By 207 B.C., Rome and its allies on the Italian peninsula had lost approximately 100,000 soldiers to the invading armies of the great Carthaginian general, Hannibal. To make matters more desperate, the Carthaginians were in the final stages of securing massive reinforcements from Phillip V of Macedon. That year the Roman Senate sent a secret group of provocateurs to Northern Greece who started violent insurrections among Phillip’s disaffected subject peoples to his south. The Macedonian armies never sailed and for next 600 years the course of western civilization would be charted by Rome.
Special Forces Will Again Change the World
As I write in Lessons from Fallen Civilizations, “Since the mythical era of Achilles, ascendant civilizations have always produced small cadres of elite warriors. Their prodigious skills and audacity, combined with the element of surprise, have continuously, throughout the history of warfare, produced an astonishing means of martial leverage.”
Over two millennia after the Roman provocateurs destabilized Macedon, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, President Bush ordered one of the most audacious operations ever attempted in the history of special-forces warfare. By early October, just weeks after the attacks, CIA paramilitary units were lifted out of Uzbekistan into Northern Afghanistan, testing the altitude limits of their helicopters. Their orders were to link up with the beleaguered Afghan Northern Alliance guerillas, a collection of tribes which the CIA supported in exchange for intelligence but who were losing the war to free their country from its foreign Taliban overlords. Like their Roman forbearers, their mission was to befriend, recruit, equip, advise, and lead the Northern Alliance fighters in attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda positions. The Americans were both soldier and diplomat.
Additionally, they were to provide the necessary on-the-ground GPS/laser coordination for precision air strikes. In Doug Stanton’s Horse Soldiers, he describes a battle that saw the first American cavalry charge since the 19th century. “Ahead our horsemen charged the middle of the line about 600 yards ahead. The men on foot trotted behind. Nelson looked up just as the Taliban line exploded. Next another bomb from the jet overhead smashed one of the tanks…Up ahead, Nelson could see the Taliban line breaking in places, here and there like a sand wall crumbling.”