The average age of an empire? A mere 250 years

WASHINGTON >> As the Fourth of July approaches, the idea that democracy is the highest political calling of mankind once again hangs poignantly in the philosophical air.

We fret over problems here at home. We shake our heads over warring political parties, our vulgarized public culture and a billionaire class that thinks it should inherit the country all by its rich little 1 percent self.

But when we look at America’s foreign policy since World War II we should be most soberly gripped by a contradiction in thinking that could be leading us disastrously into the last hours of empire.

I am talking about the obsession among many of our foreign policy elites with spreading democracy across the world — and doing it more and more at the tip of a sword, with the shot of a rifle and the horrific destruction of a bomb.

This is no longer the Wilsonian ideal of “making the world safe for democracy” that sprang out of the bloody trenches of World War I. This is something new, a mind-set that sounds noble but is so deadly in practice that, contrary to what Americans are being led to believe, it is not only causing the massacre of foreigners but slowly and surely destroying democracy within America itself.

It’s time we finally face the facts squarely:

1. Many peoples do not have the historical foundations that make our form of democracy possible, and that does not make them inferior, or superior, but only different.

2. In insisting that they adopt our system, we are cementing ourselves in senseless and destructive wars that we will never “win” in any conventional terms.

The stages of our unwinnable “new wars,” which now stretch from Iraq and Afghanistan to Somalia, Yemen and Libya and are bleeding the American state for little apparent reason, are these:

First, you go into a country with troops — easy. Then, when you aren’t doing well, you try again, because you just didn’t try hard enough. Next you insist you WILL win — now, everybody’s getting mad. Then you try to force the others to submit, and you start using un-American methods like “enforced interrogation,” which of course doesn’t work either.

Finally, you reach today’s Afghanistan situation. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said recently, “We are not winning in Afghanistan.” And a second American general told CNN that, even though we’re losing there, we can’t withdraw because it would look bad. Great!

We have 800-plus military bases around the world and Special Operations units (American Gurkhas?) in 130 nations. “We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people,” says former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in her new book, “Democracy: Stories From the Long Road to Freedom.”

President Trump has given the Pentagon total power to make decisions in the “new wars,” and it wants an additional $34 billion to spend because the wars are clearly not working as planned.

Well, it seems that at least one country has been thinking more practically. That country is China. It is building roads and railroads and trade from Africa to Latin America to the Middle East, while we fight for ideas that will never take root where they are not wanted.

All I’m suggesting this Fourth, which is a day I dearly love and honor, is that we start thinking about what we are doing and where we are trying to go in a world that craves us as an example, not an emperor.

Americans may not think of themselves as an “empire,” but much of the world does. The average age of empires, according to a specialist on the subject, the late Sir John Bagot Glubb, is 250 years. After that, empires always die, often slowly but overwhelmingly from overreaching in the search for power.

The America of 1776 will reach its 250th year in 2026. Happy Fourth!

Full article: The average age of an empire? A mere 250 years (Times Standard)

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