The Roman Republic waged and won three wars against the Carthaginians, all of which are remembered as the Punic Wars.
The first, fought in and around Sicily, lasted many years and was an exceedingly bloody contest between two equally matched opponents. Polybius referred to it as “the longest and most severely contested war in history.” Despite the challenges presented by years of combat against a peer competitor, Rome eventually won and received large war reparations and control of Sicily. But Carthage, while defeated, was not ground into dust; rather, it was allowed to rise again.
Thanks to that rebuilding, years later, Hannibal crossed the Alps and invaded Italy. While the war had broken out earlier, in Spain, Hannibal’s home base, that act of crossing the Alps and invading is what Hannibal is remembered for doing. He won many great victories, crushing the Romans most spectacularly at Cannae. But, eventually, the Romans bottled up Hannibal in southern Italy and defeated their other Carthaginian opponents in Spain and North Africa, delivering a war-winning blow at the Battle of Zama.
With that, Carthage was defeated. Its power spent, its greatest general defeated in the field, and its treasury depleted.
But, this time, some Romans had learned their lesson.
Rather than be content with the fruits of a temporary victory that would give their enemies time to recover, they wanted to finish the Carthaginians. Instead of waiting a generation for a new crop of Roman youth to have their blood drained by wars against the North African menace, they hoped to crush the Carthaginians into dust in the present, to kick its teeth in while it was still writhing on the ground. By behaving without mercy in the present, they hoped to secure peace in the years to come.
Cato the Elder was the most open advocate for that path of all. He would end every speech by saying “Carthago delenda est,” which translates to “Carthage must be destroyed.” Gradually, he won over his fellow senators and when a just cause for war presented itself, Rome went back to war against Carthage in the Third Punic War. The grandson of Scipio Africanus, Scipio Aemilianus, razed the city to the ground and salted the earth, ensuring it would never again rise as a city or power.
From then on, Rome was secure in its position and had no real opponent. There would be plenty of other enemies that spilled Roman blood, but none presented an existential threat of the sort that Carthage did. Because of Cato’s calls for proactive foreign policy, Rome was able to build its great empire without fearing a peer competitor.
America now faces a new threat, the rising dragon in the East.
Our traditional enemy, Russia, is only relevant because of nuclear weapons. With a commodity-dependent economy that is smaller than the economy of Texas, Russia can stir up a bit of trouble abroad but is not a major competitor.
The Red Chinese, however, are a major threat and competitor.
Their economy is surging to greater heights each day, coming close to surpassing ours.
Their navy is the largest in the world and is rapidly improving in terms of both competence and quality.
They’ve developed capabilities meant purely to defeat our Navy and Air Force, most famously their “carrier-killer” missiles.
What’s worse is that they have hostile intent; they seem poised to invade the Republic of China and extinguish that bright light of freedom for China, are building bases around the world, and are using their Belt and Road initiative to secure various third-world states as allies.
The US, for right or wrong, appears headed to war with China. That may come sooner or later, but there is a high likelihood that it will eventually come.
If it does, we must put Cato the Elder’s words at the forefront of our minds during whatever the equivalent of the First, rather than Third, Punic War is. Rather than gradually whittle down their strength, taking care not to rock the boat too much until we can kick them when they’re down and finish them for good, we must be saying “China delenda est” before war with the CCP even begins.
If we wreck the CCP and salt the Earth (rather than dither away our time and resources with nation-building) in the conclusion of the first war, blood and treasure will be saved.
Just imagine all the Romans that would have lived had the Romans destroyed Carthage after the First Punic War! The hundreds of thousands of virtuous citizens slaughtered at Cannae, Trebia, and Lake Trasimene (not to mention Hannibal’s other victories) would have lived, making the Republic more productive and limiting the scope of the problem of Rome’s freeholder class dying off. Perhaps the Republic could have been preserved…
“What ifs” are mostly useless questions. But examining history is a useful exercise, and what it shows us now is that if America wants to remain on top and extinguish an existential threat, then China delenda est, China must be destroyed.
That evil, communist nation funds the North Koreans, trades with the Iranians, steals our intellectual technology, unleashed a virus on the world that killed millions, and is readying itself for war. We must, from the outset, be prepared to utterly defeat it. There will be no Second Punic War, no Second World War. China delenda est.