Thanks for this post, fascinating read!
Considering the hypothesis given here, I’m curious as to why we don’t see more takeovers today. There are countries and small corporations involved in inner conflicts that I expect (following this post) a small but powerful organisation (or a large nation) could take over. Some reasons that we may not see this -
International laws or one of the world’s leading nations might punish such takeover attempt.
People with position of power may not want to take that kind of risk.
There is not that much economic value to gain.
Takeovers may be quiet (say by blackmail).
Conspiratorially, the relevant opportunities are getting picked up by the more powerful nations/corporations.
If you really want to know I suggest this book. But it’s pretty dry reading so let me sum up what I got out of it. Logistics of war have changed a lot and it changes the economics of conquest. Before guns, everything you needed could be supplied from your enemy’s countryside. Conquest was economically useful to the conqueror because you could take your surplus population of single men and feed them and maybe otherwise enrich them at the enemy’s expense instead of your own. But the more stuff you need that can’t be taken directly from nature or from a farm, the more of a supply chain you have to establish. Gunpowder was the first issue. But then guns evolved, and you went from re-using bullets that were just little metal balls that could be picked up from the battlefield and re-used to bullets that had to precision-manufactured to fit a rifled barrel. And on and on. Now you need oil, and modern standards of living mean you have to give the troops better food and housing and medical care, and none of your vehicles or weapons or fancy communication equipment can be replaced by pillaging the countryside. Whatever you get from the damaged country you conquer isn’t going to be as valuable as what you spent to get it.
So if the economics of conquest were to change back in some fundamental way, or the non-economic goals of the actors changed enough to make them able and willing to pay the economic price, then there probably would be more conquest.
Good question! Isn’t there a stereotype of CIA agents funding coups in various countries, to install US puppet regimes? Insofar as this is a correct description of what’s been happening, it seems like a modern example of what I’m talking about. A small number of people with an intel and tech advantage over the locals, promising to represent a faraway greater power, engages in some intrigue and allies with some local factions and somehow ends up on top. Admittedly, this isn’t as clear of an example as it could be.
I think part of the issue is that these days there just aren’t that many isolated military conflicts. Most military conflicts these days are but minor theatres of a much bigger cold war between great powers. (This is perhaps my take on your #1 and #5)