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Moon base illustration
The eventual colonization of space will follow a long history of colonization on Earth. (credit: NASA)

Mother of all colonizers

Before there were Greek, Roman, and British colonies, there was a Babylonian colony in Assyria. Founded in 1700 BC according to the Wikipedia, it became a colonizer itself and a conqueror of major colonizer Tyre around 650 BC, well after that Phoenician city colonized Carthage in 814 BC. The Phoenicians also colonized Motya in Sicily. The Greeks also were great colonizers, setting up their first colony in Al Mina in northern Syria and Ischia on the Bay of Naples, Italy in 800 BC. The Greeks also colonized Syracuse in Sicily from Corinth in 734 BC.

The Romans were also great colonizers who coined the word colonia, which indicated a place meant for agricultural activities. Roman colonies, at first, got free taxation, which sounds like zero-g, zero-tax. Roman and Greek colonies had their own constitutions and laws and existed as their own city states.

A number of Roman colonies in Britain are major cities today such as London (Londinium) and Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum). I was dining last night with a graduate from the Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. (The Academy’s motto in Latin is Finis Origine Pendet, meaning “the end depends upon the beginning.”) We were dining in the United States, comprised of many colonies of Great Britain, specifically in Austin, Texas. Stephen Austin founded a colony in Texas on the Brazos River after advertising in New Orleans. He took 300 families, which is what the Romans did when they established colonies. (His father, Moses Austin, is named after another great colonizer.) Austin was a big shot in Texas when it declared independence in 1836.

Roman colonies, at first, got free taxation which sounds like zero-g, zero-tax

So during dinner, I was talking about empire. We certainly have reached imperial hubris quickly. By not joining the Kyoto Accord or the land mine treaty, working to evade the International Criminal Court, withdrawing from the ABM treaty, and skirting the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, the United States is certainly going into fast forward and losing its legitimacy faster than you can say “Foreign Affairs”, who leads this month with an article on just that. The article put paid to the neocons’ idea that legitimacy is optional. It’s time to reread Sun Tzu’s admonition to determine which of two sovereigns is imbued with “moral law”: “The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.” We do not have the fortitude to watch our forces get decimated. It is also a lot shorter trip now to Washington, DC from Iraq than from Babylon to Rome during the Roman Empire. How will the world change because of the US missing the opportunity to strengthen anti-proliferation, chemical, and biological weapons treaties? Maybe it’s time to look outward.

I think that America’s new great colonizer, Paul Wolfowitz, should be given the NASA administrator job. For the $150 billion we have devoted so far in Iraq, he could post some great prizes for space colonization. He could send our nation’s finest into space and find all the Earth-crossers, the ultimate weapons of mass destruction. By withdrawing from the Outer Space Treaty, he could set off a huge land rush. That would be the perfect ending for the man who championed the Mother of All Colonization by invading Iraq, home to Babylon, the Mother of Colonization.


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