The idea that “the American empire is falling” is a dangerous one. It completely misunderstands both what America is and what America is becoming. The United States was founded based on a combination of the liberal principles of the enlightenment and the republican principles of ancient Rome. Understanding what’s happening in this country greatly benefits from looking at present events through the historical lens of Rome. The American empire isn’t falling. The American republic is failing. It’s even faIling in a very similar way to how the Roman republic fell and, like Rome, this could very well lead to the rise of a true American empire under a military dictator.
The US has a lot of global influence currently but that influence is, by and large, voluntary on the part of the other nations involved to some degree. America has no vassal states and doesn’t engage in military conquest. Even when America engages in militaristic “nation building” the intent (as misguided as it may be) is not to create vassal states but rather to build independent democratic nations which America can later trade with. America is not an empire in the same way that Rome was an empire. Yet.
America is a democratic republic. We do not have a king or emperor. We do not have an active campaign of colonization. For the time being America’s people elect representatives which, beyond the fact that they are chosen through popular election, function very similarly to the senators of the Roman republic. Unfortunately, like the Roman senate just before the republic fell, the US senate has become incredibly dysfunctional. To understand the nature of the dysfunction one simply needs to listen to John McCain’s great political speech about “A Return to Regular Order”. Cato the younger could hardly have said it better.
In the last days of the Roman republic the senate was incredibly corrupt. Senators of Rome were not paid a salary so, in order to increase their wealth, many accepted bribes and used their political influence to enrich themselves. Others used military campaigns to increase their private wealth through spoils of war. As money became a larger and larger motive for the Roman senators, the senate became less and less effective at regulating the republic. With the recent press coverage of US congress people’s insider trading and the ways in which the military industrial complex enriched members of congress, it shouldn’t be difficult to see the parallels. By the time that Caesar came on the scene, the people of Rome…