War in Iraq: History Repeats Itself

Or at least, as Mark Twain said, “… it rhymes.”

When George Bush invaded Iraq, I was immediately reminded of Julian the Apostate. I’ve read about Julian the Apostate, and I can tell you, George Bush is not Julian the Apostate. But, Julian died during his ill fated campaign in the region, so that is why I was reminded.

(If you want read a cool book have a look at Julian: A Novel, by Gore Vidal.)

Anyway, Julian was not the only ancient figure to invade Iraq with dire consequences, as Manchester Historian Gareth Sampson describes. According to Samson,

…there are strong parallels between the defeat of the feared Roman General Crassus in Mesopotamia – modern day Iraq – and the American and British led invasion of the country in 2003 in ‘The Defeat of Rome’ – published this month.

He said: “If history repeats itself – and I fear it will – its not unreasonable to argue that the world may face centuries of conflict.

“The battle of Carrhae halted the expansion of the Roman Empire and was the culmination of a century long process of Rome’s desire for international security.

“The model of international affairs used by the Roman Republic two thousand years ago follows a process of intervention, then occupation and finally annexation; a clear warning for today.

“But it set up 700 years of political instability and conflict, setting the scene for the rise of Islam and the opposition of East and West.

“But more immediately, it led to the civil war between Pompey and Caesar, the end of the Republic, and Dictatorship.”

Dr Sampson says the Roman Republic’s disastrous attack on the Parthian Empire in 53 BC led to 700 years of conflict and was the was the first failure of a great Western Empire to invade the region.

Read the rest here.

Comments

  1. #1 _Arthur
    March 23, 2008

    I Disagee wit Dr. Sampson: Mark Anthony also tried to take the Persian Empire head on, and his (mostly egyptian) armies were soundly defeated.

    Octavian and his right hand Agrippa were able to whack Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, because of the weakened state of their army, a direct consequence of their “persian” defeat.

  2. #2 Philip H.
    March 23, 2008

    I’m not surprised we repeat history – we don’t reaslly teach it as an analytical, critical thinking subject in America. Instead, we recite facts from rote, we “infuse” some marginal history in other subjects, but don’t really get into the meet of it – the why, the how, the end result. As a consequence, the college freshmen in my dad’s Western Civilizations history class at LSU can’t even tell what the historical names of Iraq are, much less where it is in the world.

    Why do we do this? Simple really – its easier to turn out a “product” from schools – students wiht diplomas – if we don’t bother to take time to teach them how to think. If we did, there woul dhave been tens of thousands in the streets of Washington DC this week protesting the war, instead of the hundreds who showed up.

  3. #3 Alan Kellogg
    March 23, 2008

    Funny, I thought we were fighting terrorists and anti-government forces in Iraq. Iranian (and Syrian) supported forces, but largely Iraqi insurgents with a few extra-national volunteers. Furthermore, an enemy who really isn’t that active and more prone to sabotage and ambush than open conflict. I don’t think that’s what Justinian the Apostate faced in his expedition.

  4. #4 Dunc
    March 24, 2008

    The only thing we ever learn from history is that nobody ever learns anything from history. People can always find some reason to believe that this time, it’s going to be different.