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Santorum’s Theory on the Decline and Fall of Empires

Rick Santorum identifies [1] a loss of nerve as the cause of the downfall of the British Empire:

“If you look at every European country that has had world domination, a world presence, from the French to the British — 100 years ago, the sun didn’t set on the British Empire,” Santorum said at an appearance in Sioux City, Iowa. “If you look at that empire today — why? Because they lost heart and faith in their heart in themselves and in their mission, who they were and what values they wanted to spread around the world. Not just for the betterment of the world, but safety and security and the benefit of their country.”

Yes, it couldn’t have had anything to do with two exhausting global conflicts that cost the lives of millions of British subjects, or the financial ruin of Britain that followed these conflicts. The British just “lost heart and faith in their heart in themselves and in their mission.” Obviously, the only thing needed to maintain “world domination” is self-confidence and resolve.

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8 Comments To "Santorum’s Theory on the Decline and Fall of Empires"

#1 Comment By Fast Jimmy On January 2, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

Another lesson the current crop of mad bombers in the GOP fails to remember is just why the Soviet empire failed. Of course, there were a number of reasons, but overextending yourself militarily to keep up an unrealistic amount of power certainly didn’t work for them.

Santorum has categorically promised to bomb Iran, before he even sees an intelligence briefing on day 1 of the job. Can anyone remember it ever being this bad?

#2 Comment By tbraton On January 2, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

Santorum’s description of the wonders of the British Empire makes me regret that the U.S. of A. broke away from that glorious Empire in 1776. Damn you, George Washington! Damn you, Thomas Jefferson! Damn you, John Adams! Damn you, Ben Franklin! Have I left anyone out?

“Because they lost heart and faith in their heart in themselves and in their mission, who they were and what values they wanted to spread around the world. Not just for the betterment of the world, but safety and security and the benefit of their country.”

I see. The British conquered and ruled India for the “safety and security” of their country. No wonder Santorum thinks it essential that we “win” in Afghanistan. It is essential to the safety and security of the U.S.—even if it is difficult to reach.

#3 Comment By IanH On January 2, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

The United States caused the fall of the British Empire by undermining their authority for the benefit of US companies.

#4 Comment By Aaron in Israel On January 2, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

Leaving aside the sentimental rhetoric, isn’t Santorum’s claim a respectable historical view, for at least a large part of the British empire? Granted, it’s a minority view, as you’d expect given the political climate of the last half century.

I think Santorum is stating, in overheated sentimental language, exactly a thesis of Elie Kedourie’s writings on British decolonization in the Middle East. Whatever he was in the end right or wrong, Kedourie argued pretty carefully and extensively against the “obvious” view snarked here by Daniel Larison.

#5 Comment By tbraton On January 3, 2012 @ 6:37 am

Aaron in Israel, I totally agree with you with respect to certain parts of the British Empire. The world would be much better off, in my opinion, if all of Palestine (including the recent state of Israel) had remained under the control of the British Empire.

#6 Comment By Anderson On January 3, 2012 @ 6:47 am

I hope I’m not discovered as a flaming leftist if I suggest that just possibly maybe a few million Indians, etc. also had something to do with the decline and fall of the British Empire.

Maybe one reason the British “lost heart and faith in their mission” is that their mission ceased to make any moral sense to them? But I can see why Santorum wouldn’t notice that possibility.

#7 Comment By Aaron On January 3, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

One way to approach statements like this is “The guy’s an idiot who doesn’t know his history” (or throw him a bone, I suppose, and suggest that he’s adhering to a minority theory respected by some minority of people, none of whom are to be named).

The other approach is to assume that he’s presenting a version of history meant to advance a policy position that no fiscal crisis, deficit or national debt should get in the way of an ever-increasing military budget, as any other approach reflects “a loss of nerve”.

#8 Comment By Fast Jimmy On January 3, 2012 @ 8:21 pm

The British weren’t going to maintain an Empire with a smallish island north of Europe, an economy eclipsed by half a dozen other powers, and a population that is a tiny fraction of the planets.

Certain geopolitical realities are fairly obvious regarding why England wasn’t able to mold the world into the shape and form they saw fit, which is a fairly morally repugnant thing from certain perspectives in any case.

The limitations of the United States are far greater, but hammering against them for the kind of preening self aggrandizement that so many seem to need to feel relevant or ‘strong’ will result in the most rapid decline in real power an influence possible.

We can’t make the world look and act like the United States, adopt our values and love us for it. We can lead by example and defend ourselves and allies against real threats in a firm manner. This would be a conservative position and now we must look to democrats to most closely adhere to this.