Take Pyrrhus. Or Epirus.
Epirus was and is a region in Baltic’s. 2300 years ago it was an area aligned with the the forces of Greece. Pyrrhus of Epirus was perhaps its most famous historical figure, though he might not have preferred to be remembered for the way in which he has influenced modern linguistics.
Greek forces were not to be trifled with in those days. They were considered the most effective military force in the world. They were the masters of tactics, strategy and weaponry. Think elephants with armor. Alexander the Great.
Pyrrhus decided to send the Epirian military to support the forces of Tarentum, a Roman city embattled in conflicts with the growing power of the Rome. Not that he can take the credit for decision. He had received counsel by none other than the Oracles of Delphi, the wisest of the world. I sometimes wondered if the advice he received was, “If you don’t fight them over there, you will eventually fight them over here.”
It would have been insightful to have been a fly on the walls of Epirus. One can only imagine Pyrrhus labeling the forces of Tarentum as “moderates,’ to be taken as allies, aka Kiev, in fighting the more powerful and evil forces of Rome, aka Russia.
If CNN had been there the battle against Rome at Tarentum would have garnered blockbuster ratings. The Romans lost twice as many men in the battle. Pyrrhus came, he saw, and he kicked butt.
As the armies were separating, the defeated Romans dragging tail, one of his military generals rushed to congratulate him on the victory. Pyrrhus well aware of what the battle had truly cost his forces, replied, “one other such (victory) would utterly undo him.” And eventually it did undo him. The losses sustained by Epirus were so great as to cast their forces into final defeat in future battles.
The loser, Rome, was technically defeated by Pyrrhus. But even in suffering huge losses, they proved to the existent world that they were a serious force. And while suffering much greater losses in numbers, the amount of damage inflicted upon Epirus was more than Epirus would prove to be able afford.
Consider Afghanistan. Over and over again Afghanistan and the surrounding regions have been attacked and occupied by foreign armies. Armies that eventually withdrew, unable to sustain the continued loss of money and men to the brutal terrain and the rugged resistance of the local armies, primitive and small in comparison. In modern times they have racked up some serious victories against the most powerful militaries of the world—the British, the USSR, and now, the USA, even if that chapter of the book has yet to be edited and published.
To be fair, some Greeks are capable of learning. Alexander the Great could have taken and occupied the area of what is now modern Iraq and Afghanistan. But he must have had better teachers than most leaders, or more wisdom. He resisted the temptation and passed by, avoiding an occupation that would have cost more than it gained.
And so the world turns and the US had opted to, once again, invade the Middle East. We can justify a war as easily as could Pyrrhus. There are “moderates” in the area that are embattled, and our cause is the same as theirs, we are told. The forces of ISIS are pure evil—killing Christians and beheading people just for media coverage. By allying with the enemies of ISIS, we might defeat our common foe. Like we did in Viet Nam. Or in Iraq. Or in Libya. Or in Egypt.
History and linguistics will remember Pyrrhus as the source of what is now known as a pyrrhic victory. A victory by definition but a defeat in every sense of the word. What did a half-century of choosing leaders and borders of Middle East nations bring us? 9/11? Tens of thousands dead and so many more wounded and crippled. All the instability in that region that we set out to prevent, or so we were told.
Thus far the US has the ability to borrow money, apparently forever, without end. Borrow so much that our grandchildren are born into a life of debt. We have the military muscle to send wherever we like, as long as we can keep borrowing and printing money, and as long as Americans keep buying the lie that the US can control the world.