Why America Needs Her Enemies

By Dustin Bass
Dustin Bass
Dustin Bass
Dustin Bass is an author and co-host of The Sons of History podcast.
January 10, 2022Updated: January 18, 2022


“You have heard that it has been said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you.’”

Those are some of the provocative statements Jesus made during his Sermon on the Mount, found in the Gospel of Matthew. It’s commonly paraphrased as “love your enemies” or “pray for your enemies.”

It’s a laudable action, and it refers to what Solomon wrote in his proverbs, suggesting that being good to your enemy will “heap coals of fire upon his head” (and repeated later by Apostle Paul in the Book of Romans). In other words, being good to your enemy is a proficient way to combat them, possibly even converting them to your side.

When it comes to personal enemies, praying for peace between you and them is a worthy endeavor, especially knowing one will always have enemies. But state enemies may require a different type of prayer. It may be prudent for Americans to pray that we always have an enemy.

Fear: A Guardian for Citizens

After witnessing the fall of Rome, Saint Augustine stated as much in his great work “The City of God.” His purpose behind writing it was to combat the accusations that Christianity was the sole reason why the city had fallen. The reasoning for this accusation from pagans was that Christians had offended the gods by not worshiping them. Of course, for Christians, worshiping other gods was out of the question.

Augustine demonstrated that Rome was destined to fall due to the immoral and profligate lifestyle of its citizens. He suggested the rise of this debauchery was the result of peace.

Though known as a theologian of the early Church, Augustine was learned in history, in particular Roman history. To prove his point regarding the necessity of state enemies, he ushers the reader back approximately 650 years to the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. He references the debate between Scipio Africanus, the general, and Cato the Censor, the politician. Cato demanded Carthage’s destruction, but Scipio refused to do so.

“[Scipio] feared security, that enemy of weak minds, and he perceived that a wholesome fear would be a fit guardian for the citizens,” Augustine wrote.

The Punic Wars took place between 264 BC and 146 BC. In the Second Punic War, Scipio would defeat Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general. Eighteen years later, Scipio would be dead. By the end of the third and final Punic War, Carthage would be destroyed entirely. With its destruction, Scipio would be proven correct, and Augustine would explain the process of Rome’s demise.

“When Carthage was destroyed and the Roman republic delivered from its great cause of anxiety, a crowd of disastrous evils forthwith resulted from the prosperous condition of things. First concord was weakened, and destroyed by fierce and bloody seditions; then followed, by a concatenation of baleful causes, civil wars, which brought in their train such massacres, such lawless and cruel proscription and plunder, that those Romans who, in the days of their virtue, had expected injury only at the hands of their enemies, now that their virtue was lost, suffered greater cruelties at the hands of their fellow-citizens. The lust of rule, which with other vices existed among the Romans in more unmitigated intensity than among any other people, after it had taken possession of the more powerful few, subdued under its yoke the rest, worn and wearied.”

Augustine’s historical assessment is accurate. Without Rome’s great rival, a faux eternal peace resided in Rome, giving way to internal enemies. Corruption and perversion began to pervade Roman society. Less than a century after the Punic Wars ended, Caesar’s civil war began, culminating in his march on Rome. His assassination by members of the Senate soon followed, only to give rise to the rule of emperors, which led to the subjugation of Roman citizens under the heavy yoke of those “powerful few.”

The Problem With Vanquishing Enemies

America has consistently vanquished its enemies―from the British Crown to the Indian Nations to Mexico to The Confederacy to Nazi Germany to Imperial Japan to the Soviet Union. The Cold War, even with all its associated anxieties, was perhaps the “wholesome fear” needed to be a “fit guardian for the citizens.”

For decades, Americans felt they had vanquished the potential threat of the People’s Republic of China by inducing them to partake in democracy and joining the World Trade Organization. Our enemy would become our friend. It’s only recently that many Americans are becoming wise to the fact that this isn’t so, and that’s a good thing for various reasons. The worry is that too many Americans, even high-ranking politicians and military officials, perceive that we have no enemies, except for perhaps pockets of Islamic extremists. In Augustinian terms, China (perhaps even the United Nations, but that’s a topic for another day) may be the Carthage America needs, as our country currently seems poised to inflict “greater casualties” upon itself.

America has reached the dangerous utopian perception of perpetual peace by creating internal enemies and ushering in a “crowd of disastrous evils.” We now distrust each other based on political affiliation. We no longer trust our intelligence agencies, such as the NSA, CIA, and FBI; and by many accounts, those agencies don’t trust the American people. We no longer trust our representatives in Washington, D.C.; the corruption and social disconnect shows we may be right. We no longer trust our long-established institutions, such as the media, academia, and the medical community. From the inside looking in, we have followed the path of the Romans by making the seemingly correct decision of destroying our enemies.

The Destructive Prospect of Peace

For many, the goal is and has always been peace. Indeed a noble pursuit, but with no outside enemies, we inevitably find enemies within, which ultimately leads to self-destruction. As Jesus stated, “A house divided cannot stand.”

The history of the world gives us foresight, and provides us remedies for our very souls and the souls of nations. It’s an unfortunate truth, but we need enemies. We need a Carthage.

Therefore, the demand for the destruction of our enemies in pursuit of perpetual peace is a foolish notion. Or perhaps the demand is rooted in a more sinister foundation, as Augustine pointed out.

“For certainly your desire for peace, and prosperity, and plenty is not prompted by any purpose of using these blessings honestly, that is to say, with moderation, sobriety, temperance, and piety; for your purpose rather is to run riot in an endless variety of sottish pleasures, and thus to generate from your prosperity a moral pestilence which will prove a thousandfold more disastrous than the fiercest enemies.”

Perhaps Augustine was too harsh in his assessment of the Romans’ desire for peace and prosperity. But history has proven there’s something utterly destructive that can only come from an inherited peace. In the same vein, there’s something concretely unifying that can only come from the threat of an outside source. And that may simply be because external enemies require a society to focus less on pleasure and more on prayer.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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