Rome's fall and Late Antiquity: A specter for America?

  • Article by: Robert D. Kaplan
  • Updated: December 14, 2013 - 3:15 PM

It’s not always easy to see the erosion of influence when it’s happening, but Syria is a good clue.

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Diogenes9Dec. 13, 1311:00 PM

The good Professor left out one tiny detail. Republican Rome vanished in 44 B.C., which was an aristocracy. Not a democracy, but close enough for comparison. Ever since then, ancient Rome was ruled by emperors- the strongest and ablest men seized power. Something like that could never happen in America. Our strength lies in our diversity and democratic principles.

okaybruceerDec. 13, 1311:46 PM

"Our strength lies in our diversity and democratic principles." This is untrue. Both the part about what our strength might be, and the notion that we are actually strong. Its not and we're not.

liora51Dec. 14, 13 7:08 AM

The belief that the changes that occur over time are wrong fall apart if one takes the message of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

3docksDec. 14, 13 7:42 AM

I enjoyed this thought provoking commentary and loved its use of language.

hermajestyDec. 14, 13 9:38 AM

It is precisely America's overuse of its power that has caused it to lose influence. America was the world's hero nation through the 1940s and 1950s, but first the Vietnam War and then the countless small interventions that followed ruined that reputation. Now, viewed from outside, especially after the unnecessary Iraq War, which shattered a tightly controlled yet basically functional society into a hellhole of infighting, America no longer looks so grand.

And don't tell me that "everyone wants to move here." You'll find very few people in the world's wealthier countries who want to do more than visit. It's worth noting that the vast majority of our immigrants these days are from dirt-poor countries or war zones, not from the prosperous countries, and nowadays, Canada, Australia, and even Western Europe are big immigrant magnets.

scrutineerDec. 14, 1310:48 AM

"Republican Rome vanished in 44 B.C., which was an aristocracy. Not a democracy, but close enough for comparison. Ever since then, ancient Rome was ruled by emperors"

Republican Rome vanished when a series of powerful commanders-in-chief bypassed the Constitution, ignored constitutional procedures, and began to rule by decree.

That can't happen here.


scrutineerDec. 14, 1310:56 AM

"not from the prosperous countries, and nowadays, Canada, Australia, and even Western Europe are big immigrant magnets."

I don't know about Australia, but the reason Canada and Western Europe are big draws are their overly generous welfare states. What was that story about the woman from Bucharest with four kids who moved to Britain and started collecting tens of thousands per year in welfare? Nice work if you can get it. But then, Romania must not be one of those dirt-poor countries hermajesty was talking about.

Are Canada and Australia besieged by emigrants from Western Europe and the USA? Is Western Europe besieged by emigrants from the US, Australia, and Canada? Didn't think so.

Anyway, Europe desperately needs the people, even if they come from dirt-poor countries or war zones, due to its very low birthrate over the past few decades.

panktainterDec. 14, 1311:10 AM

Mind our own business, conduct covert operations against enemies and have a solid immigration policy for competent individuals.

alansonDec. 14, 1312:58 PM

Like Rome we've committed ourselves to the "civilizing" of vast and diverse populations both inside and outside our borders. This effort is bound to fundamentally change our country in ways that are essentially random, and beyond our power to predict. Life's a crapshoot, and eventually we'll throw snake eyes. Just like the Romans.

elcid1Dec. 14, 13 1:01 PM

The Western Roman Empire fell in the 5th century, but the Eastern Roman Empire lasted until 1453 when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman muslim invaders. Quit a long run really, nearly a couple of millennia. As to the US, governments fall because of rot from within, not invaders from without. All of the great societies that I'm aware of fell from internal rot.


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