By Daniel Melleby
millennia ago, through the force of her silver and her legions,
a rising young Rome expanded the reach of her influence to
the corners of the known world during a two century period
that became known as the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace. Two millennia
later, we as Americans face a choice that could determine
the course of world events over the coming decades and beyond.
For good or ill, the United States has become the most powerful
nation on Earth. Unlike the Romans, however, we have become
and remain a true democracy - and have the benefit of history
to look back upon. Each American therefore can and should
have a say in this most important question: do we want a Pax
An influential group within this administration is pursuing
ambitious plans to use the force of American economic and
military might to recast the world in an order to its liking.
These so-called "neo-conservatives" believe that as long as
non-democracies exist, they are a potential threat to the
security of the United States. Regimes that are actively opposed
to U.S. security must be overthrown. Those more amenable to
U.S. policy will be cowed into submission. Democracies that
disagree with us along the way will be brushed aside for their
The neo-conservatives have calculated that extreme policies
would be required to achieve their objectives - policies likely
in violation of the current regime of collective security
and international law built up over the years in the form
of treaties and international organizations. According to
the neo-conservative world view, this system, under which
the world has lived for over five decades, must be discarded.
The goals of the United Nations and perhaps even NATO will
run counter to and limit American designs; accordingly, they
need to be bypassed and, if they refuse to yield to American
demands, eventually reshaped or bullied into irrelevance.
Treaties will be rejected, diluted, or abrogated. Like Gulliver
tearing free from his Lilliputian bonds, this administration
is working tirelessly to undo the web of bilateral and multilateral
agreements on everything from the environment to missile defense
and the International Criminal Court. America is righteous
and pure, they say; thus, unlike previous world powers, our
ability to reshape the world should therefore be unbridled.
No one argues whether terrorism must be battled or that
the spread of weapons of mass destruction must be thwarted.
Should the Taliban and Saddam Hussein and other brutal regimes
like them be relegated to the dustbin of history? Absolutely.
Should the international community take a more activist role
in nurturing functioning democracies, which the United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines as the inherent
right of every human? Definitely. So why is it that recent
American foreign policy has left the majority of the world
and half of the American population feeling more insecure
The violence of the twentieth century taught us that the
world community must come together under common principles
of human rights and self-determination. Though this system
has at times suffered tyrants to live in the name of stability,
we have nonetheless made remarkable progress. Billions of
the world's people now live under nascent, developing, or
established democracies, and the rest yearn deeply for it.
This adolescent system of global government and law has earned
the grudging respect of even the most tyrannical dictators,
who know they face steep penalties for openly breaching its
By sharing the costs of maintaining global peace and responding
to threats, the world community is capable of more than even
the most powerful nation can do alone. Why should we, who
as Americans believe so deeply in democratic consensus, be
so eager to dispose of the beginnings of an international
order -constructed primarily by the United States and in the
image and likeness of America itself - in the name of expediency
For many years, Rome bore the full costs of maintaining
a peace that she alone had imposed, and while she burned brightly
for two centuries, the death throes from her inevitable collapse
cast the known world into a millennium of war and violence
we now call the Dark Ages. Perhaps we should instead consider
a strengthened international regime, forged through common
ideals, shared burdens, and the blessings and participation
of the world's only superpower as one nation among equals.
Shall we be like Rome and use our overwhelming power to briefly
reshape the world to our liking, or shall we break with history
and leave an even greater legacy?