mercredi, décembre 06, 2006

V is for Victory

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A reluctant Scipio Africanus before the destruction of Carthage

So tell me again. How do you win a war? Scipio Africanus had it easy. His idea of winning the war was razing Carthage to the ground and spreading salt over its fields so nothing could grow again. Before he got the pleasure of doing this, a certain Senator named Cato used to end all his speeches with the phrase "Ceterum censeo Cartaginem esse delendam" ("I also think that Carthage must be destroyed") after a visit of his to Carthage (see Axis of Evil).

When the Romans, bidding to rid themselves once and for all of the Carthaginian threat, required a casus belli (excuse for war – see WMDs) they created near-impossible demands for the Carthaginians – such as that Carthage be destroyed and re-assembled away from the sea. Probably the senate had had enough of hearing Cato call for Carthaginian destruction after every speech (see Bushisms). (Can you imagine – I support the increase of tax to five sestertii, and by the way I think Carthage must be destroyed).

So yes, they made abominable requests that would be unacceptable to the jolly band of Carthaginians (see valorous Maghrebins). So it meant war. War meant three years of siege of the city and in the final months ended up in street warfare for complete control. Here is Scipio Africanus' victorious To Do List:

1. Sack City
2. Burn & Destroy City
3. Enslave all Carthaginians
4. Sow salt in ground.

Clear no? I mean, it did take them three years but they knew where they stood at the end of it (149 BC).

Let us all then thank God for Bob Gates – the incumbent Defence Secretary – who seems to be quite certain that the US is not winning the war. Today we (and Bush) should be hearing from the Independent Report ( Cross-Party, Iraq Study Group) on the War in Iraq. For the sake of future history books let us hope that we have a clear answer on who is winning.
So far as we can see there are only losers out there… many.

Scipio looked over the city which had flourished for over seven hundred years since its foundation, which had ruled over such extensive territories, islands,and seas, and been as rich in arms, fleets, elephants, and money as the greatest empires, but which had surpassed them in daring and high courage, since though deprived of all its arms and ships it had yet withstood a great siege and famine for three years, and was now coming to an end in total destruction; and he is said to have wept and openly lamented the fate of his enemy. After meditating a long time on the fact that not only individuals but cities, nations, and empires must all inevitably come to an end, and on fate of Troy, that once glorious city, on the fall of the Assyrian, Median, and Persian empires, and on the more recent destruction of the brilliant empire of the Macedonians, deliberately or subconsciously he quoted the words of Hector from Homer--'The day shall come when sacred Troy shall fall, and King Priam and all his warrior people with him.' And when Polybius, who was with him, asked him what he meant, he turned and took him by the hand, saying: 'This is a glorious moment, Polybius; and yet I am seized with fear and foreboding that some day the same fate will befall my own country.

Post Scriptum: After writing this post I came across this excellent article by former world chess champion Gary Kasparov. Ceterum censeo Cartaginem esse delendam.

2 commentaires:

Antoine Cassar a dit…

Jacques, the link to Kasparov's article is broken.

Speaking of Bushisms, check out this poem, entirely made up of utterances from the horse's (or donkey's) mouth:

Jacques René Zammit a dit…

Link fixed.