“In our own disordered times, it is natural to look back for comfort and instruction to the experience of Roman imperial statecraft.” Thus writes Professor Luttwak. Livy, one of the historians treated by Lidia Mazzolani, started his own history of Rome in order to distract his mind from the unbearable present by steeping himself in the examples of virtue offered by antiquity. Early in the nineteenth century, Barthold Georg Niebuhr turned to the history of Rome (as he later told Francis Lieber) in order to distract his mind from the reality of Napoleon’s control over Europe: “We felt like Tacitus.”
Tacitus, another of the historians in Lidia Mazzolani’s book, of course complained that, with the end of the Republic, great genius died, and there was nothing worth writing about anyhow. What these and other historians of Rome have in common is the tendency to place their golden ages in the past, and (precisely) in the Roman past. That those to whom that particular past was present were doing the same will be no surprise to the historian who does not hanker after golden ages, past or future.
There was certainly a theme for a worthwhile book in the neurotic despair and historical escapism of the three eminent Roman historians treated in Empire Without End. The modern examples we have noted show that the theme is never without present interest and relevance. Unfortunately the author lacked both the knowledge and the scholarly care to write the book. Ignorant of many basic facts of the history of the period she purports to treat, she has also (as so often happens nowadays) been ill served by her translators, whose ignorance of those facts is even greater—matched only, it seems, by ignorance of the Latin language, in which the works discussed were written.1 It is hard to tell which particular instances of ignorance and confusion are due to whom, though such choice items as “the plebes” (for the plebeians), or “commodity data” recorded by the Pontifex Maximus, as well as numerous examples of zany surrealism in the “Bibliography” and notes, show the peculiar contribution of the translators. It hardly matters, in detail. When Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus are described as “the ancient sentries who from their promontories alerted one another with signal fires to the impending dangers of storms and pirate ships, discerned in the distance, beyond the roar of the breakers and the gleaming waves,” the nature of this book is clear to the discerning reader; and he will suspect that author and translators are in harmony.
Mazzolani’s basic thesis, which we have already glanced at, is unoriginal and noncontroversial. The facts, in most cases, seem taken from secondary works, expanded into a succession of vacuous purple patches, rarely accurate and often meaningless. The introduction shows the general standard. The Romans, in the Macedonian wars (in fact fought in what is now Greece), are said to have “marched along the routes that Alexander had followed…. The figure of Alexander, his curly, disheveled head tilted toward the sound of divine voices, towered luminously against the horizon” (p. 11). The plain of Magnesia, in western Asia Minor, is “dotted with temples that had been built by Cyrus and Artaxerxes” (p. 14). As was (much less justly) said of an eminent French writer: “C’est du bleu.”
After this, we can see that historical facts hardly matter. When the Roman ruling class of the Republic is constantly confused with “patricians,” who were in fact a small and well-defined section of it (a hallmark of historical ignorance); when Marius, Cicero, and that blue-blooded aristocrat Cato the Younger are “humbly born men”; when Sallust’s picture of the causes of Roman decline is totally misrepresented, and Livy at one time (p. 95) “unlike the poets of his day, does not appear to be a fervent admirer of Augustus,” at another (p. 122) becomes “the Emperor’s official historian”—when error and misrepresentation meet us practically everywhere, it will soon become clear that this book is merely another example of the standards of thought and language that some (fortunately not all) publishers nowadays seem to take for granted, in both their writers and their public, and foster by catering for them.
Professor Mario Pei’s foreword rehashes an ample selection of phrases from the text, and comes to the reassuring conclusion that although, like Rome, we are in danger, we do have the advantage of organized trade unions and “the utilization of steam, coal, oil, electricity, atomic fission,” so that there is hope for us yet.
It is a relief and a pleasure to turn to Professor Luttwak’s book. He provides reassuring demonstration of the fact that, in our depressingly fragmented scholarly world, an outsider, trained in a totally different field, but trained in rigorous thought and endowed with controlled creative imagination, can lovingly steep himself in the mass of technical publications with their minutiae of fact and reasoned conjecture produced by “the archaeologists, epigraphists, numismatists, and textual critics” (as he, tongue half in cheek, describes modern historians of Rome)—and come up with a fascinating scholarly synthesis that teaches them how they ought to be doing their job. The foreword, by J.F. Gilliam, one of the greatest living experts on the Roman army (who, incidentally, has never published a book), will ensure that they will not ignore it as the work of an amateur.
Professor Luttwak sees three phases in the defense strategy of the Roman Empire—three “systems,” each of them evolving out of its predecessor under pressure of historical changes, until the last one (and with it the Empire) collapses. It is his contention that, although the Romans had never heard of the jargon of systems analysis (jargon which he himself regrets and, on the whole, very successfully avoids), each of these is a coherent defense system in the modern sense. He produces the models and the diagrams to prove it. Like some strategic M. Jourdain, the Romans were thinking defense systems without knowing it.
The first is the system of “hegemonic expansionism,” taken over from the Republic and lasting through the first century of the Empire. The imperial territory, not yet properly demarcated and always ready to expand, is surrounded by client states, most of the way, and they act as shock absorbers. They absorb low-intensity attacks and shield the Empire proper from them, and they provide “geographic depth,” with gain of time (as well as their own military forces), against major invasions, which the imperial forces can come up to defeat. The Roman legions and native auxiliaries did not have to defend the entire perimeter: they could be kept back, where they could combine the provision of security against rebellion by largely disaffected populations within the Empire with the intimidation (“suasion” is Luttwak’s technical term) of the client kingdoms themselves and the potential enemies beyond. The result was a high degree of both economy and flexibility. The key to success was the management of the clients—by threats, diplomacy, subsidies, and (rarely) military intervention.
During the following century and a half, including the stable period of the Antonines, most of the client states were annexed and a frontier was gradually marked out where no natural frontier (sea or desert) existed. As the inhabitants of the Empire became more civilized, and expected protection while in turn offering spontaneous loyalty, “an investment of colossal proportions” gradually built up (except in a few special situations) a new system based on perimeter defense supported by regional backup organization.
The actual barriers (such as Hadrian’s Wall) sufficed to ward off low-intensity attacks and served as bases for “mobile and offensive” defense, mainly beyond the frontier, against threats of moderate intensity. As the last line, Roman legions, now mostly settled but mobile within a region, could deal with major invasions. Luttwak demolishes the common view of this system as a “cordon” (and an ineffective one at that). He shows that its real effect was to combine the maximum feasible security in the daily lives of the civilian population—such as the first system had never even aimed at delivering—with an infrastructure for “offensive defense” against major attack.
As the Empire weakened under the stress of constant civil war and invasion in the third century, and enemies at various points beyond the frontier (from the new Persian Empire in the East to confederations of German tribes in the West) grew more powerful, the Antonine system was shattered and massive invasions struck deep into the heart of the Empire. In response to this, a third system of “defense in depth” was developed from the time of Diocletian (emperor between 284 and 305): frontier defenses became strong fortifications, meant to hold out in the rear of major invasions while the enemy penetrated imperial territory, until mobile forces could be mustered to meet the invasion, perhaps deep inside the Empire. This was obviously a much less satisfactory system, and strong emperors at times tried to convert it to one of “preclusive defense,” but the Empire was no longer strong enough. Thus the actual imperial territory, the “logistic base” of the Empire, was gradually eroded, until the ordinary citizen no longer received enough protection to value the Empire.
Luttwak has been remarkably successful in assimilating the scattered ancient sources and the vast literature on the subject. Few (if any) specialist scholars could surpass him in this. Here is no A.J. Toynbee, following a single outdated textbook for a chapter at a time and building wide-ranging conclusions on it. Inevitably, specialists will find holes to pick in their tiny fields, as they always (legitimately) do. Much remains uncertain and information easily becomes outdated, as new finds add new complications (rather than solutions). To take one small corner at random: the nature of the Roman frontier in the Negev is far from certain, as is the exact date of the fall of Masada (once firmly based on Josephus, who ought to have known); Legion III Gallica was certainly not the first garrison force of the province Arabia (thus p. 86); it can no longer be said (pp. 25 and 86) that a second legion was sent to Judaea only after the outbreak of the revolt of 132: it was there by 130; and Josephus did not write for a “primary audience” of Jews (p. 117).
What difference a multiplicity of little points like these will make to the splendid general design will not be clear until all the evidence is in. Perhaps not much, even if parts of the thesis may have to be modified—perhaps no more than the portentous number of misprints, which however deserve some censure: an apparent grammatical error in a displayed quotation from Tacitus (p. xii) causes misgivings; there are misprints in names and dates throughout the text; and I doubt whether anyone senior to the printer’s office-boy read the proofs of the thirty-odd pages of Notes.
But questions of principle will have to be asked: did the Romans intuitively arrive at a series of strategic systems, or was there merely, as through most of their history, slow and (usually) minimal response to immediate pressures, disturbed by the intrusion of arbitrary personal factors? Let us look at the beginning.
Julio-Claudian policy was by no means “expansionist,” as Luttwak really knows quite well (e.g., pp. 12 and 50), though he keeps stressing the expansionist dynamic of his first system. Why was it not, when Augustus’s policy had for forty years been very much so? It simply could not afford to be. Augustus himself drew the right conclusion from his financial difficulties, no less than from the revolts of AD 6-9 and the defeat of Varus in Germany, with the loss of three legions. Augustus never replaced the three legions. He could hardly afford to. Some German dramatist (perhaps Rolf Hochhuth) will probably some day write a play in which Augustus himself arranges for the ambush to destroy them, in order to save him from bankruptcy. In fact, the first real test of Augustus’s system found it almost disastrously inadequate. Augustus clearly had not known this. But was the failure due to careful (though unfortunately erroneous) thought? Why had he “economized” force to what turned out to be an excessive degree—yet could not replace three legions lost when they were clearly needed?
Luttwak assures us (p. 17) that reserves were judged unnecessary: Augustus’s choice was not “dictated by financial or even manpower constraints,” but was made “on the basis of a rational scheme of deployment, in which it was the desired level of forces that set the costs, rather than the other way round.” How good was Augustus at this sort of planning?
For a whole generation the army’s pay and pensions were dealt with from hand to mouth. We do not even know how, though constant conquests must have played an essential role in subsidizing the “system.” In AD 6 the term of enlistment was lengthened (retroactively) and a new treasury was created to provide for the pensions, with two taxes channeled into it. It is tempting to think that real planning had at last succeeded its obvious absence. Thus (e.g.) the Cambridge Ancient History (vol. X, p. 195): “Careful calculations must have been made of the probable yield of these taxes and of the sum which would be required for pensions.”
It is more likely that no precise calculations had been made at all. There may have been vague reliance on the proceeds of the further ambitious conquests that were planned. When these at once turned out to be impossible, the whole system collapsed. When Augustus died, in AD 14, we find the new emperor, Tiberius, faced by major mutinies, since many legionaries had been serving for thirty or forty years instead of the twenty (plus some reserve duty) promised in AD 6, when the new and less favorable terms had been instituted. The soldiers extorted a return to the pre-AD 6 terms. As soon as Tiberius’s position was secure enough, he went back on that promise, but he reinstituted the system of AD 6 as a feasible compromise—feasible, we must remember, after three of (perhaps) twenty-eight legions had been destroyed and never replaced. A few years later, we find (Tacitus, Annals IV 4) that the volunteer army can no longer be maintained: Tiberius is talking of conscription.
Most of the time after that, the system was kept in precarious balance by careful management. As we all know, a volunteer army depends on incentives. The emperor simply could not afford to make conditions good enough to attract citizens into the legions, or even (it seems) non-citizens into the auxiliary forces, which were an essential part of the system as a whole. Sometimes conscription was used. Much of the time, non-financial incentives had to be employed, to some extent at the expense of quality. By the time of Nero, the Eastern army’s discipline had been relaxed to such an extent that it took two years to make it usable for real military operations. Moreover, where originally auxiliaries had been given Roman citizenship on discharge, no doubt as a supplement to pensions, they gradually began to receive it on enlistment, or at any rate long before discharge. Even the legions had to be recruited in part from non-citizens, given immediate citizenship to make it look respectable. The small standing army, as Luttwak knows (p. 16), cannot have strained the manpower resources of the Empire: the rewards offered were simply not sufficiently attractive, to citizens or (in due course) even to non-citizens. It is difficult to believe that this was part of a planned “economy of force.”
It is easy to interpret the accidental and the arbitrary so as to fit them into a “system” imposed by the interpreter. Luttwak eloquently expounds (pp.100ff) the strategic advantages of the oddly shaped province of Dacia (across the lower Danube), soon subdivided into three provinces because it was difficult to defend. Perhaps, however, as J.C. Mann has suggested, it was annexed in that shape because that happened to be the shape of the kingdom of Decebalus, whose defeat (for the second time within a few years) convinced Trajan of the need for annexation.2
And should one deny the personal influence of emperors, even more disturbing to any system than that of Republican dynasts had been? Fergus Millar, in recent years (most recently in The Emperor in the Roman World, Cornell University Press, 1977), has carefully documented the importance of the Emperor’s personality, which modern conventions of historiography tend to minimize. Can the imitation of Alexander which helped to inspire Trajan’s eastern campaign be denied? Was not Hadrian’s abandonment of those conquests dictated by major revolts and his insecurity on the throne? Considerations of a rational “system” perhaps do not greatly enter into those decisions.
Agrippa I, grandson (not nephew, as on page 38) of Herod, happened to make friends with the young prince Gaius and was at one time in danger of his life because of this. When Gaius came to the throne in AD 37, Agrippa was rewarded with a principality in the East (soon made into a kingdom), formed in part out of provincial territory. Luttwak deprecates an explanation based on “personal emotion.” Why? “Gaius’s successor, Claudius, who was neither mad nor improvident with the empire’s resources,” not only confirmed Agrippa in his possessions, but greatly enlarged them. Whatever may be thought of Claudius’s sanity, Luttwak omits to mention the relevant fact that Agrippa, while in Rome on a visit, had happened to play a major part in Claudius’s unexpected accession after Gaius’s death. Perhaps “personal emotion” might again be allowed a role, after all. Of course, had Agrippa been incompetent, he would not have been allowed to go on very long. And when he did aim above his station, a few years later, Claudius gently stopped him. Traditional policy had its guidelines. Yet it is probably safe to say that, but for Agrippa’s close association with two successive emperors, the frontier in Judaea and southern Syria would have looked very different; and quite possibly the Jewish War might have come about much sooner.
Whatever one’s reservations about Roman “systems,” Luttwak has done scholarship an immense service by propounding and carefully documenting these stimulating ideas. Every page brings detailed insights into the working of Roman military organization, in strategy and tactics, which, even when not wholly original, draw together and unify what is fragmented in obscure periodicals. But perhaps the greatest service he has done is to reject traditional canons of strategic interpretation in terms of rigid categories of peace and war, offense and defense, that have beset Roman (indeed, all ancient) history. A century after Theodor Mommsen first provided the ancient Romans with their treatise on public law, Luttwak has now provided them with the comprehensive theoretical treatment of their strategy and foreign policy. Roman statesmen and commanders, on the whole devoid of the gift for either acute analysis or bold synthesis, would have been equally puzzled by both. They were given to proceeding by practical experience and precedent as recorded and remembered; and the powerful individual, Republican noble or emperor, had full freedom to mold tradition to his personality.
Yet there is a difference between the two works. Mommsen’s training was legal, not historical. That—by one of those paradoxes frequent in Roman history and historiography—he is known to educated people as the historian of the Roman Republic is due to an accident: that history was a young scholar’s reaction to the excitement and disappointment of 1848. His masterly Römisches Staatsrecht, systematic and unhistorical in its approach, is the characteristic crown of his achievement. With all its great merits (it is indispensable to the student, even after a century), it provided a solid scholarly foundation for generations of misconceived Roman historiography.
Luttwak, trained as a strategic analyst, has the instincts of the historian. His systems change in response to historical contexts as Mommsen’s public law never did. He is rightly impatient with the traditional rigidity of Roman historical interpretation. But he reveals his own training and interests by blaming that rigidity on the influence of Clausewitz. I doubt if there has been any such influence, even at tenth hand. Clausewitz was not much appreciated in nineteenth-century Germany, where our tradition of Roman historiography developed. Philosophical influences can be traced, as can that of Romantic nationalism. But the chief influence has been that legal tradition of which the Staatsrecht is the symptom and the apotheosis. The rigid categories that made the facts of Hellenistic and Roman history unintelligible perhaps go back even beyond Mommsen, to Grotius. That school is still active and respectable. Only a few years ago, a young German scholar3 made a heroic attempt to explain the development of foreign policy under the Roman Republic by strict categories of international law. Even though he found that the dams he had built against reality were in the end quite inadequate to keep it out, his work is still sometimes quoted with approval, as the kind of scholarship that Roman historians understand.
As for Clausewitz, it is hardly surprising that Luttwak is much more a disciple of that philosopher than any historian of Rome has been. The principles that strategy, in peace and war, must be subordinated to a political purpose, and that the means must be commensurate with the end—these are surely among Clausewitz’s basic contributions, and Luttwak would hardly deny them. Nor is it the case (as he several times implies) that Clausewitz is responsible for a preference for offense over defense, such as the German General Staff certainly developed. The German General Staff, from Moltke through Schlieffen to Ludendorff and beyond, distrusted the theorist who had preached the generals’ subordination to the politicians; yet even the politicians, most surprisingly Bismarck, knew little about him. In Clausewitz’s scheme, offense and defense, always interrelated and integrated, each has its place as determined by the aims and the power of the state concerned. Much of Luttwak’s exposition finds its proper background in Book VI of On War. Clausewitz, who regarded Book VI as unfinished, might have welcomed it.
Of course, Clausewitz, like Marx, was by no means a consistent philosopher. This invites scholastic dispute about the Master’s (or the Enemy’s) true message and meaning—the more so, in this case, as On War was published posthumously in 1832 and lacked final revision. The famous misquotation, distorting his basic thought, by which he is known to most people (that “War is the continuation of policy by other means”) was in fact contributed by himself, in 1827, in a hasty summary written under stress! (The proper statement in On War, VIII.6.B, says “with the admixture of other means.”) But one must not see either of these great nineteenth-century figures merely as historical curiosities, limited by their environment; though, of course, they are thus limited. Clausewitz, like Marx, is very much alive today; nor is their survival quite unconnected.
When Lenin, faced with the need for a rapid departure, had to choose two books to take with him, one of them was On War. The notes he took, and his annotations, survive. He was to use that work freely, not only in strategic thinking, but in his struggles with deviationists, and he urged it on his subordinates. There is good reason to think that his ideas have never ceased to influence his successors.
This brings us to what is perhaps the most important question posed by Luttwak: how relevant is his neo-Clausewitzian interpretation today? He himself would not naïvely claim that we should “learn from Roman history.” As we have seen, he seems to have had personal reasons for taking refuge in the stability of the Roman Empire, and he makes the truly scholarly and unexceptionable comment that “the study of Roman history is its own reward.” Yet he believes that “the fundamentals of Roman strategy in the imperial age were rooted not in a technology now obsolete, but in a predicament that we share” (p. 1). The Roman experience, properly interpreted, illustrates certain general principles that are still applicable in our day. It is only just to distinguish this approach from the naïve analogies of (say) Professor Pei, especially as Luttwak’s book may well be thus used by those less scholarly and perhaps less scrupulous.
I find it difficult to deny that Roman strategy was rooted in an obsolete technology. Here Pei’s naïve superficiality is a healthy counterweight to Luttwak’s over-sophistication. Luttwak works out (p. 84) that it would take Roman legions 124 days to march from Rome to Antioch in Syria. US troops can reach Germany from their home bases in a few hours. The Romans therefore had to keep troops in Syria, under any system that was meant to defend Syria. (That this does not apply to literally every province does not change the principle.) If the US today keeps forces in Germany, it is largely for political reasons. From the purely military point of view (logistics and elasticity of deployment), they might well be more useful if kept in Connecticut or in Kansas. Next, in the case of a “maximum-intensity” attack (which now means nuclear), we have minutes to react, to save the nerve centers of the country. (As for the population, we have decided not to bother.) The Romans, until the Empire was near collapse, could count on meeting even the most massive invasion hundreds of miles from Italy; indeed, with a minimum of foresight in troop dispositions, even provincial capitals were not in danger. Surely these simple facts make fruitful comparison difficult.
Nor do I find it easier to discern the “predicament that we share.” It is defined for us (p. 1) as “to provide security for the civilization without prejudicing the vitality of its economic base and without compromising the stability of an evolving political order.” Here jargon has taken over. It seems to mean: to defend ourselves at a cost we can afford and without endangering our political system. That “predicament” is one that we share with every single state and society in history. It is practically a definition of defense planning as such. As soon as we get down to meaningful detail, there are only differences. Our borders are not (and are not, in the near future, likely to be) subject to continuous “low-intensity threats,” like guerrilla infiltration or plain brigandage. In fact, we hardly need to worry about classic “perimeter defense.”
It is only as we consider US power overseas that Luttwak’s analogy even becomes meaningful. Yet there the differences are really striking. We do not, and cannot hope to, have a monopoly of “superpower” in our world, as Rome had in hers. We do not have a real overseas empire, with “imperial territory” to defend. We do not have “client states” in the Roman sense, where we exert total control of major policy, domestic and foreign, and could annex whenever we wanted to: not even Korea and Taiwan are true “client states.” We have dependent allies, which help (if we may apply Luttwak’s Roman scheme) to buffer the integrity of our own territory in return for our protection of theirs, and which usually (though not always) accept a certain amount of coordination of foreign policy. As for internal affairs, interference is in principle excluded: if practiced (as indeed it has been), it is covert and recognized as illicit. Those allies, moreover, are by no means willing to accept orders, nor are they simply “expendable” as far as strategic planning is concerned.
The Soviet Union is the only modern state that has a client system like Rome’s, with a ring of total control merging into a penumbra of increasingly marginal influence. Its leaders will no doubt read these neo-Clausewitzian views with interest.
If we come to suspect that Luttwak does not really mean what he appears to be saying in his introduction, the appendix (pp. 195-200) fully confirms the suspicion. The real lesson he wants us to observe is that of the difference between “power” and “force” and the superiority of the former over the latter. Philosophically, the appendix is not up to his best. It abounds in misuse of words and illogicality of argument. E.g., he asserts that the definition (which he rejects) of power as “the ability to force…” will “obscure entirely [sic] any distinction between power and force.” After speaking of the “power relation,” he states that power is “a process” and is “in the first instance a perceptual process”; he then goes on to speak of “perceived power”! But by the time the reader’s head has stopped reeling, he will gather the message that the author is trying to convey, especially as it has been stressed at intervals throughout the book. The frantic search for a definition is (as usual) unhelpful and unnecessary.
Of course, we all know what power is. Power is what parents or policemen or presidents have, or the USA or the Soviet Union—each in an appropriate context of relationships. Luttwak is not trying to deny this or to redefine power. He is trying to analyze and characterize its working. His thesis is that in any power situation many factors must be taken into account, but that power works through the other party’s willingness (in some sense of that word) to obey it; that this willingness depends on what might be crudely called a “cost-benefit analysis”; and that, since the analysis will turn out the same as long as nothing else has changed, the actual use of power does not diminish it, no matter how often it is repeated. Power is therefore “economical” in that it is not consumed in use. Force is uneconomical, in that it is. The Roman Empire at its best illustrates the principle that a state should maximize power, with maximum economy of force.
We have come a long way from shared predicaments. Luttwak’s principle is in fact the important and persuasive one that security depends on power and power depends on psychology. It would have been helpful if he had devoted as much attention to the psychology of its subjects (the wielders of power) as he has to that of its objects. If he wants to illustrate this by an example from ancient history, the Punic Wars might be a suitable topic: I am sure he would have much to contribute to scholarship on that subject, while clarifying his general theories for us.
One relevant point must be made, though this is not the place to pursue the topic as a whole. Luttwak acknowledges, of course, that power is ultimately based on force and needs force (used “economically”) to maintain it. After all, if the police rarely arrest a criminal (though there are plenty of criminals active) and the courts rarely punish one, the power of the public authorities will be gravely diminished. Similarly in the international sphere: it took Entebbe to reaffirm the power of Israel. The process of conditioning the objects of power to its acceptance needs constant reinforcement. That means force—with all its diseconomies and other disadvantages. And not all of it can be minimal force. Both the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire at the height of their power had to fight a major war at intervals of less than a generation, and smaller ones almost constantly. As we saw, even the economic cost was not negligible, not to mention social costs.
It would be easy, when one reads this book, to emerge convinced that power is cheap to maintain, with intelligent planning, as long as force is economically used and combined with psychology to project the right image. Granted that this may be the cheapest way possible: Luttwak makes an excellent case for that. But it would be a delusion to think that power can be got and maintained cheaply. Like freedom, it has its price social and economic; and the price is likely to be proportionately vastly higher today than in Roman times. We have noted the obvious difference in international conditions: there is no longer one superpower with only minor powers around it. Moreover, modern technological conditions again have their effect, far more important than Luttwak admits—not only in the social and economic costs of the weapons of war and in the risk of their use, but through the simple fact that modern techniques of communication will not permit any great disparity between actual force and the image of power: power will necessarily be held to a level closely proportional to available force.
It is ultimately for the society concerned to decide whether it is willing to pay the price, for power as for freedom (not unconnected with it). But society has a right to insist on a “truth in pricing” law: the cost must be fairly stated to those who will have to pay it.
June 23, 1977
Two typical examples: the famous urguentibus imperii fatis of Tacitus (Germania 33, 2) becomes “While the fate of the Empire is thus urgent” (p. 179); and Cicero, de legibus III, 1, difficillimam illam societatem gravitatis cum humanitate, is rendered “that society of seriousness, very difficult [to reconcile] with humanity” (p. 213). One wonders what language the translators thought they were writing. ↩
Luttwak’s argument here is impaired by a strange error (p. 215, note 129): he proves the importance of the “Dacian salient” from a campaign of 89, long before the province was in existence. (In the same note, the author of the discussion referred to is Ronald Syme, not R.P. Longden.) ↩
W. Dahlheim, Struktur und Entwicklung des römischen Völkerrechts (Vestigia, vol. 8, C.H. Beck, 1968). ↩