You have to understand that civilization, as we know it, actually only took place in certain select spots in the world. To read a really great book on this phenomenon, you should check out Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel.
It really is amazing because a lot of people have this idea that civilization is pretty much everywhere. Everywhere you look, everywhere you check on the internet, there is civilization. It’s as if it has always been there.
Well, that has not always been the case because if you dial back and peel back the layers of time, it would turn out that civilization, at least the one that we recognize, only took place in certain select places on planet Earth.
In Asia, this took place in the Harappa in the Indus Valley. It took place also in certain river valleys in China, the Nile River valley in Egypt, and Mesopotamia in the Middle East. In the new world, this took place in certain parts of Central America. That’s all there was to it in terms of civilization.
These river valleys were basically the cradles of civilization because all the interplay, usually taking the form of war, spread from these places. And with it, they brought weapons technology, agriculture, and all the accoutrements of modern civilization. Think of all these places as seed beds, and from there, all these seeds are spread through the wind to all four corners of the globe.
Accordingly, to say that Iraq is the cradle of civilization would be fairly accurate. It would, but you just need to change the word “the” to “a.” It is one of the centers. It is not the center. It did not germinate everybody else, but it definitely took an early lead.
Also, keep in mind that given the very warlike and tumultuous history of Mesopotamia, all that competition, strife and back and forth struggle actually spread technology far and wide. I know it’s not politically correct nor is it pleasant to talk about, but it’s the absolute truth because as people sought to defend themselves, they would pioneer new weapons. They would come up with new tactics. They would be forced to form armies. They would be incentivized to move into cities. These adaptive and reactive decisions also form part of the great process of building civilizations.
War, for the longest time, has had a bad reputation. Wars after all, destroy lives. They leave a trail of misery, pain, humiliation, fear, and grudges. That much is true. But what isn’t as widely discussed is the upside of war. I know, I know, it sounds crazy but there is an upside to conflict. First of all, it pushes civilizations to innovate. I’m not just talking about weapons of war although these are formidable, I am also talking about non-sexy yet highly important innovations touching on accounting and administration, logistics, and diplomacy. There are also economic disruptions that can lead to new technologies and new ways of doing things. As war spreads, these innovations spread as well.