Gerald Baker today:
The US is indeed in the middle of another gloomy ride around the “America as Rome” theme park of half-understood history lessons. The pessimists, equipped with their Fodor’s guidebooks, their summer school diplomas, and their DVD collection of Cecil B. DeMille movies, are convinced it’s all up for the people who march today under the standard of the eagle, just as it was for their predecessors. They see military defeat abroad and political decay at home; they watch as far-flung peoples chafe at the dictates of imperial rule and as the plebs at home grow metaphorically hungry from misgovernment. The only real uncertainty in their minds is who will play the Vandals and lay waste to Washington?
It’s a familiar and very tired analogy, of course. From the moment that America became top nation in the middle of the last century, people have been racing to be contemporary Gibbons, chronicling the decline and fall even as it was supposedly happening. Not the least of the objections to their efforts is that Rome’s domination of the known world lasted about 500 years, and survived more than the odd thrashing or two at the hands of barbarian tribes. In modern America, it’s always the same. Every lost battle or turbulent day on the foreign exchanges and the obituary writers are sharpening their pencils.
You know, I can’t imagine who he’s talking about…