“This America Shall Not Fall!”
Those are the last two lines of John Ringo’s brilliant and prescient novel, The Last Centurion. First published in 2008, The Last Centurion is set in the then-future years of 2019 and 2020, but it’s a different world than our own. Following the success of the Iraq War troop surge of 2007, the United States launches an invasion of Iran in the early 2010s, overthrowing the Islamic Republic and establishing an Iraq-style democracy. When the story begins in 2019, the main character – an Army captain known only in the novel as Bandit Six – is stationed near the Iranian city of Abadan, in command of a Stryker company. Bandit Six is looking forward to returning home soon and taking over his family farm in Blue Earth, Minnesota.
But it is not to be. A mutated form of the Chinese bird flu known as H5N1 is loosed upon the world with devastating results. H5N1’s thirty percent mortality rate pushes America to the brink of disintegration, and its first-term female president (named Warrick, but clearly a stand-in for the Hilldebeast) is woefully unsuited to manage the crisis.
With the home front falling apart, the president orders a full withdrawal from the Middle East, but Bandit Six and his company are told to remain behind in Iran to prevent the $19 billion worth of abandoned equipment outside of Abadan from falling into the wrong hands. It is, needless to say, a fool’s errand. Following a massive assault by local Islamist insurgents, Bandit Six decides to take his company on an overland march to reach the safety of Greece, which unlike neighboring Turkey has managed to weather the crisis successfully. Bandit Six is essentially recreating Xenophon’s March of the Ten Thousand. Will his heroic flight for freedom be successful? Read the book.
Ringo’s novel is more than an account of modern-day hoplites fighting their way home. It is also a biting commentary on the social and political foibles of early twenty-first century America. Despite the fact that history in the real world took a somewhat different course over the past dozen years since the novel’s publication, it still reads as if its topics were ripped from today’s headlines. When the Chinese Wuhan coronavirus accelerated last month and stay-at-home orders proliferated, I immediately recalled Ringo’s novel and began rereading it. Ringo’s novel was excellent in 2008, and from the perspective of 2020 it stands as prophetic and classic. Like a fine wine, it has aged wonderfully. Check it out.