Strategy in the Ancient World

So Dr. Freedman begins his discussion of strategy with the Bible...which is fascinating stuff, but I am saving that for a comparison of the strategic thinking of God versus Satan...yes that's right he actually does a comparison of the strategy of God and Satan...that is some academic chops.

But let us turn to the Ancient Greeks, who provide an endless fodder for the study of strategic thought, primarily divided between the concepts of strength versus guile.

There is a fascinating few pages on the debates between the Greeks, primarily Athens and Sparta, on the merits of trickery, both military and political, to achieve strategic goals-a debate that would not be out of place today.

A couple of points stand out...clearly the idea that there is very little we can learn from history and that every problem mankind faces is "unprecedented" rings very hollow. First, the debate between "strength and guile" really seem to me to be a variation of the "firepower versus maneuver" debate that endlessly rages among practitioners of the military art. Or, put another way, is it more "manly" to fight wars and battles of attrition or to use maneuver to so confuse and disorient your opponent that they surrender or run away? Well, like many questions in history and strategy, the answer is-"It depends." Not a very satisfying answer to be sure, but strategic challenges are rarely clear cut. As Dr. Freeman points out, the Ancient Greeks struggled with these issues, which for them were truly life or death decisions.

Second, in addition to the whole firepower vs maneuver question, the Ancient Greeks also struggled with an ancient version of asymmetric warfare, currently a topic all the rage among military pundits and historians. One of my favorite strategists, the timeless Thucydides, points out that at the beginning of the Peleponesian Wars, the leader of Athens, the great and wise Pericles, deliberately avoided a direct confrontation with the juggernaut that was the Spartan Army and decided to use Athens superior naval power to conduct raids on Sparta and her allies to wear them down. His strategy may have had a good chance to succeed if he hadn't been killed by a plague that swept Athens. Pericles replacement by less thoughtful leaders soon put Athens on the slippery slope to bad politics, bad strategy, and eventual defeat.

FINALLY, on a political note, I have finally discovered the secret to why so many progressive liberals think the way they do...they're merely using the Socratic method...or as one of my favorite movies pronounce it "SO-CRATES...excellent!" At the end of this section Dr. Freeman discusses the relative merits of modern philosophy a al Socrates and Plato and provides an interesting quote on Plato's belief on the right of the wise and noble, properly educated "elite" to rule the peasants:
"The rulers must have supreme power to decide what was wise and just...We want one single, grand lie which will be believed by everybody--including the rulers ideally, but failing that, the rest of the city....The noble lie was a white lie on......communities had to be educated into a belief in social harmony and a conviction that the existing order was natural."  (p.40)
Hmmm, that could almost come from the mouth of any 21st century social progressive fool, who are you to judge what kind of health care you will get...only the wise and benevolent Obama Administration will decide what's good for you.