"Thanks to this equalization of development, you might say, the scene was set for the thousand subsequent years of fruitless warfare which followed as Europe’s dynasts intermittently struggled to achieve a level of overarching dominance that was in fact impossible. In that sense, it took the nightmare of two world wars in the twentieth century before the European Dream was finally called into existence to try to put a stop to the process of endless armed competition between powers that were always too equal for there to be an outright winner." [Heather, Peter (2014-02-21). The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders (Kindle Locations 5053-5056). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.]
Don't let the Kindle publication date distract you! Peter Heather's book came out in 2013. It could very well be that if the author had this year since the beginning of Ukraine's Revolution of Dignity under his belt that he might have dropped this paragraph or at least choked slightly on the expression "European Dream". It doesn't seem now as though the "nightmare of two world wars in the twentieth century" was all that sufficient to teach the lesson about the path to peace. The Pax Romana looks to hold the record for some time to come.
The author's statement about there being no advantage to gain through fighting because the playing field is just too level does not cut the mustard. Genocide, massacres of lesser dimension, palace intrigue, assassinations and more seem to be yet the order of the day. Theoderic, Justinian, Charlemagne or Otto I, their surcharge of Christianity notwithstanding, do not distinguish themselves much from other ruthless "kings of the hill" over the centuries who did not know the grace of Baptism.
As time goes on and I go on to finish this terribly interesting book, I am sure that much more will come to mind. For now anyway, I cannot help but find myself faced with a puzzle. Insatiable, personal ambition and vain attempts to build a monument to oneself on the shifting sands of time: is there nothing else which drives men? Have we no option but to acquiesce to the pretense of who would sway over us and most often to our detriment?
More than a century past, G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc were among those convinced that participatory democracy or anything short of servitude could only be organized on the most local of levels. Much of the spectacle on the world stage today, whether of big nations, communities of nations or trading groups offers little to respond to their defense of smaller, not only as beautiful or better, but seemingly as best by far. Smarter men than I scorn distributivism, but the present world crisis offers little to posit a better way.