I found Robert Harris' op-ed in Saturday's New York Times interesting. It focuses on the fall of the Roman Republic, an event that Harris believes was caused by Roman overreaction to a pirate raid on Rome's port at Ostia in 68 BC:
An intelligent, skeptical American would no doubt scoff at the thought that what has happened since 9/11 could presage the destruction of a centuries-old constitution; but then, I suppose, an intelligent, skeptical Roman in 68 B.C. might well have done the same.
In truth, however, the Lex Gabinia was the beginning of the end of the Roman republic.
Harris makes the case that by giving Pompey extraconstitutional powers in order to defeat the pirates responsible for the destruction of Ostia, Rome set a dangerous precedent that eventually led to the rise of demagogues, personal armies, and eventually the death of the Republic.
Too many on the Left use the post-September 11 increase of governmental power, especially by the executive branch, as fodder for claims that Bush is a dictator who wants to rule the world and other ridiculous flights of fancy. Harris strikes at the heart of why giving large increases of power to governmental officials in times of crisis is dangerous - because when the crisis ends, the power does not. While President Bush would not use the power to detain non-citizens indefinitely to stifle political opposition, if the president is given this power, future holders of the office will.