Cicero on war in western Asia

Warfare concludes when your enemy is consumed by fear.  Cicero noted, commenting on a Roman provincial war, "one general is demanded and required by all men, both allies and citizens, for that war; that he alone is feared by the enemy, and that no one else is."  Terror, Inc. has now been alerted to the nature of our commander in chief, wholly different from his predecessor, and will respond accordingly — toward our citizens and allies.  Cicero continued:

You see what the case is; now consider what you ought to do.  It seems to me that I ought to speak in the first place of the sort of war that exists; in the second place, of its importance; and lastly, of the selection of a general.  The kind of war is such as ought above all others to excite and inflame your minds to a determination to persevere in it.  It is a war in which the glory of the Roman people is at stake; that glory which has been handed down to you from your ancestors, great indeed in everything, but most especially in military affairs.  The safety of our friends and allies is at stake, in behalf of which your ancestors have waged many most important wars.  The most certain and the largest revenues of the Roman people are at stake; and if they are lost, you will be at a loss for the luxuries of peace, and the sinews of war.  The property of many citizens is at stake, which you ought greatly to regard, both for your own sake, and for that of the republic.

Cicero (photo credit: Freud, CC BY-SA 2.0 license).

And since you have at all times been covetous of glory and greedy of praise beyond all other nations, you have to wipe out that stain, received in the former Mithridates War, which has now fixed itself deeply and eaten its way into the Roman name, the stain arising from the fact that he, who in one day marked down by one order, and one single letter, all the Roman citizens in all Asia [modern Turkey], scattered as they were over so many cities, for slaughter and butchery, has not only never yet suffered any chastisement worthy of his wickedness, but now, 23 years after that time, is still a king, and a king in such a way that he is not content to hide himself in Pontus, or in the recesses of Cappadocia, but he seeks to emerge from his hereditary kingdom, and to range among your revenues [i.e., provinces], in the broad light of Asia.

Indeed, up to this time your generals have been contending with the king so as to carry off tokens of victory, rather than actual victory.  Lucius Sulla has triumphed, Lucius Murena has triumphed over Mithridates, two most gallant men, and most consummate generals; but yet they have triumphed in such a way that he [Mithridates], though routed and defeated, was still king. ... But Mithridates employed all the time which he had left to him, not in forgetting the old war, but in preparing for a new one; and, after he had built and equipped very large fleets, and had got together mighty armies from every nation he could, and had pretended to be preparing war against the tribes of the Bosphorus, his neighbors, sent ambassadors and letters as far as Spain to those chiefs with whom we were at war at the time, in order that, as you would by that means have war waged against you in the two parts of the world the furthest separated and most remote of all from one another, by two separate enemies warring against you with one uniform plan, you, hampered by the double enmity, might find that you were fighting for the empire itself.

What was true 2,088 years ago remains true.  Nothing changed.  Then, as now, two decades were wasted by generals content "to carry off tokens of victory, rather than actual victory"; the enemy regrouped and grew stronger; our enemy has "yet suffered any chastisement worthy of his wickedness"; our enemies have been busy "in preparing for a new" war; we will soon be confronted on multiple fronts, with "the safety of our friends and allies ... at stake"; and we should prepare for chickens to come home to roost.  Nobody fears our woke, obsequious generals.  Our enemies will unite and confront us on multiple fronts.  As we retreat, they regroup.  A blood-dimmed tide is loosed upon the world.  A stain must and will be erased.  But not until the sorry crew which brought us to this pass has been replaced.

Roman citizens would no more suffer incompetent, feckless losers than Americans will tolerate.  This wrong will be righted, but not soon.  Biden — China's purchased president — is correct: the withdrawal was "an extraordinary success."  Depending on your allegiance.

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