We have stated that American strategists referred to the Athenian General Thucydides, who penned the "History of the Peloponnesian Wars" almost two and a half millennia ago, to explain the "great power rivalry" between the U.S. and China. Thucydides explains the main reason for the Peloponnesian Wars as the fear aroused in Sparta by the excess of power in Athens. According to many Western historians, the friction between the rising power and the established one ultimately makes war inevitable.
Anti-Chinese hawks describe China's continued economic-technological growth and increasing military power as an "existential threat" to the United States. Accordingly, the United States should not only hinder the rise of China but also maintain its economic, military, and technological superiority over China. For the U.S., "The China Scare" is not just about being dethroned by Beijing. This scare has also become an argument used in the U.S. to create internal harmony. This argument is based on the Roman politician and historian Sallust, who lived during the reign of Julius Caesar.
The wars between Rome and Carthage, which lasted for 118 years, ended in 146 BC. Rome got rid of its enemy by destroying Carthage. According to Sallust, the absence of the fear-of-the-enemy (Metus Hostilis) after the destruction of Carthage was the beginning of the collapse of the "Roman Republic". When there were no enemies to fear, the Romans turned their knives at each other. Greed and lust for power corrupted the moral fabric of Rome. The conflicts of interest between the ruling classes spread like a virus to all segments, ending the inner peace of Rome. With the dissolution of the public values sustained by the "fear-of-the-enemy", Rome entered a moral crisis. The fact that private interests took precedence over public ones destroyed the community spirit. To put it in an Ibn-i Khaldunian concept, the "asabiyyah" that kept the Roman Republic afloat has collapsed.
In modern times, the enemy theorem has come to be known as the "Sallust theorem". The "Sallust theorem" was being reused in texts on international relations with the end of the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union. The fact that the Soviet Union left the table and disrupted the Cold War game both left the U.S. without an enemy and kept it as the only superpower. However, as Sallust pointed, the long-awaited peace in troubled years became much more painful after it was achieved.
The absence of the "Great Rival" took the United States by surprise as well. Author John Updike had a character in his novel "Rabbit, Run" make one of his characters say, "The Cold War gave you a reason to get up in the morning. What's the point of being an American without the Cold War." In the days when the Cold War was over, Soviet diplomat Georgi Arbatov told American audiences: We will do something. We will deprive you of an enemy.” The Greek poet Konstantinos Kavafis said in his poem titled “Waiting for the barbarians”, “Well, what are we going to do now without the barbarians? They were a kind of solution to our problems.” Kavafis' verses after the Cold War sum up the mood of Americans deprived of a great enemy.
The endless wars of the United States in the Middle East have failed to achieve internal harmony. For American historian and foreign policy strategist Robert Kagan, this era of great power rivalry was just a transitional moment. The hawks, who went out and looked for a "monster" to destroy, decided on China. His articles with the following titles: “What this country needs is a good enemy”, “America's greatest hope to unite is China. With no outside enemy to counter, the nation turns on itself or “Does America Need an Enemy? represent America's quest to find an enemy.
America seems economically, ethnically, politically, and culturally divided. The bipartisan consensus is largely non-existent. There is even talk of a civil war in the near future. "The China Scare" is also used as a "scapegoat" to distract from the structural problems of the U.S. The interests of the "Military Industrial Complex" depend on increasing the defense budget. For the increase, Americans need to be convinced that the enemy is too strong.
The China Scare in the U.S. is one of the rare issues that both parties agree on. That's why China seems to be the U.S.'s best hope for internal unity and harmony. The Sallustist fear theorem stands out as an explanation of the "American crisis". at the end of the day, there's nothing better than having an enemy.