Conn Nugent

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Cortés, Pizarro, and Afonso as Precedents for Takeover

In 1492, Iberian Christians had finally defeated the last remnant of the Moorish Empire that had subjugated most of their peninsula. The Reconquista. It was an enormous achievement against a powerful and advanced foe. [It also occasioned the expulsion of the Sephardic Jews, an act both odious and self-wounding.] Anyway, in the process of defeating the Moors, the Iberian Christian armed forces had become really really good at fighting. Brave unto reckless, for one thing. For another, they were able to count on a deep bench of sub-commanders and captains who saw -- and could exploit -- tactical opportunities much better than their less nimble Amerindian opponents. Rarely did one find a conquistador who could count on a noble inheritance. They were second, third, or fourth sons who thought -- correctly -- that the surest path to wealth and honor was military victory followed by severe repression of the defeated. Keep in mind that nobody in Europe could stand up to them either; it wasn't until the late 18th Century that other European nations could engage the Spaniards on equal terms.

You could even say that Cortez sparked more than 300 years of European domination. It wasn't until the Russo-Japanese War that the tables were turned. And that's another great story....