The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation
Many unanticipated dangers—military, political, technological, foreign, and domestic—shadow the U.S. national security landscape, creating a need for adaptive and inventive leadership. But what exactly does this leadership look like? This paper explores insights from what might seem an unusual source: Thucydides’ discussion of how the Sicilians, inspired by the unconventional guidance of the general Hermocrates, facilitate Sparta’s defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War. As Thucydides shows, Hermocrates spurs his listeners to reflect on their limitations and biases at a time when imminent peril would seem to call for nothing but confidence. Yet this reflection, by allowing the Sicilians to reconsider their moral and cultural norms, reform their military structures, and join with unlikely allies to resist Athens’s imperialist threat, fosters an innovative outlook that makes that resistance succeed. This ancient case study remains salient for modern audiences because it exemplifies a nontraditional leadership suited to today’s unforeseen security problems.
“In a word, this is wonderful. It is an apt, appropriate use of applied history. In a tumultuous time when journalists seem to be the only voices trying to make sense of our situation, nearly all historians have been unable to give us guideposts or a compass to orient us to solutions. As W. Churchill put it, the more one can look into the past, the further one can look into the future….This paper rates study and application to our own thinking about what we face. Vice dismissing the reasons for the internal disarray, Hermocrates sought to understand them and then to show them why they must mature their thinking. Where in America is such informed leadership today?
This is an award-winning paper in the truest sense of the word. This demonstrates why we need historians who can apply history to our current situation. As SecDef I often got my best new ideas from old books/history.
This paper is nothing short of exciting in what it unlocks….I’m inspired and humbled by [Emily’s] application of history. Hermocrates ranks with Aurelian guiding Rome out of the crisis of the third century AD or Choiseul’s thoughtful leadership under the Sun King.”
James N. Mattis, 26th United States Secretary of DefenseBack to Library