The Atlantic

The Summer of Misreading Thucydides

There’s a delicious irony in the Trump team’s affection for the historian—who repeatedly shows how populists lead societies to ruin.
Source: Win McNamee / Reuters

This year is the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love,” those months in 1967 when a hundred thousand hippies convened in Haight-Ashbury. Flower children held a Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, and Timothy Leary coined the phrase “turn on, tune in, drop out.” It was the heyday of the counterculture, now enjoying nostalgic celebration here in the city by the bay.

Across the country in our nation’s capital, another nostalgic countercultural event transpires: the summer of Thucydides. Senators the secretary of defense on Thucydides, a subject on which he is admirably knowledgeable, during congressional testimony. A distinguished Ivy League professor is to the White House to discuss with the national security adviser and staff the “Thucydides Trap,” where with the martial prowess of Sparta. One of the main of Trump’s worldview, who under the pretentious pseudonym Publius Decius Mus (a Roman consul from 340 B.C. “noted particularly for sacrificing himself in battle”), readers of any except the Hobbes translation. A columnist the national security adviser and national economic adviser as Athenians creating enemies by their self-defeating pursuit of the state’s interest. Bemused international-relations professors on the rare moment of public interest to teach a little theory. Classicists at simplistic readings of a classic that encompasses myriad perspectives on war.

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