December 2, 2007

HE'D HAVE COMMUTED OVER IT DAILY IF HE HAD TO:

Crossing the Rubicon twice (Ahmad Faruqui, 12/01/07, Daily Times)

Why did Musharraf impose the emergency? There was no cross-border threat. Arresting the judges of the Supreme Court and the attorneys who marched to support them was not going to bring peace to the cities. And if they were the problem to begin with, why were they released in just a couple of weeks?

In the Roman Republic, no general with a standing army was allowed to cross the Rubicon River that separated Gaul from Italy. That was viewed as posing an unacceptable threat to the civil polity of the state.

But Julius Caesar held the republic in contempt, equating its politics with the hankering after power of rich, powerful and corrupt men (Adrian Goldsworthy, “Caesar: Life of a Colossus”, 2006). Beneath the ritualistic niceties of republican procedure, he saw chaos, corruption and violence.

Caesar’s victories in Gaul had not done much to buttress his falling fortunes in Rome. Ambitious to a fault, in 49 BC he declared defiantly, “The die is cast”. Amidst cries of “Hail Caesar”, his legions marched across the Rubicon and crossed over into history.

In one stroke, Caesar had killed the republic. Now he would have to seize Rome or be charged with high treason. When fortune delivered him a victory over Pompey (from which would spring the Roman Empire), he became “dictator for life”. That essentially was his death warrant.

Caesar’s imperial style and manner alienated his close friends including a certain Marcus Brutus. Just five years after crossing the Rubicon, they would stab him to death on the Senate floor on the Ides of March.

This raises a fundamental question. Had he seen the threat coming, would Caesar have attempted to cross the Rubicon twice? Probably not. To do so would have been an admission of defeat, since he was now the centre of power in Rome. One cannot march against oneself any more than one can march against time.

But Pakistan is no Rome. Several times in its 60-year history we have seen Pakistan’s wannabe Caesars crossing the Rubicon twice.


The notion that Caesar would have accepted losing in fact rather than being seen to have lost face seems unsupported by the historical record.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 2, 2007 8:52 AM
Comments

That last linked article in the Dallas news, written in Jan 07, is downright erie in predicting what has happened in Iraq in the months since it was published.

Posted by: Perry at December 2, 2007 10:06 AM

I know OJ finds comparisons to Rome highly suspect, and he likely correct.

That said, too few people understand that republics can fail.

But Julius Caesar held the republic in contempt, equating its politics with the hankering after power of rich, powerful and corrupt men (Adrian Goldsworthy, “Caesar: Life of a Colossus”, 2006). Beneath the ritualistic niceties of republican procedure, he saw chaos, corruption and violence.

The only thing we are missing is the "violence," and the existing system is quietly doing a great deal of "violence" to our liberty.

The open question is whether we are dynamic enough to right the ship. My reading of Rome was that it wasn't, hence Caesar needed to make the least bad choice.

Being less optimistic than OJ, I'd argue that 10-20 more years of increasing government opacity and citizen disengagement will put us past a point of return.

Posted by: Bruno at December 2, 2007 11:00 AM

And the chaos and corruption.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2007 1:46 PM
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