The Roman Empire suffered few defeats. Conquering the entire Mediterranean rim and out into Europe, it seemed invincible. But in a.d. 9, a group of seemingly backward barbarians utterly wiped out a Roman army in a battle, leaving the emperor wailing and bashing his head against the wall in anguish.
The story of a larger, stronger, better-organized empire being crushed by a weaker foe is a powerful warning from history to a seemingly invincible America.
What made the difference? A weapon that even the strongest empires never see coming: treachery.
In a.d. 9, Rome was rapidly conquering much of Germany. Many German tribes had officially allied themselves with Rome. German princes were Roman generals. German armies fought Roman wars.
Arminius was a chieftain of the Cherusci Germanic tribe. He was the model of a Romanized general: Fluent in Latin, he was a Roman citizen who rose to the rank of equestrian (knight). Having led forces in the Roman army, he became the most trusted intermediary between Rome and the German tribes.
Arminius brought reports of a revolt among the more distant German tribes, recommending that Rome move swiftly to confront it. The emperor’s representative, Publius Quinctilius Varus, set off with a force of 18,000 men.
Arminius accompanied the force. As it marched into less familiar territory, he offered to scout the terrain ahead and to rally Rome’s allies to Varus’s side.
When Arminius failed to return, the army pressed on, through steep slopes and dense forest.
Then Arminius sprang his trap.
He and his compatriots knew exactly how the Romans thought and fought. He knew their military doctrine, their maneuvers, their weapons and tactics. He had used that knowledge and Rome’s trust to march 18,000 men into a perfect ambush.
In entrenched positions on high ground, Germans rained spears down on the Romans while remaining out of range of Roman counterattack. The thick forests prevented the Romans from forming shield walls. The Romans fled until they reached open ground where they could regroup and construct fortifications.
At the encampment, Varus planned his withdrawal. Roman armies had been ambushed before, and Varus dealt with it in a textbook manner: Discard as much equipment and supplies as possible and travel light and fast over open ground toward friendly territory. If the Germans attack and retreat into the forest, do not follow them into disadvantageous terrain.
But Arminius knew that textbook. He knew where Varus would run—and there he had laid another ambush. Three days later, the Romans’ path led them through a bog between steep hills, the Teutoburg Pass. Only a narrow track provided stable footing.
The Germans had dug in on either side of the pass, using the Romans’ own construction methods. Once the Roman army was strung out along the narrow track, the Germans attacked.
They slaughtered all three Roman legions. More than 10 percent of the manpower of the entire Roman armed forces was wiped out.
In the aftermath, Rome pulled out of much of Germany. Towns newly built to serve as the foundations of a Roman province in the region were abandoned. The Germans had done what no other barbarian tribe had managed before: They pushed out the Romans.
“It was one of the most devastating defeats ever suffered by the Roman army,” writes Peter S. Wells in his book The Battle That Stopped Rome. “The effects of this catastrophe were profound. It ended Rome’s designs on conquest farther east beyond the Rhine …. The psychological effect of the crushing defeat on Augustus and his successors contributed to their ending the policy of military expansion not just in Europe but in Africa and Asia as well. This battle truly changed the course of world history.”
Could anything similar happen to the United States? Few nations since ancient Rome have entrusted their defense to so many other countries.
America’s Foreign Auxiliaries
The United States has transformed its defense into a cooperative endeavor. Its security is built around alliances: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the West, Japan and South Korea in the East. To make these alliances work, America shares its assets and its secrets.
These allies have access to many important American weapons systems, including its new F-35 stealth fighter jet. They constantly drill and train with the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.
America has even given the ultimate weapon to many of these allies. Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey all have American nuclear weapons deployed on their soil, configured for use on their fighters.
In recent years, tensions have risen with some of these allies. France and Germany regularly and openly criticize America. French President Emmanuel Macron called nato “brain dead.” Germany has created a de facto alliance with Russia, building a major pipeline between the two countries that empowers the Germans and Russians by imperiling the rest of Europe. As President Donald Trump said, your alliance against Russia comes into question when your ally is “supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.”
One German leader after another has declared the trans-Atlantic relationship dead. In 2000, 80 percent of Germans said they held a positive view of the U.S. Now it’s only 26 percent. And lest you think this is all the result of the international unpopularity of Donald Trump, note that Joe Biden becoming America’s president has not diminished the anti-America rhetoric emanating from the Continent at all.
Yet America continues to trust Germany. Even though Germany attacked the Trump administration, America has kept its nuclear bombs in Germany and is spending billions to upgrade them. President Trump tried to pull 12,000 troops from Germany, but President Biden reversed that decision.
On Oct. 22, 2020, nato announced the creation of a Space Center at Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany. Low Earth Orbit and High Earth Orbit are becoming an increasingly contested theater of operations for militaries. Simply put: Shoot down satellites and you can blind and silence your enemy.
In 2019, nato announced that its base in Rostock, Germany, would host its Baltic Command. In 2018, nato announced that its command for rapid troop deployment would be located in Ulm, Germany.
In addition, the German military’s Newsletter Verteidigung reported on Aug. 4, 2020: “At the end of 2019, Germany and the U.S.A. agreed to intensify their cooperation in the areas of cyber and [information technology].”
German officers have also been appointed to high rank within the U.S. military. On May 8, 2020, German Brig. Gen. Jared Sembritzki became the fourth multinational chief of staff for the United States Army–Europe. The tradition of appointing German generals to this position began in July 2014 with Brig. Gen. Markus Laubenthal, who was “practically the right hand of the commanding general of the U.S. land forces in Europe, Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr.,” according to the German edition of the Wall Street Journal.
“Laubenthal earned the Americans’ trust,” Defense News noted. “On promotion boards, for example, nobody contested the German’s recommendations” (May 27, 2020).
Germans and others are learning well how America fights. They have their own copies of American weapons systems and know how they work. America’s allies have everything a smaller force would need to bring down a larger in a surprise attack.
Is America setting itself up for betrayal?
Arminius’s German confederacy was dramatically weaker than the Roman Empire; yet he still won. He used treachery to push Rome out of Germany. In the age of weapons of mass destruction, such treachery would have globe-ravaging results.
Imagining what a modern German Arminius would do to America is not just a thought exercise—it’s the reality of the near future.
The Bible prophesies that America is about to be betrayed!
Herbert W. Armstrong showed in The United States and Britain in Prophecy that the modern descendants of ancient Israel are principally the British and the Americans and that prophecies regarding Israel apply to our lifetime.
In Jeremiah 30:14, God warns Israel: “All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not ….” America puts its trust in allies—foreign lovers. God goes on to say, “I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy ….” America believes these other countries are lovers, but they’re really enemies. God allows them to commit their treachery because America has turned away from Him.
Ezekiel 16:37 gives a similar warning. God says, “I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure … I will even gather them round about against thee ….”
Ezekiel 23 gives this prophesied betrayal more detail. Verse 4 personifies Samaria—the capital of the northern tribes of Israel—as a young woman called Aholah. Samaria had been captured and Israel enslaved before Ezekiel wrote these words—which means that this is prophecy for the modern descendants of those northern tribes.
God chose Israel for the purpose of following Him and serving the world. But instead, “Aholah played the harlot when she was mine; and she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours, Which were clothed with blue, captains and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses” (verses 5-6).
The result? These lovers betray her. “These discovered her nakedness: they took her sons and her daughters, and slew her with the sword: and she became famous among women; for they had executed judgment upon her” (verse 10).
Here God identifies who does the betraying: Assyria. Other passages in the Bible, like Isaiah 10, also describe Assyria attacking modern Israel. In Bible prophecy, Assyria refers to Germany.
Other scriptures describe the same betrayal. “They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle …” (Ezekiel 7:14). The Trumpet has written about how this could involve some kind of cyberattack. “Bible prophecy discusses a massive double cross that the German-led European Union will commit against America,” writes Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry. “That double cross very well could include cyberattacks. They could knock out huge parts of our power grid and cause serious mayhem” (Great Again).
The Bible isn’t the only source that warns about a German double cross.
Regarding his fears before World War i, Winston Churchill wrote, “The wars of Frederick and of Bismarck had shown with what extraordinary rapidity and suddenness the Prussian nation was accustomed to fall upon its enemy …. Obviously, therefore, the danger of a ‘bolt from the blue’ was by no means fantastic.”
Today, many likewise dismiss such an attack as imaginary. But see whether Churchill’s words then aren’t chillingly true now: “They sound so very cautious and correct, these deadly words. Soft, quiet voices purring, courteous, grave, exactly measured phrases in large, peaceful rooms. But with less warning cannons had opened fire and nations had been struck down by this same Germany. … It is too foolish, too fantastic to be thought of in the 20th century. Or is it fire and murder leaping out of the darkness at our throats, torpedoes ripping the bellies of half-awakened ships, a sunrise on a vanished naval supremacy, and an island well-guarded hitherto, at last defenseless? No, it is nothing. No one would do such things. Civilization has climbed above such perils. The interdependence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the Hague Convention, Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible. Are you quite sure? It would be a pity to be wrong. Such a mistake could only be made once—once for all” (The War Crisis; emphasis added throughout).
Churchill also feared a surprise German attack in World War ii. Martin Gilbert wrote in his biography on Winston Churchill that the statesman was “convinced about the possibilities of surprise in the German organizational framework.” Churchill warned his listeners to “remember the fondness evinced by Germany in history for this particular form of surprise.”
“The Air Staff,” Gilbert continued, “fully share Mr. Churchill’s apprehensions as regards German ability to spring a surprise on their enemy on the outbreak of war by some unexpected maneuver.”
Prior to launching World War ii, Adolf Hitler vowed that if and when hostilities came, “I should fall upon my enemy suddenly, like lightning striking out of the night.”
Arminius is no minor historical figure in Germany. His ambush victory is celebrated as the founding moment of the nation. His statue is a symbol of German nationalism.
The Germans remember the power of a treacherous attack. Do the Americans?