The American Empire Has Died
The study of the lifespan of nations which rise to the status of “empire,” is revealing. For one, “It reveals many successive empires covering some 3,000 years, as having followed similar stages of development and decline, and as having, to a surprising degree, ‘lived’ lives of very similar length. The life-expectation of a great nation, it appears, commences with a violent, and usually unforeseen, outburst of energy, and ends in a lowering of moral standards, cynicism, pessimism and frivolity.” (THE FATE OF EMPIRES and SEARCH FOR SURVIVAL Sir John Glubb) The average time such a process takes on average is 250 years. Nations have proven unable to sustain the energy it took to build such a nation of broad and expansive wealth and political control. That political control does not have to be military, but it does have to have enough “power” to exert its desires upon nations far and wide. Empires of former generations used military might to subdue surrounding nations. Witness the Assyrians, Romans, etc who conquered and subdued nations “nearer” to them. Modern history demonstrates an economic conquering of nations. And those “conquered” nations are more likely to be further afield. Indeed, the extension of such empires might encompass a much greater geography of the world. This “control” would be connected to economic advantage that could be maintained without the same kind of military presence that was required of the historic empires. What concerns me most, is not how such empires came to be, but why they died? Not only is the 3,000 year study of the timeline of rise and fall similar, 250 years on average, the phases of development are similar and in fact hold the key to understanding why they die.
THE FATE OF EMPIRES and SEARCH FOR SURVIVAL Sir John Glubb Article summary (a) We do not learn from history because our studies are brief and prejudiced. (b) In a surprising manner, 250 years emerges as the average length of national greatness. (c) This average has not varied for 3,000 years. Does it represent ten generations? (d) The stages of the rise and fall of great nations seem to be: The Age of Pioneers (outburst) The Age of Conquests The Age of Commerce The Age of Affluence The Age of Intellect The Age of Decadence. (e) Decadence is marked by: Defensiveness Pessimism. Materialism Frivolity An influx of foreigners The Welfare State A weakening of religion. (f) Decadence is due to: Too long a period of wealth and power Selfishness Love of money The loss of a sense of duty. (g) The life histories of great states are amazingly similar, and are due to internal factors.
“Yet the subsequent life history of the United States has followed the standard pattern which we shall attempt to trace—the periods of the pioneers, of commerce, of affluence, of intellectualism and of decadence.” Of the factors that Glubb lists and develops further in his article, two stand out for me. All of the factors or phases are easy to detail in the American “empire.” But two stand out as most germane to me because they are so obvious to our present moment in history. First, “Men are interminably different, and intellectual arguments rarely lead to agreement. Thus public affairs drift from bad to worse, amid an unceasing cacophony of argument. But this constant dedication to discussion seems to destroy the power of action.” We are at a moment in our political history when the word “malice” seems to aptly describe the environment. I am embarrassed at the things that our political leaders say to and about each other, in public. Hateful words, like ones little children might speak to each other in retaliation, are now common place. It seems to me that Glubb describes our final stage of empire life well. What will be resolved that reflects healthy nation building, nothing! Second, “It is of interest to note that decadence is the disintegration of a system, not of its individual members. The habits of the members of the community have been corrupted by the enjoyment of too much money and too much power for too long a period. The result has been, in the framework of their national life, to make them selfish and idle. A community of selfish and idle people declines, internal quarrels develop in the division of its dwindling wealth, and pessimism follows, which some of them endeavour to drown in sensuality or frivolity.” “Decadence is a moral and spiritual disease, resulting from too long a period of wealth and power, producing cynicism, decline of religion, pessimism and frivolity.” All of this brings me to my point. We are an empire that has imploded. The phases of the empires of the last 3,000 years can be traced and seen in our 250 years. People assume that America will last forever as a world power, but that is not what history teaches us. Even now, the final stages of our world power status are in question. The primary question is, what will America look like after? My thoughts are that we will look more like England, after their empire collapsed. Monetary wealth by many will not disappear. Education will not disappear. And, maybe most importantly, military might, seen most clearly in the final solution, nuclear power, will not be lost. But, other nations are in their initial stages of empire building. A look at China clearly reveals that they look like both England and America in their respective “industrial revolution” phases, and as Glubb describes the early phases. At one end of the spectrum, one nation has lots of people power, willing to sacrifice to get ahead, dedicated to education for its children. At the that other end of the spectrum another nation which has become lazy, indulgent, offering too many people money to not work, and, is seeing its education scores plummet in comparison to other nations. “It is, therefore, interesting to note that the life-expectation of a great nation does not appear to be in any way affected by the nature of its institutions. Past empires show almost every possible variation of political system, but all go through the same procedure from the Age of Pioneers through Conquest, Commerce, Affluence to decline and collapse.” Does America deserve judgment. The empire is dead. But, is it the stroke of history, or, is it the hand of God? I see both. It is the hand of God using the stroke of history to bring our day as a world power to an end. Two reasons stand out to me. One, there is something very similar to God’s judgement on the Tower of Babel and the limitations He places on empires. As one reads the process described by Glubb, two intertwined reactions arise at the same moment. God says, I will not allow you to assume my throne. No human power will be allowed to assume itself god of this world. Man will not be god. Equally, Glubb’s list of phases, looks just like a listing of all of the evils of mankind unbounded. If God does not act, what does unbounded evil look like? Unbounded evil results in a humanity so corrupted that the image of God is barely visible. And, in our case, who can argue that we don’t deserve the judgement of God? The moral outrage of abortion is championed by few and nearly forgotten by the church The integrity of ones word is no longer a badge of honor, even in the church The ease that has resulted from power and money is a cancer eating at our souls The judgement of God on both society and Church is both deserved and expected LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage. They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.” Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge— the LORD—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath. Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it. Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers? If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the LORD has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the LORD our God will wipe them out Psalm 94