Essays On History And Politics

Dreams and Blood

Advice From Political Syphilitics

Not a Chance in Hell

Dear George and Abraham

The Midnight Hour

It Could Be Worse

Forward into the Past

History Bites

Masters in the Art of Killing

World Wars

The Youngest King of the World

In the Days of the Romans

Shadows and Dust

Our Last Splendid Little War

Dangerous Nation

Dreams and Blood

Not a Chance in Hell

The End of Civilization

The Shape of Things to Come

How to Become a Slave

A Short Lesson in Anarchy

Fun With History

Damn Yankees

Delusions of Self-Rule

A Head of His Time

The American Road to Serfdom

Parallel Lives

The First War of Wars

A Short History of Politics

Invisible Men

The End of History

The Point Man of History

History As it Should Be

 

Dreams and Blood

The most astounding event in history was the discovery of the New World. From it emerged great crimes and marvels.

Columbus ‘sailed the ocean blue’ during the century and a half that began when the Turk broke through the walls of Constantinople (1453) and ended with the annihilation of the Spanish Armada (1588). It was an amazing era, one chock-full of earth-shattering events and men of renown.

Even a partial list astonishes our soft, feminized and trivial age. The destruction of Muslim power in Spain, the religious radical Martin Luther, the monster and heretic Henry VIII, the battle of Lepanto, the rule of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the sinking of the Spanish Armada, the violent end of that violent epoch we call the Renaissance, the defeat of the Golden Horde by Muscovy---truly an era of gods and devils. Out of this catalogue of creation and destruction came our modern times.

But nothing in that age or any other age could possibly have the effects that the discovery of the New World had. It is difficult to recapture today the confusion, terror, rumor and excitement that commenced when Columbus returned to Europe. Imagine if the same thing happened today, that there was discovered on earth an entirely new land the size of our own, populated with strange humans who lived in exotic cities. Imagine if the dream world of Atlantis were suddenly found, not in ruins but as a real place, resplendent and civilized, and inhabited by men like us.

Quite right. Such a thing would be unbelievable---literally. The human mind, being a finite thing, can in no way comprehend anything like this. And neither did any comprehended it 500 years ago. Even the imagination of  the great discoverer himself failed him. He went to his death believing he had reached China, the oldest of the Old World. It took years for the mind of man to fully grasp what Columbus had found.

And it was a feat not of reason but of imagination, one of poetry even. For it was the lyricists of El Cid and Amadis of Gaul who had already imagined new and fantastic lands hundreds of years before they actually appeared. Each Spaniard carried such dream-like tales in his very soul. By the dawn of the 1500s the Spanish poets had unknowingly prepared the Spanish mind for what would soon be revealed by the conquistadors. Love them or hate them---and these violent and jaw-droppingly bold men cause only these two emotions---they were certainly romantics. For only a romantic could possibly desire to cross a vast sea and venture into a ‘wild and weird clime lying most sublime, out of space, out of time.’

And like all true romantics these conquistadors came not just with fantasies but with swords. For they intended to subdue whatever peoples they found. And the timing was perfect: The year 1492 witnessed the end of the reconquista, the final defeat of Islam on the Iberian peninsula. This war had lasted 750 years. At the precise moment when the king of Spain was concerned over what to do with thousands of experienced and efficiently lethal soldiers there came word from Columbus. Here was the perfect solution to the problem of having to find employment for these men.

These Spaniards went to the New World not to ‘scratch the earth as a peasant’ but to amass wealth and to gain reputations---exactly what they had achieved during the long war with Islam. Each one wanted to be an ‘hijo de algo’---a ‘son of somebody’---hence the word hidalgo. These fellows were unusually bold even when measured by the standards of the heroic era in which they lived. They were mere hundreds yet they subdued millions, an event unequaled in any page of history.

The results of such boldness can scarcely be calculated even today. Of all the commotion that began from the moment Columbus set foot in the New World two great events stand out. One was the complete and utter destruction of all Native American cultures. The other was the greatest migration in history, the bringing to the New World of the black man. The first event led to the second.

In such dreams and blood was this New World born. 

 

Advice From Political Syphilitics

The leaders of Cuba, Honduras, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have had their say. After 500 years of Western Civilization added to the 3500 years of Native American civilization that came before—all those Olmecs and Mayas and Toltecs and Aztecs and Incas and Moches—here is their summation of all the ills of the world and what needs to be done to eliminate them.

Capitalism is “leading humanity and the planet to extinction.” Every year it consumes “one third more of what the planet is able to regenerate”. In fact, all threats to life, peace and harmony are due both to capitalism and to the decay of capitalism.

In a conclusion of compete idiocy these wretches who currently inflict themselves upon the Latin American people have signed off on this:

The global economic crisis, climate change, the food crisis and the energy crisis are the result of the decay of capitalism, which threatens to end life and the planet.

One wonders if there is anything left in the world that cannot be blamed upon capitalism. And naturally these über menschen have a plan—and anyone who has read even moderately in the history of Latin America knows that it is infected with ‘plans’. It reads like some childish version of a political and environmental Eden, missing only warnings about endangered polar bears. It can only impress those who are either illiterate or who call themselves “intellectuals.” We can gauge the depth of discernment and wisdom of the men who signed this thing by taking a look at the advice it proffers.

It recommends:

solidarity and complementarity, not competition.

Like the “solidarity” shown the Latin American masses by its ruling classes? There has hardly been a more exploitive and extractive governing class in history.

a system in harmony with our mother earth and not plundering of human resources.

The history of the lands south of the Rio Grande can be summarized by one word—plunder: A plunder of the weak by the strong, a plunder of the soil, of human dignity, of neighbors—all done by Latins to Latins.

a system of cultural diversity and not cultural destruction and imposition of cultural values and lifestyles alien to the realities of our countries.

That accurately describes the Spanish and Portuguese conquest that began with Cortez and Cabral 250 years before the formation of the United States.

system of peace based on social justice and not on imperialist policies and war.

There has scarcely been one Latin American nation since the days of Simón Bolívar that has not made war upon its neighbors. Many of these wars have been gruesome in the extreme. Even the much ballyhooed “wars of independence” were scarcely more than campaigns of rape, genocide, torture, mass slaughter and executions—all carried out by Latin Americans upon Latin Americans.

in summary, a system that recovers the human condition of our societies and peoples and does not reduce them to mere consumers or merchandise.

“Recover the human condition” of society? From when? From whom? From the Indigenous? Those of pre-Conquest Brazil were tribal, war mongering and cannibal. Indeed, cannibalism and war were two of the shared cultural habits of most Latin American Indians. The Aztec in particular took these to their most extreme in the history of man, at one point mass murdering and devouring at a rate of killing efficiency greater than that of Auschwitz.

In keeping with the sweeping irrationality of this declaration, the Latin American leaders demand that the US open her borders ever more widely.

We condemn the discrimination against migrants in any of its forms. Migration is a human right, not a crime. Therefore, we request the United States government an urgent reform of its migration policies in order to stop deportations and massive raids and allow for reunion of families. We further demand the removal of the wall that separates and divides us, instead of uniting us.

It is demanded of the very home of world-wide capitalism—the source of every evil on earth—that she remove any possible barrier to the teeming throngs of Latins who wish to move here. But why would any man wish to come to a place described as so degenerate and wicked by the Latin leaders themselves? And why do millions of Latin Americans wish to leave their homelands anyway? What can they not find there that they dream of finding in the US?

There is simply no reasoning with a mentality that believes such nonsense as written in that manifesto. From its first word to its last it is a tissue of gurgling idiocy, an extraordinary marvel of mendacity. It is not based upon reality but upon fantasy—and fantasy is one thing at which Latin Americans are expert. Take a look at their literature and you will see this immediately. The entire document reads like some fantastic tale by Gabriel García Márquez.

Latin America has never produced a Jefferson, a Madison or a Lincoln. There are no Latin American Bill Gates or Sam Waltons. Every one of its major urban centers is surrounded by rings of grotesque slums that almost rival those of Calcutta. The number of major cities where the drinking water is not polluted with human waste can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And after 500 years of political history, the best it can manage is Hugo Chavez.

That such men with such mentalities offer advice to anyone about anything is beyond absurd. The best thing these creatures can do to benefit the societies they rule is to take ropes, tie them to the nearest trees and hang themselves.

That is excellent advice to our own ruling class as well. The immediate economic, political and moral benefits to both Americans and Latins if their rulers left this world would be extraordinary and far reaching.

If you are looking for a way out of the mess we are in, you need look no further than that. 

 

Not a Chance in Hell

The New World Indians—all of them from Aztec to Maya to Inca to Sioux to Iroquois—were Stone Age people when the Europeans arrived. From architecture to war making to record keeping to scientific observation to engineering to physics to chemistry the Europeans were manifestly superior. No Stone Age peoples could survive the arrival of a literate warrior class armed with steel and gunpowder and imbued with the heritage of Greece and Rome. To pretend otherwise is to ignore all that we know of civilization as it developed in the New World.

Certainly this goes against the grain of modern teaching, a method that seeks to find something—anything—that can prove our present-day American civilization as inferior to that of the Indians. It is part and parcel of the mentality that denigrates ‘dead white males’ like Christopher Columbus. It is of course a lost cause, which leads its proponents into flights of fantasy. I have worked with such in my profession, and they are an entertaining sort though entirely deluded.

It is a simple task to write of the contributions to civilization of the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans and so on. Many of these things we use today. But what of the contributions of those who inhabited the New World? Except for chocolate and the concept of zero, where are they? Where are the Native American equivalents of Hammurabi or Aristotle or Pericles or Archimedes or Sophocles or Aquinas or Locke?

The great Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations were certainly not sterile ones. One visit to their ancient citadels—Tikal and Machu Picchu come to mind—will convince. But their cultural artifacts lagged far behind even the rudest of the Europeans. The cultural level of the Indians of 1500 AD was below that of the Sumerians of 3600 BC.

The Indian societies were static and had no technological, philosophical or cultural answer when faced with the most dynamic civilization on earth, the Europeans of the 1500s. The Indians all went under, and rather rapidly at that.

The moral universe in which the Mesoamericans lived was a terrifying one, even for the ruling elite, and far different from that inhabited by the Europeans. Defeat and slavery, immolation and sacrifice: these could happen at the whim of the ruler. Recall that some people were doomed from birth to be slaughtered upon the temple altars. There was no appeal and no escape.

The Andean civilizations were not quite so frightening but were just as addicted to enslavement, conquest, random sacrifice and dictatorship as anything in Mesoamerica. And their treatment of prisoners of war was just as horrendous as anything practiced by the Aztecs.

Native American civilizations developed entirely separate from those that developed around the Mediterranean. Unless the Mormons are correct none were affected at all by any of the great monotheisms of Judaism and Christianity, especially by the latter with its theology of Atonement and Salvation. None experienced anything like a Renaissance or Age of Discovery or Enlightenment.

None was at all curious about lands further a field. None rose above its confusing pantheon of competing deities. None had any desire to understand the natural world but instead was satisfied with a crude and fearful propitiation of its gods. None had any real idea of historiography or literature. None demonstrated any understanding of wealth creation.

And none was in any condition to resist the manifestly superior culture of Spain. Thus societies of millions were utterly destroyed by a few hundred Spaniards. We must always remember that it was the Spaniards at the gates of Tenochtitlan and Cuzco and not the Aztecs or Inca at the gates of Madrid.

Sometimes I wonder how these civilizations might have evolved with no European influence, or if Europe arrived, say, 100 years later than it did. Some writers imagine mature and confident Indigenous societies able to compete with Europeans. But there is not a shred of evidence for this possibility.

We must remember that the end result of 3500 years of Mesoamerican civilization was the Aztecs. Certainly no society ever deserved destruction more than they did. The waste involved in the slaughter of tens of thousands of human beings every year led not to high civilization but to decay.

It is impossible to regard this culmination of Mesoamerican civilization---with its bloodlettings, its savagery, its cannibalism, its crazed and demonic gods, its routine practice of sodomy, its racks of skulls, its filth-encrusted temples---as anything but horrific. It was certainly seen so by all the Indians who had the misfortune to live next to it. Could even the most base and cynical among us imagine such a regime as the Aztecs existing today?

Whatever the defects of European civilization in the 1500s it could boast of no pyramids of skulls or mile-long lines of victims making their way to European altars. Such nightmarish exactions would not have been and could not have been tolerated in Spain or anywhere in Europe.

Certainly no present-day hater of Western Civilization, no matter how addled with political correctness, would choose to live under any regime that based itself on the common practices of Native American societies.

 

Dear George and Abraham

I send you greetings, gentlemen, from Oklahoma City. Don’t worry if you cannot find that place on a map, for it did not exist when you served as presidents.

I want to honor you during this month of your birthdays. What you did for this nation can never be repaid. It is because of you that we even have a nation.

George, you were our first---and some would argue, our best---president. It was you who did the seemingly impossible and shepherded our young nation to an unbelievable victory over the most powerful empire in the world. It was you who presided over the Constitutional Convention and so presented to the world the most perfect system of laws possible to fallen man. And it was you who set the tone for all presidents who would follow.

Sir, I honor you. You were truly ‘the one indispensable man.’

Abraham, it was you who four score and seven years later became president. You were elected in an era of superheated political rhetoric and violence. One-third of our nation seceded from the Union after the election, and you were faced with either accepting this secession or leading the nation into a great civil war. You chose the honorable course of war.

We cannot now imagine the terrible weight that rested upon your shoulders during those awful first years of war. It seemed that victory would never come, that the oceans of American blood would never cease flowing, that the black man would forever be in chains, that government of the people, by the people, for the people, might perish from the earth.

But then came Vicksburg. And Gettysburg. And Grant. And Sherman. And then the slave empire of the South was destroyed. These happened because of you. Three million human beings were brought from bondage into freedom because of you. A nation torn apart in civil war was pieced back together because of you.

Sir, I honor you. We are no longer a house divided, half slave and half free.

I have no idea if Heaven allows both of you to check in now and then on the Republic you defended and we inherited. If you could look down upon this nation conceived in liberty, what would you think? Are we a better people now than we were when you were our presidents, or are we an inferior people?

Perhaps such questions are best dealt with when I myself am in Eternity. For I fear the answers you might give while I still remain on this earth.

The words you left us give me a clue, though.

From George:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens.

 From Abraham:

With malice toward none, with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan-to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

 How many of your words can apply to us today? How many of them could possibly be uttered by our leaders today? How many of them even make sense to us today?

I salute you, gentlemen. And I thank the Ever Living God that you once walked among us. I fear that we shall not see your kind again.

 

 

The Midnight Hour

In days of yore an enemy was defeated as well as resources would allow. It was rare for one nation to have the capacity to completely obliterate another. Alexander did this to Persia, Rome did this to Carthage, the Turks did this to Byzantium, Cortez did this to the Aztecs, Genghis did this to about everybody.

And we did this to the Japanese and the Nazis, demolishing their cultures and remaking them in our own image---imago americana. As for the host of tribes that once wandered about North America...well, outside of casinos and reservations, they are no more.

But usually a defeat meant that the loser would turn over cash or land to the winner, like the Mexicans did in 1848 and the Germans did in 1919. Over time the loser either recovered or slowly vanished into history’s dustbin.

Should I remind you that the annals of mankind are filled with strange names of strange nations whence lived strange peoples? And that these have long passed into time and memory? Sumer, Assyria, Khwarizim, Akkadia, Scythia, Pontus---all gone and buried under the ages.

In fact, far more peoples have gone than are now present. We moderns most certainly do not escape this dreary fact. Nations are born, thrive, collapse and disappear in the lifetimes of men now living. This process is called History. She is neither cruel nor kind, she simply is.

We Americans are inside of her, sometimes making her, sometimes falling prey to her, but always part of her weave. The only escape from her is death.

Those curious among us can watch the thing unfold in our own day. We can see up close and personal the decline and fall of a once great state. We can then imagine how others have felt who witnessed the same events, say, the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD.

Such a cataclysmic event is occurring in Russia. It is dying as I write these words, succumbing to what the Marxists claim are irrefutable laws of history. A supreme irony, yes? The first Marxist state is collapsing due to laws recognized by Marx.

(Yes, I know that old Karl was a liar, seldom bathed and was wrong on all points. But still.)

A look at the fate Russia is instructive. I am no longer foolish enough to believe that we can learn from this. I only present it as a harbinger perhaps of our own fate, a shape of things to come.

Like most nations Russia had a rough start. The ancient world recognized those inhabitants of what we call Russia as Scythians. They had a reputation for barbarism and would on occasion serve among more civilized folk as mercenaries. There are scant remains of these peoples in modern Russians.

It was the Vikings who sometime in the 9th century AD swooped down from the Baltic upon the Slavic peoples of western Russia. Vikings being Vikings, they enslaved the locals. Thus, slave, Slav. Russia had scarcely organized herself around the trading cities of Kiev and Novgorod when the Mongols invaded. Russia remained under the Mongol yoke for 250 years, entirely missing the Renaissance that so inspired Europe. If you have wondered why the Russians appear so crude, this is part of the reason, the others being climate, cruelty and vodka.

It would take one Hell of a man to toss out the Mongols, and Hell delivered up a number of them, including Ivan the Great (1456-1505) and the accurately named Ivan the Terrible (1544-1584). Will Durant said about this monster (The Reformation, 662):

He was one of the many men of his time of whom it might be said that it would have been better for their country and humanity if they had never been born.

Of course the same thing could be said about most of the rulers of Russia.

From the 16th to the 19th centuries Russia began to expand eastward to the Pacific. The lands of Siberia were colonized at about the same time that Americans were moving westward and settling our own frontier.

Incompetence, stupidity---never underestimate the influence of stupidity upon history---and corruption ended the famed Romanov dynasty which had ruled in one form or another from 1613 until 1917. Now came to power the anti-Christ Lenin, and Russia passed under the fearful yoke of communism that outdid anything inflicted by the Mongols.

We all know this sad tale of communist rule: mass murder, gulags, genocide, imperialism, incessant warfare, corruption, impoverishment, forced starvations, jaw-dropping cruelty. Pharaoh suffered only ten plagues, but the Russians have had to endure the the multitude of plagues brought to them by the dictates of Marx, the atrocities of Lenin and the quite remarkable cruelty of Stalin.

What nation could survive all of this? Short answer: No nation could.

For Russia today is dying, a nation shrinking in size and population, a dreary and cold land convulsed by violence, corruption and alcoholism. Statistics bear the tale, and it is not a pretty one. As the LA Times tells it,

The former Soviet Union, with almost 300 million people, was the world's third-most populous country, behind China and India…A country that sprawls across one-eighth of the globe is now home to 142 million people.

At the height of its power, the Soviet Union's people lived almost as long as Americans. But now, the average Russian man can expect to live about 59 years…

The suicide rate jumped nearly 50% during the 1990s; half a million people killed themselves from 1995 through 2003. Russians fling themselves from balconies, slash their wrists or simply walk out in the snow on a bitter night.

There you have it. Already those Siberian lands painfully conquered by the Romanovs are being re-populated by the Chinese, proving that geography and nature both abhor a vacuum.

The history of modern Russia parallels that of the Western Roman Empire. Russia suffered a ghastly and existential defeat in the Cold War (1991); imperial Rome did at Adrianople (378 AD). Neither state recovered. Both witnessed a tremendous decline in population. Both lost immense amounts of territory precipitated by military defeats---Adrianople, Afghanistan. Both experienced a moral collapse, although that occurring in Russia is much more debilitating than that seen in the final century of the Western Roman Empire. Both saw those barbarians who had formerly existed only at the periphery of society now come pouring across the borders to set up states of their own.

And to pile misery upon misery, the Russians added their special curse of vodka.

There it is then, a once great nation vanishing before our eyes. The motherland of Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Rachmaninoff---almost gone.

So be it. History is remarkably unsentimental. She does not need to be. She reports, that is all. We either listen or not. If we heed her alarms, we will roll up our sleeves and get going. If not, we may return to lives of eating, drinking and merriment.

If you are a sentient American you can see storm clouds gathering all about. You might wonder if it is too late to stop that gruesome fate that is even now slouching our way. You might ask if there is yet enough time, if we Americans can again pull a rabbit out of our collective hat as we have so often before.

I cannot say. All I can do is write and hope that I am not some sort of cut-rate Cassandra.

But if on some cold and still night you hear the distant sound of the funeral bell, do not take comfort that today it tolls for Russia. For tomorrow it tolls for us.

 

It Could Be Worse

We should stop grumbling about how the times we live in are so bad---no matter what the silly Chicken Littles in the media say. The truth of the matter is that we are immeasurably blessed---and lucky. America specializes in luck. As Bismarck stated it, “The Lord God has special providence for fools, drunkards and the United States of America.”

Our foreign policy difficulties pale compared to those we solved in the past. They pale to those survived by other nations long ago and far away. A reading of history makes this as clear as it can be made. Let's take a look at the 14th and early 15th centuries, after which unless you are a fool or a Democrat you will never complain again.

In the year 1066 a man named William the Bastard---later called the Conqueror---left Normandy to conquer the island of Britain. He succeeded, and ruled as king of England until 1087. His royal descendants who ruled as kings all claimed part of France as their heritage. Every one of them made war on the continent, eventually controlling more lands there than did the kings of France.

The period of time that saw the greatest struggles between the French and what had become the English is called the 100 Years War (1337-1453). It resulted in the almost complete expulsion of the English from French soil. It allowed the creation of a strong and centralized French monarchy that paved the way for Louis XIV. It saw the end of feudalism, the beginnings of capitalism and the first military uses of gunpowder. It placed upon the European stage the colorful figures of Edward III, Henry V and Joan of Arc.

It also caused the near destruction of French culture and society. All the battles were fought in France. The French lost almost every one from Crecy to Poitiers to Agincourt (1415). As a result her ruling classes were almost extinguished and the land ravaged. And consider that during this war the Black Death (1347-51) devastated France. The results of war, defeat, economic dislocation, depopulation and plague were horrendous.

From The Reformation, by Will Durant:

The ravage of war had passed back and forth like an infernal, murderous tide; even in luckier Languedoc a third of the population had disappeared. Peasants fled to cities or hid in caves, or fortified themselves in churches as armies or feudal factions or robber bands approached. Many peasants never returned to their precarious holdings, but lived by beggary or thievery, or died of starvation or plague.

Read enough? Wait, it gets better:

Churches, farms, whole towns were abandoned or left to decay. In Paris in 1422 there were 24,000 empty houses, 80,000 beggars, in a population of some 300,000. People ate the flesh and entrails of dogs. The cries of hungry children haunted the street.

Still complaining?

The situation in England was a bit better. This next piece of history could describe the Clinton presidency.

[A]dultery was popular, especially in the aristocracy. “There reigned abundantly,” says Holinshead, “the filthie sin of lechery and fornication, with abominable adulteries, speciallie in the king.”

If you lament the moral laxity of today, consider this:

Never in known history had Englishmen been so lawless. A hundred years of war had made men brutal and reckless; nobles returning from France continued to fight in England…Petty thefts were innumerable…Bribery was almost universal.

It was an age of extremes---of crime and punishment, of lawlessness, of social disorder.

Murder was plentiful in all classes….robbers were as plentiful as prostitutes.

It was impossible to prevent crime, so society organized itself to punish it as harshly as the imagination of men allowed. We read of executions for murder, treason, rape, adultery, perjury, bestiality, failed suicide and sodomy. The condemned were hanged, burned, cut into pieces either by a constable or by onlookers, or boiled alive. Even minor offences resulted in maiming or blinding.

If we had such laws today most members of Congress would be sent to their deaths. Clinton is fortunate that he did not live then:

A perjurer shall have his tongue torn out by the neck.

Feel a bit better, do we?

The point of this is to show that things today are not nearly as bad as some of us believe. They are nothing like what men have suffered through in the past.

So stop being miserable. Have some wine. Put on some music---something by Camille Saint-Saëns will do. Turn off the damned television. And thank God that you did not have to live during those times.

(For a complete look at this era see A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman.)

 

Forward Into the Past

We moderns think we are the best of the best, the greatest generation since Adam and Eve. Many of us find only Dark Ages, barbarous hordes and ignorant savages when we look back in time. We laugh at quaint traditions, odd behaviors and social customs that no longer exist.

But let’s look at this another way. How would those of the past see us? Would they grant us as much importance as we grant ourselves?

It might come as a shock to know that many of the ages of the past would laugh themselves silly over us. Our tolerance, our effeminacy, our debauched and incompetent ruling classes, our degraded mass culture would appear to those long dead as things bizarre and disgusting.

Let is begin at the beginning---literally. History began at Sumer (3600 BC). The Sumerians were a dreary lot who would look askance at America’s optimistic and can-do attitude. But don’t listen to me, listen to them:

Tears, lament, anguish, and depression are within me. Suffering overwhelms me. Evil fate holds me and carries off my life. Malignant sickness bathes me….Why am I counted among the ignorant? Food is all about, yet my food is hunger. On the day shares were allotted, my allotted share was suffering.

The Sumerians were always busy chasing after false gods---and there were hordes of them.

What about the Egyptians? They were indeed optimists, so much so that their idea of Heaven was ‘a happy field of food.’ This part of their religion would obviously attract Rosie O'Donnell and Michael Moore. The Egyptians were the most conservative people in history, maintaining their culture and traditions for 3000 years, a fact that gives hope to the Republican Party. They mummified their dead so that the corpse would always appear beautiful and radiant. This idea would certainly appeal to today’s Hollywood starlets, and to those females and John Kerry who regularly inject themselves with Botox.

The Egyptians would find it odd that Americans chucked her dead leaders in the clay along with everyone else. They would be shocked to know we build no pyramids for them, our pyramid building being reserved for Las Vegas casinos. They would certainly approve of the Russian and Chinese attempts to preserve the rotting carcasses of Lenin and Mao. They would certainly disapprove of Elizabeth Taylor, and would advise her to wait until she is dead to undergo mummification. They would not know what to make of Michael Jackson, but would probably worship him as a god. 

The Trojans and the Mycenaeans were a hard lot in a hard world. Violence was the norm, pity was for the weak, and the strong ruled though force of arms. It was expected that men would lie cleverly, steal handsomely and kill without compunction. Christ would have His work cut out for Him in that age. Your average Trojan warrior---Hector, for example---who found himself walking the streets of San Francisco would rightly think he was in some kind of perverse Hell. 

The Greeks of Athens would shake their heads at how we accord women equal status to men. This was unheard of. Women were to produce babies, they were not to be objects of our affection. That was the preserve of young boys---something that would please ex-Congressman Mark Foley and present Congressman Barney Frank.

The Spartans would turn up their noses in disgust at our education system. No corporal punishment? Why, the entire way of raising up boys was in Sparta based on physical abuse. The Spartan emphasis on military training---boys were in basic training from the age of 7 until 30---would cause some folks to quake in their shoes and urinate upon themselves.

The Romans of the early and mid Republic (509-146 BC) would be aghast at us. Theirs was a world of frank imperialism. Land was accorded to whomever could hold it. These guys accepted no insults real or imagined. If a Roman ambassador was ill-treated by some Eastern potentate that fellow would find a Roman consul and his legions at his door. The Romans would not be able to understand why the US did not pull a Carthage on every Arab city after 9/11. And the UN would send the Romans into a paroxysm of contempt. Any Roman who met Kofi Annan would without the slightest hesitation shove a sword in his guts. 

The Roman Senate shares nothing but the name with our own senate---all those soft-gutted, rancid muscled, weak-willed pathetics who arrogantly and falsely claim to be members of 'the world's greatest deliberative body.' The senate of Rome was a 'ruthless and far-seeing aristocracy' that produced the strongest characters in history. No one could be a Roman senator unless he first commanded a legion in the field. Many senators died on campaign. A Roman senator who ran into your typical American version would believe him to be a member of a traveling troop of male prostitutes.

And those weaklings who claim their own nation is some imperialist war-monger have no idea what an imperialist war-monger nation is. Every year those Romans would march out and do jaw-dropping violence to some unlucky foreign people who possessed something the Romans wanted---women, land, salt, air, it really didn't matter. If the Romans were ruling today Islam would exist only in history books. And there would be no one in this nation outside of a slave pen who would remotely resemble a liberal.

And the comparisons go on. The Medieval folk---who by the way called themselves ‘the moderns’---would find the lack of God in half of our nation despicable. The Mongols would see us as fit to be enslaved or trod under by their horses. The Aztecs would puzzle over the fact that we did not consume human flesh.

And even a cursory look at Viking culture should shame us. These Nordics were nothing like the soft-bellied, socialized and feminized Nordics of today. They were tough and bold, and considered a day wasted that passed without fighting and beer drinking. The world of the Vikings would be the perfect fantasy land for American high school boys and the US Marine Corps.

Their morality was strict. If you were caught in flagrante delicto with another man’s wife he might legally kill you. And divorce was allowed but then any member of the woman’s family might legally hunt you down and slay you. These two precepts alone would put an end to all of Hollywood. And you could also divorce if your mate began to dress as the opposite sex---which would vastly increase the wealth of every divorce lawyer in San Francisco.

Read history for fun or pleasure, and laugh at those who came before us if you must. But never forget that wherever they are now, they laugh back.

 

History Bites

Why study History? I ask every new student this question. How about asking it of adults? Why study History?

Most adults abandon whatever habits they had toward study and books once they get married and begin the usual life of mature adulthood. This is in the normal run of affairs.

I took to reading as an escape from reality when I was very young. The escape became a habit which became an addiction. Now I live surrounded by books, more than 1000 in a small apartment. They sit on the shelves though never silently. Something grabs my mind---a headline, a remembered phrase---and I head toward them. There are answers there. And lessons.

I read this morning from a book published when most living men had not yet been born.

Anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to ask himself whether we shall not see in the future a revival of Mohammedan political power, and a renewal of the old pressure of Islam upon Christendom.

[T]he possibility of that terror under which we lived for centuries reappearing, and of our civilization again fighting for its life against what was its chief enemy for a thousand years, seems fantastic. Who in the Mohammedan world today can manufacture and maintain the complicated instruments of modern war? Where is the political machinery whereby the religion of Islam can play an equal part in the modern world?

I say the suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic---but this is only because men are powerfully affected by the immediate past:---one might say that they are blinded by it.

These words were written in 1936. They are in a book by Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies.

Read history. Place it in your heart. It has a way of returning again and again until we learn it, each lesson becoming more and more painful. Are we moderns doomed never to understand Aeschylus?

Wisdom comes through suffering.
Trouble, with its memories of pain,
Drips in our hearts as we try to sleep...
He who learns must suffer
And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

 

Masters in the Art of Killing

Among readers of military history the usual suspects for history’s greatest captains are Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal and Napoleon. After these masters the lists for top generals go their separate ways. Here is a rather lengthy one.

How does one decide who makes the list? Here are some guidelines for what constitutes excellence in the military arts.

1. The candidate must not just conquer but must hold—he must put into place political changes that render the enemy unable to present a future threat. Territory once held should not have to be re-conquered again and again. To be forced to do so demoralizes and wastes blood and treasure. While Napoleon failed in this time after time, Alexander and Caesar succeeded.

2. He must always keep in mind his Clausewitz and realize that warfare is a means to a political end. To lose sight of this is to revel in the slaughter and commotion of the battlefield for their own sake. Genghis all too often simply exulted in the chaotic mayhem of war.

3. He must be a skilled diplomat and be willing to form alliances and to achieve victory with little bloodshed. Cyrus did this again and again.

4. He must keep his army well-supplied and in high spirits so as to provide it with the will to fight and win. His army must feel itself invincible. Patton and his 3rd Army are fine models of these.

5. He must lead by example: sharing the risks of the march, talking with his troops, sharing their fatigue and laughter. Hannibal, Alexander and Caesar were these sorts of generals.

6. His campaigns must be quick, direct and to the point. Goals should be attainable with resources either at hand or available on the march. A long war with no clear goal demoralizes and makes defeat more likely. Pompey in Spain and Westmoreland in Vietnam were guilty of such wars.

7. He must be magnanimous—and even a bit chivalrous—in victory. Saladin and Caesar demonstrated these character traits again and again.

8. He must be able improvise on the run—to build boats and bridges, to adapt to an enemy’s tactics, to supply his army in enemy territory. Cortez and Alexander did all of these.

9. He must be flexible in tactics and expert at siege, guerrilla war and intelligence. Here Caesar and both Scipios were masters.

10. He must be accomplished at speed and surprise—the overnight march, the splitting of forces, the sudden appearance where his enemy did not expect. Sherman and Napoleon excelled here.

11. He must at all times and everywhere keep in mind that his army is composed of men not gods or machines. Flesh has limitations though a great captain can get wonders out of the men under him. Marius did just that during the Roman Republic’s war against the German tribes.

And what of true military genius rather than just competence? A writer on the Punic Wars has some words on that.

All genius is rare and military genius cannot, in the nature of things, be rarer than any other kind. It only seems to be so because it demands certain conditions in order to enable it to manifest itself, which are only very exceptionally encountered in civilized societies…[A great general] needs a war of some magnitude, swift elevation to high command, a tenure of command extending over several years, complete freedom of action and an adequate supply of human raw material out of which to forge the tools of his trade.

Who is the most competent general around today? This would be Tommy Franks. Oklahoma born but Texas raised, Franks designed the campaigns that overthrew the terrorist regimes of Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan had troubled invaders since Alexander. Even the British came to grief there (1842), losing 16,000 troops and camp followers on a retreat to India. The Soviet Union also tried its hand there. During a ten-year invasion and occupation (1979-1989) it killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions to flee. Even so, the Russians never could pacify the place even though they shared a common border with it. The Soviet retreat was one of the causes of its own fall.

Good old Southern boy Franks conquered Afghanistan in five weeks though that country was on the ‘far side of the world.’ Franks then turned his guns upon Iraq and smashed the Baathist regime to pieces. And let us not forget who appointed Franks to his post—that would be George W. Bush. These two were a perfect case of master and commander.

captain

Any discussion of military greats would be simply overwhelmed by the number of ancient Romans who fit this description. For 1300 years Republican and Imperial Rome cranked out military worthies faster than the Clintons created scandals. The most notable among notables would include Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major, Titus Quinctius Flamininus, Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus, Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Minor, Gaius Marius, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Lucullus, Pompey, Julius Caesar, Octavian, Agrippa, Tiberius, Germanicus, Agricola, Corbulo, Trajan, Septimius Severus, Aurelian, Aetius, Belisarius, Heraclius…and on and on and on until the Battle of Manzikert (1071).

From the start (509 BC) the Roman government was in reality a group of a dozen or so patrician families who intermarried and formed the Senate, the most ‘ruthless and far-seeing aristocracy’ ever devised. This government—it ruled in the name of ‘the Senate and the People of Rome’ —oversaw Rome from her beginnings as a small beleaguered city-state of 300 square miles to her conquest of the entire Mediterranean world. Senators competed ferociously to lead armies in the field, and many perished—along with their legions—in doing so. As Republic became Empire the patrician families continued to fill bureaucracies, army commands and the imperial throne. Simply stated, the Roman Senate was the strongest and most competent government of all time, and most of the greatest military commanders in history came from it.

Our modern world of late has shown little evidence of producing the circumstances necessary for the rise of superb captains, which is of course a good thing. But that might be about to change. After all one can truthfully state that war is the natural condition of man and that peace is a temporary interval between wars. What has kept the world free of major warfare since 1945 has been the dominance of the United States. As she begins her decline we can safely though regrettably assume that this world will return to its usual practice of wars and rumors of wars, some of which will encompass the globe. 

A new era of Alexanders and Caesars might be at our doorstep, awaiting only a cry of havoc from some random Middle Eastern tyranny or some absurd Asian madhouse. Its appearance might be startling indeed.

 

World Wars

It is a typically modern conceit to believe that our world today is so advanced, so technically savvy and so filled with the best and the brightest that it can avoid the global convulsions that have wracked mankind since Sargon the Great. This charming fantasy assumes that our world can actually put “an end to history,” that with only the right people in charge and the right ideas available that conflict will be at an end and a new era of harmony will spread across the globe.

Besides astounding arrogance, such a belief requires that all of history be ignored and that human nature is changeable. Both ideas are absurd and dangerous. One can certainly ignore history, but she has a way of intruding into the affairs of man nonetheless. Her central point—actually, her only point—is the unchangeable nature of man. It is this constancy in human behavior that makes history even possible. And one aspect of man’s behavior throughout time and space has been his affinity for world wars.

But were there not only two of these ghastly things? No, there were many, and they have occurred since man has been able to marshal the finances, muscle and machines to spread violence and misery and destruction across land and sea. World wars defined their times as much as they define ours.

As far as we can divine from history the first world-wide conflict (as the world was defined at the time) began at the death of Ashurbanipal (626 BC). He was the self-proclaimed “Great King, the Mighty King, the King of the Four Corners, the King of Universal Reign, the King of the World, the King of Assyria.” His empire encompassed all of the ancient Middle East— which we call today Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Kuwait—and parts of Turkey, Iran, southern Russia, Armenia and Libya. Assyrian was the superpower of the age, seemingly invincible as she ruled the earth.

She was destroyed in two weeks—a true case of moral pointing and tale adorning. Assyria had taken her hinterlands for granted and had allowed hordes of non-Assyrians into her empire. She was also unspeakably cruel, a national policy that created enemies all around. They formed an alliance and struck at her center in an early type of ’shock and awe’. The heart of Assyria was attacked at all points and all at once. Avenging armies from Scythia, Babylon, and Persia set the ancient world aflame as they moved on the Assyrian citadels of Nineveh, Kalah, Asur and Dur-Sharrukin. This world war—the true first world war—ended with the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC.

We might also consider the Greco-Persian Wars (496-479 BC). Persia then stretched from the north of Greece to Egypt to Libya to southern Russia and on to the Hindu Kush. These wars were fought between this immense empire and a few city-states of Greece. The entire eastern Mediterranean was involved, and parts of Sicily as well. Later expeditions would push Greek arms beyond the Euphrates (401 BC), and Alexander (356-332 BC) would continue the conflict into India and the Arabian Peninsula. His successors would continue fighting until 50 years after his death, causing what the writers of Maccabees said were “many evils on the earth.” We may safely claim that the Persian Wars and their aftermath earn the dubious title of ‘the longest world war.’

The Second Punic War (218-201 BC) certainly was a world war. Involving parts of modern Spain, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Greece, Italy, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Macedonia and France—in fact all the western Mediterranean—and its effects were felt far beyond these areas. Or how about The Crusades (1095-1204)? They involved all of Europe and the Middle East as well as parts of Africa and the entire Mediterranean.

Islam merits special mention. Since her founding in 626 it has been a source of world war and conflict. Wherever it went—and Islam went everywhere it could—it brought war and tyranny. Even after conquering much of the world from Spain to Indonesia—and all of this in an astounding 100 years, the fastest, largest and most durable expansion in all history—it never settled down. Constant war was and is a prerequisite of the faith. Even today one can safely bet that wherever there is war somewhere in the world, one or both antagonists are Muslim. It is also a safe bet that our next world war will start from some stupidity arising from Muslim lands.

There are other candidates for world war: The Mongol invasions of the 13th century come to mind. What we now call Korea, China, Mongolia, northern India, Central Asia, the Middle East, Russia and parts of Eastern Europe were convulsed by these terrible horsemen from the Steppes. Or how about the French and Indian War (1756-1763)? Or the Napoleonic Wars (1796-1815)? Both certainly qualify. Both involved fighting in Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa and parts of Asia.

After 1815, thanks to Britannia ruling the seas the world was more or less quiet until 1914 and the guns of August. And it has never been quiet since. Even the 50 year Pax Americana seems now only a breathing space that saw the dismantling of the old USSR into a group of fractious and bickering states. Perhaps our next world war will come from one of these ridiculously unstable nations.

But there are many candidates concerning the cause of our next world war. History does tend to surprise. Who would have guessed that the assassination of some second rate European prince would lead to a world war? Or that a leather-boy Austrian corporal would cause another? Or that the preposterously impoverished and grimy Islam would be taking the modern world by storm?

So expect surprises. It does not take a Nostradamus to state that they will be unpleasant in the extreme.

 

The Youngest King of the World

It is easy—far too easy—to get caught up in the here and now. The rough and tumble of present day politics and culture and war weigh men down and prevent them from wandering among the delights of the past. For there is found perspective and balance and understanding. We might bemoan that our world is governed by little men, shrunken men, “men without chests,” but that was not always so. It is well and good to recall that giants truly once roamed the earth. Perhaps they will roam it again, for the detriment or betterment of men yet unborn.

He died 2300 years ago yet the story of his life still fascinates. The Ancient World knew him first as Alexander III of Macedon and later as Megas Alexandros—Alexander the Great. And great he was however one looks at the history of his time.

The facts of his life are well known. He was born into the royal house of Macedon in 356 BC. His father was Philip II (384-336), himself the outstanding man of his day. He found Macedon a collection of feudal estates ruled by ignorant and violent nobles and created a modern and powerful state, one of two superpowers of the age—the other being Persia. It was Philip who forged the Macedonian army, a tool of astounding lethality that his son would use to conquer much of the world. Philip himself was a man of brilliance and ability though hampered by his addiction to alcohol and women—some of whom he married—and to an unseemly intimacy with boys. He left a trail of discarded bastards and catamites all over the Ancient World. In this he was merely a product of his age. But more about this in due course.

Alexander’s mother was the emotional, wild and wildly unstable Olympias (375-316). She was not from Macedon but from Epirus—-what we today call Albania. Olympias practiced the crazed and secretive rites of a bizarre Dionysian cult. She was known to ‘invite’ snakes into her bed, and I leave to the reader’s imagination what occurred there. She was a superb hater and schemer who much enjoyed the torture of her enemies real and imagined. History almost believes that the murder of Philip was brought about by the anger of Olympias over the fact that Philip tired of sharing the marital bed with her reptiles.

It was Philip’s dream to conquer the sprawling Persian Empire, a state that had twice invaded Greece proper and had meddled in Grecian politics for 150 years. But for this to come about he needed the Greeks behind him. Ancient Greece was one nation and one culture but not one state. It was a collection of petty and squabbling cities, each looking for some advantage over its rivals and each willing to finance murder and mayhem among other Greeks to attain this. They were literally at each others’ throats everywhere and all the time. They only unified once, during the Second Greco-Persian War (482-479 BC).

The major Greek city-states were Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Sparta. Athens has been grotesquely overrated by historians, enamored as they are with Greek philosophy, art and writing. The truth of the matter is that Athens financed her ‘Golden Age’ through imperialism and slavery—those slaves being in most cases other Greeks—and she ruled her empire like the Soviets ruled theirs. She practiced policide—the total destruction of an entire city and its population when that city refused Athenian imperial extortions. It was the hugely over-esteemed and odd-headed Athenian strategos Pericles that started the suicidal Peloponnesian War (431-404) with Sparta. This geopolitical stupidity ended with the entire Greek world enslaved, impoverished, incarnadined, ruined and depopulated, leaving it prey first to Macedon and then to Rome.

Thebes was what the other Greeks insultingly called a medizer—one who went over to the Medes (the Persians, that is)—and could be relied upon always to be on the side of Persians against Greeks. Many Greeks called Thebes a traitor to Greece, but then Greece produced many traitors. Thebes’ one moment of glory came during the invasions of the Peloponnesus and the destruction of Spartan power under Epaminondas (370-368). After Philip’s death his son Alexander burned the place to the ground, crucified thousands of Thebans and sold the survivors into slavery. Other Greeks helped the Macedonians in this slaughter and rapine.

Corinth was a fantastically immoral place well-known among other Greeks for its ‘Corinthian women’—women who would perform anything for anyone who had some drachmas to spare. The city was filled with ‘houses of ill repute’ where one could find nubile lasses and equally nubile lads. The ancients visited Corinth for reasons similar to those of moderns who visit San Francisco and Las Vegas. The Romans destroyed the place (146 BC) but it had been rebuilt, alas, by the time Paul went there to preach—see his Epistles to the Corinthians—and its immorality almost overwhelmed even him. He described the Corinthians as having ‘itching ears’—as being always available to absorb the latest idea until the next ‘new thing’ came along. Today we call such people flakes.

Sparta was a militaristic, totalitarian and communist slave-state. Her power was based upon an extreme military doctrine of almost psychotic preemption. She was murderous, closed and intolerant, and every year would march out and do violence to some unlucky Greek neighbor. The other Greeks hated her but feared her more. When Spartan military power was destroyed forever (371-362) all marveled but few mourned. Her one moment of self-sacrificing glory came in 480 BC when her king Leonidas and 300 Spartans held off hordes of Persians at Thermopylae and gave the Greeks time to reorganize and drive off the invaders.

Such was the Greece that Philip wanted at his side, alas. He needed manpower and the Greek fleet, but what he really wanted was recognition from Athens. Philip suffered from what we today call a ‘crisis of self-esteem.’ Philip knew he was drunken, promiscuous, violent and half-barbarous—he was also half-blind and half-crippled due to wounds suffered in battle—but he wanted badly to be an Athenian gentleman with proper manners and correct speech—and he wanted the Athenians to recognize him as such.

To the Greeks, Macedonians were crude and their speech had an uneducated tone to it. They saw Macedonians as New Yorkers see Oklahomans. Athens laughed at Philip ‘the barbarian’—always behind his back, mind you—and his pretensions. Philip knew this of course, but still thought he could get her support in his coming Persian adventure.

From 358 until his assassination in 336—typically, over an affair of pederasty—Philip engaged in the slow conquest and economic strangulation of Greece. He spread money all around and so had already purchased much of the Greek leadership by the time of the Battle of Chaeronea (338). This was the last stand of Greek freedom against Macedonian imperialism. Greece was as usual only half united, fought incompetently and lost to the rolling phalanxes of Philip. At the head of the Macedonian cavalry at Chaeronea was Philip’s son Alexander, all of 18 years old.

Alas, Philip was never to conquer Persia, for an assassin’s dagger found him. That political killing is one of history’s greatest ‘who done its.’ Many a historian has made a career speculating on the motives and the perpetrators. Oddly, a similar mystery surrounds the killing of Alexander 12 years later. But let us not get ahead of ourselves.

So who assassinated Philip II of Macedon? Though Pausanias was the actual killer, there are a number of other suspects. Did he act alone or was he in the pay of someone else? Was that ’someone else’ Olympias? Or Darius III of Persia? Or perhaps even Alexander? But Pausanias by himself had ample motive to do the deed. He had been shamed and insulted by the king over an affair of pederasty. (The details of this squalid event are best left unmentioned.) The motive of Olympias was to insure her son Alexander became king of Macedon rather than the year-old son of Philip and his new wife, Eurydice. Add to this her loathing of her husband and you have all you would need to accuse her of conspiracy to murder.

Truth be told, the Macedonian royal house was a bloody one. After becoming king Alexander ordered some judicious executions, exactly as his father had done when he had become king. Olympias did her part by murdering Eurydice and her baby. Such killings were standard political practices of the day and were seen as a way to avoid civil war.

Now secure on the throne, the 20 year-old Macedonian king launched an expedition against some rebellious northern tribes. This campaign took him all the way to modern Bulgaria and the Danube and demonstrated that he was indeed Philip’s son. Speed of movement, superb intelligence, improvisation and innovative cavalry techniques marked this war.

Secure in the north, Alexander now marched south. The Greek states had heard a rumor that Alexander was dead, and so they rebelled up against their Macedonian overseers. The leader of this revolt was Thebes, though Athens took part as well. Alexander was furious at what he saw as a betrayal of solemn oaths given to his father Philip. He marched his army at a speed faster than Patton’s in Sicily and appeared before the gates of Thebes long before anyone expected him (335). Alexander would make a point with the Thebans. He was soon to march against Persia, and could not afford a revolt in his rear. The point he made was the one Rome would make against Corinth and Carthage (146 BC). Thebes was demolished and its peoples sold into slavery. Alexander’s ferocity was duly noted. Until his death in 323 there were no further serious rebellions in Greece.

Now began the great Persian Campaign (334-330). It is still studied today in military colleges around the globe.

After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated Darius, king of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king. (He had previously become king of Greece.) He fought many battles, conquered strongholds, and put to death the kings of the earth. He advanced to the ends of the earth, and plundered many nations. When the earth became quiet before him, he was exalted, and his heart was lifted up. He gathered a very strong army and ruled over countries, nations, and princes, and they became tributary to him.
—1 Maccabees:1-4

It was to make Alexander’s fame eternal and gave rise to an entirely new epoch in history, the ‘Hellenistic Age.’ It was Alexander who ended the age of the city-state. It was Alexander who spread Greek civilization and culture to the Indus River. It was Alexander who became the greatest founder of cities in history. It was Alexander who secured western Asia for Greek culture and so insured that the New Testament would be written in Greek. It is Alexander of whom Daniel wrote:

[A] mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will…
[In my vision] I saw him come close to the ram [Medo-Persia], and he was moved with anger against him and he Alexander the Great] struck the ram and broke his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but the goat threw him to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power.

At now, at the beginning of his greatest conquests and of the most astounding adventure in history, Alexander disappears from us. He leaves the realm of History and enters that of Poetry. For no one now can say for sure what ideas danced around in the young king’s mind. We know the raw facts of his life during the Persian expedition—of battles more numerous than the stars, of brilliant sieges, of an astounding military genius that never entertained defeat, of a young man forcing his will upon more than half the world.

778px-meister_der_alexanderschlacht_002

(Alexander at Guagamela, from a fresco found at Pompeii)

But these are mere incidents in his life, and he died too young at 32 for us to know him as well as we know other great captains. Caesar lived to be 56, Napoleon 52, Hannibal 65, Scipio Major 50. We can more surely judge these men as they simply lived longer than Alexander and left more evidence of their inner lives. Napoleon and Caesar wrote voluminously, for example, yet from Alexander we have virtually nothing—not even a treaty or tax document. The ones who knew him personally and wrote about him, such as Ptolemy, Aristobulus, Nearchus, Onesicritus and Callisthenes, left much but most of it is lost. Their works survive only as sources used by later historians such as Arrian, Diodorus and Curtius.

Modern historians are all over the place in their opinions about Alexander. Some call him a true Romantic who wished to unite and civilize the entire world. Others, such as the brilliant Victor Davis Hanson, reduce him to a mere thug and call his army a group of extremely talented killers. The greatest living historian of Alexander is Robin Lane Fox, whose work Alexander the Great is the standard in the field. Fox believes Alexander to be the first true authentic hero. Uniquely, Fox was able to present his image of Alexander on the big screen, for it was his collaboration with Oliver Stone that created the movie Alexander. Fox wrote an entire book about the making of this movie, and he even appears in the film as a Macedonian cavalry commander.

Alexander’s remarkable career took him to the ends of the earth, and there is ample evidence to support a number of conclusions about what sort of man he was and what he planned to do with his conquests. Was he merely a thug? We cannot deny that his campaigns caused the deaths of perhaps 1,000,000 in what were surely mostly elective wars, wars for land and glory.

Was he merely some dreamy-eyed romantic? No one can ignore Alexander’s hold on the imaginations of men. A whole series of Alexander Romances began to appear shortly after his death and continued to be written on into the Middle Ages. These fantastic tales were written in all the major languages for 2000 years.

A military genius? Most certainly. He never lost a battle, whether a set piece example of tactics—Gaugamela, Issus, Hydaspes—or a series of grueling guerrilla campaigns. All the great captains of the ancient world lost occasionally—all except Alexander.

To state the matter plainly, Alexander is the purest form of military genius we have ever seen, as unique in his field as Mozart is in his. He also possessed administrative talents of a high order, extraordinary in so young a man. Caesar himself was constantly broke until in his late forties, while Alexander became the wealthiest man in the world at 25. It should be noted that while serving in Spain Caesar came upon a statue of Alexander, Caesar broke down and wept. For Alexander had conquered much of the known world at 25, and Caesar was just beginning his career at 30.

An example of the military machine developed by Philip but improved upon by his son—the machine that, along with the Macedonian cavalry, would destroy the Persian Empire—is the phalanx armed with the sarissa, the 21 foot spear carried by foot soldiers. These Macedonians of Alexander marched with their king and their sarissas until the ends of the earth. They became the most lethal military of the age, never conquered, and swept away all before them.

The sarissa’s song is a sad song.
He pipes it soft and low.
I would ply a gentler trade, says he,
But war is all I know.
Steven Pressfield

This is what spelled the end of the old Greek hoplite warfare and thus the entire basis for the ancient city-state. It ended the old Hellenic world in the same way that the English long bow ended feudalism.

falanx

This form of warfare ruled the world until the battle of Cynocephalae (197 BC). It was to return in the form of the Swiss pike during the Renaissance and maintain its supremacy until Waterloo (1815). It lives still on the parade grounds of the American military.

To look at a map of Alexander’s conquests is to be stupefied with its breadth and length, with its sheer magnificence, with its hundreds of tribes and cities and nations. One sees the first possibilities of a truly world civilization, one humane and sophisticated, speaking one language and acknowledging one government. A world where Euripides and Sophocles and Aristotle and Archimedes would be taught from the Atlantic to China.

map_04_01

He planned on continuing beyond India to China, but his men refused to go further. After his return to Babylon (323) Alexander drew up plans to conquer Arabia, then Carthage, then the Romans. Given his will to rule he would have controlled all of the known world before he reached the age of 40. For once we can clearly see his mind at work. He believed in a new race, a new society—in fact, an entirely new world where Macedonians and Persians and Bactrians and Indians and Carthaginians and Romans would inhabit the same civilization. All this was not to be, alas. For he met his death at 32, under circumstances that can best be described as murky.

Miserably the young Alexander
Chafed at the narrow confines of his world
As though a youth pent on a rocky islet.
Yet, when he entered brick walled Babylon
A coffin was measure enough to contain him.
—Juvenal

After he entered ‘brick walled Babylon’ he fell sick and perceived that he was dying. So he summoned his most honored officers, who had been brought up with him from youth, and divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive. Alexander had reigned twelve years.

His dream vanished when he died. His captains began to fight over his empire, and for 40 years the Hellenistic world from Macedon to India was convulsed by wars and rumors of wars, wars both civil and imperial.

Then his officers began to rule, each in his own place. They all put on crowns after his death, and so did their sons after them for many years; and they caused many evils on the earth.
—1 Maccabees 1:5-9

But nothing came of them, for no one could be ‘the next Alexander.’ The empire of Alexander split into several competing parts, each governed by one of the dead king’s generals. By 30 BC Rome had devoured it all, the last part being Cleopatra’s Egypt.

The impact of Alexander upon the world, upon history, continues to this day. There is scarcely anyone on earth who has not heard of him. Afghan tribesmen still sing of his glory, dozens of biographies of him are written each year and there is an entire discipline called ‘Alexandrine Studies.’ Because of Alexander Paul was able to travel through Asia Minor and preach the Gospel in the native tongue—Greek.

One such as Alexander is born only once every thousand years or so—this is a good thing. For us moderns have no room for gods, and Alexander certainly thought he was one. Will Durant could have been thinking of Alexander when he wrote

It is good—and enough—to behold and suffer, once in a millennium, the power and limits of the human mind.

I will end with one of the hundreds of revealing tales of Alexander’s life.

Five years after his death his generals decided to meet in Babylon in an attempt to come to an agreement. But the pettiness, the bitterness and envies could not be overcome. They squabbled and threatened, until one suggested they meet in Alexander’s throne room, untouched since his death. Then they stood before the place where their king had ruled the world. They stared in silence at Alexander’s throne, and even though the king was long dead all there could feel his presence.

Alexander dead could still hold captive the imagination and awe of living men. Of how many of our own best and brightest will that be said?

 

In the Days of the Romans

In these soft and debased times in which we live it is well and good to reflect upon a people who created the most remarkable state known to us. Their leaders were the strongest personalities in all of History. They provided our Founders with many object lessons in statecraft, lessons which went directly into our Constitution. Much of their history eerily shadows our own.  

They are the Romans. They built the first republic in History. Their army was second only to our own in lethal and organized ferocity. They hardly lost a war in 1000 years. With the Hebrews, Greeks and Christians their deeds constitute what we once grandly called “Western Civilization.”  

One incident will perfectly define their character. In one terrible battle against Hannibal of Carthage---the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC---they lost 60,000 men in four hours, which is 15 times more men than we have lost in 7 years of war making. Yet they never entertained any thought of surrender and went on to conquer the world.  

Consider such men, and then hang your head in shame. It was well and good that Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and all the rest used the Romans as role models. It was even debated among our Founders whether togas should be worn while discussing matters of state. Indeed, many busts of those early Americans have them wearing togas.  

Early Roman history is chock full of entertaining vignettes, stories that “point a moral and adorn a tale.” Here is one that says much about how the Romans went from a small city-state of scarcely 300 square miles to a world empire. 

For 1000 years Rome produced men like the Horatii. These were three brothers, triplets in fact, who rose to manhood during the reign of an early Roman king Tullus Hostilius (673-641 BC). Hostilius---whose name gives us our word hostile---was bent on expanding Roman power at the expense of other Latin towns in Italy. One of these was Alba Longa, which was about 12 miles from Rome. We cannot today know why these city-states went to war. Perhaps the reason was control of trade routes or because Rome's expanding population needed some living space---lebensraum, as a future Austrian corporal would say. Or perhaps Hostilius was just being, well, hostile. 

At any rate, Rome and Alba Longa decided to settle matters in a rather civilized way, at least as that word was defined 2700 years ago. As it happens Alba Longa also boasted a set of male triplets of the same age as the Horatii, the Curiatii. The two rival states agreed that their dispute would be settled by combat between the Horatii and the Curiatii. Things looked bad for Rome when two Horatii were killed, leaving three Curiatii against one of the Horatii. This last Roman brother took to his heels seemingly in fear, causing derision among the inhabitants of Alba Longa and scandal among the Romans. You see, like American marines Romans were not known for running away from a fight. 

But this last remaining Horatii was a clever sort. He knew that the quickest of the Curiatii would catch him before his brothers would, and so the fight would be one-on-one. It turned out just this way. All the Curiatii were slain one at a time, and Rome emerged the victor.  

If only the tale had ended there! Alas, when the surviving Horati returned home he found one of his sisters crying, but not over her dead brothers. She had carried on a secret love affair with one of the Curiatii, and now her lover was dead. Furious at what he saw as treason against the family and the state---these were almost one and the same in those early Roman days---he slew his own sister. Oh well. 

Anyway, this charming tale inspired Jacques Louis-David (1748-1825) to paint his Oath of the Horatii (1784). Like today the father sends his sons to war while the women mourn. 

 

 But what became of Tullus Hostilius and Alba Longa? Typically the Romans would force subject peoples into their army. This was better for both victor and vanquished, and a far cry from the wholesale slaughter and enslavement of the defeated that later times would see. But when the king of Alba Longa refused to come to Rome's aid in one of her many wars, Hostilius proved his hostility and had him tied to chariots and torn apart. This was too much even for the bellicose Roman gods, and they killed him with a bolt of lightning. 

Perhaps all of this is simply a tale well told---our only source is Livy---but it fits perfectly with the nature of the ancient Romans. Perhaps it belongs in the same category as Washington and the Cherry tree and Honest Abe splitting rails. If the tale is not true, it well ought to be. 

I wonder what sort of stories people 2000 years from now will tell about Americans. Perhaps there will be whole sagas about Obama the Great. Or a collection of weird tales about the Clintons and a stained dress---though no one by then will believe it. Or perhaps they will tell the sad and somewhat absurd tale of a once free people who allowed their liberty to be stolen from them and so gradually fell into poverty and slavery. 

If so, the Romans would understand, as the same thing happened to them.

 

Shadows and Dust

Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!

—Ecclesiastes

If there is one truth of our earthly life, it is the utter worthlessness of worldly glory, power and fame. But do not believe me. Ask those who have had it. Their stories speak of woe and waste, of ashes and dust. The advice they give is older than The Wisdom of Amenemope (1000 BC):

Better poverty than riches, better one loaf when the heart is joyous than riches in unhappiness.

Read the words of Tabi-utul-Enlil, king of ancient Nippur who ruled 4500 years ago:

Pollution has befallen me, my eyes see not, my ears hear not.

My body grows dark with death. Like a net trouble has covered me.

Two thousand years later Ashurbanipal (d. 626 BC), the mighty Assyrian king who boasted that his ”war chariots crushed man and beast,” cried out from his death bed:

Why have sickness and misery befallen me?

I cannot do away with strife in my country and in my family.

Illness of body and mind bow me down.

With cries of woe I bring my days to en end.

At his death (138) the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the most powerful man on earth at the time of his empire’s greatest wealth and prominence, left behind this poem:

My Soul, pretty and flitting,

the Guest and partner of my clay,

Where will you now go?

Never to play again, never to play.

Another emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius wrote this amid the horrors of the Second Marcomannic War (167):

Observe how fleeting and worthless human things are! Today a man, tomorrow ashes. The whole s pace of a man’s life is little, but yet it is filled with trouble

…and with what a wretched body it must be passed!

Abd-er-Rahman II was the most powerful man of his time, yet right before he died (961) he wrote a summation of his life:

I have ruled 50 years in victory and peace.

Riches and honors have waited upon me;

all earthly blessings have come my way.

I have counted all of those days that I have been happy,

they number 14.

Oh man! place not confidence in this world!

Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II had as much power over his kingdom as any modern potentate does over his own. Yet even as Cortez began his march to Tenochtitlan (1519) the Aztec would write

I am to pass away like a faded flower,

My fame will be nothing,

My fame on earth will vanish…

Was all the gold and finery but dew on the meadows?

Homer had already answered the Aztec 2300 years earlier. In The Iliad Achilles says to Lycaon before he kills him

Why do you cry? Your tears are in vain. Look at me! Am I not beautiful and tall,

sprung from a goddess? Yet, Death looms over me.

A day is coming when an unknown hand will lay me dead.

And so it did.

My conclusion to all of this? By all means do not be afraid of money and fame and power, but if you do not feed the hungry and clothe the naked and comfort the widow and orphan all this ‘getting’ will be a colossal waste—of your time, of your life, and not just on earth but for all Eternity. Ask those experts who thought they had everything, yet in the end it all amounted to nothing but shadows and dust.

Listen to Shelly’s anti-hero and take heed:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,

Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains.

Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Trust not in earthly awards and praise. Be as Aristides who, when publicly acclaimed in the Athenian Assembly, wondered to himself what evil he had done.

Better yet, take the Carpenter’s advice and put your treasure where moth and worm cannot go. And do not despair. For He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end.

Unlike all those kingdoms mentioned above. Unlike ours as well.

 

Our Last Splendid Little War

Wars are messy things. Always have been. You get in one for some reason or other, and you either emerge victorious, defeated or in some kind of murky area in between. We have not been defeated in war, but we have had some shaky outcomes.

A short history of American wars shows examples of each. Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War are murky and much remains unsettled. The outcome of our latest foray into Iraq is still to be determined. Even the World Wars solved only part of the issues involved. The War for American Independence did not end at Yorktown (1781) but dragged on hot and cold until the Battle of New Orleans (1815). The so-called ‘Cuban Missle Crisis’ was in reality a tremendous strategic failure, the fallout from which we and the Cuban people still suffer. Our many invasions of Central America amounted to practically nothing but a bunch of medals for Smedley Butler.

Still, all things considered the fact is that America has been more successful at war making than any society since Rome. We do not shy away from a fight—or at least our real men do not.

We don’t want to fight
But, by Jingo, if we do,
We’ve got the ships,
We’ve got the men,
We’ve got the money, too.

Such words spoken today would send the soft-bellied and timorous males of our Northeastern states into a bedwetting tizzy.

We have gone to war for all sorts of reasons, some honorable, some not. Some of our wars actually made us money, others were costly indeed. Some succeeded wildly beyond all expectations. Such was our last unabashedly imperialist war, one that showed our capacity for war making at its grandest.

It was tremendously successful at all points. It gained us huge swaths of land from Texas to California. There was astounding bravery on both sides. It involved shady characters, treason, our largest amphibious operation before D-Day and a cast of amazingly competent officers who would a few years after turn their abilities upon each other.

That war was the Mexican-American War (1846-48). 

The roots of the Mexican-American War lie in Texas when that place was part of Mexico. After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 she inherited all the Spanish possessions from Central America to California. Mexico had the misfortune to be a neighbor to the most expansionist people in history, the Americans. We turned a hungry eye toward all those nearly empty spaces in Texas.

The Mexican government desired to populate Texas, but the Mexicans themselves preferred the land further south. So Mexico offered free land to settlers from the US on the conditions that: they learn Spanish, become citizens of Mexico, leave their slaves at home and join the Catholic Church.

A great deal indeed, and Americans poured in with their slaves, refused to learn Spanish, remained anti-Catholic and always thought of themselves as citizens of some future Republic of Texas. The results were the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Formerly Mexican Texas become the Lone Star Republic. It existed from 1836 until 1845.

Of course Mexico simmered over this theft of territory. She threatened that any American annexation of Texas would result in war. The border areas between Texas, Mexico and the US remained in dispute. Sooner or later some hot-head would come along and once again set the land on fire with war.

That hot-head arrived in the person of James K. Polk, president of the US (1844-48). You might not have heard of him, but he was the most successful president in our history. He achieved every one of his aims, served his promised one term and then died three months after leaving office. Would that every US president did likewise.

Historians even today disagree on the exact machinations of Polk which led to war with Mexico. He never hid his intent to annex California and sent diplomat John Slidell to negotiate with the Mexican government for the purchase of not just California but New Mexico as well. To put pressure upon Mexico Polk also sent general Zachary Taylor to the disputed border areas of Texas.

This was an intolerable affront to Mexico, and her forces responded by invading the disputed territory and killing 11 Americans. Bad mistake. Now Polk could claim that Mexico “invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil.” Never mind the dubiousness of this claim, the war hawks in congress whooped with glee. Polk had his war.

It was fought on a number of fronts. California and New Mexico were won before the year was out. At the same time Zachary Taylor advanced into Mexico proper even before war was declared and defeated the Mexicans in two hard fought battles, one of which involved hand-to-hand fighting.

As Taylor marched south there were some comical episodes. The local damsels used their God-given talents and took to bathing in the nude when American forces passed by. Soldiers being soldiers, some found such obvious delights impossible to resist and so broke ranks for some sinful refreshment.

Some Irish-Americans deserted the US Army. They saw Mexicans as fellow Catholics rather than enemies, and hundreds eventually joined up with Mexicans in the ill-famed Saint Patrick’s Battalion (‘Los San Patricios’). Those that survived annihilation at the hands of fellow Americans were hung by their Irish necks as the US flag was raised over the Mexican castle of Chapultepec (September 12, 1847). Right before they dropped into oblivion they yelled in unison, “Hurrah!” They were really Americans after all.

Polk now tried some unsavory skullduggery by using a master of unsavory skullduggery, Antonio López de Santa Anna, he of Alamo and Goliad infamy. This pest was living in Cuba after a number of political antics in Mexico led to his self-imposed exile. Polk was outsmarted by this slippery fellow, who maneuvered his way through American lines with a promise to negotiate and end to the war. Santa Anna then took command of all Mexican forces and fought the US forces that had invaded his country.

All this scheming was to no avail for the Mexicans were defeated everywhere and at all points. The common Mexican soldier fought magnificently but was cursed by incompetent leadership and haphazard discipline. They had snazzy uniforms, though.

Old Zach’s at Monterrey,
Bring out your Santa Anner:
For every time we raise a gun,
Down goes a Mexicaner.

As Taylor advanced through northern Mexico Polk sent another general, Winfield Scott, to attempt an amphibious landing at Veracruz. This succeeded. With Scott were Lee and Meade who 16 years later would meet again on opposing sides at Gettysburg. The Americans then followed the route laid down by Cortez more than 300 years before, with the same result. Mexico City was taken on September 15, 1847, giving to the US Marine Corps their ‘halls of Montezuma.’

One curious thing took place at Chapultepec Castle. The teenage cadets there defied orders to retreat and fought the invading Americans until every one of them was killed. Legend has it that the last one wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and jumped to his death. Here are the names of these Niños Héroes: Juan de la Barrera, Juan Escutia, Francisco Márquez, Agustín Melgar, Fernando Montes de Oca and Vicente Suárez . Boys, you done good.

Santa Anna and his generals saw the fall of Chapultepec. Santa Anna lamented, “I believe that if we were to plant our batteries in Hell the damned yankees would take them from us.” One of his officers said, “God is a yankee.”

The war cost 13,000 American lives, but mostly from disease. Only 1700 died in combat. Mexico lost 25,000 men and half her territory. We gave the Mexicans a sop of 18 million dollars which they promptly wasted. Some things never change.

Some of the officers who fought were against the war, most notably Ulysses S. Grant. He wrote the following in 1880.

The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.

Perhaps the Lord worked this way. I have no idea. But the US Civil War was really about something far more evil than mere imperialism.

There are some excellent lessons we can learn from the Mexican-American War. My favorites are: take the war to the enemy, advance on several fronts and raise the American flag high above the enemy capital after he is defeated.

Those were the days.

 

Dangerous Nation

Yet another ‘Americans are hated’ poll has been released.

Israel, Iran and the United States are the countries with the most negative image in a globe-spanning survey of attitudes toward 12 major countries. 

Israel is hated because her people are ‘the Chosen’ of God to bring His law to fallen mankind. The entire history of the Jewish race culminates in one man, Jesus by name. So the Jews are twice hated, for being the Chosen and because Jesus is a Jew. Of course, Jesus and His followers are hated too, but that is another essay for another time.

And those nations who hate Israel should take care indeed. All nations since the Canaanites who have done so have been wiped off the map and into History’s ash-heap, the USSR being only the latest example. The Palestinians are so chock full of Jew hatred that their entire lives and being, every moment of every hour of every day, are taken up by it. If you have ever wondered why these dreadful people are the most degraded on earth you may wonder no more.

Iran is hated because she is hateful. Nothing comes from that poisoned land but bile, bitterness, terror, murder, tyranny, apocalyptic warnings and goof-ball anti-Semitism. She makes war upon her own people, half of whom are not Iranian but Kurdish and Azeri. She makes war upon Jews whenever and wherever she can get to them. She has made war upon Americans since 1979 and has never paid a price for the killing of hundreds of our fellows. Iran is a nation that simply begs—demands—destruction. Ask and you shall receive.

And what of America. Why is she hated? Easy answer: She is not. She is feared and envied. There are most excellent reasons for this.

Fear of our new nation began even as she was busy defeating the most powerful empire of the day, the British. One Frenchman expressed this before the war started.

I believe not only that this country will emancipate itself from the Crown of England, but that in the course of time it will invade all dominions that the European powers possess in America, on the main land as well as in the islands.

Good call, for that is exactly what America did. One European wrote after the war that “the American Revolution marked an enormous turning point in the entire history of the human race.” Another said that “America would someday, in its turn predominate over Europe.” Prescient words, for they all came to pass.

Europe before the French Revolution (1789) was composed mainly of monarchies who naturally detested any nation that might upset things. And America was a nation whose entire reason for existence was to upset things. She was and is truly a ‘dangerous nation.’

She was and is dangerous to befriend. Look what happened to France after she helped us toss out the British. She became infected with the attitudes of the young Americans and began her own revolution which resulted in Napoleon. This ‘disturber of the world’ invaded Spain (1806) and destroyed the monarchy there, beginning the great earthquake in international relations that would by 1824 end Spain’s empire in America. All of this was caused by monarchial France in 1777 deciding to ally herself with the Americans. The direct result was her own destruction, the destruction of the Spanish Empire, the elimination of a host of European monarchies and the creation of new republics south of the Rio Grande.

As I write these words the antiquated monarchies of the Islamic Middle East are learning this painful lesson about spending quality time with America. Even in the homeland of Islam the mere association with Americans has started that kingdom on the path to what will be its destruction. Osama bin-Laden was right to fear our presence in his dreary homeland. What is left of his movement is right to fear America now.

We were and are dangerous to oppose. For our first 100 years we went to war with France, England, Spain, scores of Indian tribes and Barbary Pirates, and we rattled our saber at many more. Our next 100 years saw us take the field against Mexico, Spain again—some people never learn—more Indian tribes, Germany twice—some people never learn—Italy, the USSR, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Mexico again—some people never learn—Nicaragua and a whole bunch of Caribbean islands.

We are only into 20 years of our next 100 and we have already gone to war with Saddam twice—some people never learn—Panama, Somalia and Afghanistan. And there are yet wars brewing in Syria and Iran. And all this time we have rattled our sabers yet again at an entire host of tyrannical regimes.

Think what you will at all of this war making, but remember that our enemies usually have the unpleasant habit of disappearing from the map. Most of our wars have led to the extinction of despotism and the installation of democracy—in Japan, in France, in Eastern Europe, in Germany, in Iraq, in Afghanistan—and the freeing of dozens of nations from dictators. We like doing this. We are quite good at it.

And nobody else is in this business of freeing peoples. Like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, it is an American franchise. Let’s call it ‘Peace And Freedom Through Warmongering.’ And like all American franchises we export this business everywhere we go. Just in the past 4 years America has freed 50,000,000 human beings from bondage—almost twenty times the number that Moses freed—and we have just begun.

And so what if the BBC has yet another ‘report’ about hatred of America? In the words of that true and great American philosopher Alfred E. Newman, “What, me worry?”

The effete and decayed elites of the BBC interview the effete and decayed elites of Europe and then compare notes with the effete and decayed elites of the American media. And surprise, surprise! They all agree! The world hates America!

No. It is the effete and decayed elites of the word who hate America. The people of the world—let’s see, that would be about 7 billion white, brown and black folk—desire America. Else, why do they wish to come here?

America’s own effete and decayed elites in their heart of hearts are really Europeans. You know the sort, the world-weary and decadent types who hang out in Parisian cafes, sip Perrier and congregate like maggots on a corpse among their kind in Davos and discuss the finer points of Nietzsche and Sartre. They lament that America has been turned over to the Christian fascist Bush and his pals in Texas. They yearn for the ‘good old days’ when America turned her supplicant face toward Europe for proper instruction.

Fools. America only turned her face toward Europe to oppose it. It is America that has invaded Europe with ideas and arms and subjected it to ‘proper instruction.’ We now only turn toward old and decadent Europe because we rather like its wine and cheese and coffee makers. And the Europeans are only to happy to supply us with these things. After all, that is what servants do.

What Metternich himself wrote about America almost 200 years ago could have been written today by—you guessed it—the effete and decayed elites of the world.

If this flood of evil doctrines and pernicious examples should extend… what would become of the moral force of our governments…?

Easy answer, Metternich: Nothing will become of it. The ‘the moral force’ of the Europe you admired is spent. It wasted its time and imaginings on the silly gibberings of Rousseau and Voltaire. It squandered its energies on nazism and fascism and socialism and communism. It sacrificed its best in the trenches of WW I. It gave over the Chosen to the ovens of the Third Reich.

Europe today is a place of vanished grandeur, a place that today cannot rouse itself for self-defense, that cannot even excite itself enough to deposit the results of its love-making where they are supposed to go rather than into little plastic bags, a place whose churches are as empty as its wombs. Nothing so explains European self-loathing and self-hatred than this habit of avoiding and despising the creation of more Europeans. 

The effete and decayed elites of the world can neither make love nor war. Americans make love and war—and as often as we can, and at the same time. We are good at both.

So there you have it, the reason why America is hated by the effete and decayed metrosexual elites of the world. Those eunuchs of London and New York and Boston and Davos and Paris really hate themselves. And they, like some grotesque virus, would spread this hatred—this sickness of their souls—to every corner of the globe.

Thus the true reason for the existence of the EU and the UN, both little more than dreary and corrupt social clubs where the world’s intellectual debris can meet and quiver over the ambitions of the most dynamic people in history. If you have ever wondered why those dreadful places are so anti-American, wonder no more.

I leave you with the words of John Quincy Adams (1817).

The universal feeling of Europe in witnessing the gigantic growth of our population and power is that we shall, if united, become a very dangerous member of the society of nations.

You tell ‘em Quincy.

 

Dreams and Blood

The most astounding event in history was the discovery of the New World. From it emerged great crimes and marvels.

Columbus ‘sailed the ocean blue’ during the century and a half that began when the Turk broke through the walls of Constantinople (1453) and ended with the annihilation of the Spanish Armada (1588). It was an amazing era, one chock-full of earth-shattering events and men of renown.

Even a partial list astonishes our soft, feminized and trivial age. The destruction of Muslim power in Spain, the religious radical Martin Luther, the monster and heretic Henry VIII, the battle of Lepanto, the rule of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the sinking of the Spanish Armada, the violent end of that violent epoch we call the Renaissance, the defeat of the Golden Horde by Muscovy—truly an era of gods and devils. Out of this catalogue of creation and destruction came our modern times.

But nothing in that age or any other age could possibly have the effects that the discovery of the New World had. It is difficult to recapture today the confusion, terror, rumor and excitement that commenced when Columbus returned to Europe. Imagine if the same thing happened today, that there was discovered on earth an entirely new land the size of our own, populated with strange humans who lived in exotic cities. Imagine if the dream world of Atlantis were suddenly found, not in ruins but as a real place, resplendent and civilized, and inhabited by men like us.

Quite right. Such a thing would be unbelievable—literally. The human mind, being a finite thing, can in no way comprehend anything like this. And neither did any comprehended it 500 years ago. Even the imagination of  the great discoverer himself failed him. He went to his death believing he had reached China, the oldest of the Old World. It took years for the mind of man to fully grasp what Columbus had found.

And it was a feat not of reason but of imagination, one of poetry even. For it was the lyricists of El Cid and Amadis of Gaul who had already imagined new and fantastic lands hundreds of years before they actually appeared. Each Spaniard carried such dream-like tales in his very soul. By the dawn of the 1500s the Spanish poets had unknowingly prepared the Spanish mind for what would soon be revealed by the conquistadors. Love them or hate them—and these violent and jaw-droppingly bold men cause only these two emotions—they were certainly romantics. For only a romantic could possibly desire to cross a vast sea and venture into a ‘wild and weird clime lying most sublime, out of space, out of time.’

And like all true romantics these conquistadors came not just with fantasies but with swords. For they intended to subdue whatever peoples they found. And the timing was perfect: The year 1492 witnessed the end of the reconquista, the final defeat of Islam on the Iberian peninsula. This war had lasted 750 years. At the precise moment when the king of Spain was concerned over what to do with thousands of experienced and efficiently lethal soldiers there came word from Columbus. Here was the perfect solution to the problem of having to find employment for these men.

These Spaniards went to the New World not to ‘scratch the earth as a peasant’ but to amass wealth and to gain reputations—exactly what they had achieved during the long war with Islam. Each one wanted to be an ‘hijo de algo’—a ‘son of somebody’—hence the word hidalgo. These fellows were unusually bold even when measured by the standards of the heroic era in which they lived. They were mere hundreds yet they subdued millions, an event unequaled in any page of history.

The results of such boldness can scarcely be calculated even today. Of all the commotion that began from the moment Columbus set foot in the New World two great events stand out. One was the complete and utter destruction of all Native American cultures. The other was the greatest migration in history, the bringing to the New World of the black man. The first event led to the second.

By such dreams and blood was this New World born.

 

Not a Chance in Hell

The New World Indians—all of them from Aztec to Maya to Inca to Sioux to Iroquois—were Stone Age people when the Europeans arrived. From architecture to war making to record keeping to scientific observation to engineering to physics to chemistry the Europeans were manifestly superior. No Stone Age peoples could survive the arrival of a literate warrior class armed with steel and gunpowder and imbued with the heritage of Greece and Rome. To pretend otherwise is to ignore all that we know of civilization as it developed in the New World.

Certainly this goes against the grain of modern teaching, a method that seeks to find something—anything—that can prove our present-day American civilization as inferior to that of the Indians. It is part and parcel of the mentality that denigrates ‘dead white males’ like Christopher Colombus. It is of course a lost cause, which leads its proponents into flights of fantasy. I have worked with such in my profession, and they are an entertaining sort though entirely deluded.

It is a simple task to write of the contributions to civilization of the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans and so on. Many of these things we use today. But what of the contributions of those who inhabited the New World? Except for chocolate and the concept of zero, where are they? Where are the Native American equivalents of Hammurabi or Aristotle or Pericles or Archimedes or Sophocles or Aquinas or Locke?

The great Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations were certainly not sterile ones. One visit to their ancient citadels—Tikal and Machu Picchu come to mind—will convince. But their cultural artifacts lagged far behind even the rudest of the Europeans. The cultural level of the Indians of 1500 AD was below that of the Sumerians of 3600 BC.

The Indian societies were static and had no technological, philosophical or cultural answer when faced with the most dynamic civilization on earth, the Europeans of the 1500s. The Indians all went under, and rather rapidly at that.

The moral universe in which the Mesoamericans lived was a terrifying one, even for the ruling elite, and far different from that inhabited by the Europeans. Defeat and slavery, immolation and sacrifice: these could happen at the whim of the ruler. Recall that some people were doomed from birth to be slaughtered upon the temple altars. There was no appeal and no escape.

The Andean civilizations were not quite so frightening but were just as addicted to enslavement, conquest, random sacrifice and dictatorship as anything in Mesoamerica. And their treatment of prisoners of war was just as horrendous as anything practiced by the Aztecs.

Native American civilizations developed entirely separate from those that developed around the Mediterranean. Unless the Mormons are correct none were affected at all by any of the great monotheisms of Judaism and Christianity, especially by the latter with its theology of Atonement and Salvation. None experienced anything like a Renaissance or Age of Discovery or Enlightenment.

None was at all curious about lands further a field. None rose above its confusing pantheon of competing deities. None had any desire to understand the natural world but instead was satisfied with a crude and fearful propitiation of its gods. None had any real idea of historiography or literature. None demonstrated any understanding of wealth creation.

And none was in any condition to resist the manifestly superior culture of Spain. Thus societies of millions were utterly destroyed by a few hundred Spaniards. We must always remember that it was the Spaniards at the gates of Tenochtitlan and Cuzco and not the Aztecs or Inca at the gates of Madrid.

Sometimes I wonder how these civilizations might have evolved with no European influence, or if Europe arrived, say, 100 years later than it did. Some writers imagine mature and confident Indigenous societies able to compete with Europeans. But there is not a shred of evidence for this possibility.

We must remember that the end result of 3500 years of Mesoamerican civilization was the Aztecs. Certainly no society ever deserved destruction more than they did. The waste involved in the slaughter of tens of thousands of human beings every year led not to high civilization but to decay.

It is impossible to regard this culmination of Mesoamerican civilization—with its bloodlettings, its savagery, its cannibalism, its crazed and demonic gods, its routine practice of sodomy, its racks of skulls, its filth-encrusted temples—as anything but horrific. It was certainly seen so by all the Indians who had the misfortune to live next to it. Could even the most base and cynical among us imagine such a regime as the Aztecs existing today?

Whatever the defects of European civilization in the 1500s it could boast of no pyramids of skulls or mile-long lines of victims making their way to European altars. Such nightmarish exactions would not have been and could not have been tolerated in Spain or anywhere in Europe.

Certainly no present-day hater of Western Civilization, no matter how addled with political correctness, would choose to live under any regime that based itself on the common practices of Native American societies.

 

The End of Civilization

Much ink has been spilled about the end of civilization since Gibbon wrote his Decline and Fall. Christians fret and write about the End Times, environmentalists fret and write about global warming, statesmen fret and write about the end of the world as we know it. Many a bright fellow today frets and writes that our present times resemble ‘the fall of Rome.’

Not so fast—or at least, not just yet.

First, some historical house cleaning.

When we say ‘the fall of Rome’ we usually mean some horrible, cataclysmic event that ended Roman civilization in Europe and brought to power hordes of barbarians and the Dark Ages.

There is a slight problem with this. There never was a ‘horrible, cataclysmic event that ended Roman civilization in Europe and brought to power hordes of barbarians and the Dark Ages.’

What we call the fall of Rome was in actuality a gradual process that spanned 300 years. In Will Durant’s words,

Some nations have not lasted as long as Rome fell.

We date the fall of Rome—more precisely, the fall of the Western Empire—to September 4, 476 AD. What terrifying thing happened on that day? Simply this: a barbarian chieftain named Odoacer grabbed the crown from the last Roman emperor—a callow lad named Romulus Augustulus—and called himself the King of Italy. That’s it.

The grass continued green, the sky continued blue, the wind continued to blow. As for the great mass of humanity on that day, things continued along just as they had always done. No one woke up that morning and mourned, “No! Rome has fallen!” We know that

Odoacer retained the Roman administration, senate, law and tax system of Italy intact. In return, he won a high level of support from the senate and people.

This does not quite measure up to a cataclysm, does it?

And just so you know: Roman civilization in the East lasted another 1000 years. Not too shabby for ‘the fall of Rome.’

Of course, there were doom and gloom types then as now. Here is Cyprian writing around 250 AD.

You must know that the world has grown old, and does not remain in its former vigor. It bears witness to its own decline. The rainfall and the sun’s warmth are both diminishing; the metals are nearly exhausted; the farmer is failing in his fields.

It seems there were environmentalist pests even back then.

Civilization seldom disappears in an instant. It slowly oozes away into torpor, like Europe is doing today. One ruling class is replaced by another ruling class, some cultural artifacts are abandoned, others are adopted. The old ways fade away so slowly that no one notices except wild-eyed Cassandras. Yeats’ warning that

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

comes true, alas, but usually over much time—centuries in fact.

The history of societies that vanished overnight or nearly so is actually quite short. In fact, I can put them all in this blog essay. How cool is that!

History began in Mesopotamia, the same place where the US military is currently engaged in knocking Arab heads together. Around 3600 BC all the cool stuff that we call ‘civilization’ popped up at about the same time—the arch, city planning, politics, irrigation, animal domestication, metallurgy, writing, the military phalanx, agriculture and beer making.

Things went swimmingly more or less even though Sargon the Great (2334-2279) came along and united much of the region by force—creating the first empire, in fact—but there was no ‘fall of civilization.’ There was no ‘slouching toward Bethlehem’ or any earth-shattering cataclysm.

Here is a map of the region. If it looks familiar, it should. The same area that is such a pain in the neck today was a pain in the neck then.

The first record we have of a great fall of civilizations happened because of—now hold on to your hat—climate change! But before you head to the store to rent An Inconvenient Truth know that this disaster happened because of a volcano, not from anything man did.

Sometime between 1600-1400 BC was perhaps the greatest explosion in history, the eruption of Thera. In an instant every civilization bordering the Eastern Mediterranean suffered a monstrous catastrophe. Egypt, Phoenicia, Crete, Mycenae, the Hittites, Troy all either went under soon after or suffered grievously.

Earthquakes, darkened skies, ruined agriculture and tremendous tsunamis one hundred feet high led to destroyed cities, vanished civilizations, massive famines, a vast movement of peoples and warfare among the survivors that lasted in one form or another for hundreds of years.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned..

It was the greatest single event in history, an astounding blast four times greater than Krakatoa. It ended the world as it was then known. And it happened literally in the flash of en eye. Nobody then living escaped its effects. Even in China the explosion caused the collapse of the Xia dynasty due to a

yellow fog, a dim sun, then three suns, frost in July, famine, and the withering of all five cereals.

And there was not a damn thing anyone could have done to prevent it. No statesman, no invention, no philosopher, no ideology, no wisdom, no cleverness, no poet, no scientist, no general could have done anything—all of them went down.

Compared to the eruption of Thera the fall of Rome was a mere trifle, the destruction of Nineveh (612 BC) a common affair, the irruptions of the Moslems in the 7th century and the Mongols in the 13th nothing more than lengthy migrations.

So much of our heritage comes out of this. The fall of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, the Hyksos invasion of Egypt, Joseph becoming the vizier of Pharaoh, the Exodus, the formation and migration of the ‘Sea Peoples’, the Trojan War, the Iliad and the Odyssey, the struggle between the Hebrews and the Philistines, the legends of Atlantis—all of these very possibly had their genesis in the explosion of Thera.

What actually happened in our world 3500 years ago dwarfs even the most wild-eyed predictions of the most addled and gibbering global warming fanatic of today.

But the result of Thera was not in any sense the complete and utter end of civilization. For civilization proved remarkably resilient. There were a few hundred years of tough times when nations tottered and fell, and then appears Israel and Assyria and Babylon reborn and Persia and Greece and Rome—but you get the picture.

The earth threw at man the worst it could and man survived—and thrived. When some environmentalist begins to babble about the end of the world you need merely say to him, ‘Been there. Done that.’

And so the next time some tiresome historian, moralist or pundit waxes on and on about some lessons to be learned about ‘the fall of Rome’ just remember that things could be much, much worse than what happened during that minor little episode.

And just what can we do to prevent another Thera-type explosion?

Nothing.

 

The Shape of Things to Come

Demographics is not an exciting field. It numbs with numbers and percentages and statistics. Give me Military History any time.

Yet behind demographics is hidden the future. What we will be in a generation as a people and a nation depends right now on the population of our nurseries and kindergartens and the type and number of our immigrants legal and otherwise.

Michael Barone went over these numbers in an recent essay. His conclusions were examined in another piece by J.R. Dunn. What they provide is a glimpse of the United States in ten or twenty years—or fewer.

Here are the outlines.

Our great costal megalopolises—San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Boston—are becoming magnets for immigrants. These folks are mainly Latin American and represent a cultural and political heritage not at all like our own. South of the Rio Grande—where I lived and worked for 14 years—the governing style is the politics of the mass, of the crowd. It is common for Latins to express themselves politically not as Americans do in the privacy of the voting booth, but in the teeming multitudes of the street. We saw this in those huge demonstrations by millions of illegals on May 1 this year and last year. Many American cities on those days resembled Mexico City and Buenos Aires.

These immigrants tend to be unskilled at both English and wealth creation. Thus they gravitate toward those type of politicians whom they recognize from the home country—rabble-rousers, demagogues and machine politicos who garner support through apportionment of jobs and government largesse. These immigrants will be looking for an American version of Juan Perón or Haya de la Torre—and such creatures will arise among them.

One result of this is the flight of native-born Americans from these cities to the heartland and to the South. Thus is hastened the erosion of American political traditions and their replacement by Latin American political traditions.

Barone sees the obvious conclusion to all this demographic shifting.

The nation’s center of gravity is shifting: Dallas is now larger than San Francisco, Houston is now larger than Detroit, Atlanta is now larger than Boston, Charlotte is now larger than Milwaukee.

But there is more.

The result is that these Coastal Megalopolises are increasingly a two-tiered society, with large affluent populations happily contemplating (at least until recently) their rapidly rising housing values, and a large, mostly immigrant working class working at low wages and struggling to move up the economic ladder. The economic divide in New York and Los Angeles is starting to look like the economic divide in Mexico City and São Paulo.

In other words, those coastal cities are becoming third-world megalopolises—our own versions of Lima, Quito and Guatemala City. They are losing what made them American. They are becoming foreign lands populated by foreign peoples.

We are reverting to the type of sectionalism that so marked our history from 1800 to the Civil War. Just as in those days it will become more and more difficult to govern such disparate sections from the same central authority. Indeed, Washington DC itself is becoming for all intents and purposes a third-world city. It and its governing class there will have more in common with Los Angeles and New York than Oklahoma City and Dallas.

Does this mean civil war?

Dunn thinks not.

We can dismiss any thoughts of civil war. Conflicts in advanced societies aren’t settled that way, and a situation in which isolated urban areas are opposed to the country at large doesn’t lend itself to such an outcome.

Not so. One can if fact argue that civil wars occur more frequently in advanced societies. A short turn through the pages of world history shows this to be true.

From Sumer to our present age civilization has experienced civil war. Egypt had her Intermediate Periods, internecine conflict under Amenhotep IV and 100 years of civl wars under the last of the Ptolemies. Israel had a civil war under David and then many more after the death of Solomon. Assyria had her bloody and constant succession struggles. Persia fought several civil wars during the reign of Cambyses and again later when another Cyrus tried to seize the throne.

The entire history of Greece is incarnadined by civil wars both great and small, the Peloponnesian War being only one example. Rome experienced 300 years of civil wars under both the Republic and the Empire. Byzantium fought civil wars over icons and chariot racing. Islam began an entire series of civil wars over the proper successor to the caliphate almost before Mohammed was cold in the grave. These continued among Umayyads, Abbasids and Moors—and are with us today. During what we charmingly call the Renaissance was really a period of great political violence—civil wars indeed—among the Italian city-states.

The Holy Roman Empire, France, England, the Netherlands, the United States—and on and on until those great world wars that were really just European civil wars: World War I and Word War II.

Every civilization mentioned above was among the advanced societies of its day. Every one without fail went through one or more civil wars. Civil war seems then the natural state of affairs and times of civil peace remarkable and short-lived.

The tremendous cultural and political strains and rapidly changing demographics our nation is undergoing has exceeded our ability to heal. Thus the intense political struggles in Congress, in word and more and more in deed resembling the 1850s. The result then was the Civil War.

I am not immune to what these words mean. Our last Civil War killed 610,000 out of a population of 31 million. Perhaps any coming civil war will be shorter and less cruel.

Then again, perhaps not. Even if it is of equal horror and violence it will mean the deaths of 6,100,000 Americans.

 

How to Become a Slave

We have practiced this ‘civilization’ thing for 6600 years now. We still cannot make it work. All the problems of Ur, Lagash, Larsa and Uruk are still all the problems of America, France, Ecuador and China.

What gives? Why can we not get the damn thing right?

When one looks at every society that has existed since Sumer one sees a dreary grab-bag of tyrannies, despotic rulers, petty empires and grubby nations ruled by shambling murderers. Scarcely a free man is to be found anywhere. The main occupation of history’s rulers has been robbery and slave-hunting. It continues today.

And to make this dismal situation more dismal, every so often a roaring lion appears—a Sargon, a Tiglath-Pileser, a Nebuchadnezzar, a Darius, an Alexander, a Caesar, a Genghis, a Lenin—and in a burst of fury devours men and nations. He leaves his mark in burnt cities, stacks of corpses and ruined lands—and then he is gone. We marvel at such men and call them ‘great.’

Nothing much new under the sun.

Of all the cultures that have darkened the memories of men only a scant few have been of more value than a tinker’s damn. You can count them on your hands even with a few fingers missing. They are in order of appearance the Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, Western Europe and the English speaking nations.

That’s it.

The measure of a civilization—the only measure of a civilization—is freedom. And need I remind you that almost every one of history’s teeming billions was born, lived, fornicated and died in a state of servitude? That these men were mere instruments of the state? That they could scarcely raise themselves above the level of the barnyard animal?

A free man has the ability to say ‘no’ and the power to enforce it.

The first people to do this were the Hebrews. We may call them history’s first men. These folks did something entirely extraordinary in their day—and in our day. They denied the power of the state—in those days simply called pharaoh—to determine their fate. I am sure you know the rest of the story and of the help they received from their desert God, Yahweh by name.

Alas, but these Hebrews lost their freedom in the usual ways and became slaves of the state and of their own corrupted passions.

And just what are the usual ways a society passes from freedom into servitude?

The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.

Such were the fates of the Hebrew, Greek and Roman. Such is our own fate. And these have been the lucky ones. Most peoples never emerge from bondage.

And no, I will not guess where America is along this path. Decide for yourself.

A quick summation is this: A people free themselves from one state only to later fall into bondage to another. We freed ourselves from the state ruled by George III and are falling into bondage to another—our own.

I have written before that a state is good at only a few things: Keeping the streets safe, policing the seas and occasionally knocking foreign heads together. That’s it. Those things are the sum of the state’s competence. It is entirely beyond any state’s competence to raise families, educate a citizenry and regulate commerce.

We Americans have become accustomed to asking the state to do about anything. We elect and re-elect those politicos who promise us this, that and the other. When was the last time you heard of a politician who tried to win an election by promising never to provide anything to his constituents outside of the normal protections outlined in the Constitution?

Take your time to answer the question.

In the real world of American governance—a world we created—we want rulers who will give us stuff. And this stuff costs money. The only revenue the state has is taxes. And so taxes are raised while you either get poorer or work more. And so the state gets bigger, with more and more toiling minions put in place to carry out its functions. These toiling minions themselves—they are called ‘the bureaucracy’—have an interest in electing politicians who keep them at their desks and with fancy paychecks and privileges.

This is the reason for big government. A very similar pattern emerges in a study of history.

This process began among the Hebrews when the 12 tribes asked for a king. They were warned about kings and about the big government they bring. They did not listen.

This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you…(1 Samuel 8:11-18)

All of these dreary events came to pass. 

The Athenians went for big government once they elected to have a permanent fleet, which demanded permanent rowers, who then demanded more and more pay, which led to higher and higher taxes and more and more government—and slavery for both Greek and non-Greek.

The Romans went for big government after the 2nd Punic War (218-201 BC). Italy became flush with cash, which led the state, formerly a small thing, to amass huge power and responsibilities, power that eventually enslaved half the world and assumed responsibility for it.

Freedom seems to be a tenuous and frightening thing. When a once free man becomes fearful he is liable to turn over to the state the power to remove that fear. Whether the state actually carries out this responsibility is another thing. But that state, once given power, never relinquishes it.

Even with history before us with all of its lessons of freedom gained and lost, we simply refuse to listen. But neither did those ancient Hebrews even though it was God Himself who told them.

Taken as a whole perhaps the entire struggle of man to be free has been a colossal waste of time.

 

A Short Lesson in Anarchy

The function of government is a simple one. It is to provide security for life and property so that citizens can go about the business of their daily affairs.

Nothing more and nothing less.

If it did less anarchy would ensue. If it did more tyranny would ensue. We will deal with anarchy first. It is more fun, at least in the short run. And in the long run we are all dead.

We can see anarchy up close and personal in those failed nations where there is no real government to speak of. Then it is man against man as each seeks to supply the security that is unavailable by the normal means of government. In such cases we see security as simply a commodity. If its usual sources cannot supply it then a buyer will find another supplier. Thus men form armed gangs and roam about blasting to pieces any threat to their own safety.

See the streets of Mogadishu for a textbook case of government failure. Here we see a band of men who offered the security that government could not.

One might also review the Watts Riots in the US—a state of anarchy that, while temporary, revealed how the common man can act when the veil of government is ripped apart. Government, though, always manages to reclaim its power. Strangely—or perhaps not—the souce of authority during the Watts riots resembles the source of authority in Mogadishu. 

Such conditions can be described as ‘Hobbesian,’ a state of bellum omnium contra omnes—a war of all against all. Such a woeful situation usually leads to men crying out for someone to step in and put a stop to this state of nature. Thus the appearance of the ‘Man on Horseback,’ a man strong enough and with sufficient resources to overcome all others, crush the rule of many and institute a rule of one.

Such a situation existed in the Roman state after 200 AD or so. The army—easily the largest and most important arm of government—could no longer maintain order along the frontiers in Europe. Barbarous hordes had no trouble crossing into Rome proper and looting, raping and pillaging—performing those activities at which such louts have always excelled. Those Roman cities unlucky enough to be near the borders of empire suffered years of depredations.

True, when the army caught up with the invaders it defeated them, but such victories were temporary. The legions were busy running thither and yon from frontier city to frontier city trying to catch and destroy the barbarian hordes, but the barbarians simply were more fruitful than the Romans and multiplied with more frequency. Thus Roman cities, few of which had walls, were told by the authorities in Rome, Ravenna and Constantinople to see to their own security—and they did so.

Security now depended not on the imperial government but upon the local government. What we would call ‘mayors’ saw to the building of walls and the forming of local militias. After 400 AD or so these local leaders were the only remaining sources of security, the imperial power having drained away in wars civil and foreign. After 476 there was no imperial authority. All power was now local.

It would be as if Washington DC were suddenly extinguished in a cloud of nuclear dust and the state governments were the only remaining sources of authority. More than likely these states would form sectional confederations whose allegiances would shift as conditions allowed. In such a case the US military would either take power—probably with general approbation—or the military units would return to their own states and form small local armies.

This is what happened in Europe after the Western Empire dribbled away. The local authorities who could provide to the people what the central government could no longer supply became the sole sources of regional power. We call such authorities barons.

Such men might easily be equated with the landed aristocracy—also called barons—who appeared on the American frontier between 1840 and 1890. As American civilization pushed west and booted out the natives, towns were formed before any central or local government could have much influence. The local landowners were the only ones who could provide protection, and they often hired men like Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok to maintain order. Of course these land barons often fought among themselves just like their Medieval forbears had. And just like them, the American land barons were put out of the business of providing security when a stronger government came to be. These were the state governments. 

A similar fate happened to the Medieval barons. Naturally, baron competed with baron for land and resources. Such anarchy gradually allowed one baron to predominate over the others. We call such dominant barons kings. The territory under the control of these kings came to be called states. These states came to be called France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Britain—what we call Europe. Eerily or perhaps naturally, the borders of these European nations followed somewhat the frontiers of the old Roman provinces.

Thus we see how the anarchy that existed in the twilight of imperial Rome led at first to anarchy and then to the Medieval kings. This process took about 500 years. Much of this time was spent in extreme unpleasantness. Anarchy is never pleasant. Such a state cries out for a savior.

It is the natural desire of man to live securely. This is why men form governments—really just associations of other men who can provide that security. When that government no longer provides it men will seek out another provider—or to speak in economic terms, men will find another source of supply. Thus, a state of anarchy is always temporary—if 500 years can be called such.

To speak again in economic terms, the demand for security is extremely price inelastic—it will be demanded no matter its price. And sometimes that price is tyranny. And if you think anarchy harmful to life and property, wait until we deal with tyranny—about which I will write in due course.

 

 

Fun With History

Like a woman history beguiles and teases. She delights in surprising us with little oddities that cross space and time. One studies her and either laughs or cries.

Laughing is better.

There was a woman who began her life among the lowest classes. Even as a rather young girl she performed on stage as an actress and off stage as a prostitute. Men claimed that she was remarkably skilled. She was not above asking favors from the men who had purchased her public and private services. During one of her public performances she was seen by a man on his way up in society. He was entranced by her on stage and then again later off it.

They fell in love, a love that caused great scandal among the society in which the young man moved. More shocking indeed was when the man reached the pinnacle of power and brought along his courtesan, who then became his wife.

She proved to be a strong-willed women. Early in her husband’s career she made a crucial decision on her own that not only saved his life but his position. He had considered abandoning power and fleeing but his wife would have none of it. Because of her he remained in control until her death from cancer.

During her life and after her death she was both loved and hated. Some people called her a saint, others called her a whore. None doubted the effect she had upon the poor of society. Many adored her, women especially. For she had been a feminist before feminism, and had set up homes for women trapped in a life of poverty and sexual degradation.

Who is this woman?

She is Eva Peron (1919 – 1952).

eva.jpg

She is also the Byzantine Empress Theodora (500 – 548).

theodora.jpg

Would you like more? Of course you would.

There was a man who ruled his nation. A foreign enemy had invaded an ally of the man. He vowed revenge and arranged a coalition of somewhat unwilling allies and occupied part of his enemy’s land. His enemy remained in power, however. After the man was no longer at the head of his nation the enemy continued to make trouble in the region.

The man’s son came to power and expressed an interest in destroying his father’s enemy. Many were against such a plan, and the son had to greatly exert himself to acquire the support he requested. Some doubted that the son could ever do such a thing, for as a youth he had made some poor choices.

But none understood the strength of will of the son. Not only did he settle accounts with his allies, he invaded the enemy state and killed its leader. After putting down a number of rebellions in the region he set his sight upon those lands to the east, knowing full well that they had assisted his enemy and continued to cause mischief in the region.

Who is the father and who is the son?

The father is Philip II of Macedon (384 – 336 BC). The son is Alexander the Great (356 – 332 BC).

The father is also George H. Bush, the son George W. Bush.

Both fathers and sons made war in the region we call the Middle East. Where Americans today fight in Iraq once fought the phalanxes of Macedon, armies separated by 2300 years in time but brought together by geography. Alexander destroyed the Persian regime. So will George W. Bush.

Have a pleasant day. Spend it reading history.

 

 

Damn Yankees

When somebody tells you that Americans aren’t liked overseas you may at your whim laugh or ignore him. We were never liked overseas. Never, that is, by what passed for the ruling elites of the day. They always disdained and despised the young Americans. They still do.

Anyway, the only proper response to such a question is ‘Who cares?’ Really, should we go all weepy and school girlish if some effete Frenchman sniffs our way?

Of course, normal folks have always loved the US. They still do. They line up to get here. They cross shark infested waters to get here. They cross borders illegally to get here.

How many folks are begging, borrowing or stealing to get into Germany? France? Russia? China? Switzerland? Iran?

The reality is that our own effetes hang out with European effetes and share stories about how they both disdain America. They do not mean their America, the America of Manhattan and San Francisco, of Boston and Hollywood, but the ‘other America,’ that of cowboys and rednecks and Christians and gun lovers.

I revel in the effete disdain for that ‘other America.’ I would be very, very worried if these moral and physical weaklings thought otherwise. Never forget that men and nations are measured by their enemies as well as by their friends. To be despised by, say, The New York Times, is a mark of honor.

Besides being looked down upon by the effetes of the world, Americans have always been underestimated by them. In every single war since the French had forts in the Ohio River Valley, the elites of the world predicted defeat and humiliation for us New World folk. Even after the French loss in the French and Indian War (1756 - 63) those wise old Europeans said that it was the British who had won the war, that the ‘colonials’ were merely along for the ride, that they had contributed nothing of value.

Then along came our first war with Great Britain. There was laughter all around in all the right European circles. How could a rough and tumble bunch of militia and backwoods boys with no army to speak of, no training facilities, few canon, no discipline and no navy possibly beat the greatest empire in the world, an empire that had distinguished itself on battlefields across the globe, an empire whose navy prowled where it willed, an empire who already had 30,000 highly disciplined troops on American soil?

Then along came Ticonderoga. And Saratoga. And Yorktown.

Then the European effetes said we could never prevail against those pesky Barbary pirates. Why, even the British paid them tribute!

Then along came the march to ‘the shores of Tripoli.’

Then the British insisted on another round of warfare, the War of 1812. The effetes clucked, “Now the Brits will show them!” They had a point. The American navy had languished, the army had shrunk, and the Americans were up against the troops and the navy that had defeated Napoleon.

Then along came Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans (1815).

When Americans began to lust over all that Mexican land south of the Brazos and north of the Rio Grande—and all points west—the Europeans smirked. “How can those barbarous Americans possibly defeat the armies of Mexico, whose military traditions go all the way back to the Spanish Hapsburgs?”

Then they saw the US flag over the ramparts of Chapultepec castle (1847).

When we fought our Civil War the effetes of Europe laughed yet again. “See how that experiment in Republicanism has failed!” They called the North a bunch of merchants while the South was a chivalric and romantic ideal whose military traditions recalled the days of Ivanhoe.

Then along came Gettysburg and Sherman and Richmond and Appomattox.

During WW I it was doubted that the ‘yanks’ could do much against the Kaiser’s legions. During WW II Hitler laughed at America and the Japanese thought us barbarous weaklings. During the Cold War most of Europe’s elites could not imagine the US stopping Soviet aggression, yet alone defeating it.

During both Iraq wars the world’s effetes predicted ‘tens of thousands of body bags’ if the US invaded hallowed Islamic lands. The American invasion of Afghanistan was seen as the utmost folly. Why, even Alexander had had trouble there, as had the British. And those foolish Americans were invading during the Winter!

Those foolish Americans conquered the Taliban in a matter of weeks.

Since the 1700s those who were the movers and shakers of the world continually saw the enemies of America as near invincible, and America herself as a bumbling incompetent that needed a lesson in the power of the Old World elites.

Now the same type of cut-rate doomsayers who have always yammered about the coming defeat of America are issuing dire and apocalyptic warnings about military action against Iran. “Iran will send forth her hosts of terrorists around the globe to spread fire and death!” they say. “She will unleash 11,000 missiles!” they say. “She will shut down the oil supply for the entire globe!” they say.

Yawn. We have heard it all before. The reality of the thing is that Iran will suffer a total and comprehensive military and economic defeat—and it will be a quick one. There will be a short burst of outrage from the usual suspects, and then the world will continue along its merry way. Behind the scenes in every capital men in striped pants will express sighs of relief that Iran’s nuclear fantasies have been extinguished.

And then will come the next challenge to the US—perhaps from China. Or Russia. Or from some nation that today scarce anyone pays attention to. Really, the list of potential problems for the US is as endless as such a thing can be.

And America will win every battle but the last one.

Such is the way of empire. Such is the lesson of History.

 

Delusions of Self-Rule

What is it with our government and its push for democracy overseas? I can well understand the idealism of the thing, but the usefulness of it is something else.

Democracy and the republican forms of government it resembles have never been wide-spread or popular. The type of government that has occurred most often over space and time has been tyranny. One can easily argue that tyranny is the natural state of earthly man, that man can only arise from it with the greatest of exertions, and that even if that happy event occurs it is not long before man slides back into tyranny’s embrace.

Such is the dreary truth of History, a cursory reading of which reveals the following:

Democracy (‘just rule by the many’) is a function of that part of Southern and Western Europe that borders the Mediterranean. It never arose in Africa, Asia or among the American indigenous. It appears in Athens, like-minded Greek city-states and the early Roman Republic somewhere around 500 BC. It lasted in Greece with the usual ups and downs until the destruction of Thebes by Alexander in 335 BC. In Rome it survived until wide-spread anarchy demanded a Caesar. A Caesar came.

Democracy then disappeared on earth for 1000 years. It began to stir in Western Europe after the setting down of those pesky Norsemen after 900 AD or so. Secular types refuse to admit that it was the strengthening power of the popes that allowed even a crude democracy to return to earth, for it was these men who presented a counter-weight to the power of kings. Even the crudest of European monarchs were forced to admit that their earthly power had its limits, and those limits were put in place by the popes and the Eternal King they claimed to obey.

It was the spread of literacy after 1500 among the competing Western European kingdoms that allowed the history of Greece and Rome to become widely known. It was this knowledge, the Natural Law as laid down in the Old and New Testaments and the various political writers from Locke to Montesquieu that those men in Philadelphia used in 1787 to devise the longest lived written constitution in history.

Our Constitution created a Republic not a democracy. One can accurately but incompletely state that it was created by a landed aristocracy to protect its own rights and customs. One can also say that it was written to restrict democracy. The people were allowed to directly vote for those who would govern them only in the House. All other national offices were subject to indirect voting.

We have since greatly expanded democracy. The Senate has been since 1913 subject to the direct vote of the people. Some today clamor for the direct vote of the president as well, and call this an increase of freedom. It is nothing of the sort.

One may believe that an increase of democracy is a good thing, but then a man who says this must be innocent of history. What we see when democracy is so diluted by direct mass participation is not an increase of freedom but the approach of anarchy which always ends in tyranny. This is the real lessons from Greece and Rome, none of which were lost to our Founding Fathers.

As America becomes more democratic and thus less free it is curious that we seek to impose our type of government upon others, especially upon those nations least suited to any sort of democracy or freedom. This is most true among the Islamic nations, nations that from Mohammed to Saddam have never known anything other than dictatorships of a particularly crude type.

And please take note that whenever Islamic folk gather together it is not to demand freedom but to demand that their governments behead Jews and Christians. Do we really think such a degraded people can possibly understand liberty?

Pakistan is a case in point. We have here a nation of illiterate brutes governed by a cabal of the semi-educated who scarcely understand the manly art of handwashing after defecation. Yet our own government fantasizes  that these grubby and violent folk are somehow worthy of the inheritance of Hamilton and Madison.

President Bush told Pakistan’s president on Wednesday that he must hold parliamentary elections and step down as army leader.

You can’t be the president and the head of the military at the same time,” Bush said, describing a telephone call with Gen. Pervez Musharraf. “I had a very frank discussion with him.”

Being ‘the president and the head of the military at the same time’ is exactly the position held by all American presidents as well as by most leaders in history. But never mind that, what Bush is saying is that elections somehow matter in a place like Pakistan.

Elections scarcely matter in Chicago, let alone in Islamabad.

It is a common but wholly absurd assumption that elections equal freedom. What would you say of prisoners who could elect their warden?

Those nations who are members of that small club called ‘Western Civilization’ are the only nations suitable to any sort of democracy or republican government. Only in them has ever taken hold the notion that the people have the ability to rule themselves. Most civilizations in history would have found that idea ridiculous if not suicidal. Not even our own Founding Fathers completely trusted the people.

Yet we believe that somehow ‘elections’ are good for a people who have not yet emerged from their own Dark Ages, a people as ignorant of liberty as they are of soap.

You can believe if you want that such a people are ‘on the path of democracy.’ But such a belief rests upon some quite grand assumptions of the needs and desires of the great mass of humanity since Sumer.

The fact is that freedom best expresses itself in a quite limited democracy that is tremendously restricted by the demands of Natural Law. Such a form of self-rule is not at all suitable to most cultures.

To put the matter plainly, most peoples of most nations have neither had the ability nor the desire to govern themselves. For our own government to believe otherwise is silly. It took 2500 years for Western Civilization to arrive where it is today. Countries like Pakistan have not even begun the journey.

To ask such folks to rule themselves is like demanding of syphilitic toddlers that they run a marathon.

 

A Head of His Time

Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826) was an American original. The most used word to describe him is ‘polymath.’ We can safely define this as ‘a guy who knows a bunch of stuff and can do a bunch of things and has written a bunch of papers and has read a bunch of books and who can speak a bunch of languages.’ Quite the fellow he was.

We can also say with confidence that Jefferson was the first example in US history of that peculiar creature who came to such noisy and odiferous prominence in the 60s, the hippy. Such loose living and soap averse flotsam took much from Jefferson’s playbook, although he would most assuredly be aghast at the comparison.

But see for yourself.

Hippies were known for the desire to ‘go back to the land,’ as if in the simple pleasures of farming would be found peace, harmony and all good things—such as the cultivation of marijuana. Jefferson idolized the farmer and saw him as the backbone of American civilization. He also was quite expert of daily use of the mid-alerting drug of his times, wine.

We could in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.

Jefferson drank a bottle or more every day, a level of alcohol consumption that has become the norm among our modern political class.

Like the hippies, Jefferson distrusted ‘the man.’ He saw bankers and financiers as serving the needs only of a wealthy elite. He trusted ‘the common man’ perhaps too keenly, but none can deny Jefferson’s desire to keep power at the state rather than the federal level. He saw the local folks as better able to manage their affairs than all those Pooh-Bahs ensconced in Washington—sort of a proto-yelp of ‘power to the people!’

While John Lennon and the flower children only sang about revolution, Jefferson actually took part in one. One can argue that he believed in almost permanent revolution against established constitutional authority.

Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it is to be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.

And what dime-store revolutionary has not heard these Jeffersonian words?

The tree of liberty must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

In keeping with things hippy-like Jefferson never quite understood the use of capital in a market society. He was averse to large concentrations of wealth.

I hope we shall crush … in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

His views on wealth creation being never allowed him to create much of it himself. He was constantly in debt and was forced from time to time to sell many of his beloved books to pay his bills.

Jefferson was also a bit of a religious eccentric. No, he did not practice yoga or transcendental meditation like the crowd in Haight-Ashbury in the 60s but he did write his own version of the New Testament, called The Jefferson Bible.

Jefferson wished to extract the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists. In essence, Thomas Jefferson did not believe in Jesus’ divinity, the Trinity, the resurrection, miracles, or any other supernatural aspect described in the Bible.

Like the tie-dyed crowd of 40 years ago Jefferson had a less than meticulous sense of fashion. Rather than wear the stuffy and uncomfortable dress of his day Jefferson would appear Hugh Heffner-like in robe and slippers. And like that mover and shaker of the sexual revolution Jefferson was rumored to enjoy a bit of loose living on the side—if the stories of his sexual dalliances with his slave Sally Hemmings are to be believed.

Hippies romanticized the Native Americans and their communal way of life, but Jefferson was way ahead of them.

I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government, enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments.

To complete our comparison we must picture Jefferson not as strumming a guitar but as playing a violin, a habit he picked up as a young man. Perhaps he tried to get chicks with it.

So there you have it: Jefferson with his shoulder-length hair, wine in hand, dressed casually, waxing eloquently about Indians, practicing free love with Miss Hemmings, living beyond his means, speaking out against men of wealth and proclaiming power to the people.

He was a head of his time, and one cool dude.

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The American Road to Serfdom

This nation of ours scarcely resembles the one created ages ago in that Philadelphia room. One could argue that this is a Good Thing, that the changes made manifest in our government and economy have modernized what old Madison and Jefferson and all the rest of those dead men dreamed up long ago. One who argued thus would be a fool, what Aristotle would call ‘a natural slave’.

Nothing has been ‘modernized.’ Much has been destroyed, crushed, ruined.

Read for yourself our founding documents, and peruse the letters and lives of those early Americans. The undeniable impression is of a world lost and gone forever. What we once had in this nation was a government so unobtrusive and minimal that a normal man would never in his life encounter it outside of the Post Office. The word for such a condition is freedom. We Americans like to prattle on and on about freedom, about how that happy circumstance is the true natural state and yearning of man. “Man is born free,’ as the saying goes.

This is nonsense, a charming fable. Any world history text, properly read and understood, should disabuse one of that fantasy. The natural state of man is slavery. All states since Sumer, with a scant few exceptions, were dedicated to the proposition that all men were created to work and die at the behest of the government. The heads of states for the last 6000 years might be named Sargon or Tiglath-pileser or Alexander or Caligula or Louis, but the essentials of rule were the same.

This simple truth is what made the American experiment such a astounding thing. For the first and only time in the history of men a nation was conceived in the mind and brought into existence. Its overriding concern was the limitation of state power. The document brought forth was as perfect a conception of the relation between man and government as could be humanly possible. We forget that the Constitution is the longest surviving written constitution in history.

Something else that we have forgotten is that such a limitation of the state was based on self-control, of men keeping their desires and ambitions within certain boundaries. Before republican self-rule must come individual self-rule. When a man loses—abandons, actually—the ability to control his natural passions—passions for power, for lust, for expressions of ego and pride—this does not mean that the man will not be ruled. It means that other methods must be used to govern such an unruly man. Those other methods are state controls. The result is a loss of freedom for all men. Such a loss is imperceptible at first, but gradually such an encroaching servitude becomes clear to the remaining free men in the state.

These remaining free men, the remnant and descendants of those men in that Philadelphia room, do what they can to keep what freedoms remain. They write books. They form committees. They run for office. They give speeches. They begin magazines. They stand against the tide of history and yell, “Enough!”

All of this is commendable. All of this is useless. For once a state begins to expand it does not cease to do so. It simply takes more and more of private life and subsumes it under the auspices of the state. The proper analogy is a metastasizing cancer. The disease runs its course and kills the man. The man might resist and slow the onset of death, but eventually exhausts himself and expires. That is what nations do, they exhaust themselves and expire.

All of this is clear from a reading of History. In fact much of it could be contained in one simple phrase, ‘the road to serfdom’. It does little good for a free man to point this out, to remind his countrymen of the dangers of state power. The free man can even pull out some very recent examples of untrammeled government authority—of the monstrous Soviet state, of the absurdities of European socialism, of the gulag and the disappearance of freedom—but this is an appeal to Reason and Rationality. An unruly man has no interest in such things and does not respond to them. What he does respond to is comfort and security. And these the state promises in abundance.

It is obvious, really. To take just this election cycle: Who is promising a reduction in state power? Who is promising an elimination of government authority over our lives? We are promised the opposite, that our government will provide us all sorts of benefits from health to education to housing—and subsidies all around. One can search the Constitution in vain for the ability of our government to provide these things. And recall that very recently we have heard the leaders of this nation promise to take control of oil companies and seize their profits—but from where comes the power of the state to do this? From where comes the power to nationalize health care in this nation? From where comes the power to seize the wealth and property of free men?

And yet there is little outrage at such usurpations of freedom. Neither is their much outrage at the petty and the great corruptions among our men of affairs. Nothing seems too ambitious to these men. Can you recall the last time one of them was cast out of office? It is as if we enjoy—or worse, have become used to—being governed by immoral and corrupt men.

We once defeated the greatest political and economic power on earth over a mere pittance in taxes. Now we willingly bend our knees to a coming 50 percent combined tax rate. And we dare to call ourselves free men.

It was written of the Athenian state that once 51 percent of the people learned they could tax the remaining 49 percent, that its experiment in direct democracy would over. And so it was.

Try this test yourself. Imagine life in these United States without Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, student loans and grants, public education and income taxes. Yet none of these were envisioned by those men in Philadelphia. Indeed, they would have been outraged had anyone thought such government largesse was under the purview of the state. We are developing a theory of state involvement in our lives that would dignify the phrase of Mussolini:

Everything in the state. Nothing outside the state. Nothing against the state.

I will end this dismal essay with a reminder that scant few people have ever regained their freedom after willingly submitting to the tender mercies of the state. The one recourse has been to rise up and dismantle the oppressive state. 

This option remains on the table. Madison and Jefferson would understand. They did this very thing.

 

Parallel Lives

The strongest and most competent government the world has ever seen was that of Rome. From the days of the Republic (509 – 31 BC) until the mid 5th century AD under the Empire Rome faced and overcame a host of foreign policy problems that would have subsumed any other state in History—perhaps even including our own.

Western statesmen from the Renaissance to the 19th century once prided themselves upon their knowledge of Roman history. Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison most certainly did—as did about anyone of consequence in colonial America. The myths and heroes of Rome were once staples in every American boy’s education.

Now in the glories of our post-modern America Rome has only antiquarian interest. This is worse than a shame, it is a dangerous absurdity. The reason one reads History is not just to win at Trivial Pursuit but to use as a guide to future action. A statesman without such knowledge—rather like the cardboard figures from both parties—drifts about from crisis to crisis with no firm guidelines or principles. All action seems ad hoc, catch as catch can, pay as you go, helter-skelter.

And this is totally unnecessary. There is no type of foreign policy issue facing the US that Rome had not faced and overcome. It is as a prophet said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Indeed, much of Roman history parallels our own.

Rome gained her independence in 509 BC against a foreign king, the delightfully named ‘Tarquin the Most Arrogant’. This royal fellow was an Etruscan, a member of a civilization that had dominated much of the Italian peninsula for several hundred years. The Etruscans liked to lord it over their Roman colony rather as George III liked to lord it over his American colonies. Romans and Americans came to hate kings after their successful wars of independence. Both peoples built republics to insure that no king—no rex—would ever arise again.

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The new governments set up by these newly independent peoples were minimalist ones. The Romans could even be said to have no real state, only the family. The Americans invented their state using many Roman examples. Both states bucked the trend of having kings as rulers but both states would have almost a hereditary government in a senate.

The Etruscans kept pestering Rome just as the English kept pestering the Americans, leading both new Republics to make another war to secure absolute independence. Rome had to march out in 396 BC and utterly smashed the Etruscans at Veii just as Andrew Jackson had to march out and utterly smash the English at New Orleans in 1815.

Now both Republics could turn their attention to a host of savages on their frontiers. And there were savages a plenty. Rome dealt with Sabines, Gauls, Latins and Samnites; Americans dealt with Shawnee, Creek, Cherokee and Seminoles. Both Republics took more than 100 years to wrap things up—from 396 to 272 BC for the Romans, and from the 1780s until the 1890s for the Americans. The Romans defeated and absorbed the surrounding tribes while the Americans defeated theirs and placed them in casinos.

Oddly enough, both peoples had to deal with pain-in-the-rear French. The Romans called them the Gauls, and had to suffer them as they occupied Rome in 390 BC. The Americans too had to suffer the French as they occupied much of North America until being booted out in 1763. The French would continually pester the Romans until Julius Caesar invaded their lands and knocked their heads together in his Gallic Wars (58 – 51 BC). The French would pester the Americans even after Napoleon sold Louisiana (1803), leading the Americans to march Caesar-like to France and teach them manners in two world wars.

Again an oddity: Both peoples had to deal with pain-in-the-rear Germans. These folks then and now were barbarians. The Romans lived through a time when the German tribes threatened the stability of Europe (102 – 101 BC) until they could be crushed in battle by the military genius of Marius. The Americans lived through a time when the Germans again threatened the stability of Europe (1939 - 1945) until they could be crushed by the military genius of Patton.

The Germans of the 1st century BC had the habits of beating up on the French, and of stuffing people into cages and burning them to ashes. The Germans of the 20th century had the habits of beating up on the French, and of stuffing people into ovens and burning them to ashes. Some things never change.

Before the Romans could claim all of Italy as their own they had to deal with a foreign people, the Greeks. Likewise, the Americans had to deal with a foreign people, the Mexicans, before they could claim all of North America as their own. Though both Romans and Americans defeated these interlopers, both saw their cultures irretrievably changed. Simply put, the Romans could not stop Greek influence from corrupting her culture and the Americans cannot stop Mexican influence from corrupting her culture.

Thus the popular phrase of 2000 years ago—Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit (‘Captive Greece makes her captor captive.’)—can be rendered completely modern simply by changing ‘Greece’ to ‘Mexico.’ Romans found themselves having to become bilingual to survive—and likewise with us. (“Push 1 for Latin, 2 for Greek…”)

Enough for now.

I will take the parallel histories of our Republics further tomorrow. These are both eerie and instructive—if we would only listen to those long ago Romans.

We look into their eyes and we see our own.

 

 

The First War of Wars

We talk today of a ‘clash of civilizations,’ meaning the war between Islam and the West. Such wars always offer visions of an existentialist, Armageddon-like struggle to be fought until one antagonist disappears from history.

In the 20th century we can say that the wars against Nazism and the Soviet Union were such. The nature of these civilizations did not and could not allow them to exist side by side with free societies. A century earlier expansionist America had come up against the Plains Indians. Neither culture could exist with the other. One would have to go under. One did. It was the same with the American Civil War. The existence of a slave empire in the South demanded a Sherman, and a Sherman came. It was the same with Spain and the Aztecs.

Republican Rome was faced with just such a war. We call them the Punic Wars (264 – 146 BC). These pitted Rome in a fight to the death against Carthage. It was the greatest struggle of the ancient world, far surpassing the Greco-Persian Wars (490-479) in destruction, intensity, scope and violence. One of its battles saw perhaps the greatest slaughter of men in a day of any battle fought at any time. At its end Carthage suffered the fate that awaited the Nazis, militaristic Japan and the USSR two millennia later.

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Carthage was what we would call today a seafaring mercantile state. From her beginnings as a colony of Phoenician Tyre—modern Lebanon—she was predatory and imperialist. Carthage was also a slave empire, like all ancient societies. Wherever she went she enlisted subject peoples for labor and for her military. Carthage dealt with competition in a decidedly un-Adam Smith way. Any foreign ship she found in what she considered her waters—the entire Western Mediterranean—was sunk and the sailors drowned.

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There was a far grimmer side to Carthage. Her religion was that which the Hebrew God had demanded that His people exterminate in the Promised Land. It was the religion of child sacrifice practiced by the Canaanites, Amalekites and Phoenicians. In times of national crisis the state would demand that new born infants be brought by their mothers and tossed into a brazen image of the god Moloch, where the child would be burned to death to the sounds of horns and cymbals. After a military defeat at the hands of Syracuse (480 BC) Carthage burnt alive 300 of its own children to propitiate the god. To the cries of ‘Lord, eat!’ the infants were rolled into the flames and turned to ash.

The victims, when scarcely at the edge of the opening, disappeared like a drop of water on a red-hot plate, and white smoke rose amid the great scarlet colour. Nevertheless, the appetite of the god was not appeased. He ever wished for more. In order to furnish him with a larger supply, the victims were piled up on his hands with a big chain above them which kept them in their place.

Such was the moral state of Carthage, a state that spread this gruesome faith wherever she went.

It was Sicily where Rome and Carthage clashed (264 BC). Rome was a land-based power and had nothing to equal the Carthaginian navy. To get to Sicily Rome would have to build a navy. Thousands of Romans perished at sea before Rome had mastered the complicated maneuvers of the naval tactics of the day. Tens of thousands more died in Sicily, in Africa and in the titanic naval struggle with Carthage.

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Rome emerged victorious, though both sides were exhausted after a quarter of a century of bloodletting. Rome made the mistake that France and England made at Versailles 2200 years later. The treaty imposed upon Carthage guaranteed another war.

The 2nd Punic War was the bloodiest war of the ancient world. It pitted the greatest captains in history, Hannibal and Scipio Major, in a death struggle. Hundreds of thousands died in the course of this war, 76,000 alone in the great battle of Cannae (216 BC), a slaughter of men never again reached in a day’s battle, not even in the trenches of the First World War.

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This was a war to end all wars, a fight to determine who would control the world of the ancient Mediterranean. In a call to arms that would put today’s United States to shame, Rome marshaled army after army after army, most of them perishing in the battles against Hannibal. Yet Rome prevailed (201 BC). Her victory insured that the grotesque Moloch would devour no more children. Fifty years later, as almost an afterthought, Rome did to what remained of Carthage what Cortez did to Tenochtitlan, what Sherman did to Atlanta, what the Americans did to Hiroshima.

The results were momentous. It was the civilization of Rome that would create the first world empire in history, a state that would eventually spread to the Tigris and Euphrates. Where the American soldier fights today, 2000 years ago fought the legions of Rome. It was the civilization of Rome that gave to the world what Gibbon said was one of the best governments ever devised. It was the civilization of Rome that served as an inspiration to the founders of the United States. And always remember that it was in the empire of Rome where the Carpenter chose to be born.

Imagine the state of the world today if Carthage had won and Rome had gone under. Imagine Mexico today if it were ruled by the cannibal empire of the Aztecs, or if Europe were under the sway of the Nazis, or if a slave empire still governed south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Imagine our world if it is Islam that conquers and the West that goes under. It would usher in a new Dark Ages worse than that which followed the fall of Rome in the West (476). The madrassa, the burqua, sharia law, polygamy, misogyny, poverty, tyranny, ignorance, illiteracy and ‘honor killings’ would spread over the world, just as the worship of Moloch would have spread over the world had Carthage won.

To believe otherwise is to ignore history. To believe otherwise is to surrender.

In her titanic struggle against Carthage, when Hannibal himself was at the gates of Rome, there was a senator who counseled negotiation. He was immediately set upon by the Roman people and beaten to death. For good measure his family suffered the same fate.

In that tale lies a great moral.

 

History As it Should Be

Some academic types get themselves into a froth when a movie based upon history is not absolutely accurate. Thus they obsessed over Gladiator. They were in high dudgeon over Troy. They yelped over The Patriot. They were apoplectic over Apocalypto

Memo to historians: Movies are made to generate revenue. They are not meant to be documentaries. Get over it.

The über-violent 300 drew the particular attention of historians. No doubt all those muscular Spartans running about in ancient Speedos while wringing Persian necks caused many hearts to go all a-flutter. Some scholars actually liked the film. Some thoroughly hated it. Zack Snyder made it, and he says 300 is “an opera, not a documentary. That’s what I say when people say it’s historically inaccurate.”

An opera, not a documentary. This about sums it up.

There is more. If one is conversant in the ancient texts that tell the tale of the Persian Wars and of Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, one may get the sense that the movie more accurately details events than mere words ever could. It shows the reality of the thing that goes beyond appearances and gets to the truth of the matter as witnessed and lived by the Greeks.

The Greeks saw the wars with Persia (490 – 479 BC) as the seminal event of their day. They considered Persia as a land of slaves and the Greek cities as abodes of free men. Persia was an Eastern colossus of millions of human beings, a world empire one hundred times the size of Athens and Sparta. Her king was simply called ‘the king’; everyone knew who that meant. It is an easy thing to believe that the historical Xerxes behaved exactly as the movie showed him, as a god upon the earth.

To put the matter simply, 300 was the way the Greeks themselves must have experienced the Persian Wars. It was myth and reality and fantasy all mixed up, a war where thousands of Greeks would later swear that they had seen a gigantic Greek soldier fighting by their sides and that the gods themselves had left Olympus to fight with them. We laugh at such things but to the Greeks these were as historical as WW II is to us.

Some historians get it.

Victor Davis Hanson…who wrote the foreword to a 2007 re-issue of the graphic novel, states that the film demonstrates a specific affinity with the original material of Herodotus in that it captures the martial ethos of ancient Sparta and represents Thermopylae as a “clash of civilizations”. He remarks that Simonides, Aeschylus and Herodotus viewed Thermopylae as a battle against “Eastern centralism and collective serfdom”, which opposed “the idea of the free citizen of an autonomous polis”. He further states that the film portrays the battle in a “surreal” manner, and that the intent was to “entertain and shock first, and instruct second.”

Some historians do not.

No mention is made in 300 of the fact that at the same time a vastly outnumbered fleet led by Athenians was holding off the Persians in the straits adjacent to Thermopylae, or that Athenians would soon save all of Greece by destroying the Persian fleet at Salamis. This would wreck 300’s vision, in which Greek ideals are selectively embodied in their only worthy champions, the Spartans.

I read such critiques and I get the feeling that I must have seen a different film.

We know that had Leonidas and his 300 fled before the Persian host that the other Greeks would hardly have chosen to stay. And that it was the delay of three days at the Hot Gates purchased by the stand of the Spartans that gave the Athenians time enough to evacuate their city for Salamis.

The movie praises and romanticizes the Spartans and their king Leonidas. It was right to do so. They earned it.

Will Durant said that we must deal with the past as if it were the remains of a shipwreck. We guess from the planks and canvas and detritus that wash upon the shore the type of ship and cargo, the nature of the crew, the disposition of its captain, and the reasons for and the direction of the ship’s voyage. It is clearly impossible, but we do the best we can. This is the past as historians must deal with it.

Poets and artists and filmmakers can deal with the past differently. They are not bound by words but are free to mix in myth and imagination with history. The results are movies like 300, like Troy, like Apocalypto. We can include in this category movies like Patton and Gone With The Wind—romantic myths all of them.

Such movies entertain but also create an interest in the past. A professor of ancient history might have problems with 300, but even he must admit that the movie no doubt has led many students to his classroom.

And that was exactly what happened to me. Long ago and far away I was a callow youth who came upon the movie Spartacus. That did it. I was hooked on those old Romans. It mattered not at all that the movie was riddled with fancy and error and speculation. What mattered was that I was drawn into a lifetime of study of the ancient world. I imagine that there are young adults today who were entranced by 300, and will one day become scholars of Greek history.

The proper teaching of history is not just lecturing on ancient texts but the recreating of lost worlds. This 300 has done.

Whatever part of that movie is not true certainly should be.

 

 

A Short History of Politics

Any perusal of man’s 5600 years of history will quickly show that the most common form of government has been monarchy. One man rule seems to be the default position in every land and in every age. A fascination with democracy, republics and parliaments is a very recent thing. I am not even sure that it is a good thing, though it might be the best that man can accomplish. Well we remember Churchill’s quip that “democracy is the worst form of government ever devised by man, except for all the others.”

And nowhere in the Bible does Christ entreat us to enter into His republic. He is a King, and He lives in a Kingdom. If man is commanded to emulate Heaven as much as he can, then the logical choice for him would be to set up kingdoms on earth. That has not worked out well, but it is not for lack of trying.

Those ancient Hebrews certainly tried. They debated whether or not to elect a king over their 12 tribes. Everyone had a king in those days, and those Jews wanted to be hip and modern. But old Yahweh warned them of such foolishness.

This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons…He will take your daughters…he will take the best of your fields…He will take a tenth of your grain…he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep…And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves…(1 Samuel 8: 1 – 18)

It is a bit distressing to read how God warned His people that kings would take a tenth of everything. Evidently such an amount was seen by God to be tantamount to theft. Alas, we modern sophisticates, we who wallow in democracy and republican virtue, have allowed our own government to take 40 percent of our wealth. And we call ourselves ‘free.’

But the Jews, who were indeed free, were a stiff-necked people, and they got their king. The end result was civil war and near extinction.

Let us not be too hard on the ancient Israelites. After all, one of their kings was David, and he is mentioned more times in the Bible than anyone else except for Christ. David was ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ Such a phrase would beef up anyone’s resume I would wager. We must remember, though, that David was a king, and like most such he practiced murder and adultery.

It was not only the Hebrews who traded in their natural freedom for security under kings. The Romans did likewise. When one thinks of Rome one conjures up a host of odd-ball Roman emperors, but the first emperor only appeared 500 years after Rome’s beginnings. The truth is that Republican Rome had an ingrained hatred of anything smacking of monarchy. Even the word for king—rex—was anathema.

Between 509 BC and 30 BC Rome was governed by a senate, a group of aristocrats whose abilities and temperaments had nothing in common with the pompous and preening asses of our own senate. But as if proving that monarchy is the normal mode of human governance, the Romans elected two consuls—let us call these guys ‘little kings’—to command the legions. Their terms were for a year only, thereby confirming the distrust of kingship.

When things really hit the fan, however, the Romans tossed aside this delicate balancing act and appointed a dictator for six months. He was a rex in everything but name, and could do pretty much as he liked—including putting to death other Romans.

All this began to break down around 100 BC, and like those ancient Hebrews 1000 years before, the ancient Romans came to plead for a king. Caesar came. He claimed the title of dictator pretty much for life, and that was that. Rome was a monarchy until her end 1500 years later.

And it was monarchs who ruled the world—barring the odd Hanseatic League and Venetian Republic—until a bunch of Americans crowded into that room in Philadelphia in 1787. We forget that they were there to review the Articles of Confederation because that government had no executive authority—it had no place for even a limited monarchy. They brought along with them a thorough knowledge of the ancient world and of the Old Testament. They knew the attractions and the problems of monarchy. What they created was a magnificent balancing act that included—surprise, surprise—a place for monarchy. That place is called ‘the presidency.’

And so accustomed to kings were our Founders that ‘His Elective Highness’ was one of the titles considered when addressing the president. Imagine for a moment having to refer to a concupiscent and mendacious creature like Clinton in such a manner. We owe Washington for adopting the simple ‘Mister President’ as his title. We owe him much more as well. He could have become the first king of America if he had so desired.

And many there were who desired it. Washington’s foe George III said that if Washington did not seize the kingship, he would be ‘the greatest man in the world.’ So close did the US come to reverting to the common practice of monarchy. It really depended upon the whim of one man.

The Founders put in place things to limit the power of the presidency—in reality, to prevent it from devolving into monarchy. These were the Senate, which represented an aristocratic element; and the House, where the hoi-polloi rabble could feel they had a voice in government. Obviously the Senate was meant to ape early Roman practice, while the House was a genuflection to Athens of old.

We moderns gush over those ancient Greeks while forgetting that the pure democracy of Athens was slavery based, addicted to internecine violence and homoerotic pornography, and perished in an orgy of violence after a few decades.

Over the ensuing 200-odd years our Republic is slowly reverting to the usual type of rule seen in history. That is, we are reverting to monarchy. The presidency of today would be seen as monarchial in everything but name to the Founders. Their great distrust of a king was based on his untrammeled power to wage war. This is why they gave only to Congress the power to declare war. This was a great idea, except they made the president the commander-in-chief of all armed forces.

We can understand the power of the US president when we recall that in all our history Congress has declared war only 5 times—and not since World War II—yet our nation has been involved in military conflict more than 200 times. Louis XIV would certainly approve—and stand in awe—of the US president’s war making ability.

I am not complaining about all of this, mind you. I am merely pointing out some history.

The American people are certainly coming around to thinking of the president as a nearly all-powerful monarch. Witness all the things they believe he has the power to deliver—health care, good schools, retirement, housing, cheap gas, cheaper college, clean air, high incomes, low unemployment and on and on. Really, such things would test the abilities of the most competent emperor of Rome.

Our modern infatuation with republican democracy will dissolve if the US ever declines to such an extent that her power scarcely reaches from sea to shining sea. We forget that most if not all of the democracies of the world depend upon the US. When she goes the way of Republican Rome so will they. The world will revert back into its customary rule by pharaohs, czars, dictators and other types of monarchs.

Those freedom loving sorts still among us today should enjoy their liberty while they can.

 

Invisible Men

The usual lot of mankind in 5600 years of History has been slavery. The vast majority of human beings were born, lived and died under a system of government scarcely different from your present day run-of-the-mill African despotism. The usual method of the governing elites has been cruelty, terror and theft; their usual pastime, war. History calls many of these fellows ‘the Great.’ We moderns tend to forget that such men attained their reputations by filling sacks upon sacks with human bones.

Of the anonymous billions who have labored upon the face of this earth we have knowledge only of a scant few, and sometimes even they elude us. We know a bit about the Nebuchadrezzars, the Caesars, the Tiglath-Pilesers, the various Henrys and Rameses. But what of the men who fought their wars, built their palaces, sweated in their fields and died in their service? They are the unknown mortar behind every page of History.

The times when the common man would raise his head are so few that when they do occur they surprise. A few names stare blankly at us from cuneiform bricks—a teacher, a brewer, a laborer. A stone cutter from the New Kingdom scratches upon a stone, “The pharaoh is very drunk today.” Another carves a rather intimate caricature of the pharaoh Hatshepsut and her paramour. A soldier named Horatio appears from nowhere and saves early Rome. Thousands of names appear just once upon Athenian ostraka, daring us to discover who they were.

From time to time these anonymous men would rise against their ruling elites. We read of riots in Egypt, of slave rebellions in Rome, of wild Jacqueries in France, of Peasant Wars in Germany, of Peterloo Massacres and Peasant Revolts in England. All were crushed and the survivors returned to their wheels, their plows, their poverty and their slave pens. From time immemorial the ruling elites have never brooked any competition or threat to their power and status from the laboring masses of common men.

The most successful movement in History, however, was neither begun nor staffed by elites. Indeed, they did all in their power to extinguish it. That movement is Christianity, begun by a Carpenter and staffed by fishermen, reformed prostitutes, tent makers and tax collectors. The elites of their day were called Pharisees, and like our own elites they claimed special status and privilege due to education, wealth and influence. These were simply scandalized that such apparent rabble would attract the devotion of men. We need to be reminded that this movement eventually drew the attention of the Roman elites, and every resource of the Roman state—the most powerful government known to man—was devoted to crushing it and rendering Christianity a mere footnote to History.

Whatever the merits of its doctrines it was Christianity that gave common men a recourse against the state. It was an authority outside the state, above the state. Kings and princes might labor to escape its demands of humility and kindness, but even these rulers were shackled by them. Christianity served to limit the elites in all their desires to Lust and Envy and Hate.

There have been many wars against Christianity, wars that have increased in our modern times. In every case it was the ruling government elites who saw it—and righty saw it—as a threat to their power to do what was right in their own eyes. The most fantastical and murderous elites of the last 100 years—the Lenins, the Stalins, the Maos, the Hitlers, the Kim Il-Sungs—have all shared a rabid hatred of all things Christian.

Our own elites here in God’s Country are the same, thought they at present lack the state mechanisms to really give it to all things Christian. You see their contempt for Christianity in their words and in their deeds. They celebrate when Bibles and prayer are removed from the public forum. They exult when Godless men take possession of schools and the universities. They press upon our land factories where children are ripped from wombs and ground into paste. They consider all of this a great boon to society and Christianity a Medieval holdover, a refuge of the vulgar, the simple and the ridiculous. It enrages them that tens of millions of Americans still hold fast to ancient doctrines that the elites see as so obviously false and cruel and stupid.

To speak plainly about Christianity—and here is something that so unnerves our elites—it is clear that it is available to every man, no matter his past or his school or his ancestors or his wealth. The common man can claim all the wealth of Christ, a treasure that simply dwarfs all the baubles and bangles and beads of this world. Indeed, such trifles as earthly fame and fortune are rendered laughably worthless. Our elites, be they in congress or the media or the academy, despise the common man for his claims to possess these riches of Eternity. For our elites enviously claim the same thing, calling themselves members of an Illuminati who alone hold the knowledge and wisdom and wealth necessary to govern men and nations.

We need to keep all of this in mind as we peruse our economic and political landscape. No matter the dreams of power and grandeur possessed by obvious God haters and their pagan minions, they are not in control. They may celebrate as they seize the apparatus of our national power, but such shabby, corrupt and empty creatures can do nothing against the real strength of our nation. That strength comes from tens of millions of Americans on their knees.

All those nations who hated God—all those Assyrias and Babylons and Soviets and Nazis—were themselves tossed into History’s waste bin. It will be the same with the God haters of our own day and age.

 

The End of History

History makes sense because human nature is unchanging. What man did once, man will do again. If this were not so, then the study of history would be of mere antiquarian interest, as relevant as the study of dandelions.

A society that does not study history is like a man who, upon awakening every morning, immediately forgets everything about his life. All must be experienced anew, every error committed anew, every truth learned anew. To reject history is to reject memory itself.

A ruling class dedicated to the absolute control of every lever of national power—all things political, economic, cultural and educational—must as well take control of history. Books, schools, the media and entertainment—those great and pervasive panes et circenses of television and cinema—all must fall under the purview of the state. This has been the dream of dictatorships since Plato’s Republic.

Until the 20th century no regime, no matter how monstrous, could hope to control every aspect of society. The reason for this is that the instruments for such control did not yet exist. A tyrant thus relied on nothing more complex than fear. Properly used—as long as the members of the ruling class were not themselves at risk—fear was enough. Tiglath-Pileser, Nebuchadnezzar, Caligula, Genghis, the Borgias, Montezuma—the list of such men is as endless as time—all practiced the politics of fear.

Truly such men believed that it was better to be feared than loved.

The first man who could reasonably expect to take control of history was Vladimir Lenin. He is the first real totalitarian and a model for all who followed. But he died too early to really get the machinery of state control in high gear. That pleasant duty was left to Stalin. We may call him the poster boy of totalitarianism.

He was Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ in the flesh—indeed, Stalinist Russia was the model for 1984. It was Stalin who wore the jackboot that would stomp on a human face—forever. The details of Stalinist control simply overwhelm a mind rooted in the concept of individual liberty. All books, all schools, all universities, all media, all entertainment, all science, all work—every aspect of a man’s life that he could imagine—were infected by Stalinism.

Stalin understood very well indeed that “he who controls the past controls the future.” History books were rewritten to reflect the truths of Stalin. Inconvenient truths were simply erased, rejected and sent down the memory hole. Memory itself was denied, for there might exist some shred of light. All were reminded of this truth.

If you meet with difficulties in your work, or suddenly doubt your abilities, think of him—of Stalin—and you will find the confidence you need. If you feel tired in an hour when you should not, think of him—of Stalin—and your work will go well. If you are seeking a correct decision, think of him—of Stalin—and you will find that decision. (Pravda, February 17, 1950, as quoted in Modern Times)

Such bizarre advice is the stuff of all totalitarian regimes. Such a thing demonstrates that history is at an end, that it has become merely another method of control. In fact there is no history as we understand it. The past has been blocked out; the present, contrived. A society so diseased about its own heritage can be of little use if it ever awakens. A people brought into the light after a totalitarian control of more than one generation would feel themselves so out of touch, so overwhelmed, so confused—imagine the thoughts of a Zulu dropped into Silicon Valley—that it would not be long before they yearned for a return to ‘the good old days.’ Such is Russia today, her people already romanticizing Stalin and seeing him reborn in Putin.

Our own nation has so diminished the study of history at all levels that we have simply stopped using it as any sort of guide. The real history of the Republic has been replaced with an entirely confected myth of happy and benevolent natives, wicked white men and industrious sodomites. Our underpinnings of liberty, unique in history, have been chipped away for so long that a quote from the Declaration or the Constitution or the Bible sounds like some odd foreign tongue. Such a people so unlearned in the cornerstones of their own liberty will not long enjoy it, no matter how many quotes from Seinfeld they can spout.

For a grim look at what all this means:

Back in the age when American schoolchildren learned to read (and so much else) from reading the Bible, we shared as a culture the understanding that humans are essentially self-centered and prideful, that the manifestations of those qualities are generally not honorable, that we war within ourselves to restrain our base impulses, and that policies should be crafted with the reality of human nature and the proper restraint of those impulses in mind. In our postmodern world such talk is silly. We have drifted a great distance in a relatively short time, and in all likelihood there is no going back, and it is what it is. There is no point in pining for the past, the task is to deal with the present as it is, the facts on the ground.

Yes, “the facts on the ground.” These are changing rapidly, our past becoming scarcely a distant memory, our future already foretold in the grim and unforgiving pages of history.

 

The Point Man Of History

I fell in love with History while in college. She was a goddess most enticing, and she remains so. She has proved more faithful and constant than most of my lovers and all of my wives. In the first flush of passion I thought her the key to Wisdom, that if every man and every nation would submit to her, then all would be well. I was dreadfully wrong, but did not know this for some time.

It took me years to finally stumble upon the same thing that Hegel stumbled upon.

What experience and history teach is this—that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.

To believe that men learn from the reading of ancient texts is to believe that men are no longer mad, corrupt and prone to surrender to wicked passions. To spend a lifetime rummaging around in History’s attic is really to become a mere antiquarian. A man interested in the past studies History much as another man studies Byzantine coins or Costa Rican butterflies. The only lessons to be learned are that there are no lessons to be learned. Perhaps a man who at last arrives there can take a small bit of consolation from that dismal fact.

A man who begins his study of History with Gilgamesh and ends with the modern world—and what a crazily misnamed era that is!—cannot escape the feeling that men are as brilliant as mice on treadmills. Get on, go fast, go faster, become exhausted, drop dead—and then another mouse attempts the same thing and achieves the same thing. One sees a line of mice extending to forever, the number of them as numerous as the stars. Over and over, from here to Eternity, each makes his attempt, every effort amounting to precisely nothing. And all around are corpses.

Perhaps the Hindus and Buddhists are right after all. The life of a man is as a wheel. He lives it and dies, and with a bit of luck his next life will be spent on a wheel spinning on a higher plane.

The wheel of life moves on…It is overwhelmed by decrepitude and grief, and it has diseases and calamities for its progeny. That wheel relates in time and place. It has toil and exercise for its noise. Day and night are the rotations of that wheel. It is encircled by heat and cold. Pleasure and pain are its joints, and hunger and thirst are the nails fixed into it… It is enveloped in the terrible waters of delusion. It is ever revolving and void of consciousness.

Eventually he might reach Nirvana, “the state of being free from both suffering and the cycle of rebirth,” and at long last be free. History has no record of those few, those happy few, who have reached Nirvana. Perhaps no man and no nation have ever reached that plane. Or perhaps those who have reached it have no way of speaking to those trapped in space and time. Or perhaps they do, and simply look at us mice and laugh.

I would advise any man who seeks to study History so that he might avoid Santayana’s curse—“He who does not study History is doomed to repeat it.”—to find another reason to dabble in the actions of men long dead. You cannot become any sort of a Nostradamus, for few will ever listen to you. You might with luck become a Cassandra. You will at least be heard—a small consolation—but will not be believed.

If the Christians are correct then they must be the most happy of men. For their God promises that one day—though quite annoyingly, He never reveals when—He will end History. He will bring the entire dismal affair to an end. His children will become saints and will go to live in their Father’s house. The others will remain forever what they were on earth, devils. And they as well will go to live in their father’s house.

So by all means study History. Much of it is at least entertaining—the observation of stupidity and wickedness always is—but do not expect that any grand revelations you discover will be passed on. Mostly you be will a recorder of 6000 years of folly and toil, of waste and cruelty. You will learn that for every Michelangelo there are 1000 Stalins. Prepare to be frustrated as you observe your own nation merrily trotting along the well-worn paths of Nineveh and Babylon. Scream all you want—you might at least feel better—but the only response you will get will be laughter. That, or hatred. Laughter is better.

But I cannot avoid the wretched feeling that perhaps I have been reading History upside down. That my belief that men and nations can actually learn from it was right all along—but for the wrong reasons. I thought the study of History must lead to a greater happiness and a greater liberty for all men. Perhaps men do in fact learn from History, but their desire is not for any sort of happiness and liberty, but for their opposites. They study and learn what creates liberty, and then do the opposite. Their wish is not for Declarations of Independence but for gulags. Their guides are not Socrates and Jefferson but Nebuchadrezzar and Napoleon.

Now at last—at long last—I get it. At long last I understand the Agamemnon of Aeschylus.

In visions of the night, like dropping rain,
Descend the many memories of pain
Before the spirit’s sight: through tears and sorrow
Comes wisdom over the unwilling soul.

Men and nations do learn from History. They learn how to build tyrannies, how to enslave their brothers, how to impoverish nations, how to destroy wealth, how to crush humanity into paste, how to spread ruin and waste and blood and cruelty. History, then, becomes their perfect guide not to conjure up Nirvana but to conjure up Hell—at first on earth but then beyond all time and space.

It is not Herodotus who is the ‘Father of History,’ but Lucifer. Wonder no more why every experiment of man sooner or later ends up the same, no matter its beginnings, no matter its laws, no matter the quality of its machines or the number of its people—they all end in vast, apocalyptic orgies of violence, despair, ignorance and poverty. All of History can thus be conveniently simplified into the recording of a jackboot stomping upon a human face—forever.

That is the point. That is the only point.