The Best Defense

Blogging Thucydides (IV): I think this may be the most brutal line I've ever read

In the dialogue with the people of the small, weak island of Melos, the Athenians explained why the island must submit to the wishes of the city of Athens: "the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must." (P. 352, Landmark edition) Yow. That is (as the headline suggested) perhaps the nastiest line I ever have read. 

The Melians asked to be allowed to remain neutral in the war. Tough luck, said Athens, which then invaded and "put to death all the grown men whom they took, and sold the women and children for slaves," and then re-settled the island with their own colonists.

Such wholesale violence seemed to be about par for the course in the ancient Greek world. Samos is not that big an island, but when one party in a civil war on the island prevailed, it executed 200 of most powerful men from the other party and banished another 400. (P. 493, Landmark edition) Sounds to me like they extirpated the opposition.


The Best Defense

Maj. Robert Stanton on having the courage to let your soldiers figure it out

Maj. Robert Stanton discusses learning how to do counterinsurgency in eastern Afghanistan in 2006-07:

If you have the intellectual humility to realize that you don't have all the answers, and you are willing to underwrite enough risk to let your junior leaders and soldiers do what needs to be done. You can take a group of American soldiers, give them a vague mission, and as long as you resource them, they're going to do things you never could have imagined them being able to do. They're going to solve your problems for you, half the time when you don't even know you have a problem. For me, the biggest lesson that I think I learned -- and I learned a lot of lessons from that deployment -- was that. As I continue in the military and as I see other leaders, you've got to have that intellectual humility, because you don't have all the answers, and you don't need to have them all. You've got some brilliant 21-year-old kid who loves what he's doing and is going to solve your problems for you if you just give him the freedom to do it, and you resource him enough to do it. You make him feel empowered to do it. If you can do that, then the things we can do as an Army are unbelievable. That's what I would say.