Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rome and The US And The Roots of Decline

History And Realpolitik

Sometimes it is truly frightening to watch world leaders make decisions and take actions that history clearly demonstrates are doomed to failure. In 2002 a book was published “Warrior Politics” which was an essay on “Realpolitik” In this short book the author uses historical references gleaned from some of the worlds great thinkers and philosophers to put the 20th century into perspective. Certainly the 20th Century will go down in history as a pivotal period. It included the rise of Communism and its ultimate failure. A failure still not recognized by many academics and politicians who still think Socialism and Communism are viable political structures but previous failures were not due to any inherent flaws but because the implementers were incompetent. The 20th Century saw genocides on massive scales, not just in Germany but in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Russia as well.

Without doubt two of the most important events in the 20th Century were the two world wars but it is worth noting that these two wars parallel the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. In the second century BC Carthage was the dominant power in the Mediterranean but that power was being challenged by Rome After the first Punic War Rome imposed an unjust peace on Carthage which directly led to the succeeding wars which were costly in lives and treasure. This is precisely what happened in the 20th Century. Germany was a newly minted country and a rising power in Europe. This drive for power brought it into conflict with France and England and gave rise to WWI. But the allied powers failed to see the parallel with the Punic Wars and imposed the unjust Treaty of Versailles. But the allied powers failed to see the parallel with the Punic Wars and imposed the unjust Treaty of Versailles Germany. This treaty led directly to WW II.

But these are only the most obvious lessons to be gleaned from history and as the 20th century fades into history we find the 21st Century leaders repeating the mistakes of history. We find the US – much like Rome – embroiled in a seemingly endless series of wars. The Pax Romana taxed the Roman Empire just as the Pax Americana is taxing the American Empire – and for many of the same reasons. America is engaged in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, China, India, and Pakistan. But for what purpose and for what advantage to America? The glib answer of course is that these are necessary to protect America both economically and militarily, which of course would have been the response of any of the Caesars. But there are no specific answers coming out of Washington, because there are no concrete advantages to America. Why is the US subsidizing Palestine (Hamas) when they are clearly the group who are the aggressors against Israel and have never shown even the slightest indication that they want peace. In fact the only thing they want is for Israel to vanish and all Jews (and Christians) to be driven from “Arab Lands”. We entered Afghanistan for the purpose of capturing Osama bin Laden, that is accomplished but once it was clear he was no longer in Afghanistan what was the purpose of us lingering there? An even larger question is why didn’t the US kill all of the poppy fields? The answer has been this would have turned them against us – are they for us now? Aren’t these fields the source of much of the drug trade throughout the world and the revenue source for the Taliban? At least the Romans could justify their military excursions on the basis that conquests generated greater revenues for the state, but for the US these military adventures are costly.

One of the major reasons for the ultimate decline of Rome was the rampant corruption at the top. The Justice system was corrupt as the politicians bought votes, and the politicians were engaged not just in power struggles but in lining their own pockets. Does any of that resemble the US Congress today? The voter roles are clearly corrupt and this is so widely accepted that it is a joke. Key politicians pay no taxes (unless caught) and enact legislation to enrich themselves and to pander to special interests. The Justice system may not be for sale but it certainly is out of control. The courts have begun to act as a legislative branch via their interpretation of laws which has given us rules that are totally counter to the majority will.

The result is American prestige is declining just as America has entered into a decline. Any sense of shame or moral authority is gone via Court decisions that permit everything in the name of free speech. People increasingly look to the government for help and support rather than rolling up their sleeves and taking care of themselves and their families. The Congress has lost any sense of fiscal responsibility as they spend money on special interests while borrowing money to give away. Rome was not conquered it rotted away and there is a message there that should not be ignored by our Congress or the American People.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Robert Kaplan is excellent. I cite him in my article: The Coming Anarchy.