Nov 122009

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the death of Western Civilization.  You can read what Dennis Mangan, OneSTDV, Prime (twice), and Ferdinand Bardamu had to say about it.  I was going to weigh in on this, but then I realized that this was going to take several posts, so I decided to start a series of posts about this subject.  They will all have the “death of the west?” label on them, and I will write them as I have time interspersed with all my other posts.

You will notice that I have death of the west followed by a question mark.  That’s because I’m asking the questions is Western Civilization really dying, and if so is there any way of turning it around.  While there are a lot of problems that do have the potential to bring down Western Civilization, there is also a lot of sensationalism, defeatism, misunderstandings and half truths involved.  While I do have my own guesses about the answers this is a journey I am on with you so I don’t know where it will lead.  I’m going to try my best to do this using reason and not defeatism and sensationalism.  Get all of your “OMG WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” out of your system before you continue reading.

Let’s take a look at historical models.  When talking about the death of the West usually, some type of historical model is invoked.  A common one is the fall of Rome.  That makes sense.  There are plenty of parallels between the modern world and the decline and fall of Rome that anyone can come up with.  However, it is not a one to one mapping.  There is no way it could be.  Technology is one huge difference (and this will be the subject of subsequent death of the west? posts).  There are others.  In other words, there are limits to the use of the Fall of Rome as a historical model (as would be true with any other historical model).  That doesn’t mean the Fall of Rome is completely useless.  We just have to recognize that there are limits.

Another problem is not fully understanding a historical model.  Take the Fall of Rome again.  When people talk about the Fall of Rome what they are really referring to (usually) is the fall of the Western half of the Roman Empire.  The Byzantine Empire lasted for another thousand years.  Aspects like that could be important in using a historical model like the Fall of Rome because it tells us different things.

The historical models that could help us may not be well known.  The reason why the Fall of Rome model gets used a lot is because its something we are all familiar with.  It may or may not be the best model.  Other models might also provide useful knowledge.  Take the fall of the Sassanid dynasty of Iran, the last pre-Islamic dynasty of Iran.  The Sassanids had fought several wars against the Byzantines which depleted their treasury leading to high taxes and subsequent rebellions over those high taxes.  They had also expanded their empire into several client states which weakened the empire.  There was infighting among the dynasty which led to a woman taking over as empress for two years who some historians have described as a feminist.  All of this made the Sassanid empire weak enough to fall to invading Muslims.  Sound familiar?  Like with all historical models appropriate skepticism must be applied, but this is one model to consider.

Sometimes historical models can be stretched to the point where they make no sense.  One model that comes up in this context (or specifically the fall of the United States) is the collapse of the Soviet Union.  While there are a few (and only a few) aspects that are comparable, the fact of the matter is that the collapse of the Soviet Union is not a useful model.  You may remember that Russian KGB analyst that claimed that the US will break up in 2010 as shown on the map below.

This is an example of how applying the collapse of the Soviet Union to the US in nothing short of lunacy.  It would take me days to document all the ways this guy is wrong so here is a few.  You have the basic things problems such as why the US would break up on state lines as opposed to natural borders.  The republics of the USSR had more natural borders.  Why would Arizona and SoCal end up as part of the Chinese controlled state given the Hispanic population there?  The deep south will fight to the death rather than become a part of Mexico.  South Carolina will never join up with the EU.  The “Central North American” republic can’t exist as a part of Canada or as a client state since in either case that would mean Canada would effectively cease to be Canada.  The list goes on and on.

Even if you think this makes sense and all that is needed is some adjustments of the borders, you’re wrong.  The reason why is because this is not about the breakup of the US.  It’s shoehorning the breakup of the Soviet Union in North America and is based on Russian fears of being absorbed by their neighbors.  It fails a real analysis of the United States so no matter what you try, it isn’t salvageable.

I used this example because I wanted to show you just how far historical models can be taken out of their original context.  This gives us no useful knowledge.  The only reason you heard about this Russian KGB guy and his so called analysis is because of sensationalism.  Who wouldn’t want to get a bunch of web hits by talking about how the US is about to breakup?  A lot of people enjoyed reading this since it allowed them to run around screaming, “OMG THE US IS ABOUT TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

When we anaylize the possible death of the west, we need to do in a sober and reasoned fashion.  Sensationalism, hysteria, and drunk Russians will not help us.  That is what you need to take away from this post more than anything else.