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Lecture on the Peloponnesian War

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The Peloponnesian War was perhaps the defining war in Ancient Greece, and therefore has ramifications for every single one of us today. It was a war fought between Athens and Sparta, and was ostensibly started on ideological grounds (pro-democratic vs anti-democratic views), but quickly became one of the most bitter and terrible wars in the history of Western civilization, and had an enormous impact both on Greece and therefore on us. The war also produced Thucydides, one of the greatest historians, who recorded the history of this war and firmly believed that it would be regarded, for all time, as the most important war in history.

The Peloponnesian War has always been difficult for lovers of Greek civilization, because it was during this period that Athens had achieved her cultural height (and built up the Acropolis), yet it was also during this same period that it featured in this war as a villain and a despot. Neither Athens nor the Greek cities she fought against have refrained from the most utter cruelty in massacring each other to little bits, and nothing was more common than marching all inhabitants of a city outside and cutting them all down in mass executions, upon a city's capture. Thucydides had watched this show mostly from the sidelines, and was observing with great sadness what his fellow Greeks were doing to one another.

Victor Davis Hanson, who is a renowned Classicist and a Greek scholar, recently gave a lecture on this subject, and on his upcoming book about it:

Link: http://www.booktv.org/history/index.asp?sc...=379&segid=6132

Hanson, himself a great admirer of Greek culture, provides an stark and honest look, and explains why it is important for men to know about the war, and about the work of Thucydides describing it. It is not an easy lecture to watch sometimes, but always a fascinating one if you do, as it has readily available connections to the modern world, and provides interesting ways to evaluate the anarchy of New Orleans, or the lack of popular support lately for the Iraq war. Moreover, the website will not maintain the link forever, so I do recommend taking a look at the lecture before it is taken down.

Jefferson always included Thucydides in his letters about education, and once remarked that after reading just Thucydides' history of the War he learned more about human nature and relationships between men than all of the books on politics he had ever read. We shouldn't let go to waste the knowledge that our Founding Fathers held as required and essential.

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I wonder what would have happened if the Athenians hadn't chased Alcibiades off before the Battle of Syracuse. I have a feeling that he would have won that battle or at least pressured Syracuse into a negotiated surrender. The war would have gone differently.

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I'll second that! The lecture is brilliant and deep. I am currently re-reading Thucydides, and must say that this lecture does an admirable job of clearly reaching many points that Thucydides has to offer. Victor Hanson also used Thucydides to teach me many, many things about both the world in general and Thucydides himself (and his views).

Ever since I saw this lecture, I have been deep in thought about many of the points that he brought up. It's well worth watching.

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I just saw this talk and it was brilliant. I have so many questions about it but for now I wonder what people who saw it thought about Hanson's description about Alexander during the Q & A. He called him a thug, brilliant at tactics, but a killer and thug nonetheless who killed more Greeks than anyone before him. Interesting.

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I wonder what would have happened if the Athenians hadn't chased Alcibiades off before the Battle of Syracuse. I have a feeling that he would have won that battle or at least pressured Syracuse into a negotiated surrender. The war would have gone differently.

Oakley,

Interesting point. I do agree that the war might have gone differently if Athens was able to successfully pillage a fellow democratic city, but I doubt history would have been changed. When Athens lost the Peloponnesian War, Sparta assumed a brief stint of imperialism, which quickly ended when Epaminondas, a philosopher turned general, took his army of rustic farmers and did the impossible by defeating Spartan warriors face to face, and by freeing their slaves. And if not Sparta, he would have done it to Athens who already by the 5th century was assuming a haughty character utterly unbearable to its subjects (hence the reasons for having the rest of Greeks wage a war upon it). Epaminondas was quite a remarkable character, in many ways very unusual in Greek history, and one of the few of its generals who carried a tremendous moral message at the tip of his mighty spear. He did it to Sparta, and he would inevitably have done the same to Athens.

As for Hanson accusing of Alexander being a thug, that discussion really belongs in the other thread. For now I will just say that Alexander was not much worse than most Greek generals, and in some ways quite better. He did have faults too, which in some ways were worse than those of other generals of his time, but his faults did not lie in being a 'thug' or anything like that. That's just a modern anachronism, borne out of Hanson's (rightful) bitterness that due to Alexander the Classical Age of Greece was ended.

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Another thing I noticed is that while Hanson is a brilliant historian and one of the better Conservatives in the country, he does not compare to Yaron Brook or John Lewis when attempting to apply the lessons of history to the modern world. In Dr. Brook's talk on the Neo-conservatives, he describes the set of philosophical ideas and premises which are accepted and advocated by today's conservatives. Sadly, Hanson has accepted most of them.

Don't get me wrong, I admire Hanson tremendously. Along with Thomas Sowell he is my favorite non-Objectivist writer. But Hanson comes accross as indecisve and sterile in applying history to the modern day whereas Brook and Lewis are potent firebrands. When I heard Brook he even offered a general military and economic strategy for the current war which was brilliant. He said it was influenced in part by historical figures such as Scipio Africanus, Sherman and Patton. It was awesome.

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One last comment/question from me on Hanson's talk. Hanson made an excellent point although I think an Objectivist could do more with it. He mentioned that Phillip of Macedon with 40,000 men was able to do to Greece what Xerxes with half a million could not do. He then made a comparison to the fact that Attilla the Hun, who he said was not that great a general, was able to do to Rome what even the great Hanibal could not. Lastly he mentioned the difference between the spirit of the World War II generation and this one (which is pascifistic by comparison). He attributed it to something vaguely related to "affluence". I think the answer is far more philosophical than that.

So I am wondering, what did account for the relative ease with which Greece was subdued by the Macedonians? Was it the subjectivism inherent in sophism? Why did Greece lose that awe-inspiring love of freedom which so motivated them during the Persian Wars?

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Oakley, I think the important thing to remember is that Hanson is primarily a historian and a Classicist, not a philosopher, while Yaron Brook is closer to being a philosopher, so that will usually result in differing approaches to the same problem. With that said, I don't think they both have that much of a difference in approach. Neither is qualified to give a detailed suggestion on strategy or tactical decisions, and on the issues of grand approach and philosophy of war their opinions are very similar. Victor Hanson has been very strongly involved in cultural politics lately, and he entirely shares the total war approach that Yaron talks about. Also, I have listened to John Lewis' lecture on war, and I find that he and Hanson share opinions and insights to a very large degree (which isn't surprising, them both being Classicists), so maybe you can provide examples where they differ.

And on the subject of being 'sterile' in applying the lessons of history, and I assume you are making this evaluation based on Hanson's lecture on the Peloponnesian War, I think it's important to realize that his aims in this particular case are different. He's not trying to find here lessons about the war, but lessons about ourselves. In fact it was Thucydides who had originally taken this approach -- not to describe the Peloponnesian War with aims for understanding some concrete lessons on tactics or war-making, but to shed a different light on human nature itself, important aspects of which can become revealed under very trying circumstances such as what the war eventually became. It's this aspect of Thucydides' history that has endeared him so much to subsequent generations, both ancient and modern, as Victor Hanson admits of himself elsewhere, and John Lewis seems to appreciate also (here, for instance). It's a dark vision sometimes, and I don't know how fully I agree with it, but it is undeniable that Thucydides makes a very good case for his position, when he shows people who had just a few years ago perfected drama and sculpture-making, were also now letting themselves to be led into short-sighted frenzy by asinine demagogues, and showing utmost cruelty, such as massacring even little children and looting their neighbor's estate, for no discernable justified reason. There's a lot of stuff in the history of the Peloponnesian War to ponder over, in the sense of seeing ourselves and our nature from a different perspective, which is why it's an important war to study. Thucydides said he wrote his history for the purpose of letting the events he described be a lesson to others, making his ominous observation that, human nature being constant, what men did once they will do again and again, regardless of how different the future might be.

Finally, concerning the second subject, you said:

He attributed it to something vaguely related to "affluence". I think the answer is far more philosophical than that.

So I am wondering, what did account for the relative ease with which Greece was subdued by the Macedonians? Was it the subjectivism inherent in sophism? Why did Greece lose that awe-inspiring love of freedom which so motivated them during the Persian Wars?

Why must the answer be 'more philosophical' than that? What do you mean by 'more philosophical', anyhow? I don't know how much the change in the Greeks had to do with sophism or formalized philosophy because they fought with that awe-inspiring love of freedom before there was even a hint of philosophy anywhere in Greece. Socrates wasn't even born during the Persian Wars, so the only philosophers around were men like Heraclitus and Parmenides, which is to say they were more of arcane speculators about the nature of things rather than men who preached wide-spread ethical or political theories.

So why didn't the Greeks fight? I don't know, why are Americans refusing to fight? I mean we are a nation of 200+ million men, and we are having trouble populating our army, and we view 200,000 as an extremely large force, whereas the Greeks once fielded that much by themselves alone, when even their largest cities such as Athens were smaller than just most modern suburbian towns. So if we were to keep things proportional, we should be fielding 1,000,000 troops easily, and if we did enlist that many we would easily roll over any little mud pile such as what Iraq pretended to be. But we aren't enlisting. Same for the Athenians. They just became lazy, and came to think that the tree of liberty need not be refreshed from time to time by the blood of patriots any longer.

For anyone who is really interested in this problem, they should read the speeches of Demosthenes: the four Phillipics (2nd and 3rd are the best), and On The Crown. In those speeches during the second half of the 4th century Demosthenes, the greatest orator Greece had produced, desperately and utterly helplessly tried to get his fellow Athenians to enlist, and to curb the growing power of Macedon. In On The Crown, an incredibly long speech but also a tour-de-force, Demosthenes summarized his life's achievements, being by then advanced in his years, because he was accused by Athenians for not being patriotic enough (!), and thus set out to describe just how much more he did than all of them put together (and that he did deserve that civic Crown of honor). Now already long under the Macedonian hegemony, Demosthenes described in the speech all of the many instances, during any of which Athens could have easily stopped Philip of Macedon, and thus ensure that the Classical Age of Greece would at least not end. Philip's position was very precarious for many years, and he was balancing everything and barely holding on for a very long time, so that if Athens did anything at all Greece would be safe. So, really, the only reason he succeeded is because Athenians did nothing. They much rather preferred to go to their theaters and enjoy perfume, and to call Demosthenes a warmonger, or if need be to just hire some mercenaries to do some quick dirty work required of them. What a difference from the Greeks of the Persian Wars! Hanson's point about affluence has a good deal of merit, I believe; I think an even better word would be 'decadence', and it explains also why Republican Romans could defeat even Hannibal, but Imperial Romans bowed to Attila. Republican Romans would wipe the floor with that "Scourge of God".

Anyhow, this is getting a bit long-winded, so I'll end it there. If you want to discuss the Greek culture and history further, let's start a new thread about it.

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Oops, as a correction on the numbers, the Greeks did field 100,000 men (in the Peloponnesian War, I think), and also meant to say that they could field even more.

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Also, I should clarify that when I said the following,

It's this aspect of Thucydides' history that has endeared him so much to subsequent generations, both ancient and modern, as Victor Hanson admits of himself elsewhere, and John Lewis seems to appreciate also (here, for instance). It's a dark vision sometimes, and I don't know how fully I agree with it, but it is undeniable that Thucydides makes a very good case for his position

I did not mean to imply that John Lewis buys into Thucydides' sometimes pessemistic view (I simply don't know); but from his responses it is clear that John Lewis does appear to value Thucydides as more than just a historian but in some ways possibly even as a philosopher (which is exactly the quality that I said had endeared Thucydides to so many succeeding generations).

A lot of things are obvious in the process of writing them, but sometimes when you go over you realize that some things were not as clearly delineated as you might have wanted...

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"I don't know, why are Americans refusing to fight?"

This is not a complicated question. Dr. Brook and many other Objectivists have rooted the reason in the pascifism resulting from Kantian philosophy. Listen to any of Dr. Brook's lectures. They are incredibly enlightening.

"Why must the answer be 'more philosophical' than that?"

Because ideas drive history. If "affluence" inevitable leads to "decadence" and surrender, it would seem that humanity has a fatal flaw; stiving for material pleasures would lead to destruction. That can't be right. From your description of Demosthenes it would appear that ideas were motivating behavior in that era as well. The Greeks were ignoring a threat to their culture from Macedon in the same way that we are ignoring a threat to ours from Iran.

John Lewis has given a lecture on the lessons of Rome, both its fall and rise, and the philosophical influences from intrincism and subjectivism that affected it. It is available from the Ayn Rand Bookstore. I think that is the type of analysis that is neccessary here. Its and expensive lecture set but I intend to listen to it in the future.

As for philosophy not affecting Greece before Socrates, that is not true. Dr. Peikoff has spoken frequently about the false alternative offered to Greeks between relativist sophistry and intrinsicist traditional religion. Even though no formal philosophic systems had yet been produced (Plato or Aristotle), philosophy (ideas) were exerting a cultural influence. I don't have the particulars but I can't help believe that something more than "affluence" softened Athens and Greece although I can't make a definitive statement.

"It's a dark vision sometimes, and I don't know how fully I agree with it, but it is undeniable that Thucydides makes a very good case for his position..."

Thucydides is an intellectual giant. There is no denying that. But his underlying premises concerning human nature are wrong. Both Aristotle and then Rand have offered different identifications concerning man's fundamental nature. I don't blame Thucydides though. It would be very hard not to be dark after the horrors he saw. But he can't be granted a free pass on this subject. To much rides in the balance.

"Oakley, I think the important thing to remember is that Hanson is primarily a historian and a Classicist, not a philosopher, while Yaron Brook is closer to being a philosopher, so that will usually result in differing approaches to the same problem. With that said, I don't think they both have that much of a difference in approach. Neither is qualified to give a detailed suggestion on strategy or tactical decisions, and on the issues of grand approach and philosophy of war their opinions are very similar."

There are similarities between Hanson and Brook and Brook has quoted Hanson frequently. But if you listen to Brook's Neo-conservative lecture and then you read Hanson's writing, especially his daily columns (and blog), you will see revealed the very premises Brook talks about. My point is that even though Hanson is a brilliant man (and a good and decent man as well - I admire him greatly), he is still hampered by modern philosophy.

Those are my points of disagreement with your comments. Otherwise I found your post to be extremely informative and valuable.

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Oops, as a correction on the numbers, the Greeks did field 100,000 men (in the Peloponnesian War, I think), and also meant to say that they could field even more.

I believe the 100,000 number came from the Battle of Platae.

"The total number of auxiliaries was thus 69,500, making the aggregate strength of the Greek army at Plataea 110,000"

Book IX:30-32 (pg. 566 if you have Penguin Classics)

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The aforementioned book was Herodotus' History of course.

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"I don't know, why are Americans refusing to fight?"

This is not a complicated question. Dr. Brook and many other Objectivists have rooted the reason in the pascifism resulting from Kantian philosophy. Listen to any of Dr. Brook's lectures. They are incredibly enlightening.

Oh, it certainly is a very complicated question, regardless of whether men have given a satisfactory and easily understandable answer to it. That's like saying that "Does A equal A?" is not a complicated question. It is an incredibly complicated question, even if there already exists an answer for it, also even if that answer is easily readable and understandable.
"Why must the answer be 'more philosophical' than that?"

Because ideas drive history.

Ideas unquestionably drive history; it'd be foolish of me to say otherwise being a student of Objectivism and also a student of history. However, what I disagree with is with the implied argument that some one single idea drives a civilization from time t to time t+x, at which point another idea takes over. Only at rare points in history is that is completely true, and at most other times it is only partially true. What is usually true is that, instead of one, there are many different and not always easily discernable ideas that drive men at any particular point in time. That's why I disagreed with your project of trying to discover some one idea that explained everything about the decline of Greek civic virtue. We can always find one main or fundamental reason for why things happen, yes, but what's really needed here is a complete expnanation, not a skeletal one.

Besides, "decadence" is an idea -- namely that a person or a culture becomes so rich and so isolated from the physical world by the virtue of that wealth, that he or it begins to believe that it possesses immunity from the laws of the physical world. For example, an extremely affluent society will almost always develop extremely codified and lofty codes of behavior, while a simpler society will not, because a simpler society will regard those codes as ridiculous and metaphysically irrelevant and even detrimental, while the more affluent society will often regard them as essential (because most of its citizens are no longer directly in touch with the natural world, and civilization begins to replace that natural world and they begin to believe that civilization is a substitute for it). So, observe for example the modern "idealistic" conception that only love can conquer hate. That is a prime example of a moronic idea borne solely and almost exclusively because of decadence. A Greek or a Roman, upon hearing a modern liberal say something like that, might just look at him blankly for a while, then slap him on the cheek really hard, and yell condescendingly: "Snap out of it!"

Next, observe that I did not say that affluence necessarily breeds decadence. The latter is a negative cultural state, while the former is not necessarily so. What I did mean to say is that, based on history, affluence will result in decadence most of the time. Lots of examples here: in Roman history, take soft and effeminate Etruscans, decorating themselves with gold all over and thinking that parties and comfortable lounging are the real values of life. To an early hardy Roman, the Etruscan culture, although older, was contemptible and whenever Etruscans had an itch for conquest, Romans slapped them back hard every time. Same with early Greeks and Persians -- it is one of the most common themes in Herodotus and early playwrights like Aeschylus that Persia had to fall because its men were effeminate and over-rarified, and its culture was pathetically focused on slavishness to the kings, and mindless acquisition of precious objects. When a tanned, naked to the waist group of Spartan men, all ripped of course, enter a Persian tent after a victorious battle, and notice Persians standing around with their pale skin and flabby arms and body, standing amidst mountains of gold and glitter, all they can do is simply shake their heads. That scene serves as one of the focal points of Herodotus' history (book 7, I believe), and is an excellent example for my case as well.

There are plenty of other examples -- the decadent Carthaginians, whose only interest was trade and who thought they could outsource civic virtue and protection of their property to mercenaries, admitting they were culturally simply not strong enough to protect it themselves; the decadent Assyrians and Babylonians, whom the once hardy Persians themselves conquered without much trouble; the decadent Late Empire Romans, who thought they could outsource the protection of their property to hired barbarian chiefs, and could themselves instead spend their time better in baths or libraries; etc, the list goes on and on.

So no, affluence does not necessarily result in decadence, but history shows that it often is a very strong, and maybe even the strongest, factor in producing decadence. At the same time, as I just said there is no necessary direct link between affluence and decadence, so the latter can be prevented. How? That's a different discussion, another very long post. Suffice it to say that in order to prevent affluence in ourselves from turning into decadence, we first must recognize the incredible weight affluence places on turning us decadent, as history shows over and over again. So in order to make a change from established and endessly repeating historical pattern, we must understand it, and respect its power, before we are in the position of altering it.

Also, let me respond to this:

As for philosophy not affecting Greece before Socrates, that is not true. Dr. Peikoff has spoken frequently about the false alternative offered to Greeks between relativist sophistry and intrinsicist traditional religion. Even though no formal philosophic systems had yet been produced (Plato or Aristotle), philosophy (ideas) were exerting a cultural influence

I never said that philosophy was absent from Greece before Socrates. I said formalized philosophy was absent before him, but philosophy as such, i.e. ideas men follow, was present long before Socrates, long before Greece even, or before the very first civilization appeared. It was with us since the beginning.

The reason I originally raised this topic was because you attempted to trace the reasons for Greek decline not only to one concrete philosophical idea, but to one concrete explicitly formalized philosophical idea, namely sophism or some such thing. My point was that Greeks at the height of their civic virtue had no formalized philosophy, and so the absence of such virtue need not necessarily be due to an absence of that formalized philosophy and presence of another explicit set of ideas in its place. It may be argued that some explicit philosophic idea did exert this influence, such as Plato's idealism, turning men's interests away from the physical world, but that argument is not necessary, and as I said roots for the decline can be found in less explicit philosophical premises. Since Plato exerted such an incredible influence in Greece, however, I would suggest that even if he might not have been the sole or the most important reason responsible, he nevertheless just might well have been responsible in some capacity. Since there are so few Objectivists interested in Classicism, no such theories have been studied and written about, but it would be an amazing paper to read, if written.

Again... let's take this to a new thread. I will have to start one if you don't. It's a fascinating discussion though, and even that is just a tip of a tip of the iceberg that can be said on the Peloponnesian War alone.

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...

Because ideas drive history. If "affluence" inevitable leads to "decadence" and surrender, it would seem that humanity has a fatal flaw; stiving for material pleasures would lead to destruction....

I agree with you on this.

There is no necessary connection between affluence and decadence and then military decline. It's true that there are historical examples of societies that have been both affluent and decadent and then went on to lose wars, but coincidence does not prove causality.

In fact, here's a good counter example to the affluence-causes-weakness thesis: the United States in World War II. At that time, the US was easily the most affluent country in the world. Yet we went on to devastatingly crush two very militaristic nations. Here, our affluence was a great asset, as we turned our ability to create material wealth into the ability to create a lethal war machine. Decadence? Lack of fighting spirit? That's what some Germans like Hermann Goering implied before the US got into the war. The claim was that while Americans could make civilian things like toasters and razor blades (his examples), they'd be totally unable to compete with the Germans in their ability to make weapons and field a good army. History of course proved him wrong. American industrial might was precisely one thing that led to our overwhelming victory. That's affluence for you. (I'm not claiming that affluence somehow caused our victory: only that it made our victory easier. And it certainly did not weaken the US.)

Affluence is a good quality. It makes a person, and a nation stronger: with more capital, one can accomplish more with one's labor. An army with modern weapons is much more powerful than one armed with the (much cheaper) technology of only 50 years ago.

Today what's holding us back from fighting the Islamists ruthlessly and winning decisively is bad philosophy. Ideas like altruism result in us holding back our superior force, and not using our superior might. Multiculturalism and the lack of a belief in the superiority and value of Western Civilization causes us to tread lightly where we should be (and could be) striking overwhelming blows.

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There is no necessary connection between affluence and decadence and then military decline.
I agree with you there. See my post above.
Today what's holding us back from fighting the Islamists ruthlessly and winning decisively is bad philosophy.
Well, while that's true, that's like saying that the answer to every question is "A is A" -- while true, it is too broad, and not enough. For example, yes you can say that the military generals have chosen weaker targets than they could have, because of altruistic premises and such. But an army is composed not of generals, but of soldiers. Why is it that there are so few men signing up? Why must we rely on the last vestige of civic virtue in this country, the mid-West and the South, the last places in America where people wave their flags bravely, and often have their entire male sides of the family having had tenures of military service. That, after all is what we're talking about here: civic virtue. So why? Yes, you could say "bad philosophy", but that answer is far from being complete, or sufficient.

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...For example, yes you can say that the military generals have chosen weaker targets than they could have, because of altruistic premises and such. But an army is composed not of generals, but of soldiers. Why is it that there are so few men signing up? Why must we rely on the last vestige of civic virtue in this country, the mid-West and the South, the last places in America where people wave their flags bravely, and often have their entire male sides of the family having had tenures of military service. That, after all is what we're talking about here: civic virtue. So why? Yes, you could say "bad philosophy", but that answer is far from being complete, or sufficient.

I'll try to answer this, but first I have some questions.

First, what do you mean by "civic virtue"? Is this some kind of class of virtues, or perhaps a particular one? Is it the same thing that would properly motivate one, in a free country, to join the army?

Second, I'm intrigued by your claim that our military relies today on the mid-West and the South. Could you provide a reference to some data that would back up this claim? As for people waving their flags bravely, I'll say that I live in a liberal Northwestern state, and yet there is plenty of flag-waving going on here at rallies that are held to support the troops. These events don't get reported in the media, but they can be attended by thousands of people.

Now the question remains: why don't we have more people volunteering to join our armed forces?

The proper motivation to do so would be that one values a free society and is willing to fight to defend it. What might be some rational reasons to hesitate in today's context?

Today, people can see that our men are being sacrificed so that enemy civilians (and even enemy religious shrines) are spared. And our war in Iraq is called "Operation Iraqi Freedom". It's being sold to America and to the world not as something we're doing to defend our interests, but as something we're altruistically doing to bring freedom to another country. This comes down to bad philosophy - in a way that will directly affect the lives of our soldiers.

Also, we have enemies in Iran and Syria. Enemy fighters are coming from these countries and killing Americans. We know this. But our leadership has so far refused to do anything to fight these enemies. We're not fighting to win. Again, this comes down to bad philosophy too.

A man properly volunteers to fight to defend freedom, not to be sacrificed to some altruistic cause. He should also know when he volunteers that he can count on the country to fight the war to win it. After all, if it's worth risking his life for, it had better be important enough that it's worth the country as a whole trying to win.

Perhaps these factors have something to do with the number of volunteers we can attract today.

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First, what do you mean by "civic virtue"?  Is this some kind of class of virtues, or perhaps a particular one?  Is it the same thing that would properly motivate one, in a free country, to join the army?
This is another huge topic, meriting a thread of its own. Let me just state a number of points about what I mean by it:

Civic duty (same thing as civic virtue)

n.

the responsibilities of a citizen

civ·ic

adj

Of, relating to, or belonging to a city, a citizen, or citizenship; municipal or civil. [Latin cīvicus, from cīvis, citizen.]

In other words, civic virtue denotes certain duties and responsibilities that come with being a citizen of a republic, rather being merely an inhabitant in a monarchy. See this interesting resource on civic virtue and the Founding Fathers, and especially on why George Washington can be said to have been a model of civic virtue (in modern times, that is). That's all I can say about it in a thread devoted to the Peloponnesian War.

Second, I'm intrigued by your claim that our military relies today on the mid-West and the South.  Could you provide a reference to some data that would back up this claim?
Another big topic, and again one only incidentally related to the subject of the thread. For now I can state that my comment is mostly based on my own personal experience, and also that of others, whose experience ended up coinciding with my own; I've tried to quickly find an internet/military resource on the matter, but found nothing after more than 30 mins of searching. Sure, the East Coast for example can have men who are patriotic, but also it needs to be said that a lot of the young men who sign up from the East Coast are usually from urban/minority neighborhoods, and thus sign up for economic reasons. It's very rare to find 'military families' here, and instead what you do find are sophisticated people, with college degrees and pedigrees of moral relativism. Again, if you'd like to say more, let's open a thread for it.
Now the question remains: why don't we have more people volunteering to join our armed forces?

[...]

Perhaps these factors have something to do with the number of volunteers we can attract today.

I highly doubt any of those factors have any major impact on recruitment numbers. We are the closest we've come in the last 50 years to an assertive military. Actually, Reagan's military was even more assertive and morally confident than we are, and sure they were well-funded and effective, but it's not like the recruitment rates in the country were incredibly much higher during his tenure. And finally, why did the Athenian men chose not to fight, and to instead cast Demosthenes down as a warmonger? In their case there can't be made any excuse on the account of altruism. The truth is that this is a fundamental problem, present in the nature of all free societies, and not much contingent on the factors you describe. Again this too has very little to do with the Peloponnesian War, so that will have to be all I say in this thread on this subject.

For others reading, please note that this discussion of civic virtue, military recruitment, Athenian passivity, all relate to a different time period from that of the Peloponnesian War, namely to the 340's BC when hostile forces were gathering against Greece, and would come to consume her forever, while Athens sat and watched, despite the deseprate cries of her most able orator. The Peloponnesian War occurred before, from 431 to 404, and during this period Athens had no problems recruiting men to fight the war (although the signs of the decline can be seen even in this war already). The benefits of studying the Peloponnesian War lie in a different area, and I'm glad people are reporting that they've enjoyed the lecture about it.

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  Could you provide a reference to some data that would back up this claim? 

Jay P,

I live in the South. I have lived here all my life. 1/4 of my family is from California...the other 3/4 are from the South since the 1800's. I don't feel qualified to do a comparison with the North, but I do feel qualified to speak about the South.

The happiest news my family received was that I was joining the Military. They all rejoiced and fully supported me. I come from a military family, and my act was seen as something honorable to my nation and my family. They were proud. And this action is not limited to myself; all around the South, meeting random people, I find military families. People here are proud of the US Military, and think it their duty as a citizen of the United States to protect our nation at all costs. So while I may find myself in the minority on issues such as abortion, I find myself in the majority on more important issues. Having people randomly come up to me and say "Thank you for being in the military", or "Thank you for supporting our country and fighting for us" is not rare.

From big cities to small towns, the number of war memorials, verteran's parades, American rallies, American flags, etc. are endless. There's a reason the South and Midwest voted for Bush. For the most part, it wasn't for his religion. It was for his stance on the military and Iraq. The greatest enemy here in the South is Clinton: not because of his anti-Christian dealings with Ms. Lewinsky, but for his weak handling of the evils of the Middle East. People are more apt to remark about the USS Cole than they are the Lewinsky Scandal. In fact, most people I find here are in full support of Israel against Palestine.

Of course there are things in the South that need improvement. But if given the choice between a nation that allows abortion and gays to marry, while being full of nihilistic agnostics, or living in a nation that dreams of kicking the crap out of Iraq, building and strenghtening our military, leaving the UN, ignoring Socialist Europe, fighting for our country by joining the Military, while not allowing abortion or gays to marry and while being Christian, I choose the South.

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I'd also like to add a little story about another Southern Value: Voting.

My parents always taught me, "If you don't agree or if you desire change, vote! Be active in your political process."

I was 8 years old, my brother was 2. My mother was single at the time and working long hours at work to support us both. She also had us involved in multiple activities to keep us active and balanced. It was election night for the Presidency. A terrible snow-storm hit our town at about 6pm. After feeding my brother and I, my mother (who had hours of work to do, at home, that day) loaded my brother and me in the car and drove through horrible weather and traffic to the nearest voting station, only to find that they had moved her to one further across town. It was very cold, very difficult driving, and I could tell that it would be easier to just go home than go through all of this trouble, "Just to vote." So I asked her, "Mother, why do we have to do all of this just to vote?". Her response: "Because that's why we are free Jason."

Once again, this is not rare. From friends, to their parents, to my parents, to school, I've always been taught "Go vote."

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After spending two enlistments in the Marine Corps I would say that I think JayP is a lot closer to why people are not enlisting or joining in the military.

Also I do not agree with a "civic duty", the only thing that one owes another might be recognizing their rights along with yours.

Also while I was in the military we had people from all over the place, no one geographical area was represented in a larger amount, per capita, than any other.

Lastly, there is a big difference between active military and reservist. Do not think that it is the same type of life-style. Just to join the active military you have to sign away so many of your rights it is amazing, some people might decide against this.

Examples;

1) I can not speak out against my commander, the Commandant or the President without punishment.

2) I can not call in to work and say I am sick, no matter what. I first have to go to medical and get a "chit" and then take it to my superior and let him have the final say.

3) I can not leave the general area of the base at anytime without a special "chit". There are limits for 1 night, two, three, etc..

4) The Courts Martial Manual used to be about the size of a pamphlet, when I got out in 98, it was over 3 inches thick. You can literally get written up for almost anything. In the Marine Corps they have written standards for one's hair, pants, shirts, mustache, sun-glasses and the list goes on.

I do not want to take over this post of FC's so I will end here, but what I have just written is a very small glimpse into why people might not be joining, I could keep going. I also understand that it is in one's best interest to fight for their freedom, but that is not what is being done today.

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Ray, I agree about not wanting this not taking over the thread, but I don't see why any of those bullet points are a problem. At all, actually. Maybe the last point indicates a trend of growing bureacracy, but still on the whole I appreciate its purpose. A military being in a free country doesn't mean that anyone can join and serve in whatever manner they wish. There's a certain strict requirement and discipline about the military, and always has been. Maybe you'd like to start a thread about the military, as I would enjoy discussing the subject with you. And thank you for serving, if I haven't mentioned it yet :lol:.

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"Contemporary America is often now seen through the lens of ancient Athens, both as a center of culture and as an unpredictable imperial power that can arbitrarily impose democracy on friends and enemies alike."

The above is from a recent NYT book review of Hanson's A War Like No Other. Is this attack on America in Hanson's book and lecture?

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It's a New York Times review, Steve. That should tell you everything :). What do they know about Ancient Greece, or Contemporary America?

And certainly nothing like this is in anything of Victor Hanson that I've read.

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