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Afghanistan: The Twilight of the Global Empire

Afghanistan: The Twilight of the Global Empire

Afghanistan: a ragged blot of land more or less at the center of the mass of Eurasia and Africa. Over a couple of centuries, it repelled invasions from the largest empires in modern history: Britain, the Soviet Union, and now the United States. Not for nothing, Afghanistan is called the “Graveyard of Empires.” It is possible to make an educated guess on what led the United States to invade Afghanistan in 2001 (oil, what else?), but now the time of expansion is over for the Global Empire. We are entering the twilight zone that all empires tend to reach and maintain for a short time before their final collapse.

In 117 AD, Emperor Trajan died after having expanded the Roman Empire to the largest extension it would ever have. It was a major disaster: the coffers of the state were nearly empty, the production of the mines was in decline, the army was overstretched and undermanned, unrest was brewing in some of the provinces. Trajan’s successor, Hadrian, did his best to salvage the situation. He abandoned the territories that could not be kept, quelled the internal unrest, directed the remaining resources to build fortification at the borders of the Empire. It was a successful strategy and the result was about one century of “Pax Romana.” It was the twilight of the Roman Empire, a century or so of relative peace that preceded the final descent.

Empires in history tend to follow similar paths. Not that empires are intelligent, they are nearly pure virtual holobionts and they tend to react to perturbations only by trying to maintain their internal homeostasis. In other words, they have little or no capability to plan for the future…

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