Saturday, January 9, 2021

Saturday Snippet: The Fate of Empires


Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb, generally known as Glubb Pasha after his decades of service in Arab countries, wrote many books;  but he may be best known for a 24-page monograph published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1976.  It was titled "The Fate of Empires" (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format).

John Dunn summarized Glubb's thesis as follows.

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 ...

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.

. . .

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.

I'm not going to excerpt Glubb's monograph here, because it's only 24 pages long, and should be read as a single document rather than snippets here and there.  Instead, I urge you to read the whole thing in full.  It's worth your time.

As for whether or not we're at the end of the "American Empire" . . . that remains to be seen, but we can identify more than enough of the indicators Glubb describes to give anyone pause for thought.  That includes the events of the past week in Washington D.C., which don't give us much reason for optimism.



Uncle Lar said...

The link took me to a site that tried to force me to install software on my computer. I did see the first page of Glubb's monograph, but could not scroll past nor save as a pdf file.
Will try by other means as this sort of thing fires up my stubborn side.

Peter said...

@Uncle Lar: Weird! It didn't do that to me, but then I have pretty comprehensive blocking software in place. I've chosen another link for the document, and updated the article to use it. I hope there are no problems with this one.

Thanks for the heads-up.

Chris Nelson said...


Thanks for the weekend posts! Hopefully you have some good music lined up for Sundays posts. I missed those while you and the missus were traveling.


kurt9 said...

All empires fall sooner or later. It is inevitable. Ours is a very corrupt, very incompetent (Jerry Pournelle's definition of competent vs incompentent empires) empire. So I think it will fall. Can we save the republic? That may be up to us.

TeeRoy Jenkins said...

Everything has a life cycle. I think its obvious that the current system in the US has reached its natural end. I think the system designed by the founders was strong but has been corrupted from within. It is still a system of govt that is worth practicing but it is time to put a updated operating system in place that addresses the bugs that have been introduced by 3rd party patches and firmware. I call it Constitution 2.0. Something I strongly believe needs to be considered before we can move away from the dystopia being created by some shortsighted, if not outright evil people. They view us as cattle, a commodity to be managed, and milked, and then discarded when no longer useful. They certainly do not believe in truth, freedom, privacy, self defense or individual rights.

We can fix this. We have the tech to ensure free and fair elections. We can establish term limits, we can make rock solid never to be questioned again adjustments to the 2A, we can restrict the future pols from insider trading and their other methods getting rich while in public office, the list could go on. Our nation doesn't have to die but it does need surgery and rehab.

Uncle Lar said...

Thanks Peter,
Got the file just fine this time.
And if I haven't said so before, keep up the good work you do with the blog and your other activities.
The Monday Memes in particular I've been using to entice folks to explore not only the daily blog, but also your most excellent books.
I consider you a trusted source at a time when such can only be considered a very high value resource.

Jim said...

Just finished reading Sir John's essay. VERY interesting.

Sam L. said...

It opened for me. Now, to read it...

Chas S. Clifton said...

I keep hearing about the "end of the American Empire" Where exactly was it? Guam, the Phillipines, and American Samoa? Or are the fifty state constituents of an "empire." I mean, to have an empire, you have rule over what are otherwise self-governing provinces or countries of multiple cultures, langauges, etc. When the British ruled, e.g. much of Africa and southern Asia, now that was an empire. NATO is not an empire. Having leased military bases all over the globe does not an empire make.

Skyler the Weird said...

No NATO country will tell us to leave. Their precious Social Democratic welfare policies depend on the U.S. to defend them from Russia or those nasty Serbs.