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Much as we try to uncover the repeating patterns in history, whether they relate to cycles of recurring violence, class struggle or the wheel of generations, one pattern had held true until our own, postmodern era. Much as forest predators play the role of enforcers of herd hygiene by culling the weak and the infirm prey animals, so had strong and rising groupings had, until now, culled the corrupt, the bloated, and the unfit established states. Barbarians had famously played this role, as had growing empires, from the Assyrians, to the Persians. to the Greeks, to Romans, to the Arabs, and so on. Even in the world of business there was room for the corporate raider to nip at the heels of complacent and self-serving managements.

Today, alas, we have forgotten the customary purpose of war-making, which of course is profit. Even as recently as the 1800s was profit-seeking war the good and proper aim of states, and so the world system had ensured the ending of the geriatric polities. Instead, now we skulk about with peacekeeping operations, humanitarian incursions, covert support of rebels, with no regard at all for the inevitable and, mostly, calamitous results. Only when a strong state does launch an effort to remove a corrupt neighbor do we feel that it is incumbent upon us to launch a real war to restore the corrupt status quo ante.

We do not act, and so we see the horribly mismanaged states survive, and even thrive in a perverted fashion. Even in business has the raider all but disappeared, to the delight of the bloated and inefficient. It is a sad symptom of our less-than-heroic age that we no longer let the natural processes of destruction and rebirth of the derelict organization to maintain our fitness, much to the human race’s loss. After all, much like small quakes relieve tectonic pressure and postpone big ones and small forest fires prevent the giant conflagrations, so had small conflicts toppled small unfit polities. By preferring peace now at any price we only ensure that our fall will be that much more catastrophic when it comes.