POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

The Political Role of Rhetoric.

by David Trumbull

December 2, 2005

"There's always a temptation, in the middle of a long struggle, to seek the quiet life, to escape the duties and problems of the world, and to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of murder. This would be a pleasant world, but it's not the world we live in. In Iraq, there is no peace without victory. We will keep our nerve, and we will win that victory." --President George W. Bush, October 6, 2005

He's the problem, not the solution. Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam, and this country needs a new President. --Senator Edward M. Kennedy, April 6, 2004.

Did you see the HBO series Rome? Partisan bickering, political strife, questions at home about military involvement abroad. It was all there, in ancient Rome, just as in our America.

The first season of Rome covered the years 52 to 44 B.C., the rise and fall of Julius Caesar. I'd like to take us back about a generation earlier to Lucius Licinius Lucullus (114-57 B.C.)

Lucullus extended Rome's control over new territories and defeated kings at the height of their power. According to the Greco-Roman writer Plutarch, "Lucullus was the first Roman who carried an army over Taurus, passed the Tigris, took and burnt the royal palaces of Asia in the sight of the kings, seizing and overwhelming the northern parts as far as the Phasis, the east as far as Media, and making the South and Red Sea his own through the kings of the Arabians. He shattered the power of the kings, and narrowly missed their persons, while like wild beasts they fled away into deserts and thick and impassable woods."

Plutarch also records that Lucullus freed the cities of the Middle East of their crippling debts and ousted their oppressors. For his labors to pacify a troubled region and free oppressed people Lucullus created rich and powerful enemies. Back home in Rome he was criticized for pursuing a foreign war and for spending Roman resources to liberate barbarians.

Lucullus was a brilliant military leader, but he failed to rally the political support that he needed domestically to build a lasting and prosperous Roman state. That would happen with the rise of the next generation of leaders, Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar, and finally, Octavian known as Augustus.

And what of our American Republic? Do we have leadership for today? Judge from President Bush's Veterans' Day 2005 message:

"At this hour, a new generation of Americans is defending our flag and our freedom in the first war of the 21st century. The war came to our shores on September the 11th, 2001. That morning, we saw the destruction that terrorists intend for our nation. We know that they want to strike again. And our nation has made a clear choice: We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity; we will not tire or rest until the war on terror is won."
David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee; he may be contacted at (617) 742-6881 or Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.