mandag 15. mars 2021

History Can Teach Joe Biden How To Outcompete China

The competitor who blunders the least wins. That’s what the ancients seemed to believe, at any rate. Athenian and Spartan grandees sized up their soon-to-be foes in 432 B.C., sketching policies and strategies for waging what would come to be known as the Peloponnesian War. Judging from their prewar speeches, the Athenian “first citizen” Pericles agreed with the Spartan king Archidamus that mistakes can play a glaring if not decisive part in war-making.

Archidamus told Spartans to hope for enemy blunders but not to count on them. “In practice,” he vouchsafed, “we always base our preparations against an enemy on the assumption that his plans are good; indeed, it is right to rest our hopes not on a belief in his blunders, but on the soundness of our provisions.” Better to compete competently than entrust one’s strategic fortunes to enemy incompetence. For his part Pericles entreated Athenians to refrain from trying to expand their empire. They should husband and concentrate their resources for a protracted struggle. He professed confidence in the ultimate outcome if they abided by his strategic counsel. Conserving mistakes was uppermost for him: “I am more afraid of our own blunders than of the enemy’s devices.” Hence the need to forego adventurism.