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On Sophocles’ Antigone and Modern Tyrants

Tyrants are prone to seek domination of ever-larger possessions, and the only constraint on their expansion, aside from internal strife, is effective opposition by external powers. If they are not combated, tyrants can indeed be highly disruptive of international stability.

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Mary P. Nichols on Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom

Cities and individuals in Thucydides' history take freedom as their goal, whether they claim to possess it and want to maintain it or whether they desire to attain it for themselves or others. Freedom is the goal of both antagonists in the Peloponnesian War, Sparta and Athens, although in different ways. One of the fullest expressions of freedom can be seen in the rhetoric of Thucydides’ Pericles, especially in his famous funeral oration.

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Not your Father’s Geopolitics

Those of us of a Classical bent are occasionally jarred by references to “geopolitics” that do not seem to square with the understanding we gained from reading authorities such as Mahan, Mackinder, and Spykman.  Although we felt that we were properly critical of particular aspects of these geopolitical teachings, were are reminded that in recent years, something formally called “critical geopolitics” has emerged – a postmodern understanding of space, “identity,” and politics. 

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A Contemporary Hat Tip to Makers of Modern Strategy

In "Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China," Robert Blackwill and Ashley J. Tellis argue that because the American effort to “integrate” China into the liberal international order has now generated new threats to U.S. primacy in Asia—and could result in a consequential challenge to American power globally—Washington needs a new grand strategy toward China that centers on balancing the rise of Chinese power rather than continuing to assist its ascendancy.

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Churchill: Literature in the Service of Grand Strategy

Churchill develops a continuity of principle from the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights (Glorious Revolution) through the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, a continuity that extended to joint cooperation in the fight against Hitler and in the Cold War.  One might object that, as a matter of fact, the Declaration formally divided the two great branches of the English-speaking peoples.  But Churchill was getting at something deeper than mere history.  This was literature in the service of the Grandest Strategy.

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Edward Mead Earle’s Critique of Spykman

Earle wrote a surprisingly negative review in the Political Science Quarterly (March 1943) of Nicholas Spykman's America's Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power (1942), which is generally considered to have been highly influential among the set of individuals who composed Makers of Modern Strategy. Earle "found Spykman's focus on a narrow concept of power as the sole basis of international affairs unpersuasive and out of line with American traditions.

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The Thucydides Trap: Does it Exist?

In 2012, Harvard’s Graham Allison posed this question: Can China and the US escape Thucydides’s trap?  According to Allison: “The historian’s metaphor reminds us of the dangers two parties face when a rising power rivals a ruling power – as Athens did in 5th century BC and Germany did at the end of the 19th century. Most such challenges have ended in war. Peaceful cases required huge adjustments in the attitudes and actions of the governments and the societies of both countries involved.”  Athens’ dramatic rise in the Greek work shocked the then-leading power, Sparta.  Fear compelled its leaders to respond. Threat and counter-threat produced competition, then confrontation and finally conflict. At the end of 30 years of war, both states had been destroyed. Thucydides wrote of these events: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable.”

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Young Churchill on the North-West Frontier: The More Things Change

Francis P. Sempa discusses young Winston Churchill’s time in India as a military officer and journalist. The two occupations famously combined when Churchill accompanied a military expedition to deal with tribal upheaval on the North-West frontier (present day Pakistan-Afghanistan).  As a result, Churchill was mentioned in dispatches – and wrote a series of newspaper articles that were published as his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898).

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