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Why It's Called Crossing the Rubicon

Jamey Hecht, editor of
Crossing the Rubicon:
The Decline of The American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil

by Michael C. Ruppert

When Caesar led his army into Italy, he triggered a civil war which destroyed Rome's republican form of government, a form which the Romans had cherished for centuries to their cultural, economic, and military advantage. Like every form of government, the Roman Republic was profoundly flawed. But it did much to establish a discursive society, one in which policy was shaped by the power of eloquence and rational debate, as well as by money and war. After Caesar's reign, republican institutions withered on the vine; the intellect became a decorative, effeminate thing associated with the East and the past. Force and the threat of force, punishment and deterrence, war and extortion became the basis of the Roman state and of Roman identity. While these are generalizations which dispense with the nuances of scholarship, the overall pattern they name is unmistakable, even proverbial.

Every moment in time is a transition, and every day of a person's life is the threshold that determines the sequel. But one moment will bear more weight than others, as if a larger portion of the universe were hinged upon it. The murder of President Kennedy meant that Vietnam must go on --- and this drained the US gold reserves, which made for the floating petrodollar, and the third world debt crisis, and the outsourcing of American jobs. Vietnam also caused the failure of Johnson's underfunded "War on Poverty," which Reagan stigmatized as a discredited liberalism while he shredded what remained of domestic social hope in the United States. It also helped murder three million Indochinese. Some moments are special transitions.

The American state-terror of 9/11 represented a shift in the relationship between governing elites and the governed: a shift from neglect to abuse, from exploitation to murder; from contempt to hatred. The Patriot Act did not merely cage or restrict the Constitution, it wounded it. Mike Ruppert's book, Crossing The Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil, is about the threshold between a nominally democratic republic and an overtly militaristic empire. But it also illuminates other, more subtle thresholds whose importance may be even greater. For example, there is a point in time at which it becomes too late to quit using oil --- if the alternatives have not been developed in quantity and commercialized by that point, then the starvation of hundreds of millions becomes almost inevitable.

To put the matter more substantially, there is a well-known ecological relationship between the size of a population and the carrying-capacity of its habitat. In the human society of our time, almost nobody can feed himself, and all consumption is mediated by commerce. So the polarization of wealth and debt is a third factor, along with resource depletion and population growth; they combine to create a danger of immeasurable suffering and loss. A bad system has been made worse by decades of bad policy. Wait long enough, and we cross a line beyond which meaningful reform becomes impossible -- not just because the political will is undermined and coercion replaces debate, but because the toxicity of the air and water, the radioactivity of the soil, and the emptiness of the gas tank forbid it. Distribute goods as fairly as you may: people will starve if there are not enough goods to distribute. The Rubicon is the boundary between a world in which it is still possible to stave off hell by changing policy, and a world of regret in which policy has no meaning.

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