Exceptions that Prove the Rule

Fri, Jul 9, 2010 - 8:42am

Toward the end of John Derbyshire's book, We Are Doomed, the author refers to his 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, which lists 152 countries. Derbyshire then asks the following question: "How many of those countries made it from 1911 to today, nearly a century later, with their systems of government and law intact ... without having suffered revolution, civil war, major dismemberment, or foreign occupation?" According to Derbyshire the correct answer is six: "Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States."

Of these six, all are minor powers except for the United States. All have the advantage of geographical isolation. In essence, all six countries are islands; that is to say, they are not easily invaded. Sweden is geographically like an island, tenuously connected to Europe above the Arctic circle. Switzerland is an island in the sense of being surrounded by mountains. Australia and New Zealand are entirely surrounded by water. The United States and Canada form a continental island that is protected on both sides by oceans.

We should not be surprised to discover that these particular countries have thrived during the last 100 years. Some have avoided war altogether. Sweden hasn't made war since Napoleon was Emperor of the French. Switzerland hasn't fought anyone since the Sonderbund War of 1847 (which lasted less than four weeks and claimed fewer than 100 lives). The listed English speaking countries -- essentially islands -- were involved in the first and second world wars, but did not suffer as the European powers suffered. The seas that surround the English speaking countries have remained under British or American control throughout, and no power stood much of a chance in any invasion attempt.

What does all this suggest? There are a number of elements that make for stability, and the first of these is security. Because of geography, some countries are protected from invasion and overthrow. Other countries, however, are not so lucky. If you happen to border China, it is likely you have been invaded by Chinese troops. Tibet, India, Korea, and Vietnam were all invaded by China during the last 100 years. If you bordered Soviet Russia, you were almost certainly a victim of aggression. Poland and Finland were invaded in 1939; Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were invaded in 1940; Iran was invaded in 1941, Manchuria in 1945; Afghanistan was invaded in 1979, and Georgia was invaded in 2008. During World War II Germany invaded many of its neighbors (including Poland, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France and Yugoslavia). Germany also invaded four non-bordering countries (Norway, Greece, Egypt, and the Soviet Union).

It is worth repeating: Geographically isolated countries have an advantage when it comes to defense. If you are an island, you only need to control the sea. If you are in the mountains, you merely defend the passes. If your country is flat and surrounded by adversaries, however, you are going to be invaded. That is the way of history, the way of the world. Wars produce revolutions and changes in government. The greater the chance of war, the greater the chance of upheaval.

But war and invasion are not the only threats to a country's stability. It is possible that a society may disintegrate on its own accord; for example, because of widespread chemical dependency; or because the population becomes grossly overweight; or because of laziness, or stupidity; or if too many people become philosophers and adopt strange ideas; or if they stop having babies; or if the country spends too much money and cannot pay its debts; or if ethnic Balkanization occurs.

Given what I read in the newspapers, the disintegration of the six aforementioned countries is far advanced. Furthermore, the oceans and mountains don't protect these six countries any longer. In the 1950s the Soviets launched something called Sputnik. It was an ICBM, signifying that no country, however isolated, is safe. Against this weapon there is no cheap or politically acceptable form of defense. The six nations are now like all the others. They are vulnerable.

"We do not draw the moral lessons we might from history," wrote Edmund Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France. "On the contrary, without care it may be used to vitiate our minds and to destroy our happiness. In history a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind." As Derbyshire shows, out of 152 countries in 1911, only six avoided civil war or revolution or occupation by a foreign power. Those six were protected by oceans that no longer offer protection.

It may also be supposed, that the internal disintegration of these six nations is somehow related to the prosperity and stability they have enjoyed. In other words, disease may appear in a society that is too prosperous. Even worse, prolonged stability may produce a feeling of invulnerability. It may produce, as well, unrealistic expectations about the future. It is even possible, indeed, that the stability of these countries has produced pathological interactions between man and woman, parent and child, native and foreigner.

There is no doubt that the six named countries tend to believe in the same lie; that is, the egalitarian lie that all men and women are the same; that they are equal, and their deeds are equal; that they should be paid the same; that Beethoven is no better than the Beatles. Sadly, the French Revolution did not teach us anything. We kept to the egalitarian course. And so, Western "democracy" continues to degenerate. Here the common man evolves into a narcissist and the common women into a feminist. The business of the state is no longer politics and war. We are governed by poseurs who talk of "global warming" and "green jobs," and the eradication of poverty through the redistribution of wealth.

"What guides and controls human life," wrote the Roman historian Sallust, "is man's soul. If it pursues glory by the path of virtue, it has all the resources and abilities it needs for winning fame.... But if the soul is enslaved by base desires and sinks into the corruption of sloth and carnal pleasures, it enjoys a ruinous indulgence for a brief season…"

Such is the course of our permissive, bankrupt, shopping mall regime – made possible by geographical circumstances. It will unravel. The Constitution will be overthrown. The nation will be divided. The poseurs will be swept away. And so, the exception will prove the rule.

About the Author

jrnyquist [at] aol [dot] com ()