U.S. Army War College
NICIAS: A Classic Study in Strategic Thinking
Julius A. Rigole
A guided response paper presented to the faculty of the U.S. Army War College, in partial satisfaction of the requirements of the Theory of War and Strategy (TWS) course.
The contents of this paper reflect my own personal views and are not necessarily endorsed by the U.S. Army War College or the Department of the Army.
7 September 2012
STS, Seminar 25
Root Hall, A-232
Col David Arrieta, USF
COL Rand Binford, USA
Mr. Michael Neiberg, PhD
Of all the Athenian leaders during the time of the Sicily invasion, Nicias possessed the clearest vision and a demonstrated ability to think strategically. He provided a comprehensive interpretation of the problems the Athenians might face. He showed a strategic understanding of the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguous nature of the expedition. Nicias applied critical thinking, evaluated the information that the Egestaeans presented, developed valid assumptions and inferences from Alcibiades’ speech, clarified his concern, and presented his point of view that detailed the implications of the expedition. Once the Athenians made the decision to invade Sicily, Nicias presented a concise strategy detailing the ends, ways, and means that mitigated the risks for possible success. Although the Athenians did not adopt his strategy as a whole, due to internal factors and competing interest, his strategy is a classic example of applying strategic thinking to deal with complex problems. Upon the death of Pericles, Nicias became heir to the Athenian defensive grand strategy and embodied its principles; primarily that Athens should not try to expand its empire while still at war. He was head of the conservative party and played such an integral role in the swearing of peace between Sparta and Athens that it became known as the Peace of Nicias. Thus was his...
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