In Mary Beard’s excellent SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome she describes an “empire of obedience” that emerged in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. This refers to the often ad hoc arrangements of Roman rule and hegemony which preceded the explicit imperial period, when domination was bureaucratized and formalized.
Sometimes it seems that the United States is an empire of obedience, though we do operate through formal institutions such as NATO and the IMF. There’s an ad hoc schizophrenic aspect to it all.
In Across The Chasm Of Incommensurability many of the commenters seem to be focusing Chinese susceptibility to government propaganda. But my post was in large part pointing to the fact that Americans themselves are often blinkered and biased, though we often exhibit a conceit of all knowing objectivity.
On Twitter I said the following:
We should talk more about downstream consequence of Libya intervention. Skeptics were right
— Razib Khan (@razibkhan) May 27, 2017
People immediately thought I was alluding to the Manchester bomber. Actually I wasn’t. I was thinking about the Copts killed in Egypt (including children) by ISIS-affiliated militants with basis in Libya.
This is not a one off. Since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime Libya has been an incubator for terrorism. Its current political landscape is anarchic, with rival militias jockeying for power. Libya happens to be right next to the most populous Arab nation. This is not a good recipe for stability in the region.
Some commentators, such as Daniel Larison, have been arguing against the intervention since the get-go. But in general the media seems to have taken a policy of benign neglect toward what’s going on within Libya.
The Western powers take it upon themselves protect the people from their own governments. This is fair enough. But what Iraq showed us is that not all peoples are ready to be Jeffersonian Democrats. This is a fact.
The Roman “empire of obedience” gave way to one of direct rule. That was the only way to keep the chaos in check. Imperialism and colonialism are not fashionable today, but if Western governments keep intervening that seems the only way to keep the chaos at bay.