The Perils of Peacemaking

 

“It is much easier to initiate a war than to end one.” With this sentence, I begin both my most recent book — Sparta’s Second Attic War — and a blogpost put up this morning on the Yale University Press site.

The point of the latter is simple enough: the settlement imposed at the end of one war — say, the First World War — often lays the foundation for the next war, and that is what happened not only at the end of Sparta’s First Attic War, but also at the end of the First Punic War, the War of the League of Augsburg, and, yes, the Cold War.

The error that statesmen and citizens alike tend to make is to fail to recognize that those who accepted terms and have merely yielded to circumstances and are in no way broken in spirit are apt in the future to be lying in wait for an opportunity to strike.

That is the story for Putin’s Russia and arguably for Xi’s China as well, and studying what happened between Athens and Sparta in the fifth century B.C. can help one understand, by way of analogy, what has happened in other places and times — including the present day.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    My review of Sparta’s First Attic War appeared on Ricochet (after appearing in the Galveston County Daily News back in 2019.

    Yale University Press sent me a review copy of the Sparta’s Second Attic War

    • #1
  2. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Paul A. Rahe: The error that statesmen and citizens alike tend to make is to fail to recognize that those who accepted terms and have merely yielded to circumstances and are in no way broken in spirit are apt in the future to be lying in wait for an opportunity to strike.

    Democrats?

    • #2
  3. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Paul A. Rahe: The error that statesmen and citizens alike tend to make is to fail to recognize that those who accepted terms and have merely yielded to circumstances and are in no way broken in spirit are apt in the future to be lying in wait for an opportunity to strike.

    Democrats?

    Are you intimating that they are akin to the country’s foe?

    • #3
  4. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    My review of Sparta’s First Attic War appeared on Ricochet (after appearing in the Galveston County Daily News back in 2019.

    Yale University Press sent me a review copy of the Sparta’s Second Attic War.

    I read that review. You will find a squib from it up on Amazon. Thank you.

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Paul A. Rahe: The error that statesmen and citizens alike tend to make is to fail to recognize that those who accepted terms and have merely yielded to circumstances and are in no way broken in spirit are apt in the future to be lying in wait for an opportunity to strike.

    Democrats?

    The problem is more general than that. Every once in a while, some of the participants can see it, but they are drowned out by the euphoria or relief that the war is finally over.

    Sometimes, their arrival at their opinion are surprising. French Marshal Ferdinand Foch read the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and said “This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.” He didn’t think the terms too strict on the Germans. He thought that they weren’t anywhere strict enough.

    Foch was off by 65 days.

    • #5
  6. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Percival (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Paul A. Rahe: The error that statesmen and citizens alike tend to make is to fail to recognize that those who accepted terms and have merely yielded to circumstances and are in no way broken in spirit are apt in the future to be lying in wait for an opportunity to strike.

    Democrats?

    The problem is more general than that. Every once in a while, some of the participants can see it, but they are drowned out by the euphoria or relief that the war is finally over.

    Sometimes, their arrival at their opinion are surprising. French Marshal Ferdinand Foch read the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and said “This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.” He didn’t think the terms too strict on the Germans. He thought that they weren’t anywhere strict enough.

    Foch was off by 65 days.

    Regarding the Treaty, I have to agree. It certainly wasn’t nearly strict enough, or enforced enough, to work. Compare it to the terms they got 26 years later.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Paul A. Rahe (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Paul A. Rahe: The error that statesmen and citizens alike tend to make is to fail to recognize that those who accepted terms and have merely yielded to circumstances and are in no way broken in spirit are apt in the future to be lying in wait for an opportunity to strike.

    Democrats?

    Are you intimating that they are akin to the country’s foe?

    Every chance they get.

    • #7
  8. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Percival (View Comment):

    Paul A. Rahe (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Paul A. Rahe: The error that statesmen and citizens alike tend to make is to fail to recognize that those who accepted terms and have merely yielded to circumstances and are in no way broken in spirit are apt in the future to be lying in wait for an opportunity to strike.

    Democrats?

    Are you intimating that they are akin to the country’s foe?

    Every chance they get.

    Yes they are.

    • #8
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Paul A. Rahe: The error that statesmen and citizens alike tend to make is to fail to recognize that those who accepted terms and have merely yielded to circumstances and are in no way broken in spirit are apt in the future to be lying in wait for an opportunity to strike.

    Democrats?

    The problem is more general than that. Every once in a while, some of the participants can see it, but they are drowned out by the euphoria or relief that the war is finally over.

    Sometimes, their arrival at their opinion are surprising. French Marshal Ferdinand Foch read the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and said “This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.” He didn’t think the terms too strict on the Germans. He thought that they weren’t anywhere strict enough.

    Foch was off by 65 days.

    Regarding the Treaty, I have to agree. It certainly wasn’t nearly strict enough, or enforced enough, to work. Compare it to the terms they got 26 years later.

    I think that it was strict enough, had it been enforced. In hindsight, the French should have marched in and taken the Ruhr when Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland. I don’t think that the Nazi regime could have survived the humiliation.

    The weakness of the French led to WW II. It would have helped if the British had backed them, but the French should have acted alone anyway.

    • #9
  10. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    The weakness of the French led to WW II. It would have helped if the British had backed them, but the French should have acted alone anyway.

    Yep. They threw away the last chance to stop the whole thing when they sat out the Sitzkrieg.

    • #10
  11. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Paul A. Rahe: The error that statesmen and citizens alike tend to make is to fail to recognize that those who accepted terms and have merely yielded to circumstances and are in no way broken in spirit are apt in the future to be lying in wait for an opportunity to strike.

    Democrats?

    The problem is more general than that. Every once in a while, some of the participants can see it, but they are drowned out by the euphoria or relief that the war is finally over.

    Sometimes, their arrival at their opinion are surprising. French Marshal Ferdinand Foch read the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and said “This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.” He didn’t think the terms too strict on the Germans. He thought that they weren’t anywhere strict enough.

    Foch was off by 65 days.

    Regarding the Treaty, I have to agree. It certainly wasn’t nearly strict enough, or enforced enough, to work. Compare it to the terms they got 26 years later.

    I think that it was strict enough, had it been enforced. In hindsight, the French should have marched in and taken the Ruhr when Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland. I don’t think that the Nazi regime could have survived the humiliation.

    The weakness of the French led to WW II. It would have helped if the British had backed them, but the French should have acted alone anyway.

    Weakness in resolve, not military weakness. Germany couldn’t have stopped them if they had gone in.

    • #11
  12. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    The Bookmonger had a good review/interview last week.  https://www.nationalreview.com/podcasts/the-bookmonger/episode-311-spartas-second-attic-war-by-paul-rahe/

    • #12