Friday, March 24, 2006

The Rise and Fall of the American "Empire"

Major Mike

I was listening to the conversation between Hugh Hewitt and Victor Davis Hansen today on the HH Show, and their discussion touched slightly on a comparison between the fall of the Roman Empire, and the current polar-metric political reality in the US today.

I believe they have hit upon a comparison that is valid.

Is our democracy at a perilous point in its history? Is it likely to fail in the foreseeable future? And, can its fall be prevented, in light of the significant internal criticisms of the liberal left?

While the Roman Empire can claim significant status for almost ten centuries, and our democracy is only two centuries old, I think the comparison is on target and valid. I believe that the technological forces at work in the world today, the substitution of terror for direct combat, and rampant political opportunism world wide, set the stage for ever shorter, grand culture, “empires.”

The new speed-of-light information age, including this blogging medium, act as accelerants in the demise of grand cultures. Not only can reams of positive ideas and thoughtful philosophies be shared and disseminated near instantaneously, but evil and negative forces can avail themselves of the very same mediums, yet for very different purposes.

What used to take months by horse or donkey, now can cover the same distance in milliseconds. Compressing the information exchange timeline, will, necessarily, act as an accelerant in the demise of governments…compressing governmental longevity along the same scale.

Opposition can now be mustered in rapid fashion with a minimum of physical effort. Usually the organizational effort of the opposition would be a physically daunting task taking years, decades or centuries. Today, armies of opponents can be organized instantaneously with all the effort it takes to open a Coke. This leaves the opposition strong and viable for the decisive moment…much less likely to be on the battlefield then in years past, but if they win the message race, they will be successful nonetheless.

The faster the information flows, the quicker and “empire” will fail.

The culture itself can also provide the source of its own demise. Despotic regimes are notoriously short lived, and almost always personality dependent. They are vulnerable because dictators and despots rarely meet the needs of the masses, or they become so unstable their neighbors are forced to take action to preserve their own cultures.

Democracies provide the key to their demise from within. Freedom of thought, speech, and expression, will ultimately lead to the demise of even the strongest democratic state…because the opposition is un-tethered. The speed that information can be exchanged today provides an unparalleled level of organizational ability to the opposition. Despotic regimes only last because of tight, brutal, central control. Democracies will only last with the responsible participation of the citizens. Once the opposition is “unhinged,” AND connected, the democracy is vulnerable to the despotic whims of the blinded, idea-centric opposition…the health of the state is in jeopardy, relegated in importance behind the need of a particular party to regain control.

Throw in an unabashedly biased press, and these blinded forces are a powerful accelerant that would make Santa Ana winds look like a gentle breeze during fire season in SoCal. Our democracy is certainly vulnerable to a shortened existence because of its inherent freedoms, and also because of the technology of the day.

Another modern invention, terrorism, can also act as an accelerant in the demise of a democracy, if the citizens cower in fear, are blinded by their narrow political philosophies, and fail to recognize that the paradigm of war was changed forever by 9/11…as seems to be the case with the “unhinged” press and the “unhinged” left. The weapon of terror is a combat multiplier when applied in cultures that are paralyzed in fear, or fail to take its potential seriously.

Weak-willed cultures are vulnerable to the weapons of terror; strong, confident cultures are not. As we become increasingly intolerant of adversity, and less adept at hard work and sacrifice, we become increasingly vulnerable to horrific by-products of terrorism. Many believe that we can isolate ourselves from terror and continue to enjoy the “High Life”, by acquiescing in the short term on minor issues. If we ignore it, we aren’t delaying the next, inevitable attack, we are accelerating it, and contributing to the demise of our culture at the same time.

Democracies rely on a healthy exchange of ideas, working within the guidelines established by their guiding documents for their health and longevity. Political hackery, opportunism, and the unhinged quest for power will ultimately yield, not power, but vulnerability.

Keep your political philosophies, maintain a healthy opposition to policies that you disagree with, speak your mind, vote, run for office…use every tool available within a democracy, but don’t destroy the very institution that provides those opportunities, simply because you disagree with a party or a President. Those that bombed NYC will not leave us alone if we have a Democrat President. They are waiting to exploit the inherent weaknesses of our democracy in order to gain control of our culture, and an unbalanced opposition, enhanced by a manipulating press, will only bolster their gains.

Responsible use of our political opportunities and freedoms (speech, press, expression) is what ultimately guarantees our longevity…misuse and abuse, as with any complex system, will ultimately lead to breakdown and failure. In order to delay the effects of information compression and terror, we must renew a healthy political dialog…otherwise we will soon join the Romans as a great, yet doomed civilization.

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