Is it wise for the United States to pivot to China? This question is so important in our young century, because we’re talking about the conflicts of the two most powerful nations of today time. Once again, I like to use ancient history to reveal what we might face in the future. Of course, ancient history doesn’t have a crystal ball to predict a future in which such a future is way different than anything ancient history could ever imagine. Nonetheless, ancient history was the product of humans. Thus, we can safely assume no matter how different the future will be, ancient history might get it right still. Of course, unless the future is not a product of humans but of aliens, then I won’t bet my farm on ancient history at all. (I don’t really have a farm!) What ancient history I’m talking about? Read on and I expand…
I watched a YouTube video, The Phoenician Carthage – The Roman Holocaust, in regarding to how Carthaginian empire was toppled by the Romans, and I was very intrigued to how United States and China are facing a very similar Carthaginian versus Romans picture, in the big picture of course. I may get this wrong, because I’m no expert in ancient history of Carthaginian versus Romans. Nonetheless, from what I’d learned from this YouTube video, Carthaginian empire was a superpower way before Rome became one. Carthaginian controlled the nearby sea trade routes, thus Carthaginian empire was also an ocean going superpower just like how United States is today. Meanwhile, at the time when Carthaginian ignored how Roman state was on the rise in term of ground territorial expansion, Carthaginian thought nothing of Rome until sometimes later this would prove to be fatal for Carthaginian empire itself.
Sometimes later, Roman state slowly took up form of an empire, albeit a much smaller one than Carthaginian. As Roman empire began to expand even more, it faced an obstacle which was the Carthaginian empire. Carthaginian controlled much of the sea routes for trade, and the Romans wanted a piece of that. I don’t think I can be wrong on this, after all — wars of our time, meaning now or even in the past, were and are mostly about victories over trades, territories and whatnot. Since the Roman state was on the rise to become an empire that rivaled the Carthaginian empire (eventually surpassed the Carthaginian empire), thus the two superpowers of their time began a series of conflicts that led to three major Punic Wars. I’m not an expert in Punic Wars history, thus I couldn’t go into the details, but I know few things about the conflicts of Carthaginian empire and the Roman empire that I can use to compare the two superpowers of today, the United States and China.
At the start of first major Punic War, according to Wikipedia’s “Punic Wars” piece (source link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punic_Wars), the Romans wanted to expand to Sicily and was presented with an opportunity when a local conflict in Sicily broke out. Whatever the details were, the local conflict in Sicily became a proxy war for Carthage versus Rome conflict. Eventually, the proxy war enticed the two superpowers into an all out conflict, resulting in the first Punic War. Wikipedia details that at the start of the first Punic War, Carthaginian was at a disadvantage on land warfare for Roman state was originally expansionary through land warfare, thus the Romans defeated Carthaginian at the Battle of Agrigentum in 262 BC. With such a harsh defeat, Carthaginian decided to avoid most land warfare against the Romans and preferred to fight on sea. Since the Roman empire was not strong at sea, thus Carthaginian empire was able to take advantage of Romans’ sea weakness. The YouTube video I watched describes after a major defeat on sea, the Romans were lucky to capture a Carthaginian battleship which then later the Roman empire was able to duplicate such battleship technology to revert the tide of war on sea. This is important for my thinking of the current conflicts between the two superpowers of today.
Today, the United States is still the undefeated champion on sea, and China is largely a powerful land based force. Obviously, it’s less true than before as China is rapidly developing a huge professional navy with capable battleships and whatnot to deter United States from getting too close to her shore. Just as how Carthaginian versus Romans, United States is facing a rising China in which China has overtaken the United States in world trade. Since Carthaginian was facing a hungry Romans in trade and territory domination, the first Punic War between these ancient superpowers was becoming inevitable. Can we say the same for the United States and China? Once again, not so different from the Punic War conflicts, contemporary superpowers are emphasizing their face-off on sea. China needs to control sea routes for trades and the United States does not want to be pushed out of the Pacific, thus the stage is setting up for a future sea confrontation. Modern Punic Wars? Who will be the Carthaginian and who will be the Romans this time around?
According to ancient history, Carthaginian empire was a superpower at sea. Today, the United States is also a superpower at sea. Romans stole Carthaginian’s battleship building technology, and was able to turn the tide for the ancient battles at sea. United States and China have yet to go to war on sea, but China is hungry for better sea warfare technology. Carthaginian didn’t want Romans to expand and capture ancient territories that could dictate favorable terms for trades such as important sea routes. United States definitely does not want China to control most sea routes, because that would push United States out of Pacific, making United States becomes irrelevant in a modern, most profitable sea-trading territory in the world (i.e., Pacific ocean). United States for sure knows that China is a very capable land force, because China has huge population to prepare a huge ground force invasion. In ancient time, Carthaginian relied on mercenary for their army, but the Romans relied on native population for their army. Today, United States does rely on mercenary more than China for obvious reasons. One such reason is that China is not in as many conflicts as the United States, and the United States is facing too many conflicts around the world such as in the Middle East. I’m living in the United States, and I feel it’s a poor taste of me to compare United States as Carthaginian empire and China as Roman empire. Nonetheless, the picture of the ancients somehow reminds me of the picture of today. Very freaky in my opinion.
Of course, one big difference of today world is that we are in a nuclear age, thus Carthaginian versus Roman conflicts might be irrelevant for warfare lessons since nuclear weapons can make sea warfare struggles become rather irrelevant. Really? What about submarines with nuclear warheads? Isn’t this scenario all about using the sea to gain victory over the enemy? Thus the oceans are still important in warfare today, and the oceans are still practically important to how we do trades today. I think if we can go on without having sea conflicts between United States and China in a major way that might result in modern Punic Wars, then we might make to the space age. Only in space age where trades take place in space that we might find conflicts on sea become less relevant. Nonetheless, I don’t bet my farm on this, because nobody knows the future. Even though the ancient time can remind us a familiar picture of the past, it doesn’t mean the future will unfold similarly. Nobody knows really! Nonetheless, history can be a great teacher in that the fundamentals won’t just become the aliens overnight, thus the human products of ancient history will probably be somewhat similar in contemporary age. Thus it begs the question, is it wise to have modern Punic Wars? Is it wise for United States and China to have conflicts at sea?
It was how Romans defeated Carthaginian that built the Roman empire into one of the most glorious ancient empires.