Review: War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires

5 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, War & Face of Battle
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compellingly Clear Foundation for Avoiding Global Collapse

September 3, 2007

Peter Turchin

I bought this book at the same time that I bought The Collapse of Complex Societies (New Studies in Archaeology), and it is one of several that will be the foundation for my own forthcoming work, “WAR(-) & PEACE(+): Open=Wealth=Peace.

Other books vital to my perspecitve that complement this one:
The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State
The Vulnerability of Empire (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs)
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance (American Empire Project)

It is on the basis of having read and reviewewd those books first, that I find a deep appreciation for what this author has done. I’ve struggled with the book for a couple of months, because this is not light reading. This is deep history, a form of historical dynamics of “science” that is called Cleodynamics. This is such a tough nut to crack that I am going to write my review in reverse order.

1) The author ends with E pluribus unum. Cooperation is essential to the long-term prosperity of man. To this I would add my own motto, E Veritate Potens–We the People are made powerful through truth.

2) The author ends on a hopeful note, suggesting that it is possible to design institutiions (I would say, networks) that can foster cooperation and distribute wealth (I would say, create new wealth). There is a remarkable coincidence between this author’s sociological views, and two books in particular, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks) and The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom.

3) The author attributes the current clashes of civilization with the4 energizing of the Islamic endges where they confront the West (Israel is included in that bloc), Orthodox, Hindu, and Sinic civilizations. I know from other readings that these edges also suffer from water scarcity, and the greatest crime that Israel is committing against the Arab nations is the covert theft of their water through very long underground pipes that violate political borders.

4) Growing inequality, growing debt, brings down empires. The author paraphrases Toynbee in saying “Great empories dies not by murder but by suicide.” Quite right. We’ve killed 3,000 of our own and created 75,000 amputtees while murdering hundreds of thousands because our The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead was all too willing to “go along” with massive blatant lies, and all too complacent to exercise our civic responsibilities to participate in the dialog.

The failure of our generals and admirals to confront illegal orders from Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz–the failure particularly to challenge their many lies to Congress and the public–got us into perfect position for total collapse. The 27 secessionist movement are most likely to gain their objectives cause the “empire” is deeply enmeshed in a far-away war it cannot win, a war that continues to hollow out our Armed Forces at the same time that it accelerates our loss of legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the world.

The decline of collective capabilities for action, “asabaya” that this author discusses match up very well with the observations of the author of the book first cited above, to wit, when the empire can no longer make coherent affordable sustainable decisions, the empire implodes, defaulting one or two levels down.

Throughout the book there is a tension between “the landscape of fear” and the possibilities of hope. One thing history cannot tell us, although the author explores this as best he can, is how the wealth of networks could unleash the entrepreneurial energy of the five billion poor, to the point that we achieve the title of Medard Gabel’s superb forthcoming book, “Seven Billion Billionaires.” Self-governance, tr5ansparent budgets that destroy corruption, self-correcting localized resilience and networks that eliminate waste and over-production, these all appear to be on the horizon.

Having been in Viet-Nam from 1963-1967, and being an avid reader of books on the intelligence failures and leadership lies of that era, I find a remarkable coincidence between the asibaya of Islam and the asibaya of Viet-Nam, and the manner in which mendacious leaders and incompetent or timid intelligence professionals conspire to waste blood, treasure, and spirit in a self-deating manner (less the elites that enrich themselves through war profiteering).

I have a note, this may be the first 21st Century social science reference (published in 2006)

Early on in the work the author focuses on the religous controversies that plagued the Roman Empire, and we reeview the critical role of religion as a symbolic market, a divider for many, a uniter for some. It was a glue for Russia, it is neutral for Malaysia and Indonesia, and fraught with peril for Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and even Turkey.

Early on the author focuses on how fragmentation blockes collective action and leads to defeat in detail. He emphasizes the importance of social cohesion while noting that climate and ecological boundaries matter. So doesthe truth. I was much impressed by The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink and The Republican War on Science as well as Tempting Faith and I am quite certain that history will find this current Administration to have been the most villanous, traitorous, spendthrift, and corrupt in our entire history of just over two centuriues. What stuns me is how our culture has become so insensitive, our civic nature so watered down, that the people are like pigs waiting for slaughter.

The book opens with a central observation, that political boundaries work only when they coincide with cultural rights. Absolutely vital point, one reason why I concur with Philip Alott’s observations, and one reason I believe we need to overturn the Treaty of WEestphalia and start over with a combination of culturally valid boundaries and regional networks for managing water, eneergy, food, shelter, and security.

The author begin with a discussion of three central concepts:

1) Meta-ethnic frontier theory and asabaya cycles

2) Demographic-structural secular cycles; and

3) Fathers and sons cycles.

The author uses and discusses mathematical models in support of the work, but does not burden the reader with the formulas.

From this and the many other books I have been privileged to review these past six years of infamy, I share the author’s hopeful conclusion. It is now possible to demonstrate to people that

1) There are not enough guns to kill us all

2) We can liberate the poor by connecting them to free knowledge one cell phone call at a time (with millions of volunteers using telelanguage.com to offer micro-tutorials on anything in any language);

3) We can demand trasparent budgets published a week prior to voting, and thus eliminate all the secret earmarks and corruption;

4) We can apply millions of eyeballs to all trade records and stop corporate looting of poor countries via corruption

5) We can throw out corporate personality, implement localized home rule, and demand localized resilience in water and energy and food.

On balance, as appalled as I am about the treachery and venality of the Cheney White House, I can but Praise God for sending this dark cloud to shock America back into reading non-fiction and thinking for itself.

I have three sons, and helping the poor is going to be my way of protecting the future of my children and their children. Earth is an aquariaqm. We have 5-10 years to balance it, or we are toast. Corruption, not global warming, is the gravest threat to humanity.

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