A Definition of Insanity
January 30th, 2008 by Sonja

I’ve had another theory about war and killing knocking around in my head for a number of years now about the difference between the army of empire/invasion and the army of defense. Take a look at the following images that I’ve taken from around the web (I’ve given credit for them) and I’ll explain my theory at the bottom.

Roman Army invading Britain
Roman Army invading Britain – ~55 CE

The Celts who defended Britain
The Celts who defended Britain ~55 CE

Battle of Bannockburn (1314)
Battle at Bannockburn – June 1314

Bannockburn Re-enactment ... Scottish Army
Bannockburn Re-enactment-Scottish Army

British Army during the American War of Independence
British Army in American War of Independence

American Militia during Revolutionary War
Militia in American Revolutionary War

American Army invading Iraq
American soldiers in Iraq

Iraqi Soldiers defending their country
Iraqi Soldiers Defending Their Country

I could have found and used a lot of other images from many other times in history, but these will do. You can do your own GoogleImage search for your favorite wars/battles and you will likely find similar results. Notice the similarities in the invading armies of empire.  Notice the similarities in the defending armies of the indigenous people.  There are many reasons for this.  Empires are well financed and can afford to outfit their soldiers well.  Their soldiers are much safer, have better equipment and arms than the soldiers of defense, for the most part.  It is in the empire’s interest to keep the indigenous people poor and ill-equipped.

Here’s another thing I don’t understand though.  The armies of empire almost always lose.  Oh, it takes a long, long time.  Sometimes longer than others.  But empires always crack and fall; indigenous populations survive.  It may take generations, but over time it is the indigenous people who will overcome the invaders.  There are very few cases where this has not been the case … but the reach of empire becomes over-extension.  The strain of maintaining force in too many places eventually cracks the foundations and the empire breaks apart.

One definition of insanity is repeating the same pattern of behavior over and over again, expecting a different result.  Yet, as a species, we do this.  We continually raise up empires and their armies, send them into foreign lands.  Then wonder why we cannot make the center hold.  What is wrong?  Why does our collective head hurt so badly?

I wonder what would happen if we tried something new?

Instead of sending armies of empire to quell unrest, tax, rape and pillage and behave brutally badly, I wonder what would happen if we simply decided to live well where we are?  What if all the countries did that?  I am aware that this is naive.  We are, however, at a rare point in history, with a rare confluence of circumstances.   What would happen if we decided to be good neighbors, instead of the mayor, police force and justice system all-in-one?

What if …

7 Responses  
  • Pistol Pete writes:
    January 30th, 20088:55 amat

    Live well where we are? Be good neighbors? What would be the fun in that? It’s much more fun to build big weapon/toys and have somewhere to use them and someone to use them on.

  • Patrick writes:
    January 30th, 200811:49 amat

    Sonja, to push this a bit. How about Britain and Germany in WWII? Britain was willing to be a good neighbor, and got the London Blitz in return. Or post WWII? The US Army ‘occupied’ Germany and Western Europe, which prevented the spread of the Soviet Union’s empire.

    Those in Poland would have rather had the US Army than the Soviet, to be sure.

    This isn’t to make some kind of militaristic point, because I very much appreciate what you’re saying. I just can’t help but think that those in Darfur, or the Congo, or elsewhere weren’t exactly helped by people letting them rot in their own country. Sometimes our neighbors can be significantly more evil than outsiders.

    What’s a good Samaritan to do when he sees the traveler at the beginning of getting beat up? That’s the question I struggle with. And I’m not sure where to land quite yet.

  • Jemila writes:
    January 30th, 20081:31 pmat

    Provocative post. I dig it. I also agree with Patrick that being a neighbor doesn’t always mean staying at home and minding our own business. It occurs to me that our willingness to invade in the name of democracy, etc (even where there are genuine human rights issues) is directly connected with Empire interests. We would be neighbors if we weighed our involvement abroad by ethical commitments, conscience, in collaboration with other countries of conscience, and with an an open understanding of resources and where they can best be used to enhance human life and dignity for all people

  • Sonja writes:
    January 30th, 20081:53 pmat

    Oh bother, Patrick … there always has to be a spoiler in the audience 😉

    I wasn’t really thinking about the “good neighbor” of Samaritan fame when I wrote that. Hmmm … I was more thinking in terms of whether or not empires should exist and/or should they restrain the desire for conquest?

    The question of whether or not we should help those in need (Darfur, Kenya, etc.) is sort of beyond the scope of what I was thinking about here … but is really important to talk about. So when I talk about being a good neighbor in this context, I’m thinking more about having good fences as an empire.

    Stay with me on this … because there will be more to come in the future … okay?

  • Julie Clawson writes:
    January 30th, 20084:54 pmat

    It seems like the USA as a relatively new empire is willing to take a few more centuries of power before it fails. The whole King for a day thing…

  • Cathy writes:
    January 30th, 200811:54 pmat

    I’m not optimistic about survival of the indigenous populations in North and South America. I know less about eastern Asia, but I think there are difficulties for certain indigenous people there as well.

  • ...wow writes:
    January 25th, 200910:41 pmat

    Since when did my country become an ‘Empire?’
    I am sorry, but the way you think sickens me. Sure. I would love world peace. That would be absolutely spiffy. Thing is… there are BAAAAAAAAD people in this world. Unless you want to force people to conform to the same behavior and ideological thought… this is not possible. And your ‘Iraqi’ defenders are most definately NOT Iraqis. The ‘Iraqi defenders’ never existed after Hussein’s army fell apart. Trained soldiers from Iran and Syria are now fighting to keep the people of Iraq oppressed and in a constant state of fear. Iraq wil become sovereign. We are working to train their military so what happened in South Vietnam doesn’t happen again when we leave. Go take this ‘Empire America’ bullshit out of my country (if you are in it) and find another place to live. How about a different middle eastern country still under the rule of terror?? Maybe then you might understand what we are fighting for. We don’t fight for conquest. We aren’t imperialist pigs. This nation was founded with the MISSION to spread freedom where ever possible. And thats what we will do, Comrade Obama or not

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