Tuesday, April 18, 2006


My toddler son Adrian has discovered the joy of re-arranging books in the library and so I had the opportunity to become reacquainted with Dimitri Obolensky's Byzantium and the Slavs. One of the chapters, "The Theory and Practice of Byzantine Diplomacy", seemed to be quite relevant to current events.

The Byzantine-East Roman Empire was the superpower of its day, with multiple international commitments, a near-monopoly on advanced military technology (Greek fire being the WMD of the day), and a small but very professional military. The Byzantines were the first to really develop what we would recognize as an intelligence service--and some of the areas of the world they were most involved in are the same that bedevil us today (Persia, the Eurasian plain, etc.)

Obolensky and others have always lamented the lack of excellent, in-depth studies of the Byzantine diplomatic experience. I would go further and express regret that Byzantine lessons aren't studied for insight today.

What Would the Byzantines Do? will be the guiding theme this week for The Washington Realist.

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