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In the late 1970s, Newsweek magazine reported that the U.S. Defense Department had launched a curious study of the kind usually conducted by an academic institution: Why did the great empires in history such as the Romans, Mongol, British, etc. all fall? The cause, the study found, was an inflated budget for the defense of an over-extended territory.

There was no follow-up in the magazine, but I sometimes wonder if the conclusion drawn in the Pentagon study motivated Washington to start negotiating “host-nation support” with its allies thereafter.

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