Going the Way of Rome: Illegal Immigrants in the Military

Want more proof that the United States is a decadent empire in its twilight years? Here it is. We’ve decided to allow a select group of illegal immigrants (as many as 2 million fit the description) to enlist in the military. This seems to be the first step in Obama’s promise to find other paths to grant illegal immigrants citizenship:

The new Pentagon policy may be the first phase of a broader government-wide effort to ease pressure on immigrants and create new paths to citizenship. President Barack Obama, frustrated with the failure of Congress to pass any substantial immigration reform, has vowed to aggressively use his presidential authority to change the way immigration policies are carried out.

That’s scary. And it’s also not unprecedented. Rome did the same thing. And it eventually ruined her. Here’s the story. When the Roman Empire was at its zenith, Roman citizenship was quite prized because Roman citizens got a bunch of free stuff and a different set of rights. You could be born into Roman citizenship, or you could buy it, or (near the end) you could get citizenship by fighting in the Roman military.

And that’s where the real problems began. Because eventually, a large percentage of the Roman army really didn’t have much loyalty to Rome—they were after all not much better than mercenaries. So one day, when Rome needed protection from an invasion, it called in the military. Who, instead of protecting Rome, sacked her instead:

For most of its history, Rome’s military was the envy of the ancient world. But during the decline, the makeup of the once mighty legions began to change. Unable to recruit enough soldiers from the Roman citizenry, emperors like Diocletian and Constantine began hiring foreign mercenaries to prop up their armies. The ranks of the legions eventually swelled with Germanic Goths and other barbarians, so much so that Romans began using the Latin word “barbarus” in place of “soldier.” While these Germanic soldiers of fortune proved to be fierce warriors, they also had little or no loyalty to the empire, and their power-hungry officers often turned against their Roman employers. In fact, many of the barbarians who sacked the city of Rome and brought down the Western Empire had earned their military stripes while serving in the Roman legions.

By the way, that last paragraph is from an article, “Eight Reasons Why Rome Fell,” which reads like a daily newspaper of current American events. Just saying.

There are a huge number of reasons—historical and logical—why military service should not be the price tag on citizenship. But you know what they say about not learning history and being doomed to repeat it and all. But far worse than that is learning history and being doomed to watch everyone else ignore you and repeat it anyway.