The Fall of Rome by Thomas Cole
One of the things that I tried to get across to the staffers of the Issa committee when I met with them in DC before the last hearing was that if the system was not capable of bringing the Gunwalker plotters to justice it would be a death blow to its legitimacy. Without legitimacy there is only collapse, blood and fire. Two columns that deal with two sides of that ghastly coin --
Niall Ferguson: America's 'Oh Sh*t!' Moment
In my view, civilizations don’t rise, fall, and then gently decline, as inevitably and predictably as the four seasons or the seven ages of man. History isn’t one smooth, parabolic curve after another. Its shape is more like an exponentially steepening slope that quite suddenly drops off like a cliff.
If you don’t know what I mean, pay a visit to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. In 1530 the Incas were the masters of all they surveyed from the heights of the Peruvian Andes. Within less than a decade, foreign invaders with horses, gunpowder, and lethal diseases had smashed their empire to smithereens. Today tourists gawp at the ruins that remain. . .
What all these collapsed powers have in common is that the complex social systems that underpinned them suddenly ceased to function. One minute rulers had legitimacy in the eyes of their people; the next they didn’t.
Richard Fernandez: The Pound of Flesh
One of the great innovations of the Westphalian system was that private individuals who had previously been responsible for visting retribution, were supposed to leave justice — and warfare — to the state. For as long as the population trusted the King (or the State) to punish criminals and protect them from foreign attack, private individuals were content to leave things in the hands of uniformed officialdom.
But a strange thing happened on the way to the 21st century: political correctness as imposed by a variety of lawyers, human rights activists and the like progressively reduced the power of the state to defend its population against external aggressors to the point where it failed to provide an adequate level of protection. When private individuals could no longer rely on uniformed officialdom to protect them, they did the natural thing. They took the matter of warfare back into their own hands.
But along with the advantages of vigilanteeism came its drawbacks. Reuters reports that some settler groups are burning mosques on the West Bank. That may be regrettable, but is also inevitable. For in doing away with the Westphalian system, political correctness unintentionally — or perhaps unthinkingly — undermined the Laws of War. The whole panoply of uniforms, ranks, discipline and obedience — so hated by pacifists — were all Westphalian mechanisms designed to ensure some kind of law and order on the battlefield. By taking the armies out of the game, the disciples of political correctness didn’t end war; they merely ended the old rules of war and returned the field to private warfare.
Maybe that isn’t too bad. If the 20th century is any gauge, Westphalian Armies did precious little to prevent widespread loss of life. Indeed World War 2, a Westphalian War, was the most devastating episode of belligerence in human history. For all its ugliness, one might argue that private war sheds less blood than the regular kind per unit of time. Unfortunately it also did away with that other Westphalian innovation, Victory. World War 2 for all its destructiveness had one great virtue. It ended. Today wars are far less destructive. The bad news is they never end.
Today warfare is no longer entirely a matter of soldiers fighting each other under the Geneva Convention. Instead, it every man for himself; it is the knife in the dark, the molotov cocktail thrown from the passing car and the IED along the road. What should really worry the politically correct class, however, is not that private war is waged against Hamas, al-Qaeda or Hezbollah. What should worry them is that methods of Hamas have still been but imperfectly copied.
It is what happens when vigilantes take a leaf out of Hamas’ book and start waging non-Westphalian warfare on the international agencies that should keep them up at night.
LATER: Also check out Spengler's The economics of polarization.