Friday, 1 February 2013

When not in Rome...

Young David has gone to pay his respects to the Algerian Government, only days after telling them off for acting without his agreement, and to the Libyan Government, which he helped to put in place. He should reflect on what the Romans did when they had provinces in North Africa. They wisely decided to make no effort to control the Sahara. Instead they built a line of defences along the edge of the desert, on the same principle as Hadrian's wall, to keep out the barbarians. In practice the nomads managed very well, earning their living by organizing transport between North and West Africa. The French and British, who added the Sahara to their empires, foolishly tried to include stretches of desert in the various countries that they carved out. The result was that the nomads found fictitious frontiers across their territory, and officials from the settled peoples to North and South interfering with their way of life. Once oil and gas had been discovered, outsiders came uninvited to pipe them out and keep the proceeds. It may be too late to redraw the frontiers, but at least we should recognize that it is virtually impossible to govern a desert.

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