Suicidal Empires

In the year 410, Alaric and his Goths sacked Rome.  For 800 years, Rome had not suffered siege and sack.  Within 30 years, the Western Roman Empire effectively vanished, becoming a bundle of new Germanic kingdoms.  The change plunged the West into a darkened age.  But it also reinvigorated Europe to have a brilliant future.

What is happening in our world echoes those distant events. 

Historian Michael Kulikowski offers a new take on the Western Empire's fall.  He proposes that the Western Roman Empire accidently committed suicide.

Like the Eastern Roman Empire, the Western Empire was basically stable and should have lasted.  But it didn't.  The pettiness and vitriol of powerful fools destroyed a great empire from the inside.  We face that same risk. 

The Roman Empire always had a fundamental problem: succession.  How does the empire peacefully transfer power from one competent emperor to the next?  The Romans never solved this problem.  Some emperors reigned for decades, others for weeks.  Some emperors died in bed, but most were murdered.

The Empire was too massively coherent for any given emperor to do much damage.  However, in the time of Alaric, supreme idiocy triggered the West's downfall.

Our founding fathers found a clever solution to the Romans' problem of succession.  This was our Electoral College.  When it failed, in 1860, disputed succession gave us secession and the Civil War.  The Romans were all too familiar with civil war.

In 212, the Roman Empire fundamentally changed: Emperor Caracalla proclaimed that all free people in the empire were now Roman citizens.  Unfortunately, universal citizenship had its downside. 

Until Caracalla, Rome was a loose association of different peoples in different places with different cultures and different laws.  In effect, the Empire was a kind of armed trade association.  The early United States was similar until the Civil War, and the later 17th Amendment, imposed constricting centralized authority on America.

During the early Empire, members of the Roman Senate oversaw a light sprinkling of Roman rules in each of the provinces.  Local laws and institutions remained intact.  Under this system, most people had friendly relations with other members of the empire regardless of their various cultures.  

With Caracalla's edict, this fundamentally changed.  Now there was to be comprehensive uniformity of law – Roman Law – everywhere, and at all levels.  Enforcing this led to a vast expansion of the governing bureaucracy, culminating in Diocletian's administrative system.  The Roman Deep State had arrived.  Now a vast influx of ambitious men joined the ruling class, all greedy for power. 

Religious and political factions developed, each of which attempted to impose a different doctrine.  Friendships evaporated.  And everyone despised "barbarians." 

But the "barbarians" weren't always barbarian.  Indeed, most of the Goths were Christian.  Over centuries of contacts with the empire, the Goths had become Romanized.

Then the climate changed.  There began a centuries-long Little Ice Age.  The newly winter-frozen Rhine and Danube were no longer barriers.  Worse, drought drove the fearsome Huns west.  Fleeing before them were the Goths seeking refuge inside the Roman Empire. 

Rome had been swallowing foreigners for centuries – melting them into the Empire, much like the American melting pot.  The emperor admitted the Goths and promised to provision them until they could be properly settled and begin farming.

Rome then initiated its suicide: the arrogant and greedy Deep State appallingly treated the Goth refugees.  The Goths rebelled and annihilated the Roman Army at Adrianople.  Emperor Valens vanished. 

Theodosius the Great restabilized the empire.  Near death, Theodosius installed his son-in-law, the half-Vandal general Stilicho, as regent of the West and protector of his underage son, Augustus Honorius. 

We first see Alaric in command of many federated Goths under Stilicho.  At the civil war battle of the River Frigidus, Alaric's troops were up front, resulting in their great losses.  Resentful at this placement, Alaric rebelled against Stilicho, and the Goths joined him. 

For several years, Alaric maneuvered his army around the Balkans and northern Italy, all the while skirmishing and negotiating with Stilicho.  But negotiating with the feckless Roman Deep State was hopeless.  Since the establishment treated him like a barbarian, Alaric would be a barbarian!  And Rome was sacked. 

The Western Empire had committed suicide.  Without effective defenses, the empire now succumbed to multiple invasions and faded away.

Today, our current political environment resembles the situation in the time of Alaric.

Consider succession.  The attacks on President Trump are the most dangerous assault against our founders' solution to the problem of succession.  Our Deep State refuses to recognize that Donald Trump really is the president.  It is doing everything in its power to eject him from office or cripple him. 

Without orderly succession, our republic will disintegrate as it almost did in the Civil War.

Today we have the parasitic swamp.  The Deep State part of the swamp is the government bureaucratic system and the regulatory agencies.  These institutions have become corrupt ruling kingdoms unto themselves.  They are no longer governed by we the people. 

Federated in the swamp are its elitist forces: the academy, many judges, most of the media, web giants, and so on.  These federates propagate the Swamp's progressive ideology – Orwellian ideas that subvert the very essence of our Constitution. 

With the recent ascendency of progressives, most Americans are now treated as un-American – in many cases with expressions of real hatred and scorn.  Conservatives are now "deplorables," "barbarians," "morons."  Even a recent progressive president called the traditionalist majority "the enemy."  In effect, an alien ideology has conquered most of America's institutions.  Most Americans are now strangers in their own land. 

Very well: If lovers of liberty are to be called "barbarians," they will be "barbarians" – political barbarians.  They will fight those who oppress them.  Sweeping aside conventional politicians, conservatives found a fearless, dynamic leader – an outsider, like themselves.  They now have their own Alaric – Alaric inside the political gates.  They have President Donald J. Trump.

In the year 410, Alaric and his Goths sacked Rome.  For 800 years, Rome had not suffered siege and sack.  Within 30 years, the Western Roman Empire effectively vanished, becoming a bundle of new Germanic kingdoms.  The change plunged the West into a darkened age.  But it also reinvigorated Europe to have a brilliant future.

What is happening in our world echoes those distant events. 

Historian Michael Kulikowski offers a new take on the Western Empire's fall.  He proposes that the Western Roman Empire accidently committed suicide.

Like the Eastern Roman Empire, the Western Empire was basically stable and should have lasted.  But it didn't.  The pettiness and vitriol of powerful fools destroyed a great empire from the inside.  We face that same risk. 

The Roman Empire always had a fundamental problem: succession.  How does the empire peacefully transfer power from one competent emperor to the next?  The Romans never solved this problem.  Some emperors reigned for decades, others for weeks.  Some emperors died in bed, but most were murdered.

The Empire was too massively coherent for any given emperor to do much damage.  However, in the time of Alaric, supreme idiocy triggered the West's downfall.

Our founding fathers found a clever solution to the Romans' problem of succession.  This was our Electoral College.  When it failed, in 1860, disputed succession gave us secession and the Civil War.  The Romans were all too familiar with civil war.

In 212, the Roman Empire fundamentally changed: Emperor Caracalla proclaimed that all free people in the empire were now Roman citizens.  Unfortunately, universal citizenship had its downside. 

Until Caracalla, Rome was a loose association of different peoples in different places with different cultures and different laws.  In effect, the Empire was a kind of armed trade association.  The early United States was similar until the Civil War, and the later 17th Amendment, imposed constricting centralized authority on America.

During the early Empire, members of the Roman Senate oversaw a light sprinkling of Roman rules in each of the provinces.  Local laws and institutions remained intact.  Under this system, most people had friendly relations with other members of the empire regardless of their various cultures.  

With Caracalla's edict, this fundamentally changed.  Now there was to be comprehensive uniformity of law – Roman Law – everywhere, and at all levels.  Enforcing this led to a vast expansion of the governing bureaucracy, culminating in Diocletian's administrative system.  The Roman Deep State had arrived.  Now a vast influx of ambitious men joined the ruling class, all greedy for power. 

Religious and political factions developed, each of which attempted to impose a different doctrine.  Friendships evaporated.  And everyone despised "barbarians." 

But the "barbarians" weren't always barbarian.  Indeed, most of the Goths were Christian.  Over centuries of contacts with the empire, the Goths had become Romanized.

Then the climate changed.  There began a centuries-long Little Ice Age.  The newly winter-frozen Rhine and Danube were no longer barriers.  Worse, drought drove the fearsome Huns west.  Fleeing before them were the Goths seeking refuge inside the Roman Empire. 

Rome had been swallowing foreigners for centuries – melting them into the Empire, much like the American melting pot.  The emperor admitted the Goths and promised to provision them until they could be properly settled and begin farming.

Rome then initiated its suicide: the arrogant and greedy Deep State appallingly treated the Goth refugees.  The Goths rebelled and annihilated the Roman Army at Adrianople.  Emperor Valens vanished. 

Theodosius the Great restabilized the empire.  Near death, Theodosius installed his son-in-law, the half-Vandal general Stilicho, as regent of the West and protector of his underage son, Augustus Honorius. 

We first see Alaric in command of many federated Goths under Stilicho.  At the civil war battle of the River Frigidus, Alaric's troops were up front, resulting in their great losses.  Resentful at this placement, Alaric rebelled against Stilicho, and the Goths joined him. 

For several years, Alaric maneuvered his army around the Balkans and northern Italy, all the while skirmishing and negotiating with Stilicho.  But negotiating with the feckless Roman Deep State was hopeless.  Since the establishment treated him like a barbarian, Alaric would be a barbarian!  And Rome was sacked. 

The Western Empire had committed suicide.  Without effective defenses, the empire now succumbed to multiple invasions and faded away.

Today, our current political environment resembles the situation in the time of Alaric.

Consider succession.  The attacks on President Trump are the most dangerous assault against our founders' solution to the problem of succession.  Our Deep State refuses to recognize that Donald Trump really is the president.  It is doing everything in its power to eject him from office or cripple him. 

Without orderly succession, our republic will disintegrate as it almost did in the Civil War.

Today we have the parasitic swamp.  The Deep State part of the swamp is the government bureaucratic system and the regulatory agencies.  These institutions have become corrupt ruling kingdoms unto themselves.  They are no longer governed by we the people. 

Federated in the swamp are its elitist forces: the academy, many judges, most of the media, web giants, and so on.  These federates propagate the Swamp's progressive ideology – Orwellian ideas that subvert the very essence of our Constitution. 

With the recent ascendency of progressives, most Americans are now treated as un-American – in many cases with expressions of real hatred and scorn.  Conservatives are now "deplorables," "barbarians," "morons."  Even a recent progressive president called the traditionalist majority "the enemy."  In effect, an alien ideology has conquered most of America's institutions.  Most Americans are now strangers in their own land. 

Very well: If lovers of liberty are to be called "barbarians," they will be "barbarians" – political barbarians.  They will fight those who oppress them.  Sweeping aside conventional politicians, conservatives found a fearless, dynamic leader – an outsider, like themselves.  They now have their own Alaric – Alaric inside the political gates.  They have President Donald J. Trump.