Friday, April 8, 2011

Imminent danger in playing games with troops' pay day

Roman Empire, Republic's conservative factions learned from same mistakes B.C.

Presidential approval – 47.0%; Disapproval – 47.1%

Congressional approval – 23.2%; Disapproval – 70.4%

source: UK Guardian

Washington – President Barack Obama continued to insist that there is no good reason for an imminent government shutdown that would leave American troops serving in foreign combat zones unpaid, their dependents uncertain about their financial well-being.

He told newsmen he expected the Congressional staffers and White House budget types to labor through the night to find a compromise.

All progress in budget talks hinges on a summit meeting between he and House Speaker John Boehner today. What people aren't focusing on is the previous experience of Roman Senators, Dictators and Emperors when they failed to pay the troopers who formed the backbone of the Republic while serving in cohorts and legions far beyond the boundaries of the city state that for a millenium dominated the known world.

In the end, unable to pay mercenaries who had taken the place of citizen-soldiers, the Roman power structure fell to vandal hordes of barbarians when their military might fled unpaid, some to join the other side.

How did it all the trouble start?

There was a conservative faction known as the Optimates, chief military strong man, Pompey, a wealthy Senator.

The Populares were headed by Julius Caesar, dictator for first a year, then five, and finally appointed for a life-time term.

The typical organizational and financing scheme for a legion was for a senator to fund the operation himself. Woe unto the patrician who could no longer pay his troops.

Caesar could and did provide for his, in fact, so well that they crossed the Rubicon and violated one of the strictest taboos in that system's methods of getting along.

He prosecuted and won a civil war.

Then he had his legions encamp within a day's march of the capital.

The Populares legions took up positions surrounding the seat of government at Rome.

Pompey fled for foreign territories and the conservatives took direct action.

It was a rainy day for the dictator. A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, etc.

He suffered the swift and sudden trauma of multiple blows of the pugio and bled out swiftly from dozens of stab wounds inflicted by Senators outraged by his actions. By politicizing the Army, upon which the underpinnings of the far-flung Republic which was to become an Empire shortly thereafter depended, the Republican senators sealed their own doom.

The Emperor Augustus begins his autobiography, Res Gestae, with the words, “At age of nineteen by my own decision and at my own expense, I raised an army, with which I freed the republic oppressed by the tyranny of a faction.”

Historians generally agree that is the most concise and truthful description of how he found the source of his power and the basis upon which he maintained it.

Quite simply, the Roman Republic would not have come to an end if the army had not become a decisive factor in domestic politics.

When the ruling parties fell out with one another, ceased acting as loyal opponents, the army splintered into factions, disrupted from their original mission; the officers and men began backing them indidivually.

The resulting need for so far-flung an empire to reunite and allow those factions to coalesce led to an operation with logistical lines so hard to supply that it finally fell of its own weight.

Why? Because the military establishment, from the flag ranks to the private soldier, had begun to swear allegiance to a single politician and not to the Republic itself, or to its central organizational body of law.

Requiescat in pace!

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