Of the three great city states that battled it out in classical times in Greece, mightiest of all was Sparta. True, the Corinthians built a pretty canal and the Athenians had democracy, drama and Demosthenes. But Sparta was the fighting force, the toughest gang in town.
Its finest hour was when King Leonidas resisted the Persian invasion in 480BC at the Battle of Thermopylae. Eventually though, the most warlike civilisation of ancient times, perhaps of any times, was brought to its knees.
The cause? Women, but also lack of cash. Spartan men were prevented from trade or manufacturing, forced instead to live off their land holdings.
It was expensive to be a warrior in those days, what with all the weapons you had to buy and Brasso needed to keep them clean.
Plus life expectancy was never very long as a warrior. Sooner or later somebody would thrust a spear through your side and you'd be sent home on your shield. Eventually too much of the power and money fell into female hands and nobody could afford to be a hoplite anymore.
Are we seeing another empire crumble before our eyes? September 11, 2001 was the day that America abandoned its Athenian heritage and turned instead to Sparta for inspiration.
President Eisenhower, one of America's greatest warriors, had already warned about the danger of creating a "military-industrial" complex.
Ike was proved right about the danger when the Great Society was sacrificed for the Vietnam War, and again when the gains of the 1980s and Reagan's military build-up laid a more militaristic foundation for the US, without spreading any benefits to the middle class.
Now brawn definitely beats brains. In Hollywood terms, Arnold Schwarzenegger has given Woody Allen a good thumping. America is now the most martial of modern nations, continuing to pursue adventures in three theatres, Iraq, Afghanistan and in Libya via Nato.
The temptation for a president seeking re-election while presiding over a beleaguered economy must be to slow the military machine. But that will not only be unpopular with the US marines; it will also upset manufacturers.
While there is a big arms export market from the US, most of the spending is internal. It is like a giant shark eating itself. All the spending helps sustain millions of jobs. Cut the flow of cash and the shark would sink and die. But for how long can a shark keep feeding on itself before it runs out of food?
US arms manufacturers are expected to sell a record US$46.1 billion (Dh169.32bn) in military hardware to foreign governments this year, a nearly 50 per cent jump from $31.6bn last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The largest-ever US foreign arms deal was announced last October, when Saudi Arabia ordered $60bn in military hardware.
The Saudis' shopping list included Raytheon's 2,000-pound bunker-busting bombs, Boeing's F-15 fighter jets and Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters.
Such sales spell jobs and corporate profits in the US and translate into years of work for thousands of workers keeping weapons' production lines humming along at a time when unemployment runs at nearly 12 per cent in California.
The great thing about selling arms is that you know you are going to get a repeat order: people shoot guns and set off rockets and sooner or later they need to replace them.
However, America's arms business is using too much of its own product, a sure recipe for disaster, just as drug dealers get unstuck when they sample too many of their own goods.
And the whole infrastructure that fires these things, the army, is costing a fortune.
Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, wrote a book claiming that the Iraq conflict was The Three Trillion Dollar War. He may have exaggerated, but by how much?
Ten years after the September 11 attacks on the US there is much reflection on the events and the effects. The cost of revenge has been high. Al-Qaeda clearly has not won, but has America?
When George W Bush was inaugurated in 2001, the country's national debt stood at $5.7 trillion. When he left office he had accumulated debt faster than nearly all of his predecessors combined: about $4.9tn.
The debt clock has not stopped clicking up on Barack Obama's watch, moving at a blurring pace as it increases to match annual GDP.
Ike's warning still looks pertinent. With all the spending on wars, there is nothing in the kitty for education, infrastructure or the arts - an abandonment of America's Athenian past.
Should Mr Obama sue for peace? He has said the army will pull out of Iraq next year and scale back in Afghanistan. But will the lobbyists let him?
"No matter what political reasons are given for war, the underlying reason is always economic," said AJP Taylor, the British historian.
It is always tempting to have a war because of the stimulus it provides the economy. But sometimes even economies can have too much stimulus.
Eisenhower was the Republican president who warned us about the dangers of being too militaristic.
George W Bush is the Republican President who unwittingly confirmed it.
"Make wars unprofitable and you make them impossible," said APhilip Randolph, a civil rights leader. Could that be George W Bush's unlikely legacy?