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Votes From A Small Island: Attica to Manhattan.

Lumpy Talbot

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I thought about putting this thread in Foreign Affairs but I see FA as subordinate to Defence, especially when it comes to the country's strategic cultural and political partnerships.

The basis for the thread is: Historically small island states, whatever their internal political systems, have done very well where there is wisdom enough in their leadership to balance out the political influence of its neighbours. The history of the Peloppenisian Wars and the power struggle between the league of Attican states counterbalancing determined invasion attempts by Persia into Europe.

Arising out of a debate around our Defence Forces, it made me think how we strategically see our natural cultural and political alliances, and whether in comparison to even some ancient states we may not be playing the Great Game to our best advantage. It is an environment which makes machieavellianism look a bit slow on the uptake.

In the years to come the current quiet murmur of potential changes to our stance on military neutrality, on membership of NATO or not, and possibly even contribution expected towards an eventual EU Army may become a more insistent call.

My question has some layers to it: Firstly I wonder whether it is possible for a small nation, lucky in its geography, climate and cultural stamina, to play as sophisticated a game of balancing competing interests so that we extract the maximum negotiation value out of our votes at international forums from UN to EU? Are we even involved in the Great Game between power blocs within the EU itself? Do we stand up ritually at the UN to vote with certain powers there and never consider departing from that?

Risky game. But sometimes essential for longevity in survival from ancient Attica to the UN today in New Work. Could we play the Great Game better than we have in the past? And what might that entail?
 


Lumpy Talbot

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One thing that springs to mind is the political strategy we see at the UN and at other supranational organisations where larger nations will go around negotiating for and collecting votes on a given subject among the smaller nations of the UN first, in order to bring a supported position to the debating chamber.

Samoa, Fiji and the small island nations around the world and their vote suddenly becomes important in the mathematics of assessing risk for your proposal before it is ever debated on the floor.

Which means UN Security Council members sometimes have to woo the small island nations for votes. There's a lot of leaning on junior associates in that process too I suspect but then this is deep Great Game politics.

Do we sell ourselves cheaply in that supranational supermarket?
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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I thought about putting this thread in Foreign Affairs but I see FA as subordinate to Defence, especially when it comes to the country's strategic cultural and political partnerships.

The basis for the thread is: Historically small island states, whatever their internal political systems, have done very well where there is wisdom enough in their leadership to balance out the political influence of its neighbours. The history of the Peloppenisian Wars and the power struggle between the league of Attican states counterbalancing determined invasion attempts by Persia into Europe.

Arising out of a debate around our Defence Forces, it made me think how we strategically see our natural cultural and political alliances, and whether in comparison to even some ancient states we may not be playing the Great Game to our best advantage. It is an environment which makes machieavellianism look a bit slow on the uptake.

In the years to come the current quiet murmur of potential changes to our stance on military neutrality, on membership of NATO or not, and possibly even contribution expected towards an eventual EU Army may become a more insistent call.

My question has some layers to it: Firstly I wonder whether it is possible for a small nation, lucky in its geography, climate and cultural stamina, to play as sophisticated a game of balancing competing interests so that we extract the maximum negotiation value out of our votes at international forums from UN to EU? Are we even involved in the Great Game between power blocs within the EU itself? Do we stand up ritually at the UN to vote with certain powers there and never consider departing from that?

Risky game. But sometimes essential for longevity in survival from ancient Attica to the UN today in New Work. Could we play the Great Game better than we have in the past? And what might that entail?
From the Peloponnese Wars I am not sure what lessons Ireland should draw from the destruction of Melos. According to Thucydides it’s defeat by Athens saw all its remaining men put to death and all its women and children enslaved.

Melos was a neutral island state, trying to remain apart from the conflict between a ‘democratic’ but imperialistic Athens and a ‘fascistic’ Sparta. IMO the Melians were foolish in thinking that they could remain apart from this contest.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Just reading around the fate of Melos....according to Mary Beard the phrase from Thucydides ....

The strong do what they can, the weak suffer what they must
...

....is better translated as.....
The powerful exact what they can, and the weak comply.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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I thought about putting this thread in Foreign Affairs but I see FA as subordinate to Defence, especially when it comes to the country's strategic cultural and political partnerships.

The basis for the thread is: Historically small island states, whatever their internal political systems, have done very well where there is wisdom enough in their leadership to balance out the political influence of its neighbours. The history of the Peloppenisian Wars and the power struggle between the league of Attican states counterbalancing determined invasion attempts by Persia into Europe.

Arising out of a debate around our Defence Forces, it made me think how we strategically see our natural cultural and political alliances, and whether in comparison to even some ancient states we may not be playing the Great Game to our best advantage. It is an environment which makes machieavellianism look a bit slow on the uptake.

In the years to come the current quiet murmur of potential changes to our stance on military neutrality, on membership of NATO or not, and possibly even contribution expected towards an eventual EU Army may become a more insistent call.

My question has some layers to it: Firstly I wonder whether it is possible for a small nation, lucky in its geography, climate and cultural stamina, to play as sophisticated a game of balancing competing interests so that we extract the maximum negotiation value out of our votes at international forums from UN to EU? Are we even involved in the Great Game between power blocs within the EU itself? Do we stand up ritually at the UN to vote with certain powers there and never consider departing from that?

Risky game. But sometimes essential for longevity in survival from ancient Attica to the UN today in New Work. Could we play the Great Game better than we have in the past? And what might that entail?

.....and without the various Greek states joining together in military alliance against the two Persian invasions there probably never would have been any independent Greek states.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Equally there might also have been less of a need for Cyrus to invade at the head of a huge army if he hadn't been eyeing the Attican states and their military prowess on his borders.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Equally there might also have been less of a need for Cyrus to invade at the head of a huge army if he hadn't been eyeing the Attican states and their military prowess on his borders.
Persia had previously conquered the Ionian greek states in Asia Minor and appointed tyrants to rule over them. It was Greek assistance for subsequent rebellions by these states that prompted the Persian invasions. It was Persian imperialism and dictatorship that prompted Greek hostility.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Well, fortunately I don't think we are in much danger from Persian ambition at the moment so that is good.

To be more accurate to the point of the thread the island states of ancient Greece were a shifting band of allegiances and loyalties and the bigger island states were just as interested in being a restraint on Athens as they were in unity.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Well, fortunately I don't think we are in much danger from Persian ambition at the moment so that is good.

To be more accurate to the point of the thread the island states of ancient Greece were a shifting band of allegiances and loyalties and the bigger island states were just as interested in being a restraint on Athens as they were in unity.
Well, fortunately I don't think we are in much danger from Persian ambition at the moment so that is good.

To be more accurate to the point of the thread the island states of ancient Greece were a shifting band of allegiances and loyalties and the bigger island states were just as interested in being a restraint on Athens as they were in unity.
Yeah but I keep thinking about the fate of Melos. It tried to stand apart from the contest between Athens and Sparta and it ended up being destroyed. Trotsky’s supposed quote comes to mind....”You may not interested in war but war might be interested in you”....it seems that the more correct version is “You might not be interested in the dialectic but ......” and this sort of echoes Thucydides about the strong and the weak. It’s naive, sometimes dangerous and sometimes immoral to think you can stand apart from the great contests of the age.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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"What comes around, goes around".

Nebuchadnezzar refers to Melos. At that moment (416 BC) Melos and Thera were the only Aegean islands outside Athenian control. When Melos refused to submit, it was besieged. It fell, after months of investment. Alcibiades is named for the idea, but all the Melian males were executed; the women and children sold as slaves. Melos was then colonised by five hundred Athenian incomers.

At the acme of its power, Athens was already messing in Sicily, in the quarrel between Segesta and Selinous. Selinous called for aid from Syracuse and Segesta on Athens. The political motive for Athens, and the Segestan appeal, was to avoid a Dorian supremacy in Sicily, which might then ally with the Peloponnesians. For the more unscrupulous political ranters of Athens (Alcibiades, again) it was the chance of extending an Athenian empire.

Last winter, along with developing a massive cold watching the Santa Lucia procession around Ortygia, I visited the Orecchio di Dionisio, where — allegedly — those Athenians and their allies (a quarter of the original 40,000 force) who survived the retreat spluttered out as slaves. Did any of them muse on the fate of Melos?

It was not the end of the Peloponnesian War. That involved the Spartans cobbling 'agreements' with Cyrus, and the raid by Lysander on the Athenian fleet at the Battle of Aegospotami. Sparta, a debtor to Cyrus, involved Greece in the fraternal war with Artaxerxes. Cyrus comprehensively deceived his Greek allies (the pretended attack on the hill-tribes became a direct confrontation with the Great King of Persia). Cyrus bought it at the Battle of Cunaxa; somehow the Greeks promoted Xenophon as their leader; somehow too they fought their way to the coast.

Are there 'lessons to be learned' from all this? To my mind it comes down to the impermanence of any settlement. The Spartan successes gave a brief period — perhaps thirty years — of supremacy, before the power passed to Thebes, and in due time to Philip of Macedon.

All human things are subject to decay,
And, when Fate summons, monarchs must obey...

Yet we still read Thucydides and Xenophon. Just as the world reads Goldsmith and Joyce, Sheridan and O'Casey, Wilde and Yeats, Shaw and Friel. Were I looking for a 'lesson' to con by heart, it would be the virtues of 'soft power'. Not a bad sub-text for a small, isolated society at the edge of Europe, half way to Philadelphia in the Morning.
 
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Lumpy Talbot

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Yeah but I keep thinking about the fate of Melos. It tried to stand apart from the contest between Athens and Sparta and it ended up being destroyed. Trotsky’s supposed quote comes to mind....”You may not interested in war but war might be interested in you”....it seems that the more correct version is “You might not be interested in the dialectic but ......” and this sort of echoes Thucydides about the strong and the weak. It’s naive, sometimes dangerous and sometimes immoral to think you can stand apart from the great contests of the age.
In a way that speaks to the point of the thread which really is to ask whether we are in the Great Game or whether we are not. Standing apart hasn't done us all that much good that I can recall.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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"What comes around, goes around".

Nebuchadnezzar refers to Melos. At that moment (416 BC) Melos and Thera were the only Aegean islands outside Athenian control. When Melos refused to submit, it was besieged. It fell, after moths of investment. Alcibiabes is named for the idea, but all the Melan males were executed; the women and children sold as slaves. Melos was then colonised by five hundred Athenian incomers.

At the acme of its power, Athens was already messing in Sicily, in the quarrel between Segesta and Selinous. Selinous called for aid from Syracuse and Segesta on Athens. The political motive for Athens, and the Segestan appeal, was to avoid a Dorian supremacy in Sicily, which might then ally with the Peloponnesian. For the more unscrupulous political ranters of Athens (Alcibiades, again) it was the chance of extending an Athenian empire.

Last winter, along with developing a massive cold watching the Santa Lucia procession around Ortygia, I visited the Orecchio di Dionisio, where — allegedly — those Athenians and their allies (a quarter of the original 40,000 force) who survived the retreat spluttered out as slaves. Did any of them muse on the fate of Melos?

It was not the end of the Peloponnesian War. That involved the Spartans cobbling 'agreements' with Cyrus, and the raid by Lysander on the Athenian fleet at the Battle of Aegospotami. Sparta a debtor to Cyrus involved Greece in the fraternal war with Artaxerxes. Cyrus comprehensively deceived his Greek allies (the pretended attack on the hill-tribes became a direct confrontation with the Great King of Persia). Cyrus bought it at the Battle of Canada, somehow the Greeks promoted Xenophon as their leader, somehow too they fought their way to the coast.

Are there 'lessons to be learned' from all this? To my mind it comes down to the impermanence of any settlement. The Spartan successes gave a brief period — perhaps thirty years — of supremacy, before the power passed to Thebes, and in due time to Philip of Macedon.

All human things are subject to decay,
And, when Fate summons, monarchs must obey...

Yet we still read Thucydides and Xenophon. Just as the world reads Goldsmith and Joyce, Sheidan and O'Casey, Wilde and Yeats, Shaw and Friel. Were I looking for a 'lesson' to con by heart, it would be the virtues of 'soft power'. Not a bad sub-text for a small, isolated society at the edge of Europe, half way to Philadelphia in the Morning.
This post is positively alarming in its cogency. :)
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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This post is positively alarming in its cogency. :)
Rendered less cogent by my inability to re-correct the 'corrections' of the auto spelling corrector. Now, I hope, made good.

Apologies to anyone looking for a major battle between two lots of Persians, 401BC, somewhere in 'Canada'.
 
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Lumpy Talbot

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As a member of a nation which has in fact invaded Canada on one notorious occasion I can only add that invading Canada should be done in the summer months, and if I were Persian I would mind the infamous Irish advice that on seeking out a certain destination I would not start from here.
 


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