18 The Warrior Archetype

Episode Eighteen: “Consider the Character of the Athenians”

On the eve of the great war between Athens and Sparta, a speech was given to the Spartans, warning them of the character of the enemy they were about to take on.

The formidable but stolid, deliberate, and cautious Spartans would soon face the daring, unpredictable, reckless, audacious combatants of Athens.

Which side would win … and to what expedients would it have to sink to achieve victory?

Subscribe here for the full series, or watch previous episodes here

Subscribe here for the full series, or watch previous episodes here


  1. George Carpenter on October 15, 2020 at 6:45 am

    Hey guys. Loved the episode and the direction it is all going. It seems the transcript and the video are actually very different. Excited for either direction but just a heads up.

    • Brian Nelson on October 15, 2020 at 7:45 am

      Great catch! Didn’t notice the transcripts on this page–in fact it wasn’t until the 4th or 5th episode I noticed the comments were available as well. …not a digital native…

      You’ve given me 17 more written pearls of wisdom I didn’t know existed. Thanks.

  2. Andrew+Lubin on October 15, 2020 at 7:58 am

    The differences in attitude between the Spartans and Athenians are sadly like the current differences between the United States and Russia; as the Pentagon announces yet more multi-billion dollar Zumwalts, F-35’s and Bradley replacements in order to stop the Russians at the Fluda Gap, the Russians are busy interfering-influencing our election – yet again.

    It seems both the US and the Spartans want to fight the last war instead of the next.

    • Brian Nelson on October 15, 2020 at 9:04 am

      To echo your point about us always fighting the last war…I was in Afghanistan 05-07. We were the MI Battalion for 10th MTN DIV, the Army had just finished its transition from a Division based Army to Brigade Combat Teams, and most of the organic Divisional assets (MI BNs, ENG Bns, Signal, etc) were stripped. So we replaced this former organic asset.

      Our battalion was unique in the DOD, we were from a Linguist Brigade. Nearly all of our Soldiers spoke a foreign language, but in 2005–no one spoke Pashto. Instead, we ended up paying (One of my Captains was the ‘linguist manager’ to handle all the contracts for native born linguists) upwards of $20K a month to each Afghani to be a linguist for our intelligence collectors. I believe the DOD spent well over $1 billion annually for linguist support.

      Before ‘Green on Blue’ became something in the press, I was always troubled by paying a 1st or 2nd generation Afgani to translate for us during MI operations (Signals intercept, interrogations, Source meets/operations)–how well were they vetted.

      I could not, and still cannot accept that the DOD did not put out a contact for $50 million to train 40,000 Soldiers in Pashto from 2002 onward. We tried to fight a corporate fight, outsourcing so many traditional Soldier jobs. KBR did our laundry, cooked, even handled fueling. Short-sighted–and it turns out to be the longest war in our history. We relied on sub-contractors for our language support–and of course they would always take vacation at the start of the fighting season, or develop asthma just when we needed them to climb 10,000 feet to support dismounted collection…

      To bring this back to your point of the last war, we have yet to figure out which foreign languages we need to know. Vietnam caught us unawares, the 1st Gulf War, and the GWOT. I went to DLI in 1991 for Russian, and the Arabic school was tiny–this is after the war. You’d think someone might have reckoned that this might be a future hotspot…

      • Andrew+Lubin on October 15, 2020 at 10:03 am

        Brian – I’m not at all surprised at the lack of linguists; I saw it in Anbar, in RC East (Camp Joyce, Asadabad, Torkham Gate, other little COPS, and then RC SW). We always seem to be taken by surprise, lose a lot of valiant Marines/Soldiers, and then throw 100x the necessary money to solve a problem that should never have occurred.

        Let me gently disagree with your comment to Steve: while we do produce some awesome tech people and entrepreneurs, their goals are weaker: instead of looking to be the next Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, or Warren Buffett; they want to launch some stupid product like WeWork or Uber, and then cash out in a big IPO. Or maybe they’ll sell to Microsoft or Apple. Either way; they have no long term goals other than big dollars and quickly. That’s what passes for values these days?

        And why not? They ruined the Dow by emphasizing retail and tech; Exxon-Mobil gets thrown off and replaced by Etsy? Etsy’s nothing more than a newer Ebay, whereas XOM finds-refines-sells oil-gas-products worldwide. And don’t get me started on ‘the values of AI’. When you take away starter jobs at McD’s and similar, you take away the training grounds for HS/College kids to learn courtesy, respect, how to deal with an irate customer, and god forbid, to look someone in the eye and say ‘thank you.’

        We’ve become a short-term, me-me-me county, and I don;t even see much lip service any longer to change our tone // Andrew

        PS – did you ever serve under Gen Bob Morshouer? I was with him and a 10th Mtn arty battery in Mahmudiah in Jan 2007. He was a Col then

        • Brian Nelson on October 15, 2020 at 8:08 pm

          Agree about the tendency towards short term profits over building something of value. I posted this link a few weeks back when replying to Joe Janson. It is an article by Victor Davis Hanson (a fav of min).

          Terrific line about ‘thirsting for the unapologetic doer’ that resonates deeply with me.

          I wrote a screed about 20 years titled “Death of the Paperboy’. We had just moved into our home and my original paperboy was sacked for an old, tortured soul in a car. I used to get my paper on my porch when the kid delivering it was 12, and wanted a $10 tip. The faceless, soulless ghoul to delivered from the car always left it in my lawn.

          Now print media is dead, and the opportunities for young men/women to work part time jobs is history as well. Instead we load up these kids with $120K of college debt to get a worthless degree without the first lesson on how to show up on time, shave, press your clothes, and be courteous.

          So–I do feel your pain, but I also want to share something one of my platoon sergeant’s told me years ago. Larry was an absolute genius, and almost a caricature of an NCO. TOTALLY SQUARED AWAY. I was a 1LT about to get promoted to CPT. (OCS product, was a SSG in previous life). Larry, like most of the NCOs I worked with in my life, was twice the Soldier I could ever be. Smarter. Fitter. Knew his job better. So I take Larry to lunch and ask him if he would be interested in OCS.

          He looked at me dead in the eye and said, “You know Sir, (we were the same age) this world is in pretty bad shape. It always feels like we are about to tip towards catastrophe or apocalypse. The USA is this crazy cacophony of ideas. All the good and bad that bubbles up is amazing. If there is a place that will every solve the world’s problems, it will be within this cacophony. I defend that.”

          I was dumbstruck. I was coming from the position of influence and material gains, Larry pointed out to me why we really serve. I’ll never forget that lunch. It caught me up short, made me reexamine my own motives.

          I remain optimistic because most of the people I’ve had the blessing to be around in my adult life resemble Larry more than Travis Kalanick, Jack Dorsey, or the other tech savant-billionaires.

          Have a great evening.

          • Andrew+Lubin on October 16, 2020 at 8:05 am

            SSG; thanks for sharing! Andrew

  3. Brian Nelson on October 15, 2020 at 8:03 am

    I will blame Netflix and Amazon Prime, but I’ve become totally accustomed to binging a show until it is complete. We watch one episode a night.

    I’m now at the stage where I will be irritable until the next drop of Warrior Archetype, probably Monday.

    I eagerly anticipate the next episode, and where this series is going.

    It is so refreshing to hear someone talk about the great characteristics of Americans. Finally. We are not the scourge of the planet.

    Don Rumsfeld, when serving as SECDEF, was asked about the devastation of the Iraqi museums and anarchy in 2003.
    “Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here.”

    He was excoriated in the press, but I remember thinking, “He’s right. Freedom is messy.”

    When I lived in Germany, you’d see the Germans stand on the sidewalk waiting for the red hand to change colors. This would happen downtown in what was called ‘walkplatz’, no cars were allowed. I always thought, WTF are you waiting for? Then you’d see someone jaywalking…undoubtedly an American GI.

    The Germans make great cars–but they didn’t make the assembly line, the PC, iPhone, Amazon, or Netflix. They also queue up quick nicely…very orderly. Not messy. Very tidy.

    Freedom is untidy. But is also what has lifted the world to the highest living conditions in the history of mankind.

    Thank you for reminding us that we come from the stock of brave innovators, entrepreneurs, daring explorers, and stubborn people who’d prefer to risk months-long uncertain voyages for freedom and all those inherent risks to living under tyranny.

  4. Yvonne on October 15, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    Beautifully stated, Brian.

  5. Mark Q. Kerson on October 17, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Steven, I’m enjoying this series and sending a link to each out to friends.
    Thank you for the effort and the insights. Mark

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