Afghanistan and the fall of Great Powers

Great Powers rise according to the strengths of their economies. The Industrial Revolution gave Britain an incomparable advantage which enabled its hegemony for over a century. Britain waned as it exported more and more resources into policing its widespread empire and less and less into renewing its human and industrial capital. America and Germany displaced Britain by virtue of their newer and more productive economies. Spain wasted its entire bullion bonanza on profitless wars. Once Rome‘s frontier became too thin, the end was catastrophic. The pattern is deep and universal.

Imagine a tap in a concrete yard. You want to cover the whole yard in water-to make it your empire, if you like. Near the tap, the water spreads strongly, easily covering the concrete. But you must brush the water further out if you want to cover outlying areas. Weaken the flow from the tap or turn it off and you must start to use water from the centre to keep covering the outer areas. In the end both dry more quickly, and your empire is lost.

In this light, President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan makes sense, however cruel the consequences for the Afghan people. America has spent trillions of dollars of capital in foreign wars, while its own infrastructure decays. It even seems unable to protect large numbers of its citizens from disasters such as floods. Meanwhile China, India and other potential rivals effortlessly forge ahead. Afghanistan has proved intractable for three overreaching imperial powers-Britain, the USSR and the USA. Others would do well to keep out.

Nations are not social services departments. Armies exist to fight wars and Ministries of External Affairs to negotiate the best interest. A sure route to long term decline is to neglect the internal economy for the sake of foreign interventions. Our reading list today is longer, but we hope even a cursory study will illustrate our point.

Edward Gibbon The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire CUP 2013

Paul Kennedy The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers Random House 1987

Corelli Barnett The Collapse of British Power Pan Macmillan 1972

Henry Kamen Imperio Punta de Lectura 2004

#USA #China #India #Britain #Russia #India #Rome #Imperial Spain #President Biden

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