There was one post yesterday, “Pax Trumpiana:”
With everything else going on, it may be hard to stay with the evolving Trump/Putin story. But it’s really crucial. I don’t think Trump is literally an agent of the Kremlin; instead, he’s someone Putin is aiding because he knows Trump is close to, probably financially entangled with friendly oligarchs. And equally important, Putin knows that Trump’s combination of ignorance and greed would quickly undermine the Western alliance: already we have, incredibly, a presidential candidate essentially proposing that we turn NATO into a protection racket, in which countries get defended only if they pay up.
All of this is, as it turns out, dovetailing with my bedtime reading.
I’m a huge fan of Adrian Goldsworthy’s histories, and I have a galley of his new opus, Pax Romana. Great fun as usual, plus lots of detail.
At the risk of doing a disservice to the book’s subtleties, however, let me summarize my take so far: Rome didn’t set out to bring peace and stability to the known world. Instead, it conquered for greed and glory, and under the Republic showed very little interest in anything except extracting tribute from defeated powers. This didn’t work out well, aside from the fact that the wealth and slaves brought back to Italy basically destroyed the Republic. (Bribery by foreign potentates was also a serious problem.) It also meant that life in the Mediterranean basin if anything became less secure, because Rome didn’t provide the public goods, notably policing pirates, that Hellenistic powers had previously supplied.
Only in the last years of the Republic and then under the principate did Rome really assume the role of providing security throughout its domain. It did this out of self-interest; nonetheless, it was a really good thing and eventually became something of a value as well as a pragmatic strategy.
America is, one hopes, not ancient Rome; we aspired to universal values from the beginning, and the Pax Americana, while far from being perfect or even free from some evil, has surely been the most benign great-power domination in history. Still, there is some parallel between how we’ve run much of the world and what the Romans learned to do.
But Trump doesn’t care about any of that — he basically wants America to behave like Rome at its worst, to become the predatory power of Lucullus and Sulla.
And all those ultra-patriotic Republicans are cheering him on.