The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

America, Athens Style

Not too long ago, I mentioned the US-Iraq groundgame in the context of what little I know of military history. Someone else has made the same connection, drawn some pretty clear parallels, and done the hard work of spelling it all out. When you're done, you can go get yourself a copy of Kagan's book 'The Peloponnesian War.' Good stuff.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

In 431 BC, the Greek world went to war against Athens. Thucydides claims that the reason for war was the “growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused.” The Athenians were a proud people who had ultimate faith in their institutions. They saw themselves as a model upon which the whole Greek world should mold itself. “I would prefer ...that you fix your eyes every day on the greatness of Athens as she really is,” stated Pericles, “and you shall fall in love with her.”

The problem for Athens was that the majority of city-states in the Greek world did not share the Athenian vision. To most of the city states, especially those within the Delian League, Athens was an arrogant, power-hungry entity that would do anything to keep and maintain power. Athens bullied members of the Delian League into providing cash for security. Not trusting other member city-states, Athens moved the treasury to the mainland from the island of Delos. During the Peloponnesian War, the brutal actions of Athens toward the people of Lesbos and Melos sparked uprisings all over the empire. Although much of these were suppressed by Athens, this weakened the great democracy, eventually bringing a tragic defeat to the once mighty empire. Athens had to give up all colonies and the people were forced to stand by as the tattered remains of their glorious navy was put to the torch.