Western Hubris from Colonial to Postcolonial


A remote detail? While the British and the Empire took the Entente and would-be League in their Winter-1919 endeavour in Paris to put themselves altogether on moral high ground, the facts on the ground in both Asia and Africa told a different story. Here's the case of Afghanistan 1923.

On 23 June 1923, the Manchester Guardian reported that the Waziri tribe Britain's former colony of Afghanistan – most notably independent through the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of August 1919 – was bombed out by the airforce in June 1923 (1). When news of this were to be spread and come to Weimar Germany, how would this be thought of? The people of foreign dictated Germany was preoccupied by a quest for survival. Inflation was running extraordinarily high. Let us try to tread into a German's, let us say his countrywoman's footsteps (watch our "Fanny" blogpost – featured in 🇩🇪 media), whoever from exactly a hundred years ago. When hyperinflation would be successfully countered, one more of the many Paris/Versailles machinations, that is the argument of German inferiority when it comes to colonial administration, would remain. Not to mention the implication of British and the others' superiority.

The question, if any bombing of native populations would have been directed out of Germany, is hardly relevant. As a matter of fact, the aerial age had started with the world war. The German colonial empire was completely usurped by the British and their allies over the three-times extended Armistice period of 1918–1919 – being an overt contradiction to the 1918 ceasefire stipulations.

In the beginnings of the twenty-first century, the United States army went into the poor country in order to achieve what neither the Soviets nor the British were able to. Landlocked Afghanistan harboured forces to which the 9/11 suicide attacks on civil and military targets in the States could be attributed. Eight decades after the aerial bombardment by the British, the US and US-led Atlantic Alliance (NATO) campaign would lead to destruction all over the country and many more deadly casualties. It would take one-fifth of the centenary timeline 1923 – 2023, to terminate a war as unsuccessful as the ones from the past century. Following a staggering twenty years of warfare against this Central Asian people, the inglorious departure occurred at the time of the Covid pandemic.

Indeed, we are quickly running up and down the timeline. Let us turn back to 1923.

Four years following the Treaty and "League of Versailles", actual policies and military campaign by either the treaty's text dictating British or the British-led League of Nations demonstrated that a quintessential critique of "double standards" would apply. At the same time, not only the one-to-one targeted and comprehensively subdued Weimar Germans were able to bring in a brand-new argument on the base of which their claim for substantial revision of the "new order" grounded. In addition to this, another bottom-up argument would be available to the colonised.. Though at the time of the first independence activists, it appeared not really realistic that a substantial amount of their people voiced the common cause in the international arena. In recent years, publications were released that describe a kind of joining forces: Over the 1920s, Berlin did become a refuge of anti-imperial activists out of the Entente's and other colonies. Such a get-together for survival was not rare: See Rapallo 1922 concerning red Russia and the German republic.

Questions? Make a note of the Peter de Bourgraaf's upcoming essay "Vice Versa Versailles. Europe's Sleeping Beauty" (October 2023).


1.  Sean Andrew Wempe, The Revenants of the German Empire. Colonial Germans, Imperialism, & the League of Nations, Oxford 2019, p. 49.