Abstract: Geography can dominate history. Examples abound. Civilization cannot just clash: it has to be defended by the sword, and by ideas which are even sharper than steel. Unfortunately plutocracy hate to see force, physical and intellectual, in command of We the People. This betrayal from class interest is how top civilizations go down: when plutocracy gnaws into civilization as the gangrene it is. The death blow is then given by the savages who are sure to come circling like hyenas. The latter is a symptom of the former.
Such hyenas brought down the Roman and Chinese state. Lest we be careful now, the Union of Savages and Thugs, with big titles, like president of Syria, or Russia, or the “Caliphate”, will engulf civilization. Let’s crush them when we still can (the “Caliphate” is only 20,000 strong, so could be literally exterminated, at this point). But we will crush them better if we also extinguish our plutocratic form of government.
Not Conquering Germania Magna Was The Proximal Cause Of Rome’s Failure
THE TEUTOBURG FOREST DISASTER:
The plutocratized Roman republic (aka “Principate”) suffered a psychologically shattering defeat at the Teutoburg Forest in 12 CE (just left of the G in Germania above).
Rome, as a real republic and democracy, had suffered much worse, even terrifying, defeats. However it was then, being a direct democracy, of a much stronger, much clearer frame of mind, and it rebounded with astounding efficiency.
Instead the Teutoburg defeat marked and accelerated an irreversible decay, as the Roman polity was taken in a pincer between exterior enemies and interior plutocrats. An army led by “princes” is much less effective than an army by the people, for the people… As the conquest of Germany required.
Some will object that the Franks, who conquered Germany after 507 CE, were led by kings. Right. But those kings were elected (more or less by the people). Nobody elected Augustus. Moreover, Frankish society was submitted to the equalitarian principle: the richest Frank was often elected king, but there was, or ought to be, no “nobilitas” notion among them; that point was made to the Pope around 740 CE by the son of Charles Martel, Pepin Le Bref.
Notice that the traitor (he had been a Roman officer) Arminius and his German army chose the location and time of the battle (which lasted three days). The miserable rain hindered the usage of Roman artillery; a swamp and a rise, the Kalkreise, prevented the maneuvering of the legions.
The treachery of it all (the legions were trekking back to their winter quarters) took Varus’ army was complete surprise.
GEOGRAPHY IS HISTORY:
The steppe which goes from Manchuria to Hungary allowed the Mongols to spill at least three times, in nine centuries, all the way to Central Europe (thus, having gathered immense power, they were able to build a giant empire, all the way to India, Japan and Indonesia).
Isolation from the Afro-Eurasian hyper continent, or, should I say, cesspool, meant that the Americas were not going to win the biological war between the former and the later. And so on.
I explained that a lot of the effervescent mentality which has festered around the place presently known as France has to do with the three giant trade routes between Southern and Northern Europe. The Alps and Carpathians, mighty mountain ranges, extend to the east over a thousand miles, blocking the way. Until the crisscrossing of wide rivers in the Ukraine-Russian plains. That, also blocked civilization’s penetration until the Vikings (“Rus”) used the waterways to enable profitable trade between Scandinavia and “Rome” (meaning Constantinople).
Nowadays, we are confronted to an old fashion modern Genghis Khan, Vladimir Putin, playing fast and loose, in a calculus where human lives are nothing. Putin has said a great number of things which should be taken literally: that Kazakhstan was not a state, that the Baltic countries had been a gift to the West, that the disappearance of the “Big Country” (USSR) was the “greatest tragedy of the Twentieth Century“, etc. His agenda is clearly to reconstitute the empire of the Czars at it maximal extent: he said as much, he will keep on coming for as much as he can get. This is not the “Cold War“. This is not a drill, either. This is war.
HISTORY AS A STAB IN THE BACK:
Scotland’s push towards independence from the London plutocracy is related to the struggle of Ukraine against the age old, vicious mentality in Moscow. That viciousness is how Moscow grew against, but also thanks to, the occupying Mongols (aka “Tartars”, or “Golden Horde”). Now that viciousness needs to be destroyed, as it is only compatible with a world war.
As facts of preceding centuries, even millennia, determine the flow of psycho-history, looking forward, it’s important to find out what those facts exactly were. In particular the exact history of the giant Greco-Roman republic-empire and its innovative successor, the “Imperium Francorum”-Renovated Roman Empire, is paramount.
Exactitude reveals that things could have turned completely differently, from small details: that’s known as the butterfly effect. From the flapping of a butterfly, a hurricane started (that’s probably impossible, for Quantum reasons, but let’s ignore that).
Out of the many penetrations by sharp objects which put an end to Julius Caesar’s life, only one was lethal, said his personal physician. Had Caesar survived, the history of Europe, and, probably, the world, would have been very different. Caesar had been on his way to a very ambitious military campaign which, knowing him, and his army, the best Rome ever had, may well have succeeded. The anticipated result was the extension of Rome over Persia, and all of Europe, west of the Caspian Sea.
THE MORE EXACT HISTORY, THE MORE FASCINATING:
Here is Eugen R Lowy, commenting on my site along these lines:
“The tragedy of Europe was caused by its two major rivers, the Rhine and the Danube. Since The Roman times it divided the Continent. Charlemagne was the first to unite Europe across the Rhine. Unfortunately it was not long lasting. The next one who would try to do it was Napoleon. But he was too eager to fight wars. Unfortunately at the time bungee jumping did not exist, that could potentially have pacified him.
The 20th century brought three unification experiences, the WWII of Hitler, then the Soviet- Stalin ( SS ) experiment, and the last one, the EU. Fortunately this one was the only successful one.
Let us hope that this time the [European] unification will thrive in spite of all those short sighted, petty minded but loud speakers.”
Eugen has it right, at least as far as the conclusion is concerned.
But the devil is in the details. Napoleon was tough: he charged at the head of his troops when his plan against the invading British was enacted at the siege of Toulon (1792), and was severely wounded in hand to hand combat. Later, as self proclaimed “emperor”, he took great risks, and had horses killed under him no less than 19 times.
Real history is often all too different, from what legends have it: the Romans were established across the Rhine, for centuries. As the Salian Franks were from one of the zones the Romans controlled (more or less), one could argue that they never left.
But, indeed, the (lack of) junction between Rhine and Danube was a huge military problem (especially as it extended the “Fulda Gap”: go ask Putin what it is, he knows!).
The Franks, three centuries before Charlemagne, had already united most of Franco-Germania, across the Rhine. What Charlemagne did was to mop up the last resistance in the most distant part of Germany, among the Saxons, and to push the frontier of Europe as far as (much of) the present European Union to the East. That made the European frontier short and defensible, stopping indeed Genghis Khan’s Mongols (the Central Asiatic invaders penetrated Poland, and Hungary, but collided there with united European forces, and, although they won in memorable battles, suffered unsustainable losses).
Calling WWII and Stalin “unifications” is farfetched: they were standard occupations and not the nicest. The situation with Napoleon was more complicated. Although he was a scum, he did not get the catastrophe started. Even greater scums, such as the pseudo-philosopher Burke, got the ball rolling.
WHY DID ROME NOT EXTEND MUCH INTO GERMANY?
The first Roman to cross into Germany was Caesar. He build a bridge across the Rhine, and went in to punish the Germans for having raided Gaul. He did this twice. However, the perpetrators tended to flee deep inside the immense forests.
Caesar thought about it, and rightly deduced it would never end. So he decided to catch the Germans from behind. A conspiracy of corrupt, idiotic plutocrats inside the Senate decided otherwise. 300 years later, the Goths were at the gates of Roma, the city of Rome herself (they finally conquered Roma another 160 years later).
Caesar’s grand-nephew and heir, Augustus, went back to the unimaginative method of the slow grind. The Roman penetration extended well beyond the Rhine, and even Danube. When three legions (18,000 elite legionaires, plus the supporting army) were annihilated by Arminius (“Herman”), they were going back to their winter quarters, and that trek back, along a narrow path, was in extreme Northern Germany, exactly were the hills met the immense swamp which preceded the North Sea. Over three days, in very bad weather, hindering Roman artillery, and a geography that prevented their maneuvering, the legions fought, until they met a final trap. Those survivors who had not escaped or committed suicide, were assassinated in human sacrifices.
So what happened after that?
1) Augustus plunged into a nervous breakdown, losing his composure completely. He butted his head on the wall of the palace, begging general Varus to give him back his legions (Varus died at Teutoburg).
Against all common sense, Augustus counseled his successors to not try to control all of Germany. Yet, Germanicus (grand nephew Augustus, nephew and adoptive son Tiberius) knew better. He overruled the recommendation of Augustus to stay on the Rhine. Beyond the orders he got, he drove deep into Germany, with eight legions, and defeated Arminius for years. However, Germanicus was poisoned (by Sejanus; that was revealed only 15 years later, although widely suspected at the time, making Tiberius the object of hatred).
2) Increasing plutocracy in Rome meant ever less power for the army: that was evident by Marcus Aurelius’ reign (180 CE), when new German nations tried to break through the Danube towards Italia. Soon pieces of the army, starting with the Pretorian Guard, behaved increasingly like occupying and plundering bodies: this was the situation after the demise of the Severus dynasty (“Barrack emperors” period).
That enfeeblement, in turn, made the Germans ever bolder. By 250 CE, the Franks were raiding from ships, Viking style, throughout not just Gaul, but Spain and even North Africa, where they struck the populations by their appearance of blonde giants.
At the same time, the Goths commandeered a fleet of non-sea worthy ships, and rampaged for years all around the Euxine Sea (Black Sea), and even all the way down to Athens (which they plundered and burned).
3) Why were there so many Germans? Obviously agriculture in the North was getting more and more productive, allowing to support more and more people. At the same time, exposition to the Greco-Roman empire had partly changed, and militarized the German savages, and they yearned for civilization and the wealth of Rome. Spectacular victories over the Roman army inside the empire persuaded the Germans that the empire was richer, and weaker, than expected. The Persians deduced the same simultaneously, invading Mesopotamia and Armenia.
WE ARE ALL ROMANS NOW:
It’s nice to philosophize about the demise of the Greco-Roman fascist plutocracy known to itself as the republic. What is the morality of all this, looking forward? Two main things:
1) The strength of Rome was its republic, its direct democracy, before the lamentable Augustus tinkered with it to transform it in a military dictatorship. The real, original republic, was a direct democracy.
2) Vladimir Putin is much more dangerous than the Europeans realize. Not just because of himself, the quickly expanding forces at his command, and the will he has proclaimed to establish a much larger empire all over Eurasia (which he calls the “Eurasian Union”). But also because he demonstrates to the world that Europe is much richer, and much weaker, than it was thought to be. And it makes the entire world, including the Europeans, used to this idea.
Fortunately some in Europe understand this vaguely: the French sent to the Kurds very effective, easy to use armor piercing weapons, that were used very effectively by the Peshmerga. French military advisers are on the ground. The Americans, who were not exactly born yesterday, are in the lead this time (differently from the Saturday when Obama made an about face about bombing Assad, while French pilots cooked in their cockpits).
A question is what can the USA do to help rise the bellicose spirit of Europeans?
The answer is to advantage the French Republic and loudly cooperate with it, for all to see. When the Germans and other neutrals realize that France is getting rewarded because of her effective role in defending civilization, they may be keener in following suit.
There is also no way that France can play an important military role while being held back by the 3% deficit Eurozone spending rule (the USA turns around the deficit through Quantitative Easing, a stealth nationalization of much of the economy that does not augment the deficit, technically, while having the same effect, under another name, balancing the Fed’s books).
Ultimately, who decapitates whom at will, is what history is all about. Facts don’t have to be nice, they can just stand there, impervious.
It will be European Unification, under a superior philosophy, or it will be war, under superior barbarity: Putin knows this, and opted for the latter. That’s how professionally trained assassins tend to be.
One may ponder why it is that Augustus took the wrong turn. First he wanted peace and control. Second, he did not have a grand plan (as his reaction to the Teutoburg massacre showed).
Institutionally, Augustus decided little besides making Tiberius his heir (under (one of his wives) Livia’s influence). That was informal, and for many weeks which dragged by, after the Princeps’ death in 14 CE, nothing was done about the exact status of the Roman Republic: a nervous Tiberius, although the top general did not dare say he was taking command (“of the Senate”: Princeps), before he was begged to do so by an official delegation.
Some historians have suggested the obvious: the (informal) Roman Constitution was made for the City of Rome, not an empire with a fourth of humanity. The only way for the empire to go on was to militarize and dictatorize the Republic as much as necessary, as Augustus did.
That’s not true. The empire actually morphed in a galaxy of local cities and provinces which were rather free. The central Roman administration was very efficient. However, when the central state could not pay for the armies, trouble ensued (and this was true by 150 BCE). The armies did public works, not just defense. Augustus did not fix the problem of paying for a Republican army, instead he instituted a moral decaying dictatorship.
That moral decay presided the fall of Rome is not just my opinion: emperor Decius, in the Third Century held it, and asked the Senate to re-establish the office of censor: Valerian got the job (Valerian became emperor later, and made history by becoming the first and only captured Roman emperor; he was rumored to have become the stool Sasanian emperor Shapur I used to mount his horse).
FREE AS A PEACEFUL BIRD:
On the positive side, the strength of Rome was local self-determination, and the ensuing peace: before the Goths rampaged in the central empire (Illyricum, the present Balkans, and Greece), the region had known three centuries of peace.
This is why letting local nations (Scotland, Catalonia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Kurdistan) being free is important: it was one of the ingredient of the Roman success. Notice also that the Franks duplicated that regionalization later. Yet, the Franks did the latter to excess: regionalization got so extreme, that it led to alienation, nationalism, and finally, war.
This is what the European construction wants to correct: a millennium, or more, of alienation. But it will not happen without weapons. Intellectual weapons, but also, against thugs such as Putin, real weapons.
Intellectual weapons are the most powerful: when Bush’s USA destroyed the Iraqi republic of Saddam Hussein, it fostered the sort of thugs that now reign there (the expression “Iraqi republic” is similar to the one, “republic”, that the Greco-Romans used to qualify the Greco-Roman state for centuries after Augustus). This was highly predictable for anyone with enough of a brain.
Republics work, but only when they can strike in their defense. Nowadays, whether know-nothing Americans, and half boiled Europeans realize it, the republic has no borders, it’s all over the planet.
It’s easy for Germany to be tired of the French deficit (4.4% predicted, whereas Germany is at 0%). Germany’s fate, and course correction, was determined by bombs, not deficit.
Work works, but, in the ultimate cases, war is irreplaceable.
Consider the invasion of China by the Mongols over 60 years. The Jin dynasty, Western Xia, the Dali Kingdom and the Southern Song (which fell in 1279 CE) worked hard, and were on the top of civilization (the Xia was the most powerful Buddhist state ever). Their successive defeats were not caused by lack of industry, but by lack of military skill caused by the asinine stupor a lazy plutocracy prefers in the People they subjugate (that observation was made by Mongol generals themselves, again and again).
That, in turn, was caused by the wrong ideas all over.
Wrong ideas are all over nowadays. Examples: the fact that children should be less educated in the West than in Shanghai; that the Qur’an is a book of peace; that international law does not apply to Moscow (or George Bush), and that’s not a civilization threatening event; that we are not at war with Putin; that there are (military) borders; that banks are not public utilities, that the fractional reserve system is not a subsidy to plutocrats; that Quantitative Easing is not communism for the wealthiest; that greed will solve everything; that Earth’s biosphere is not in the greatest crisis in 65 million years; that the parliamentary system in most of the West can be called “democracy”. And so on.
All these very erroneous ideas need to be beaten into shape.
Without getting the right axiomatic first, we won’t know where, or even why, to strike. This was the problem Rome had after Augustus. This is why most of Europe is supine, as threats add to injury. That’s why Obama admitted he had “no strategy” in Iraq and Syria.
That was, at least, honest. Let’s give him a hint: hit the enemy in Iraq and Syria, while extending peace feelers to the ex-supporters of Saddam Hussein’s regime (thus splitting the enemy). That’s the most moral thing to do.
The most moral thing to do, is always the best strategy.