It is too bad the masses don’t read more Xenophon, Thucydides, and Suetonius. We live under an imperial power; it might be nice to know a little about how it works.
What the classics teach – in fact, what almost all history and literature teach – is skepticism and humility. Whenever some leader sets off on a crackpot plan to improve the world, the result is almost always disaster – if not immediately, eventually.
Yes, in the interim, fortunes are made by military contractors, politicians, and military leaders themselves. Reputations are burnished, before they are ruined. Statues are chiseled. Medals are handed out. There are often short victory parades – ‘Mission accomplished!’ – before there are long humiliating retreats.
Besides, who are we to know God’s Own Plan? Maybe, in some poetic way, the sturm and drang of it – or the tales told by dying men and the tears wept by lonely widows – are worth the expense and suffering.
And who cannot feel prouder of his entire race when he sees a genuine hero?
Suetonius admired Caesar greatly, and reported that he never lost a battle:
“Ceasar was perfect in the use of arms, an accomplished rider, and able to endure fatigue beyond all belief. On a march, he used to go at the head of his troops, sometimes on horseback, but [more often] on foot, with his head bare in all kinds of weather. He would travel post in a light carriage without baggage, at the rate of a hundred miles a day; and if he was stopped by floods in the rivers, he swam across, or floated on skins inflated with wind…”
Now, there was a real war president!