Skip to main content

Our next President will need to summon all of his or her rhetorical flourishes and diplomatic sensibilities to pull the United States back from the brink of disaster.  He or she will have to rally allies to our causes, and assure our enemies that the next global conflict is not in the making.  Take this account of the United States' recent actions:

<< More below the poll>>

"In the years after declaring victory in Afghanistan against the Taliban, America made and broke alliances with casual disdain for the international consequences.  Well-connected American contractors engaged themselves in foolish, greedy and / or opportunistic military contracting which often flouted Federal and International laws as well as American Military policy regarding contracts and found that their government was more than willing to turn a blind eye to their abuses.  After all, they were administration loyalists, and why shouldn’t American companies be given exclusive rights to the contracts to rebuild Iraq?  The other allies, whether traditional (Britain and Spain) or the smaller countries that were part of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ became increasingly unhappy with American hegemony and anti-American sentiments increased greatly.  With an ever-declining store of diplomatic credibility, the Americans were increasingly put in the position of trying to maintain their authority through  raw demonstrations of military might, similar to the ‘Shock and Awe’ displays used at the outset of the Iraq War of 2003. "

The preceding quote, reflects a range of the recent opinions and accounts that one might find in any periodical detailing the United States' recent foreign policy misadventures.  What may shock you is that the above quote is not at all about the United States but is a quote about ancient Sparta that I personally doctored.  The quote was excerpted from page four of an article written by, Josiah Ober, titled:

Sparta: The Fall of the Empire
Sparta, the greatest military power in ancient Greece, was in the end its own worst enemy.  (published Summer 1998 edition of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History)


The original quote:

"In the decades after the victory of 404 [b.c.], Sparta made and broke alliances with casual disdain for the international consequences; well-connected Spartans who engaged in foolish, greedy, or opportunistic military operations, often in blatant contravention of treaty obligations and traditional Greek mores, found that their home government was more than willing to turn a blind eye on their peccadillos. After all, they were members of the insider club, and they had harmed only "outsiders." The other Greeks, whether traditional allies or enemies of Sparta, became increasingly unhappy with Spartan hegemony, and a new anti-Spartan coalition was soon organized. With an ever-declining store of diplomatic credibility, the Spartans were increasingly put in the position of trying to maintain their authority by raw demonstrations of military might..."

So how is it that, despite 2500+ years of additional, collective, global knowledge, we have managed to wedge ourselves in between the exact same rock and hard place as the once-great city-state?

It’s almost as if we saw the movie ‘300’ and thought...

"Honor? (Check)"
"Discipline? (Check)"
" Principles? (Check)"
"Scary, evil Persians bent on world domination.  (Check)"
"Hey, that’s us!"

...without bothering the read the rest of the historical account of Sparta.  Yes, their military prowess still influences military thinkers today.  Yes, the discipline and honor with which Spartans fought for their country is legendary and has aspects to be admired.  And, yes, their Michigan-based, college basketball team has won a couple of National Championships.  The problem is that we've excerpted only the aspects of the Spartan story that fit our desired narrative and ignored the other, and possibly, more prescient aspects of the historical account.  The parts where Sparta’s increasingly rigid class structure, its incredible lack of  upward social mobility, its lack of investment in science and the arts, its incompetent governance, its devotion to the dominance of military culture and its almost  total contempt for the opinions and interests of its allies all contributed to its downfall and current irrelevance on the world stage.

Now the United States is not at that point yet.  It’s not even close.  But the parallels between the Spartan path to irrelevance and our current path are eerily similar.  The next President of the United States will have their work cut out for him or her in making sure that the rest of the world doesn’t regard our actions with suspicion and decide that our role as superpower and ally is no longer desired. As history would suggest, from there, it's not a large step down from superpower to Sparta version 2008.

Originally posted to Gotta Ask Why on Tue Apr 01, 2008 at 09:28 PM PDT.


If we are Sparta, who is best equipped to lead us off the path towards irrelevance?

7%2 votes
44%12 votes
18%5 votes
11%3 votes
18%5 votes

| 27 votes | Vote | Results

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site