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Take Me Back to Constantinople - How Byzantium, not Rome, can help preserve Pax Americana

22 September 2010, 11:30
A lecture by Edward Luttwak, Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington, DC) and author of The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. In this lecture, Edward Luttwak will discuss strategy, intelligence and diplomacy from an historical perspective and will draw on a number of insights the US would do well to heed if it wishes to remain a great power.

LuttwakEdward Luttwak is Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington, DC) and author of The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.

Economic crisis, mounting national debt, excessive foreign commitments - this is no way to run an empire. The United States needs serious strategic counseling. And fast. It has never been Rome, but to adopt its strategies - its ruthless expansion of empire, domination of foreign peoples, and bone-crushing brand of total war - would only hasten the US's decline. Better instead to look to the empire's eastern incarnation: Byzantium, which outlasted its Roman predecessor by eight centuries. It is the lessons of Byzantine grand strategy that America must rediscover today.

Fortunately, the Byzantines are far easier to learn from than the Romans, who left virtually no written legacy of their strategy and tactics, just textual fragments and one bookish compilation by Vegetius, who knew little about statecraft or war. The Byzantines, however, wrote it all down - their techniques of persuasion, intelligence gathering, strategic thinking, tactical doctrines, and operational methods. All of this is laid out clearly in a series of surviving Byzantine military manuals and a major guidebook on statecraft. Edward Luttwak has spent the past two decades poring over these texts to compile a study of Byzantine grand strategy. In this lecture, he discussed strategy, intelligence and diplomacy from an historical perspective and will draw on a number of insights the US would do well to heed if it wishes to remain a great power.

Edward N. Luttwak is a Senior Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington, DC). He has served as a consultant to the US National Security Council, the White House Chief of Staff, the US Department of Defense, US Department of State, US Army, US Air Force, and several allied governments. He has also carried out military assignments as a contractor. He has taught at Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University and has been an invited lecturer at universities and higher military schools in the US, UK, Brazil, Israel, Italy, China and Japan. His books including The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire have been published in US, British and 15 foreign-language editions. Harvard University Press published The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire in December 2009.

This event was chaired by Professor Philip Sabin, Professor of Strategic Studies, Department of War Studies, King's College London.

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