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El País, Spain

The Praetorian Republic



By Lluís Bassets

In all this scandal, the most significant information is not the details of the erotic traffic through military camp beds, but rather what is reflected by the impressive lifestyles and paraphernalia surrounding these men.

Translated By Camden Luxford

18 November 2012

Edited by Kath­leen Weinberger


Spain - El País - Original Article (Spanish)

War molds those who wage it in a very similar way across all eras and regimes. There are many similarities between a victorious general of the Roman Empire and another from the empires of our own days. A person must have a very special personality to manage a direct power that shifts borders, destroys nations and cities, snatches lives, health and estates from thousands of people in response to a mere executive order. This Praetorian personality is generally projected in a similar way in all situations and contexts.

Not even liberal democracies, or the most evolved of states, manage to achieve the perfect subjugation of military-to-civil power when there are victorious generals in the middle, made vain by their victories and acclaimed by the citizenry and, in our times, by the media. Because of this, there appears a tendency, which we have seen proliferate in authoritarian regimes, to create a world apart, which is fed by state finances, full of privileges and benefits, and intoxicated by an inbreeding that refuses to subject itself to rules, scrutiny and, in times of austerity, the belt tightening that affects everybody.

The Praetorian republic, when consolidated as a world apart, works with rules that are different from and even opposed to those of the rest of the society: it is socialist in liberal systems and liberal in socialist systems. We saw this in the vanished Soviet Union, in which the only economy that functioned with efficiency until the very end was the military. We have seen it in Egypt, where 30 percent of the country’s economy is in the hands of a military that, until the arrival of Morsi to the presidency, still struggled with the Muslim Brotherhood for its continued right to interfere in and even veto the political decisions of the government.

It also functions as a world apart in the United States, as the Petraeus case (now also the Allen case) is currently revealing to us bit by bit. In this case, the interesting portion is not the sexual or sentimental affairs of the generals, but rather the extravagant lifestyles and privileges enjoyed by these personalities. These men are idolized by their societies, feared and respected by politicians, adulated by journalists and disposed to impose their points of view and decisions on the government itself and the president.

In all this scandal, the most significant information is not the details of the erotic traffic through military camp beds, but rather what is reflected by the impressive lifestyles and paraphernalia surrounding these men. These incidents have revealed the reflection of an immense power capable of imposing its judgments on civilian powers, the government and Congress in all decisions made about the war. Little has been said about this worrying question. However, the soap opera around Petraeus, the indulged general, must necessarily indicate the need for some change in the relationship between civilians and the military in the United States, after two wars that have fed – to excessive limits – the power of the latter.



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