By Kwasi Kwarteng
When we saw the new book, Ghosts of Empire, by Kwasi Kwarteng—a Conservative Member of Parliament—on British leadership in its colonial history and its meaning for the future, we knew we would be reading it carefully with an eye toward adding it to our annual list. In Ghosts of Empire he explores six historical cases: Iraq, Nigeria, Sudan, Hong Kong, Kashmir and Burma. Among his findings were that although colonial policy was regularly constructed in London, the basis for British success in its empire could only be managed and sustained by creating institutions and then delegating power — either to Brits acting in place of the Crown or to indigenous agents who self-identified as part of the British establishment. But therein lies the rub according to Kwarteng, who contends, “the Empire granted far too much authority to the wrong people. Accidents and decisions made on a personal, almost whimsical, level have had a massive impact on international politics… Indeed, much of the instability in the world is a product of its legacy of individualism and haphazard policy making.” Kwarteng continues, "Officials often developed one line of policy only for successors to overturn it and pursue a completely different approach. This was a source of chronic instability in the Empire." This is the essence of the book’s title: Ghosts of Empire, which he says provides the legacy for contemporary policy issues (viz., Iraq)—the ghosts continue to rattle around.