The Pax Americana

The ultimate cliché coined by deriders of the United States governmental policy is the pun “Pax Americana” from the Latin “Pax Romana,” meaning “the Roman peace.” The Pax Romana was a period of relative peace, stability and apparent invincibility. But is the United States truly impervious or is this notion only reckless hubris punishable by death and failure? Are we now seeing ourselves in a new gilded age of technological supremacy only to be undermined by the incursions of barbarians at distant and exotic borders? Is the peace a superficial one only sustainable under a shroud of intimidation, fear and hushed oppression? In Robert’s Harris’ Pompeii we can observe Roman corruption at its best and it seems not unlike our own state of affairs. Men of exploitative affluence, self-interested and indifferent to the sake of the whole, blind or willfully ignorant to the oncoming repercussions of their inactivity, the aediles, doom Pompeii by ignoring reason and sticking to the blinding radiance of their coffers. Pompeii was covered in volcanic ash and tens of thousands were killed because of the arrogance of the overseer. In New York City two colossal towers collapse, the center of east coast corporation and industry destroyed in a moment, even after the state had been made aware of the impending destruction. In New Orleans a category five hurricane neared (and eventually leveled) the city from the Gulf of Mexico to meet category three rated levees that the powers that be knew would not sustain the onslaught and did nothing. Today those same category three levees are built rebuilt, so the tragedy might be allowed to repeat itself come next year.

It is only customary for world powers to collapse under their own arrogance or mismanagement. Every empire before the United States has met a similar fate. The same sort of arrogance that left Darius in flight at Gaugamela, the city of Nineveh raised to the ground and left the gate open in Constantinople so Turks might better investigate the splendor of Hagia Sophia inspires contemporary imperators to wage illegitimate wars and even boast of them, as no caches, ties to terrorist organizations, “weapons of mass destruction” or plants are ever found. Immortality leaves a margin of flexibility for indiscriminately assassinating South American democratically elected presidents, raiding Grenada or Panama, finishing your father’s personal vendetta while pushing your United Defense contract for Bradley fighting tanks, declaring a entire axis on a map morally evil (but not Japan) or installing puppets in Haiti, Afghanistan and abroad. These ideologically, morally and ethically devoid actions against the internet community are the red herring of a paradigm shift, an empire’s decay and really, the end of its reign.

September 11th, 2005. The United State is brutally attacked. But could it have been avoided, did the authorities that be know of the impending attack? Much like the corrupt Roman nobles ruling Pompeii, United States statesmen including the highest head of government, the president himself, knew of the catastrophe about to unfold and did nothing. Condoleezza Rice said it best in her 9/11 commission official statement:

RICE: I remember very well that the president was aware that there were issues inside the United States. He talked to people about this. But I don’t remember the al Qaeda cells as being something that we were told we needed to do something about.

BEN-VENISTE: Isn’t it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6 PDB warned against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB?

RICE: I believe the title was, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.

Condi also said in the same interrogation “We understood that the network [Al Qaeda] posed a serious threat to the United States.” CBS News reported that Attorney General John Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial airlines in July of 2001 because of a “threat assessment” by the FBI. David Schippers, the chief prosecutor for the impeachment of Bill Clinton would also warn “Five weeks before the September 11 tragedy, I did my best to get a hold of Attorney General John Ashcroft with my concerns” about a possible attack in Manhattan. Two of the 9/11 hijackers from Flight 77 had lived with an FBI asset months prior to September11th. According to CBS News, “The CIA sent out an alert Aug. 23, 2001, naming the two as possible terrorists — but the FBI didn’t know the names of the two houseguests, who had moved out months earlier.” As George Orwell said:

“It’s not a matter of whether the war is not real, or if it is, Victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia but to keep the very structure of society intact.”

August 2005. Hurricane Katrina ravages the cup of the Mexican Gulf, the levees defending New Orleans fail and the much of the city is drowned. Just as in 9/11 – warning was gross and exaggerated and nothing was done to evacuate the city or adjacent areas until it was far too late. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported in 2002 “It’s only a matter of time before South Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane. Billions have been spent to protect us, but we grow more vulnerable every day.” In 2001 the National Geographic reported “A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city.” According to NBC’s veteran reporter Lisa Myers, “A draft emergency plan, prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and obtained by NBC News, calls for ‘400 buses to … evacuate victims’ but the buses were never deployed. Other similar contingency plans were in place but never executed properly, just as there were in New York City, due to the mismanagement and arrogance of the indifferent overseer. Compound this with a lackluster (if not negligible) FEMA response, and you have the most devastating natural disaster to ever scourge the United States The compassionate response by the powers that be? Price gouge!

Just as the Romans thought themselves to be invincible against Vesuvius and later the German tribes, the American people have been undermined first by a brash group of supposedly insignificant radicals and then mother nature herself, perhaps angered by the continual destruction of the environment and complete inaction of the government to join with international powers to curb her doom (the Kyoto accord for example). In the end it is only a matter of time before the hubris gets the best of our would-be Oedipus and the Goths sack neo-Rome. In the future it might be prudent to consider the expertise of Attilius and the conscience of Pliny yet we be smothered in ash.