Obama, US Military Victory, and the Real “Red Line” in Syria

The thing that really bothers me in all the back and forth surrounding the American strike on the Assad Regime debate, and the Democratic Party aligned media spin of what the meaning of words “Red Line” mean, is how off-point from the interests of the American people it all is. The Assad regime’s use of Nerve Gas isn’t the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Deploying those Clinton era spin techniques over the definition of “Red Line” is the political equivalent of pointing and yelling “_Squirrel_!”

The bottom line is that if the Assad regime of Syria survives on the strength of chemical weapons of mass destruction, an incredibly dangerous to American national security situation will come to pass. The Chemical Weapons Convention will be dead, publicly murdered and discredited similar to the way the Kellogg-Briant Pact against war was in the face of Nazi rearmament. There will be an arms race for chemical weapons of mass destruction in the Mid-East & elsewhere. That will require the US military to rearm with either lethal chemicals or with tactical nukes — with all the costs that requires both financial and moral — in order to maintain a credible deterrent for future conventional military operations.

The issue with the Assad Regime’s use of chemical weapons of mass destruction is the Assad regime . The only fit punishment, one that will prevent catalytic proliferation of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction around the world, is the Assad Regime’s over throw. That overthrow is readily obtainable by American military forces and can be achieved without a single boot on the ground, nor a single foreign ally.

The fact that the Obama Administration is unwilling use grasp those means, and to politically justify their use with the same sort of weapons of mass destruction argument that Pres. George W. Bush deployed to justify regime change in Iraq, is the real strategic “Red Line” for Syria. It is a Red Line that the American people chose in electing a Democratic Senate in 2006 and in both electing and reelecting Pres. Obama (and a Democratic Senate) in 2008 and 2012.

It is a “Red Line” that has to be erased by competent and principled Presidential leadership that forthrightly explains the threat, continually over time, if Americans are to continue enjoying — its admittedly rapidly declining — freedom from police state surveillance at home.

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Marching Upcountry with Xenophon

The Xenophon Roundtable is coming to it’s conclusion. While we may see a few more “final” posts this week, for the most part, we have had our say. This was the third roundtable hosted by Chicago Boyz and the discussion was different in character from the first two because The Anabasis of Cyrus is of a different nature than On War or Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd. The first two books dealt with military theory but The Anabasis was not written by a professor of strategic studies or of military history, which Frans Osinga and even Carl von Clausewitz were. By contrast, Xenophon was an Athenian aristocrat at odds with democratic times, a brave soldier of fortune and foremost, a student of Socrates.

Xenophon the Socratic soldier and admirer of Sparta would never have written a book like On War because the character of war would have been of less interest to him than the character of men who waged it. Or at least the character of the Greeks who waged war and that of the leaders of the barbarian armies, Cyrus, Tissaphernes and Artaxerxes (ordinary, individual, barbarians are of no consequence to Xenophon except insofar as they are instrumental in carrying out the designs of their leaders). And their character at war and in peace were inseparable and constant, though having different effects, as Xenophon explained in his passages on Clearchus and his captains and his paean to Cyrus the Younger. It has been remarked in this roundtable by Joseph Fouche that Xenophon was thoroughly Greek in his attitude toward the barbarians which Joseph Fouche called a “mirror image” to the attitude of Herodotus toward the Others of the East. I agree, to an extent. The countervailing example though is Cyrus, on whom Xenophon lavished praise with so heavy a hand that it must have struck Athenian eyes as bordering on sycophancy toward a would-be basileus. Few Greek writers, other than Herodotus, were ever so generous with their pen to a barbarian.

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The Temptation of Xenophon

The Anabasis of Cyrus, Book VI. Chapter 1.

“As they were thinking about all this, they began to turn to Xenophon. The captains approached him and said that army was of this judgment, and each showed his goodwill and tried to persuade him to undertake the rule. Now in some ways Xenophon wished for this, for he believed that in this way he would obtain greater honor for himself in the eyes of his friends; his own name would be greater when he should arrive in the city; and perchance he could become the cause of some good to the army.”

Leadership often brings with it opportunity, and by nature, leaders tend to be people who have in their characters, an ample amount of ambition. Most people tend to lose their heads when such opportunities arise and permit their ego satisfaction become a driver of their decision-making process. That stupid but ambitious officers are dangerous is an oft remarked truism, variously attributed to a constellation of German generals and field marshals. Xenophon was anything but stupid. Instead he had an intuitive, statesmanlike, grasp of the larger political realities of the Greek world even as he discerned the temper of the hoplite and peltast soldiers in the army to be one of shortsighted enthusiasm for his leadership that could wane when it created difficulties or danger.

Xenophon’s response to the soldiers also demonstrated the keen calculation of self-interest along with political realism:

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Xenophon Roundtable: Politics in a Bottle

Carl von Clausewitz famously asserted that war is the continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means. The Anabasis of Cyrus puts this assertion to the test, reducing the phenomenon of war to a single petri dish filled with Ten Thousand wayward Greeks. The Ten Thousand descend into Mesopotamia for a purely political purpose: Cyrus the Younger wants his brother’s throne. Cyrus calculates that a quick strike into the political heartland of the Persian empire will allow him to catch his brother at a disadvantage. The initial descent is calculated to roll from Asia Minor down to Babylon with such momentum that Artaxerxes II’s political decision loop would be overwhelmed. Most of the political impact that Cyrus’s military strategy is calculated to produce will be produced by strategic shock alone.

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Xenophon Roundtable: More Rhythmic Echos

The Anabasis of Cyrus could also be titled “The Long Retreat” because it best describes the result of a failed campaign. The army made up of mercenaries had been strategically defeated when Cyrus followed by their generals, were killed by the Persians. Their story evolved from being a trapped army, to one that mounted a successful fighting retreat north to the Black Sea, where finding themselves among Greek colonies they began to fracture and lose the cohesiveness that had been their hallmark up to that point. Xenophon’s speech at the confluence of the Tigris and Zapatas Rivers had been the catalyst that launched and sustained their march. Later, as they began to bicker, it was again Xenophon who would call on his Socratic reasoning to cement the fractures and sooth the wounded pride in a final effort to gain their homeland.

The theme of this story continues to reappear down through history when circumstance has found a sizable military force faced with the decision to surrender, or make a fighting retreat, against man and nature.

Earlier, the names of Epaminondas, Sherman and Patton were advanced to show how the rhythm of Xenophon’s Anabasis had resonated with these generals as they prepared, and led their armies in successful campaigns. There are other generals in history whose leadership and tasks more closely mirrored the march of the Ten Thousand. Men like Moore, Slim, Stillwell and Alessandri, are less known because their achievements have faded in the passage of time and still carry the faint stench of defeat.

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Xenophon Roundtable: The Army Reaches Level Ground

Xenophon’s account, written many years after the events recounted, is not a bare retelling of facts. We cannot know how much of the tale is embellished, and how much is literal. The general outlines are likely to be true. Precise details, such as the precise language of the speeches, must have been rendered, at best “more or less” as Xenophon recalled. So, we can read the book as a record of actual events, with some caveats for the passage of time and biases of the author.

However, it is also the case that there is a symbolic element in the book, in which Xenophon is using the narrative to illuminate some “big picture” issues. To do that, he uses some artistic devices, woven into the narrative. One of these, which I mentioned in my previous post is the mixing of the literal and metaphorical “ascent” and “descent” of the army, and of Xenophon himself.

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Xenophon Roundtable: A Few Martial Rhymes

Mark Twain wrote, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” The Anabasis of Cyrus is filled with events that have reappeared throughout history to form a rhythm that if not repeated, lends example and advice to other commanders faced with similar challenges.

Not much discussed in the forgoing posts, has been Xenophon’s speech to the assembled soldiers before setting out on their march to the sea. Reading the speech, one will note several themes that have a familiar ring to any student of American military history. This account of how Xenophon dressed for the occasion has a twin in the way one American General outfitted himself for battle.

“After this, as Xenophon stood up, having equipped himself for war as nobly as he could, for he believed that if the gods should grant victory, the noblest of adornment was fitting for being victorious, but if there should be the need for his life to come to an end, he believed it was right that considering himself worthy of the most noble thing, he meet his end in these noble arms.”

Reading this passage brings to mind General George S. Patton, who in the 1920’s, read and annotated his copy of Anabasis among his many other readings of ancient history. One can begin to understand Patton’s theatre and how he might have been influenced to create his noble image in the shadow of Xenophon.

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Xenophon Roundtable: The Building of a Political Community

I had never read Xenophon before and while a great fan of Thucydides, had never spent much time reading ancient Greek – as opposed to Byzantine – history.  This was a challenge for me and while I can’t offer much original on Xenophon and his times, I can perhaps take a look at Xenophon’s view of politics in Clausewitzian terms.  Consider this my own limited contribution to the round table discussion.

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Xenophon Roundtable: The Art of Leadership

Prior to the roundtable, Dave Schuler a friend an astute blogger, asked if it mattered to me if Xenophon’s Anabasis of Cyrus turned out to be a work of fiction? I thought for a moment and replied that if The Anabasis is a work of fiction, by Xenophon or attributed to him by some later writer, it is a very durable work of fiction because the lessons of the story have a timeless quality. One of the lessons of The Anabasis of Cyrus is on the art of leadership.

Throughout the text Xenophon gives contrasting examples of leadership in the narrative, and as with Cyrus and Clearchus, his explicit commentary. Xenophon’s conception of leadership goes beyond that of command and embraces political acumen, foresight and the moral example provided by Greek and Persian rulers ( used here in the same sense as Ambler’s translation, of anyone holding authority over others). In this conception of leadership, I think the teachings of Socrates lies heavily on Xenophon and the passages about Xenophon pressing forward to go East with Proxenus were included mainly to assert the independence of his judgment to his fellow Athenians.

How did Xenophon present the notable “rulers” in The Anabasis? A few examples:

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Xenophon Roundtable: Clearchus Delenda Est!

Of all of the characters in the first section of the Anabasis, Clearchus is among the most important, and perhaps the most intriguing.

In Clearchus’s obituary, Xenophon describes a ruthless officer who is feared by all, respected by all, and liked by none(II,6).  Clearchus was also the only Greek general who knew from the outset what Cyrus intended to do with the army he was raising(III, 1 (10)). Two questions are very much worth contemplating:

For whom was Clearchus working? And: who is responsible for his death?

The simple answer to the first is that Clearchus was working for Cyrus, as the narrative recounts.  The narrative also allows the following interpretation: that Clearchus was using Cyrus to obtain sufficient treasure and military power to install himself as a King somewhere in the Hellenic world. There is a third possibility however: that Clearchus was in the employ of Artaxerxes, charged with tempting Cyrus to attempt a coup, and, if successful, delivering him to Persia and his death.  If you imagine that this was his mission, he succeeded in this as well.

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Tips for Reading The Anabasis

Tigris River
Tigris River

[Jonathan adds: A larger version of this image is below the “Read the rest” link.]

The opening phase of this discussion of Greek soldier, historian Xenophon’s account of the expedition to unseat Artaxerxes King of Persia by his brother Cyrus, has touched on several important elements. First, most important to any great undertaking was logistics, aptly covered in the first post by Fringe. Next, Steven Pressfield introduced the route and how it influenced Alexander the Great, who used the Anabasis of Cyrus as a guidebook in his conquest of Persia decades later. Lexington Green then offered up an overview of the each chapter, laying out the story line in concise detail. Most recently, Joseph Fouche took pen to point out important distinctions between Xenophon’s writing style and that of Herodotus.

The book that most of us have chosen to base our discussion is the translation by Wayne Ambler. In the introduction, Eric Buzzetti writes, “The Anabasis has the makings of a great Hollywood movie.” This statement along should stimulate the most benign reader to pursue the book further. Inside, they will not be disappointed; the story unfolds like a travel log detailing distance traveled, people encountered, battles fought and the unfolding loose republican democracy that formed after the death of their generals at the hand of Artaxerxes. Then becomes what could be described as the one of the great epics combining battles with political intrigue and lessons in leadership.

Anyone who sets out to read this book would do well to prepare themselves by carefully reading the introduction. Then turn to the back and make one’s self familiar with the Historical notes and the Glossary where they will find not only a definition of terms, but an explanation of the scale of measurements which is elementary to follow the journey up country and the escape to safety.

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Xenophon Roundtable: The Shadow of Herodotus

Cunaxa is an interesting counter-point to the three traditional pillars of Herodotus’s Histories, Marathon, Salamis, and Plataea. While those three confrontations took place in or near Attica, the cradle of democracy, Cunaxa happens in Mesopotamia, the cradle of despotism. Herodotus skillfully built a narrative of the clash of East and West, Freedom and Slavery, Democracy and Despotism out of the Persian attempts to conquer an obscure people on the fringes of the Known World. His account looms over those of his successors, even the works of the prickly Thucydides, who considered himself superior in every respect to the world traveling gossip from Halicarnassus.

Xenophon was no exception. The Anabasis almost reads like a strange mirror version of the Histories. Instead of the Ascent of Darius, Xerxes, or Mardonius into the heart of Hellas, it’s the descent of the Greeks into the heart of Achaemenid power. The squabbling Greeks, under the less than inspired figures of Clearchus, Proxenus, and Menon, appear rather shabby compared to the heroic generation of Miltiades, Themistocles, and Pausanias. Cyrus in his foolish death and disfigured body and Artaxerxes II in his pettiness and undignified scramble to keep his throne fall far short of the power and majesty of Darius and Xerxes, so exalted that Herodotus portrayed them as living embodiments of hubris, pride that not only rivaled but threatened that of the gods themselves.

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Xenophon’s Ascent

The title of the book under consideration is, in English translation, The Anabasis of Cyrus. The title has two key words, a noun “anabasis” and a proper name “Cyrus”.

The identity of Cyrus is unambiguous. We know Cyrus was the younger brother of the King of Persia (really an emperor of many kingdoms). Cyrus was the satrap of Lydia and Phrygia, but he aspired to seize the throne of his brother the King for himself. Cyrus raised an army, led it against the King, and died in battle at Cunaxa, in 401 BC.

The other key word in the title is “Anabasis”, which is transliterated, but not translated, from the Greek. The translator tells us this about the word:

This noun has the root meaning of “a going up,” and it is used to indicate such ordinary ascents as the mounting of a horse or a way of going up a hill. In the sense of a march upcountry, it is used first by Xenophon, only in this work, and only in [certain passages] … It is used three times in Plato’s Republic to indicate the ascent from the cave. The related verb anabaino is used of an “ascent” from the coast to the interior by Herodotus … and by Plato … as well as by Xenophon. I generally translated the verb as “to ascend” and its opposite as “to descend”.

Book I contains the tale of the assembly of the army, and its “march upcountry”, from coastal Ionia, where the Greek mercenary portion of the host came ashore into Asia, and its march into the interior, upcountry from Sardis, Cyrus’s capital, until the two armies meet at the battle of Cunaxa. At the battle, the Persian King’s army in part was defeated, on the section of the battlefield where it faced the Greek mercenaries. The Greek mercenaries “won” their part of the battle of Cunaxa. But elsewhere on the battlefield, due in part to the rashness of Cyrus, and his resulting death, the King’s army defeated the rest of Cyrus’s army. At that point, the Greeks, despite tactical success, were marooned in the middle of a hostile country.

Thus we are faced with a bit of a puzzle from the outset.

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Alexander and Cyrus: Two Different Routes to Babylon

by Steven Pressfield

Great initial post about logistics!  Here’s a related piece–a comparison between Alexander the Great and Cyrus the Younger and their different strategic/logistical solutions to a similar problem: how to bring an invading army to bear against a defending army awaiting the assault in the vicinity of Babylon, in what was then Mesopotamia (today Syria and Iraq.)

Some of what follows is speculative, as no one knows for certain what Alexander was thinking at every juncture.  But it’s based on my research for The Virtues of War, a novel about Alexander.  Here’s my take on how the great Macedonian, invading Persia seventy years after Cyrus (and armed with Xenophon’s Anabasis, which he and his generals studied in great depth) chose a different route and strategy than that taken by his predecessor, bound for Cunaxa.

Both Cyrus’ army and Alexander’s crossed the Euphrates at Thapsacus, three or four hundred miles north of Babylon (see map in our Anabasis).  Cyrus was coming from the north, Alexander from the south, via Damascus–from Egypt, where he had been crowned Pharaoh and son of Ammon.  Alexander was marching to confront Darius III, (grandson of Artaxerxes II, against whom Cyrus and Xenophon campaigned) who was raising an army of a million men.  Contingents of horse and foot had been summoned from all over the empire, from as far away as Afghanistan.  Alexander’s force numbered about 50,000.  Alexander had previously defeated Persian forces twice–at the Granicus River, near Troy, with Darius absent; and at Issus with Darius present and commanding.  This coming fight would be for all the marbles.

Alexander held up at Thapsacus and debated with his generals whether they should follow the Cyrus/Xenophon route straight down the Euphrates.  Alexander decided against it for a number of reasons.  First (here’s where it starts to get speculative), such a choice was expected.  Darius would have time to prepare a field that tilted in favor of the Persians’ preferred weapons, their massive numbers of infantry and cavalry and their scythed chariots.  Second, the Euphrates route would not compel Darius to move.  The Great King could simply sit tight and await Alexander, secure in his bastion at Babylon, with an abundance of riverborne supplies for his troops.  Third, the Euphrates route would bring the two armies together too soon for Alexander’s taste.  He wanted to stall.  He was banking on impatience and discontent gnawing at the morale of Darius’ eager tribal levies, who were not a disciplined modern army but rather horseborne raiders and pillagers.

Alexander’s concept of operations was different from Cyrus’s.  Babylon (Cunaxa) was not his ultimate goal.  Babylon wasn’t even Persia, it was Mesopotamia, a province.  Alexander’s aim was Persepolis in modern Iran, the royal capital of the empire–and the lands further east.

What Alexander feared, entering the heartland of the Persian empire, was having to fight his way across two great and defendable rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris.  He also had no taste for besieging Babylon, which had walls 150 feet high and fifty feet thick and a circuit of forty miles.

Alexander went north and east from Thapsacus instead of south.  He didn’t follow the Euphrates.  Instead he struck for the foothills of the mountains of southern Armenia.  The season was summer coming into fall.  Alexander preferred to get provisions for his army by sacking unwalled villages, where the harvest would be stored in garners, rather than cities where the year’s grain would be fortified behind walls.  He wanted his horses and pack animals to drink water from mountain streams rather than the silty, unwholesome Euphrates.  And he didn’t want his men and beasts marching in 110-degree heat.  He also feared the dikes and irrigation channels of the country north of Babylon, by which he must approach his enemy.  This kind of terrain could  be flooded easily by the defenders, which would create hellish problems for an army advancing across it.

Alexander wanted to get on the far side of the Tigris (to the east of the Euphrates) without having to make a crossing under fire.  Once across, he reasoned, Darius would be compelled to come out to meet him, thus fighting according to Alexander’s timetable and on unprepared turf.  If Darius failed to face Alexander, he would leave  Persepolis and the eastern empire open to the invader’s depredations.  More importantly, he would lose prestige in the eyes of his own troops and those of the subject nations serving under him.

The final objective Alexander hoped to achieve by taking the northern route was to vanish off Darius’s scope.  He wanted to make the Great King sweat.  Where was Alexander?  What was he up to?  Surely, Alexander reasoned, Darius would be holding many war councils with the impatient, hot-blooded tribal contingents of his empire.  Let them sweat too.  Let them second-guess Darius.  Let them complain about pay and food.  Let them demand action.

In the end, Alexander’s plan worked out a little better than Cyrus’s.  The Macedonian’s tactics did indeed force Darius to march out from his bastion at Babylon.  Darius was compelled to cross the Tigris himself, march his army north some two or three hundred miles to Gaugamela, where he faced Alexander on turf of his own choosing, yes, but not the favored manicured field he was hoping for, at Cunaxa or some other arena closer to home.

Gaugamela became one of the epochal battles of history.  Darius’ defeat made him, in the end, the last Great King of Persia.  The Achaemenid line as rulers ended with him, as did the Persian empire.

Xenophon Roundtable: Xenophon was a Professional

An army marches on its stomach – Napoleon Bonaparte

While we have no real idea how much insight Xenophon possessed when he joined the invasion of Persia, the Anabasis is written by a professional with a profound appreciation of the issues of logistics (as is the Agesilaus). From beginning to end, the Anabasis is replete with not just the story of the Persian expedition, but how the Greek forces managed to maintain themselves in supply, from the time of their entry into Persia, until their retreat is complete. Xenophon understands that other professionals will be interested in this as much as in anything else that he relates. It is likely that Alexander read these logistical details with great attention. For instance, if you re-read the Anabasis from the perspective of a logistician, you will find that it serves as a nearly complete narrative of the logistics of the Persian expedition. In most instances, you are far more certain of how the Greeks remained in supply than of what happened to them in battle. If you compare it to other histories you have read, you may well find that there is, well, no comparison.

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Xenophon Roundtable: List of Contributors


Our Xenophon Roundtable begins this week.

Xenophon’s Anabasis of Cyrus was written roughly 2,400 years ago. Yet it is still of interest and value today, for many reasons. It is an exciting tale of adventure. It is the first war memoir. It is a firsthand account of a military campaign that goes badly wrong, and of a man taking command and saving himself and his army from destruction. It is a travel book about exotic locales and natives. It depicts leadership under life and death circumstances. It contains remarkable examples of oratory and persuasion, where Xenophon had to convince because he could not compel. It is a portrait of conditions in the era following the victory of Sparta in the Peloponessian War. It is a comparison between the Greek way of political and military organization, and that of the Persians and other “barbarians”.

There is a lot in this very old book. I and the other participants will be putting up several posts in the next three weeks about it. I look forward to what the others will have to say.

UPDATE: Zenpundit’s announcement has some good comments about the translation we are using.

Our distinguished roundtable participants are the following:

Disraeli1867 is a graduate of the College and the Business School at the University of Chicago. He works in venture capital and equity research. He was a European History major, and he is a Certified Mongolian Warrior (for real) and spends his spare time curling, sailing and reading history.

josephfouche” is a software engineer and system administrator slaving away for a technology startup somewhere in flyover country. He’s been reading military history since age nine and talking about it since his fourth grade teacher, asking a pro forma question, inquired if any student in the class knew anything about the Crimean War. (She got more than she bargained for.) He blogs at The Committee of Public Safety, a group blog dedicated to understanding the subtle interplay of human nature, culture, war, and power.

Fringe is a University of Chicago Alum, and is employed as an academic. He has been a student of military history and military affairs since his childhood. He knows strategists, and understands the difference between a strategist and a student of strategy. He has published on many topics and in many venues, including articles about modern warfare.

Lexington Green is a lawyer in Chicago. His common core humanities class freshman year at the University of Chicago was Greek Thought and Literature. It was the only A he got that year. He blogs at ChicagoBoyz.

HistoryGuy99 is a historian, and U.S. Army veteran of the war in Vietnam. After having a 30 year career in global logistics, he earned an advanced degree in history and began to teach. Currently he is an adjunct history professor with the University of Phoenix and Axia College. He blogs as historyguy99 and hosts HG’s World, a blog devoted to history, connectivity, and commentary. He is a co-author of soon to be published, Activist Women of the American West and contributing author to The John Boyd Roundtable.

Steve Pressfield is the author of “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” “Gates of Fire,” “The Afghan Campaign” and other historical fiction set in the Greco-Macedonian era–but nothing about Xenophon! Currently blogging about mil/pol issues in Afghanistan on It’s the Tribes, Stupid

Purpleslog is a Milwaukee-area blogger looking to enjoy and learn from an ancient true-life adventure story. He blogs at PurpleSlog.

Mark Safranski was the editor of The John Boyd Roundtable: Debating Science, Strategy, and War, and a contribution author to Threats in the Age of Obama, both published by Nimble Books. Mark blogs at Zenpundit. Mark can also be found at several well-regarded group blogs including, ChicagoBoyz, Progressive Historians and at a U.K. academic site, The Complex Terrain Laboratory. Mark is a free-lance contributor to Pajamas Media.

Seydlitz89 He 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 the Clausewitz Roundtable on ChicagoBoyz. He blogs at MilPub.

Dr Helen Szamuely is a political researcher and writer. She edits the Conservative History Journal and writes its blog. She also blogs on EUReferendum and Your Freedom and Ours, as well as writing occasionally for Chicagoboyz.

Mitchell Townsend says “I majored in English as an undergraduate. I didn’t know any better, since this was the first time one of us had gone to college. I got a low-level government job during the Carter administration, which turned me into a knuckle-dragging, kitten-torturing, right-wing death beast. While this hideous transformation was in process, I went to remedial education classes to learn accounting and eventually became a CPA. I grew up in Connecticut (not the Gold Coast, the part where they hate the Yankees) and live in Massachusetts. I have no connection with Chicago at all; I just joined ChicagoBoyz because I liked reading it. In fact, every time I go, I am amazed at how flat and rectilinear the place is. Chicago, that is, not the blog, which is flat and rectilinear because it has to be.”

Xenophon Roundtable: Revised Schedule


The revised schedule is for our roundtable on Xenophon’s Anabasis of Cyrus is as follows:

Week of September 13, 2009: Posts re: Books I, II, III and IV
Week of September 20, 2009: Posts re: Books V, VI and VII
Week of September 27, 2009: “Wrap up” Posts: Opinions, Analysis, Conclusions.

Late in August I will post the list of contributors.

I am starting to think about what I am going to write, having recently finished my first read-through of the Anabasis.

I have been looking at two books on background, which I am finding of interest: Xenophon’s Retreat: Greece, Persia, and the End of the Golden Age by Robin Waterfield, and Xenophon and the Art of Command by Godfrey Hutchinson. I also hope to read at least some portions of Xenophon’s The Education of Cyrus, also translated by Prof. Wayne Ambler.

(I linked earlier to this review of the Anabasis from Military Review. StrategyPage has a positive review of the Ambler translation here (though it manages to get his translation methodology precisely backward)).

ALSO: A “distant early warning” for our readers. The current thinking is that we will have roundtable discussion of The Federalist Papers in the Winter of 2010, and we will have a roundtable discussion of selections from the Arthashastra of Kautilya (The Clausewitz, Sun Tzu and Machiavelli of India all in one) in the Fall of 2010.

Two good articles about Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

Xenophon’s Anabasis, Schedule for Roundtable This Fall


We will be using the translation of Xenophon’s Anabasis of Cyrus by Wayne Ambler. Mr. Ambler’s translation received several good reviews, including this one in Military Review.

I will post our list of contributors, and the “mission order” for the roundtable closer to the start date.

The schedule for posts will be as follows:

Week of September 13, 2009: Posts re: Books I, II, III and IV
Week of September 20, 2009: Posts re:Books V, VI and VII
Week of September 27, 2009: “Wrap up” Posts: Opinions, Analysis, Conclusions.