Their civilization had reached an unfathomable level of wealth and sophistication; historical records show that, at peak, the Persian treasury had more than $300 BILLION in savings (in today’s money).
They had an intricate road network, a highly-functioning postal system, impressive engineering works, and had even invented a crude form of refrigeration and air conditioning.
Most of all they had a fearsome military. It was huge. And it was terrifying. Simply put, an invading Persian Army had never been defeated.
And yet, early in the 5th century BC, when they went to war against a rapidly rising power in Greece, the Persians suffered a humiliating defeat. Then again. And again. And again.
The losses changed the perception of their Empire forever. Practically overnight their reputation sank, and they were no longer viewed as a terrifying superpower able to dominate the world.
We’ve seen this story over and over again throughout history, from Ancient Rome to the Mongols to Imperial Portugal in the early 1800s.
Simply put, dominant superpowers almost invariably have an equally dominant, fearsome military that inspires awe and intimidation in the rest of the world… and especially in the superpower’s adversaries.
But superpowers have a life cycle. They rise, peak, and decline. And at some point during the decline, the military begins to show signs of weakness.
Often times there’s some specific event– something happens that’s so humiliating to the superpower that it shocks the world.
This is what happened to the Persians in 490 BC. And it’s what happened to the United States in 2021.
As a West Point graduate and US Army veteran, I still hold in my heart that the US military is the finest fighting force on the planet.
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