SHARE
Pro­fessor of History Paul Rahe’s recent book on ancient Sparta has been rec­og­nized for its geopo­litical analysis. EXTERNAL AFFAIRS | COURTESY

Paul Rahe, pro­fessor of history, will receive an award on Friday for his newest book on ancient Sparta and its defense strategies.

At a con­ference in Wash­ington, D.C., the Mackinder Forum, an asso­ci­ation of foreign policy scholars, will present Rahe with the 2019 STRATFOR Book Award for Geopo­litical Analysis for his recent book “Sparta’s First Attic War: The Grand Strategy of Clas­sical Sparta, 478 – 446 B.C.” This is the third volume in his series of books exam­ining the grand strategy of Sparta during the Persian and Pelo­pon­nesian wars. The award, pre­sented by Mackinder, is funded by STRATFOR, a geopo­litical intel­li­gence orga­ni­zation. 

“We try to identify books that weave together history, geog­raphy, and strategic studies in a com­pelling analysis or nar­rative of sig­nif­icant geopo­litical events or processes,” Leonard Hochberg, coor­di­nator of the Mackinder Forum-US, said in an email. “Pro­fessor Rahe’s mag­is­terial recon­sid­er­ation of the nar­ra­tives of Herodotus and Thucy­dides from the per­spective of Spartan grand strategy exem­plifies the above cri­teria.”

In addition to receiving the award, Rahe will deliver a lecture titled “Grand Strategy in Sparta’s First Two Attic Wars” on Friday. 

A Hillsdale College press release that announced the new book in August noted that this third volume will be included in the Yale Uni­versity Library of Mil­itary History. 

Rahe said his series aims to explore the question of how com­mu­nities defend them­selves and their way of life. These books examine how Sparta in par­ticular set about defending itself. Rahe said that when it comes to the wars he inter­prets in the books, many works have been written on Athens, but he thought there was a lack of in-depth study on Sparta.

“This volume is about the aftermath of the Persian wars and the alliance between Sparta and Athens,” Rahe said. “It’s an exam­i­nation of how that alliance came apart and how the Spartans coped with the Athenian chal­lenge. My focus is on par­tic­ulars, but always with an eye to par­allels.”

And Rahe cer­tainly sees modern par­allels with some of the 20th century con­flicts in which the United States par­tic­i­pated. Rahe said the third volume espe­cially has sim­i­lar­ities to the U.S. sit­u­ation after World War II.

“You have an alliance against a great power — Germany and Japan — with the Soviet Union. When the war is over, the two allies become enemies,” Rahe said.

Rahe, however, said he does not explicitly make these analogies in his volumes. Instead, he lets readers find the par­allels them­selves.

“The Pelo­pon­nesian War has been regarded as a tem­plate for World War I, World War II, and the Cold War for a very long time,” Rahe said.

Hochberg also notes the par­allels Rahe sees with modern pol­itics. Rahe’s work, he said, con­tributes to an under­standing of inter­na­tional rela­tions.

“He calls attention to domestic social insti­tu­tions and political culture as a key deter­minant in the for­mu­lation of grand strategy,” Hochberg said. “He reminds us that the grand strategy of the United States should align with its values and insti­tu­tions.”

Rahe sees his volumes as being espe­cially valuable to people working in U.S. foreign policy. This is some­thing he believes members of the National Security Council will find helpful in guiding the U.S.

While at a con­ference a couple of weeks ago, Rahe said he men­tioned his new book, and H.R. McMaster, the former national security advisor, “pulled out his cell phone and ordered the book.” Rahe said a former assistant sec­retary of the Navy has also read the book.

“People are always looking for analogies to the sit­u­ation they find them­selves in, just to stim­ulate thinking about the impli­ca­tions for the sit­u­ation,” Rahe said. “This is the audience for which I wrote the book.”

Rahe said receiving this award will give his book some more attention and, hope­fully, make it noticeable to mil­itary leaders.

The book, he said, is meant to entertain as well as instruct.

“If you can entertain and instruct at the same time, you’ve done every­thing you can do,” Rahe said.