Michael Vlahos writes:
The Spain of Quixote was in 1568 a world empire — and the king’s holdings covered the globe. Its fleets and armies seemed to be everywhere. So, too, is the United States today. With 700 overseas bases, its military personnel are equally omnipresent.
Spanish world authority in the 16th century and that of the United States today are at the core challenged not by “peer competitors” — but by marginal non-state communities at the very rim of civilization itself. How did this happen?
Spain for its part faced insurgents in a place that had only recently become part of its realm, such as the northern provinces of the Netherlands. Areas like Friesland had always been fractious, and no big state had ever succeeded in taming them. Sound familiar?
The Netherlands had for so long been a menagerie of principalities with only the loosest governance. Spain took over and began to make something new — the essence of nation building. In addition, the Spanish effort was determinedly focused on a “whole of government” solution, with their Catholic Church franchise prefiguring the U.S. State Department’s heavy involvement in Afghanistan today. [Continue reading…]