The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire Vs. United States, Are We Parallel?
Roman Empire vs. United States Similiarites
What are the similarities and differences between the rise and fall of Rome Empire in 365 A.D. and the United States in the 21st Century? First, let’s ask ourselves, are Americans the new Romans? There are many who are struck by the similarities between the American empire now and the Roman Empire then. Military strength is the most obvious similarity, as Rome was the Superpower of its time, and the United States is the Superpower now. The Romans had the best training, biggest Budget, and finest equipment that the world had ever seen in their time. The United States is just as dominant- its Military budget is larger than nine other countries put together, allowing the United States to deploy their units almost anywhere across the World in a matter of minutes. Add the United States technological lead, and the United States emerges as a serious superpower without any rivals.
However, there is a significant difference as the United States did not form any type of formal colonies and the Romans always did, and furthermore, until this date, there has not been any evidence that the United States has deployed any ruling consuls in other sovereign lands. Notably, America and Rome have had its share of colonizing and conquering evidenced by their very histories as written throughout the centuries. Paul Kennedy, the author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, stated, “this [US] was an imperial Nation, a conquering nation”. Based on history the Romans understood that the world needed to practice imperialism, namely the art of winning wars and invading territories; they also practiced and learned the political tricks that sustained their ability to stay in power of their territories during their reigning period.
As should be evident, the United States is more Roman then we realize, as the Romans bequeathed a format on how imperial business should be handled, and today the Americans in the United States are implementing the same tactics without fail, all the while not realizing the Roman “roots” of these tactics. For example, during the Roman Empire, the Romans had great military strength; and the rest of the World undoubtedly knew their strength and consequently feared the Roman as well. Secondly, the Romans were known for their infrastructure, including their Roads (or Via) as well as their engineering feats with bridges and aqua ducts, built primarily to enable their military to move more quickly. How innovative of their time. Today those highways find their counterpart on the Internet, or better known as the Information Superhighway. The Internet began as a military tool, and arguably is one of the most superior inventions of our time, bringing whole nations together in mere nanoseconds.
The United States appears to have taken these tips from their Roman counterparts. Rome realized that if they were to last as a World power, the Romans had to excel at both the art of winning wars as well as the winning the cultural battle often times found in political circles, considering that the Roman empire spanned continents as well as vast cultural divides. Rome’s greatest conquest was the seduction of its’ peoples. They would provide them with baths, and central heating as the people never realized that they were enslaved by such wonderful things. Today the United States offers Starbucks, my personal favorite, Wal-Mart for 24/7 shopping convenience, and Disneyland for entertainment, just to name a few.
The Roman and American models of government and capitalism are based on the principles of progress through utilization of its workforce with the lure of the good life as an individual’s goal. If the process works, why use direct force? It is possible to rule by having others do the work for you, something similar to using a television remote control. You just simply choose the stations and watch how things play out. If you don’t care for that particular program you just change it until you successfully locate what you are looking for, which in many ways has contributed to this throwaway society that is the United States. This is not at all dissimilar to how the Romans viewed many of their conquered subjects.
The United States does this technique with ease. Our foreign policy dictates homogenous thinking and implementation of American ideals with little thought to the political and economic differences in conquered societies. One need only look at the fiasco that is Iraq and comment on the complete lack of foresight as to the necessary elements to unite a nation divided by numerous warring factions.
Interestingly, the fall of the Roman Empire occurred primarily due to a lack of foresight as well. Incorrectly, the Romans assumed that cultural, economic and social differences could be bridged by simply implementing the “Roman” way. Similarly, The United States with the Iraq war has learned that the “American” way does not always work. Simply put, there is an innate desire in humans to do things their own way, meaning that if one does not pay attention to the social and cultural fiber and essence of a people, ultimately any attempt to create a government or society that does not address these important aspects of society, that attempt will meet failure.
The foreign policy that the United States employs with China is similarly misguided. China is a socialist and communist country that is slowly turning its back on its soul and embracing it nemesis, capitalism. From the standpoint of the United States, the complete lack of morals when it comes to human rights violations only intensifies the demise of implementing “American ways” in a country that is so dissimilar and does not even value our basic inalienable rights.
These examples only bolster the argument that the United States is embarking on a similar path as the Romans did at the end of their empire. Ultimately, the delicate political dance that is being played all over the World with the United States forcing it “way of life” on vastly dissimilar cultures will result in its ultimate demise.
Very similar to the Americanization of today’s world with McDonalds and Starbucks popping up in the most unlikely remote countries of the world, the Romans also put down “roots” all over their occupied territories and left their cultural and architectural footprint on the world. One need only to think about Carcassonne in the South of France as well as the magnificent Roman Villa built at Fishbourne in Sussex in Southern England by a Roman Ruler, a so-called “dedicated client King,” Cogidubnus who ruled in southern England in the first century A.D. Although the palace burnt down in 270 A.D., the Roman Villa with its exquisite mosaic floors and colonnaded fronts was carefully excavated by Barry Cuncliffe in 1960 and now serves as a museum and an indefinite reminder of Roman wealth and prestige.
Lastly, there are some vast differences between Rome and the United States. The United States was founded on rebellion against another empire, the British Empire, in the name of freedom and self-government. Romans embraced their status as masters of the known world; however, few Americans would claim bragging rights on their own imperialism. Most of us would run for cover and hide in denial of American imperialism. The obvious paradox of a nation living in a democracy with the ideals life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness stands in stark contrast to how the rest of the world views the United States as a nation forcing its way of life as a master on the rest of the world. As Americans, although we fear the parallel with the Roman Empire with its rise and fall, we are oblivious that we are indeed following the same path of destiny.
In conclusion, I have witnessed America’s might and I do not believe in the inevitable death and destruction that accompanies war justifies our greed. Instead of making peace and becoming a stronger nation, by our foreign policy militaristic actions, we are weakening the very fabric of our society. I also worry that like the Romans, we will fall if we continue with a simplistic foreign policy of Americanization of the World.
The one thing that could be done to permit the survival of democracy and those we cherish is to simply utilize our freedom of expression and freedom of speech to get the point across to our government. Also, before September 11, 2001, the United Nations with support from governments from around the world stood on the precipice of a great journey; they were about to call to session the first international parliament that would have powers and jurisdiction that far exceeded the United Nations and the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Unfortunately, the events of 9-11 through the World into turmoil and this path towards world peace was not realized. I believe that the World and all peoples have the right to life, liberty, and happiness and that as citizens of the world we are obligated to protect these ideals.
copyright © 2009
© 2009 Julianna