No Comment — August 22, 2007, 3:33 pm

Caesarists of America Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Brains!

In some correspondence a year ago with Andrew Sullivan, I pointed to the parallels between a number of the dead-ender crowd who favor uncritical (indeed, unthinking) support of President Bush and an intellectual movement in Europe in the period between roughly 1870 and 1930 called the “Caesarists.” While there were several different flavors of Caesarists, some things linked them: disdain for constitutional government, and particularly for parliamentary democracy, preference for a “strong man” leader imbued with extraordinary power over the state in all of its aspects, a love for empires, a strong focus on the military and military models as a basis for social order, and the view that the state leader should exercise a combination of political and sacerdotal (i.e., religious) functions. In modern U.S. thinking, Leo Strauss is pretty much alone is embracing the Caesarist tradition, and not surprisingly, the contemporary Caesarist camp is filled with self-styled Straussians.

A recent organization in the Caesarist camp calls itself Family Security Matters. Its board features an array of Neoconservative notables, including Barbara Comstock, Monica Crowley, Frank Gaffney, Laura Ingraham, and James Woolsey. Its website contains a number of posts which glorify what I would call traditional conservative values, but a number of them veer into the fringe. And this post, since taken down, but still at Google cache, is particularly revealing:

Caesar pacified Gaul by mass slaughter; he then used his successful army to crush all political opposition at home and establish himself as permanent ruler of ancient Rome. This brilliant action not only ended the personal threat to Caesar, but ended the civil chaos that was threatening anarchy in ancient Rome – thus marking the start of the ancient Roman Empire that gave peace and prosperity to the known world.

If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestiege while terrifying American enemies.

He could then follow Caesar’s example and use his newfound popularity with the military to wield military power to become the first permanent president of America, and end the civil chaos caused by the continually squabbling Congress and the out-of-control Supreme Court.

President Bush can fail in his duty to himself, his country, and his God, by becoming “ex-president” Bush or he can become “President-for-Life” Bush: the conqueror of Iraq, who brings sense to the Congress and sanity to the Supreme Court. Then who would be able to stop Bush from emulating Augustus Caesar and becoming ruler of the world? For only an America united under one ruler has the power to save humanity from the threat of a new Dark Age wrought by terrorists armed with nuclear weapons.

When I first read this, I was convinced it was a sort of comic send-up. I’m now convinced it wasn’t. It’s frightening that someone might actually believe this rubbish. And in defense of Gaius Julius Caesar we should quickly note that the description of his campaign in Gaul and his return to Rome are inaccurate. Julius Caesar won fame among his contemporaries as the author of the military doctrine of clementia: those who surrendered and recognized his authority were allowed to keep their property, their lives, and in some cases even their state offices. He also used this doctrine with great success in Gaul, and indeed his success in Gaul was in no small part attributable to his ability to play off of differences between Gallic groups and win some over to his camp.

The author of this piece needs to be sent back to intermediate Latin to work on translations of the Gallic Wars or better still, to memorize this snippet from Tacitus which has been taught at West Point for the last hundred or so years:

Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. (I’d translate it this way: They rape, slaughter, and wrongly convert to their own name, and this they call “empire;” they make a desert and then have the affrontery to call it peace.)

This is taken from Tacitus’s Agricola, in chapter xxx (98 CE) and it reflects a very harsh, and typically Roman, judgment on just the barbarous conduct that the tract writer at Family Security Matters proposes.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2016

Tearing Up the Map

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Land of Sod

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Only an Apocalypse Can Save Us Now

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Watchmen

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Acceptable Losses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Home

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Andrew Cockburn on the Saudi slaughter in Yemen, Alan Jacobs on the disappearance of Christian intellectuals, a forum on a post-Obama foreign policy, a story by Alice McDermott, and more
Artwork by Ingo Günther
Article
Land of Sod·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Photograph by Mike Slack
Article
The Watchmen·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Illustration by John Ritter
Article
Acceptable Losses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Photograph by Alex Potter
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News

Chances that college students select as “most desirable‚” the same face chosen by the chickens:

49 in 50

Most of the United States’ 36,000 yearly bunk-bed injuries involve male victims.

In Italy, a legislator called for parents who feed their children vegan diets to be sentenced to up to six years in prison, and in Sweden, a woman attempted to vindicate her theft of six pairs of underwear by claiming she had severe diarrhea.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today