ISIS vs. Athenians

During a typical Ann Arbor fall morning, I sat in my bed under my cozy down comforter.    Scrolling through yahoo, I couldn’t help but notice what looked like a man in an orange jumpsuit kneeling next to a man carrying a knife in an all black suit. The suits you only see in your nightmares.   As my hand unconsciously clicked on the article my heart started pounding and my hands started to get clammy.  As I pressed play on the video, James Foley started reading a script created by ISIS.  The terrorist with his eerily chilling english accent started threatening presidents and Prime Ministers from the most powerful countries in the world.  Sitting in my bed thousands of miles away, I was panic-stricken.

I could not ponder how President Obama, the most powerful man in the world could stand idly by and watch.  That could have been any American citizen.  Heck, that could’ve been anyone from a western country.  How he could let an American citizen be decapitated in front of the whole world,  force a mother to watch her son get brutally murdered at the hands of psychotic terrorists.  Why couldn’t he just negotiate the price to bring Foley back home or release a prisoner in exchange.

Imagine the feelings Foley’s family went through.  Waiting, helplessly with the power in the hands of terrorists.  Hoping, praying that somehow their son could make it home safe.

As time went on I realized that America has a certain set of beliefs.  One of these is that they will take the high moral route.  And the moral route in this case is not negotiating with terrorists.  As hard as it is for every American to watch terrorists murder one of their own, that is how it needs to be.  America needs to stick with their beliefs and stand strong.  America was faced with an incredibly difficult question, try and bring home Foley or stay strong and not negotiate with terrorists.  Similarly, the Melos were faced with an identical problem as the U.S government.  They could either fight against the all powerful Athenians, the just route or live as slaves, giving in to the demands of evil.  Ultimately the Melians did not give in to the Athenians and fought for what they believed was right.   Even though every man was slain, they stood firm in their beliefs and chose to die fighting against injustice.

Just like the Athenians the U.S.A will have to suffer consequences of taking the higher moral route, but should stand firm in the wake of terrorism, just as the Melians did.

The U.S flag representing freedom and high moral route



  1. mcarozza · October 23, 2014

    I agree that the U.S.’s position in this issue has many similarities to the position the Melians were in. I think this post brings up many interesting questions. At what point is it “worth it” to not take the “moral” route and not negotiate with terrorists? How many lives have to be lost before never wavering your countries stance? The Melians were enslaved and slaughtered, so that they could say that they stood by their beliefs, but was it worth it? The Melians were wiped out because they refused to move even slightly from their position. In regards to the US and ISIS, I wonder how many more attacks and executions are going to occur before our government begins to waver on their non-negotiation stance. Your concluding sentence states that you believe that the Melians’ decision was the right decision, and I think if you elaborated more on why their decision was the right one, and why you believe their decision was worth it, this would strengthen the blog even more.


  2. bkriegsm · October 24, 2014

    I agree that there are many similarities between the position that America stands in with ISIS and the circumstances of the Melians. However, it is important to note the intricacies of negotiating with terrorists. There is no good choice to make here. Even if ISIS was willing to negotiate, there still would have been trade-offs detrimental to the United States. This begs the question of value placed on life. Who is to say that any life is more valuable than another? Say the United States released 100 prisoners in exchange for the return of James Foley, those prisoners would then go back to terrorism and have the potential to take even more lives. It’s an unfortunate truth and a terrible circumstance. Nice Post!


  3. sgoldberg18 · October 24, 2014

    I think you make a good observation about America’s similar stance to ISIS and the Melians to Athenians. I do, however, not totally agree that this is really an American principle. In May, Bowe Bergdahl was freed by the Taliban in a prisoner trade, and it’s questionable whether or not this was “worth it.” We freed five Taliban detainees to get back a soldier who may or may not have been a war zone deserter. Americans have pride that runs deep, and we always want to protect our people. In fact, James Foley’s parents are speaking out about Bergdahl’s save and questioning why the same actions weren’t used to save their son. t would argue that this case was more of an issue of not having enough time to do anything to stop this. Though it was being live streamed, that doesn’t mean there was enough time to send soldiers to rescue James Foley and find where this was happening. While your post is interesting and one point of view, past events lead me to believe that this is not a true value of America. To be brutally honest, there have been times in our history where we have acted like the Athenians, being the strong who do what they can just to get their way. This does lead to an interesting debate, however, about whether one country can ever be both strong and weak, doing what they can and suffering what they must.


  4. azaryff · October 25, 2014

    I really reaaaally don’t agree with you when you say that US foreign policy has constantly held the “moral high route” as its highest priority. History has clearly indicated that that is not the case. Pro-US dictatorships propped up in South America and the Middle East, invading nations based on evidence that’s shaky at best, the support of absolutely anyone pro-Capitalist during the Cold War, backing of dictators that are in line with US interests all over the world (including of Suharto in Indonesia, this one is a bit too close to my home), some would even argue that ISIS was catalyzed by the US, I’m not so sure about this. But I do know that the US takes a dump on the “Moral High-Ground” when its interests are at stake, and logically all states act in this way. So I don’t buy that their main reason for not negotiating was because they believed they were doing what was morally right, especially – as mentioned in a comment above – that just a few months ago five Taliban soldiers were traded for Bowie Bergdahl.


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