Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The American Republic at a Crossroads

At the present time, the United States is in the same place in its history as the Roman Republic was at the start of the 1st Century BCE. During that time, the Roman Republic had suffered some serious internal uphevals. The Social War between Marius and Sulla had caused severe damage to the confidence in the republican system among the patricians and the plebeians. The patricians, for the first time, realized that a powerful and/or unscrupulous senator could raise the plebeian "mob" to gain near absolute power over Rome. Although Sulla laid down his power once the situation was stabilized, others not be so willing to do so.

Further shocks hit with the Spartacan slave revolt, which took three years and the better part of eight Roman legions to defeat. The revolt had shaken Rome's confidence in its power and its republican system, such as it was. The fact that a slave army had destroyed at least two full legions of the most powerful army in the known world led many in the Senate to entertain the idea of a very few or single man running the system. This led to the Triumvirates, more civil wars, and eventually an Imperium.

In fact, I recommend you read "Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic" by Tom Holland for a more complete analysis of the last century of republican Rome.
Of course, we also sit at the same point in our history as the Mongol Empire in the years after the death of Genghis Khan. As the Mongols spread across the known world, ruling 2/3 of it before their expansion ceased, they overthrew old systems of government. In their place, new ideas spread. For the first time, a vast majority of the world population lived under the rule of law rather than the rule of fiat. The Great Yasa of Genghis Khan became the supreme law of the domain, and everyone from the Great Khan on down to the lowest slave was subject to this great law code. Further, for the first time in history, gold, books and salt from west Africa, steel and perfumes from Southwest Asia and East Africa, wool and foodstuffs from Europe, and silks, spices, and silver from East and Central Asia could be traded in relative safety.

The Mongol armies guaranteed safe passage by ruthlessly chasing down and destroying bandits. Paper money, a Chinese invention, became an easy way to pay for goods throughout the Mongol Empire. Even the modern passport is a descendant of the pass woodcut the Mongol Khakhans (Great Khans, or Khan of Khans *though that may be more appropriate to a Mongol Christian's name for Jesus Christ). The Mongol Empire spread ideas and the rule of law across the known world and created many of the ideas we currently take for granted here in America.

For a more complete analysis, I recommend "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" by Jack Weatherford.

Read both of them together, as I did, and you'll see that though there are dark spots we are looking at (willingness to allow the brain damaged to be starved to death; students going off and gunning down massive numbers of people), we are also at the start of a new era of American influence and power (pro-self-determination of lifestyle and democracy spreading across the Middle East; enemies coming to realize that they may very well be destroyed if they continue on their current path).

What must be decided is if we are going to take the road that led to the death of the Res Publica Romana and the start of the Imperium and its eventual depravity under Nero, or take the road to the creation of a new human world, as the Pax Mongolica brought about. Of course, the methods toward creating a new human world for us will not necessarily be those of the Mongols *at least, we hope that won't be necessary*, but in a uniquely American fashion that may combine our traditional supporting of human freedom with the willingness to hand out SAWs (Severe Ass Whoopin's) to those that would willingly stand in the way of human freedom.