Wednesday, May 31, 2006
First off, why reform at all? The reason is we still have a military which is essentially the little brother of the Cold War military. That military was designed to send dozens of divisions to fight the Soviet Union on the plains of Germany. Our current military is designed to send 3-6 divisions to fight regional wars against lesser states; Cold War planning in miniature. Further, the basic combat unit is still the division. This despite divisions never deploying for combat as they are organized in peacetime. The heavy battalions of the Army are still organized for the mass tank confrontation with the Soviet Union. Compared to the 18 armor battalions we had guarding the few dozen miles of the Fulda Gap in Germany during the Cold War we had 4 armor battalions sweeping the several hundred miles of desert in the invasion of Iraq. It no longer makes sense to have all armor battalions, as the ad hoc usage of mixed mechanized infantry (hereafter called mech) and armor task forces in Iraq shows. Lastly, the overall mix of troops we need has changed. In the past we needed lots of armor and artillery. Now we need more infantry and military police.
Rumsfeld's reforms largely takes these issues that are being worked through on an ad hoc basis during combat operations and makes them permanent. On the issue of divisions, they are being made "modular". This means the brigades in the divisions can be easily switched around to suit the needs of the current mission. All of the support assets that used to be loaned from the division when it came time to deploy are now permanently part of the brigade. The heavy battalions are being changed from 3 mech or 3 armor companies to a mix of 2 mech and 2 armor companies. Many artillery and air defense battalions are being replaced with more useful military police and cavalry battalions.
The net effect of these reforms is to increase the number of combat and close combat soldiers in the Army without increasing the overall number of soldiers. Basically, it is making the Army more efficient. The pre-Rumsfeld Army had approximately 59,000 combat and 61,000 near combat soldiers, or about 12.5% in each category. (note: my definition of combat soldiers is soldiers in infantry, armor, cavalry, and special forces units; close combat soldiers are those in artillery, air defense, engineer, and military police units. It does not conform to the Army's MOS classification system, nor do I include artillery as a combat unit.) Once Rumsfeld's transformation is completed with 48 new brigades, there will be 75,000 combat and 64,000 near combat soldiers. This would represent about 15.5% and 13.5% of the Army. While the overall number of combat soldiers per brigade would drop from 3,370 to 2,700, the total number of brigades that could be sustainably deployed would increase from 14 to 20. This means that the number of Army combat/near combat soldiers that could be deployed somewhere like Iraq would increase from 47,000 to 54,000 (the number of combat soldiers would see a much greater increase from 21,500 to 27,500).
The problem with only adding 40,000 soldiers is that it would just be adding more soldiers to the old Cold War Army. It would do nothing to solve various problems such as deployability, tactical rigidity, or exceptionally low share of combat soldiers of the old system. It is also more expensive than transformation while being less effective. Simply adding 40,000 soldiers to the Army would add 5,000 combat and 5,000 close combat soldiers. This compared to the net gains of 16,000 and 3,000 respectively with transformation. However, it would require an increase in the Army budget of nearly $6 billion a year plus many more billions upfront for the new equipment and bases. Transformation costs a few hundred million for the more expensive training of the extra combat soldiers and such. While I support much more money for the Army, this is not a "if I ruled the world" post so it does not matter; what matters is that Congress will not fund the extra $6 billion on a sustained basis. Congress has always cut funding quicker than troop levels.
The question would then arise, why not do both? Besides the fact that it is difficult enough just expanding the Army much less transforming it at the same time, the main reason is that the Pentagon as a whole does not want to reform to begin with. Armies have historically had major issues with reform and change. As great as our Army is, it is still an army. It has all the institutional problems that afflict all armies and nothing will ever change that. That said there are two things that spur change and reform in an army, defeat and fighting a war with limited means. To successfully change an army you must know how to operate within these constraints. Rumsfeld knows much better than most how to work within the Pentagon.
Examples of the first case include the German army after World War I and the French army after the Seven Years War. However, this situation will not force reform through today in the US Army so is not relevant. The second case can apply today and is what we are doing. When armies are provided with everything they ask for to fight a war, they will simply fight it the way they have always fought. The best (or worst if you like) example of this is World War I. Initially every army was given everything it could ask for, all the men, guns, and supplies they wanted. The result was the generals fought on like they always had. They did not attempt any reforms since they were constantly receiving new soldiers and supplies to try again. It was not until 1916 when her manpower reserves began to run low that Germany started to think about different, less bloody ways to fight. England followed suit after Lloyd George refused to send more conscripts to France in the wake of the Paschendale Offensive. By early 1918 the Germans had developed the organization and tactics that allowed for infantry exploitations while the British had begun working out tank exploitations. It was the requirement to fight a war without all the resources they wanted that forced these armies to develop their new ideas. Sadly, that is how armies have always worked, and always will.
This is what we are doing today. The Army is having to figure out how to provide more combat troops to deal post-conflict occupations without simply recruiting extra soldiers. In the process it is possible to get through other reforms to deal with the outdated Cold War structure of our Army. The overall effect on Iraq is limited since as evidenced in my prior post I think we are at the point where adding more soldiers becomes counter-productive. However, it would be nice to either have more combat soldiers with the same number of soldiers overall, or the same number of combat soldiers with fewer soldiers overall. It is also good (though not necessary) to lower the strain on the National Guard. Iraq is also a great opportunity for reform because while it is limiting opposition to transformation, we are not at major risk by reforming before adding more soldiers. By comparison, had the British military been slow to change in 1918, the decision to stop sending new soldiers could have easily cost them the war when the Germans unleashed their new tactics in March 1918.
Once transformation is complete we could add 40,000 soldiers and get even more combat soldiers. But until the Army reforms are completed, it is better to hold off lest it cause the generals to begin seriously opposing transformation because of their new found leverage. Since in addition to fixing many of the current structural problems in the Army, transformation will also provide more combat soldiers at much less cost it is the better bet anyways for alleviating any troop level or deployment related issues the Army has. Afterwards, if Congress would continue funding the new soldiers and not force the Army to reduce its important procurement and training budgets then it is a good idea to add more soldiers. I never have and never will oppose troop increases or increased funding for the Army in general, only when there is good reason to. The need to reform the Army is just such a reason.
US Army OrBat http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/bua-list.htm
US Army Budget http://www.asafm.army.mil/budget/fybm/FY07/overview.pdf
Numbers of soldiers is arrived at by using the above OrBat with the TO&E in the latest version of the Steel Panthers computer game.
Friday, May 26, 2006
It is common today to hear from many politicians, commentators, and members of the left that the major mistake of the invasion of Iraq was not sending enough troops. It's an easy charge to make that causes one who has no knowledge of history or military affairs feel like a modern day Napoleon. It is even brandied about by a few, mostly ex, generals. This post will focus on the historical arguments against invading Iraq with more troops than we did. The next one will look at the modern military arguments against sending more troops and why the few generals arguing otherwise were right to be ignored (odd that the left suddenly treats statements by generals as revealed truth, but anyways). The major source of comparison for the Iraq invasion is the Athenian expedition to Sicily in 415 BC during the Peloponnesian War with Sparta. It is very similar to the Iraq war in many respects, save one, the Athenian people had more troops sent than planned. The effects of this decision doomed the campaign. The same would have likely happened today had we made the same decision.
The Sicilian Expedition occurred during the most destructive war in Greek history, the Peloponnesian War. By this point in the war the Athenians had been fighting the Spartans for 16 years with no major advantage accruing to either side. In 416 a couple of smaller cities in Sicily sent to Athens for help in their war against Syracuse, the island's most powerful city-state. The argument in favor of helping the cities was namely that it would prevent Syracuse from controlling Sicily. For if they gained control over the island, they would then use their wealth and power to assist their Dorian brothers, the Spartans, in their war against Athens. Should this happen, Athens would almost certainly have succumbed. Further the only effort asked of Athens was to dispatch a medium sized fleet and a few soldiers to Sicily. The rest would be done by the Sicilian cities allied against Syracuse. It would be a small affair that would prevent a major threat to Athens from developing but was not a major issue if it failed, given Athens few commitments.
The Athenian Assembly was mostly agreeable to this proposal until Nicias came forward to argue against it. The war was against Sparta, not Syracuse. Why make an enemy out of Syracuse by attacking her? Athens should secure her current empire before trying to create another. Further it would be better to have Syracuse run Sicily since fear of losing their empire would cause the Syracusans to keep the smaller cities of Sicily from attacking Athens singly. When the Athenians were still inclined to support the small expedition, Nicias changed tacks and argued that the expedition should be expanded to ensure its success. An expedition originally planned to consist of 60 triremes (the basic warship of ancient Greece) and less than 1,000 soldiers (around 12-13,000 men overall) would balloon to 134 triremes and over 7,000 soldiers (almost 35,000 men).
The impact of this decision was felt the moment the massive fleet arrived off the coast of southern Italy. Cities that were to provide supplies to the fleet instead shut out the Athenians. Athens' main Italian ally, and the planned base the expedition, Rhegium, declared neutrality in the affair. What caused the sudden change of heart? The simplest explanation is that these cities thought they were looking an army of conquest not an army of liberation. Why else would Athens commit so many men and ships to the operation if not to conquer and annex Sicily? Since the Sicilian cities were not even providing a minimal level of support to the Athenians it goes without saying that the guides and soldiers the Athenians expected did not materialize either.
Nevertheless, the Athenians decided to continue with their plan to defeat Syracuse. They would lose their entire force after a long siege due largely to their lack of Sicilian light troops and cavalry they had expected to help them. Even had the Athenians managed to defeat Syracuse it is unlikely that it would have lasted. The rest of Sicily would not welcome the prospect of an Athenian controlled Syracuse and Athens would not be able to maintain control over Sicily without leaving their entire massive force there; which they could not since it was needed in Greece. Eventually they would have had to leave behind a Syracuse that hated them and Sicily that was hostile.
The parallels to the modern debate are striking. Even the arguments pro and con are similar. The pro-invasion side was largely concerned with the likelihood of Iraq developing into a major threat to us by allying with our current enemies. The anti-invasion side argued we were at war with Al Qaeda not Iraq, that it would only cause Iraqis to ally with Al Qaeda, it was better to have Saddam run Iraq since he kept the muslims there under control, and lastly that we should finish our invasion of Afghanistan before embarking on another. The major differences were that the generals also won, and the invasion force was limited to only 150,000 troops (reduced to 115,000 by Turkey's refusal to allow us to invade from the north, thanks Powell) and that victory more important to us than to the Athenians.
So what if the critics won and we invaded with 300,000 troops? The invasion relied on the Shia and Kurds of Iraq supporting us. We needed them to provide intelligence and man the new Iraqi security forces. Had we invaded Iraq with 300,000 troops it would have looked like an army of conquest and not liberation. The Shia and Kurds would have been just as hesitant to support us as the Sicilians were to help the Athenian host. They were already reluctant to aid us because of our 1991 betrayal. Also, all the western leftists parading on every news channel proclaiming that America wanted to make Iraq into a colony and control its oil would seem truthful in light of our massive army of occupation. This makes it very probable that the Shia would never have come around to supporting us as they have in the last 18 months and the Kurds would have been neutral the whole time. Now that the Shia and Kurdish security forces are up and running, they will increasingly take over their own country as we increasingly step aside.
Just as the only way the Athenians would have been able to win in Sicily was with the aid of a majority of Sicilians, the only way we can win in Iraq and reform the country is with the help of the majority of Iraqis. To do that we need a medium sized force that is large enough to show our commitment and keep the bad guys from winning but not so large it appears that we are there to conquer the country. Had we listened to the critics and sent more troops we would have been left with the prospect the Athenians faced. We would have either had the defeat of withdrawing before we captured Saddam or the victory of capturing Saddam lost by the failure to set up an independent government causing a withdrawal that left behind Sunni hatred and Shia/Kurdish hostility. While we still face the prospect of defeat with a smaller army, at least we also enjoy the prospect of victory, should we earn it.
Primary Source: The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
Thursday, May 25, 2006
One of the mistakes of the last 100 years was the attempt after every major struggle to declare the "end of history" and go to sleep. After defeating the despots of the Central powers in World War I, the victors attempted to create a world without war. The Kellogg-Briand Pact was even drawn up to outlaw it. All of the allied powers dramatically reduce military expenditures in the 1920's. Despite concerns about the rise of Hitler, it was considered too drastic a response to raise military spending in the democracies during a depression. Besides, he only wanted Austria and Bohemia, not worth another world war to keep them free. Only France spent a decent amount in this period, but an inordinate share went to the Maginot Line, the navy, and the colonies. When the democracies finally realized the threat it was too late.
So what if the democracies had understood the threat and woke up? Let's say France and Britain spent moderately more on defense in the early 30's putting them in a stronger position vis-a-vis Hitler. They stand up to him in 1938 and prevent the Anschluss. Hitler does not get his hands on the Hapsburg's gold reserves and is not able to continue his economic and military policies. Let's further say this has the best possible result, Hitler is overthrown and replaced with a democratic government that cooperatively works with the rest of Europe. It is not quite the "end of history" yet as many would hope. Now the democracies would have to face down communist Russia. Russia in the 30's is the one country who spent more on her military than Germany. Stalin had over 40 million Soviet men and countless millions of supporters in fifth columns throughout Europe. World War II would have still happened, only with Russia on the side of evil.
Back in real history, after World War II we again attempted to form a just world without war. This time the UN would enforce the peace. However, it took only 5 years before we realized this was not going to happen and settled down to the Cold War. The quick reaction time was due to the recent experiences after World War I. Though it should be noted that while we quickly gave up on our plans for a world without war, we still tried them again. Indeed, many in the US would refuse to accept that there was a struggle at all. They viewed the Cold War as something created by America that could be ended if we stopped it. Fortunately their Democrat party only enjoyed 4 years of power during the Cold War.
With the conclusion of the Cold War many believed the end had finally come. It was in those halcyon days that an article was written entitled "The End of History". The peace dividend was heralded throughout the land. The Democrats were returned to power. Free trade was sweeping all into prosperity. Iraqi children flew kites and danced around candy trees in their tranquil country. Wait, that last one exists only in the imagination of the angry left. Sure, a few religious nutjobs were blowing things up. The Russians, Serbs, and Tutsis were busy killing their neighbors. But these lone holdouts would certainly get the message soon enough. Or so the belief was. 9/11 would wake up most, but not all, Americans to reality. Now we are joined in another great struggle, against terror and the dictators who support it. We are winning and, so long as American public morale holds, will eventually win.
Does this mean that we are done, that there will be no more great struggles or wars? Heavens no. While some use rhetoric that implies that this is the last great fight, there will be more to follow. There is an arms race in East Asia that is building steam. Russia is using her technical know-how and oil revenue to rebuild something of her former power. Countries throughout the third world as disparate as Iran, Venezuela, and Algeria are importing weapons like never before. When we are done with the war on terror, we will have simply earned the duty to fight the next round. After that round there will be another, and after that, another. Since evil only needs to win once, we must have in us the will and spirit to fight and win every time. Until the day that God sees fit to grace another nation with our wealth and power, nothing less is our duty.
The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
First and foremost a fence needs to be built along the entire length of the US-Mexico border except where terrain makes it unnecessary. A 3.5 mile stretch that is currently being planned will cost $58 million. This would mean a cost of $32.4 billion for the entire 1,950 mile border. However, since the fence exists in places and will not be needed in others, around 1/4 could be eliminated. This would make the cost of the fence around $24.3 billion. Assuming it needs to be rebuilt every 20 years would lead to an annual cost of $1.2 billion. Its primary role is to limit and not to stop illegal crossings. In 2005 there were 1.1 million border detentions. With a fence I would think initially the number would stay the same as fewer people try but a greater percentage are caught. Over time I would expect the number caught to drop significantly to the 400-500,000 range as this and other policies make it not as worthwhile to illegally cross into the US. This is the main priority in my attritional strategy.
Step 2 is to start punishing those who cross illegally, even if only mildly. Currently they are simply fingerprinted and put on a bus back to Tijuana where they can wait for nightfall to attempt another crossing. The next part of the attrition strategy is to detain people caught for 1 month for the first attempt and 1 month extra for each additional attempt. Assuming statistically that 1/2 would be first timers, 1/4 would be on their second attempt, 1/8 of their third, etc. then the average stay would be 2 months. It would be silly to detain everyone at first since the numbers would be great. In the first year or two it would be better to either randomly detain people or only detain those on their second or higher offence. Not a horrific punishment but still something that will discourage most repeat offenders. When detention center construction catches up with the lower number of detainees then they can all be held. While I would expect lower numbers, it would safe to build capacity for 600,000 annual detentions, or 100,000 beds. It cost a Pennsylvanian county $24 million for a 300 bed prison, so 100,000 beds would cost $8 billion. Assuming the standard prison expense of $30,000 per detainee-year then annual cost would be $3 billion. These first two proposals deal with enforcement on the border. With that taken care of, enforcement in the interior can be considered.
Interior enforcement has two main parts, fining companies for hiring illegals, and requiring local government officials to report illegals. As with the fence, the goal is not to fine every company for every illegal they have hired. A handful of companies that are the major employers of illegals would be selected, audited, and hit with the current fines for the illegals they have hired. The fine should be raised, at least five-fold, and the process repeated. Companies will inevitably decide it is not worth hiring illegals and most will cut back. Not all, but enough. As for local government officials, they should be required to report any illegals who attempt to enroll kids in school, are pulled over, or otherwise come into to non-emergency contact (e.g. domestic abuse) with local officials. Many will of course refuse to comply with this law so they should be punished with loss of federal funds. Nothing quite focuses a bureaucrat's mind like losing their federal funds.
Now that it is much more difficult to get in illegally, people are punished for trying, employers are bit more reticent about hiring illegals, and local officials will turn illegals over for detention and deportation, we can discuss what to do with the 11 million here. My plan is to offer them $3,000 if they turn themselves in and go back to Mexico. It would be a deal few could refuse, and those that do will be caught eventually (and be detained and deported without a payment). Fingerprints, or other biometrics, would be used to make sure no one tried to get back across and claim another payment. Assuming they all take the deal it would cost $33 billion. It is better to have as many leave voluntarily than to have to track them down and deport them or just let them stay.
This last idea is not directly related to the others. It could be implemented and have an effect even without the others. The policy regarding Central Americans has recently changed. In the past we would give them a slip with a court date and tell them to appear for their deportation hearing; which, of course, few did. Now we put them on a plane back to their country. This effectively ends their attempts at illegal immigration since the trip is so expensive and dangerous that most do not make it again. It is such a daunting prospect that many Central Americans are now trying to pass themselves off as Mexicans so they will simply be sent back across the border to rest for another try. We could do something similar with Mexicans by flying them to a city in southern Mexico. The expense of getting home, much less back to America, would be so great most would not attempt to cross again. The annual cost for this program would be around $1 billion.
It is unnecessary to deport everyone here illegally, to stop everyone crossing illegally, or to fine every company hiring illegals. Those are strawmen built up by the pro-illegal immigration side. With an attrition strategy the price for each attempt (currently almost nothing) would be raised. If currently 1/2 of all attempts are successful than statistically (assuming no one gives up) everyone will eventually make it. If we reduce the success rate to 1/3 then only half will make it. If only 1/4 make it each time then only 1/3 will ever make it here. We further reduce that by making people give up after the first or second attempt by mildly punishing them. The ones already here are dealt with by limiting their job opportunities and ability to function as American citizens do. Add in a cash payout to leave and the problem of illegals already here can be mostly handled. A few hardened illegals may refuse to stay, but it is easier to deport 1 million than it is to deport 11 million. The total cost of these proposals is $65.3 billion with an annual cost of $4.2 billion. This is pocket change for an economy that will produce over $13,300 billion this year, especially in light of the importance of securing our borders.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
The first Goths had been allowed to settle in the empire by the Eastern Emperor Valens in the 370's AD. He quickly changed his mind and tried to fight the Goths at Adrianople in 378. The result was a disaster for Rome as the bulk of the army was destroyed and Valens was killed. He was suceeded by Theodosius I. Theodosius ended the Gothic wars by allowing the Goths to settle in Thrace and govern themselves as foederati. Foederati were tribes allied to Rome who provided soldiers but were not subject to Roman laws, taxes, or discipline.
The foederati for their part did not believe they owed the Roman Empire anything, rather the Roman Empire owed them for protecting it. In fact, not surprisingly, some Romans agreed with the barbarians. The rhetorician Themistius (also the chief tutor for the imperial family) noted that since the barbarians cannot be stopped, and since they are in effect doing jobs Romans won't do (farming barren land), the great strength of Rome lies not in power or people but in the ability to reason with the barbarians. Theodosius believed that by being fair to the barbarians the barbarians would be fair to Rome.
Theodosius' decision was not especially popular. A Roman populist party soon formed and advocated the expulsion of the barbarians. Theodosius would not waver and continued to support and use foederati as an easier way to fix the shattered eastern army after Adrianople than trying to inspire, recruit, and train new Roman legions. After Theodosius' death, the foederati began to unfairly treat the state that had been so fair to them. As the barbarians demanded more and more land and money, Theodosius' policy grew more unpopular. Friction increased between Romans and the foederati culminating in anti-barbarian pogroms and a peasant uprising in Anatolia against foederati who had recently been settled there in the first decade of the 5th Century AD. Holding to Theodosius' policy, the army was dispatched to rescue the trapped foederati.
Despite this continued support the foederati further increased their demands. Eventually Constantinople realized it could not fight the number of foederati Theodosius had allowed into the empire; so they paid them to go west. The west lacked the financial resources to copy the east and attempted to fight for a time. Unfortunately, continued dynastic squabbles and civil wars made resisting the foederati impossible. In AD 410 Alaric, king of the Visigoths, led the first foreign army to enter Rome in 800 years. The signal was clear. While an emperor would continue ruling as a figurehead from Ravenna for another 66 years, the City had fallen. She was betrayed, raped, and despoiled by the very people her emperor had allowed to settle in the empire to protect her. 11 centuries of Roman history in Western Europe were over.
As before with the latifundia, this is not an exact comparison to President Bush and illegal immigration. However, again the general trends are a useful guide to our situation today. Bush is pushing the kind of deal Theodosius gave the foederati, apparently on the same idea. He appears to believe, like many others, that illegal immigration cannot be stopped, it is required for "jobs Americans won't do", and it is the moral or reasoned thing to do. Similarly, a large section of the American public does not seem to be as willing to allow this mass immigration into our country. Although it is in the early stages, should Bush's policies continue we can expect a similar reaction from the illegals and the American people.
Like the foederati the illegals, in general, do not respect us for allowing them the opportunity to live in our country. They believe it is Americans who owe them for supporting the economy or some such nonsense that was proffered at the recent illegal- immigrant protests. They expect everything to be done for them in Spanish, they expect to be given things like free health care and in-state tuition, and they expect to be given tax refunds and social security despite not paying significant taxes. Like with the Romans, the American people will form an American Populist Party (already polls suggest a single issue anti-illegal immigration candidate would receive 1/3 of the vote for president), and then begin to take action into their own hands as the Roman people did.
There are some advantages for us compared the Romans. The illegals are not soldiers like the foederati. They do not represent as great a number of people. We are not facing massive pressures elsewhere on our borders and we do not suffer from massive civil strife. Like the latifundia comparison though, even if the problem is not as severe as Rome's they are still problems that need to be dealt with. Not only do we not need to make problems for ourselves, the world cannot afford an introverted America. The world is greatly changing with the fall of Europe and the rise of China, Russia, and India. This is a major shift of power that requires our utmost attention. We do not need to be distracted by illegal immigrants.
Primary source: The Fall of the Roman Empire by Arther Ferrill
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The latifundia represent a trend in Roman agriculture that took several centuries to complete. It was first noticeable after the Second Punic War in the closing days of the 3rd Century BC. This was a war of a length and scale the Romans had never before fought. Prior to the war the Romans had rarely called up farmers for more than a campaign season at a time. After the campaign the farmer would return home at worse missing one crop. During the Second Punic War Roman farmers were called up for many years of continual campaigning. In addition to being away from their farms so long, Hannibal marched around Italia burning farms as he went. By the end of the war in 202 BC, the Roman farmers still alive had barren and/or destroyed farms. The wealthy in Rome were in contrast richer than ever from the spoils and plunder of the war. There were also plenty of slaves from all the defeated peoples. The wealthy Romans then began to purchase the smaller farms that were destroyed or no longer had an owner and used slaves to work them. It is impossible to compete with slave labor so this began the process of putting the remaining small farms out of business.
Despite not having a job, the small farmers still existed. They would mostly migrate to Rome to fill the teeming masses of unemployed in the Capital. As they did so they were no longer qualified to serve in the legions. This led to a steep decline in the number of potential soldiers and seriously affected Roman power in the late 2nd Century BC. It also changed the wealth distribution within Rome. Overall economic output was the same or possibly higher, but it was held by a few wealthy families. Where before there were 10 Roman farmers working 10 acres each, there was now one 100 acre farm owned by a single wealthy man and worked by slaves who made nothing. The 10 Roman farmers then had to go on the dole in Rome. The situation came to a head when the Gracchi brothers attempted to take some land from the wealthy latifundia and distribute it to the poor farmers in the city. The Senate opposed the plan so the Gracchi went to extraordinary constitutional means to get around the Senate. It was followed by a series of struggles, slave revolts, and civil wars that would last until Octavian established the Empire.
The solution that eventually solved the army's recruiting problem was Marius' reforms at the end of the 2nd Century BC. The army would now recruit from the urban unemployed and pay them a salary. While this solved the problem with the army and the urban unemployed, it created a new problem that would lead to the fall of the Empire. Since soldiers were no longer members of the state but now members of their legion they began to identify more with the general than the Senate. Over time they would be willing to fight other Romans to place their general on the throne. This instability, especially in the 4th and 5thCenturies AD would greatly sap the Empires vitality making it easy for the barbarians to overthrow it.
Clearly the illegal immigration problem is not as severe as this. Unlike America today, agriculture was the basis of the Roman economy and workforce. Nevertheless on a smaller scale we can see the same process at work. Low paid illegal workers are pricing low skilled American workers out of jobs which leaves them little to do but fill our prisons (which they are doing at a decent clip). Instead of using capital to increase productivity of American workers, many farms and factories are simply using illegal workers to lower costs. Like the latifundia this isn't affecting total output as much as redistributing wealth within the country. Instead of an owner and 2 American workers at a farm, and two at a factory making farm machines, there is the owner and 10 illegal workers. Essentially the income of the two farm workers is divided amongst the 10 illegals and the income of the 2 factory workers is kept by the farm owner. This is also causing a more limited kind of the social upheaval caused by the latifundia did. Just like Rome we have the elites and Senate working together to support illegal immigration while the people and the popular assembly (House of Representatives) are trying to do something about to limit it.
Again, not many American workers are directly affected by illegal immigration in the manner that Roman farmers were affected by latifundia. Nor does illegal immigration affect army recruiting. It also is not causing the mass social upheaval that accompanied the latifundia. However, it is affecting the lower classes directly, and is affect agriculture and some manufacturing. Whether severe or not, the civil strife illegal immigration is likely to cause is not something America needs. Lastly though, it has the potential to become something much more severe in the coming decades if it is not dealt with now; which is a topic for a future post.
Primary Source: The Punic Wars by Adrian Goldsworthy
Monday, May 22, 2006
The Roman Empire as a nation-state would have only consisted of the Italian peninsula. Even more restrictive, the Latin core of the nation would only have been the central third of Italy. By the end of the Republic, Italia was no longer the base of Roman power. Bereft of empire, Italia did not amount to much. The grain that fed the Roman masses was from Egypt and Africa, the various metals required for empire came from Hispania and Britannia, the trade and craft works that enriches a state occurred mostly in the Eastern Mediterranean. By the days of empire it is unlikely that Italians consisted of more than 10% of the peoples of the empire (around 5-6 million out of 50-60 million total). The power of Rome and Italy came from controlling all of these assets that existed in other lands. Although the Romans did uniformly and justly rule their empire, it was still an empire of separate peoples with their own traditions that fractured quickly under intense barbarian pressure.
The British Empire was similarly afflicted. Except for the short period after industrialization took hold around 1850, British power was directly tied to the empire. For example in 1900 the British only consisted of 41 million people out of the 400 million in their empire. Economically, Britain produced about $180 billion compared to around $260 billion for the rest of the empire. In neither case was Britain near a majority. Nor were the British much greater than the other great powers. Germany had 56 million people and a GNP of $175 billion, America 77 million and $320 billion, Russia 136 million and $110 billion, and the French had 39 million and $110 billion. Only the empire cause Britain to stand out in that crowd. The situation vis-a-vis the other great powers had worsened considerably by 1960 when the empire finally become too great a burden for the British. Given that it was an empire it easily dissolved into its constituent parts leaving the British greatly diminished in a short period of time.
America simply does not fit these templates. We are much more a single nation than either the Roman or British empires. We do not have a small core that rules over the rest of the nation. Our wealth is produced at home and is not dependent on the control of resources overseas. The United States is so much wealthier than any other nation that even a nightmare scenario like the secession of the southwest would not greatly alter the position of the remainder of the United States in the world. This year the U.S. economy will produce around $13.3 trillion. Even the loss of 25% (the southwest for example) of the U.S. would still leave an economy of $10 trillion, twice that of Japan's second place $5 trillion economy. Maybe things will be different in 2453 and America will at last fall, but it's nothing to worry about soon.
Primary Source: The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
The major difference with the Roman example and the U.S. is the internal governance of the British Empire. Both the United States and Rome had a roughly uniform system of government through out their respective nation/empire. The British Empire was a more traditional empire with a clear distinction between the ruling metropolitan state and the ruled colonies. As with Rome, the fall of the British Empire does not provide much useful information given America's different situation. Also, except for a brief period in the middle of the 19th Century, the British were never the greatest power in the world which required them to give a deference to the behavior of major powers that the U.S. does not.
It is more similar to the U.S. in that both enjoy a marked technological advantage over the poorer nations of the planet making warfare outside of the core regions of the world (North America, Europe, Northeast Asia) relatively easy. Also like the U.S., the British were the center of the global economy and diplomacy; things that were of little importance in Roman days. Further, the British had to deal with many nations rising and falling during their age of supremacy. This is very similar to the situation today as we see many old powers declining and some new powers rising.
By combining the Roman and British examples, I believe it is possible to provide a decent analysis of the decisions America faces and where the solutions lie.
The title of the blog is of course a clear indication of my view of the current global order. SPQA is a slight alteration of SPQR. SPQR stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus or the Senate and people of Rome. There are many other translations for it but that is the most popular and the other translations are for the most part variations of it. In an age before the conception of nationhood and its symbols, SPQR was the very symbol of Rome and their nation for the Roman people. It was held as such through the republic until the end of the Empire.
I believe that the life of the Roman Republic and Empire is one of the primary historical examples for the United States and the world today. While I know many history illiterates among the left love the comparison since the only thing everyone knows about Rome is that she fell, I do not think it is the most relevant part of the comparison. At the least because Rome enjoyed some 600 years of dominance in the west and 1,600 years of existence in the east compared to only 230 years of existence and 100 years of dominance by the U.S. thus far. The reasons I dismiss the comparison, the few aspects of the fall of Rome I think are relevant, and the more apt comparison of Rome to the West as a whole will be discussed in future posts.
It should also be understood that the comparison of America to Rome does not claim unquestionable dominance on the part of America. Again, while many people consider Rome the very byword for total dominance, this is far from reality. Rome only existed in western and southern Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. Even within this more limited sphere Rome was hardly dominate. There was a major power to the east of Rome which paid little heed to Roman demands, the Parthians (Persia). Even the lesser powers around the Empire were beyond Rome's permanent reach. The Germans, Dacians, Armenians, Mesopotamians, Hibernians, Picts, Nubians, and Arabs only had to pay proper respect to Rome while good emperors reigned. Otherwise, they were largely free of Roman interference. Even the attempt to secure the southern third of Scotland from the Picts lasted scarcely 20 years. Hardly the behavior of an Empire whose reach and power are without challenge.
In a sense then, the power and influenced wielded by America across the world is greater than that of Rome in their smaller setting. Even so, America's power is not unchallengeable nor can it go anywhere without consideration. Since America is the greatest power in the world and is at the center of the international system there is enough in common with Rome to use her as one of the two primary examples of America today. Since understanding world events for the most part requires understanding America's role, it makes understanding Rome important for the world.
I am a 24 year old college student studying engineering physics at Ohio State. I am proud to have served in the Army as a radar technician (and God and health willing will do so again). While my education background is in math and science, I am an amateur historian/economist/pundit to the extent that I tested out of all of my high school and college history, geography, economics, and government classes and then some. I am also a devout Christian (Southern Baptist). Further, since I am a young Christian white male who has served in the military, is very knowledgeable about history and economics, and very much loves his country, it goes without saying that I am a Republican. Lastly, I never have and never will claim spelling or grammar to be strong areas of mine. Since I will never hold it against anyone, I expect the same.