In March of 421 BC, after years of escalating conflict, Athens and Sparta finally decided to bury the hatchet and coexist peacefully together in the Mediterranean.
The two powers had been at odds for decades. Athens had ballooned into a regional empire, and Sparta itself was a rising power.
The two sides came to blows on multiple occasions. And even when they agreed to keep the peace in 421 BC, tensions were still high. All it took was one idiot to screw it up.
His name was Alcibiades, a Greek politician of noble birth. Alcibiades was pretty infamous in Athens; he was known for being corrupt, deceitful, disloyal, arrogant, and short-tempered.
I’m serious. There are numerous accounts from ancient historians who wrote in excruciating detail about what a terrible person Alcibiades was. Plutarch tells us, for example, about a time that Alcibiades cheated in a wrestling match by biting his opponent (to no one’s surprise) and how he mutilated his own dog.
Even poor Socrates tried, and failed, to teach Alcibiades about ethics and morality.
But despite his horrendous reputation, Alcibiades still managed to catapult himself into positions of high power… and to remain there… primarily due to his political cunning.
In fact Alcibiades was essentially the Speaker of the Athenian Assembly, with the power to dictate the day’s agenda and influence the outcome of votes.
Alcibiades was so powerful that, during the summer of 418 BC, he decided (without any approval from the government) to pay a visit to the Peloponnese in southern Greece– territory that was claimed by Sparta.
There was absolutely zero upside in Alcibiades doing this. It was just a big circus act for him to show off his power and prestige. He didn’t care if Sparta would be outraged, or if his actions had consequences for Athens. All that mattered to Alcibiades was that people were talking about him.
Naturally his actions did have consequences.
Smaller city-states in the Peloponnese were emboldened by Alcibiades’ trip to the region, so they forged a fledgling alliance and attempted to seize a strategic settlement located at Sparta’s southern border.
With their border security threatened, Sparta sent an army to push away the invaders; the resulting battle was a massive victory for Sparta and a huge embarrassment for Athens. But Alcibiades blamed one of his political opponents for the defeat, so he never took the fall for his own mistake.
The conflict quickly escalated further, and soon Athens and Sparta were once again in a full-blown war with each other– one that Athens would ultimately lose to its rival.
I’m writing this, of course, at a time when US Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just touched down in Taiwan.
Pelosi is an idiot, but she’s not stupid. She knows there are consequences. The Chinese have made it very clear that they do not want Pelosi going to Taiwan. Tensions are already high between the US and China, and this trip certainly won’t help.
Now, obviously it’s not up to China to dictate US policy or actions. But like Alcibiades’ trip to the Peloponnese in 418 BC, there is absolutely zero benefit in Pelosi going to Taiwan.
The US economy is in a tailspin. Parents can’t find baby formula for their infants. Inflation is raging. People are suffering.
What exactly does this woman hope to achieve? Will her visit to Taiwan somehow make inflation miraculously retreat? Will baby formula suddenly appear on the shelves?
Of course not. So if there’s no benefit for Americans, then why go at all?
On the flip side, the trip does present a number of risks. China doesn’t want to look weak, and whatever retaliatory action they take probably won’t be positive for the US.
China’s initial response has been predictably swift. They’ve already kicked off live-fire military exercises, i.e. real weapons and munitions, and have essentially encircled Taiwan by sea. Apparently these military exercises will include missile tests off Taiwan’s east coast.
The US, meanwhile, has positioned at least two naval vessels and several fighter jets close to Taiwan’s east coast, increasing the potential for conflict, or even just an accident.
Hopefully nothing catastrophic happens. But, again, what exactly is the point of this trip? It’s all risk and no reward… just so that Pelosi can showboat in front of the cameras before her retirement next year.
You’d think that someone with decades of political experience– an ‘expert’ in international diplomacy– would understand such a simple reality, and then rationally choose the course of action which will benefit her country the most. But that’s a laughable proposition.
Pelosi has a multi-decade track record of deceit, disloyalty, cowardice, and arrogance. She’s even despised by prominent members of her own party.
Ironically, the only reason Pelosi even has a job is because a mere 73,815 voters in the San Francsico Bay area chose to send her to Congress. That’s a tiny fraction of the US population in a tiny corner of the country.
Seriously, more people voted to elect the mayor of Denver, Colorado than voted for Nancy Pelosi. Yet somehow Pelosi has enormous power and influence in global politics.
Something is clearly wrong with this system that produces such bizarre, lopsided outcomes from serially corrupt and incompetent candidates.
Pelosi is just one of countless examples– a #mefirst, self-centered hypocrite who has become the modern day Alcibiades. And she’ll most likely go down in history with a similar reputation as he did.