Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The United States as the New Byzantium

Edward Luttwak has published several works on military strategy, history and international relations. Since the 1980s he has also published articles on Byzantium and is the author of the forthcoming "Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire" which is due to be released by Harvard University Press later this year.

Luttwak was born into a Jewish family in Romania, raised in Italy and England. He attended the London School of Economics and Johns Hopkins University, where he received a PhD. In 2008, he became a Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). This is the same think-tank that was cited in a previous Antipodes post titled “Upgrading U.S.-Turkish relations and winning Greek-American votes” which can be accessed here. His profile at CSIS can be found here.

Luttwak has worked for a number of years as a consultant in the Deep State and military-industrial complex of the United States, including: the Office of the Secretary of Defense; the National Security Council; the US Department of State; the US Navy; US Army; US Air Force; and several NATO defense ministries. The Jewish-American magazine, Forward has published an interesting article on Luttwak and his shady dealings within these organisations which can be accessed here.

His book "Coup d'√Čtat: A Practical Handbook" is perhaps his best-known work; it has been reprinted numerous times and translated into 14 languages. "The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire from the First Century AD to the Third" remains controversial.

Luttwak has now turned his complete attention onto the Byzantine Empire. The introduction on the Harvard University Press website (which can be accessed here) states:
“The Byzantine empire so greatly outlasted its western counterpart because its rulers were able to adapt strategically to diminished circumstances, by devising new ways of coping with successive enemies. It relied less on military strength and more on persuasion—to recruit allies, dissuade threatening neighbors, and manipulate potential enemies into attacking one another instead. Even when the Byzantines fought—which they often did with great skill—they were less inclined to destroy their enemies than to contain them, for they were aware that today’s enemies could be tomorrow’s allies.”

Luttwak is so apparently enamoured with Byzantium that he espouses that the United States should emulate the Byzantine rather than the Roman Empire. The Italian newspaper, La Stampa ran an articled which stated Luttwak tries to prove basically three things (similar to the above) about Byzantium's survival:
  • It learned from its enemies whenever it could;
  • It did not pursue the former Roman strategy of annihilation of its enemies;
  • It developed a formidable political and diplomatic clout that carefully played allies and adversaries for its own ends.

Of course, people can probably learn more from reading Byzantine primary texts on strategy and tactics often written by Emperors and Generals themselves - rather than some American. Information on these texts can be found here and here.

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