Stratblog: The Grand Strategy of Rome
Published on: March 6, 2011
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  • Earl of Sandwich

    When you name drop books such as “Empire of Trust” is that to be taken as an endorsement of said book?

    • Walter Russell Mead

      I wouldn’t mention a book that I didn’t find interesting in some way. That is not the same thing as an “endorsement”. In this particular case I reviewed the book in Foreign Affairs.

  • peter38a

    Wonderful essay as usual Dr. Mead. It occurred to me while reading that some advice given by David Mamet to playwrights and screen writers might be of use to students studying history. He said every scene in a movie should answer three questions: Who wants what, why now and what happens if they don’t get it.

  • Tom Holsinger


    I thouogt of _Empires of Trust_ at the first mention of reliability in diplomacy. You might consider avoiding coffee while reading it though, as portions may either spike your blood pressure or send coffee up your nose, depending on your point of view.

    I merely screamed madly at its depiction of post-Punic Roman interaction with the Greeks, and ran to my wife to read those portions to her aloud.

  • Anthony

    WRM, a very good and concise essay with supplements. Thanks.

  • Odd, I wasn’t thinking of “Empire of Trust,” though I will bookmark it in Amazon, I was thinking of Polybius, Livy and Project Gutenberg. 😀

  • huxley

    …the clear and present threats emanating from overseas will ensure that the new wave of populism in American society will likely not turn us toward a new isolationism.

    WRM: I’d like to think so, but that’s not what I’m seeing.

    Obama and the Democrats have little interest in overseas threats aside from demonstrating that they are not like Bush and the Republicans, which effectively means isolationism. They would prefer to spend their energy and our money transforming America to their Euro-socialist visions.

    Republicans, I would say, are exhausted from trying to see through commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan in the face of continuous, hypocritical Democratic opposition. Republicans would prefer to spend their energy and our money repairing the country’s financial mess, which effectively means isolationism.

    To be sure, overseas threats exist but they are lilliputian — small and numerous — and therefore do not focus the American mind quite so well as the 20th C. threats of fascism and communism.

  • Peter

    Stratblog is a true public service. Only a few of us are able to attend Ivy League-type discussions first-hand and here you are opening up the possibilities to many more interested parties.

    Such is the power of the computer and Internet. This is the beginning of a revolution in education and learning.

    For example, I know a regular person can take quality courses in almost any suject from MIT. Earning credits & degrees is one thing; learning for the sake of learning & knowing is something else and in some way is a higher calling.

    Hats off to you, Mr. Mead. And thank you.


    Surprising that Dr Mead did not see Scipio as Hannibal’s superior….

  • Hannibal’s elephants?
    Could the elephant be applicable today?
    Perhaps it could symbolize one of the political parties.
    By the way, are we Romans or Carthaginians?

  • steve smith

    It seems that Rome initially prospered through its conquests because it took tribute from the conquered. We don’t do that . . . even though we have a budget deficit.

    The Romans not only took tribute but tried to assimilate foreigners in foreign lands into the Roman system. Ultimately, failed attempts at assimilation only resulted in the loss of the foreign land.

    Conversely, we haven’t taken land from conflict in quite some time. Instead we are trying to assimilate foreigners within America itself. I wonder what would happen if our own attempts at assimilation fails.

  • Richard

    I recommend a rewarding subsequent (or indeed companion) reading to Tito Livio of Machiavelli’s Discourses thereon – in particular Mansfield/Tarcov version (Univ. Chicago ’98)

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    In “Carnage and Culture” Victor Davis Hanson uses Hannibal’s campaign as one of the battles he uses to illustrate what he calls the “Western Way of War”. This Way is a strategic advantage of western cultures based on “Soldiers” motivated by freedom, “Logistics” promoted by capitalism, and “Technology” supported by a culture of Free Enquiry that ruthlessly seeks the “Truth”. He states that the Goal of Western armies is to seek decisive battle where these advantages are used to break the enemies’ will to fight.
    I recommend reading Mr. Hansen’s book first before any study of Hannibal’s campaign, to inform you of what’s strategically important and why Hannibal failed despite his tactical brilliance.

  • RedWell

    Some provocative insights, but I’m not clear where the strategy is here. Just having better domestic institutions so you can weather the other guy’s geniuses? I’m pretty sure the Soviets thought they had something going, and I know the Chinese do.

    “Jacksonian Libertarian” offers some ideas about free men fighting for liberty, and the blog talks about the “highest level of grand strategy: the strategy of state construction and social development.”

    Still, I would think grand strategy is more about favorably ordering the international environment to support state goals rather than ordering the society to support international goals. For instance, after WWII, the US built a specific world order, it didn’t adopt liberal capitalism to support its global leadership.

    That said, I think Tilly’s “war and statemaking” thesis might fit your mold: he argues that modern states make war and war made the modern state.

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