The world is an unforgiving place. One day, you’re on top: you got the power, the land, abundant resources, strategic advantages over neighboring countries, compliant subjects, and vanquished foes far and wide. It seems like the good times will last forever. But they never do.
All empires wax and wane, but let’s be honest; some declines have been more disappointing than others…
1. Portugal – To be fair, for such a tiny, sardine-powered nation to have ever accomplished the level of world domination they did is quite impressive. There was a time in the 15-16th centuries when they ruled the seas like none other – they navigated the crap out of planet earth, plundering untold riches and carving out territories in India, Brazil and throughout Africa along the way.
But let’s face it, what a free-fall it’s been for them the past several centuries. Today’s Portugal is mostly famous for its debt problems, the legalization of drugs, and a soccer team that can never quite win the big one. Vasco de Gama must be forlornly navigating around in his grave.
2. Netherlands – The same recognition for Portugal’s outsized influence should be applied here, as the Dutch made their profound mark on the world despite a small homeland half the size of Azerbaijan. Especially during the 17th century the Dutch were one the world’s premier heavyweights, dominating trade, producing all sorts of neat cultural things and “acquiring” (bludgeoning their way to) overseas territories from the Caribbean to Indonesia. Today’s Netherlands is a sorry shell of its former self, known mainly for a juvenile flatulence prank, tulips, Rik Smits and smoking doobies.
3. Austria – Once upon a time Austria commanded respect and had the military might to back up their Teutonic swagger. Sure, they got overrun periodically, and could be criticized for always trying to team up with stronger neighbors, but for a time in the 1800s they were a big deal. All this in addition to tremendous cultural contributions (Motzart. Drop the mic.) made Austria a real powerhouse of a nation.
What have you done for me lately Austria (Schwarzenegger notwithstanding)? Not sure if its residual shame over being Hitler’s birthplace, or decades of teasing over The Sound of Music, but today they’ve been reduced to quibbling over sausage.
4. Mongolia – Mongolia absolutely dominated the 13th century. Led by Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure co-star Genghis Khan, they disemboweled their way to one of the most impressive series of land grabs the world has ever seen. Like the Seattle Mariners of 2001 however, success was fleeting. If the 13th century was the Mongolians’ 2001 regular season, the 14th century onward has been the ill-fated 2001 postseason and everything since then.
5. Zimbabwe – Once known as the “breadbasket” of Africa, Zimbabwe has been sunk by one of the worst leaders of all time. Robert Mugabe, who seemed like a respectable champion for the people when he was elected in 1980, has proceeded to turn a relatively prosperous, fertile, functioning nation into one of the world’s worst nightmares.
At your next Fantasy Dictator Draft, consider this guy in the first round: silencing the press, election rigging, fomenting racial hatred, violently silencing critics, mass corruption, delusions of grandeur, persecution complex, amassing great personal wealth while his people starve, ruining a beautiful country, destabilizing an entire region… he’s got it all!
Of course there are many more disappointing countries out there (looks at Germany, France). They get a free pass for today but we got our eyes on you.