Thucydides’ story of the conflict between Athens and Sparta in the fifth century B.C., I tell my students at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, will introduce them to virtually every type of person and situation that they will encounter in their modern military careers. But to get that much, it is almost essential to read his Peloponnesian War with a group that contains some experts able to initiate the newcomers. That is what I have found at the college, where the book was made a foundation stone of the curriculum in the early Seventies by the school’s reforming president, Admiral Stansfield Turner. Turner had been a Rhodes Scholar and was undoubtedly impressed by the Oxbridge stress on the classics. But in the 1970s there was another strong reason for U.S. military officers to look at ancient Athens. Our involvement in the Vietnam War was too explosive a matter to be argued...


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