Thursday, October 8, 2009

JFK Quotes Thucydides

In 1963, President Kennedy toured Germany, giving several speeches. He hoped to strengthen the working of NATO against the communists who were threatening to take over Europe. Pointing out that the western nations needed to set aside their individual interests in order to protect their common freedom, he offers the following comment about the Pelopponesian war:

Our partnership depends on common political purpose. Against the hazards of division and lassitude, no lesser force will serve. History tells us that disunity and relaxation are the great internal dangers of an alliance. Thucydides reported that the Peloponnesians and their allies were mighty in battle but handicapped by their policy-making body - in which, he related “each presses its own ends... which generally results in no action at all... they devote more time to the prosecution of their own purposes than to the consideration of the general welfare - each supposes that no harm will come of his own neglect, that it is the business of another to do this or that-and so, as each separately entertains the same illusion, the common cause imperceptibly decays.”

Thucydides brings to our attention the political problems which seem to occur over and over again through the centuries.