A GAME AT CHESS:
A BLUEPRINT FOR BUILDING AND KEEPING AN EMPIRE.
Luis Francisco Martínez Montes
Battle of the Terceira Island, 1582, fresco by Niccolo Granello in the Gallery of Battles, El Escorial.
For the historian as well as for the practitioner of foreign policy with a penchant for things past, empires long defunct provide an endless source of lessons and analogies, of trials and errors already experienced, though in most instances already forgotten. Few in our times think, though, that empires are a form of political organization suitable for solving the tribulations of the present. After all, recent attempts at recreating some sort of formal or informal empires have ended up in utter failure. So we keep on living in a world that is parcelled among a myriad of small and medium sized states, some of them in a worrisome stay of decay, a few number of polities with the means and maybe the will to fall into the traditional category of great powers and an even fewer and frail-looking examples of supranational entities. Then, there are those multilateral organizations, regional or universal in scope, where all or some of the above meet, talk and sometimes agree about how best to respond to the most pressing challenges and threats. Empires, then, do not seem to fit in the current political taxonomy. But we would be wrong to consider them the dinosaurs of the political ecosystem, only to be contemplated in awe as they lay with their bones inertly exposed in museums, never to see their likenesses alive again and roaming among us.
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