When an Empire Withdrew from an Unwinnable War

Hadrian's Retreat From Parthia Drew Fierce Criticism—and Opened the Door to a Better Roman Future

Ending wars has always been hard for great powers. Hadrian knew this. In 117 A.D., the new Roman emperor decided to withdraw his forces from an unwinnable war against the Parthian Empire.

Hadrian had inherited the conflict with Parthia—a large empire centered in what is now Iran—from Trajan, his imperial predecessor. Trajan’s generals resisted Hadrian’s withdrawal so forcefully that the emperor feared he might lose both his crown and his life. His ending of the war brought historical condemnation upon him for centuries.

It also was a decision that made Rome stronger.

The …

Seeking a New Kind of Leader for the ‘War’ Against COVID-19 | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Seeking a New Kind of Leader for the ‘War’ Against COVID-19

Military-Inspired Political Charisma Doesn’t Work Anymore

When COVID-19 began its surge in March, politicians worldwide rushed to cast themselves in a familiar role. Donald Trump described himself as a “wartime president.” Emmanuel Macron of France solemnly …

How the U.S. Designed Overseas Cemeteries to Win the Cold War

From France to the Philippines, Stunning Landscapes of Infinite Graves Displayed American Sacrifice and Power

Americans commemorate our fallen soldiers differently than other countries do. You can see the difference most clearly overseas. While innumerable war cemeteries in Europe and the Philippines account for the …

Why Using Foreign Contractors Helps Prolong Foreign Wars

Farming Out Work to Non-U.S. Employees Fosters Corruption, Hampers Logistical Oversight, and Keeps the American Public Disengaged 

First it was sacks of rice. Then frozen chicken. Later, even a television. The goods were wrapped tightly in plastic bags and thrown in with the other trash in a …

The Union Army Regiment That Survived Andersonville

Defeated and Humbled in Battle, the 16th Connecticut Volunteers Gained a Measure of Redemption by Enduring a Year in a Brutal Confederate Stockade

More than 40 years after the Civil War ended, machinist George Q. Whitney, formerly a private in the 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, helped to dedicate a monument to his …

How Long Can the Military Defend Camp Pendleton?

The Marine Base Sits at a Crossroads of an Urbanizing Southern California Starving for Open Land

The American military may be the finest fighting force in the history of the world. But how long can it defend Camp Pendleton?

Marine Base Camp Pendleton is best known as …