In particular, Kissinger was a key player during a transformative period of the imperial presidency, in the 1960s and ’70s, when the Vietnam War undermined the traditional foundations on which it had stood since the early years of the Cold War: elite planning, bipartisan consensus, and public support.
Between 1776 and 1789, Americans replaced a government over them with a government under them. They have worried ever since about keeping it under. Distrust of its powers has been more common and more visible than distrust of the imperial authority of England ever was before the Revolution.
They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn’t want to be broken.
When Edward Gibbon was writing about the fall of the Roman Empire in the late 18th century, he could argue that transportation hadn’t changed since ancient times. An imperial messenger on the Roman roads could get from Rome to London even faster in A.D. 100 than in 1750. But by 1850, and even more obviously today, all of that has changed.
Given the gruesome fate of the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family, and the fact that five of the previous 12 Romanov rulers were also murdered, it is easy to regard Russia’s imperial dynasty as cursed.
Nero may have understood how to tune his cithern, but he disgraced his imperial office both by slackening and by tightening the strings.