Saturday, May 29, 2010
Ancient Greece's Military Industrial Complex
No country is as challenged as that which is beset by enemies. Ancient Sparta serves as a reminder of that.
The Spartan response to the internal threat posed by the Helots -- a conquered people who outnumbered the Spartans by a margin of ten to one -- was to refine its society and economy into one centred around its military. One can arguably recognize a similarity to the post-war United States.
In 1956, outgoing US President Dwight Eisenhower delivered a televised speech warning the citizens of the United States about the development of a military industrial complex that threatened to overwhelm the halls of power.
Indeed, it was the first time in American history that a permanent arms industry existed. That arms industry had been established to fight Nazi fascism and Japanese imperialism, but had grown in size, complexity and influence during the Cold War. The size, technological complexity and political influence of the military industrial complex endures today.
In Ancient Sparta, the demands of national security, as it were, far outstripped those imposed by the United States in the name of the same. In time, the entire state's purpose came to be centred around producing strong warriors.
While the military industrial complex in the United States was designed to defend American democracy, the Spartan equivalent was actually designed to repel democracy.
There is one important similarity between the two. In Sparta, the focus on militarism suppressed political growth within Sparta, dooming it to lag behind neighbouring city states -- particularly Athens -- in many regards. In the United States, it is often argued that the military industrial complex does the same -- and the arguments may well be correct.