The Political Lessons of Polybius for 2016, Part I

Before going further in Polybius' analysis of the "Libyan War,"  what lessons have we learned so far?

First there is the lesson that Machiavelli tried in vain to teach the Italians of his day:  Mercenaries--people who serve in the military for pay and benefits and not out of loyalty to their own people--cannot be trusted.  They are working for their own benefit and not for their country's.  A few years ago, my sons and I were assaulted by a group of angry black soldiers just back from the Middle East.  "We fightin' fo you freedom, MFers!"  Of course we have many good men in our military, perhaps a majority, but our government treats them all like mercenaries.

The second observation follows from the first:  Mercenaries must be kept in check.  The Carthaginians' mistake was to let the mercenaries take their property and families with them, when they left the city.  The result was the predictable insurrection.

Third, when mercenaries are drawn from different ethnicities, they are at first too disorganized to take effective action collectively, but they will find leaders--the most corrupt, violent, and depraved among them, who have nothing to lose, and, without the restraints of a common religion or the ties of blood, kin, and soil, a multi-cultural rabble will soon lose all human qualities and degenerate into a troop of baboons.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

2 Responses

  1. James Kabala says:

    Do you foresee an uprising by the military as a possible event of the near future? That is one of the few horrors we have yet to experience. I don’t know if I see any likelihood of it, but you probably have a better eye for disaster on the horizon than I do.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    What is far more likely in he short run is, mutatis mutandis, something like the soldiery that followed Marius and Caesar. In our case, it would mean that mercenaries would obey their presidential paymaster in putting down resistance. There are training exercises in which this is the premise.