Is America another doomed empire? Can we avoid the decline and demise of empire that has been the pattern of the past? John Bagot Glubb, English scholar and former soldier, provides a historical analysis of the life history of empires (great nations) that is sobering and cautionary in a monograph, "The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival," published in Blackwood Magazine in 1976.
Glubb, as a historicist, devotes his long essay to a study of patterns of empires that he defines as great or superpowers in history, from the Assyrian in 859–612 B.C. to Britain, 1700–1950 A.D. Glubb asserts that "(a) in spite of accidents of fortune and the apparent circumstances of the human race at different epochs, the periods of duration of different empires at varied epochs show a remarkable similarity. (b) immense changes in the technology of transport or in methods of warfare do not seem to affect the life expectation an empire." He says technical changes affect only the size and shape of an empire.
Can we make America great again, or are we doomed? Let's take a look at what Glubb found to be characteristic of great nations in decline, bound for failure. First, a little about the school of Historicism that asserts that human behavior is best studied as history. It's straightforward — study humans to understand humans. Study human social and political groups to understand them.
Hegelian Historicism is the name given to Historicism posited by Georg W.F. Hegel, who asserted that societies are defined and determined by their history — that knowledge of the history of a society or political entity is essential, that history reveals human activities and provides insight into human individual and group motivations and reactions. Hegel also built his famous dialectic on Historicism — the pattern of action, reaction, and resolution that he labeled thesis/antithesis/synthesis. When studying the human condition, the dialectic certainly is useful, and proper study of history is essential. Hegel said the discipline of philosophy is really the study of the history of philosophy.
Karl Popper, respected philosopher of science, pointed out that Historicism may imply determinism, but free will is in play, and individuals, societies, nations can choose well to their advantage and avoid self-destructive choices and behavior. We'd better.
John Bagot Glubb was the classic Brit, born in 1897, son of a British Royal Engineers officer, commissioned in the Royal Engineers in April 1915, served in WWI, was wounded three times, then volunteered for service in Iraq as a regular officer but resigned his commission and went to work as an administrator in the Iraq government. In 1930, he signed a contract to work for Jordan (then called Transjordan), and from 1939 to 1956, he commanded the famous Jordan Arab Legion (actually the Jordanian Army). After he retired with the honorific Middle Eastern title Glubb Pasha, he wrote many books and essays and was a widely traveled lecturer because of his erudition, scholarship, and personal experiences in the Middle East.
Glubb, in the monograph that is our point of discussion, undertook to demonstrate his hypothesis and the evidence that supports his assertion that empires pass through the following ages: Pioneers, Conquests, Commerce, Affluence, Intellect, Decadence.
The Age of Decadence he portrays as "marked by: Defensiveness, Pessimism, Materialism, Frivolity, An Influx of Foreigners, The Welfare State and Weakening of Religion."
Glubb Pasha posits that "[d]ecadence is due to: Too long a period of wealth and power-Selfishness-Love of Money-The loss of a sense of duty."
He points out that the way empires crash and burn varies because it is usually brought about by external forces.
Glubb's detailing of the character of a nation or empire in the various stages is compelling — he nails so many things down, and his essay is a rollicking good time at only 24 pages long. Even those who hate long papers will find this very to read — Glubb has a talent to write, and his subject is important to you and to me. The survival of our country is the consideration.
Glubb's essay is pertinent because the Age of Decadence is upon us. Glubb makes the case that empires run out of gas because of internal decline and decadence. The typical life expectancy of empires, according to Glubb, is 250 years — about ten generations. Without a change in direction, America will become another casualty to the process — a lesser player, suffering the "used to be" syndrome.
John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D. is an emergency and corrections physician amd inactive attorney in Brownwood, Texas.