I’ve often heard Americans compare the United States to the Roman Empire.
From the time of Augustus Caesar to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, approximately two hundred years, the world knew peace and prosperity under the Pax Romana. Rome was history’s greatest empire. When Rome sent her legions into a province and conquered it, that province became a part of Rome, ruled by a local government, overseen by a Roman Governor, with a cohort, or two, of Rome’s legions to ensure the enforcement of Roman Law. In exchange for being brought into the Roman economy and the protection of Roman Law, the province paid taxes to Rome. Under Roman rule, the citizens of that province enjoyed the prosperity that can only come in a peaceful and orderly society. Rome’s military was so powerful that new territories were given the option of entering Roman society as a province of Rome, or being destroyed.
In four hundred years there were only four rebellions, three from Jerusalem and one from Britain. None of those rebellions ever lasted for more than a year, and died out soon after a couple of legions were sent back into the territory to bring order.
Rome understood that the game of Empire came with the responsibility of Empire. There was more to Rome than her legions. Rome was a great conqueror and built perhaps the greatest Empire the world has ever known, with only the British Empire coming in second. Rome, however, was not a racist society, as England was, and the British Empire only lasted half as long as the Roman Empire. Both empires brought the rule of law, but only Rome granted status to the citizens of her conquered provinces. Both empires understood that you don’t send in the military if you are not prepared to let them loose to do their job, and keep them there to govern and maintain order. and accept the responsibility of making those conquered lands a part of their own country.
In 2003, the United States sent her armies into Iraq to conquer without the intention of governing that country. We destroyed that government, dismantled their armies and left governance to chaos, under the guise of ‘freeing the Iraqi people’. The dismantled and disgruntled Iraqi military, that we had once trained and armed, became ISIL, and now threaten the entire Middle East.
There are many who say that if only we had kept our armies in Iraq, this would never have happened and that President Obama created the problem by withdrawing the troops. The fact is that the new Iraqi government insisted we remove our armies and refused to sign the agreement not to prosecute American troops, giving the president no choice but to remove them, being unwilling to place them in harm’s way. The only way we could have kept troops in Iraq would have been to make it a province of the United States and govern it, to behave as an empire. If we are not willing to behave as an empire, we should not be sending in our legions.
Today, there is a great deal of talk in the United States about whether, or not, to send ground troops to destroy ISIL, with absolutely no discussion of what to do after that. There is a great deal of ‘chest thumping’ by politicians with political agendas, but nothing is being said about how to proceed after our armies conquer those lands.
The last time we did that turned out to be a disaster and put us in our current position because we failed to accept the responsibility of the power vacuum we created. Before we put ‘boots on the ground’, once again, we need to decide if we are willing to follow through, as an empire, and if we are not willing to govern that land we need to ignore the wealthy oil corporations that purchase politicians in an attempt to manipulate our government, and leave the Middle East to the people that live there, to settle their own differences. If we are willing to accept the responsibility of ruling as an empire, then we need to build up our legions and just send them in.
We should, however, take into consideration that our military is currently spread so thin, that only a draft would resolve the lack of manpower, and to consider the fact that our Congress has cut benefits for veterans in need, while cutting taxes for their billionaire masters. Before we tell other governments how they should behave, perhaps we should concentrate our efforts on taking care of our own. If we are going to allow ourselves to be railroaded into war by ‘big oil’ interests, then we had better be willing to commit for the duration, and back it up with the lives of our children.