Friday, April 4, 2008

Dying so we may live forever.

Dear George,

My, how it all seems to be falling apart: Iraq and Afghanistan are military disasters, Latin America is slipping away from us, our obsession with military hardware is slowly bankrupting us, and our financial corporatists have brought us to the brink of economic ruin.

In short, we are a dying empire, and like any wounded animal, the weaker we become the more dangerous we are. (Do you hear that, Iran?)

There are those who bemoan this, who thrash about in a desperate attempt to cling to our position as hegemon of the world. Then there are the moralizing leftists who see our decline as payback for our hubris and look forward to a time when we will be a humbler and better nation for the experience.

Neither position is correct because neither understands the true nature of empire building.

Empire building is an act of martyrdom. It is the personification of nobility as a nation sacrifices itself in order to reshape the world and leave it in worse shape than it found it.

The nation that would build an empire must be as morally bankrupt as they are economically bankrupt. It is a suicidal act of self-sacrifice in which a nation destroys itself so history will long remember its negative impact on the world. Empires are built through ruination, be it physical, economic, or social. The trick is to break an egg without making an omelet. The nation that builds empires sacrifices everything: its values, its prosperity, its freedom and its future.

Quests for power are, in the end, all suicidal. By the time a nation or an individual achieve it, nothing is left of them but a paranoid empty shell that cares nothing for growth, but everything for hanging to the power it has accumulated. All power ends in the graveyard.

It takes a scam artist to build an empire. This is why you excel at it. My heart glowed with patriotic pride when you convinced NATO to back your Eastern European missile shield as protection against Iran’s nonexistent nuclear missiles. Every time you create another opportunity to drain our treasury for some wild pipedream, you bring us one step closer to fulfilling empire’s destiny—destruction.

There is but one historical phenomenon that holds the world’s attention, and that is the marble ruins of an empire that once was.

The Roman writer Tacitus described empire when he wrote, “A rich enemy excites their cupidity; a poor one their lust for power. East and West alike have failed to satisfy them….To robbery, butchery, and rapine, they give the lying name of ‘government’; they create a desolation and call it peace.”

Surely, Tacitus was your Isaiah.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones


Anonymous said...

And then there's Livy:

"There has never been a state that is greater, or more righteous, or richer in good examples. Nor has there been one where greed and luxury migrated so late into the citizenry, nor where there has been such great respect for small means and thrift. The less men had, the less was their greed. Recently riches have brought in avarice, and excessive pleasures have led to a desire to ruin ourselves and destroy everything through excess and self-indulgence."

Case Wagenvoord said...


It's the dialectic of success all over again. Failure begins to seep in when success reaches the point where it believes it is forever.

Mark Prime (tpm/Confession Zero) said...

And forever ain't a ranch in Crawford.

What? :./

Loved the Tacitus quote.

"Quests for power are, in the end, all suicidal." Absolutely!

Case Wagenvoord said...


Now that I know the source of his quote I'm going to read the play, "Agricola", from which it was taken.