Further evidence of the infinite flexibility of the Melian Dialogue; it’s clear that its general principles can be applied to absolutely any situation in which there is an imbalance of power between two parties. When the news of arrests of senior and former FIFA executives on bribery charges broke, my immediate response (on Twitter, naturally) was something to the effect of “FIFA exacts what it can, and UEFA endures what it must” (okay, the original tweet was a little less refined). I’m relieved to hear, via Paul Cartledge, that I’m not the only person who thought of Thucydides in this context. One Matt Kaiser offers a substantial summary of the Melian Dialogue and its historical context in a blog post on ‘Soccer, International Criminal Law, and Thucydides’. The conclusion:
Clearly, the United States is riding high. We’ve got the power of Athens and then some (we can cripple a country’s banking abilities without loading a single rifle). But the lesson of the Melian debate is that when power trumps reason it’s deeply problematic.
We seem to be following the Athenians not just in our accumulation of power, but also in our interest in talking to others about how we use it.
Well, yes, I too thought the most crucial aspect of this whole affair was American imperialism…