Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Walls of Rome

As the barbarian cavalty stormed into Rome, the people of the city were within earshot of the screams of those dying in the fighting.But the people paid no attention. They were watching the gladiators and the games. That's what we're doing. A world that we knew is dying. And few are noticing.

The western powers rose to military dominance with Columbus. It wasn't so much Columbus. It was the development of ships like Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina that could handle long distance voyages, and give easy access to the world. The military dominance was also based on an inheritamce of an understanding of war going back at least to the ancient Greeks. With ships and trained armies, even small Euopean countries could conquer the world.

Spain and Portugal  defeated, enslaved and robbed millions in South American and Central America with armies that were sometimes barely over a hundred figthing men. Britain conquered what is now India, Bangladesh and Pakistan with only2,000 soldiers. Tiny Belgium murdered some five million and enslaved and looted the living with its small army in Congo.

With military dominance came the economic dominance that built European and American prosperity. But it's over. And we're too busy watching the games to see it.

The reversal came with the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in World War Two. Such a fortress had never before fallen to a non-European army. The Korean War, pitting Europe and North America, as well as South Korea against China, could barely be fought to a draw. France lost in Indo-China, followed by the US in Vietnam.  Then France lost in North Africa. The US lost in Cuba. There was no serious fighting in Cuba; but Castro outlasted the US so that now US dominance in Latin America is in serious trouble. Britain saw the writing on the wall; and was wise enough to get out of the empire game.

The US could beat Iraq only with a massive technological superiority and a willingness to kill a million innocent people. Even now, almost ten years later, Iraq can still be held with an army of occupation. The US is losing in Afghanistan. And American citizens, like the Romans before them, have lost their enthusiasm to "spread democracy". Like George Bush in his youth, they prefer the safety of home. Like that of Rome, the wars of the US depend on mercenaries.

As with the Roman Empire, the West conquered colonies by the military but for the economy, for the profit in them. What we are watching now is the fall of the last western empire. It began with the fall of Singapore. That's what first showed the conquered could learn the lessons of war. They could adapt them even to fighting against a technologyically advanced enemy. And win, even against the West.

From Columbus to Singapore was a long time. From Singapore to the collapse of the US will be much shorter.

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