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''Americans are insensitive vulgarians – loud and uncultured, God-drunk and materialistic, implacable and self-congratulatory, blind to the needs of others – who wield their power with unthinking brutality and childlike clumsiness, largely in the service of oppressive regimes, hegemonic ambitions, and insatiable appetites.''  

So writes the realist and renowned author/editor, Cullen Murphy, in The New Rome – The Fall Of An Empire & The Fate Of America; a book, which among other issues, aligns current day American foreign policy, with that of the Roman Empire's.  And strikingly similar – by way of meticulous research and a candid eye for detail - they are too.  

As has been well documented throughout the ages, said Empire (along with that of the Third Reich), was eventually far too stretched, outnumbered and maneuvered, for it to comply with even its own macho manifesto – let alone the revolt of those it sought to rule.  Rome, amid its initial, all conquering trajectory of mayhem'n'murder, and America, where ''bureaucracy is the new geography,'' are indeed, as equally ''implacable'' as they are ''self-congratulatory.''  Such assertion is substantiated at the outset of the very first chapter, Where Republic Meets Empire, by way of Murphy quoting former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright:  ''We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall.  We see further into the future...''  

Might such puerile bombast suggest salient resignation - where despite America's vast wealth and clinical well-being, all is invariably not well?  Luckily, the flip side of such puerility is brought to bear by the author's philosophical prudence, where Murphy suggests that the principal idea of America, is that it remains ''very consciously a constant work in progress, designed to accommodate and build on revolutionary change.''  Be that as it maybe once was, it's certainly no longer the case (and hasn't been for quite sometime).  

Surely it's more than evident - even if only by the way some of its leaders conduct themselves upon the world stage -  that as an idea, America has become far more of a stagnant stasis, from that which it once was/longs to be.  Admittedly, during the time of the American Revolution, where the nation succeeded in breaking away from the shackles of the British Empire, America may well have been ''a constant work in progress.''      

Painstakingly researched and thankfully, not afraid to tell it as it truly is, The New Rome reflects on a society, that like Rome that itself, is incapable of reflection.  Hence the harrowing/sparkling quote (depending on what side of the Democrat/Republican divide you find yourself), that could only have been pronounced by either Julius Caesar or George Dubya:

''I'm the commander – see, I don't need to explain... I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation.''  An insensitive vulgarian or merely blind to the need(s) of others?  This book will undoubtedly shed comparable light.

David Marx
IThe New Rome – The Fall Of An Empire  And The Fate Of America
By Cullen Murphy
Icon Books – £14.99
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