Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Strong Horse and the Weak Horse: America and the Fall of the Roman Empire

Endorsed by Fox News at GOP Hub

"When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse."

Osama bin Laden

"Yes, there have been appeasers in the past, and the president is exactly right, and one of them is Neville Chamberlain. I believe that it’s not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn’t sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming

John McCain

It has become fashionable to draw parallels between the supposed misadventures of our “New American Imperialism” and the “Fall of the Roman Empire” -- a comparison that conveniently overlooks the fact that it took over a thousand years for the Roman Empire to ‘fall’. One of the most glaring inconsistencies of this comparison is that the Roman Empire was an unapologetically ruthless military power, which experienced no liberal pangs of guilt about its hard-won conquests. Indeed, to the typical Roman, who enthusiastically relished the daily bloody spectacles of the arena, the whole concept of having moral qualms about the manner in which they had acquired their vast Empire would be incomprehensible.

The Roman formula for conquering new provinces was fairly straight-forward. The Roman legions would simply annihilate any opposing force (no matter how long it took, or what it cost them in lives and treasure), systematically root out all remaining insurgents, and impose a locally administered Roman-style government, which would eventually build Roman-style buildings in which to conduct Roman-style business.

Once their territories were conquered, however, the Romans would govern them with a relatively light touch (despite a spate of anti-Roman, pro-Christian “biblical movies” produced in the 1950s -- usually starring the late Charlton Heston -- that invariably portrayed the Roman soldiers as sadistic brutes). So long as the local citizenry behaved according to the proscribed boundaries of the Roman model of civilization, adhered to the basic tenets of Roman jurisprudence, paid their taxes (which, for the most part, were considerably less than they had been paying under their previous rulers), and offered ceremonial homage to the Emperor once a year, the Roman attitude towards the local customs and religious practices was generally fair and unobtrusive.

However, Roman authorities would react swiftly and mercilessly to any perceived threat of dissent. In 146 B.C., in the city of Corinth, in the Roman protectorate of Greece, two Roman envoys were set upon by an unruly crowd of malcontents and were beaten up. The Roman response was quick and unequivocal.

The Senate dispatched the brutal Roman General Mummius who, with his four Legions, attacked the city of Corinth. He killed all of the men of military age, enslaved all of the remaining populace, burned the city to the ground and then, ceremoniously sowed salt on the earth so that nothing would ever grow there again.
An over-reaction? Perhaps. However, needless to say, after Corinth, anyone considering attacking a Roman citizen would, most likely, have serious second thoughts.

Indeed, if we are looking for parallels between our present-day American society and the Roman Empire, we need look no further than this episode of the two Roman ambassadors in Corinth, and compare the Roman reaction then to our government’s ignoble non-response to the plight of our helpless 70 American citizens who were held hostage for 444 days in the infamous 1979 Tehran Embassy takeover.

What then, if anything, can we learn from the history of the Romans?

First, when discussing the moral lessons symbolized by the 'Fall of the Roman Empire' we should perhaps consider how long it actually took to 'fall'. If one accepts the traditional date for the founding of Rome of 753 B. C., and the traditional date of the 'fall' of 476 A.D., then that means that the Roman civilization lasted for something like 1,200 years, while the actual process of the 'fall' arguably took about 300 years.

Transposing these figures onto America's timetable, this would mean that we might start losing ground around the year 2705, and could be in serious trouble by the year 3005. It seems to me that it would be a little difficult to realistically describe this 1200 year process as a 'fall'. I think it could better be described as a pretty big success story.

Additionally, this particular episode at Corinth occurred approximately 200 years before the Empire really reached it's peak, and, far from hindering the development of the Roman world, this incident, and many others like it, only served to strengthen its reputation and intimidate its potential rivals.

For 444 days, while our hapless President Jimmy Carter dithered and dallied with endless and empty diplomatic negotiations, our helpless 70 American citizens suffered the painful privations and unknown perils of their captivity. Only when a new president was sworn into office, an altogether different kind of man, whom they suspected might actually resort to force, were the hostages released.

These, then, are the lessons from Corinth in 146 B.C., and from Tehran in 1979 A. D. Somewhere between these two extreme reactions there is an eternal truth.

There are times when force is the only answer.

This now is our new enemy

These are his warriors

This is his ambition

And this is the threat

Will we be the Strong horse?

Or the Weak Horse?

Note from Radarsite: A large portion of this article was lifted from an earlier unpublished essay "America and the Fall of the Roman Empire". It would be remiss of me to reference this essay without acknowledging all of the help and good advice I received from my friend and first editor Marilyn A., who attempted -- with varying degrees of success -- to rein in my natural loquaciousness. I am still benefiting from her insightful suggestions. -- rg

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  1. The trouble is that we have gotten soft. Rome "fell" for many reasons, but one was that they got soft and complacent. They allowed the barbarians into their lands, they help them settle the lands.

    Today the same thing is happening in America. We have allowed the barbarians in. We help them settle in communities. We hope they will assimilate. Instead they invoke their own laws, their own customs, their own beliefs on the communities. Heaven help those who go against them, for they have become the law. They are slowly destroying America.

  2. Oh yeah Roger, in those days, they did some really nasty thing to their enemies and it wasn't just them though, all did some really unpleasant things. We are like angels compared to those days. If we're going to fall, it'll be thanks to the left and their idiot appeasement and wait till the very end stupidity.

    Too many of us don't understand why the jihadists didn't fly planes into sky scrapers in downtown Beijing or why Chechnya is suddenly very peaceful and quiet.

    Now i'm not demanding that we start massacring innocents or something, rather that if we are not firm in repelling jihadists and those who hate us, like deporting/jailing some of these intolerant savages from our lands, one day we will have to return their savagery with interest. Right now we're heading that way.

  3. Churchill's ParrotMay 18, 2008 at 7:33 PM

    My Dear Roger,

    Historical analysis always sets our heart aflutter and, with this one, you have us in near afibrillation (which at 108 years old is a damned dangerous thing!) But it is our pleasure!

    There is nothing like history to provide brutal perspective on the events of the day is there? You again provide a brilliant insight into , not only the idiocy of those who claim such a thing as "American Imperialism" (for even our British sins make a joke of that accusation), but how straightforward and unapologetic implementation of policy (i.e. The Strong Horse) is far more effective than the hand-wringing, furrowed-brow indecision characterizing so much of Western foreign policy since WWII(i.e. the Weak Horse.)

    Osama is right. People will like the strong horse. WE must be the strong horse. But we must always remember - and this may be a good quote to add to those with which you lead your post - as The Ronald (Reagan) declared 20-some years ago, “The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.”

    Well it seems we may have lost that knowledge. Thus our cultural sense of fair play, justice, and compassion for "those less fortunate" is eating us alive from the inside out; for we believe ourselves to be the evil caricature we have made of all powerful societies of the past, whether fact or fiction.

    No one can bring down the West but the West. We may be well on our way toward doing so.



  4. What great comments.
    To all of you -- your comments are always as interesting to read as articles. Thank your for making Radarsite that much more than it would be.

  5. In principle, I and most of the political spectrum outside the anti American wing of the left would agree with your post about the need for strength.

    However, what does strong horse actually mean? I and many will argue that our Iraq War decision weakened us significantly.

    And that our addiction to oil and begging Saudi Arabia to increase productivity is weak.

    So should we bomb Iran? I have no idea. Should we let them do whatever they want? No.

    Either way it would be hard to argue that our lack of energy independence, our lack of military flexibility, and our Iraq debacle have helped us in this situation.

  6. Johnson -- Our independence from ME oil has been greatly, if not fatally compromised by the liberal's -- aligned with the loony Green movement's -- anti-drilling and anti-big oil company obstructions. We have vast untapped reservoirs of oil but, thanks to these delusional ideologues, we cannot access them. In addition they are against the only other viable option: nuclear power.

    The second point is just replaying that same old sad song about our "Iraqi debacle".

    Consider this: If we had not invaded Iraq and taken down Saddam we would now be facing TWO formidable ME powers BOTH feverishly building nuclear weapons capabilities. If Saddam were still around do you honestly think he would sit idly by while Ahmadinejad built up a formidable nuclear arsenal next door? Of course not. He was already preparing for this eventuality before we took him out.

    Should we bomb Iran?

    Well, now, let's see. We could wait until he has a viable nuclear weaponry program and then sit down and try to negotiate with him.

    We could rely on the omnipotent UN and their toothless Watch Poodle, the IAEA to keep him in check.

    Or, finally, we could just take the good gentleman at his word that his nuclear ambitions are only peaceful.

    Do any of these options look good to you, Johnson? Because they certainly don't look too promising to many of us around here.

    I will repeat myself. We must act. If the Allies had checked Hitler's geopolitical ambitions in Czechoslovakia in '38 we could have stopped the rise of the international Nazi war machine in its tracks. By a preemptive military strike against him at that point in history we could have saved millions and millions of lives.
    But we didn't, did we? We prevaricated and procrastinated ourselves into the monumental horrors of World War Two.

    Now, as then, it's not a matter of IF we have to confront Iran but, rather, WHEN we confront Iran.
    The choice is basically pretty simple. Either fight them now on our terms or fight them later on theirs.

    We made a terrible blunder in the Thirties by not listening to Hitler's threats and by not believing that he was actually serious about carrying them out.

    We simply cannot afford to make this same mistake again with Ahmadinejad, not with the threat of nuclear bombs. We must believe what he is telling us and the world, we must acknowledge the uncomfortable but undeniable fact that he is backing up his threats with actions.

    There are some good plans on the table for doing it the right way.
    I, for one, don't see that we have a choice.

  7. Moe was into horse racing. He was looking for horses that would carry men into battle and remain in it for the long haul. In that sense, strength was a combination of speed and stamina.

    In Usama's metaphor, the strong horse is one with a combination of speed, stamina and spirit. That translates into weaponry, manpower, and indomitable will to apply them to total conquest.

    Our disdain for war, our reluctance to kill people and destroy property, our reluctance to suffer casualties and our worry over collateral damage mark us as the weak horse who will lose the race.

    We are dealing with a society whose attributes include supremacism & triumphalism. Allah has promised them "a near victory", meaning in the near future and close to home.

    Predators seek the slow and weak, victims who can not outrun or out fight them. Islam, being a predator, probes for signs of weakness. They found weakness and they are exploiting it.

    Download EgregiousAyat.chm from my web site and read the chapter on Supremacism & Triumphalism. The devil is in the details. In Ibn Kathir's Tafsir, seek out the topics with "good news" in their titles. You will find them in my blog post titled ROPMA.

  8. May I link to this post, with you credited of course?

  9. RG,
    This is an excellent post and your readers comments are a world of knowledge as well.

    I look forward to reading more ~

  10. Granted, between horses most people would choose the strong horse.
    But watching horses, even our own, handicappling and hedging bets, and preparing nice remarks in the event we might only rate "Place" and "Show", seems to be "Americana's" current involvement.
    It's one thing to look at war, crisis and ...outright political criminality as a spectator sport.
    It's another thing to mount up.

  11. Thanks again Ben.

    Jungle Mom. Of course you can, I'd be honored.You never have to ask, just give me a heads up if you can so I can go and check it out.

    Thank you Ana Rebecca for your kind remarks.

    And right on Shawmut.
    I think you and I, and quite a few of our regular readers have mounted up in the past, and would even be willing to do it again 9 If they'd be interested in taking on a 71 year old -- lol)

  12. Rome, as well as Greece, and many of the Earlier Civilizations fell because after their Conservative and Patriotic Forms of Governments reached a high degree of development and Financial well being, they somehow allowed the Decadent wealthy and Effeminate Intellectual class to take over the Government via a self Promoting Royalist minded Narcisstic group ( see our current Crop of LOONS) who believe that a strong Centrally Directed Benevolent Tyrranny ( Socialism or Communism ) will be the Opiate for the masses to keep them in Power Forever... and Guess what: the LOONS are at OUR GATES .. Just like the Visigoths sacked Rome, Our Domestic ones are about to do US IN!!!

  13. I will be posting this tonight.

  14. Let me know what you have it posted Jungle Mom! and Happy Memorial DAY!