Friday, December 30, 2016

Mark Your Calendar

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire (also called Fall of the Roman Empire or Fall of Rome) was the process of decline in the Western Roman Empire in which it failed to enforce its rule, and its vast territory was divided into several successor polities.

By 476 when Odoacer deposed the Emperor Romulus, the Western Roman Emperor wielded negligible military, political, or financial power and had no effective control over the scattered Western domains that could still be described as Roman.

December 30, 2016.  I believe today will mark the day that historians will record as the “476” of the US Empire. 

Just as with Rome, there were signs of this for years, even decades.  Despite having the mightiest military on earth, it is difficult to describe as a “win” any US military endeavor since 1945.  The coins were shaved, beginning in 1913 with the establishment of the Federal Reserve and culminating in 1971 with Nixon closing the gold window.  The people were held together with bread and circuses, with ties of family and market disintegrating with Johnson’s Great Society more than 50 years ago; with football replacing church as America’s favorite Sunday activity.

So why today?  What is so special about this day? 

Putin did not tit for Obama’s tat.  Putin did not react to the infant’s temper tantrum by spanking the baby; instead he displayed a measured response, demonstrating a mature grasp of the situation in the face of the baby’s lack of maturity.  He decided: “this baby needs to be cuddled until what I anticipate will be the more mature parent arrives next month.”

For several years, Putin has been seen by many on the world stage (outside of the US) as the premier diplomat.  His counterpart, Obama, began with dreams of hope and change and left with nothing but a failed legacy – nothing good has come from his international programs and nothing will survive of his domestic programs (sadly, his police state will continue until it can no longer be sustained).

What does today signify?  The battle lines will be clearly drawn, and the battle will play out on two stages simultaneously.  On one stage: global actors moving in the spaces between the US on one side and Russia with China on the other; yet slowly moving away from the US and toward Russia and China.  This has been going on for years, but will continue to accelerate.

On the second stage, the US political scene.  Trump’s statements during and after the election are reasonably consistent regarding his desires to move toward diplomacy with Russia; his nominee for Secretary of State confirms this view.  At the same time, it is becoming clear that Trump will – on this issue – face a hostile congress. 

Many republicans, to go along with many democrats, want to continue the fight with Russia and continue the “manifest destiny” of the US to control the world – with only Russia and secondarily (for today) China standing in the way.  This move by Obama signals that republicans in congress conveyed to the administration that they will keep the press on Trump when he comes into office.

The action on these two stages holds significant potential for violence and conflict – within nation-states and between nation-states.  Very few will go down easily, as did – for example – the USSR 25 years ago.

I have long held the view that much of Western Europe will eventually look east for trade and diplomatic ties.  The US is seen more and more as vindictive, reactive, immature, unthinking.  Putin’s action today – infinitely more overt than any such action before – makes this plainly obvious to every meaningful world political leader and every intellectually (reasonably) honest thought leader this reality.


Of course, the Roman Empire continued after 476 in the east, in Constantinople; ultimately not Catholic, but Orthodox.  Some consider that Russia is now the center of this Orthodox tradition, replacing Constantinople after its fall to the Muslim Turks.

History doesn’t repeat, but it just might rhyme.


  1. I would posit that the Russian-led defeat of U.S.-led forces in Aleppo may be the more noteworthy and important marker of the changing of the guard, friend.

  2. Comparison of Western Rome and the USA would fit better as viewing the populism of Trump to the populism of Julius Caesar. Both the result of the corruption of the Senate/Congress. Both empires with world control, but no real friends.The economy of the USA is still large and robust and will take many years for the enemy(Congress)to destroy.

  3. We as might well date it from today, but the text surely must come via the incomparable Maria Zakharova:

    1. Very good comments. From what I have read elsewhere and in the past, Kerry was the only adult in the room; his attempts at diplomacy were always undermined internally.