Publius Quinctilius Varus. The name rings infamous in some circles, to many he’s unknown, but to the Germans he was a harbinger of things to come. While the mistakes he made were legendary, let us pause a second to look at the man. Few realize he was a patrician from a family of rather humble means. His father had supported the Senate during the Julius Caesar debacle and killed himself after the Battle of Phillipi, when Octavian and Mark Antony cemented their control of the empire by defeating Brutus and Gaius in a rather nasty pair of battles. Enter Publius. Father disgraced, family fortune long ago gone, his class the only thing of real value he inherited. The makings of an inspirational story, difficulties forging the soul of the man into something truly great…or a twisted, small-minded and cruel administrator. Publius hopped around governorships in Africa and Syria, his cruelty to the Jews prompted a mention by Josephus in his response to the Messianic revolt there after Herod’s death. Two thousand Jews lay crucified at the end and his tactics further exacerbated the already tenuous relationship between the Romans and Jews. Following a transfer back to Rome, as problem children often are in bureaucracies, after his brother had pacified the western German tribes across the Rhine he was again appointed a governorship to Germania. It’s worth note that of the three generals who pacified Germania prior to Pulius’ governorship, Tiberius eventually became emperor, and further study indicates a high level of competence by all three in military matters. Enter Publius. By all accounts respected by the Senate, though nothing is told of his respect by the men under him and certainly not the populaces in Africa and Syria, he was given Legions XVII, XVIII, XIX. Typical of Germans, an uprising soon ensued. Publius far underestimated the Germans, marching all three of his legions through the Teutoburg Forest to deal with these people, likely in the same way he had done previously. Long story short, the legions were forced onto a narrow path in a thick forest which stretched out and severely weakened their defensive capabilities. The felt and armor on the legionnaires became a liability as the felt became wet and heavy, further reducing their ability to respond to the German light infantry. All three legions were lost in the ensuing combat, prompting the disgraced Publius to commit suicide. The defeat ended the Roman occupation of western Germania and despite the ensuing retaliation, would allow the Germans to mount continuing and ultimately successful raids against Rome. We all know who was knocking on Rome’s door in 410 A.D.
Why the history lesson? Publius by all accounts was a failure as a governor thrice over. While he may have been a cruel, small-minded politician, the systemic inability of Rome to self-purge of incompetents had very real-world consequences. While it is merely conjecture, by inferences from reading about the man showed insecurity, massive incompetence, but a shrewd cunning when it came to navigating the political and bureaucratic landscape of Rome. Eventually his mistakes became self-correcting, rising to the level where his incompetence could not be ignored anymore. So it is today. Some may see POTUS as our modern Varrus, particularly with the rise of ISIS and our withdrawal of personnel from Incerlik, Turkey this month. I would posit he is a Caligula, too wrapped up in the vagaries of his own mind and simply lacks the intelligence to even grasp what he is doing. No, I am talking about the “Republican Jesus,” Paul Ryan. He failed in his VP run, but emerged after the Boehner crisis as Speaker. This displayed a level of shrewdness, particularly his demand of absolute loyalty. While he has certainly displayed a deft, sometimes harsh hand when it comes to navigating the Beltway…qui bono? Certainly not you or I, but Ryan. Beneath that exterior of sad eyes and homeless beard, lies a calculating, shrewd incompetent. The budgetary fiasco alone demonstrates his lack of spine and rather insidious level of self-advancement. He has set himself up by manipulation of the rumor-mill to ride in on his white horse and offer to save the GOP. It would do well for us to remember another person riding on a white horse, with three of his friends, in Revelation. While I deign to worry about whether the Red Boot or Blue Boot is in power, I do worry about the results from an incompetent. The legionnaires perhaps scoffed at the proto-Napoleon with little military acumen and even less leadership ability, but nevertheless they found themselves in Teutoburg because of him. While Ryan has explicitly stated he does not want to be nominee, I will remind the reader that the same was said before he suddenly emerged as Speaker of the House. Like Varrus, he will have conned and weaseled his way into a position of import, but at his core he is an administrator, not a leader. The only question that remains will be, where lies his Teutoburg?
In conclusion, I dearly hope we are the Germans in this rather loose allegory I’ve created. I long for the day people will finally see the sham elections have become in this country. It is offensive to be told your primary vote does not matter, particularly those who continue to insist that voting will solve this disaster. Perhaps this will provide the final death blow to all illusions, that you may vote for prepackaged and virtually indistinguishable candidates, but none else. Nothing will change until the illegitimacy of the system is revealed and it is my great hope that Ryan does win the nomination and loses very nearly every state. We have arrived at the crossroads of Bad Ideas. The Good Ideas have been left behind long ago and we must now choose the least bad of the Bad Ideas. I am beginning to increasingly choose the destruction of the ‘conservative’ party as my version of ‘least bad.’ The train derails before it can continue to gain velocity and perhaps a few less people die. Let us not despair, but continue to harden our body, mind and soul to withstand the inevitable…and enjoy documenting the demise of the American Empire. For perhaps our posterity will read, learn and stem the Hydra-like rise of cultural and social entropy a little longer than we were able.
– Jesse James