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The Praetorian Guard was an elite military force that was originally created to protect the Roman emperors (perhaps analogous in some respects to Mussolini’s Blackshirts, the SS in Nazi Germany, and more recently, Iran’s Republican Guard). Over several hundred years of Roman history (31 B.C.E.–312 C.E.), as the guard gradually gained more military and political power, including the power to install and remove emperors, it became a symbol of pervasive corruption and venality, and this is the sense in which the term is evoked here. There is a rich scholarly tradition on praetorianism, much of it associated with its obvious connection to military dictatorships, mostly in developing countries.

Praetorianism can be contrasted with professionalism when assessing the role of the military in society and government. Professionalism ...

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