Decadent Empire: The Video Game

Early in my teaching days, I ran across a problem: While half my students were ignorant of basic stuff — seriously, they’d ask me questions like “what is Parliament?” — the other half had decent primary school educations… and of those, a fraction actually knew quite a bit. I found this a particularly challenging situation, because one of my stock techniques was to have them “game out” various historical situations. Let’s say you’re Charles I. It’s 1625, you’ve just been crowned, and you’re in a bit of a spot…

The idea was to introduce material as the students thought it through. Here’s the problem you’re facing. What if you — King Charles — did this? Ahh, but look, here’s that. And oh, by the way, the other thing. It’s a classroom management problem: bringing the ignorant up to speed, without having the knowledgeable jump too far ahead. Done right, and the students really got a lot out of it — they remembered the solutions, because they’d thought of them themselves. If the nerds kept jumping the gun, though, nobody learned anything.

Eventually, No Child Left Behind “solved” the problem for me, by making ignorance universal, but in the interim I hit on the “video game” solution. We’ll pretend we’re playing something like “Civilization,” I’d tell them. I’d give a class a set of initial conditions — the video game’s rules — and have them run with it. Then I’d introduce the actual historical material. The smart, well-educated kids pretty quickly figured it out, of course, but it was much easier to keep them on task by referring to our Imaginary Kingdom…

As it turns out, that’s a useful technique for my own thinking, too. Comparisons of The Current Year to, say, the later Roman Empire are useful, and instructive, but the problem is, I know a fair bit about the Roman Empire, so if I’m not careful I tend to get lost in the details. And thinking about it “out loud,” as it were, by writing a blog post about it, tends to exacerbate the problem — this is, after all, the Internet, so there are lots of people out there who know way more about the Roman Empire than I do who are eager to jump in on the discussion. Those zillion-comment threads are fascinating, and you can learn a lot from them, but the point isn’t to become better informed about the arcana of the Later Roman Empire, it’s to think through the current problem.

So let’s say you’re playing a video game in which you are the newly crowned emperor of a globe-spanning empire that is obviously in sharp, perhaps terminal, decline. You came to the throne under some very fishy circumstances, so your personal power base is weak. You’ve got a fast-rising, aggressive power just over the horizon to the west. You have a bunch of lazy, whiny, demanding, yet effectively useless “allies” to the east, and to the south, a morass of warring tribes and an almost nonexistent border. You’ve got a lot of natural resources, but your infrastructure is a mess, and your human capital declining by the day. Your army is large, but politically suspect. What do you do?

(We’ll assume that you’re in full command of all your wits in this scenario).

Now, I’m no “gamer.” I personally topped out somewhere around “Civilization IV.” Those “real time” strategy games defeat me, since my poor simian brain just doesn’t fire fast enough to keep up with it all (funny how the same kids with all the “learning disabilities” who needed unlimited time and distraction-free environments to take my exams could handle that shit no problem, but that’s a rant for another day). But still, I think I can manage the basics, and the first thing I’d do is check the manual: How, exactly, do you win?

I don’t mean “solve all the empire’s problems,” since that’s impossible, and any game that ended in utopia wouldn’t be worth playing — I mean, maybe there are elves and dwarves and dragons and shit in this video game, I dunno, go nuts, the only limit is your imagination, but the game’s main selling point is that the strategy, at least, is realistic. I assume that in the game’s world, time marches on, such that “victory” is limited to “staying in power for X years” or “passing the throne on for your dynasty” or “defeating the rival empire” or something. What are the victory conditions?

After that, I’d turn my immediate attention to the army, since infrastructure, natural resources, etc. don’t mean much if I’m going to get overthrown right away. Here’s what I’ve got: big, strong-on-paper legions of dubious loyalty who haven’t seen much action in a while, and didn’t do so hot in the action they did see, backstopped by very small, but still militarily effective, palace guard-type formations….

….annnnnnd right now I’m probably reaching for the ol’ reset button, because my historian’s training and knowledge tells me I’m real trouble. Lots of Roman Emperors, some of them very talented hard boys, faced a similar situation, and they never really solved it. But if I decide to soldier on, at first I’m considering a Hadrian-type solution: withdraw, dig in, downsize. Those whiny, useless “allies”? Look to your own defense, as I think Jay-Z once said.

But that’s not going to work in my game’s world. Remember, we said that although we have lots of natural resources in the Imperial core, our infrastructure’s a mess and our human capital declining daily. What, exactly, are our newly demobilized legionaries going to do once they get back home? Guys like Hadrian didn’t know, either. I’m pretty sure he tried settling demobbed legionaries in “colonies,” the way Caesar did, setting them up as both pioneering farmers and a kind of vanguard of Romanization (not to mention a last-ditch militia reserve).

The problem with that, though, is twofold: First, there’s not enough land worth settling. Second, and far more important, the ex-legionaries don’t have the skills. Back in Caesar’s day, there were enough semi-civilian soldiers around who could make a go of farming. By Hadrian’s, the legionaries were all long-service professionals — enlistments ran 20 years, meaning you’d be an old man by the standards of the day when you got out. Plus that, since the legionaries were all long-service professionals who often died before they got out, “soldier” soon became, effectively, a guild profession — lots of guys in the later legions were the sons and even grandsons of soldiers.

So far we haven’t specified the base of our game’s economy, but given the initial infrastructure conditions, it’s pretty easy to see that there aren’t going to be jobs for the demobbed guys, no matter what economic base we choose. Hell, maybe our game is a Tolkien-style fantasy realm. Doesn’t matter — just as the Roman legionaries only had legionary-type skills, so our demobbed guys only have fantasy army-type skills. They’re aces at riding dragons or whatever, but that doesn’t translate to anything in civilian life… even if there were jobs out there anyway, which there aren’t.

So maybe you don’t demobilize those guys, you just reassign them. The problem with that, though, is that as we specified in the initial conditions, your legions are politically suspect. Your commanders are more politician than general, and since our initial conditions specified that you came to the throne under murky circumstances, it’s a safe bet that none of them are personally loyal to you. Given that, where do you reassign the legions? The southern border? Yeah, they could really do some good down there, straighten out those warring tribes…. but do you really want a bunch of guys with guns that close to you, especially under the command of guys who don’t know you, aren’t loyal to you, and (probably) had no hand in putting you on the throne?

And it goes without saying that you can’t really use those legions, either, except under extremely limited circumstances. Who are you going to pick a war with, such that you know you can beat them, but that the glory for doing so reflects on you, the Emperor, and not Miles Gloriosus, the on-the-spot commander? And god help you if you miscalculate, pick on the wrong guy, and get your clock cleaned….

Really, the only thing I can think of to do is make sure my legions are adequately stiffened by my palace guard, who we’ve specified are the only reliably effective formations we’ve got. Maybe I “promote” the furthest-away field commanders to staff positions close to me, then feed their legions, one at a time, into a low-level conflict on the southern border, making sure that the palace guard handles the critical missions for the new, more politically-reliable commander. One thing I absolutely do NOT do, though, under any circumstances, is weaken my palace guard….

See what I mean? By thinking about this stuff as if it were a video game, you get out of the “presentist” mindset, for lack of a better term. In the history biz, presentism is

the anachronistic introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. Some modern historians seek to avoid presentism in their work because they consider it a form of cultural bias, and believe it creates a distorted understanding of their subject matter. The practice of presentism is regarded by some as a common fallacy when writing about the past.

Emphasis mine, because that right there is some bullshit, “modern” academic history is nothing but presentism, but let’s leave that aside for now. Humans are naturally “conservative,” in that we can’t help feeling, deep down in our bones, that what’s now is forever. “The past is a different country, as I’m pretty sure Dr. Dre said, and they do things differently there, and even the most conscientious historian has difficulty getting into past people’s heads. To return to an example I’ve often used, people often spelled their own names differently in different documents.* What does that say about their conception of their world, and their place in it?

Thinking about things in video game terms, then, highlights the assumptions we make about our world, the ones that unconsciously color our analysis of events. I think we’d all agree that putting chicks on SEAL teams is a skull-fuckingly stupid idea, but if asked to explain why, we’d probably go with stuff like “unit cohesion.” Even though she’s apparently “just” a boat driver, there’s no “just” anything on a commando team, and we all know there’s no way in hell she can do most of the stuff the rest of the team can, since something like 70% of young men in military shape wash out of SEAL training. It’s well known in the army that the top 10% of female recruits are outperformed by all but the bottom 25% of male recruits, and that those bottom-scrapers can be “motivated,” as I think the euphemism is, to surpass the gals. There is simply no way, none, nada, zip, that any woman is physically capable of performing up to a male SEAL’s level. Biology doesn’t work like that…

But does everyone see what I mean? The problem isn’t, or isn’t just, that intersectional genderfluid SEAL teams are going to be much worse at doing commando stuff. That’s the obvious short-run consequence, but thanks to our natural human “conservatism” we tend to think that’s the only consequence. It’s not, and indeed, “being worse at commando stuff” is actually incredibly minor. The major consequence, which becomes obvious when you think about it like a video game, is that when you come right down to it, the palace guard is the only thing propping up the emperor…

…and the emperor just told the palace guard to go fuck themselves. No, really: how else are the SEALs supposed to interpret that? As a big victory for gender equality? That shit is going to get them killed. They most certainly know it.

Alas, real life’s reset button is…


*And that’s before you get into the problems of historiography, which though fascinating are irrelevant here. Just a quick taste: Apparently Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII’s first chancellor, was unusual in that he always spelled his name the same way: Wulcy. How that became “Wolsey,” I have no idea, and I’m pretty sure it was “Wolseley” for a while in historical writing. Names were quite irregular and highly variable in that era. For instance, a guy who rose to prominence under Henry’s father was born William Writhe, was often referred to as “Wrythe,” then changed it, for whatever reason, to Wriothesley, the pronunciation of which is anyone’s guess (the modern consensus seems to be “Riz-lee”).

 

 

 

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45 thoughts on “Decadent Empire: The Video Game

  1. AvatarVizzini

    To return to an example I’ve often used, people often spelled their own names differently in different documents.* What does that say about their conception of their world, and their place in it?

    To jump off on a tangent, I think this may be a bit of presentism on your part. I don’t think this necessarily is reflective of their self-conception, but maybe just an artifact of living in a world that has not heavily codified and regimented spelling and grammar, as we have, and in which literacy and adherence to grammar and spelling are not as central a component of daily life, especially not the heavily indoctrinated grammar we all receive from 13+ mandatory years of schooling.

    In programming, there are a lot of languages with very flexible grammar and alternative “spellings.” In Perl, for example, it’s kind of a truism among Perl programmers that there are always at least half a dozen different ways you can write out the code for the same simple task. I’m not even talking about variants in complex algorithms, I’m talking about how there are multiple ways you can build and recall a list of 5 numbers, and all are equally “correct” according to the language, because the language doesn’t enforce a strict grammar, and it is not uncommon to find a programmer using different methods to accomplish the same task within the same piece of code, either because they’re inconsistent or because different methods visually emphasize different aspects of the “making and using a list” idea and flow better within the context of the surrounding code snippet, function or method.

    1. AvatarSeverian

      Quite possibly. Maybe It’s just a fun artifact of a world where nobody cared about standardized stuff… but that, in itself, shows what a different world it was.

      (Same thing with spacing and punctuation. Caesar was regarded as a prodigy because he could sight read… which really WAS a feat back then, because they had no punctuation and no spaces between words. Imagine that! What a different world).

    2. AvatarNehushtan

      I’d say it’s not presentism so much as Americanism. In many cultures your name is not your identity. In Japan and China people use different names at different stages of their lives (and those who go to the US often choose an English name.) Your identity has more to do with the combination of family name, sex and birth order than the combination of syllables that describe you on official documents.

  2. AvatarPickle Rick

    You’re supposed to enlist Goths, of course. Imagine the terror an army of emo kids in The Cure uniforms would strike in our enemies…

    1. AvatarSeverian

      Now let’s be fair, Robert Smith was crucial in defeating Mecha Streisand… and “Disintegration” is indeed the greatest album ever.

      (Add Robert Smith to the very short list of celebs I’d like to meet, if only because he joked that his young nephews never really believed he was a rock star until he did “South Park,” and then they were all “wow, Uncle Bob, you really ARE famous!”

  3. AvatarVizzini

    My son was Cav in 101st Airborne Air Assault, which is one of the actually real combat-ready regular army forces. Not SEALS, SMU or Rangers, but still a force that’s actually expected to effectively engage an enemy. There were no women at all.

    He saw that barrier about to be broken, though, and decided pretty late in his career that he wanted to go for something more hardcore. He was over 30 when he went through SMU and SF selection — he made it through both programs, which a lot of guys didn’t, but wasn’t selected. He did, however, get his Ranger tabs at 31. He was considered the “old man” of his training class — that whole SMU/SF/Ranger life is a young man’s game, so I was pretty proud he got his tabs at that age.

    They got a new captain in the troop while he was off at Ranger school and apparently the captain comes in and is like “Where’s your 1SG? When told “He’s away at ranger school,” his response was something like, “WTF? Seriously?”

    There was absolutely no doubt in my son’s mind that females in combat arms — even in special forces — were coming and that it would be a disaster. He didn’t want to be either under or over women and the whole “sexual harassment” minefield that would represent. “You have to treat everyone equally, but you can’t actually treat the women equally.”

    Toward the end of his career a big factor for him was keeping ahead of the gender equality. Not a single man in a Special Mission Unit is going to have any illusions that the females foisted on them are qualified. But they will be required, on pain of career destruction, to keep quiet.

    That’s going to lead a lot of the competent ones to simply opt-out. You’d rather go take a spot teaching ROTC than risk your life with an unqualified grrrrl at your back and have to lie about how you feel about it.

    1. AvatarPickle Rick

      That’s why I chose to be a Marine artilleryman, back when all combat arms were all male. And don’t think that arty wasn’t combat arms- my war was the invasion, before the play acting phase where arty never left the wire. You’re not telling me anything new.

      The good thing is, when the next Manassas/Pearl Harbor/Bataan/Chosin Reservoir goes down, it’s all their fault. I’m going to laugh my ass off.

      Artilleryman, infantrymen, cavalryman, seaman, those are all ancient words…

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn15l_gKb6g

      1. AvatarFeinGul

        @Pickle et al; Review January.
        They don’t have a military now, except for show.
        January review:
        1. DOD turned them down.
        2. The DC guard turned them down until FBI CRT cleared it. DC guard unarmed<
        I know, we relieved them.
        3. The NJ NG (National Guard) was sent with no bullets and had to borrow from the DC guard, who only dished out 15-30 rounds apiece. As you know that’s enough to get killed, not enough to survive. There was quite sufficient time and ammunition in NJ to draw ammo. NJ ARNG not alone in this regard.
        4. JAG made it clearer than ever before if you shoot you’re done. (5 overseas deployments, have perspective).
        5. The ROE only gave permission to load if CG ordered it, the CGs name unknown.
        6. The leadership that sent us DID NOT GO.
        7. Leadership above CPT unseen.
        8. Many vets/salts refused mission, no consequences.
        9. Yes, I chose flesh and blood over a dead abstraction, and its dead and buried.
        10. The Government staffers are visibly nervous around soldiers- even the Privates saw it- and cannot bear to look at the guns.
        This is bad if you just pulled off a military coup, that you had to go last ditch on anyway by appealing to Dem governors.

        Conclusions; they can’t and don’t trust anyone in the military, and the military doesn’t trust them. All they did was make it National- Guard goes back home. The Constitution is now quite officially dead, and its open. The Oath is gone with the Republic, they have no army.

        That they have no military is an informed and experienced judgment call, but seen this before overseas.

        They want the Green Zone, they can have the Iraqi army. No reason to fight.

    2. AvatarAl from da Nort

      Viz;
      Congrats to your son. The Obama-centered clique running Biden have themselves in a box of their own long-term making re Whaamin in the Mil. The movement was started by FemProgs in the late ’70s as a way of *weakening* the evil Right Wing War Machine. They were quite open about this. Here’s the ringleader:

      https://www.britannica.com/biography/Patricia-Schroeder

      They were held in check by TPTB until the Cold War ended. Then Bush I, the last Yankee President, unlocked the limitations. People blame the Clintons, and they deserve it, but they were pushing on an open door. I know ’cause I got to participate in the beginnings of the evil progression from ‘Women in Rear Echelon Tasks’ to ‘Women in Combat Supporting Roles’ to ‘Women in Combat Roles’ to ‘Trannies in Uniform’.

      During Stage I, if I wanted to shut off the clamorous whining (“Why *can’t* women be in the services_? They do it in Israel.”) I’d truthfully state: “I believe that women can successfully perform any *unimportant* military task. I know for a fact that they make excellent supply clerks. And we are not surrounded and outnumbered by dangerous enemies the way Israel is.”

      Now that they actually need effective Praetorians, the SJW’s won’t let them unwind the damage they caused. Small consolation.

  4. AvatarJennifer7084

    It’s funny what you said about how people back then spelled their name differently in different documents.

    I have a friend whose name is “Sean” and when the girl at the pizza place wrote “Shawn” on his ticket, he made her change it. (Yes he’s liberal)

    My name is Jennifer and I’ve always been “Jenni.” The most common spelling is “Jenny” but the second most common is “Jennie.” Very rarely does anyone write it the way I spell it on first blush.

    And while unlike my silly friend I don’t correct people, it *isn’t* my name. From an identity perspective, I don’t connect with those other versions of the name.

    It’s interesting to think about.

    1. AvatarSeverian

      That’s kinda what I mean. If my name is Tom and someone spells it “Thom,” well, ok I guess. But what if they spell it Tim? (A similar difference from “Wulcy” to “Wolsey”). I’m not Tim, I’m Tom…

      Didn’t matter in the medieval world. Maybe their identities we so stable it didn’t matter. Or maybe their identities were ” anchored ” to different things. Dunno. But it’s fun to think about, as a reminder that they were different.

      1. AvatarDinothedoxie

        Maybe their connection to letters and writing wasn’t as a fixed as ours.

        If so won’t told you to write your name in Arabic script or runes. The spelling – the characters used – might change a bit over time.

  5. AvatarProdigal Son

    The problem with these scenarios is not knowing the pre-conditions. What promises were made to get into office? What is the current win state for TPTB? How powerful is the office really – if the winning team decided it best be occupied by a mannequin? And of course, there is the fact that I would rather be gaming out the survival strategy for my family than speculating about the woes of the president.

    What can be fruitful however – maybe this is what you were getting at – is to consider the constraints at work; things that lop off entire futures from any prediction. Eg. The Empire requires troops at home to quell insurgency and is therefore compelled to abandon its least useful asset: the poppy fields of Afghanistan (since Fentanyl is entirely synthetic and has supplanted the lucrative heroin trade.) This tells us something useful, right? Every player among TPTB equation spat out the result: troops more valuable at home.

    1. AvatarWuhan Luke

      Emperor needs troops to control insurgencies but not dare weaken his positions abroad? Easy-peasy, just promote the local Vigiles and give them some of the praetorian armor. Good thing that’s not happening now otherwise we could tell just how close we are to collapse.

      1. AvatarWuhan Luke

        Oh, hey, and where do the troops go when rotating out of their term? To the New Model Vigiles of course.

  6. AvatarAnonymous White Male

    “Names were quite irregular and highly variable in that era.”

    I am still amazed that the English dictionary by Dr. Johnson was not finished until 1755. Sure, there were earlier “dictionaries”, for instance, Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall, published in 1604 with only about 3000 words. What I’m getting at is how were people in one part of England able to speak to people in another part? And why would they feel any connection to an entity called England? It seems that it would be like recent Chinese history in which one dialect of Chinese couldn’t understand another. Or, how did “Italian” people read Dante? There wasn’t any one overriding form of “Italian” language. Sure, in the case of all European countries, you had Latin. But, it was only the educated class that was familiar enough to use it to communicate. How did the common people in London communicate with common people in York? They probably didn’t since common people often never traveled very far from where they were born. I’m reminded of a scene in Jabberwocky where Mr. Fishfinger says to Dennis, “When I was in Muckley the other day–“, to which Dennis responds, “Muckley? That’s a ways!”. “Two miles or more, easy.” “Gosh, I’d like to travel someday.” I am also reminded of how American and British soldiers, both who supposedly spoke “English”, couldn’t understand each other. “Oy, mate. Kin I pinch a set of spanners to fix our lorry?”
    Anyway, apparently you only need a small percentage of elites that can understand each other and a mercenary group of thugs (e.g., army) to effectively rule a country.

    1. AvatarPickle Rick

      A mercenary group of thugs is not an army, nor can it effectively rule a country. Innumerable historical examples of occupations that end badly prove this.

      1. AvatarAl from da Nort

        Rick;
        Yeah, Machiavelli spent a lot of effort to convince his fellow Italians that merc.s were a bad idea. They didn’t listen and were carved up by neighboring powers for nearly 400 years. It took Bismarck, of all people, to reconstitute Italy in 1866 as a check on the Austrians.

  7. Avatarcontrariandutchman

    In this scenario, am I completely certain that the palace guards have total unquestioning loyalty to me personally?

    If not the longevity of my dynasty (I assume that is a scoring category) is likely well served by breaking up their combat effectiveness while I set up a second, and third, palace guard, hopefully more loyal to me and if not at least good for keeping each other in check.

    And I may have to call the ruler of Kiev to lend me some troops, they may not be perfectly loyal to me personally but at least they are fully outside the factions in my capital and mutual hatred between them and the denizens of the capital should keep them out of plots against me.

    1. AvatarSkedastic Racket

      Following what CD said, the real palace guards may be the mercenaries. While allowing women into the SF in the long term weakens the mercenaries (like whatever blackwater is called now), in the short term it will likely drive competent young men to the mercenaries, strengthening the Emperor’s position, as long as he can pay them.
      Reducing the power of the US military is probably a necessary step before we can have that sweet sweet global government-corporation that everything seems to be melting into.

    2. AvatarAl from da Nort

      C.D.;
      As I’m sure you know, this was in fact the Byzantine solution. While it worked for some 900 years or so, it ultimately failed when the Emperor stopped recruiting from far away N Europe and started using locals, i.e. The Turks. Careless expedients are always dangerous and it takes a hard man to resist them.

      1. AvatarSeverian

        That’s a whole different scenario, isn’t it? Just as the gov figured out that they don’t need MiniTrue – the JVTP will happily do it much better, for free — so maybe the Empire’s core security functions will be outsourced too.

        The question then becomes, how long are the mercs content to remain mercs? Perhaps the game ends when the Empire’s security contractors become Sforzas.

        1. AvatarDinothedoxie

          The benefit of using barbarians as your elite guards and or as adjuncts to the regular military is that they’re outsiders and therefor less of a threat to overthrow you. Especially when done properly, the barbarians are recruited as individuals, serve for a set term than sent back home in barbarian land.

          The regular army, on the other hand, is the greatest threat to your rule as usurpation. Y some general is the most likely path to regime change and succession. In fact, you or your father likely got the throne this way.

          The risk is that the Mercenares turn on you or decide to seize and rule some of your territory directly. While both did happen, they were actually pretty rare historically. As opposed to military civil war – coup which was common.

          In the long term it creates an existential threat to the survival of your state. But you don’t care about the long run survival of the state. You care about your own immediate survival. And it’s not just you. Regime change usually includes the murder of the former rulers immediate, and sometimes extended family and also a derogation of the important people that had faithfully served them.

          And all of that isn’t even wrong headed, or whatever. There were a number of cases of emperors over the centuries who initiated unpopular reforms that would have paid long term dividends who wound up dealing with a civil war as a result, usually ending in their death and always leading to a weakened state.

          Sorry for being that guy.

          1. AvatarSeverian

            Machiavelli said similar. It’s also interesting and instructive to think what Old Nick would advise the Totally Legit Regime to do… and then contemplate all the ways they’re thing the exact opposite of that.

          2. AvatarNehushtan

            The benefit of using barbarians as your elite guards and or as adjuncts to the regular military is that they’re outsiders and therefor less of a threat to overthrow you.

            When Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II was assassinated by John Tzimekes in front of the Varangian guard , Tzimekes claimed the throne immediately and the Varangians went with it. Their function was to protect the Emperor, not avenge him…

  8. AvatarDinothedoxie

    If your a smart emperor in that situation you take care of the palace guard. Foment inter tribal wars between the barbarians outside the empire. Let the main military rot on the vine. And bring in a few select barbarian mercenaries to supplement your palace guard.

    If your a dummy, you pick a fight you have a good chance of losing with a foreign foe. Piss of your own military and allow the barbarians to coalesce into a unified foe.

    Guess which course the donks will take.

  9. AvatarDinothedoxie

    Slightly off topic but

    I’m predicting the US military will suffer a major defeat within the next half dozen years. Hubris and idiocy are a hell of a toxic mix, and our elites have an unprecedented level of both. So the only question in my mind is whether the defeat will be a Pearl Harbor or Kasserine Pass type event. Or a Cannae or Yarmoulke River type.

    1. AvatarPickle Rick

      We should be hoping for and encouraging exactly that. Like Z’s Friday podcast mentions, that’s exactly what the Bolsheviks wanted and needed to happen for them to step up- a disintegration of the old order through their own flagrant incompetence that directly causes pain to former regime loyalists.
      In 1914, Lenin smelled opportunity, which that idiot Czar obliged him with.

      1. AvatarSeverian

        It doesn’t even need to be a major defeat. Picture Admiral Sasqueetchia running her cruiser aground off the Syrian coast. The Admiraless, plus xzhyr fabulous trannie crew, get paraded through the streets of Damascus…

        1. AvatarPickle Rick

          It’s going to be really fun when someone plays stupid games with Russia or China (when the Chinese decide to finally move on Taiwan-Formosa after we meet their definition of paper tiger) and they stick a whole bunch of next generation antiship missiles into the hull of an absurdly vulnerable aircraft carrier.

          Carriers are gigantic floating bombs, full of explodey stuff like jet fuel and ordnance, and they’re not designed to take hits like the old battleships. (It took 19 torpedoes and 17 bombs to sink the Musashi). You hit a carrier right, and it’s going down fast and it’s probably going to take everyone with it, since the USN thinks nobody can sink their ships since nobody has done it for 76 years. This is not a Navy prepared to lose a ship. At this point in time aircraft carriers are like battleships in 1941- obsolescent but prestigious white elephants.

  10. AvatarMaus

    Come on, Sev, you’re havin’ us on. Isn’t it as obvious as a certain defunct blog? You pen your Meditations on the Stoic verities in the evening; get a good night’s sleep; and awake refreshed to take up the sword and kill or be killed. Victory conditions are an illusion. Virtue is its own (and the only true) reward. Hell, you’re just gonna leave the unfinished business (and it’s never finished) to your idiot son.

  11. AvatarMaus

    Names are a very interesting phenomenon. First, it is given to each of us. Shaped by tradition and culture, the only real choice that remains to anyone is to alter it, by variant spelling or the use of a diminutive (like Tom or Tommy for Thomas); or reject it (like Mohammad Ali for Cassius Clay). Sometimes, we emphasize our uniqueness by choosing a nom de plume; but the effect of social-media-driven anonymity has trivialized this to the point of near meaninglessness. How others use your name can be informative. When my full proper name was spoken aloud by a parent, court was now in session and I’d soon be experiencing swift justice. There is a widening circle of people who call me by a diminutive I rarely used as a child because at a certain time and place my boss used it to distinguish me from another person with the same given name in a fairly small office that had significant public impact. WRT spelling, I’d argue that it’s almost entirely a matter of convention; since the real power in a name is in its vocalization. Written documents served an archival/memorial purpose. It was the oral promulgation of laws and charters that was the sine qua non of legal effectiveness. Universal mass literacy is a recent human striving that arose after, but not because of, the flourishing of the printing press. Indeed, even as the digital Information Age unfolds and replaces previous paradigms ala Kuhn, the goal of universal literacy remains a utopian chimera.

    1. AvatarNehushtan

      Like I said above, this idea about names as identity is quite culturally-bound. In America there’s always something a little off about changing your name, but in other cultures it is routine to change names at different points of your life. In these cultures the web of relationships (especially familial) are much much tighter. Your new name means about as much a new shirt.

  12. AvatarRetiredSOF

    Years ago Demi Moore starred in a movie (G.I. Jane, 1997) in which she became a naval special warfare operator. In an interview afterward she stated that, during filming, she was in the surf and had to pee. She thought about returning to her trailer nearby to pee but decided to pee in the ocean. It was then, she claimed, that she knew she was a SEAL. After reading the interview I contacted a buddy of mine in Team Five (Coronado, CA) and told him that I finally understood how he had managed to make it through BUDS. He was not amused.

    1. AvatarSeverian

      Wow, if that’s all it takes, then I became a SEAL after about 14 beers one Spring Break down in Miami Beach. Later I sprained an ankle attempting an infiltration on a coed in a Holiday Inn shower. Can I put myself in for a retroactive Purple Heart?

  13. AvatarAllen

    I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it. Put women in combat roles, in fact make an all women 83rd Airborne Chick Division, and send them in first to hotspots around the world. Then we can have the “Bloody Milestones” the pictures of mutilated and dead young women, and so on. We’ll tie ribbons around trees, maybe have a few tears for their sacrifice, and generally cheer them on. Yeah sure, I betcha other women will go for that. In fact, let’s re-institute the draft and take only women first.

    It’s all fun and games until women are going to be the last ones to get in the lifeboats then it gets a little contentious.

    1. AvatarPickle Rick

      Of course we should. Reductio ad absurdum. In fact, we need to simply reframe it as “reparations” for all the dead and wounded white heterosexual men in the past. No white men shall serve in uniform at all until the numbers of dead and wounded women and people of color match the casualties of white men. That figure is 2,892,932.

    2. AvatarSome Guy

      Nah, they’d all get pregnant to avoid deployment just like the women in the military do now. Unless we deploy the 83rd mobil abortion brigade, “the fightin’ coathangers” to sort things out…

      1. Avatarjvangeld

        Man, you and I suffer from normalcy bias. Or, in this case, decency bias. You and I would never support sending pregnant women into combat because it risks the life of the woman and her baby.

        The women of the fightin’ coathangers, on the other hand, want to kill as many “products of conception” as they possibly can. Why would the deatheaters who send women into combat not also send their babies into combat? Babies harm combat effectiveness? They’ve already proven that they don’t care about combat effectiveness.

  14. AvatarJoseph Moore

    Totally not an historian, just read a few books. Wasn’t one of the reasons Constantine moved the capital to get away from the Praetorian Guard? He rose to power as a general, and didn’t need them, and was well aware of their history of bumping off emperors they didn’t like. Not the case you are proposing, because he did have a good power base in his own legions.

    Something else, perhaps more appropriate to today: by his time, there also seems to have been an odd but predictable dynamic in Rome: the Senate and people still imagined themselves to hold true power in the Empire, even though by Constantine’s time the military power and even military leadership were non-Roman. So, within a century of the move to Byzantium, the Romans think they can get away with insulting and even murdering the families of the Goth military leadership. Didn’t work out well.

    I’m sort of with Maus on the ‘victory’ definition. You have the example of Charlemagne – he was a success in building his empire, but only had the chance because his father and grandfather (at least) had set the stage. And then his sons promptly blew it all up. A manly man from a long line of manly men, yet, if keeping the empire going is ‘victory,’ a failure? Or how about Atilla? Nominal king of the Huns, who called his chieftains together (the story goes) in order to have them swear allegiance. The first dude hesitated, and was murdered on the spot. I suppose Atilla was very secure in his own tribe, such that he didn’t die next, but – showing a willingness to murder all opponents at the first sign of doubt, and to reward them with ample Roman plunder (and the chance to torture and murder a bunch of farmers) seems to have been a winning combination.

    Machiavelli reminded his would be princes to always remember that their chambermaid can kill them.

  15. AvatarFeinGul

    The SEALS, indeed the military are in no way the palace guard.

    Thats intel, really State Dept –

    Oh and with zero opposition, fat bitches in wheelchairs would suffice.

    1. AvatarAl from da Nort

      Fein;
      Not to go all ‘spergy’ on you (OK, a little), aren’t the US Secret Service really the current version of a palace guard_? They are any POTUS & VPOTUS last line of personal defense, after all. What’s their loyalty if things go spicy_?

      Biden’s sock puppeteers are probably dumb enough to start dealing with our very own USSS like they are presently dealing with the active military. You know, questioning their loyalty, weeding out ‘extremists’, creating a climate of informers, etc.

      History is full of rulers done in by their own guards, particularly if said guards are regularly insulted, and even more so if they all start thinking that each one of them could be next. Based on this, I don’t see Kamala lasting to ’24. Based on current evidence, she simply can’t help herself

  16. AvatarEvil Sandmich

    The instance along these lines that I always bring up was when Obama put an affirmative action hire in charge of the Secret Service who then proceeded to bungle the management of his own security detail. Though a completely idiotic move I did get a teaspoon of respect for the man since his ideology came before even his own personal safety.

    The other thing along the same lines, and this is something ‘Z’ brought up, was a book on General Milley where he supposedly talks about the possibility of using the military to depose Trump. No one in their right mind would trust such a man since who knows when he might wake up in a foul mood and decide to overthrow the government. This isn’t some vague spit-balling, this is something he’s perfectly happy letting people think that he was going to do at least once. It’s the same thing as Obama though: ideology (in this case Trump-hatred) above personal safety.

    Perhaps though the wussy nature of the American POZ is absolutely complete. In another age, like 150 years ago, with a large mob “threatening” the legislative body some clever elite somewhere would have thought to maybe get out in front of the crowd and make some things happen. But on 1/6 there was not one person in all of D.C. who had this thought. This has led to us, outside looking in, seeing some strange mix of extreme complacency (everyone in D.C. trusts everyone else) and extreme paranoia (everyone outside of D.C. and it’s control is suspect).

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