Friday, March 4, 2011

Obama's Mettle

This semester I have the privilege of teaching a collegiate seminar of the Great Books. We just completed Thucydides' account of the "The Debate at Sparta and Declaration of War" from his History of the Peloponnesian War.

There is a reason the study of this work has long been considered the foundation of classical education. Our culture seems to have lost a thirst for the Great Books, unless of course we can digest them on screen in Hollywood extravaganzas like Troy which are often loosely, to say the least, based on the actual text.

During the Debate at Sparta, the Corinthians were presenting their grievances against Athens to their allies, the Spartans. ...the likeliest way of securing peace is this: only to use one's power in the cause of justice, but to make it perfectly plain that one is resolved not to tolerate aggression.

Sound advice we would do well to consider as our servicemen are gunned down at airports by Islamic extremists, our soldiers are gunned down on our own army base in Texas by an Islamic extremist and our citizens are held captive and murdered on their own vessel by Somali Pirates. Our response has been muted through each of these hostile, aggressive acts. Our response, frankly, has been absolutely shameful.

The Corinthians understood what Sparta didn't: that Athens was a determined and patient foe. ...they gradually encroach upon their neighbors. Now they are proceeding slowly because they think your insensitiveness to the situation enables them to go on their way unnoticed; you will find that they will develop their full strength once they realize that you do see what is happening and are still doing nothing to prevent it (emphasis mine).

Joe Biden told us during the election that our "young president" would be tested and we would wonder at his response. From the New York Post, October 21, 2008:

"Watch. We're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.
And he's going to need help . . . to stand with him. Because it's not going to be apparent initially; it's not going to be apparent that we're right."

For once I agree with ole Joe. It is CLEARLY not apparent that "we're right." The Corinthians, however did understand the role of government in protecting her citizens: to use power in the cause of justice and to make it perfectly plain to our enemies that we will not tolerate aggression.

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