With America on the brink of world-shattering war with North Korea, Iran and—why not?— China and/or Russia, it’s time once again to roll out one of the most apt descriptions of how we find ourselves in such a scary situation. It comes, as you may recall, from Joseph Schumpeter. He was a brilliant economist who claimed to have accomplished two of his three greatest goals in life: to be the world’s greatest economist, Austria’s greatest horseman and Vienna’s greatest lover. But he never said which ones.
Writing a century ago about events of two thousand years ago. he left us a brief summary of the foreign policy of the Roman Empire that reads exactly like the foreign policy of our American empire. So here it is from Schumpeter’s The Sociology of Imperialism 1918:
...A policy which pretends to aspire to peace but unerringly generates war, the policy of continual preparation for war, the policy of meddlesome interventionism. There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not those of Rome, they were those of Rome's allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest--why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors, always fighting for a breathing space. The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies and it was manifestly Rome's duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs. They were enemies who only waited to fall on the Roman people …"