I know I said I wasn't going to blog any more this month, but I'm always a sucker for a "Top 10 List". When I saw Stephen Walt's article in Foreign Policy about the ups and downs of empire maintenance, of course I couldn't resist copy-and-pasting the main points here. I mean, it's basically a two-for-one: favorite topic + favorite format! I like!
The basic question Dr. Walt poses is simple: Is there anything we (U.S. Americans) can learn about current place in the world by studying the rise and fall of the British Empire? Well, "yes"...
1. There is no such thing as a "benevolent" Empire.
2. All Empires depend on self-justifying ideology and rhetoric that is often at odds with reality.
3. Successful empires require ample "hard power."
4. As Empires decline, they become more opulent, and they obsess about their own glory.
5. Great Empires are heterogeneous.
6. When building an empire, it's hard to know where to stop.
7. It takes a lot of incompetent people to run an empire.
8. Great Powers defend perceived interests with any means at their disposal.
9. Nationalism and other forms of local identity remain a potent obstacle to long-term imperial control.
10. "Imperial Prestige" is both an asset and a trap.
Okay, I admit posting the above points is only a cheap come-on to try to get people to read the whole article (find it here!). But the article's so short and won't take more than 10 minutes to read (pondering time extra) - definitely waaay faster than reading Piers Brendon's The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997 plus Gibbon's multi-volume The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Thank goodness for internet mini-summaries!