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Allen West: America needs men with the courage to take a stand

The lesson of Thermopylae

September 27, 2013

I live in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., a lovely city in northern Palm Beach County. When I am home for the weekends, my Saturday and Sunday morning ritual is to get in my H3 Hummer, head over to Loggerhead Park and enjoy the breathtaking vista of Juno and Jupiter beaches during a 5- to 6-mile run along A1A. There is nothing more spectacular than a brilliant sunrise over the ocean and being out running with some of the fittest folks in South Florida.

As I drive to the park, I tune in to “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Sirius/XM radio. Last weekend, the discussion was all about the House-passed legislation to fund the government temporarily while also defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The discussion among the hosts and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee always came back to numbers and Republicans not having the votes to win or the GOP only having control of House, not Senate and White House. Some people categorize the House’s passage of the bill as a pyrrhic victory.

As I ran on Saturday morning, I pondered the commentary, and as a career military officer and strategist, I thought of the concept of pyrrhic victories. Well, one battle immediately came to mind – the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. – and it actually occurred around the same time of year, late August to early September, as Greek historian Herodotus documented.

More than a Pyrrhic victory

Some of you remember the story from the movie “300” released a few years ago. The story also was told in an earlier film, “The 300 Spartans.” Regardless, the story is one of the greatest episodes of courage, honor and tactical brilliance.

Persian King Xerxes sought to exact revenge against the Greeks for the previous defeat of his father Darius I at the Battle of Marathon. Upon the death of his Father, Xerxes continued preparations, and in the second invasion of Greece, he amassed an even greater army and navy.

Leonidas pleaded with Sparta’s Council of Elders, called Ephors, to let him march the Spartan army to meet the invading Persians. They denied that request because of an impending Spartan festival. Leonidas knew that stemming the invasion and breaking its initiative was important to the future of freedom and of Greece. He decided, within his right, to call up his personal guard of 300 men.

Realizing the numerical superiority of the advancing Persians, he selected terrain that afforded him a battle advantage based upon Spartan tactics. He chose to make the blocking maneuver at a place called the “Hot Gates,” or Thermopylae, a narrow pass with mountains on one side and the sea on the other.

Word spread that the fierce fighters would march to Thermopylae. Troops from other Greek city-states joined Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, and their numbers grew to an estimated 7,000. It was still a far inferior force in numbers to the Persian horde. However, the Greeks arrived at the Hot Gates ahead of the Persians and began fortifying their position.

Over three days, the Greeks exacted massive casualties against the Persians. It took a Greek traitor who showed the Persians a hidden mountain pass to the rear of the Thermopylae defense to initiate the fateful end for the Spartans.

But under the Spartan code, the law of Lycurgus, there would be no retreat. As a matter of fact, Spartan mothers issued their sons their shields with the command to “return bearing your shield or being borne upon it.”

Some would say that Leonidas and his Spartans gained a Pyrrhic victory. That was hardly the case. Their brave sacrifice and delaying action bought valuable time for Greece. Subsequently, the country defeated the Persian navy at the Battle of Salamis – and with the entire Spartan Army rallied, Persia was defeated at the Battle of Platea a year later.

A cause worth fighting for

The lesson today’s Republican Party can learn from the Battle of Thermopylae is that even against a numerically superior force, you can fight on a narrow front to negate its strength.

Instead, the Spartan Council of Ephors is like the GOP establishment, and anyone who resembles the heroic Leonidas is now being demonized by the litany of pundits who, unconsciously or consciously, subvert the efforts of those honorable enough to engage the battle.

If one possesses principles they believe worth fighting for — individual freedom and liberty, then as now – he should take the field of battle, wisely, tactically and strategically. Obamacare is an abomination that was passed solely as a partisan endeavor in the middle of the night, and making a principled stand against it regardless of the odds is the right path.

If it were such a good law, then why has President Obama implemented so many unconstitutional delays, as well as countless exemptions and waivers?

Leonidas possessed the vision to know that the Spartans’ sacrifice was going to be a tactical defeat but that it would serve a greater purpose – unifying and rallying the disjointed Greek city-states to fight as one. He also knew that his stalwart stance would lead to a strategic victory.

Unlike the “Borg-like” liberal progressives, Republicans are an assembly of various groups resembling the staunchly independent Greek city-states. The emergence of a modern-day Leonidas would serve the party well.

Wanted: a leader for the next generation

The lesson of Thermopylae is woven into the lesson of being an American: Stand and fight on principle. At Thermopylae, when asked to have his men lay down their weapons and surrender, Leonidas replied, “Molon labe.” The translation: “Come and get them.” That is the American spirit!

And let us never forget the final words he sent back to Sparta, “Go tell the Spartans and strangers passing by that here obedient to their laws we lie.” Those words, that epithet, stand as a memorial today at the Hot Gates.

The next generation needs America to produce another Leonidas – an honorable and courageous leader, strategist and statesman, not a dithering politician. They need a leader who will stand up for our principles, our law and our Constitution, regardless of the odds or numerical inferiority, because they know the long-term victory to be gained by their stand – the future of our republic.

My next crusade

Shortly, I will be giving up my position as director of programming at Next Generation.TV to get back on the front lines to expand the message of constitutional conservatism across our country.

At Next Generation.TV, PJ Media has given me a powerful platform from which to address the critical issues facing our nation and its future generations. I am very proud of the work I did at Next Generation.TV, especially the news bureau that we have established in Washington, D.C. It is off to a great start delivering new content for our viewers along with mentoring the next generation of millennial journalists.

During the nine months that I have spent at PJ Media, I have learned so much about what it takes to produce credible and informative programming, and I appreciate the help and support that all of you have provided me in that effort.

I will also be focused on supporting my Allen West Guardian Fund PAC in promoting the next generation of conservative candidates in the 2014 election cycle. And I’m happy to say that I will be contributing written commentary to PJMedia.com twice a month.

I will continue to provide weekly updates through this newsletter over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more details on the future of this newsletter. I look forward to continuing to stand up for the next generation, and I hope you will, too.

Allen West

Allen West is a former United States Congressman and current contributor for Fox News and PJ Media – Next Generation. After a 22-year military career, he entered politics in the 2008 election, when he ran for U.S. Representative from Florida's 22nd congressional district as a Republican, but lost against Democratic incumbent Ron Klein. In a re-match against Klein in 2010, West won the seat, coinciding with historic Republican gains in the 2010 midterm elections. On January 3, 2011, West took office as the first black Republican Congressman from Florida since Josiah T. Walls left office in 1876. West served on the Armed Services and Small Business Committees. He was also a member of the Tea Party Caucus and has been referred to as one of the champions of the Tea Party movement.

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