What the Guardian didn`t mention was that Niall Ferguson "advised" the Republican John McCain in his election campaign in 2008 against Obama, and supported Romney in 2012, so it hardly comes as a surprise that his article in favour of direct action in Syria by America is so selective in its use of historical evidence. (The left`s blind spot, 07/09/13) For instance, he is full of praise for America`s intervention "to end the post-Yugoslav violence in the Balkans", but glosses over the disaster that was the Iraq war, and fails to mention that the intervention of the US and Britain in Afghanistan did not defeat the Taliban. As for Vietnam, it`s clearly the war which must never be mentioned in this debate, either by the political "hawks" or their historical advisors; intervention there, of course, failed to bring about the desired solution, despite the widespread use of banned chemical weapons.
Ferguson rightly says "that the Middle East is not the Balkans", and that the "forces of radical Islam are far more powerful", but cannot link American and European military interference in their affairs to their anti-imperialist stance. Does he really think that the use of armed force of whatever kind, though he is typically reluctant to be precise, will reduce the "sectarian conflict"? Missile and drone warfare, as Caroline Lucas says, are "responsible for the indiscriminate killing of thousands of innocents, and undermine our moral authority", so can only serve to provoke further acts of revenge. He intimates that the "infamous Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916", responsible for many of the Middle East`s borders today, made mistakes, but cannot connect it to the earlier British and French intervention in the area because that would go against his basic premise that British imperialism, despite its greed for wealth, land and labour, its use of weapons, massacres, concentration camps and torture, was a force for good. This is the most important reason why so many historians objected to him advising Gove on the new history curriculum for schools; the longer the myths about intervention and imperialism are perpetuated, the more politicians will boast about no other country having "a prouder history", (PM`s riposte to Russia with notes on a small island, 07/09/13) and the greater the chance that miltary action will always hold sway over diplomacy.