The Lessons of Julius Caesar

Seldom, if ever, have we learned of a major war through the one man who brought it on, won it and then described it. Yet for that we are indebted to Julius Caesar, who was determined to conquer Gaul for Rome and then explain it in memoirs of battle and its aftermath that are unparalleled in military writings.

If only it was left like that. But somehow through the ages Caesar became another worldly figure, for some a demi-god, for others evil incarnate that overwhelmed the sturdy soldier beneath. Let his memoirs tell us what he was – an extremely skilled strategist and leader of men who pursued a clear goal on this earth with little reference to the gods or any other external forces. The war was his alone, to win or lose.

Writing of himself in the third person, Caesar becomes a part, if a crucial one, of the battle scene. There’s not a trace of undue pride except in the army he leads, and – no doubt to the astonishment of contemporary war gazers – he often respects the enemy he faces. He writes that one group of Gauls had “such an outstanding reputation for courage” he avoided giving battle until he decided his own troops could be even braver. He says the Gauls may be volatile and imprudent, but he doesn’t indulge the modern habit of name calling. There’s no moral posturing. The word “evil” is not in his vocabulary. He has his values – Rome – but the enemy has theirs.

Surrender by the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix before Caesar

As a result, he is often parleying as much as fighting. Easier to talk an enemy into surrender or compromise than killing or being killed. Not that he would hesitate when the need arose. As he wrote in a rare personal description on the verge of an enemy attack, “Caesar had to see to everything at once. The flag must be unfurled, the trumpet sounded, the soldiers must be recalled from working on the defenses, and all those who had gone some way off in search of material for the earthworks had to be ordered back to camp. He must draw up the battle line, encourage the men, give the signal.” Battlefield victories followed.

Caesar was famous for fast forced marches that caught the enemy unawares and for rapid construction of imposing structures of assault by the enemy’s walls. On one occasion he writes that “never before had the Gauls seen or heard of such immense siege works, and they were so disturbed by the Romans’ speed of action that they sent envoys to Caesar to negotiate surrender.” In ten days with great effort he constructed a bridge to allow his army to cross the Rhine. After spending eighteen days intimidating the Germans on the other side to his “honor and advantage,” he returned to Gaul and tore down the bridge.

Early on, he faced rebellion within. His own troops were intimidated by the size and ferocity of the Germans they were about to face and panic set in. Rather than execute every tenth man Stalin-style, he gave a long reassuring speech in which he cited the weaknesses of the enemy and the firmness of purpose of the Romans. Besides, if they chose not to accept his lead, he would be willing to face the enemy with only those who remained loyal. In the event they all did and won a hard-fought battle.

In eight years Caesar achieved his goal of bringing all Gaul into the Roman polity, an area comprising present day France, Belgium and parts of Germany and the Netherlands. It was an extension that led to empire and the lasting reputation of the conqueror at the cost, to be sure, of untold lives and the occasional barbarity not unique to Caesar.

Instigators and enthusiasts of U.S. wars and proxy wars, by all means read “The Gallic War.”

The Emperor and the Poet

In the dawn of our first century Emperor Augustus brought marble to Rome and peace to the empire after a series of destructive civil wars from which he emerged the victor. At first he pursued vengeance but later turned to forgiveness, a quality that marked his strong, one-man rule over a vast terrain.

One of those he forgave was the poet Horace, who fought against him at the climactic battle of Actium but not very well. He lost his shield in the middle of battle and withdrew in some humiliation. Not one to let politics interfere with poetry in the golden age of Latin literature, Augustus knew Horace would add luster to his own rule and befriended him, even though the poet had a far different view of the good life – not triumph in war or politics but the simple pleasures of close friends and ample wine in a relaxed country setting and not a care beyond.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-8 BC), commonly known as Horace, Venosa, Italy

Snugly terse Latin is not easily translated into expansive English, but author David Ferry brings it off. Horace rebukes a friend for telling too many war stories:

But Telephus, you’re no good at all at telling
How much the wine is going to cost or who
Is going to make the fire to heat the water,
Who’s going to give the party, under whose roof
We’ll be invited in out of the cold.
Let’s have a party. Come, let’s celebrate.

That means with wine which is duly praised:

Your gentle discipline encourages
The dull to be less dull than usual,
And Bacchus, joyful deliverer, reveals
What the sober wise man really meant to say.
You bring back hope to the despairing heart
And you give courage to the poor man, so
He’s neither scared of tyrants in their crowns
Nor soldiers brandishing their scary weapons.

Horace will not budge from his way of life:

The splendid lord of the riches of Africa
Mistakenly thinks he’s better off than I
With my little farm whose crops I’m certain of’
And my little quiet stream of pure brook water.
I don’t have hives of bees from Calabria
Busily making their honey just for me;
I don’t have jars of rare Laestrygonian wine
Slowly maturing itself just for me.
Want much, lack much. That man has just enough
To whom the gods have given just enough.

With Augustus perhaps in mind Horace pays tribute to Rome:

Let the name of Rome be heard across the sea,
Over to Egypt where the great river swells.
Let the Romans go to the limits of the world,
Not for the sake of plunder but for the sake
Of extending Roman knowledge everywhere
From the dervish heat of the desert raving and dancing
To the dripping mists and fogs of the northern swamps.

He and Augustus died about the same time with similar lasting legacies:

I have finished a work outlasting bronze
And the pyramids of ancient royal kings.
Some part of me will live on and not be given
Over into the hands of the death goddess.
I will go on and on, kept ever young
In the praise in times to come for what I have done.

The Other War

The war in Ukraine is brutal and destructive with a Russia determined to prevail at whatever the cost. The U.S. is not involved except on the periphery by sending military aid to Ukraine, yet evidence is mounting that it was more engaged than assumed in the build-up to the war. The CIA and special operations were giving advice and training to the Ukrainians. A number of biological research labs with leftover Soviet weapons were under U.S. supervision. If as seems likely, Russia finally overcomes the stalwart Ukrainian defense, Hilary Clinton, among others, predicts an insurgency to follow, modeled on the one that defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan some thirty years ago.

If so, it doesn’t seem likely that U.S. attention will turn any time soon to the other war on its border which from almost any point of view is far more threatening to the country. The ambitious, heavily armed, well organized drug cartels make no secret of their aim to fleece the U.S. and ultimately cripple it. That would be revenge, some say, for the U.S. grab of half of Mexico in the 1840’s war. Their tools are the endless drugs and unknown people they pour across the broken U.S. border without let-up. They’re also expanding their illegal and highly profitable marijuana farms in California and Oregon, again with no serious resistance. Their operatives can be found throughout the U.S. directing drug distribution and billions of dollars in payments to helpful hands.

In the past they have tried to avoid harming Americans while ruthlessly murdering Mexicans who get in their way or, frankly, just for the fun of it. But that seems to be changing. Recently, some cartel gunmen opened fire on the U.S. consulate in the border city Nuevo Laredo, apparently in revenge for the arrest of one of their chiefs. No one was hit, but the U.S. took people and families out of the consulate with the ambassador to Mexico expressing “grave concern” to its government.

Cartel Map by Region of Influence, Stratfor Global Intelligence

That followed the usual script that Mexico is a sovereign country with an inviolate border – at least on its side – when in fact it’s a narco state run by the drug cartels who will no doubt dismiss the ambassador’s plea. It might be asked why the U.S is willing to have Russians killed while sparing the cartels. Are they any less threatening or evil? Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr is alarmed at the size of the threat. In a recent TV interview he recalled a Mexican attempt to arrest a cartel boss that was thwarted by 700 cartel para military troops with machine guns mounted on trucks. He sees a “president down there who believes in hugs, not bullets and has lost control of the country. And we have no control over that territory and no control of the border.”

The U.S. may not believe in hugs but its reaction has not been a great deal more strenuous. The obvious solution is to put U.S. troops, now scattered in dubious activities around the world, on the embattled border where they can confront the cartels and if necessary cross the border to pursue them in what is a lawless land. Are Americans, increasingly poisoned by Mexican fentanyl disguised as drugs of common usage, not as deserving as Ukrainians? In a year’s time 100 thousand Americans have died in this manner.

Then there are the Mexicans who live in a slaughterhouse almost totally ignored by the U.S. media. For example, the cartels are in the habit of raiding funerals of rivals or other offenders where their targets are sure to show up. After a recent attack in the town of San Jose de Gracia, the number of victims couldn’t be determined since the gunmen cleaned up afterwards and removed the bodies. Maybe seventeen, and had they been dismembered or skinned alive?

A war for the liberation of Mexico is not in the offing, but a resolute U.S. stand on the border would be a start.

Ending the War in Ukraine

Day after day Ukraine is pounded by Russian artillery, giving the world a graphic picture of modern war. The U.S. continues to send military aid to the heroic Ukrainians resisting the Russian attack, but prolonging the war only leads to more death and destruction whatever the eventual outcome. The solution is negotiations now that will resolve the issue in dispute – whether Ukraine joins NATO.

The anomaly is that the Biden Administration and the NATO chief don’t seem to be all that committed to the matter. They say, well, Ukraine may or may not join NATO. We aren’t sure right now. Let’s wait and see. By contrast Russian leader Putin wants an iron-clad agreement right now in writing that Ukraine will not join.

It sounds pedantic, but he has his reasons. On the verge of collapse, the Soviet Union agreed to the reunification of Berlin in return for a U.S. pledge that NATO would not advance eastward toward Moscow. But ten years later that pledge was violated when President Clinton, under pressure from the war-inclined neocons in his administration, brought in three nations to NATO from the former Soviet bloc. Over the protest of Putin, others later followed until reaching today’s total of thirty, four of them on the Russian border – a resolute defense.

At that point Putin drew his red line on Ukraine. He could also cite another intrusion as he sees it. In 2014, neocons in the Obama Administration got involved in an uprising in Ukraine and gave crucial support to the overthrow of the pro-Russian government and its replacement by one friendly to the U.S. Some say they have similar plans for Putin.

Yet so far Putin has not been unreasonable in his demands. Along with a neutral Ukraine, he wants independence for two parts of eastern Ukraine largely populated by Russians and the removal of some weapons directed at Russia from NATO nations. He says he does not want to remove the current government of Ukraine. President Zelensky can continue to stand.

But this is now. Opinions can change along with circumstances as the war progresses. Not too surprisingly, Putin has become a figure of hate. He started the war and, as they say, he has blood on his hands. TV host Sean Hannity asked ex-President Trump if he would declare Putin “evil.” The Don demurred, but there would be a chorus of “yes” in Washington, where support for Ukraine is near total. Hannity and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham have even called for the assassination of Putin.

There remains the possibility of a larger war. The Biden Administration says it doesn’t want any U.S. military involvement, but a growing number of members of the U.S. Congress call for the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine which would lead to shooting down Russian planes and therefore war. That suits the indignant writer of an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. He urges putting NATO troops in western Ukraine to show Putin we mean business, and he may be too intimidated to react.

Looking further afield, the Biden Administration has disclosed that Russia has asked China for military help. The Asian nation will be duly punished with U.S. sanctions if it obliges. This opens the question of a two-front conflict with these increasingly allied nuclear powers. Don’t worry, we’re told, we can handle it and also try to avoid Armageddon.

Let’s instead try negotiations and make sure they succeed.

A Third World War?

It was only twenty-one years after the First World War that the Second World War began. Perhaps it was not time enough for the horrors of total war to sink in. So, it was tried for a second time in 1939 with even more devastating results. The world has not been the same and not necessarily for the better.

Now it has been seventy-six years since World War Two, plenty of time for serious reflection. There’s the added incentive of the danger of ever advancing nuclear weapons whose impact was demonstrated by the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two – its only use but sufficiently instructive.

But has this intervening time been put to thoughtful use? Today’s national leaders appear to have a weak grasp on history, even of recent years. In the internet age knowledge is quick to come by but perhaps too much too soon. We are nothing if not present-minded. Spare us the complicating past.

So, the Ukraine war is the fixation of the moment. A pressing event it is but not seen in context. Like all wars it’s brutal and should be ended as soon as possible, but emotions unrelated to history keep that from happening. Weapons pour in along with rousing rhetoric to keep Ukrainians fighting and also dying with little chance of defeating larger Russia.

There’s understandable agony over civilian deaths which occur in every war, especially from bombing, as the U.S demonstrated in its recent wars. In World War Two – often called the “good war” – Germany, Russia, Britain and the U.S. deliberately targeted civilians in order to break the morale of the enemy population. It didn’t work but the slaughter was prodigious.

Firestorm cloud over Hiroshima, U.S. Army, Aug. 6, 1945

Much-demonized Putin must be judged in the context of Russian history. No easy going, sociable democrat could have pulled Russia out of the chaos he faced on assuming office in 2000 with the legacy of oppressively brutal communism and financiers from abroad looting the country. It took a seasoned operative. Yet he is more vilified by the historically ignorant than the mass-killing Stalin who in his pursuit of world conquest crushed one people after another, including his own. By contrast Putin is a cautious autocrat

The media must read some history so that it doesn’t rediscover Russia time and again. The New York Times, which failed to report the massive starvation caused by Stalin in Ukraine in the 1930s, is breezily egging on Ukrainian troops today. A recent piece in the Sunday Times declared that the cold war with Russia today is worse than the one occasioned by Stalin, who imposed his tyrannical regime on all of Eastern Europe and half of Germany after World War Two and later ordered North Korea to attack the south, leading the U.S. into another war. In fact, Stalin and communism are not even mentioned in the piece. It all begins with Putin.

The two world wars at least had the excuse of entangled alliances and clash of ideologies. Today’s Ukrainian war is simplicity itself for which there’s a simple solution: keep Ukraine out of NATO and let serious negotiations bring an end to the war with as little outside interference as possible. The only losers will be those who want to elevate the conflict into a world-shaking event to the detriment of the world.

Truckers Face the Great Reset

On Prime Minister Trudeau’s orders the police have moved against the striking truckers in Ottawa. Using batons and pepper spray, some on horseback, occasionally smashing truck windows, they have arrested over 130 protestors and hauled away some 50 trucks. Throughout the truckers have remained peaceful and determined to stay despite police state tactics.

It’s this harsh over reaction that has gained sympathy for the truckers not only in Canada but also in the U.S., where a similar convoy is set to start from California in late February and head to Washington. Its members declare solidarity with their Canadian brethren. So far convoys are under way in France, Australia and New Zealand. They have apparently tapped a wellspring of resentment to state oppression that’s moving swiftly across borders. It wasn’t expected but the truckers are leading the way to freedom from the excessive control brought on by the Covid epidemic or rather the over wrought response to it.

All this could easily have been avoided by a simple compromise over the Covid restrictions on the truckers. But Trudeau didn’t budge. He wouldn’t even talk to the truckers but continued to denounce them as if they were somehow beneath him. Asserting emergency powers, he resorted to such extreme actions as seizing their fuel and bank accounts, confiscating donations to them, even threatening to take their pets and crypto currency, if they have any.

Protesters show signs of support for the truckers on Feb. 7 in Ottawa, Canada during the ongoing Canada Freedom Convoy protests. (Photo: Amru Salahuddien/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Why is this leader of a liberal Western democracy treating his fellow citizens this way? A slim rather debonair fellow, he doesn’t look like Mussolini while imitating some of his behavior. The Wall Street Journal editorializes that he justifies his tactics by “inflating the protest into a terrorist plot to overthrow government. These extraordinary measures are a needless abuse of power.”

Trudeau is under the influence of what’s called the Great Reset, a creed of self-proclaimed elitists, including wealthy notables like Bill Gates and George Soros, who seem to have a hankering to try to govern the world. This can’t be left to such insignificant nobodies as the people who continue to pollute, over consume, fail to cooperate with their betters and stay in thrall to such outmoded concepts as the nation state. A striking example of this deficiency is demonstrated by the truckers who are getting what they deserve. Happily, they may disappear in the Great Reset along with other offending members of the lower and middle classes.

One offending member has already been disappeared. Pastor Artur Pawlowski has been a frequent critic of the Covid lockdown which he compares to his experience under communist rule in Poland. Does Covid come before God? he asks. For that he has been repeatedly arrested and now sits in solitary confinement in a squalid prison cell in Calgary, charged with “mischief.”

The Great Reset at work and don’t mention Stalin’s Gulag. Truckers, keep trucking.

Karl Marx and the Truckers

Truckers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your miles.

With apologies to Karl Marx, that could be the appropriate slogan for the truckers now on strike in Canada over having to show proof of vaccination for Covid if they want to cross the U.S. border, which they do thousands of times a day to keep the economy of both nations humming. They are indeed the lifeblood of the economies without which they cannot function. All goods go from place to place, and trucks take them there.

Not just truckers are involved. Thousands of people line the streets to cheer them on as they head for their destination, Ottawa, capital of Canada. They obviously speak and drive for a population weary of lockdowns and masks and other forms of coercion that writer Tony Hall calls “medicalized tyranny.” They are said to be based on science, but the science keeps changing. A human being can only cope with so much change.

“Freedom Convoy,” Ottawa, Canada. ΙΣΧΣΝΙΚΑ-888

Karl Marx, star promoter of communism, says that’s when a revolution occurs. A crisis precipitates it. But wait. The hundreds of truck drivers don’t seem very revolutionary. They are cheerful, even festive and, cold as it is with their fuel being removed by authorities, they seem to be enjoying themselves. It’s a democratic strike. No violence.

In the strike ridden U.S. in the late 1800s, top labor boss Samuel Gompers was asked what he wanted. He said succinctly “More.” Today’s truckers’ response to the same question might be “Less.” That is, less government intrusion on their lives. In Marx’s time strikes were economic, over pay. Today they may be cultural, a reaction to what they perceive as an assault on their values replaced by a fixation on race and gender. On their long hauls across the continent, they have time to ponder this.

It’s a sentiment that seems to be shared by fellow truckers in France, Australia, New Zealand and to be sure, the U.S., where a similar convoy plans to leave California in mid-February and reach Washington by mid-March. It doesn’t seem as if this increasingly international strike is going to be easily settled. Alarmed by the closing of bridges that has shut down the vital trade between the U. S. and Canada and caused some industries to reduce operations, Canadian authorities have warned of dire consequences. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a target of truckers’ wrath, says the strikers are only a fringe element with unacceptable demands and refuses to negotiate. But some Canadian provinces have taken the sizeable hint and lifted their Covid restrictions.

Another group deeply offended by the truckers’ action are the so-called globalists, wealthy individuals who meet privately to map, as they see it, the future course of the world. It’s a fuzzily collectivist vision not unlike that of the master Karl Marx. Trudeau is a member, as are Bill Gates and George Soros, a heavy contributor to U.S. officials who don’t like to prosecute crime. Truckers need not apply.

The truckers have undergone a change of reputation in allegedly elite circles, including the media. A short time ago they were the celebrated heroes who braved the Covid epidemic to continue to supply their fellow Californians huddled for protection inside. They now seem to be considered a Marxist style proletariat intent on power. Sorry, Karl, it’s not power they seek but a rightful place and voice in a democratic polity and the continent long convoy is their way of achieving it.