"History has taught me, that RULERS are much the same in all ages & under all forms of government: they are as bad as they dare to be," said the poet Coleridge in a letter to his brother George (c. 10 March 1798).
The immediate reference was to France - but after the Revolution and the killing of Louis XVI. Would no government at all, be better?
Libertarians - Coleridge's "Philosophers & Friends of Freedom" - like to think so; to imagine that but for the oppressive State we would all get along much better. Not until we are better people, says the Dreamer, quoting Cowper's "The Task":
"He that takes
Deep in his soft credulity the stamp
Design'd by loud Declaimers on the part
Of Liberty, themselves the slaves of Lust,
Incurs derision for his easy faith
And lack of Knowledge..."
Burma, 1942: Rangoon has fallen to the Japanese, and Indians are fleeing westward. In Arakan, the British forces have made a rapid withdrawal:
"Chaos and civil war spread throughout Arakan. First, the local inhabitants fell on the wretched Indian refugees, who were still in thousands trying to escape by the coastal route. This exodus was followed by a bitter internecine struggle for land and power between the Arakanese and the Maughs, two sections of the population. The Maughs got the worst of it and many were driven across the Naf River to take shelter in territory still held by us, there to make yet another refugee problem. Faction fights among the victorious Arakanese then became the order of the day, until the Japanese, pushing up to Buthidaung, restored some sort of uneasy peace."
- Field Marshal Viscount Slim, "Defeat Into Victory", Pan Books edition (1999), p.147. This short paragraph could be turned into a novel of avoidable human suffering.
When even Hirohito's sadistic racists were an improvement on anarchy, when can the removal of a tyrant be justified?
Iraq, Libya and Syria? But not North Korea?
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