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The Geopolitics of Empire

Cool title, huh? It always feels good to type this kind of stuff. “Empire”. Pronounced with a 1900s British accent. Feels good man. Insert happy frog pic.

Anyway. The most interesting, shall I say “official” theory of historical geopolitics of the reaction must surely be Peter Turchin’s theory of meta-ethnic frontier armies pumping up their asabiya and conquering the civilizational center.

The theory basically says that to run a civilization you need a strong army. To run a strong army you need cohesion, discipline, i.e. asabiya. To produce this cohesion and discipline you need your soldiers to feel its need. Discipline isn’t nice. You’d rather slack off and drink beer and be merry. The kind of discipline an army runs off is produced by massive amounts of violence and unreasonable demands. You can only get people to do so if they feel is absolutely necessary. And they will only feel it’s necessary if they get to the realization that either they behave like good soldiers, or they’re dead, and they will lose everything they hold dear.

The way you get your soldiers to feel that is to stack them against a different civilization. People so alien to you that they you have nothing in common. If they win, everything you are accustomed to, all your life, all those little habits of behavior that form your identity: all that will be destroyed. And you don’t like that. It’s taken a while for you to adapt to that culture. Starting at birth. Your brain unconsciously produced a very fine set of motor sequences that make you able to gain some status inside that culture. If that culture were to change, because you got invaded by a different one, you’re screwed.

I mean, most likely you’d be directly screwed, in that your wife and daughters will be raped and you and your sons will be put into slavery; but even if the invaders were nice, they are just alien sons of bitches. So you gotta be sure they don’t conquer you. So you gotta be strong. So you join the army and you become a good soldier.

Once you are part of this strong army, you realize that all your fellow countrymen down below in the center are a bunch of pussies; you could easily conquer their asses in no time. Not that you need to, most of the time, but every now and then the center just collapses out of sheer dysfunction and runaway rent-seeking. So when the center collapses, the strong armies of the meta-ethnic frontier come down and restore order. That’s the Ibn-Khaldun civilizational cycle.

It’s pretty easy to understand, and it makes a lot of sense. Check your history and it fits quite mightily well I must say. And it also fits stuff that didn’t end up happening but people used to think it would. See this quote that a commenter at Nick Land’s left some days ago:

“The oppression of Hungary has ratified the oppression of all our continent. Since she has fallen, Italy has been completely crushed, the moderate freedom of Germany has been put down by Austria with the support of Russia; lastly, the usurpation of Louis Napoleon has been made possible. Without the restoration of Hungary Europe cannot be freed from Russian thraldom; under which nationalities are erased, no freedom is possible, all religions are subjected to like slavery. Gentlemen! the Emperor Napoleon spoke a prophetic word, when he said that in fifty years all Europe would be either republican or Cossack. Hungary once free, Europe is republican; Hungary permanently crushed, all Europe is Cossack.

The political fragmentation of Europe is an obvious historical anomaly. The history of mankind is the history of great empires. China, surely. The Persian Empire, and it’s Arab successors. The Roman Empire was the only one which didn’t rise again. Of course there’s a thousand theories about it; mainly Britain being a pain in the ass. But if you look at the map, it is pretty reasonable to conclude that Europe would end up a part of the Russian Empire. Russia is of course a perfect example of a meta-ethnic frontier, with White Christian Farmer Russians fighting for centuries against Asian Muslim Nomads. Now I know someone who is just going to come and write that the Russian army was a piece of shit, and that Russia only won because of sheer numbers and an Asiatic disregard for human life. But anyway. Those guys could fight. Hell, they conquered up to Alaska, the whole of Central Asia, and would’ve conquered Constantinople if not for British and French intervention.

So why didn’t Russia end up conquering the decadent Europeans? Well, in great part because the fragmented Europeans weren’t quite decadent. We could fight pretty well. France and Britain kicked ass everywhere they went. Which is weird, as neither of them are on a meta-ethnic frontier. Or are they?

Britain and France were huge colonial powers, which meant that their effective frontier was all over the place. By that argument Western Europe was the longest meta-ethnic frontier ever to occur in human history. They were out there fighting extremely alien peoples all over the planet.

But again that doesn’t quite apply to Napoleonic France. Or to the German Imperial army, by most accounts the strongest and most disciplined army in the world, probably since the Mongols. And Germany was no colonial power. By no stretch of the word you could argue that Germany is on a meta-ethnic frontier.

So what is it? The Napoleonic singularity should give you a hint. Nationalism is what fed the French army. And very much what fed the German army. Nationalism creates a meta-ethnic frontier from thin air, by changing the parameters of what makes an ethnicity. If you force people to become extremely anal about their group identity, the asabiya-production algorithms are much easier to activate. The Germans understood that was the basis of their strength; and so after losing WW1 they doubled down and came up with a Hitler.

Of course the asabiya-hacking ability of nationalism is a collective action problem. The point of asabiya is war. Of course it’s useful for a lot of other things, namely to run a wealthy industrial economy. But, at the end of the day, the business of groups of men is war, and excess asabiya will end up creating the circumstances so that it can show itself in the battlefield. And so nationalism ended up creating meta-ethnic frontiers all over the place. Which created the most massive and coordinated armies ever seen by men. Which was complete overkill. Not a good idea.

But now that Europe has forsaken nationalism, maybe the old patterns will reassert themselves, and Europe will fall to the closest meta-ethnic power. That is kinda the situation right now, with the USA as the conquering power. But they didn’t do so explicitly, and they are likely to leave in short term.

I never read him, but isn’t this argument basically what that Alexander Dugin guy is always talking about?

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15 responses to “The Geopolitics of Empire

  1. Pingback: The Geopolitics of Empire | Reaction Times

  2. darkreformation101 March 23, 2017 at 00:01

    “But now that Europe has forsaken nationalism, maybe the old patterns will reassert themselves, and Europe will fall to the closest meta-ethnic power. That is kinda the situation right now, with the USA as the conquering power. But they didn’t do so explicitly, and they are likely to leave in short term.”

    Europe was conquered in 1945.

    Fragmentation is what will likely happen.

  3. iFruit March 23, 2017 at 00:06

    “But they didn’t do so explicitly, and they are likely to leave in short term.”

    The age of communication isn’t the age of expliciteness.
    It’s not the USA, it’s Democracy, or Human Rights, or The Liberal Order (check a couple Orwellington-based NGO’s websites for more synonyms, coining those is one of their occupations).
    Moldbug has written both extensively and with glimmering veracity on the issue of the USA submission of Europe.

    It’s the “they are likely to leave in short term” what strikes me.
    Are they?!
    They’re more purposeful and determined than ever in bullying the whole world (check again those NGO’s websites), with Russia China and Iran the only independent countries left.

    Germany was to unify Europe, as it would have been natural. But the good Americans, who wanted Europe as a vassal continent, strongly disagreed.
    The European Union was implemented and devised, at any account, to unite Europe.
    To unite Europe under its across-the-ocean master. Today Europe is amazingly united in submission.
    And frankly, they seem to never have enough of it; you can hardly help get the impression that, if the USA freed them, they’d be stampeding around in circles, beseeching for some other power to govern them — China, Russia, Islam.

  4. J. E. Goldman March 23, 2017 at 07:46

    The problem with pre-1945 military historical theories is that they cannot account for nuclear deterrence.

  5. Jefferson March 23, 2017 at 15:45

    How often does a small army defeat a larger one? The adaptive strength of Empire seems based on army size, and its weakness is probably rooted in Dunbar’s number.

  6. Jefferson March 23, 2017 at 15:51

    The frontier vs. center is a bit superficial, in my estimation. It sees the correlation, but misses the causation. Gnon demands response to stimulus; without his stimulus (which can take the form of a frontier, a dangerous neighbor, or straight Malthusian pressures), people try to create their own, creating factions. Otherwise, they just stop breeding. Whatever happened to those Mayans, anyway?

    • spandrell March 23, 2017 at 16:37

      The smart people became astronomer nerds and failed to reproduce. That’s my guess anyway.

      • Jefferson March 23, 2017 at 20:57

        People need a challenge to push back against is the theory in running with. Hence the frenzied Leftism, the zombie fantasies, etc. Living should be a battle; it is for nearly every lifeform.

        • spandrell March 24, 2017 at 00:59

          Turchin argues that the appearance of horseback nomadism in the Eurasian steppe is what kickstarted Civilization, as they forced all farming societies to step up their game to survive. The Mayans certainly had no Scythians to protect themselves from.

      • Rhetocrates March 24, 2017 at 00:02

        “Sir Isaac Newton never married and did not have any children.”

        The decline of the West in a nutshell.

        Funnily, it seems like celibate priests (or at least celibate monks/nuns) is a -good- idea. You select out the utterly fanatical, but you also select for those people who are capable of being moved by the message that this religion is so awesome folks are willing to give up sex for it.

        I think you might be on to something in your geopolitical analysis, but it needs some refinement. Throw out the conceit that the (Western) Roman Empire ever fell; it simply degraded (quite a lot). Then you get the Roman Empire fighting the Persians/Turks/Arabs in turns. It simply looks less like a continuation than, say, one Chinese dynasty to the next because:

        a) we speak English, which means our history is biased not only to Europe but Western Europe, and not only Western Europe but Europe west of Mitteleuropa
        b) that bias plants us firmly on the western side of the Hajnal line, so we’re naturally less inclined to tight fellow-feeling. (Our fellow-feeling is wider, but also weaker.)
        c) the conquest of Dar el Islam was nearly complete, and imposed a huge wound in Roman civilization that echoes down the ages (see: Abbasid Spain, Anatolia, etc.)
        d) because of c) and the exigencies of modern power, our view of c) makes it look more natural than the gaping wound that it is
        e) the ‘new dynasty/ies’ that took over from the ‘old dynasty’ in the Roman Empire had a radically new religion to go along with its radically new population (cf. China’s Confucian revolution, which at least left them all still Han, though you’d know more about that than I do)
        f) the Roman Empire was based more on subsidiarity and federation than other empires

        but despite the points above, for a very long time Europe was still consciously a continuation of the Roman Empire. That’s why you get names like the HRE, and where the whole idea of a united Europe (Christendom) even comes from.

        I contend that in fact it’s still going, and we’re still continuing the Roman Empire, but the collapse of our old religion is what might finally completely kill off that line of heritage.

        (Despite my contention above about the continuation of this one, empires do eventually die. Nobody is an heir to Assyria or Egypt. The Aztecs are on their last legs.)

        • spandrell March 24, 2017 at 00:58

          How does that change anything? I concede that Europe was a cultural unity. The argument is that the frontier is where armies are made. Germany was not the frontier. France was not the frontier. Yet they kicked ass.

          • Rhetocrates March 24, 2017 at 04:41

            I’m not trying to change anything, just sharpen the analysis.

            But I think it does shed light on that question in an oblique fashion. Given the unique historical situation of the continuation of the Roman Empire, its constituent parts had less in common with one another than did the constituent parts of other empires. (Or, more accurately, its internal divisions were more evenly distributed between power groups.) Therefore, more local fault lines were able to act as frontiers for development purposes.

            Of course that’s a very reductionist analysis. Genes have a large part to play, as do simple geographic and thalassographic positioning. Britain and France both have long naval traditions, and Prussia has always wanted to have one.

  7. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2017/03/26) - Social Matter

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