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NEWPORT, R.I. (Nov. 28, 2012) Students studying the Peloponnesian War discuss aspects of strategy and policy with military professor Col. Tim Schultz and professor Mike Pavkovic during the Strategy and War Course. (Photo by Petty Officer Lyra-Akina Cutright)
NEWPORT, R.I. (Nov. 28, 2012) Students studying the Peloponnesian War discuss aspects of strategy and policy with military professor Col. Tim Schultz and professor Mike Pavkovic during the Strategy and War Course. (Photo by Petty Officer Lyra-Akina Cutright)
From Strategy and Policy department
Nov. 28, 2012

NEWPORT, R.I. -- This week, the students and faculty attending the U.S. Naval War College’s (NWC) Strategy and War Course examine the Peloponnesian War.

This conflict, although it occurred 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece, remains relevant for analyzing strategy and the employment of all instruments of national power to achieve strategic objectives.  In this conflict, democratic Athens, the sea power, fought the Peloponnesian League, led by the militaristic land power, Sparta.  The contest resulted in a protracted war, lasting twenty-seven years.

The historian Thucydides, who served as a general in the Peloponnesian War, provided a classic account of this struggle.  He meant for his history to be “a possession for all time,” and that has indeed turned out to be the case.  All wars, Thucydides wrote, will resemble this one, as long as human nature remains the same.

By examining this conflict, the course considers persistent problems of strategy and war.

Whether the issue is the nature of strategic leadership, homeland security, the disruptive effects on society and politics of a biological catastrophe, the decision to mount joint and combined operations, the cultivation of domestic and international support in a long war, the confrontation of an enemy with asymmetric capabilities, sea control, the assessment of an enemy from a radically different culture, the impact of foreign intervention in an ongoing war, the use of revolution to undermine a government or alliances, the constraints and opportunities supplied by geopolitical position, the ethical conundrums inherent in the use of violence to achieve political ends, or the unique problems, strengths, and weaknesses of democracies at war, Thucydides offers insight into recurring problems of strategy, with his readers usually left to judge how well the leaders of his time were able to solve them.  Thucydides offers more strategic wisdom than perhaps any other historian of politics and war.

The Strategy and War Course taught by faculty from NWC’s Strategy and Policy department is designed to teach students to think strategically about the relationship among war’s purpose, objectives, ways, and means.

Note: One of the readings for this examination of the Peloponnesian War is from Donald Kagan’s On the Origins of War: And the Preservation of Peace, which is a Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program “Recommended Reading.”  Read more about it at http://www.navyreading.navy.mil.

Posted by Cmdr. Carla M. McCarthy