IMPERIAL AMERICA MIRRORS IMPERIAL ATHENS
CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE PAST AND PRESENT
LISTEN TO AUDIO HERE
The subject of this lecture is the lessons of history, the connection between modern American imperialism and the imperialism of ancient Athens.
IMPERIALISM IN ANCIENT ATHENS
Now let's look back to ancient Athens Greece, which was subject to a series of invasions by the most powerful state in the world at that time—a truly global empire— Persia, which extended from India all the way to Egypt and indeed when the Persian armies invaded Greece they had with them troops from India, that's how large the Empire was. Now Athens and Sparta working together successfully defeated the Persian invasions, a truly amazing feat of military genius and dedication and power.
In the case of Athens, the Athenians set up something called the “Delian League, which was sort of the equivalent of NATO and the common market for a lot of the Greek states. This was originally designed as a military alliance to discourage future Persian invasions. It was a very good and very legitimate idea when it was started. However, particularly under the rule of the megalomaniac Pericles, it started to change, to become an instrument of Athenian imperialism where even the treasury of the league was moved from Delos to Athens and where states and/or people that decided they didn't want to be in the league were subject to ferocious attacks and atrocities organized by the Athenian state, the expansion and the ruthlessness and the megalomania of Athenian imperialism created a reaction throughout Greece.
Imperialism always creates a reaction and the rest of Greece or a good part of the rest of Greece mobilized around Sparta to protect their independence. It is our view that Pericles provoked the so-called Peloponnesian war, the greatest war in the history of Greece, a war which would destroy the whole world of classical Greece. Some people might disagree. We're not going to argue that point here. Regardless, the war began. Now Pericles did pursue what was a militarily clever strategy. A lot of people don't understand in the ancient world that the country organizing a siege could have almost as much trouble as the city being besieged. In the ancient world, armies didn't have the little cans of K rations and so on and so forth, so maintaining an army around someone else's city in someone else's territory and keeping it fed and keeping the soldiers from catching the plague in close quarters was a very difficult task. So Pericles’s idea made a lot of sense. It bled the Spartans and it drained the Spartan treasury and resources.
PLAGUE STRIKES ANCIENT ATHENS
However, it had very serious costs involved. The Athenian people moving in behind the walls, the great walls of Athens, extended all the way down to the port of Piraeus, so Athens with its huge navy and huge maritime power could be supplied overseas by imports of food. It all seemed like a plan that would work. Like many disasters in history it all seemed like it could work. But Pericles didn't consider the force of nature and what happened was a plague, an absolutely disastrous plague. You see the Athenian's focused on an imperial vision and ignored the protection against disease, ignored the protection against health, which could've come from a more cooperative relationship with the other states of Greece. The plague turned out to be the first great catastrophe in the history of Athens. The second one being obviously the defeat in war, but the plague was an absolute disaster of catastrophic dimensions and they say what goes around comes around and it ended up killing the mastermind of imperialism himself, Pericles. It also killed a stunning 25% of the population. Athens was never the same and even though they sued for a temporary peace the first phase of the war over, the plague very much destabilized the religious and political situation in Athens, leading to the emergence of demagogues and ultra-imperialist lunatics such as Cleon and Alcibiades. Cleon reactivated the war and ended up getting killed in the war. That didn't work out so good, but that didn't stop imperial delusions in Athens.
IMPERIAL DELUSIONS LEAD TO DISASTER IN ATHENS
What followed was one of the craziest events in Greek history where the Athenians came up with this wild scheme of seizing control of Syracuse which is a very wealthy state and would lead to their seizing control of Sicily. A lot of people don't understand there was a lot of wealth around the Mediterranean. So this is not some obscure places, this is a very wealthy place, and then they launched this wild scheme to conquer it. You would think that having barely survived being wiped out by the Spartans they might want have a more intelligent approach. It gets crazier from there. They put in charge a crazy person called Alcibiades and we’re not going to go into all the ins and outs and details but Alcibiades had a lot of political enemies and after putting him in charge of this very dubious invasion, there was a huge amount of political infighting and Athens then succeeded in forcing him out when the group the Athenian armies arrived in Sicily and Athenians then defected to the Spartans. Alcibiades would later work with the Persians but in spite of all that, the Athenians would later have put them back in charge. What this shows is the extent to which things were really getting totally out of control in terms of Athenian politics and ultimately the Athenians would become so hysterical and things would get so crazy they would order the execution of the most famous and the greatest philosopher in Greece, Socrates. So this led to a disaster in Athens and ultimately Athens without going into all the details lost the war and was permanently knocked out as a world power.
IMPERIALISM IN AMERICA
Now in America today you have these megalomaniac delusions about imperialism and America has spent trillions on its dream of a world empire that America had particularly after the Cold War. A lot of intellectual lunatics declared history was now so called “over” and America would now create heaven on earth, but in order to create that heaven on earth, America, like Athens, needed an imperial global military power that would crush anybody who got in its way, would invade other countries like Iraq and build utopias there and so on and so forth. In many ways American imperialism is even more deranged than Athenian imperialism. Yes, this is true. This diversion into imperialism was combined by plutocratic elites in America using the treasury to give themselves consumption oriented tax cuts. If that wasn't bad enough the same plutocratic elites, to make more money, transferred a good part of the industrial assets to a totalitarian slave state called “China” and they did this because they can make a lot more money in China by firing their American workers and hiring low-wage laborers in China and other places.
AMERICA FAILS TO PRIORITIZE HEALTH
So these were the priorities of America in the New World order that it claimed to be creating. These were crazy priorities because America was the only modern state that did not have national health insurance or national sick leave. All the experts in the world for years certainly really basically in the whole modern warned the American leadership that America was a sitting duck for an epidemic or a biological warfare attack because of its lack of national health insurance and because of its lack of national sick leave.
National health insurance is not charity any more than having the fire department is not charity. Cities don't set up fire departments because of charity. You don't want fire roaring through the community. Honestly you don't. Not a good idea. Likewise, you don't want disease roaring through your community but in an act of total insanity, America remains the only modern state that does not have national health insurance. Instead there was the delusion that building this global empire by military force means that we’re going to create some “utopia.” Trillions were spent invading Iraq, killing over a million Iraqi civilians on the grounds that George Bush and Hillary Clinton would build a utopia there and that would inspire the world. Well obviously, this turned into a total disaster.
OBAMA'S IMPERIAL DELUSIONS
Barack Obama came in and decided to launch a surge in Afghanistan of all places that was going to produce a sparkling victory and turn Afghanistan into a model democracy which of course ended in disaster. Obama succeeded in increasing the cost of the Afghan war to a level of the Iraqi war and at one point even put more US troops and contractors in Afghanistan than the Russians did when they were there while controlling less of the country against a far weaker opponent than the one the Russians opposed.
But these kind of lunatic delusions just went on and on not. Obama in his attack on Libya overthrew the government there with some lunatic delusion of building utopia there that ended in disaster the same with Syria there and overthrow the government there that ended in disaster in so-and-so. The US government was very preoccupied with imperialism.
THE CORONAVIRUS HITS AMERICA IN 2020
Now in 2020 what had been predicted occurred. A plague hit America. Because America had had the wrong concepts of national security, the country was completely unprepared. Years and years of budget cuts years and years of neglect left the country completely unprepared. It was unprepared in terms of leadership as well as money. For political reasons, a person was put in charge of the CDC whose main claim to fame was his hostility to gays and various religious delusions that met with Republican Party religious delusions and so on and so forth. So almost every aspect of the response to the plague was botched up completely and we’re not going to get into a detailed debate of all the stuff that happened. Obviously the failure to develop testing was a tremendous disaster. This is one of those situations where the shortlist is what went right and just about everything else went wrong and it's not at all clear to us some people would disagree that all the shutdowns were necessary, though they might've been necessary because America did not have national health insurance. Sweden managed to get through this without shutdowns but they had national health insurance and they had invested in a good-quality healthcare system.
Today America is in a state of total catastrophe, the economy has collapsed, the epidemic is running amok and more health damage has been done by the collapse of the economy. Not really a rosy vision. Wall Street is still celebrating pushing up stock prices which is another macabre reality. The lessons of Athens have not been learned that runaway imperialism leads to disaster and the outcome for America is not good. Liberals seem to think that it's 1933 with FDR. That we can just re-create that 1933 America was the world's largest creditor it was the world's largest industrial state. The American economy was very strong in 1933. Today the American economy is a hollowed out debt junkie. It really is. It is -$10 trillion of foreign assets foreign governments on huge amounts of American debt and it survives via endless debt. Now as in France in 1789, this is not a viable situation, and the clock is ticking and the clock is striking 12 for America. This is a zero hour. Zero hour is here. It's not coming it's here and it's unfolding.
SOME PRIORITIES MOVING FORWARD
We will go over positive ideas of what needs to be done. Certainly national health insurance needs to be put in immediately. Not in the mystical future. Now. Whatever the cost. That's gonna cost money, that may be whatever the cost it needs to be put in now, but the Democrats have chosen not to do that. Now they better wake up and do that beyond that there is the long-term question of the Green New Deal, which is very needed and so on. But overall, America faces a huge moment of truth and years of very difficult times. And you reap what you sow. America has sown the wind and the wind is coming. The wind is here. So we all need to come together and work together and try to get through this. Power comes from working together, whether we can do that is not clear because Trump by his very during his policies has encouraged tremendous levels of division in American society. Hopefully, Biden, if he comes in, can pull the country together, but these are some goals of what we need to do.
Overall though, we need to learn from history. The kind of imperialism that destroyed Athens is destroying America. It's not too late to turn back, but we need to learn that fact and go in a different direction.
That's the end of this lecture.