So here we are, with Toronto Sun columnist Eric Margolis’s latest, back in analogy-land. To me, it’s a striking phenomenon of this moment, that so many serious writers trying to make sense of the world are reaching for analogous moments. Are present mobilizations akin to those of 1914? Are the Israelis awaiting their De Gaulle? Are we in a pre-Hitlerian state of Germanic panic? Are we at a turn-of-the-century, red-blooded, Rooseveltian empire-building moment again? Have we just crossed the imperial Rubicon? Or, as with Margolis below, can we compare ourselves to the Persian ruler Xerxes?
Well, like so many analogies (which are, after all, ways to begin to orient ourselves in time, to start a conversation, not end one), this one stumbles quickly, since there’s nothing exactly Athenian in the present Iraqi regime, as Margolis knows all too well. But the rest of the analogy — us as the Persian emperor mobilizing his [European] satraps — has a certain promise, a certain provocative richness to it. It puts recent events, and all those rallying speeches of Bush across the new Europe in a meaningful context. It makes some sense of our urge to expand NATO — a military alliance, after all — to the “gates of Asia” and to squeeze from it a free-floating force of 20,000 capable of fighting our enemies all the way to the gates of hell. Tom
The new, united Europe asserts its independence
By Eric Margolis, November 24, 2002, Toronto Sun
Bush’s U.S. President George W. Bush delivered a philippic last week at the NATO summit in Prague, comparing Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler and calling on America’s allies to join his crusade against Iraq.
Who says history doesn’t repeat itself?
Flashback to 480 BC. Ultimatum from Persia to Athens: “Emperor Xerxes orders you to surrender your weapons and become an ally.”
Message from Xerxes to his satraps – subordinate rulers within the mighty Persian Empire:
“I intend to … march against Greece, and thereby gain vengeance on the Athenians who have wronged Persia and dared to injure me and my father!”
Ten years earlier, Xerxes’ father, Darius, had attacked Athens but failed to crush the defiant little state. Now Xerxes was summoning his satraps to finish the job, warning that Athens was a threat to the entire civilized world.
Flash forward 2,482 years to Prague.