Sunday, August 23, 2009

America's Empire of Trust

By Alan Caruba

Though most Americans are unaware of it, the rest of the world is taking an active interest in the sometimes heated debate we are having regarding the alleged healthcare “reform” that is, in fact, yet another effort to push the nation further into the same socialist tentacles that have been embraced elsewhere.

Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in America doesn’t stay in America. As the world’s sole superpower, the man we select to be our president becomes the de facto president of the world insofar as his decisions reach into dusty villages in Afghanistan, affect global stock and commodity markets, and can determine the success or failure of movements toward freedom everywhere.

There would be no “Pax Americana” if we were seen to abandon our allies.

The similarities between the Roman Empire and the young American Empire are examined in an excellent book by Thomas F. Madden, “Empires of Trust.”

When I was born in the late 1930s America was a resolutely isolationist nation. We didn’t want to get involved in European wars. We had gotten into World War I because our ships were attacked by German submarines. When it was over, we pulled out our troops.

Not so for World War II, yet another conflict we resisted joining until the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the end of that war, we left troops in Europe to fend off the threat of the Soviet Union. We left troops in Japan to occupy it until democracy could be introduced to replace the emperor. In both cases, we spent billions to rebuild these shattered nations.

American troops are still in Europe and still in Japan. Though asked to withdraw from Iraq, a contingent of American troops will remain there long into the future and it is likely too that they shall be in Afghanistan as well. Americans were twice forced to invade Iraq; initially to force them out of Kuwait and, after 9/11, to remove Saddam Hussein, a threat to the entire region, but most particularly to Saudi Arabia, a major source of oil to the West.

While America always invades as part of a “coalition”, that is a charade because no other nation has the military strength and power to swiftly bring an offending nation to heel. It is not the conquest that is difficult. It is the clean up afterwards.

In point of fact, America maintains military units all over the world and they are there by invitation. Another element of America’s Empire of Trust is that the wars in which we have engaged since the end of World War II have all been in distant places. That pattern began with the Korean conflict in the 1950s. That was followed by the distress when America took over the conflict in Vietnam from France.

After initial enthusiasm for revenge following 9/11, our current participation in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts in Iraq has long since cooled. Americans, as did the citizens of Rome, do not like extended military engagements.

There are any number of similarities between the citizens of Rome who sought their own security by slowly having to conquer neighboring enemies in Italy, subdue the Carthaginian threat from North Africa, and disturbances in Greece.

The growth of the Roman Empire took place over centuries, but the reluctant Romans did not seek conquest; only peace for themselves. They did this by turning conquered enemies into friends and, since they were so successful in war, they were continually entreated to extend their protection further and further from Rome. The result was an Empire of Trust.

The Romans created the first republic in which power resided in its citizens. The American republic was, in many ways, patterned after the Roman republic, but the Founders also sought to avoid the errors of Rome, dividing power within government and ensuring that our military’s allegiance was to the Constitution, not a particular leader. Our wars must be approved by congressional resolutions.

Even in Rome there were early predictions that their empire would end. By 146 BC the Romans were the most powerful nation of those bordering the Mediterranean from Spain to Egypt and they would remain so for some sixteen centuries.

Most Americans draw their “knowledge” of ancient Rome from Hollywood films, but the scenes of decadence and apparent tyranny are wrong in many ways. A pious people, the famed decline in morality and the necessity to subdue religious chaos in the Middle East actually occurred by the time the empire had largely converted to Christianity as the state religion. They occurred late in its long history of having imposed the “Pax Romana” on the known world. The last elements of the empire would disappear in 1453.

A world at peace was always the Roman goal and, following World War II, it has been America’s goal. However, as Madden points out, “War—not peace—is the normal state of affairs in human history.” What is called peace “is an intermission, a time to prepare for more war.”

America was forced to enter two wars in Europe in the last century because, as Madden, notes, “The countries and leaders of Europe waged nearly constant warfare for more than fifteen centuries.”

This is why, too, that American soldiers and marines, assisted by troops contributed by a relatively few and greatly reluctant allies, are now fighting a “hot” war in Afghanistan after a lengthy engagement in an Iraq. Americans do not like long wars, but Madden bluntly says that “Americans need to accept that the War on Terror is going to be a long one.

Liberals always claim that “war never solves anything”, but history demonstrates that war always solves something. We have a United States of America because we fought a long, bloody Civil War. We are not subject to the dictates of a Nazi Germany in control of Europe or an Empire of Japan controlling Asia because we fought and won World War II. Our proxy wars weakened the former Soviet Union.

Former President Bush was right when, in 2002, he said, “We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign nonproliferation treaties, and then systematically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long…we must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.”

That is the definition of “Pax Americana” and it is the mission of the American Empire.


Buzzg said...

Excellent synopsis, Alan.
See if you can find similarities to our situation today in the following.

Rome fell September 4, 476AD. It was overrun with illegal immigrants: Visigoths, Franks, Anglos, Saxons, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, Lombards, Jutes and Vandals, who at first assimilated and worked as servants, but then came so fast they did not learn the Latin Language or the Roman form of government.

Highly trained Roman Legions, moving rapidly on their advanced road system, were strained fighting conflicts worldwide.

Rome had a trade deficit, having outsourced most of its grain production to North Africa, and when Vandals captured that area, Rome did not have the resources to retaliate.

Attila the Hun was committing terrorist attacks. The city of Rome was on welfare with citizens being given free bread.

One Roman commented: ‘Those who live at the expense of the public funds are more numerous than those who provide them.’ Tax collectors were ‘more terrible than the enemy.’

Gladiators provided violent entertainment in the Coliseum. There was injustice in courts, exposure of unwanted infants, infidelity, immorality and perverted bathhouses.

5th-Century historian Salvian wrote: ‘O Roman people be ashamed... Let nobody think otherwise, the vices of our bad lives have alone conquered us’.


sykes.1 said...

The Roman state/empire lasted from the founding of Rome itself in the Eighth Century BC to the fall of Constantinople in the Fifteenth Century AD, some 2200 years.

The collapse of the city of Rome and of the western provinces, while looming large in the western imagination, hardly affected the center of the Roman empire, which had been headquartered in Constantinople for around 150 years before the fall of Rome.

The Roman empire lasted long enough to bequeath the classical heritage to the nascent Renaissance. We got Plato et al. from the Roman empire, not the Muslim world.

Well-trained Roman legions held the Muslim world at bay for almost 900 years, and Roman culture flourished in Constantinople until its capture by the Turks.

So, if we are the New Rome, we can expect to dominate the world until around 4000 AD.