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History Has a Habit of Repeating Itself

September 27, 2004

Re "Unless It's All Greek to Him," Commentary, Sept. 23: Barbara Garson's reminder of the Athenians' preemptive folly against Sicily about 2,400 years ago is magnificent and chilling.

The parallels she suggests with Thucydides' history of that tragic war and Bush's (Alcibiades) Iraq adventure force us to consider that although advanced technology has provided increased military might, we continue to ignore the perils provided by the same hubris in our nature.

Thucydides wrote after the terrible news of their defeat reached Athens: "When they did recognize the facts, they turned against the public speakers who had been in favor of the expedition, as though they themselves had not voted for it, and also became angry with the prophets and soothsayers and all who at the time had, by various methods of divination, encouraged them to believe that they would conquer Sicily."

Perhaps we should be grateful that at least our leaders no longer read the entrails of birds to receive the gods' blessing before going to battle.

June Maguire

Mission Viejo


Garson makes an interesting analogy, comparing Athens' Sicilian excursion with Iraq. She fails to mention that the main problem of the architect of the disaster, Alcibiades, was that he was a flip-flopper. He was often found in the enemy camp and actually changed sides for his personal and political benefit several times during the war.

Sound like anyone we know?

Mike Williams


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