Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Elyakim HaEtzni offers the following historical parallel (with a few additions by yours truly):
Lessons from Carthage:
"Peace now" won out in ancient times, leading to the slaughter of thousands.
Will Israel learn the lessons?
Carthage was an empire that ruled from Libya in North Africa to Sicilia to Sardinia to parts of Spain. It was the center of world finnnace.
Rome stood in opposition, but encountered Carthage's naval superiority. The fighting between them continued for 200 years and ended with the destruction of Carthage.
Theodor Mommsen, in his classic "The History of Rome", describes the people of Carthage as a nation not driven by freedom, or even by power. All they cared about was money. And they tried to use their money to buy peace and quiet from Rome, but were systematically rejected.
Carthage was ruled by a "peace party" of elites - corrupt, incompetent and sold on the Romans. In opposition stood the "war party," who claimed that compromise bought only time, and that Rome's goal was to destroy, not co-exist, with Carthage.
Mommsen's description could well be talking about modern-day Israel: "In a country clearly threatened with a war of destruction, the geniuses, the determined and the committed will plan immediately to attack, but they will be swallowed up by the lazy, cowardly money-worshippers, who will push off the final battle at any cost, in order to live, and to obtain their deaths, in peace."
Army chief Hamilcar Barca and his son Hannibal planned the defensive war against Rome far away from home, with funding they had to raise themselves - from provinces they'd captured in Spain.
Hannibal crossed the Alps, attacked the Romans on their own territory and reached the gates of Rome. His fall was in part due to the fact that he was not supported financially from home, and reinforcements arrived sporadically.
Following the loss Carthage became a liability to Rome, and it appeared the peace camp had been right all along: Carthage thrived and succeeded, much to Rome's chagrin. Cato the Elder uttered his famous phrase, "Carthage must be destroyed!" [Carthago delenda est- JRW] at every opportunity. And after 56 years of "peace now," the Romans attacked. Hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered or sold into slavery.
Love peace, prepare for war
The people of Carthage, descendants of Tyre and Sidon, were our cousins (and the ancestors of the present-day Lebanese-JRW). We, too, love peace, and have built a thriving, flourishing economy. Our army and our political policies were almost thrust upon us. We, too, are torn between an approach that it is possible to appease the Arab enemy, and an approach that the enemy means exactly what it says.