Third place this week, well I figured that Jedward have borne enough of my wrath over the last few weeks. So, instead, I’ll go for Justin Bieber, whose fans on Twitter are so numerous as to constantly have something related to him “trending”. Being typically rabid, as such fans tend to be, they occasionally come out with some truly great stuff, more than deserving of a place here. Case in point:
The thing is, the profile this came from, which I won’t reveal, contains far more stuff, of a much more creepy nature (lots of talk about “dying” with Bieber). So, while we can laugh, we must never forget the kind of craziness that pop stars can create.
Second place this week goes to director Ridley Scott, whose sci-fi/horror film Prometheus came out a short time ago. I haven’t seen it myself, not my cup of tea, but it has been impossible to escape from the tidal wave of publicity that has accompanied it. Bored one moment, I cracked and looked up the plot summary on Wikipedia, and gave out a hearty “meh”.
It’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that the film revolves around an alien race that created humanity eons past but, to the confusion of the people investigating one of their former homes, apparently sought to destroy humanity at some point later. That’s not a bad kind of plot device to go with, it raises some interesting mysteries. But the actual explanation, from the directors mouth (Spoilers in that link for anyone who cares about such things), is as stupid a thing as you will read anywhere this week.
But the winner this week goes to John Horgan writing on Scientific American. Mr Horgan discusses the morality and necessity of American drone warfare in central Asia, which is fine. But then he commits, for me, a cardinal sin: he misappropriates and misinterprets history in order to prove his point.
In this case, the (in)famous Melian dialogue of the Peloponnesian War, which took place in 416-415BC. The city-states of Athens and Sparta were locked in a decade’s long conflict that was one of the defining periods of ancient history. Nearly all other city-states in Greece and the surrounding islands were sucked in. One of those was little Melos, and as discussed by historian Thucydides, they engaged Athens, who were threatening them with destruction, in a dialogue that has become the base of the “might makes right” argument. It makes for fascinating reading. Melos couldn’t talk their way out of it and were duly conquered by Athens.
Horgan takes this event in history, 2’428 years ago, and uses it as a stick to beat the modern American military. His argument is that since Athens eventually lost the Peloponnesian War, suffering much the same fate as Melos at the hands of Sparta, it proves that “might makes right” will inherently fail. Therefore, the use of drone strikes in central Asia, viewed from his eyes as a “Melian dialogue” of modern times, is the kind of morally repugnant act that will…one day lead to the destruction of the United States? I guess? I’m not sure, I think the impression being made is that the use of drones will make more enemies then it will destroy, encourage a “robotic…arms race”.
But this is a nonsense comparison because Athens didn’t lose the Peloponnesian War (11 years after) because they conquered Melos. They lost the war because they were fighting a huge military power with a lot of allies in the form of Sparta. They lost it because they had poor military leaders later in the war who green-lit a risky and ultimately fool-hardy invasion of Sicily. They lost it because the political leadership of Athens became corrupt and fractious. They lost it because of Persian involvement. They lost it because of Sparta. Not Melos and not the “outrage” that Melos caused at one point in the war.
America’s drones will not lead to its destruction at the hands of those that it fights. An arms race in such weapons will not cease if America decides to stop using them, anymore then believing that drones would be nonexistent if America never designed them. If the US stood down its drone program, those who they use such weapons against are unlikely to let go of animosity against the country. This is the modern world, a world of suicide bombers and IEDs, of child soldiers and human shields. Being a “moral example” can’t just be a one-way street.
Indicating that it should and that America’s survival depends upon the same, is very naive and ill-thought. But taking such a moment from history, ignoring other factors, manipulating it to serve your own argument, is an ill-service to the discipline.
It is, simply put, stupid.