Delusion and the Illusion of Power

Many scholars of history agree that empires resemble human life: They develop, and then enter adolescence and their prime, bringing together elements of their power. Finally, they begin to recede until reaching old age and end up dying, or at best shriveling away.

Intellectuals said this in the time of Plato and Aristotle. Likewise, scholars discussed this in Chinese and Arab civilizations, in Japanese and Persian cultures, and in the East and the West. However, the irony is that generations come and set out to create empires as if they are an exception to this rule of history and nature. They either know their fate, but are arrogant and strive to create an empire for personal glorification, or they are deluded by the power that their imperial forebears did not tap. And so, we are face to face with delusion and the illusion of power.

The Byzantines reached different regions of the world, ruled peoples and nations, disseminated ideas and culture, and erected buildings and monuments. Alexander of Macedonia expanded an empire that he boasted linked the East to the West. The empires of Babylon and Assyria expanded. Similarly, the Persians spread to Athens and other areas. Which brings us to the Ottomans, and then the British Empire, which believed in its time that the sun would always shine on its lands. Then came French and Portuguese expansion and — after Christopher Columbus set sail from a Spanish port in 1492 to discovery the New World — Spanish explorers arrived in America. After World War II, two empires appeared that together shared dominance of the world after the old empires — like the Ottoman empire and Austria — crumbled during World War I. These two new empires lived the delusion of ultimate power, and concocted schemes to control the wealth, minds and souls of the world within their known spheres that prevailed during the second half of the 20th century.

Many believed that these new powers — considering that they possessed lethal weapons, dominance over peoples, and media capabilities — hoodwinked the masses of the time into believing that their foundations were real power, and not the illusion of power, until the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Belief in that illusory power was shaken at the beginning of the 1990s when the Soviet Union suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed. This prompted many intellectuals and scholars to conduct a broad and in-depth review of the concept of power and its relation to major empires, and the extent of their permanence and ability to resist the movement of history and its laws.

In the 1990s, theories came from intellectuals and strategists in the West — specifically in the United States — in which they discussed the possibility of the collapse of the American empire. They did not rely on specific policy information; rather, they were keen on two issues in their proposals.

First, the base on which America was founded — the economy — which they said remains dynamic and unsettled; and second, the logic of history, which says that empires resemble humankind since they pass through three phases.

I wonder, are the leaders of large and important empires closely examining the logic of history? Are real, in-depth and scientific reviews taking place?

About this publication

1 Comment

  1. Russia should be thinking long and hard about its own dreams of empire and imperial over-reach. Putin’s house of cards is on the road to collapse while America prudently conserves her power and forms vast world-wide alliances. When Russia disintegrates again, we and the Europeans will be glad to welcome you back into the family of nations for another try. 🙂

Leave a Reply