Sunday, July 24, 2005
TreasonGate: Newsweek And Alcibiades
I'm sorry, but Donald Rumsfeld cannot be the American Alcibiades. Nor Jerry Boykin, nor Tommy Franks, nor any of the many people who argued in favor of war.
Not one is anyhere near as good a general as Alcibiades.
Second, listing Alcibiades as just another warmonger is simplistic. He was Athens' most brilliant overall strategist. Indeed, when he was tossed out by Athens, he was recruited by the Persians. Athens was fortunate that ultimately he did not lead a campaign against them.
Alcibiades was clearly the target of great jealousy. The destruction of the hermai on the eve of the expedition on Sicily certainly sounds as if his enemies were willing to put destroying him ahead of protection of the nation. For that reason, one should take with a grain of salt the accusations against him.
What is clear from Plato is that he was a man of considerable and undisciplined sexual appetites. This personal flaw overshadowed his other achievements.
For that reason, I would call Bill Clinton the American Alcibiades. Brilliant and indispensable to his country at a time of economic crisis, his talents were despised by enemies willing to put his destruction over the nation's good. America's real power is based in its economy, not in its army. In that sphere, Bill Clinton was a remarkable general. Given our treatment of him, we are fortunate he has not become a consultant for China.
And so, having despised talent (however flawed) and having tolerated all sorts of lies in displacing talented administrators in favor of an alcoholic neer-do-well promising pious platitudes and endless self-gratification through deficit spending, we end up ruled by someone even less talented and more corrupt than Pisistratus.
The comparison with the Sicilian expedition is apt, though. If the Athenians had come genuinely committed to the good of the Sicilians, they would have seen the situation for what it was and withdrawn promptly.
More blogs about politics.