Hubris has been the fatal weakness of every empire there has been, says John Wight.
By John Wight
in Edinburgh, Scotland
History records that Marcus Licinius Crassus, the lesser-known member of a First Triumvirate in Rome (60–53 BC) which also included Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey), was a man of enormous personal wealth, greed and vanity. Desirous of achieving a military triumph to match those of his more illustrious fellow triumvirs, his vanity led to him embarking on an ill-fated military invasion of Parthia (present day central eastern Turkey and northeastern Iran) in 53 BC. It resulted in the annihilation of his legions and his own death; culminating, it is said, in the Parthians pouring molten gold into his mouth to signify his notorious hunger for riches.
Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States, is our Crassus, a man whose greed is only matched by his vanity. In giving the order to assassinate Iran’s Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, he has opened the gates of hell at the behest of the very neocons whose worldview he entered the White House pledging to oppose in 2016.
Mired in an impeachment scandal in Washington, thrashing around on Twitter desperate to receive the acclaim and adulation he believes is his by birthright, Trump has just committed the greatest military blunder of any American president since Lyndon Johnson decided to enter Vietnam with boots on the ground in 1965.
Qassem Soleimani was more than the military genius, a man who even his detractors must grudgingly acknowledge struck fear in the heart of every Salafi-jihadist from Riyadh to Raqqa and everywhere in-between. Revered by his friends and reviled by his enemies, here was a man who did not flinch from danger and personal risk alongside the men under his command. For such as he, a man’s worth is measured not in the size of his bank account or mansion, but instead in the size of his fidelity to a cause greater than self.
Trump could never with all the money in hell buy what this Iranian possessed. He was the Middle East’s Che Guevara, and just like him, in death Qassem Soleimani has attained the status of an idea — the idea of resistance to empire, imperialism, colonialism, exploitation and oppression. It’s an idea that will never die, which is why in death Qasem Soleimani will prove a far greater foe to Washington and its allies and lackeys than he ever did in life.
Iran now has no choice other than to retaliate in the face of what will go down in history as a provocation too far. The Iranian people, divided like all people are on various issues at home, are united steadfast in their determination to resist any and all attempts to return to the days when their country as a de facto U.S. colonial possession, ruled by a flunkey of the Empire at the cost of their dignity and national honor.
As to those who will be celebrating the death of Qassem Soleimani, we have appearing in sharp relief a true axis of sectarianism, oppression and apartheid — made up of Israel, Saudi Arabia and ISIS and its various offshoots. Such an axis offers nothing but misery and carnage in a region that has already experienced far too much of same in recent years. Trump gave the order to kill Iran’s supreme military commander not as the leader of the free world, but as the head of a vast criminal conspiracy which, like a rabid beast, has broken from its leash and is now out of control.
Hubris has been the fatal weakness of every empire there has been. Sustained by a false sense of invincibility and cultural superiority, hubris has proved their downfall. And so it is now, in our time, with a U.S. empire in decline. In attacking Iran systematically since he became president — first pulling out of the P5+1 Iran nuclear deal, then imposing draconian sanctions on the country, and now with this disastrous escalation, Trump has not, as the likes of Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of StateMike Pompeo would have him believe, set in train the kind of internal unrest that will lead inexorably to regime change in Tehran.
Instead he has only succeeded in forging the iron will of a people to resist the attempt to return them to the state of U.S. vassalage they once endured under the Shah.
Crassus understood too late the folly in allowing personal vanity to dictate military strategy. Trump has just done likewise. As such, a mouthful of molten gold awaits.
John Wight is an independent journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
This article was first published on Medium.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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Parthia (present day central eastern Turkey and northeastern Iran)
Parthia had somewhat variable borders but the core consisted of Turkmenistan (at the time, the homeland of nomadic Parthians, Iranian speakers), Iran, almost always contemporary Iraq, and variable parts of Afghanistan, Greater Armenia, central Asia etc.
The battle of Carrhae is worth attention, because it is a study case of a clash of armies with incomparable abilities. Romans had the finest infantry of the time, when they marched forward they could not be stopped, under the hail of projectiles they could withstand in stationary “turtle” formation. Parthians had the most updated mounted archery — for centuries, steppes of north-east and central Asia lead in archery and cavalry innovations, and heavy cavalry unknown to Romans, heavy cavalry can crush into infantry in testudo formation. Their numbers were at least twice smaller.
The leader of Parthian was Surena. He waited until Roman army crossed Euphratus and was in the midst of a rolling steppe. Archers surrounded Romans and subjected them to relentless barrage of arrows. Romans were closing “turtles”, were attacked by the lancers, but fine infantry that they were, they withstood it well. Unfortunately, Surena made sure to bring a caravan of arrow-laden camels, so Roman losses were accumulating, and the prospect of the coming night in the open steppe was grim — can you sleep in the formation that places shields on the ground, and above them, and above the heads?. Crassus send the cavalry out of the surrounded formation, under the command of his son, Parthians made short work of them is the classic steppe manner — run away and surround, Crassus son died, Romans lost hope and the cohesive ranks started to break, the end was grim.
Incidentally, Surena survived Crassus by about a year (or less?). A glorious victor, handsome, popular, scion of a top Parthian family, he was too much for shah. Allegedly, he also advised military restraint. Instead, the shah lead armies into contemporary Turkey all the way to the western edge and was eventually clobbered by the Romans.
I am sure that Iranians study all those details in their school, and surely in their military schools. Observe the ability of the army that cannot withstand the opponents on an equal ground to win when they have sufficient quality and number of projectiles. Observe how bunker-like formations (or actual bunkers or caves used today) can neutralize the projectiles — up to a point. And observe the defeat of overreach — moving the war to the ground were the superiority is flipped. Romans were losers in the steppes of the east, Parthians were loosing in the infantry-friendly west of the region.
There may be more analogies to ponder. Both Trump and Crassus were wealthy and won their spurs fighting low-born rabble, Crassus the slave rebellion of Spartacus in Sicily, and Trump had engagement against his tenants that did not want to vacate without harassment. Yet, those victories lacked in glory. Even Obama demolished Libya, can’t Trump crack an egg as well? The shah envious of Surena is another example, Obama being better looking, more smoothly talking, and displaying his achievements.
The General murdered on the order’s of a draft dodging clampit because of bone spurs. Mind you they didn’t stop him playing golf. On a different subject John Wight when are you going back to Sputnik to do Hard Facts?
If you like Roman history, look at Julian’s futile invasion of Iran, in Ammianus Marcellinusm
Another classical reference that comes to mind is the tale of the wealthy king of Lydia, Croesus. He asked the great Oracle at Delphi if he should attack the Persian Empire, whose growing power he feared. The Oracle replied: “If Croesus goes to war he will destroy a great empire.” Encouraged by this answer, Croesus set out and engaged the Persian army at the Halys River, fighting them to a draw. Croesus then marched his force back to LYDIA where the army was disbanded for the winter, expecting Cyrus of Persia to do the same as was customary. The Persian commander instead pressed the attack, massacred Croesus’ cavalry and captured Croesus. After the fall of his capital city, Sardis, Croesus’ wife committed suicide and Croesus was dragged before Cyrus in chains. So the Oracle’s prophecy came true: the great empire Croesus destroyed was his own.
It’s an interesting irony that some have recently compared Trump to Cyrus, for “restoring Jerusalem” as the Persian monarch did, though more unwittingly than the later legends about him claim.
Good people have always known in their heart of hearts that, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”. But the “new”, paradigm, if we were to adopt it from the global oligarchs (old and new) should be, “too many wrongs are barely enough”. That’s how they make their money paid for in human lives — whichever side, doesn’t matter.
Was this done to shore up “the base”, directed by the oaf Pompeo who believes in “The Rapture”? The stupidity of what Trump has done is unbelievable, and it would be fantastic to see the neocons suffer the fate of Crassus. I wish Ron Paul’s Liberty group would organize a March on the Pentagon. Trump has no power and the MIC calls the shots. What a horrible beginning to 2020! Support CodePink and other antiwar groups. That group, CUFI, Christians Unitedfor Israel, located in Dallas, I’m sure are in support. What a bunch of simple-minded fools! George W. Bush started this mess, a nightmare for the world! Trump is an idiot, so disgusting.
John Wight wrote:
> In attacking Iran systematically since he became president — first pulling out of the P5+1 Iran nuclear deal, then imposing draconian sanctions on the country, and now with this disastrous escalation, Trump has not, as the likes of Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have him believe, set in train the kind of internal unrest that will lead inexorably to regime change in Tehran.
> Instead he has only succeeded in forging the iron will of a people to resist the attempt to return them to the state of U.S. vassalage they once endured under the Shah.
Yes, before making wrong decisions, Trump/Crassus should have researched a little bit on the reality of Iran, beyond the mainstream uninformed propaganda, CIA’s idiotic menu of aggressive options, and the loads of bullshit from Pompeo and friends.
Life is rich and complex, nothing is simply bright or dark, including Iran and the United States. Trump could have done a little research on the long history of Iran-US relationships since the 1953 US coup d’état that overthrew democracy in Iran.
For instance, it’s true that Iran supports controversial groups such as Hezbollah (about 10% of the Parliament of Lebanon) or Hamas (Palestinian government of Gaza). However, the Iranians have never started a war against other countries in the last 150 years or more, while currently keeping enough defensive systems to never surrender to aggressors. According to most experts, Iran’s military doctrine is completely — and fiercely — defensive.
So, to understand what the US government should have done instead, Trump could have greatly benefited from reading, for example, this increasingly impressive response from Iran to the US demands in 2018 (see it with a Google search):
Iran’s Zarif Responds to Pompeo’s ‘Baseless’ Demands — Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif — Tasnim News Agency — June 21, 2018
There is no denying that the Democratic party is complicit in this murder…
“Hubris has been the fatal weakness of every empire there has ever been.”
What brings about their destruction is power (manifested as interest). It has been present in every conflict of the past – no exception – and is the underlying motivation for war. Other cultural factors might change, but not power. Being so important it cuts across all apparently unifying principles: family, kin, nation, religion, ideology, politics – everything. We unite with the enemies of our principles, because that is what serves our interest. It is power, not any of the above concepts, that is the cause of war. It is power that is leading us to World War Three. The assassination of Soleimani could be the gateway into Hell.
I wonder what will be written on General Soleimani’s gravestone? Here lies the greatest Matryr in Persian History. He achieved in death what couldn’t be accomplished in life? The beginning of the end, of the Satanic US Empire & its vile, crimminal 4th Reich ! Murdered by a spineless, draft dodging imbecile called Trump, who never put his own life on the line to fight for his Country because of bone spurs, unlike Solemani who fought on the battlefield for his Country & should have died a Soldiers death, not stabbed in the back & assassinated via a cowardly US drone attack, suckerpunched & blindsided by Trump, a Coward & narcissistic bully, while playing Golf & carried out by the most murderous Nation on Earth on a par with Hitlers Nazi Germany with the exception that instead of killing Jews like the Nazis did, they are ruled by them via Netanyahu?
This dying, flailing US Empire is determined to go out with a Bang & take down the World rather than go out with a whimper & Persia will be leading the charge to ensure this happens? Trump will go down in History as the most reviled, despotic & narcissistic foolish, idiot Leader ever, head of a crazed, insane Rogue Nation drunk on its own hubris & Imperial arrogance! And no peace loving people will mourn the US Empires eventual fall & demise, good riddance, it can’t come soon enough before this Nation destroys the World! Forget Climate Change, American Exceptionalism & America with its nutty Dictator President,? is the greatest threat to life on Earth!
I think there may be a flaw in considering the US as like other failed empires: It may be unique in its geographic isolation. Its people will only suffer from war on their home soil if a) foreign navies best theirs, or b) missiles/drones become advanced/cheap enough for even non-nuclear states to inflict sustained damage. And of course, 9/11 wasn’t a real threat except in terms of the ludicrous and bloodthirsty reaction.
But other than that, the worst to happen would be losing some of the overseas bases. Which would dent the Empire but isn’t a threat to its existence.
It’s too bad, the best thing for the rest of the world is if the US experienced the affects of warmongering in the actual US. But that’ll instead remain theoretical for awhile yet. 90+% of Americans will continue to be utterly clueless and utterly apathetic to the cost of war. Along with utterly clueless about most things about the rest of the world, helped by the terrible education system and media and lack of free time.
Unfortunately, Stan, I would agree with you re the very literal oceanic protection – both sides – that the US has, together with only having two large countries, one on each border, and neither eager to make war on it. This reality has enabled the US to be the amorally, utterly belligerent war criminal and terrorist nation that it is.
We can but hope that between the obscene cost of killing, invading, destroying much of the planet’s peoples and their lands and asymmetrical warfare the US is reduced to what it should be: a nonentity.
“… a man’s worth is measured not in the size of his bank account or mansion, but instead in the size of his fidelity to a cause greater than self.”
“…in death Qassem Soleimani has attained the status of an idea — the idea of resistance to empire, imperialism, colonialism, exploitation and oppression. It’s an idea that will never die, which is why in death Qasem Soleimani will prove a far greater foe to Washington and its allies and lackeys than he ever did in life.”
Thanks for your perspective Mr. Wight.
So when Iran assures Americans that their “response” will not be directed at civilians, our President threatens to destroy 52 cultural sites in Iran. Bibi must have given Trump his lesson on the true meaning of “proportionate” lest Trump have another “pause”.
“Hubris has been the fatal weakness of every empire there has been. Sustained by a false sense of invincibility and cultural superiority, hubris has proved their downfall. ”
A quibble: “empire” assumes a degree of invincibility and superiority. When that sense becomes false, an empire enters the period of hubris.
BTW, what cultural objects would be widely lamented by Americans?
As George Carlin would have said, “THE MALLS.” What a ridiculous bunch we are collectively. Thankfully, sanity mostly prevails here in the CN comments section.
Great history comparison. What a devil in control.
The US did indeed know that he was on a mission of peace between Iran, Iraq and S.A. Given that, there are two beneficiaries to this murder: 1. war contractors and 2. religious zealots. They both got what they wanted and Trump works for both groups.
What is worrying me is the failure of the UN and our “allies” to condemn what the US has done in the strongest possible terms. They keep asking Iran to show restraint but keep failing to mention that the US just engaged in several war crimes and is promising a few more to come. Instead, they need to be censoring the US in no uncertain terms.
Where is the UN, BTW, on behalf of Iraq? We aren’t leaving and Trump is threatening a war crime if they ask us to leave and go through with it. This should be roundly condemned.
I realize that the Green Zone is the transit for US/Allied powers drugs and weapons but the US needs to pack up and get out. Do these “allies” of ours not realize what we have done and will do to our so called “allies”? France too is expendable, as is Germany and even the lapdog UK. Isn’t this clear by now?
The US is assassinating world leaders, violating embassies, refusing to recognize national sovereignty, just for starters. This needs to end and the world community should move as one body to bring the US back into the fold of nations which follow the rule of law. The UN can just pay Trump’s bribe/bluff for the airport and tell him, o.k., your deal is fulfilled, now leave. If the UN will not help Iraq, they are worthless. If they will not protect the world and bring justice, they are of no value to anyone and should disband.
Fully agree with you, Jill. You have expressed my view on the NATO lot (an organization that ought to have been junked decades ago), especially the UK, FR and G. Indeed, they have demonstrated their own anti-Iranian positions even before this latest US atrocity, war crime, by NOT complying with the JCPOA but constantly insisting that Iran should.
Bernie Marcus, Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer and the rest of the pro-Israel zealots are counting on one thing, that once the Iranian counter-strike occurs it will galvanize an overwhelming anti-Iran fervor on behalf of the American public. Thus, the Zionist power configuration will get their dream come true: Washington fighting Iran on behalf of the hegemonic sadistic racist paranoid state of Israel.
Ergo, THEE key question of the moment — how do we temper the American appetite for war after the inevitable Iranian counter strike? The Western capitalist mass media (owned and controlled by militarist contractors and Zionists) will go into hyper-drive gassing up the U.S. public’s heads with dangerous jingoism against the Islamic Republic.
Iran is indeed a peace and justice champion, the Islamic Republic hasn’t attacked another nation-state in centuries. However, given the horrendous assassination of a great leader like Soleimani, it’s not inconceivable to think that Iran almost has the right to respond in kind. Not that I want to see that. We’re at a very dangerous moment right now, the assassination of Soleimani was like throwing a lit match into a tinderbox.
For further reading:
“Power of Israel in the United States” by James Petras
“They Dare to Speak Out” by Paul Findley
“Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of U.S. Power” by James Petras
“Against our better Judgement” by Alison Weir
“Host and the Parasite” by Greg Felton
“Wandering Who?” by Gilad Atzmon
essays and articles by Jeffrey Blankfort
essays and articles by Paul Craig Roberts
the most recent VIPs memo on ConsortiumNews
>>> “Ergo, THEE key question of the moment — how do we temper the American appetite for war after the inevitable Iranian counter strike?”
If the counter-strike, which Iran is virtually required to undertake, is seen by the US public as significantly damaging, I’ll be surprised if anything will temper the appetite for war — at least unless and until the cost in American suffering and death penetrates national awareness.
In the decades since WWII, the only time us public opinion turned strongly and *effectively* against one of our military misadventures was in the case of the war on Vietnam, when, after years of televised horror beamed in living rooms nightly, enough young Americans had finally come home maimed or in body bags.
There’s really no reasonable basis for optimism.
You said it for me. Neocon is just a euphemism.
ElderD…..There will be no opposition, the media has actively hidden the gruesome aspects of war since Vietnam.
Well said. And true. The United States will come to rue the day this was done as Donnie Murdo is reduced to issuing empty threats.
Thank You John Wight and CN for carrying this article.