Thursday, March 22, 2007


A Modern Day Athens?

Reading a recent study of the European Union, (hat tip: Daniel W. Drezner), brought to the forefront something that has been in my mind for a while. The countries of the EU have hidden under the defense umbrella of the United States since the beginning of the Cold War. Because of the US, no Soviet armored columns drove through the Fulda Gap. Because of the US, the Western Europeans remained free.

As the United States spent its treasure building its armed forces, the Western Europeans (who eventually united into the EU) spent their treasure on other things, mostly government programs chasing socialist dreams. So many years have past since these countries have had to defend themselves, most of them have forgotten how to do so. EU officials now speak of their enormous “soft power” of economic standing, and cultural and moral superiority. I am not sure why they think a warrant from the International Criminal Court, economic boycott or United Nations Resolution would stop a resurgent Russia (or anybody else) from simply rolling their tanks across EU borders and simply conquering the place, but apparently they do. I can’t see the future, such boycotts and warrants and resolutions may indeed prevent open warfare in Europe again, but I would hate to bet my life and the existence of my country on it. This exactly what the Europeans are doing now.

But I sometimes wonder, was this America’s plan in the first place? Is America a modern day Athens leading a modern day Delian League?

The Delian League was formed in 477 BC by Greek city-states to protect themselves against the Persian Empire after the Persians were finally driven from Greece (about a year after the battle of Thermopylae seen in the recent movie ‘300’). At the beginning, Athens was the leader of the League and each city contributed ships, men and treasure to strengthen the League’s military power. As time passed, Athens came to contribute more ships and men, encouraging the other cities to simply contribute treasure. More years passed and soon only Athens and her closest allies maintained any real armed forces, the other city-states were defenseless, relying on the League for protection.

With the only military around, Athens started to use the League for its own purposes, taking its treasure to build-up their city and increase its wealth. When the other cities protested, Athens ignored them. Some tried to leave the League, which didn’t make Athens very happy. Her forces would swoop down on these cities and ravage them, forcing the survivors back into the League and intimidating the other cities from leaving.

Why didn’t the other cities simply unite, and smash the now tyrannical Athens? Because they couldn’t as they no longer had any military power. For years they had avoided protecting themselves, happy to provide treasure to the Athenians, who built up their own military and watched it grow in strength and experience. When the Athenians eventually became tyrants, the other cities of the League had nothing to oppose them with.

Fast forward to today. Was America’s purpose in creating NATO to emasculate the Europeans? We volunteered to provide the shield under which Europe could grow, without forcing them to spend their funds on a military. We received our reward: vibrant markets to sell our goods and services, thereby strengthening our country. Meanwhile, the European militaries shrank and shrank. Now, they are hollow shells of their former selves. Does anyone think they could even begin to challenge America today?

I can’t think of any reasons why America would become a tyrant (and note: when I say a tyrant, I mean to other countries, not to her own people. The free citizens of Athens were just as free at the beginning of the Delian League as they were at its end). Of course, I am sure that the leaders of those city-states that joined the Delian League back in 477 B.C. thought that Athens would never become tyrannical as well.

Which brings me back to my original question: was the formation of NATO a way to cement America’s dominance of the world? Maybe not intentionally, but it sure looks like it worked out that way to me.

Remember that Europe had totally disrupted the world twice in a mere 20 years time. Europe clearly had to be pacified temporarily. I guess no one understood that Europe would be turned into such a pansy.
Interesting question!

About Europe being a pansy, well, that is true to an extent, but I don't beleive that will kast very long!
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