I deal in forbidden thoughts for a living. Let me share one with you now. I think it might be time to learn a lesson from the ancient Romans: bring back dictatorship. Their kind of dictatorship. The Romans were ruled by an emperor, a Caesar, but his was not the absolute word. As you know, Rome also had a Senate. In fact, the famous Roman abbreviation SPQR stands for "the Senate and the People of Rome." This system worked well enough most of the time.
But what about times of emergency? They knew, with a kind of realism we seem no longer to possess, that there are times of crisis when the body politic simply dare not subject every decision to an endless process of debate and second guessing. So in such times the provision was made for a temporary dictatorship: the reign of an emergency manager, who could call the shots as he saw themófor the duration. When the crisis was perceived to be at an end, the term of the dictator was over.
I canít help but think of the Roman dictatorship as I watch the dispiriting news about the War on Terror, especially in connection with the Iraqi theatre. The moment the President suggests a policy, Democratic leaders, poised at the ready, leap down with daggers drawn. They shred and stall every initiative.
Maybe we ought to give terrorist gangsters at Guantanamo Bay the rights of American citizens. Can you imagine that? Each one of them represented by the likes of Johnny Cochrane and Mark Garagos? Dragging everything on interminably as witnesses are sought for each Taliban thug? Were they read their Miranda rights when apprehended on the battlefield? Oh no? Then, for the sake of a liberal society seemingly bent on cutting its own throat, by all means letís set them free. Why not give them driverís licenses while weíre being so compassionate?
Can we be tough, even stern, with al-Qaida detainees as we interrogate them? Or do we have to adopt the more lenient methods of Monty Pythonís version of the Spanish Inquisition: the pillow, the comfy chair, and tickling?
Do we need more troops? Or must we heed Charlie Rangelís whining and first do a study to make sure that the army, apparently with the aid of quota systems, is made up of exact percentages from every class and ethnic group?
There are way too many cooks at work on this stew. Ordinarily it might not matter, but we are not in an ordinary situation. I just think it would be good if in such times there were a way to grant special powers to the President to do what he thinks has to be done. Otherwise we risk sinking in a quagmire of politicized paralysis. If you donít like the idea, donít worry. I know it will never happen. Just a daydream.