American Decline

We Knew It Was Coming: The Last Stage of Empire is Now

By Jeff Groom, The American Conservative

Over the holiday weekend the United States turned 244 years old. Time flies. But is this old for a nation? Do nations have lifespans like organisms? Aren’t ideas and principles immortal? It’s natural to speak of our nation as something that will continue indefinitely, long beyond our mortal existence. But a crucial distinction must be made: America was a nation in 1776; today she is an empire. Therefore, one could ask: do empires have lifespans?

Fortunately, the British Army officer and scholar Sir John Glubb pondered this question in a short essay titled “Fate of Empires and Search for Survival.”

A contemporary of T.E. Lawrence, another British soldier-scholar popularly remembered as Lawrence of Arabia, Glubb commanded Transjordan’s Arab Legion from 1939 to 1956. An inquisitive, humble mind, his experiences and interest in history led him to recognize patterns in the rise and fall of empires. His studies revealed that, like organisms, empires flow through stages of creation, growth, maturity, decline, and death. Glubb tracked each of these phases and found remarkable similarities between empires as diverse as the Roman Empire and Republic, the Ottomans, and the Persian Empire, independent of race, creed, institutions, or geography. The estimated average lifespan of dozens of empires over the last three millennia? About 250 years.


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