One of the most studied and debated events in human history is the decision by the Athenian empire to send an expeditionary force to Sicily. This happened in 415 B.C. during the middle of the Peloponnesian War between the Delian League led by Athens and the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Athens decided to send military support to allies on Sicily who were opposed to the dominant city state of Syracuse, which also happened to be an ally of Corinth.
The Sicilian Expedition is one of those events that offers something for everyone interested in the ancient world. The politics involved in the decision to send the expeditionary force are fascinating. Then you have the military side of things, which is one of the first examples of politics undermining military effectiveness. Of course, the political psychology around the war to that point is also important. Much of Athenian politics had been shaped by war.
The decision to send the navy to Sicily would turn out to be the turning point in the war with the Spartans. The expedition was a spectacular failure. In fact, it is on the list of great military disasters in human history. The defeat not only permanently weakened the Athenians militarily, but it also crippled their political culture. The politics of the region quickly moved against Athens, leading to the overthrow of the democratic system and the eventual defeat to the Spartans.
Like all great events in history, if you ask ten people with an interest in the topic, you will get eleven theories as to what happened and what it means today. Academic careers have been made studying the war and the events surrounding it. There is also the fact that Athens, despite losing the most important war in human history, continues to cast a shadow over the West. Sparta, on the other hand, is largely remembered for being a cartoonish version of a warrior state.
It matters to us today because the Global American Empire models itself after the Athenian empire. The Athenians had a moral certainty about themselves and what they did based on their form of government. Their system was superior, therefore whatever they did to spread their system must be righteous. Of course, spreading their system often meant overthrowing the rulers of neighboring city-states and installing their system, led by people friendly with Athens.
We see the same thing with the American empire. In fact, it has become a defining feature of the system. For the last thirty years, Washington has been trying to overthrow governments around the world in defense of democracy. There is even an organization called The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which works with various tentacles of the American empire to overthrow governments around the world. The business of America is not business. It is regime change.
Like the Athenian empire, the American empire has found a way to embroil itself in a war with a land power. This proxy war with Russia over Ukraine has little to do with the facts on the ground in Ukraine and everything to do with the politics that drive the expansive polices of the American empire. Like the Peloponnesian War, this is just the latest phase of a war that goes back to the defeat of fascism, which is the analogue for the defeat of the Persians by Athens and Sparta.
Like all historical analogies, this one is far from perfect, but it does provide a lens through which to view current events. Looking at this fight with Russia as a continuation of the Cold War helps explain the actions of the people involved. For the people driving American foreign policy, the main enemy was always Russia. In fact, they were at war with Russian long before they set foot in the new Athens. World War II was just another chapter in that long fight.
This might seem like a stretch but look at the people running foreign policy for the American empire. The people named in Seymour Hersh’s piece on the bombing of the Nord Stream pipelines is a who’s who of neoconservatives. All of them are members of the same club, which is led by Robert Kagan. The wife of Robert Kagan is Victoria Nuland, who runs Ukraine policy for the empire. She is also the person who engineered regime change in Ukraine in 2014.
Proof that the universe has a sense of humor is the fact that Robert Kagan is the ideological leader of the war party. He was born in Athens Greece. His father was Donald Kagan, “the Sterling Professor of Classics and History Emeritus at Yale University and a specialist in the history of the Peloponnesian War.” His book on the Peloponnesian War is excellent. His book on the Sicilian Expedition is also quite good, but more aimed at an academic audience.
Robert appears to have read none of his father’s books, as his cult has led the American empire into its own version of the Sicilian Expedition. The decision to bet on Ukraine is turning into a catastrophe. Instead of sending triremes to aid a supposed ally in order to undermine an opponent, as Athens did when she sent that expedition to Sicily, Washington has sent its prestige and military production capacity to Ukraine in a futile attempt to undermine Russia.
Much like the Sicilian Expedition, the Ukraine war has become a dynamic all its own, sweeping up everyone in the empire. The Europeans, which should know better, have gone along with Washington. In the process, they have revealed themselves to be nothing more than a collection of flunkies serving Washington. The rules-based world order that Washington has claimed to defend has also been exposed as a rigged game to serve the interests of the empire.
Probably the biggest parallel between these two events is how the political class in both cases failed to consider failure as an option. When news of the disaster reached Athens, no one believed it. No one had prepared the Athenians for the possibility of defeat, much less a catastrophe. Once reality sunk in, panic gripped the people as they processed what the disaster meant for the war. Everything about the Sicilian Expedition assumed victory was inevitable.
Something similar is brewing for Washington. For a year the war party has been feeding the political class stories about the Russians running out of weapons and Russian troops being forced to fight naked in the snow. Political leaders are given scripts with big talk about total victory and the dissolution of Russia. The public has been told nothing about the reality of the war. Once news of this disaster makes itself fully known, we may see panic and disbelief in Washington.
Again, historical analogies are never perfect. At best they help contextualize current events by providing an objective viewpoint. Washington is not Athens. Robert Kagan is not Alcibiades and there is no one playing the role of Nicias. Instead, the empire is led by spoiled children of the managerial elite that rose along with the American empire in the aftermath of Word War II. The disaster for this empire, however, will be just as real as it was for the Athenian empire.
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