Causes of the fall of nations | By Brig Muhammad Asif (R)


Causes of the fall of nations

THE study of the rise and fall of great empires suggests that barring a few unavoidable natural causes, the factors involved in their collapse were man-manufactured.

These factors included; uncontrolled population growth, unchecked and unplanned population movements, chaos and lawlessness due to the corruption and inefficiency of the rulers as well as the state institutions, environmental changes.

Since socio-political systems vary from a nation to nation, the demographic, cultural, political and environmental factors may cascade into a “Black Swan” that may raze the existing political and administrative mechanisms of a society to maintain stability.

Abrupt collapse of governmental machinery, state institutions and economic meltdown are some of the warning signs of the fall of a nation.

Natural disasters such as a tsunami, earthquake, pandemic, etc., may serve to quicken the collapse.

Besides “Malthusian Catastrophe”, (Population Theory of Thomson Malthus) ie, resource depletion caused by overpopulation, factors like inequity, corruption, disregard to national interests by the political leadership to advance their selfish agenda, may result in the oppressed lower class rising up and seizing power from a smaller wealthy elite in a revolution.

Rapid population growth necessitates the development of technologies to exploit natural resources, which results in disturbing the eco balance and grave damage to the environment which remains hidden from view till it reaches a threatening level.

According to the “Scissors Model” of Malthusian Collapse, population grows exponentially without limit while the resources grow at a lesser pace which leads to opposing environmental forces cutting into each other, besides disturbing ecological relationships, breakdowns the economic, social institutions.

In his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond proposes five interconnected causes of collapse that may reinforce each other: non-sustainable exploitation of resources, climate changes, diminishing support from friendly societies, hostile neighbours and inappropriate attitudes to change.

Energy has played a crucial role throughout human history.It is directly linked to the birth, growth, and decline of nations.

Sustained development, quality of life and living standards of the citizens hinge more on the abundance of energy resources than human and natural resources of a nation.

Massive energy surplus is needed to provide basic necessities and amenities to the population.

Economic prospects fluctuate in tandem with a society’s access to cheap and abundant energy.

Thomas Homer-Dixon and Charles Hall proposed an economic model called “Energy Return on Investment” (EROI) which measures the amount of surplus energy a society gets from using energy to obtain energy.

Energy shortage drives up prices and as such provides an incentive to explore and extract previously uneconomical sources, which may still be plentiful, but more energy would be required, and the EROI is then not as high as initially thought.

In the context of Pakistan, some of the factors (engineered by its enemies or sprouting out of its politico-economic scenario and the prevalent regional geostrategic environment) that have the potential to result in its failure as a state include:

1.“Malthusian Catastrophe”, i.e., resource depletion caused by overpopulation coupled with unchecked and unplanned population movements from rural areas to urban centres.

2.Erosion of social values and ethos

3.Chaos and lawlessness due to corruption and inefficiency of the rulers as well as the state institutions.

4.Environmental changes; frequent below average precipitation and flash floods, resulting in drought, famine etc.

5.Collapse of governmental machinery and state institutions.

6.Economic meltdown.

7.Inequity, which may stir the oppressed lower-class revolt against the existing socio-political norms and system.

8.Drastic disparity between the availability and requirements of energy resources.

Besides the above explained factors, Pakistan is faced with following threats to its existence emanating from its peculiar geostrategic compulsions:

1.Denial of the right for self-determination and repression of the people of Jammu and Kashmir by India that may lead to an unprecedented Indo-Pak military escalation and a wider conflict.

2.Taking advantage of Pakistan’s current political divide and activities of religious fanatics, Indian intelligence agency may reignite terrorist activities in Pakistan.

3.Collapse of Taliban Government, which may re-escalate civil war in Afghanistan, resulting in the mass migration of Afghan population to Pakistan.

4.The Joe Biden’s Administration’s hostile posture to Pakistan due to its strategic ties with China, development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, etc.

The US, on the behest of India, may campaign to isolate Pakistan as a rogue state which is sponsoring terrorism in India-occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

5.Political stalemate which may lead to the military takeover, once again.

6.Panic buying/hoarding because of the unchecked inflation, a sense of insecurity and despondency that may further aggravate the price hike by creating the shortage of consumers’ goods.

In addition to the above listed factors and warning signs, increase in interpersonal violence, polarization and social strife, due to greater number of aspirants for higher political positions than our society can realistically accommodate (political leaders’ overproduction) is a cause of political and social instability.

Especially, aggressive young adult male population is one of the major causes of social unrest and violence, as they are more open to extreme ideas and actions if their political and economic ambitions remain unfulfilled due to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a limited number of corrupt political families as well as businessmen and government officials.

Adults in their 20s are especially prone to revolt against established political, social and religious norms.

Social unrest that accounted for the downfall of a few nations in the past was a direct outcome of a built-up youth bulge which facilitated the decline of such nations.

—The writer is contributing columnist based in Islamabad.


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