had settled
there as well.
During the late 19th and early 20th century, Jews began what is
called the Zionist Movement. This was a movement designed to
create a Jewish homeland somewhere in the world. Some Zionists
favored a place like Uganda for the Jewish homeland, but the most
popular idea was to create a Jewish state in the Holy Land--the land of
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For 100's of years, Jews had concluded
their Passover celebations with the toast "Ha shana ha ba'a: b'
Yeroshalaim."--"next year, in Jerusalem." Messiah would come and
give them back the Promised land. Well, for the Zionists, they
weren't going to wait for Messiah: they'd take the land back now if
Jewish settlements in Palestine began to grow--with a mixed
from the Muslims in that region. The British Balfour Declaration
of 1917 supported the general idea of Jewish setllement in
Palestine--thought they wanted to protect other ethnic groups in the
region as well.
When they decided to leave the area, the British thought that
setting up two different countries (dominantly Muslim Palestine and
majority-Jewish Israel) might be an effective solution. The
newly-formed United Nations agreed, and began drawing up plans for
creating the two countries. The Jews signed on
enthusiastically. Not so the Muslims. Finally, the Jews,
tired of waiting, set up their nation on their own. In 1948, the
created a new nation: Israel.
In many ways, the new nation was quite successful. Jews from
over the Middle East and from places like Russia and even the United
States moved to Israel. Holocaust survivors in Europe also came
in large numbers. The Israelis set up a parliamentary system like
that of Britain with even Muslims eligible to serve in the Knesset (the
equivalent of the British parliament). Ecomomically, the new
nation did quite well indeed, turning desert into garden, and,
eventually, giving its people the highest standard of living in the
It was not easy. The Israelis had to fight again and
their very existence: wars in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973. They
prevailed each time. Basically, then, a successful, though not
easy, transition to independence.
But what of the Palestinians? Here is a great tragedy.
area that *should* have become the Palestinian state was swallowed up
partly by Israel, but, even more, by Jordan and Egypt. At this
point, the best outcome might have been for the Arab countries simply
to absorb the Palestinian popuation. Jordanians and Egyptians
aren't much different from Palestinians, and what might have happened
is an exchange of popuations: one million Jews from Muslim nations
settling in Israel, a million Palestinians resettling in the Muslim
That's not what happened. The Palestinians often ended up
refugee camps in Lebanon and Egypt--just waiting for the day they could
return to Israel. Any time now. 1956? Nope.
1967? Nope. 1973? Disappointed once again. And
after the 1967 and 1973 wars, Israel annexed the West bank and Gaza
areas so that, not only were the Palestinians living in refugee camps,
but in camps in areas controlled by the Jews!
War hadn't worked, so the Muslim world resorted to
And for a young man growing up in a refugee camp without any hope of
doing anything that seemed worthwhile in life, the Jihadist route was
mighty tempting. Israel, then, gets an ongoing problem with
terrorism--and responds by, in general, cracking down on the
The obvious solution: land for peace. Israel gives up the
won in the 1967 and 1973 wars in return for an end to terrorist attacks
and the attempts of Arab nations to destroy the country.
We've come awfully close to seeing just that solution.
Oslo accords did set up a Palestinian state, but the tension remains.
Israel maintains economic and miltary control of Palestine, and, from
time to time, plants Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The
response to continued Palestinian terror? Retaliation, and the building
of more settlements, making it clear that, the longer the terrorist
acts continue, the smaller the eventual Palestinian state. Of
course, the settlements provoke more anger and terrorism too.
Where will it all end? Well, the valley of Megiddo is in
[An important story I haven't had
time to talk about in recent years. You aren't responsible for
this material, but, should you get essay question #5 as an exam choice,
you can talk about Algeria too if you like.]
Another example of the difficulty in making the transition to independence: Algeria.
Algeria was colonized by the French in the 19th century--and
something more than a colony. Frenchman themselves settled in Algeria
in large numbers, retaining their French citizenship and the right to
vote in French elections. Algeria was, in a way, extension of
France--and, although initial French occupation was a bloody affair,
eventually French Algeria became a very successful place with a
thriving ecomomy and a "multicultural" environment that combined
the best of what Arab and French cultures had to offer.
[Note: I call the the native Algerians
Algerians. Actually, they are mostly of Berber descent, but they
However, the Arab
Algerians were 2nd class citizens, without the rights of the French
Algerians, and many of them resented it. During World War II, a
group called the FLN (the National Liberation Front) began a terrorist
campaign to drive the French out.
In 1945, the FLN
massacred 103 French Algerians, stripping the victims and mutilating
the bodies in horrible ways. They *wanted* to provoke French
retaliation--and retaliate the French government did, leveling some 40
Arab Algerian villages. Many Arab Algerian soldiers, soldiers who
had been fighting against Hitler, came home to find that their own
government had destroyed their homes.
like Arab and French Algerians might settle down to live in
peace. But the FLN didn't want that! In 1954, they stepped
up their terrorist attacks, targetting, first moderates in the Arab
Algerian community. By 1956, they had killed 20,000 moderate
Arabs, often gouging out their eyes, cutting out their tongues
first. They would often cut off the limbs of their victims,
living the bodies on a roadside with the tag "traitor."
targetting of the families of moderate Arabs, torturing wives and
children and then leaving the mutilated bodies for the husband to find
when he came home from work.
They didn't always
their victims. Cutting off a nose, or an ear, or a penis but
leaving the victim alive might be even more effective than killing in
frightening the moderate Arabs into silence.
Soon, the FLN
its attacks to include French Algerians. They would occupy
portions of Algeria and then launch a campaign of genocide in the
territory they controlled, killing people in the most horrible ways
imaginable. They took a woman with a five-day-old baby, cut her
belly open, stuffed the baby inside, stiched her up--and let both
mother and baby die a slow, painful death.
FLN wanted the French to be so angry they would make mistakes.
And it worked. The French lashed out blindly at Arab Algerians
whether guilty of attrocities or not. The French even resorted to
torture on their own to get the information they thought they needed to
fight the FLN.
President Chales DeGaulle decided that Algeria wasn't worth the
price. In 1961, Algeria got its independence. The French
Algerians themselves fought to maintain control of their country, but,
by 1962, they had to give up. They left Algeria to resettle in
France. But, before leaving, they destroyed everything they
could, buring their homes, the hospitals, schools--everything built
during the century of French rule.
They left behind
thousands of moderate Arabs who fell victims to the FLN. Thirty
to fifty thousand moderate Arabs were massacred. And the
result? What should have been a prosperous country ended up with
an oppressive government and a basket case economy. To fight
against their corrupt government, many Algerians embraced as an
alternative a radical Islamic alternative. This led to a civil
war in the 1980's and 1990's--and another round of gruesome tortures
and death. Algeria is, finally, recovering economically--but the
transition to independence has certainly not been easy.
CIA Statistics on Algeria
Having even more difficulty making the transition to
some of the countires of Subsaharan Africa. A somewhat typical
example: Uganda. Uganda had been colonized by the British and,
under British rule, had developed a thriving economy. In 1963,
the British granted Uganda independence, probably anticipating a
relatively smooth transition. Things didn't go well. Uganda
was composed of several different tribal groups. Making matters
worse, a large Muslim minority was at odds with the Christian majority.
As soon as the British left, these groups were at each other's throats,
and, once again, a strong, ruthless man clawed his way to the top: Idi
Amin was a sadistic mass murderer. He killed some 200,000
his own people. Most of his victims were Christians (he himself
was a Muslim), but even those closest to him weren't safe. Amin
practiced ritual canibalism, killing and eating the flesh of one of his
wives and dining on the heart of one of his sons. When he
was eventually overthrown, his freezers were full of human body
parts. Amin was an exceptionally evil man, but, unfortunately,
men of his type often manage to get to the top in modern Africa.
CIA Statistics on Uganda (Note life expectancy, infant mortality rates, etc.)
Background on Idi Amin
An even worse tragedy what happened in neighboring Congo. King
Leopold of Belgium took over the Congo in the late 19th century, using
the county's vast resources to build himself a personal fortune.
He was absolutely ruthless, and hundreds of thousands died. The Belgian
government eventually took control out of Leopold's hands, and things
got better in some ways: but violence between white and black (and
between black and black) eventually reached a point where the Belgian
government decided to give up.
In 1960, the Congo got independence: but once again, the
result was nothing good. The various tribal groups were at war until,
ultimately, a strong, ruthless individual clawed his way to the top:
Mobutu was certainly a capable man, but he used his abilities
for the betterment of the Congo as a whole, but to enrich himself, his
family, and his friends. He made himself the richest man in the
world, while his people were among the poorest.
Mobutu blamed his country's problems on the Belgians. European
influence was very bad. And so, he said, the key to success was
to get rid of everything European. He change the name of the
country from "Congo" to Zaire--a more traditional African name, he
said. He also wanted to get rid of every trace of
Christianity. Not easy! One sees the impact of Christianity
even in his name. So he had to change his name. He changed
it to "Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga."
This from one online source:
Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, loosely translated "The all powerful warrior who because of endurance and will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake." In English this means "head rooster with access to all the hens in the henhouse." The locals have their own version: "The cock who jumps all the chicks in the farmyard."
To replace Christianity, Mobutu offered a new faith: Mobutusism.
In 1997, Mubutu was finally driven from power, but the result
nothing good. Mobutu's successors now tried to undo everything he
had done--calling the counry once again Congo instead of Zaire.
But once again, the country quickly devolved into civil war. More
than five million people have died--and the war still goes on in part
today. Very hard to create a thriving society under such
CIA Statistics on the Congo
Subsaharan Africa as a whole
While the Congo situation is probably the worst of the modern African nightmares, it is certainly not unique. Subsaharan Africa as a whole has struggled greatly during the transition period--not what those of us who grew up in the 1950's and 60's expected. Africa during the post-World War II period looked like it was on the right track. All that the countires of Africa needed was independence. Well, beginning around 1960 and continuing through the 1970's, just about all the countries of Africa got that independence. But in many, many instances, independence meant civil war. These civil wars were insensified by the fact that they took place during the Cold War. The Soviets supported one side, hoping that side would move in the Communist direction. The United States supported the other side, hoping to stop the spread of communism. And so what happened is that, in countries that often didn't have any of the modern conveniences we've come to take for granted, one thing did tend to be very modern: ways of killing other people in large numbers.
When the Cold War came to an end, the African civil wars should have cooled down a bit. They didn't. America neglected its role as the world's only super power. The Clinton administration, for instance, worked very hard to make sure the Rwanda situation would *not* be labeled genocide, because that would have required an international commitment (led by the United States) to stop the bloodbath. Bad as Cold War intervention was, it turns out that post-Cold War non-intervention is even worse.