John Helmer: The Barbarians at the Gate of Civilization, but Which Empire is Falling?

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

Barbarians empire

The university that taught generations of American leaders that their manifest destiny is to make war on uncivilized people around the world is having a bad time of it, now that the US has lost the last four straight; and the losers are streaming in for their take of the manifest. Streaming into Europe, that is, but not into Harvard University, nor the state of Massachusetts, nor the United States.

It was comical when Timothy Colton, Harvard’s professor of Russian studies, turned out, a year ago, to be paid by a branch of the Pentagon to spy on the body movements of President Vladimir Putin. It was laughable last week when the Harvard Centre of European Studies, financed by the Seagram businesses, engaged Radoslaw Sikorski, the ousted Polish foreign minister, to teach. “The pursuit of ‘Veritas,’ as in Harvard’s motto, is always exciting,” the university quoted Sikorski as saying.

But now comes Professor Niall Ferguson, on Rupert Murdoch’s tab, to declaim that the reason for the terrorism which has stormed the boulevards and entertainments of Paris is that the French, and the European Union (EU), deserve it because they have let their guard down, inviting the barbarians in by “complacency”, “secularism”, and “decadence”. Like the Romans deserved the Visigoths and the Vandals, according to this Harvard version of the history of civilization, the Europeans deserve “the uncannily similar processes destroying the European Union today.”

Ferguson is titled the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History. The Tisch endowment at Harvard which fills Ferguson’s pay packet came from the Loews conglomerate of New York; it made its money selling cigarettes (Kent, True), CBS media, insurance, hotels, and Bulova watches. Ferguson was appointed to his Harvard job after proclaiming that moderately successful as the British empire had been in the past, it was up to the US “to do a better rather than worse job of policing an unruly world than their British predecessors… I believe the world needs an effective liberal empire and that the United States is the best candidate for the job.” We Americans, the Harvard Gazette reported him as saying, not only can afford to “play a more assertive global role, but [can]not afford not to.”

Opinions like these are common, and as cheap as True cigarettes and Bulova watches. Ferguson didn’t qualify for his Harvard chair by believing them or broadcasting them. It’s when the professor identifies the university’s title and tribune for claiming that it’s his historical research which makes the views credible that one of the gates of our civilization has been opened, then shut. Call that gate Enlightenment, science, objectivity, evidence.

The London Times published Ferguson’s essay on Sunday, charging a subscription fee. The Boston Globe gave it away for free. The title gives Ferguson’s game away: “Like the Roman empire, Europe has let its defences crumble.”



Ferguson, photographed with Henry Kissinger in 2011

Never mind Ferguson’s raid on two hundred years of research into ancient Rome since Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. Ferguson knows the research — not even Harvard hires ignoramuses and nincompoops. So for a university professor to write as Ferguson claims to write about Gibbon’s lesson for today requires a deliberate falsification of the record.

What is missing from Ferguson’s version are two large pieces of evidence, one ancient, one contemporary. The first is that in purporting to explain why Rome fell to the barbarians, Ferguson omits to explain why Constantinople succeeded in defeating them. The history of the Byzantine empire is an 1,100-year success story – more than double the length of the Roman empire or the British empire; the longest-running empire in civilized history as Harvard University knows it. And the Byzantine trick had next to nothing to do with Christianity, Islamophobia, sexual continence, or heavy military spending. It had everything to with disbelief in the doctrine of manifest destiny.*

The second piece of evidence missing from Ferguson’s version of history is the 70-year record of the US Government wars which financed and armed the jihadists, and deployed them for regime change from Afghanistan to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Russia, and then to Egypt, Libya, Syria. As each of these wars has been defeated, their mercenary armies, camp followers, and baggage trains have moved on. They are now at the gates of Europe, as Ferguson reports unoriginally. How the failures of Washington warmaking despatched them there is missing from his tale, and so from the lesson he draws.

Since the US is the supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mounting the defences of Europe, and the military occupier still of Germany, how is it possible not to define the jihadist war against Europe as a NATO threat under Article 4 and Article 5. These are the treaty provisions requiring the signing states to act in concert when an attack against one means an attack against all. This makes the jihadist war in Europe a US responsibility, as well as a charge on American taxpayers. But they don’t want to pay, and if opinon polls were reported of what they, as well as the Europeans really think, they know where the blame lies. How is it possible to ignore the fact that half of the states of the US have publicly announced they refuse to accept refugees from Syria?




According to the governor of Ferguson’s state, the Syrian stream is an unacceptable security risk. “‘I think at this point in time we would have to be very cautious about accepting folks without knowing a lot more about what the federal government’s plan looks like,. I would certainly say no until I know a lot more than I know now. The safety and security of the people of the commonwealth of Massаchusetts is my highest priority,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m always going to be willing to at least hear what the federal government has to say. As a public official, that’s my job. Hearing what they have to say does not mean saying yes.’’

What Ferguson is ignoring is that the weakness of Europe’s defences reflects the US priority that NATO should be attacking Russia, and bringing down the Kremlin. This was the war which the Obama Administration launched in the early weeks of last year, when it changed the regime in Kiev, and announced “Fuck the EU”. It’s not Gibbon’s lesson to be learned now, according to Ferguson’s version of history, but the lesson the Roman legions, consuls, and emperors taught in their time– you lose the war, you pay for it. Only that’s not exactly what is happening now either. Chancellor Angela Merkel wants Germans to pay – they won’t; she’s lost. President Barack Obama wants the Europeans to pay, and Russia too.

This is a military and political campaign which is being lost now just as certainly as its predecessors. It’s also a doctrine which is as doomed to fail as ancient Rome’s was, when the Byzantine doctrine went on to prosper for a millennium. Now, and for the foreseeable future, Europe has a choice which the manifest destinonians of Harvard and Washington don’t want to mention, or their paymasters allow – it’s the Byzantine choice.

Let the last line be Jugurtha’s, one of the greatest barbarians of North Africa, the king of Numidia (Algeria, Tunisia) who fought the Roman empire between 112 and 106 BC. “Rome’s a city for sale and bound to fall as soon as it finds a buyer,” he said. For Rome insert Berlin, London, Paris, Brussels, The Hague, or Washington, DC.”

FOOTNOTE: Ferguson needs to study Edward Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, published in 2009 by Harvard University Press.

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  1. craazyboy

    I really don’t see how Europe is supposed to defend against “terrorist refugees” unless they follow the lead of the US and give them all iPhones and then record all phone and email traffic and archive it in Utah. Then we know how Merkel gets all prissy about having her phone calls recorded.

    Then it would be wise to direct the refugees to separate Sunni and Shiite slums because mixing it up there sure seems like a mistake. Then there’s French lessons and eventually the job market. Do the French have a untapped need for Syrian restaurants? Prayer rugs? Almost makes you wonder if that will work out?

    Maybe if the Swiss allowed more refugees, we could sucker the real terrorists into a trap, because they may want to live near their numbered Swiss bank accounts? But the European kleptocracy may have an issue mucking around with that. Not to say that the US would come up with the idea.

  2. scott

    Byzantine coinage (with the exception of the 11th century debasement, later reversed) were a store of value and medium of exchange for the duration of the empire and beyond. They didn’t choose to pay for their wars and bread/circuses with inflation and a debased currency.

  3. Keith

    There was more terrorism when I was young.

    The events themselves were smaller in scale, but much more frequent.

    It was due to Northern Ireland and two distinct groups that had trouble getting along.

    This should have given us some indications of the potential problems in the Middle East.

    There was a sizable Catholic minority and a Protestant majority.

    Democracy always lead to the Protestants being in control.

    It is floating voters that determine who gets into power in a democracy and Catholics and Protestants are fixed, they provide no floating voters, leading to a sizeable disenfranchised Catholic minority.

    The Middle East is the same with Sunni and Shia Muslims, unfortunately we never connected the dots.

    1. Paper Mac

      Actually “we” did “connect the dots”- the confessional divide had very little relevance for modern Middle Eastern politics until the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran in reaction to the Western satrap installed there, and the installation of the Sunni/Arab chaunvist Saud regime as the Western satrap for the Arabian peninsula. In fact if you talk to eg. older Iraqi immigrants they’ll often tell you they had no idea whether their neighbours were Sunni or Shi’i until confessional identity was made an integral part of the political system (through parliamentary quotas etc) by the American occupation!!

      The idea that there has been some kind of unceasing 1400 year civil war between supporters of ‘Ali and the rest of the community is simply ahistorical- there is no easy equivalence between the Christian experience of schism and reformation. There are any number of political actors (in the past and today) who have been eager to use theological commitments as a tool to divide and conquer. We should not blithely assume that their claims are correct. I still occasionally have the opportunity to pray alongside my Shi’i brothers. This experience is becoming increasingly rare. I would prefer that it not disappear entirely.

    2. Peter Schitt

      Democracy in Northern Ireland? Don’t make me laugh. Northern Ireland was an artificially created statelet to ensure a loyalist majority. You do realize that, by your logic, Putin should roll his tanks into Russian-speaking Estonia, don’t you?

  4. Keith

    The US dropped more bombs on Vietnam than were dropped in the whole of World War II.

    They used napalm, white phosphorus and agent orange.

    The US came home with its tail between its legs.

    Let’s think.

    The strong leader, Tito, that held Yugoslavia died and Yugoslavia disintegrated.

    We have removed the strong leaders that held Middle Eastern nations together and they have disintegrated.

    Horror grows and takes on a life of its own.

    There are atrocities in all wars, once peaceful Yugoslavia descended into unimaginable horror as acts of violence were responded to with further acts of violence with ever increasing intensity.

    We see the smart bombs on the news descending to their targets, we don’t see the people at the other end getting ripped apart by red hot shrapnel and the people near them that see their friends and colleagues suffer in excruciating agony. The desire for revenge is a human instinct and a very powerful one.

    Horror grows and when you are dealing with people that don’t really care about dying, the escalation of horror with retaliation is not a good solution. The bombing raids brutalise the recipients even further leaving them ready to commit even worse atrocities

    The US fought a guerrilla war in Vietnam and came home with its tail between its legs.

    When ISIS’s new state has gone the fighters will still be around. Al Qaeda existed without a nation state.
    The Middle East has artificial nation states imposed on them from the outside; we removed the dictators that held them together. Tito held Yugoslavia together and when he died it fell apart, centuries old ethnic divisions came to the fore.

    The solution in Yugoslavia was to put the like minded people together in new nation states and allow them to move away from war and death to a better life, some people cannot live together without very strong leaders to hold artificial nations together.

    Bombing brutalises and horror grows.

    When people are offered sensible solutions that recognise their differences and offer a better life in peace and prosperity, the killing stops.

    Those differences and their history are not going to be forgotten in a long, long time.

    The countries of former Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland are still powder kegs that could re-ignite at any time and this must be avoided at all costs.

    With the waves of mass migration in recent years the fighting, killing and animosity are no longer even contained within geographic regions and problems abroad become problems at home.

    A fool said “It was the end of history” when the Berlin Wall fell as the only division he recognised was between Capitalism and Communism.

    There are many divisions that will take centuries to heal. It will require peace between the various factions during that period for that process to complete.

    We know how to stop it and just need the will to do it.

    (“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.” George Orwell)

    1. Jim

      “centuries to heal” – that is a highly optimistic view. The 1300 years old conflict between the West and Islam is not heaing. It’s intensyfing.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Perhaps (though it’s strange how many people in the United States view Samuel P. Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, chunks of which your comments appear to regurgitate, as a blueprint, rather than a mordant prediction). On the charitable interpretation, the intensification is due to blowback (the self-licking ice cream cone) from our imperial machinations; those nutty Islamists take the view that blowing children to pink mist with drone strikes is unacceptable). On the less charitable interpretation, we’ve set the entire Mediterranean littoral on fire, creating chaos (a) to keep Russia occupied, (b) to wreck the EU, all the while (c) profiting by selling weaponry and services to all sides (“conflict investment”).

        Unless you’re proposing a Crusade?

        1. Jim

          The most sensible thing to do is to end further immigration of Moslems into Europe and to begin expelling those already there back to where they came from.

          Becomong involved in the internal conflicts of the Middle East is senseless. Our interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria have had disastrous consequences. Deliberately destabilizing the Middle East is dangerous. The place will be unstable enough if left alone.

          Europeans and North Africans/Middle Easterners are two scorpions in a bottle. If immense violence in the futture is to be avoided the two must be separated.

          1. Lambert Strether

            The first sentence of your comment is at best silly. You want to create a diaspora of millions of Muslims. Think “The biggest blowback in the history of the world.” You also want to get rid of the population that would solve Europe’s demographic problem.

            I agree that the consequences of the Middle East chaos we’ve created have been terrible for the dull normals, whatever their religion, if any. However, the usual suspects in the elites have done very well.

            1. Jim

              A poll last year in France showed that 18% of the respondents supported ISIS. In the 18-24 age group the support for ISIS was 27%! France is in deep shit. What happened in Paris is nothing compared to what is coming. In a few years in the Yugoslavian conflict, much of it between Chtistians and Moslems, 150,000 people were killed.

              1. Peter Schitt

                Was that poll the one you just pulled out of your arse, or did Nigel Farage pull it out for you?

            2. Oregoncharles

              Europe does not have a”demographic problem.” They did the right thing – didn’t have too many babies – and now there’s a transition to get through. They might have to work a little longer.

              If we’re very lucky and do the right things, ALL of us will have that “problem.” Otherwise, we won’t make it. Nature is red in fang and claw, and the microbes are sharpening their knives.

            3. dad

              I dont want my grandkids married at 6 and in a burkha.
              What do I need to do about this demographic problem with them having 20 kids and us with 2?

          2. DJG

            Considering that my Sicilian grandparents were married in Misilmeri, a small city with an Arab name, a remnant of the Arabic control of Sicily and the settlement of Arabs there, and considering that my grandmother was born in Palermo, a city likely founded by Carthaginians (Semites from the Eastern Mediterranean), and considering that the dominant language in Sicily for thousands of years was Greek (till the Norman Conquest around 1000 CE), I’m wondering what parts of myself I’ll have to “expel.”

            And that’s just my mother’s side of the family. Good thing that the family made it to Chicago, that paradise of ethnic togetherness.

      2. Massinissa

        Uh. You realize Europeans have made war on Europeans more than on muslims, and that muslims have made war more on muslims than on Europeans?

      3. Jim

        In response to the Jim above:

        Did the end of the cold war, in fact, represent a turning point in history?

        The focus of the Huntington analysis is on identity, what about technology, what about economic resources and what about the perpetual pursuit of power in itself?

  5. timbers

    Worked as a bartender with a Harvard student who said everyone teaching history there knows that it’s a fact the world is better off with hegemons – that’s an undisputed fact. He even said the Iraq war was correct and we needed to double down send more troops restore order to preserve our hegemony and thus goodness. Even when I told him the cost of doing that would drain us so much it would hasten the fall of our hegemony, he was undeterred. I told him if this whats taught at Ivy League schools it’s no wonder the world is such a mess.

    1. washunate

      it’s no wonder the world is such a mess

      Well said. It’s not that complicated. Our power structure – most assuredly including higher education – believes we need to maintain the unipolar world. However, the brief (in the span of history) confluence of events that allowed the creation and maintenance of Western dominance generally and the Anglo-American empire in particular is coming to an end.

      Instead of accepting (or heaven forbid, embracing) the multipolar world, our leadership class honestly believes they can use force to keep USUK #1 for a considerable length of time yet to come.

  6. SomeOne

    I recently finished History of Rome Pod cast by Mike Duncun and he sums it up nicely in his last episode “179.- The End” why Roman empire falls. What Ferguson suggested the reason of fall of Roman empire, it seems opposite it true.

      1. SomeOne

        Thanks to you Lambert. I got to know about the podcast from you. I am now going through Revolution podcast.

    1. Jim

      The latter part of the Roman Empire was certainly marked by substantial population and economic decline, plagues, famine, etc. Agricultural producttion in the Western Roman Empire may have declined by as much as 80% There were clearly highly malignant though not clearly understood internal processes occuring. On the other hand it would be silly to ignore the impact of the barbarian invasions.

      1. Joe Renter

        And they were over extended in their outreaches. And to be Cesar was to count your days till you were done in. Many reasons for the fall.
        Amazing that China had a 5,000 year empire. Something to said and studied about that achievement.
        I am reading “From the Ruins of Empire”, by Pankaj Mishra. A quote on the cover reads…
        “Reverses the long gaze of the West upon the East, showing modern history as it has been felt by the majority of the world’s population, from Turkey to China.
        I understand a little more of the puzzle, I think. An interesting read none the less.

        1. Jim

          The “5,000 year empire” you talk about is a verbal fiction. Sort of like regarding the Holy Roman Empire as a “continuation” of the Roman Republic.

  7. jgordon

    What’s most amusing about this whole sordid debacle of American foreign policy is the sheer abject stupidity of it all. Niall Ferguson and his ilk are what passes for the American empire’s brain these days–they are the apex of American intelligentsia, right up there with Hillary Clinton and Dick Cheney. With a leadership class (rather, what passes for a leadership class) so perfectly combining the traits of lust for violence with comedic incompetence, who needs terrorists to bring down the empire? They’re doing a bang up job of destroying it themselves.

    I say that if we truly want to end the empire, we should just let Clinton take over and run it into the ground. After all, look at how effective the Cheney/Bush regime and the subsequent Obama regime have been at dismantling the empire. If not for these clowns it might still have a few decades of gas left in it, rather than the few short years or month it now has left. A HRC presidency will only accelerate that decline. Wait, I just talked myself into supporting Clinton. Well I suppose it can’t be helped then.

    1. craazyboy

      Creative Destruction is not everything it’s cracked up to be. Chances are very good we end up living in a cardboard box, and the destructors take the private jet and friends to the chalet in Davos.

      1. Gio Bruno

        That’s already happening for many thousands living in the LA region. Cardboard boxes and camping tents proliferate to the point that LATimes columnists have now noticed and are writing (hand-wringing) about it.

        Don’t encourage societal decline, however. Eventually it gets ugly for EVERYBODY.

        It should be clear, by now, that world refugees, local homeless, and the crazy guy walking down your street are NOT going away (there are only so many drones, gun-toting police, and jail cells). Need to change course and spend money/effort on finding real solutions.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Judging by the # of people living in boxes and tents (and even calling themselves “hobos” – I heard a radio program about the LA settlement), we’re in the midst of the 2nd Great Depression.

    2. Uahsenaa

      TPTB also go out of their way to seek out and promote the work of academics who either already agree with their worldview or are cynical enough to shill for them. For years Juan Cole has very publicly picked apart administration assumptions about what goes on in the Middle East, but the “important people” simply ignore him. There’s a reason why he’s a professor at Michigan and not an Ivy.

      1. James Levy

        I was told years ago when I was finishing my Ph.D. in the UK that Ferguson was “Reader” material at best (that’s approximately the equivalent of an associate Professor). His genius is self-promotion and selling convincing nonsense to the American elite, but even the British saw through him 15 years ago.

        1. OIFVet

          Like Clive says on occassion, Americans think that anything that is said with a British accent must be exceptionally smart. It certainly accounts for the many British charlatans in academia and “serious people” MSM.

          1. DJG

            Indeed. My current response to English accents is “Is that a plummy Oxbridgian accent, or are you just lying?” [I’m cutting Scots slack, in hope of their independence.]

            You also see this in how Americans ape U.K. spelling. “Amongst.” “Amidst.” Yeah, sure. Will we ever stop being colonials?

            Now just what were the events in 1776 about?

            1. OIFVet

              I am guilty of using ‘amongst’ and ‘amidst’ on a regular basis, even though I did learn English in the US, not in Europe. But I assure you, it’s got nothing to do with pretentiousness, it’s just that I took English lessons from a British housewife in Hyde Park :) Anyway, I always found the American preoccupation with the British royals highly amusing.

            2. hunkerdown

              Like most ostensible fights for human rights, it’s about taking over the means of oppression whilst ;) pretending to oppose it.

          2. different clue

            Central European Intellectuals with Serious Eyeglasses and a Serious International Man-of-Intrigue accent are also taken seriously. Look how far Kissinger got with Serious Glasses and an International Man-of-Intrigue accent. Look how far Zbiggie-poo Brzezhinski got . . . and he doesn’t even have the Serious Eyeglasses.

        2. Peter Schitt

          In Britain, Ferguson is a laughing stock – and so are the yanks that buy into his moronic bullshit. Please keep him.

          1. susan the other

            thank you for straightening the image of ferguson out. why can’t we see these things on our own?

    3. Jim Haygood

      While Niall Ferguson handles the research end at Harvard, Def Sec Ash Carter (seconded from Harvard’s Kennedy School o’ Gubmint) handles the sharp end of policy, helping Harvard grad Barack Obama to continue Harvard grad G. W. Bush’s destabilization of the Middle East.

      Brainstorming for the Harvard Law Review, 1990 (jpg image):

  8. debitor serf

    the Huns pushed the barbarians into the empire in the end. the Huns from the steepes of Central Asia. it had nothing to do with letting their guard down.

    1. Jim

      The Romans originally allowed the Goths in as refugees. They thought they would be a source of labour and soldiers. Slight miscalculation.

        1. Jim

          I mentioned the Romans regarding them as a source of soldiers. Actually they were. Eventually the “Roman” army did become mostly German. The Battle of Chalons is often described as the victory of “Romans” over “Huns” in which Western Civilization was saved. In actuality most of the “Roman” army consisted of Visigoths. Even the generals were mostly latinized Germans. The “Hunnish horde” consisted mostly of Ostrogoths, Burgundians and assorted other East Germans. There never were enough actual Huns to make a self-respecting horde. Few of the fighters on either side gave a flying fuck about Western Civilization.

          For the actual “Roman” peoiple of the time it eventually became impossible to tell the difference between the “barbarians” and the offical “Roman army”. The later Roman emperors were figureheads and real power was in the hands of barbarian chieftains.

        2. James Levy

          And Gothic soldiers were the backbone of the army Aetius beat the Huns with near Chalons in 451. The idea that the Goths were anti-Roman is no longer held. In fact, if the Romans had treated the Goths better, things might have been a bit different. I’d recommend Galsworthy’s Why Rome Fell for the politico-military perspective (and as he points out, the West’s collapse was a fiscal-military event, not so much a cultural one).

          1. Jim

            The Romans and Goths were too different to get along peaceably. I’ve noticed that people commenting on this site tend to moralize things a lot. Human history and evolution are not moral processes. These processes are indifferent to our moral sentiments.

            1. James Levy

              We are all one species–homo sapien sapiens. Their are no subspecies among human populations, and the greatest variety of the human genome is contained in the cells of East Africans. But I’m sure you thinks Jews and blacks and Moslems are subhuman, and don’t even understand that being a Moslem has nothing to do with your genes.

              1. Jim

                Actually humans have enormous genetic diversity. The genome of Melanesians for example is about 6-8% non-sapient. That consists mostly of Denisovan introgression. There is very little Denisovan introgression in West Eurasians. The differences in East Africans are mostly on neutral markers ie just genetic drift not selection.

              2. hunkerdown

                Your response is incoherent. Can you separate ideology from race and recognize that some ideologies are, in fact, toxic to their first-hand adherents and those around them? If we are all human, as you say, then what room is there for ANY religion that privileges its adherents’ lives above others?

                1. Jim

                  Ingroup-outgroup differences are fundamental to all human interaction. Religions and ideologies create ingroup-outgroup differences. All religions and ideologies “privilege” their adherents above others.

                  Certainly not all ideologies and religions are equally successful. So far Islam has been a lot more successful than Scientology.

                  Genetic differences between human groups are of course of enormous importance. Australoids have an average brain size 85% that of Europeans and an average IQ of 62.That makes a diffeence..

      1. Peter Schitt

        Yawn. Jim, we’ve all heard this neocon revisionist bs before. You forgot to mention that the Visigoths cost Rome too much in welfare payments, multi-multiculturalism, brown people, blah, blah, etc. You’re making a fool out of yourself. Just stop.

        1. ewmayer

          Hey pal, be aware that Jim’s online degree from the Dr. Mengele Hochschule für Eugenik (Buenos Aires campus) means ya gotta take what he says seriously.

          Thus, reference-free pulled-out-of-his-ass claims like ‘6-8% genetic difference’ between various human ethnic groups – much more than the genetic differences between human and chimpanzee – and counterfactual racist howlers like ‘brain size 85% that of Europeans’ have to be accorded more weight than if they were coming from some random non-degreed keyboard Stürmer für das Farterland. Please do continue to bless us with your revolutionary theories of the human family tree, Jim, don’t let a bunch of dese here liberal pantywaist haytazz daunt you.

    2. Sam Adams

      There was a change in the climate in the central Asian plains that created mass migrations into new regions in order to feed animals. The increased pressure on less nomadic tribes shifted populations. The shifts of population in turn pushed the settled tribes across former boundaries towards Roman agricultural lands increasing resource competition in the empire and inflation to which the western empire sought a solution in a debased currency. Byzantium had less difficulty with barbarians for three reasons: the eastern empire area was wealthier in necessary commodities; it had a longer growing season and importantly it paid the tribes to turn west.

  9. TG

    If Rome ‘fell’ to the barbarians, why did Constantinople not?

    That”s easy. Rome didn’t ‘fall’ to the barbarians. They were invited in as a source of cheap labor by the Roman elite. Sound familiar?

    The Roman Emperor Valens was ultimately killed by gothic ‘refugees’ that he had imported… to increase his profits by lowering his labor costs. The surviving Roman elites looted Rome of its gold, fled to Constantinople, and purged their security and army of all non-ethnic Romans. So, Constantinople simply didn’t invite in any ‘refugees’, and it stood for a thousand years.

    Constantinople was a gated community for the rich who had looted Rome and sucked it dry, and needed a nice defensible place to retire to. If modern Europe also falls beneath endless waves of ‘refugees’ – as the Ivory Coast recently did – I suspect that most European elites will find some nice defensible place (Australia? Bermuda? Hard to say right now, there is no obvious first choice) and that they won’t be taking many orthodox wahhabist muslims with them as security guards. I mean, do you see the children of Angela Merkel and people like her going to school with poor muslims? Are they giving up their profits competing with an ever larger number of workers? Does Merkel have to walk unescorted past large numbers of young muslim men who accost her because she is not wearying a chador and being escorted by her husband? Not a chance. Because ‘diversity’ is only for little people.

    Some things in politics never change.

    1. James Levy

      Valens imported no one. You are deliberately distorting history. The Goths asked for refuge while he was off keeping an eye on the Sasanids. His underlings botched the job so badly that the Goths rebelled. Valens then screwed up at Adrianople, rushing into battle while negotiating peace (never a popular ploy with the people you are trying to dupe) and then botched the battle and got himself killed along with most of the mobile field units of the Eastern Empire. And many of the Goths wound up settling in the eastern Empire (you know, the Eastern Goths or Ostrogoths), so your contention about the East is ludicrous (ever hear of the Ukrainian Rus and Viking units that fought for the Byzantines? I didn’t think so).

    2. different clue

      Well . . . Australia will die of global warming Heat Stroke, and Bermuda will die of global warming Ocean Rise. So in the long run, there is justice.

  10. Sluggeaux

    Barbarians at the Gate? Um, I missed the part about the Paris mass-murder attacks being perpetrated by Syrians.

    The attacks appear from French media reports to have been perpetrated by French citizens, mostly of North African ethnicity from the French empire that collapsed in 1962, whose recent ancestors came to France in order to be exploited by French capitalism as an underclass providing cheap labor, and who are now marginalized by globalization. The attackers happened to have had the opportunity to be trained and armed in Syria, but by the forces of chaos created there by U.S. meddling designed to destabilize regimes hostile to settlers in the region.

    Comparisons to Rome or Byzantium are poppycock. This is about the danger posed by hopeless people who have been taught that they only exist in order to be exploited and discarded under capitalist globalization, and who have easy access to the excess production from the massive industrial creation of arms sent into the world — simply for mindless profit. That mindless exploitation of human beings and endless production of armaments is the moral decay of our age.

    1. Jim

      “Official truth” may say that the attackers were “French”. That is nonsense. The “official truth” in Tito’s Yugoslavia was that there were no more Serbs, Croats, etc. Everybody was now a “Yugoslav” and all the peoples of Yugoslavia loved each other. After the central power in Yugoslavia crumbled it turned out that the peoples of Yugoslavia did indeed love each other. They loved to kill each other.

      Calling a cat a dog doesn’t make it one. Nor does saying an Arab is a Frenchman change reality.

      1. different clue

        There is a theory that the various peoples of Yugoslavia would have preferred to keep their country intact IF its Communist Rulers would have permitted some slow and steady internal democratization.
        Only when it became clear that Tito’s Communist Successors would permit no such thing did Slovenia seccede. The Yugoslav Communist government decided Slovenia was too unimportant to fight for and let it seccede. Yugoslavia began delaminating after that, with outside help from European powers recognizing seccessionist republics in excessive haste . . . and inside help from Milosevich pursuing a Greater Serbia Chauvinist agenda under “keep Yugoslavia together” cover.
        None of it was inevitable.

        Or am I wrong? I am willing to stand correctible by someone who really knows.

        1. Jim

          Humans are highly prone to group conflict. Polities like Yugoslavia are fundamentally highly unstable. It may be possible to hold them together by force for a considerable while. This was true for the Ottoman Empire and for a lesser time for the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. But the identities that such entities create are ephemeral. Nobody today who lives in the territory of the Ottoman Empire thinks as themselves as an “Ottoman person” nor more than anyone in Eastern Europe today is a “Yugoslav” or an “Austro-Hungarian”.

          Actually democratization quickly speeded up the process of disintegration in Yugoslavia. Multicultural empires cannot last as democracies.

    2. OIFVet

      So these French citizens are of a refugee descent. What makes you think the Syrian refugees (and those are but a fraction of the overall numbers swamping Europe) will integrate any better? That they won’t be exploited? Merkel as much as said that their cheap labor is needed, apparently the cheap Eastern European labor ain’t cheap enough. Europe does not have a good track record in integrating outsiders, so today’s refugees will he tomorrow’s underclass and recruitment pool.

      1. RUKidding

        You have a point. I can’t refute that. OTOH, what should we do now?

        We encouraged this to happen. So, now what?

        Just asking bc I don’t effen know myself.

        1. OIFVet

          Beats me, honestly. I don’t think there is a simple answer, and I am certain that Europe is incapable of finding it. EU neoliberals are too busy creating problems to actually fix any. Think about it: youth unemployment in Southern and Eastern Europe ranges from 25% to 50% yet Merkel is crying about a perceived shortage of labor to justify letting in the migrants. Same thing with the demographic problem, the fact is that Euros won’t have kids when they are facing job loss, falling wages (not helped by the arrival of millions hungry migrants), and the dismantling of the welfare state they grew up with. It’s all BS and people know it, hence the rise of nationalist far right parties. So I don’t know the answer about the refugees and migrants, all I know is that Europe is just entering a prolonged period of instability and it won’t be pretty.

          I am heading over to the old country tomorrow, I am quite curious to observe the situation with the migrants first hand.

            1. OIFVet

              Right, because that’s been the case since the wall came down. It’s a race to the bottom, and the bottom is about to drop off. When one listens to Le Pen, she says all the right things about the economy and welfare, which is why the FN is winning so many new voters, most of them disillusioned Socialist Party voters. Same process is happening in most of Eastern Europe. Sorry to be all doom and gloom, but I see and sense is that Europe has become a powder keg over the past few months, and it won’t end well for anyone.

        2. different clue

          We should switch sides and begin supporting the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic against the rebels and jihadis. In practical terms, that means we should stop undermining SAR/Russian/Iranian/Kurdish/Hezbollah efforts to fight the various alphabet-rebel groups. We could also begin torturing and sanctioning Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey into terminating their support for all their various pet jihadi groups.

          Once the Syrian Arab Army and its allies have exterminated all traces of rebellion within Syria, then the Syrian Arab Republic government can begin re-imposing order and seeing that the rebellion stays exterminated. Then the Syrian Arab Republic can begin vetting refugees and very pickily-choosily deciding which ones to let back in and which ones to shoot on sight if they dare to try coming back.

          Those refugees who will not be allowed back into Syria will remain our problem. But at least Syria’s own jihadi/rebel problem will be solved . . . if we get out of the way and let Russia/Iran/Hezbollah/the Kurds/etc. help Syria solve it.

          1. vidimi

            saudi arabia are launching an initiative to unify all the groups fighting against assad. if ever there was a time for the west to rebuke them, it is now. how can they remain allies when their goals are diametrically opposed to our stated goals?

    3. RUKidding

      Thank you. Quite agree. While the USA has had a YUUUGE (to quote someone or other) hand in creating the mess in Syria, the issue in Paris is more likely about the sort of apartheid situation there. I’m no expert, but it’s a known fact that the French, most esp in Paris, have been lousy at integrating the N. African (not Syrian) mostly Muslim population. You have a younger generation that has lousy to no prospects, are mostly not permitted to go to better schools to get the kind of education that would increase their prospects, are probably bored and quite angry, and there’s a lots of prejudice against them.

      So Daesch comes along and says: here, we’ll give you a raison d’etre, and we’ll provide you with training, skills, weapons, etc. Et voila! What a surprise… not.

      Comparisons to the situation in N. Ireland are much more apt. Albeit I confess that I’m no student of the history of Ancient Rome, or much more knowledgeable about N. Ireland conflicts, etc.

      IMO (limited as it is), this particular regrettable incident in Paris had much more to do with their far less than perfect way of attempting to integrate (or not) their immigrants (from decades ago) from N. Africa, rather than anything recent. The situation in Syria – caused, in part, by the French (in alliance with you know who) – has created a generation of young males with no prospects, etc, and then you know who goes over there, recruits, trains, arms them. And then we all stand around gobsmacked that they trained the disaffected in Europe to kill Europeans.

      It’s a wonder it hasn’t happened sooner. Not that I’m happy about it. I’m not. But it’s a YUUUGE mess created mostly by Westernized nations invoking our own jihad ag the ME. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. Bash a hornets nest and then act surprised when a swarm of hornets flies out to sting you? Really?

  11. Vatch

    Just a tiny, pedantic correction: the Byzantine empire didn’t last 1100 years. The empire “only” lasted about 875 years. It was conquered by French and Venetian crusaders in 1204, and split into multiple parts. After the reconquest in 1261, Byzantium was much diminished, and really wasn’t an empire anymore. It was a nation which lasted until 1453.

    1. charley

      To be just a tiny bit more pedantic, Western crusaders were able to sack Byzantium in 1204 only because they came as military allies, and were reluctantly admitted to safe harbor inside the great chain that protected the city from naval attack. From there they attacked and pillaged, establishing Venetian bankers as the global gold standard. Without the treachery of a common religion, the Byzantine empire might have lasted centuries more.

  12. Tertium Squid

    I’m troubled by all these statements about the Byzantines – it’s reckless to give 1100 years of history a single characterization. You could very easily paint the Eastern Empire as just as violent and acquisitive if you focus on the rulers who were like that.

    1. Vatch

      Good point. Justinian the First was extremely expansionistic, with military action bringing Italy and what’s now Tunisia and northern Algeria back into the empire. He even brought part of Spain under his control. Those regions did not remain part of the empire for long, and the expense of the conquests weakened the empire in the long run. That weakening probably helped the Muslim Arabs to conquer Syria and Egypt less than a century later.

      Basil II was also an expansionist, although he concentrated on annexing areas that were contiguous to the empire.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Shorter explanation of history, the discipline:

      1. Shit happens.
      2. There are a lot of reasons why shit happens, and no one knows, really, what those reasons are, because it’s too complicated.
      3. If you offer explanations for why shit happens that help sell the shit that is happening now by reference to shit that happened before, you can make a pretty decent living and be respected or reviled for your perspicacity.
      4. Because shit is always happening, there’s always a ready market for providers of shit-happening supplies.
      5. Ordinary people will always pay for all the shit, and be helpless to stop the shit from happening.
      6. In the end, we’re all dead (though a few people who actually do make shit happen are hoping to fix that for themselves, so they can go on causing shit to happen.)

  13. Peter Schitt

    Oh, Dear. It looks like the comments section has been invaded by troglodytes from the Glenn Beck School of Historical Revisionism.

    1. El Guapo

      It’s happened over at Ian Welsh’s blog as well. Amazing how mentioning “The Moslems” causes the hysterical pants pissers to come out in force.

      1. RMO

        I’m impressed by how much time Lambert (others too) have put into responding to them clearly. I suppose it’s mostly for the benefit of the more sane readers though, as I’ve found that arguing with peope who have that sort of mindset is considerably less productive than attempting to teach my dog differential calculus.

  14. Daryl

    The Rome/barbarians comparison is the academic equivalent of a Facebook meme. I mean, it’s just too easy and played out. I roll my eyes every time I hear it.

  15. kevinearick

    A Big Nazi Sh-Show Welcome

    Finland wakes up, late, buried by Sweden.

    The planet oscillates on its axis at a frequency beyond the comprehension of the relatively automaton human race, distilling DNA. The long-term choice is to be consistently distilled out, not in. The short-term choice is to consistently join and ride the ponzi up. The majority vacillates in the middle.

    Government is an actuarial ponzi scam, always has been, always will be. GDP measures government and its derivatives, and government grows, all out of proportion, to the benefit of those printing its paper, while special interest groups created to keep the economic slaves busy fight over the scraps. Freedom from personal responsibility is not freedom.

    Economics, as practiced from the ivory tower managing the process, is about eliminating economic mobility in prelude to war, the only possible outcome, and the US is just the latest and greatest war economy, to which the majority is completely dependent. And Silicon Valley is just the latest and greatest empire projection and surveillance system, with nothing to show for itself but phantom assets, real estate inflation. Work is a waste of time in the empire, because empire economics can only repeat.

    Now, the majority is waking up to the lies they were told and the lies they accepted, as the basis of decision, immobilized, with the latest and greatest weapons about to come of the shelf, with bombs in their pockets. Joining a peer pressure group, to avoid change, to gain advantage over other like-minded groups, doesn’t end well. The last peer pressure group standing simply gets wiped out at the end.

    You made your choice at birth, whether you like to think so or not, and the only remaining real choice is whether you find one of the few remaining pediatricians fighting the fight, or have your kids in the bush. With relatively infinite mobility as a choice, Pollyanna chose to live in naziland, go to a a nazi hospital, and was assigned an ignorant, black EEO feminazi pediatrician, dropping her baby into the black hole of Obamacare accordingly, and now finds herself in a nazi court, given a false choice between her husband and her baby. I am always offered a position in the 1%, to build weapons called technology.

    Labor has no use for the politics of stupid, projecting the past into the past, until the kids so distilled are ready. The only people surprised that public education is run by fascists are those who accepted the blatant lie of government. No one with functioning brain cells makes decisions based on yesterday’s data collected by yesterday’s bank to its own end, interest rates coming out of the Fed, on risk free money that is neither free nor free of risk.

    The entire economy is on the chopping block, and the critters did what?

    Automatons chasing automation, complaining about the results, not once considering how it really works, and arguing with the AI guy, is not the best approach. Government doesn’t build anything, but that never stops the majority, from thinking that majority rule rules, something other than itself. Good luck with all that.

    1. kevinearick

      “If a customer falls behind, we have the ability to derate the engine or turn the engine off…”

  16. Plenue

    Ferguson once provided a cover blurb for Caroline Elkins book Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya, to the effect that it was a sobering lesson in the bad things empire can do and how we should all be on guard against such transgressions. This guy seems to genuinely believe there can be such a thing as a noble, non-atrocity committing empire.

    1. Peter Schitt

      Ferguson is totally fucked up in the head. He is a self-hating Scot, a product of “the colonized mind”. A Scottish Tory is like a black confederate. There’s a whole lotta conflict going on in his head. (Actually, I doubt he has the self-reflection for that.) Nah, he’s just another second rate British hack who hopped over the pond to take advantage of the gullible ex-colonials who fall for his bad Hugh Grant impersonation.

  17. RBHoughton

    How Europe signed-up for a mutual offence and defence clause in the NATO agreement beggars belief. We Poms knew the risks of those engagements early in 19th century and routinely avoided them. Now we are involved through the back door. That’s a subject worthy of a referendum more than EU membership.

    I agree with his suspicion of Niall Ferguson. I have most of his work on DVD and have noted a few areas (particularly Asian history) where he makes assertions that are unlikely to be true but serve his purpose.

    It has been well said that where Rome trod she left a desert – now consider the countries we have recently ‘trodden’ on.

  18. different clue

    John Helmer could have said Manifest “Destinazis” instead of Manifest “Destinonians” . . . but he is too nice a guy.

  19. Carlos

    Well, from where I’m sitting the war is going supremely well. Three of Israel’s protagonists and former Soviet client states: Iraq, Syria and Libya are in heaps of rubble and chaos. Three other former Soviet clients Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen are smouldering too.

    Israel and USA sitting smug and pretty, Europe getting all the blowback and still dumb enough to run around barking at the lead dogs bidding.

    The tail wags the dog, the tail wags the dog … ee aye adio … the tail wags the dog.

    The empire is doing exactly what it is told to do and doing it well.

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