The war against the eastern barbarians had dragged into its fifth year, and despair and disillusionment were sinking into the hearts of the confederation – a growing demoralization shrewdly exploited by the leader of the party of surrender, the demagogue Defeatocratis.
Though dwindling in number, the war party refused to give up. Rather than submit their bodies to the androgynous king of the barbarians, with his dyed beard and retinue of courtiers dressed in women’s robes and headdresses, the members of this faction determined to fight to the bitter end. “This is a clash of civilizations,” they declared. “Better death than dishonor! Or at least somebody else’s death!” And so, defying the demands of Defeatocratis that the hoplites be returned to their hearths and olive groves, the war party turned to the one man they knew would stand firm against all odds: Petraeus, the mightiest general of them all.
Their hopes were not unfounded. Unlike his predecessers, the double-dealing Abizaid (himself a barbarian turncoat) and the timid and temporizing Caseyis, Petraeus moved with manly swiftness. Girding his loins, he mustered a force of a mere 30,000, then marched off to meet the barbarians at a narrow pass whose 17-mile perimeter his men, in their lust for glory, named Camp Victory.
But victory was not to be. In his haste to depart the poisonous rhetoric of the polis, Petraeus had neither the time nor the treasure to equip his men with the latest helmets, greaves and body armor and the outmoded gear meant to protect his phalanxes proved no match for the sophisticated weaponry and tactics of the barbarian hordes.
The decisive battle continued day and night for a full four years. In the end, hemmed in on all sides, Petraeus delivered his last words just moments before he was forced to retire in disgrace “By Zeus!” he cried. “You really do go to war with the army you have, not the army you want!” And then he disappeared without a trace, but not before accomplishing his true mission: buying enough time for the war party to escape sole blame for defeat.