I received this e-mail from a friend and veteran who fought in Vietnam with the Marines and later served in Rhodesia during the Bush War.  His perspective and insight is interesting and thought provoking to the point that I felt it would be a waste to just let it sit in my inbox and that I should share it with the rest of you.  I caveat this post by stating that SOFREP is not political in nature.  We may be critical about specific policies or comment on military matters but don’t expect to see us advocate a political ideology or support a presidential candidate anytime soon.  That’s not what we are about, and that isn’t what this text is about either. -Jack

While there are a great many differences between Rome and the U.S…. there are some uncomfortable similarities.  This does not mean that we are going to absolutely fall apart come next Sunday… Rome took three centuries from its high water mark to go under… I don’t know if we have that long… but barring some spectacular event…

In the days of the Republic, Rome had Legions made up of citizen soldiers… largely farmers.  But as the Republic turned into Empire, too many civil wars kept the troops in the field too long.  Many came back to find that their lands taken for back taxes (and bought up for a song by rich Senators…)

The farmers could hope to find work as tenant farmers on their former lands… or maybe as servants on the estates… or drift with their families to Rome and survive on handouts from politicians looking for mob support…

Others, not tied down by families… went back to soldiering.  The end of the civil wars marked the rise of a truly professional force.  Survive to retirement and not only get retirement money… but maybe land on the frontier in veteran’s villages… Not only work the land… but capable of dealing with problems until regular forces show up…

Trajan was a formidable Emperor… But he tried to conquer too much.  His armies went through the Middle East… down to the Indian Ocean… to the borders of Afghanistan…  Spread out too thin… It fell apart suddenly, in a most bloody awful fashion… pushing Rome back to near its starting line on the campaigns…

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As Trajan handed over the reins to Hadrian, he advised him not to try to rule the entire world.  Hadrian’s Wall marked one of the limits.  It also marked the high point of the Legions.  In spite of casualties in Parthia and elsewhere… the Legion was at its most professional.

Century later and obvious signs of decline.. as the French military writer Jomeni observed… “Once Legionnaires marched through the hottest deserts in full armor… but now their strength could barely manage a spear and a light shield in temperate lands…”

I should very much like to be wrong, but as I see it, the peak of the American military was reached at the time of Desert Storm.  Weapons systems and tactics have improved… but when the junior officers (largely major and below) who remained after Vietnam and led the forces in the desert retired… the generation that had learned from defeat was soon gone…

I do not say that there are not units out there that are not in fine shape… but not enough.  Rome was a dangerous enemy for many years of its decline… but the Legions of Hadrian’s time slowly lost their edge.

On the political front, Rome fought less and less through client states… and more and more with its own forces.  On the financial front, as the Emperors and Senate wasted the tax revenues, not only was there less for the Legions… but every province that Rome lost because there was no funding for a proper military response… lessened the tax base.

On the one hand, many of the problems of today’s military have been seen before… after WWII and Vietnam… “hollow armies”, breakdown in discipline… But we had time to repair the damage and massive untapped resources…

After burdening the military with “politically correct” hogwash and pulling the rug out from the forces financially… the government shows no inclination to avoid more “Parthias…”  Meanwhile, nobody is sure how to fund a couple of more Coast Guard vessels.

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The public recovered from the morass of Vietnam… and the massive distrust of the government.  Desert Storm kept Iraq from conquering Saudi Arabia and kicked them out of Kuwait… quite possibly preventing a depression in the U.S. and elsewhere… Another 24 hours of combat might well have been in order… but we not only won, we did so with a tiny number of casualties… and support in the field from a great many countries (even Syria!)

But our Treasury seems to want to emulate Zimbabwe… After denying that there was any inflation, the Fed raised Social Security payments 3.7%… Meanwhile, prices at Walmart went up by 25-50% on many items… especially ones from outside our borders… where they have no illusions as to the declining power of the dollar.

We fought a second war in Iraq without getting serious about cleaning up in Afghanistan (until far too late in the game…)  We overstretched… we refused to act as if it were a “real” war and increase the regulars… instead damaging the Guard and Reserves for a generation or longer…

Our politicians (both parties) are often in danger of achieving the Roman level of corruption.  The Midwest delegation that signed on to “Obamacare” in return for their state getting Medicaid for free… forever… did several kinds of harm to the Republic… but satisfied the mob at home and ensured their re-election…

The politicos are more concerned about “political correctness” in the military than being able to fight and win wars.  It is not that women and gays should not serve… It is rather that they should be held to the same standards… and no instructor or commander should have his career ruined because he refuses to enlist, graduate, promote those who are not qualified.

It is not a mere matter of changing Administrations (though it most urgently needs done…)  The rot goes deep.  The damage is severe… The public is ignorant and misled…

At one point in its history, Holland held off countless Spanish armies (the finest in the world at the time).  Dutch leaders such as Maurice of Nassau brought back the idea of the Roman Legions… Raised war to an art, instead of the squalid butchery that it had been since the fall of Rome.

But the Dutch Army these days has the right to strike.  Only the Dutch Marines are fit for counter-terror work.

When the Korean civilian airliner 007 was shot down by the Soviets… a prominent Dutch newspaper said, “We should very much like to condemn this brutal act of murder by the Soviet Union… but we lack the moral standing to condemn anyone while we still have some gay couples in Amsterdam who lack public housing…”

“There may indeed be finite limits to man’s wisdom… but there are absolutely none to his folly…”  -SLA Marshall-