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The Thucydides Roundtable

Thursday, October 13th, 2016


  1. Announcement, by T. Greer
  2. Marching Orders, by Mark Safranski
  3. Panel of Contributors, by Mark Safranski

Book I:

  1. An introduction, by T. Greer
  2. Fear, honor, and Ophelia, by Lynn C. Rees
  3. The Broken Reedby Jim Lacey
  4. How Group Dynamics Brought Sparta and Athens to War, by Joe Byerly
  5. It Would Be A Great Warby Cheryl Rofer
  6. Knowing Thyself and Knowing the Enemyby Marc Opper
  7. Political Rhetoric in Book I: Truth or Action?, by Pauline Kaurin
  8. Failed Visions of Strategic Restraint, by Mark Safranski
  9. Reflections in a Beginner’s Mindby Charles Cameron
  10. Reflections from a Clausewizian Strategic Theory Perspective, by Joseph Guerra
  11. Honour or reputation?by Natalie Sambhi

Book II:

  1. Beware Greeks Bearing Faulty Assumptionsby Pauline Kaurin
  2. Tactical Patterns in the Siege of Plataeaby A.E. Clark
  3. When Bacteria Beats Bayonets, by Joe Byerly
  4. Everybody Wants a Thucydides Trap, by T. Greer
  5. On Pericles, Strategy and his Regime, Part Iby Mark Safranski
  6. Treason makes the historian, by Lynn C. Rees

Book III:

  1. Treatment of the Enemy in War: Cruel to be Kind?, by Pauline Kaurin
  2. The Most Violent Man at Athensby Mark Safranski
  3. The Medium of Heralds, by Cheryl Rofer
  4. A Layered Textby Joseph Guerra
  5. Understanding Stasisby A. E. Clark

Book IV:

  1. What a Man Can Do”, by Pauline Kaurin
  2. General Demosthenesby A. E. Clark
  3. History is Written by the Losers, by T. Greer
  4. Hoplite Perspectiveby Mark Safranski
  5. Devastationby A. E. Clark

Book V:

  1. What Would the Melians Do? Power and Perception in a Time of Deep Connectivity, by Steven Metz
  2. The Melian Dialogue: Athens’ Finest Hourby A. E. Clark
  3. Men of Honor, Men of Interestby T. Greer
  4. Debating the Dialogueby A. E. Clark

Book VI:

  1. The Diva and the General: Who Wins?, by Pauline Kaurin
  2. Spot the Alcibiades Pointsby T. Greer
  3. The State with the Golden Armby A. E. Clark

Book VII:

  1. Syracuse Through the Eyes of a Samurai, by A. E. Clark


  1. What Do You Mean by “We”?, by A. E. Clark

Concluding Analysis

  1. What have we learned?, by A. E. Clark


  1. Cleon Revisitedby Mark Safranski
  2. Fellow Thucydideansby Mark Safranski
  3. Hoffman on Reading Thucydidesby Mark Safranski
  4. Wyne on Revisiting Thucydides’ Explanationby Mark Safranski
  5. Thucydides Roundtable, Addendum: Steve Bannon’s interest in the Peloponnesian War by Charles Cameron
  6. Thucydides Roundtable: Daniel Bassill’s comment by Charles Cameron


A survival kit for all time

Other Sources:

A survival kit for some time

The Thucydides Roundtable Oct 17: Meet our Panel!

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

The long awaited Thucydides Roundtable is scheduled to begin Monday, October 17, 2016 and this seemed to be an appropriate time to introduce our participants.  My thanks to T. Greer, Lynn Rees, Michael Lotus and Charles Cameron for helping assemble this group.

Our panelists are truly an impressive and outstanding group of thinkers, writers and scholars and I feel honored that they have agreed to be part of our roundtable and join us in wrestling with Thucydides to try to distill together an understanding from what the father of history deemed to be “a possession forever”.

Accomplished as they may be, our panelists hail from all walks of life and experiences. We have active and retired military officers, philosophers and scientists, scholars of war, strategy, languages and culture here. Some practice law, others are journalists, policy wonks, poets and expatriates in distant lands. Some panelists have long and distinguished careers and others are starting out and are already making their bones. All share in common a respect for the life of the mind and a willingness to investigate profound books that raise life’s deepest questions. I thank all of them for the time and intellectual energy that they are devoting to this important project.

A couple of brief notes: this list does not include a small number of special guest-posters who for various good reasons, will be entering the fray at a later date. They will be introduced with their post and the required biographical updates will be made here.

Readers who wish to follow along with us or engage in the comment section are cordially invited to so — as a rule the comments at roundtables can be as lively as the posts. A reminder, we will be using The Landmark Thucydides as our official text. Our “Marching Orders” and Roundtable schedule are here.

Without further delay – meet the panelists of the Thucydides Roundtable:

Major Joe Byerly is an armor officer who frequently writes about leadership and leader development on his blog From the Green Notebook. He is a founding member of the Military Writers Guild.  He holds a B.S. from University of North Georgia and M.A. from the Naval War College. He currently serves as a Squadron Executive Officer in the 4th Infantry Division.

Charles Cameron is the Managing Editor of zenpundit.com. Charles has also posted at Small Wars Journal, All Things Counterterrorism, for the Chicago Boyz Afghanistan 2050 roundtable, and elsewhere.  Charles read Theology at Christ Church, Oxford under A.E. Harvey, and was at one time a Principal Researcher with Boston University’s Center for Millennial Studies and the Senior Analyst with the Arlington Institute. Cameron is the designer of the HipBone Games, a three-time finalist at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security’s Art of Future War contests, and a contributor to Robert Bunker‘s anthology Blood Sacrifices: Violent Non-State Actors and Dark Magico-Religious Activities (Terrorism Research Center, 2016).

T. Greer is a writer and analyst currently based out of Beijing. His research focuses on the evolution of East Asian strategic thought from the time of Sunzi to today. He blogs at The Scholar’s Stage, and can be followed on Twitter at @Scholars_Stage.

Dr. Pauline Shanks Kaurin holds a PhD in Philosophy from Temple University, Philadelphia and is a specialist in military ethics, just war theory, social and political philosophy, and applied ethics. She is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA and teaches courses in military ethics, warfare, business ethics, and history of philosophy. Recent publications include: When Less is not More: Expanding the Combatant/Non-Combatant Distinction, With Fear and Trembling: A Qualified Defense of Non-Lethal Weaponsand Achilles Goes Asymmetrical: The Warrior, Military Ethics and Contemporary Warfare (Ashgate, 2014)

Sean Paul Kelley has a BA in History from the University of Houston, ’93, an MA in International Affairs from St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, ’02, and is pursuing another Master’s in History from the University of Texas, San Antonio. His work has appeared anywhere from the Los Angeles Times Travel Section, to the Alternet.org, the San Antonio Express-News, and was a staff writer for the San Antonio Current.

Kelley’s focus is on the nexus of history and contemporary politics and where they meet internationally. He is a realist by training but an idealist on occasion. He studies power, above all, as it often touches the process, if it isn’t outright the entirety of the process. He spends his time between San Antonio, Texas and Diriá, Nicaragua, where he is completing his Master’s Thesis and beginning his first book on the continuity of history in Central Asia from the time of the Han to the current government of China’s “One Belt, One Road“. He can be reached at spkelley@gmail.com.

Dr. Jim Lacey is the Professor of Strategy at the Marine Corps War College. Prior to that he was a widely published senior analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, DC. Lacey served over a dozen years on active duty as an infantry officer and recently retired from the Army Reserves. He also taught graduate level courses in Military History and Global Issues at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities. Lacey was an embedded journalist with Time magazine during the invasion of Iraq, where he traveled with the 101st Airborne Division. He has written extensively for many other magazines and his opinion columns have been published in National Review, The Weekly Standard, the New York Post, the New York Sun, Foreign Affairs, and many other publications. Jim Lacey is also regularly published in Military History Magazine, Military History Quarterly, and the Journal of Military History.

Lacey is the author of Moment of Battle (Bantam), The First Clash (Bantam), Takedown: the 3rd Infantry Division’s 21-Day Assault on Baghdad (Naval Institute Press), Pershing (Palgrave-Macmillan) The Making of Peace (Cambridge University Press), and The Making of Grand Strategy (Cambridge University Press) and Keep from all Thoughtful Men (USNI, 2010) He also has a trilogy of works on global terrorism, published early in 2008 (Naval Institute Press). His edited book Great Power Rivalries is forthcoming (2016), as are two other books: The Washington War, dealing with the relationship between FDR, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the War Cabinet during World War II; and, Gods of War, dealing with those times in history when great captains have fought each other.

Michael J. Lotus is a lawyer in Chicago, a graduate of the University of Chicago and Indiana University School of Law.  He is the co-author with James C. Bennett of America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century — Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come (2013), and the co-editor with Lynn C. Rees and Mark Safranski of The Clausewitz Roundtable (Ever Victorious Press, 2016).  He read The History of the Peloponnesian War twice in college and is happy to revisit it a third time.

Dr. Steven Metz is Director of Research at the Strategic Studies Institute. He has been with SSI since 1993, previously serving as Henry L. Stimson Professor of Military Studies, Chairman of the Regional Strategy Department, research director for the Joint Strategic Landpower Task Force, and co-director of SSI’s Future of American Strategy Project.  Metz has also been on the faculty of the Air War College, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and several universities. He has been an advisor to political campaigns and elements of the intelligence community; served on national security policy task forces; testified in both houses of Congress; and spoken on military and security issues around the world.

Dr. Metz is a weekly columnist for World Politics Review and the author of Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy and several hundred articles, essays, monographs, reports, and book chapters. His research has taken him to 30 countries, including Iraq immediately after the collapse of the Hussein regime. He is an Adjunct Scholar at the U.S. Military Academy’s Modern War Institute. He holds a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University, and an MA and BA from the University of South Carolina.

Marc Opper is a postdoctoral associate at Yale’s Council on East Asian Studies. His research focuses on the etiology, conduct, and outcome of internal conflicts with a focus on the micro-level interactions between civilians and armed groups. He specializes in the history, politics, and society of China, Malaya, and Vietnam.

Lynn C. Rees is a software engineer and genealogist. He blogs at Zenpundit, Chicago Boyz, and the Committee of Public Safety. With Michael J. Lotus and Mark Safranski, he was co-editor of The Clausewitz Roundtable (Ever Victorious Press, 2016).

Cheryl Rofer blogs at Nuclear Diner and contributes posts and op-eds to other web magazines, including the Globe and Mail, War On The Rocks, and Physics Today. She retired after 35 years at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Her work included environmental projects in Estonia and Kazakhstan, managing cleanups at Los Alamos, and projects in fossil fuels, laser development, and the nuclear fuel cycle, all with implications for national policy. She has published papers in scientific and political science journals and edited a book. She holds an A.B. from Ripon College and an M.S. from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets as @CherylRofer.

Mark Safranski is a senior analyst at Wikistrat, LLC, an educator and writer; he holds an MA in diplomatic history from Northern Illinois University and a M.Ed in Curriculum and Leadership from Benedictine University. An occasional contributor to Pragati: The Indian National Interest, his writing has appeared in Small Wars Journal, War on the Rocks, The New Atlanticist, and other sites. Safranski was the editor of The John Boyd Roundtable: Debating Science, Strategy and War; with Michael J. Lotus and Lynn C. Rees, a co-editor of The Clausewitz Roundtable (Ever Victorious Press, 2016); and contributed chapters to a number of books including most recently Warlords, inc (North Atlantic Books, 2015 ) and Blood Sacrifices: Violent Non-State Actors and Dark Magico-Religious Activities (Terrorism Research Center, 2016).

“Seydlitz89” is a former Marine Corps officer and US Army intelligence officer who served in a civilian capacity in Berlin during the last decade of the Cold War. He was involved as both an intelligence operations specialist and an operations officer in strategic overt humint collection. This experience sparked his serious interest in strategic theory. He is now involved in education. He participated in both the Clausewitz and Xenophon Roundtables at Chicago Boyz.

Natalie Sambhi is a Research Fellow at the Perth USAsia Centre where she publishes on Indonesian foreign and defense policy as well as Southeast Asian security. She was previously an Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) from 2012 to 2016, and Managing Editor of ASPI’s blog, The Strategist. She has also worked at the Department of Defence and University of Canberra.

Natalie holds a Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) (Hons) from the University of Western Australia and a Master of Arts (International Relations) and Master of Diplomacy from the Australian National University. Sambhi has been published in Security Challenges journal, The Asan Forum, The Diplomat, War On The Rocks, The Interpreter, and The Jakarta Post, among others, and most recently presented on Indonesia’s military modernization at CSIS’s Sixth Annual South China Sea conference in July 2016.

In 2016 and 2014, Natalie was a Visiting Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington, DC where she presented on Indonesian civil-military relations. Natalie has served as President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs ACT, having served as Vice President 2013–2015. She hosts Sea Control: Asia Pacific, a podcast series on Asia-Pacific security for the US-based Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). Natalie also joined the team at Bloggingheads.tv as a host for their international relations segment, Foreign Entanglements.

In 2010, Natalie founded the blog Security Scholar and tweets at @SecurityScholar. She speaks Indonesian and enjoys playing the cello.

Thucydides Roundtable Begins October 17

Monday, September 26th, 2016

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

An update regarding the Thucydides Roundtable;

Our list of esteemed roundtable participants has been finalized and while some administrative details need to be taken care of in the coming weeks and some promotional announcements are to come, we will formally begin October 17.

Readers who wish to follow along with us or engage in the comment section, we will be using The Landmark Thucydides as our official text.

When tweeting about the Thucydides Roundtable we will use the hashtag #FearHonorInterest. Participants may be cross-posting as well to their own blogs or social media accounts and are strongly encouraged to do so, but for ease of discussion, every participant’s post will appear here at zenpundit.com

The format will be similar to blogging roundtable events in past years, notably the Clausewitz and Xenophon roundtables. Participants will post on one “book” (chapter) a week in sequential order – i.e.  in week one, everyone posts about some aspect of Book I. The following schedule will be maintained throughout the roundtable:

Book I.  week of October 17
Book II. week of October 24
Book III. week of October 31
Book IV. week of November 7
Book V. week of November 14
Book VI. week of November 21
Book VII. week of November 28
Book VIII. week of December 5
Concluding Analysis week of December 12

Marching Orders”

For returning participants from prior roundtables, these are essentially the same as the ones enacted at Chicago Boyz blog for the Clausewitz Roundtable by Lexington Green.

Purpose of the roundtable: The overall goal is for each participant to read The Landmark Thucydides and to learn something from it, and to convey what they have learned in an interesting and engaging and informative way to the other participants and to our readers. Everything else is to flow from that goal and to be consistent with that goal.

1. Each participant shall read the book.

2. Each participant shall post his thoughts, comments, analysis, and impressions of the book, including its relevance and application today and in the future. The general thrust is to engage the text of the book, to “meet Thucydides” and then for each participant to communicate what he has learned in that meeting.  Beyond the Peloponnesian War itself, the application of Thucydides’s views, as conveyed in The Landmark Thucydides, to current and future issues of strategy, warfare, politics or any other pertinent subject, is encouraged.

3. There is no absolute prohibition on discussing context, other writers’ views, the history of Thucydides’ influence, etc. However, the focus should be the text. Each participant shall use their discretion in this regard. There is no limit on length of posts or number of posts by any participant.

4. The schedule for the roundtable is as stated above. There is no ironclad requirement that each person post each and every week. Nor is there a requirement that each participant only post once per week. However, one post, per week, on the Book which is scheduled for that week, is the guideline. Again, each participant shall exercise discretion in this regard. This is supposed to be fun and enlightening, not a chore.

There will be a “first” post to begin the roundtable by our co-host, Tanner Greer of Scholar’s Stage. After that, any and all participants may fire away, keeping the schedule in mind.

If other personal or professional commitments come up, that is understood and excused in advance.

If a participant wants to put up some short post pertaining to the roundtable on their own blog or social media account, prior to the formal beginning date, I leave that to each person’s discretion, but request that no one “jump the gun” with any substantive post prior to the first week.

5. Each participant should feel free to respond to issues raised by other participants in their posts, leave comments on posts, cross-post on their own blogs, or otherwise engage in “lateral” dialogue about the book. Such lateral engagement is encouraged. Disagreement and argument of a civil and productive nature is also encouraged.

6. Mechanics. Each post shall have a title “Thucydides, Book __:” then the title the participant is using for the specific post, after the colon. This will help everyone keep track of where each participant is in the book. Each post shall be labeled with the category “Thucydides Roundtable”. Posts will have a “read more” break after a few paragraphs in order to maximize attention on all of the posts and to make things visually manageable for our readers.

Participants in coming weeks will be given access to ZP to post directly. If the participant is unfamiliar with WordPress and blogging generally, they may email their posts to me and I will put them up as quickly as I can. Participants with technical questions about formatting (ex. an image or map) in their posts can address their questions to co-host Lynn C. Rees.

7. Comment section:  this point is more for newer readers who might be joining us rather than the participants. As a rule, the comment section here is a genteel place regarding discussions with others and problems are very few. The managing editor here is Charles Cameron and he keeps an eye on the comments section – comments with two or more links are automatically held for moderation, which he or I will approve as soon as time permits.

Participants, we will be contacting you with further information this week.

We look forward to seeing you at the roundtable!

Announcing: The Thucydides Roundtable

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

[by T. Greer]

There was once a time when the first thing I would do in the morning was rush to the computer so that I might check the comment threads of the five to ten blogs I followed on national security and strategic theory. It was the golden era of the old Strategy Sphere: a time when the debates swirling around the internet had real intellectual heft and all arguments were conducted with a fierce sense of urgency. I have written about era—what it was like to be a participant in its debates, and what caused that old community to slowly fall apart—before. That retrospective ended on a sad note, questioning whether or not the spirit of those days could ever be recaptured.

I think it might just be possible.

One of the most compelling forums for discussion in those days were the statecraft roundtables. The idea behind all the roundtables was to gather together a diverse group of strategy and history focused bloggers to read and discuss a classic in the field. We would read the book chapter by chapter, each participant chronicling their reaction to the author’s—and each other’s—arguments as we read. Part long distance book club, part public forum, every roundtable was a cocktail of different ideas and perspectives that anyone would learn from, be they newcomers to the strategy scene, practitioners in the field, or well credentialed experts dwelling in think tanks and ivory towers.

Last week the editors of the Clausewitz Roundtable—held eight years ago on Chicago Boyz—published an edited version of the roundtable tour through Carl von Clausewitz’s On War. It can be purchased for $3 on Amazon. For its price it’s a fine little read, both for the insights each author brings to On War and its theories, but also because it gives you a peek into what the blogosphere once was—and what it once again might be. The wide ranging discussions of politics, history, war, and power had in the comment threads of that roundtable are exactly the kind of thing that deserve to return to blogosphere.

And so it will be.

I am proud to announce the upcoming Thucydides Roundtable, to be hosted at the group blog Zenpundit in October 2016.

Thucydides is a man of firsts. He has been called the father of realism, the first “theorist of war” in the Western tradition, the inventor of political science and international relations, the first man to ever attempt an objective and evidence based history of the world he lived in, and many other things besides. In the two thousand years since they were first written, his words have been used and abused by historians, poets, social scientists, and statesmen from one side of the Earth to the other. His chronicle of the thirty year war waged between his native Athens and her rival Sparta has just about everything in it. I really do mean everything. No great or enduring theme of the human experience is left untouched—war and international order of course make their appearance, but so do meditations on statesmanship, bargaining, courage, partisanship, justice, ethics, ambition, greed, honor, religion, culture, history, and so much more. His History of the Peloponnesian War is not just the story of a quarrel between Athenians and Lacedaemonians in the 5th century BC. It is a story about all of mankind.

Or at least this is what Thucydides hoped it would be.

I invite you to discover for yourself if Thucydides’ ambition was realized by reading his work with us. We will officially kick off the roundtable discussion at Zenpundit in mid-October. In the weeks to come we will publish the full list of official participants as well as the Roundtable’s official rules of engagement. Until then, I encourage you to go out and purchase the Landmark Thucydides to get a head start on the reading. It’s a big book, but one well worth reading.

In the meantime, add Zenpundit to your feeds or like our Thucydides Roundtable Facebook page to stay updated on the roundtable’s schedule and progress.

[Cross-posted from The Scholar’s Stage]

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