03 May 2009

A War Like No Other

I was able to finish a little bit of "A War Like No Other" by Victor Davis Hanson—about the war between Sparta and Democratic Athens—this morning. I have to admit that the book is a fascinating secondary source, and it confirms once again the value of having both primary and secondary sources available when reading history.

Hanson begins by framing the cause of the conflict. Although the conflict appeared to have a somewhat clear-cut impetus--the Spartan invasion of Attica in response to the grievances of Corinth and Megara against Athens—the root causes run somewhat deeper. Hanson attributes much of the conflict between Sparta and Athens as a Spartan backlash against a sort of Athenian version of globalization throughout the Greek world.

According to Hanson, the Athenians spread democracy and their culture—the same culture that gave us the great philosophers and dramatists of Ancient Greece—throughout the Hellenic world, much as American values and democratic traditions have gained hold throughout a good portion of the world. This should sound incredibly familiar to those of you who have read Dr/Lt. Col. David Kilcullen's book, The Accidental Guerilla.

Hanson is quick to point out that although Athens was able to spread democracy effectively throughout many parts of the Hellenic world, her attempts to spread democracy via the sword were often far from perfect.

Where was this guy's input in the infamous "PowerPoint slide of Democracy" from 2003?

The art of building a democratic state is a difficult endeavor, to be certain. Why is it done with such success in some areas—even areas as vastly different as post-WW2 West Germany and Japan—and with such difficulty in other areas?

1 comment:

SJ said...

The New York Times today has an interesting series of Op-Ed's talking about democracy in India, Indonesia, and South Africa.

With regards to your other question though, I've got a few of my own personal observations. For one, both nations were pretty much burnt to the ground, totally and utterly defeated. In the mean while, they had a new Soviet threat at the peak of its power looking to carve out its post-war hegemony. In those circumstances, the pro-West democratic camp looks pretty attractive.

Both nations also had some experience with somewhat functional democratic institutions prior, so the entire concept probably wasn't too foreign with them. In the case of Japan, you had large chunks of the old bureaucracy still in tact and carried over into the new government.