Historians have always told us to make sure we learn our history or we will be doomed to repeat. That sounds easy enough, but we must be sure to understand the lesson first. Our parents told us about the boy who cried wolf, Pinocchio, and other all of the Brothers Grimm tales. Those all had simple lessons that were easy to learn. Yet, how do we take the convoluted events of our lives and convert those into lessons we can apply?
Then you have those cases where we can't even agree on why something occurred in the past. This happens all the time too. You get into a car wreck. How could you have avoided it? Well, first you have to agree on your culpability. It's human nature to deny wrongdoing even when it stares us in the face. Well, I think we understand the rules of the game, so let's play one of those SAT or GRE kind of games. What do the following events have in common?
Fa+ Falll of the Roman Empire
· + Fall of Alexander the Great's empire
· + Fall of the Chinese dynasties
· + Fall of the Egyptian empires
· + Fall of the British Empire
· + Fall of the Spanish empire
I could be leaving out a few here, but I think we have enough to work on. This is usually when little Johnny raises his hand and offers the obvious: they are all fallen empires. Thank you Johnny. Let's dig deeper. Why did these empires fall and what lessons do they have for us today? I think we would all agree that the United States would classify as a modern day empire. We have the largest standing army in the world, our troops are spread out to the four corners of the globe, and our influence stretches everywhere. So, what do we learn from these fallen empires?
We can argue about the specifics of each situation until we pass out from hunger. Suffice it to say, each of these empires got too big to manage. Now, one could easily point out that at least half of them had leadership problems along the way. The divine right of kings (and emperors) has a way of limiting the talent pool. When your emperor comes out dressed in drag you know that the fall isn't too far behind. Of course, I have nothing against transvestites. I just suppose that my sensibilities have their limits. Luckily, the American people aren't going to elect any cross-dressers or mentally unstable people anytime soon. At least we hope so.
World domination carries two unique challenges. First, you have the challenge of managing the behemoth. All of those powers were centrally dominated, but had to yield some to what we would call federalism today. Whether you are governed nationally or locally, it becomes increasingly difficult when you expand beyond your means. Secondly, at a certain point, the world hates you. Nobody loves an occupying force or someone that is "there to help." Eventually they rebel and eventually they break free. This is the natural order of things.
Watching satellite communities fall is just the beginning. Eventually the economy and infrastructure crumbles under its own weight. Modern dynasties didn't completely disappear, but got knocked down to size when they could no longer sustain themselves. Is this in America's future? I'd say most definitely if we continue down the road we are traveling. History has a funny way of repeating itself. We have the advantage of knowing what has happened before. It is up to us to finally decide that we don't have to go down that same road. Being a part of a fallen empire is no fun.