The Romano-British chronicler Gildas, writing almost a century and a half after the final withdrawal from Britain of the last few military, administrative, and judicial personnel of the disintegrating Western Roman Empire, paints a dark portrait of imperial retreat, as the representatives of the erstwhile conquered and oppressed Britons sent pleading letters to the Western Caesar Augustus and the Magister Militum to come back and save them from the barbarian threat. Some fifteen centuries later we see a stark contrast issuing from the site of so many accusations of modern empire: where representatives of the Britons had begged for the imperium to come back, the Afghan executive orders the‘Imperial Grunts’ (Kaplan 2006) to go away. The world, according to this latter proclamation, does not need empire.Comparing the present to the Roman past is almost an academic cliché, an intellectual relic of Whiggish historiography and Victorian interpretivism. But, as Ward-Perkins(2005) argues, the end of the Roman world has been an intellectual phantom in European, and more recently American, political thought for sixteen centuries. For, if Rome–that hegemon which had ‘confounded its monarchy with the globe of the Earth’ could fall, so too can every political order built since.