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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Empires - and their collapse

It is my contention that it takes between 100 and 150 years for the political fallout to settle after the collapse of an Empire. If I am right, that would explain many things about the disorder in the World

We are not yet 100 years from the collapse of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires following the Great War. The turmoil in the Middle East and the Balkans strongly suggests that the aftereffects still linger.

Next to collapse was the British Empire - beginning with the partition of India in 1948. The death of the British Empire took place in relatively slow motion, unlike the sudden demise of previous Empires, but the consequences are still being felt in many African countries (Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and others), Myanmar (Burma for the traditionalists), India, Pakistan, and several Pacific island nations.

The situation in the Middle East is further exacerbated by the collapse of the [minor] French Lebanon and Syria) and British (Egypt, Palestine, Iraq) Empires which attempted to fill the vacuum during the period between the two World Wars.

Now we have the collapse of the Russian Empire which, as seen in Georgia, will cause ructions throughout the Caucasus and is likely to cause problems in other countries that are former members of the Soviet Union. Since almost all of the countries that are attempting to assert their independence from Russia are significant oil and gas producers, countries through which critical oil and gas pipelines pass, or members of NATO, we must expect that there will be interesting events in the near future and for years to come.

Unfortunately, we have little military ability to influence the outcome and a great need for Russia's assistance in dealing with Iran and North Korea. Instead of bellicose and grandiose posturing, the Bush administration should heed Theodore Roosevelt's adage: "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

Our stick urgently needs to be strengthened and enlarged; speaking softly can be done immediately.

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