While this might be a broad generalization, Empires tend to decline over time from within by institutional failure in it’s main centers of social, political, and economic power; however, this internal unraveling is often manifested on the peripheries of imperial control. This was the case in Rome, where corruption and political malfeasance in the halls of Roman power were reaching their apex at about the same time major threats were developing from the Germanic tribes to the north. The reign of Marcus Aurelius was the high water mark for Rome, and as soon as it peaked, it found itself in immediate decline owing to these factors. In antiquity, the world tended to move slower, so the eventual demise of the Roman West took a few centuries to run its course, but the seeds of its demise were sown internally and externally long before its eventual collapse. Whatever is made of Empire, their great size, and the competing interests within and outside of them, coupled with the immense cost (usually borne by the general population) needed to sustain them makes them perennially fragile in spite of the immense power they project.
This brings me to the developments that exist in the hinterlands of US Imperial control in the EU in general, and Germany in particular. The immigration crisis is boiling so hot in Germany at present that the BBC notes today that the long-standing rule of Angela Merkel is now in peril. Make no mistake, this crisis is a direct result of American/NATO intervention in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and other areas in the Middle East. Millions have been displaced under the threat of starvation and unspeakable violence by competing warlords or both. The US and it’s NATO proxies might not bear all the responsibility for the failed states and violence in the Middle East, but they do bear a great deal of it. With millions of refugees flooding Europe, there are bound to be problems, and in general European populations have reached their breaking point on how many refugees from these war-torn countries they will tolerate.
There are many optical problems with this crisis, but for now I want to simply focus on how the EU refugee crisis is symptomatic of imperial overreach, and portends eventual collapse. The problem of crime in Europe among Muslim immigrants is an issue that gets lots of press and European populations have a right for their concern over these matters. However, what is not reported is the disproportionate crimes the West has committed in the homelands of these refugees. Whether through direct NATO intervention in Libya, or the supply of proxies in Syria, or the US’ horrendously botched excursion in Iraq, the net effect is these countries have endured levels of destruction that left the refugee population no option but to flee; that is, unless we would expect them to stay in their homelands to starve or to be casualties of war.
I am not a nationalist, I think it is a dangerous and nihilistic populist impulse; but it is not as if globalism has provided the kind of answers it promised since the post-WWII period and the collapse of the USSR. Nationalism is on the rise in the West because the general populace feels like their governments are more intent on addressing global issues and not attentive to the mounting social, economic, and political pressures back home. Untold trillions of dollars have been dumped into foreign interventions that have created the current crisis. Had these funds been invested in developing not only national, but international infrastructure and institutions that actually improved the economic situation in the West, especially in economically vulnerable areas such as southern Europe, or in the US Rust Belt, these populations might have had a far more positive opinion of globalism. But, treasure in the form of taxation and human life have been squandered. Now the old guard in the EU is seeing the natural results of their longstanding policies. This is something that is echoed in the US, as the election of Trump was a vote of no confidence for the prevailing order.
Beneath all of this is the deeply perplexing ethical and moral morass that pervades the political situation. Human rights violations are on the rise – even on the US-Mexico border. Refugees are maligned in Europe, which is not helped by the criminal behavior of a small segment of refugees. And the edifice of social cohesion continues to crumble. The notion that the US and its NATO allies in the EU will be able to keep this up in perpetuity is not just a myth it is wishful thinking of the most dangerous sort. It is an inviolate fact that anything that isn’t sustainable will not endure, and the present course of the West is anything but stable. Populations are grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to find political leadership – right now the tilt is toward nationalism. What happens when nationalism inevitably fails just as it did a century ago? The potential demise of Merkel is yet another canary in the coalmine – US led imperial project of the postwar West is crumbling and all the kings horses and all the kings men probably can’t put it back together again.