There is a popular saying in the US that what goes around comes around, meaning that your bad actions will boomerang back on you. I still remember John Gerassi’s 1963 book The Great Fear, that warned the North to ignore the South at its peril. Western Europe was busy with its economic miracle then, giving little thought to the role played by present or former colonies, as these, one by one, gained independence through bloody struggle.
This happened because, following the Marshall Plan that helped Western Europe recover from the war, America continued to press upon its ‘allies’ its combined panoplies of mass culture and technology. ‘Drug Stores’ sprouted, followed by shopping malls, and I came upon pharmacies in Germany’s Black Forest with wall to wall carpeting and musak, at a time when Italians were roaring through hilltop villages on Vespas, soon to be followed by sports cars blaring rock music.
In 1992, following an eight-year war of independence (1954-62) Algeria, France’s largest African colony, was again plunged into civil war when France intervened to prevent the Islamic Party from winning an election. Morocco and Tunisia followed a less rocky path to modernization after independence in 1955 and 1956 respectively, as nations across a vast African continent engaged in liberation from their English, French-or Portuguese speaking colonial masters.
In Asia, the Korean War (1950-53), largely an American affair, was closely followed by the War in Vietnam, which started as a French affair, but became a twenty-year American obsession, after France’s stinging defeat at Bien Bien Phu in 1954.
Hitler’s Germany had no colonies , and following its second defeat in World War II, the country pursued its inevitable rise as Europe’s power-house, taking in thousands of Turkish guest workers. In France, Europe’s other major power, thousands of North African guest workers contributed to a much needed modernization. However, the simultaneous return to France of colonial settlers, known as ‘black foots’, mainly from Algeria, strengthened nationalists in a country with strong Communist and Socialist parties, ensuring rocky domestic politics. As it increa-singly Americanized its way of life, popular disapproval of US muscle continued, side-by-side with incidents such as the covert bombing of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior, to protect France’s nuclear ‘independence’.
While the Third and Fourth worlds were emancipating themselves from colonial rule, Europeans never imagined that this would raise the clout of the world’s formerly colonized majority. Though walking the same streets as Muslim men and women, Western Europeans never saw them as potential major players. As for Eastern Europeans, their rush to consume without borders left them happily indifferent to anything going on elsewhere. If they noticed growing Muslim populations among their Western neighbors, they noted, with no small satisfaction, that their isolation behind the Iron Curtain during the period of decolonization saved them from involvement with Muslims, a considerable consolation in light of several hundred years of Turkish occupation
Seemingly out of the blue, Europe has been brought up short by its frivolous blindness: the two-thirds of multi-colored humanity out there matter. The Trojan horse of terrorism is filled with Bashar al-Assad’s refugees, but the horse itself was built by Washington’s relentless pursuit of global hegemony. Mindlessly, a vassalized Europe acquiesced, not realizing it would pay, as a result of what the French call disparagingly, wanting to play in the upper school yard.