Saturday, November 7, 2009

Big Thought Saturday

Occasionally, one of the voices of importance will say in effect, "We are going to have to accept the fact of our own decline. We must accustom ourselves to returning to being just one nation of many. We couldn't expect to be on top forever."

Is the American era ending?

Beats me.

But I can imagine some Roman Bigwig around the middle of fourth century saying the same things about the empire.

He was right, as in his prophecy proved correct.

Paradoxically, the words he used were wrong.

He should have said, "Pretty soon here, people will be coming to kick in your door, take your stuff, and burn your house. And we won't be able to stop them."
I wonder if he had said that, would the Romans have been more motivated to stand up for the idea of Rome? Or, had the men kicking in doors and taking stuff been their own government officials so long, that the people didn't see much difference between the new plunderers and the old?

Oh, by the way did you see the news?

Enough of this sort of thing and sharia law might start looking good to someone who just wants a little peace and quiet.


charles said...

Bank robbery in broad daylight by government-sanctioned thugs. Now I've seen it all.

Anonymous said...

To mike: your last speculation (that the subjects of the Empire in the West were tired of predation) is indeed part of the story. Civilian disarmament is another key issue:

"The tale of an unarmed civilian population ringed by a professional but underfunded army is a very unhappy tale indeed. If Ward-Perkins makes the case for the substantial sophistication of the Roman economy (based upon earlier ancient economies of Greek and Etruscan settlers) then he also makes the case that a populace stripped of its ability to defend itself, or regenerate its local or regional economies, is subject to catastrophic collapses in living standards and population. This bodes ill for modern nations which have contracted the tools of violence exclusively to professionals. The American capacity, through its vast reserve and National Guard system, to deploy force in federal structure gives it a flexibility and security that other Western nations (and other Anglosphere members) cannot match."
Plus the armed civilian population aka milita.
Know history or be condemned to repeat it.

This passage was singled out by
"Ed" in the comments to David Codrea's "History Lesson" at WaronGuns a while back, quoting a commentat ChicagoBoyz' review of Ward-Perkins book on the fall of Rome:

The original discussion: the comment is by "Anglosphere Musings IIRC.

Anonymous said...

Another comment taken from Codrea's

The frontiers of the Roman Empire on the Rhine and the Danube were defended in the fourth century by fortified posts and well-trained soldiers. There, as from Hadrian's wall in northern England, Rome looked out upon the barbarians from behind her watch towers and garrisons. But within the frontier there was no system of local defence. The governing
idea seemed to be, as Cassiodorus wrote in the sixth century that the "quiet of civilized life could be sheltered behind the defence of armed forces." Behind the "Maginot line" there was nothing! And when the line was broken in the early fifth century there was no "home guard" to meet the invaders. From
this point of view, the chief problem of the early Middle Ages
was the organization of the home guard.

The reason why there was no "home guard" is even more important than the fact that there was none. The Imperial Authorities feared that armed forces organized locally would not support a system of centralization which drained the Provinces for the support of an Oriental Court and exhausted agricultural districts to supply the great cities. Even in the days of Constantine the Great, it was said, the Imperial Authorities
preferred to use the barbarians for the support of their power
rather than to run the risk of arming their own subjects.

Cecil Delisle Burns The First Europe (London 1947), Chapter XI
Lords of the Land" pages 459-460.