Thursday, August 18, 2011

Paying off Alaric

Getting caught up on all the Sack of London stuff after being laid up sick means a bit of a long post.

As you can probably tell, I cannot help but see dangerous parallels between the riots in London, and by extension Philadelphia, Milwaukee, etc., and the Sack of Rome in 410 AD by Goths under the chieftain Alaric, that highlighted the complete failure of Roman government and heralded the downfall of the Western Empire some 66 years later.  First, take a look at the, um, "career" of Alaric:

In 394, Alaric served as a leader of foederati under Theodosius I in the campaign which crushed the usurper Eugenius. As the Battle of the Frigidus, which terminated this campaign, was fought at the passes of the Julian Alps, Alaric probably learned the weakness of Italy's natural defences on its northeastern frontier at the head of the Adriatic.

Theodosius died in 395, leaving the empire to be divided between his two sons Arcadius and Honorius, the former taking the eastern and the latter, the western portion of the empire. Arcadius showed little interest in ruling, leaving most of the actual power to his Praetorian Prefect Rufinus. Honorius was still a minor; as his guardian, Theodosius had appointed the magister militum Stilicho. Stilicho also claimed to be the guardian of Arcadius, causing much rivalry between the western and eastern courts.

According to Edward Gibbon in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, during the shifting of offices that took place at the beginning of the new reigns, Alaric apparently hoped he would be promoted from a mere commander to the rank of general in one of the regular armies. He was denied the promotion, however. Among the Visigoths settled in Lower Moesia, the situation was ripe for rebellion. They had suffered disproportionately great losses at Frigidus. And according to rumour, exposing the Visigoths in battle was a convenient way of weakening the Gothic tribes. This, combined with their post-battle rewards, prompted them to raise Alaric "on a shield" and proclaim him king; according to Jordanes (a Gothic historian of varying importance, depending upon who is asked), both the new king and his people decided "rather to seek new kingdoms by their own work, than to slumber in peaceful subjection to the rule of others."
Alaric started out by ravaging Greece.  After that he began his repeated invasions of Italy.  Invasion One:
It was probably in 401 that Alaric made his first invasion of Italy.  Supernatural influences were not lacking to urge him to this great enterprise. Some lines of the Roman poet Claudian inform us that he heard a voice proceeding from a sacred grove, "Break off all delays, Alaric. This very year thou shalt force the Alpine barrier of Italy; thou shalt penetrate to the city." But the prophecy was not to be fulfilled at this time. After spreading desolation through North Italy and striking terror into the citizens of Rome, Alaric was met by Stilicho at Pollentia, today in Piedmont. The battle which followed on April 6, 402 (coinciding with Easter), was a victory for Rome, though a costly one. But it effectively halted the Goths' progress.

Stilicho's enemies later reproached him for having gained his victory by taking impious advantage of the great Christian festival. Alaric, too, was a Christian, though an Arian, not Orthodox. He had trusted to the sanctity of Easter for immunity from attack.

Alaric's wife was reportedly taken prisoner after this battle; it is not unreasonable to suppose that he and his troops were hampered by the presence of large numbers of women and children, which gave his invasion of Italy the character of a human migration.

After another defeat before Verona, Alaric left Italy, probably in 403. He had not "penetrated to the city" but his invasion of Italy had produced important results. It caused the imperial residence to be transferred from Milan to Ravenna, and necessitated the withdrawal of Legio XX Valeria Victrix from Britain.
Invasion Two:

Alaric became the friend and ally of his late opponent, Stilicho. By 407, the estrangement between the eastern and western courts had become so bitter that it threatened civil war. Stilicho actually proposed using Alaric's troops to enforce Honorius' claim to the prefecture of Illyricum. The death of Arcadius in May 408 caused milder counsel to prevail in the western court, but Alaric, who had actually entered Epirus, demanded in a somewhat threatening manner that if he were thus suddenly requested to desist from war, he should be paid handsomely for what modern language would call the "expenses of mobilization". The sum which he named was a large one, 4,000 pounds of gold. Under strong pressure from Stilicho, the Roman senate consented to promise its payment.

But three months later, Stilicho and the chief ministers of his party were treacherously slain on Honorius' orders. In the unrest that followed throughout Italy, the wives and children of the foederati were slain. Consequently, these 30,000 men flocked to Alaric's camp, clamouring to be led against their cowardly enemies. He accordingly led them across the Julian Alps and, in September 408, stood before the walls of Rome (now with no capable general like Stilicho as a defender) and began a strict blockade.

No blood was shed this time; Alaric relied on hunger as his most powerful weapon. When the ambassadors of the Senate, entreating for peace, tried to intimidate him with hints of what the despairing citizens might accomplish, he laughed and gave his celebrated answer: "The thicker the hay, the easier mowed!" After much bargaining, the famine-stricken citizens agreed to pay a ransom of 5,000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, 4,000 silken tunics, 3,000 hides dyed scarlet, and 3,000 pounds of pepper.[2] Thus ended Alaric's first siege of Rome.

Throughout his career, Alaric's primary goal was not to undermine the empire, but to secure for himself a regular and recognized position within the empire's borders. His demands were certainly grand— the concession of a block of territory 200 miles long by 150 wide between the Danube and the Gulf of Venice (to be held probably on some terms of nominal dependence on the empire) and the title of commander-in-chief of the imperial army—. Immense as his terms were, the emperor would have been well advised to grant them. Honorius, however, refused to see beyond his own safety, guaranteed by the dikes and marshes of Ravenna. As all attempts to conduct a satisfactory negotiation with this emperor failed, Alaric, after instituting a second siege and blockade of Rome in 409, came to terms with the senate. With their consent, he set up a rival emperor, the prefect of the city, a Greek named Priscus Attalus.
Invasion Three and the Sack of Rome:
Alaric cashiered his ineffectual puppet emperor after eleven months and again tried to reopen negotiations with Honorius. These negotiations might have succeeded had it not been for the malignant influence of another Goth, Sarus, an Amali, and therefore hereditary enemy of Alaric and his house. Alaric, again outwitted by an enemy's machinations, marched southward and in deadly earnest, began his third siege of Rome. Apparently, defence was impossible; there are hints, not well substantiated, of treachery; surprise is a more likely explanation. However, this may be—for our information at this point of the story is meagre—on August 24 410, Alaric and his Visigoths burst in by the Porta Salaria on the northeast of the city. Rome, for so long victorious against its enemies, was now at the mercy of its foreign conquerors.

The contemporary ecclesiastics recorded with wonder many instances of the Visigoths' clemency: Christian churches saved from ravage; protection granted to vast multitudes both of pagans and Christians who took refuge therein; vessels of gold and silver which were found in a private dwelling, spared because they "belonged to St. Peter"; at least one case in which a beautiful Roman matron appealed, not in vain, to the better feelings of the Gothic soldier who attempted her dishonor. But even these exceptional instances show that Rome was not entirely spared the horrors which usually accompany the storming of a besieged city. Nonetheless, the written sources do not mention damages wrought by fire, save the Gardens of Sallust, which were situated close to the gate by which the Goths had made their entrance; nor is there any reason to attribute any extensive destruction of the buildings of the city to Alaric and his followers. The Basilica Aemilia in the Roman Forum did burn down, which perhaps can be attributed to Alaric: the archaeological evidence was provided by coins dating from 410 found melted in the floor. The pagan emperors' tombs of the Mausoleum of Augustus and Castel Sant'Angelo were rifled and the ashes scattered.
You see a pattern here.  The single-word description for this is "tribute," though perhaps a better one might be "extortion."  Basically paying off barbarians so they don't hurt or rob you.  Alaric's political aspirations only personified the action; they did not change the nature of it.

The Sack of Rome by the Visigoths on 24 August 410 by J-N Sylvestre (1890)
Now, look at London.  A. Barton Hinkle:
"This is the uprising of the working class," said a London anarchist taking a momentary break from smashing things last Monday. "We're redistributing the wealth." Said another, "[We're showing] the rich we can do what we want."
If you have been keeping up with the news from Britain, then you know who bears the blame for this: conservatives!
The "deep cutbacks in social programs" made by the government of Prime Minister David Cameron "have hit the country's poor especially hard," reported a major U.S. newspaper, "including large numbers of the minority youths who have been at the forefront of the unrest."
The "unrest." Nice touch.
This line has been trotted out by others—most notoriously "Red Ken" Livingstone, the former mayor of London. As well as a London MP who cited "disillusionment." And an analysis on Salon that blamed "youth unemployment." And NPR ("The unrest has spread, apparently spurred by anger over the high cost of living" as well as economic "disparity"). And The Washington Post's Courtland Milloy (the rioters are "striking out in anger over the theft of their futures").
A scholar at Johns Hopkins blames "austerity cuts." So does The New York Times: "Economic malaise and cuts in spending and services instituted by the Conservative-led government have been recurring flashpoints for months." Reuters says a "sense of disenchantment" is shared by a "generation of young people with opportunities that fall well short of their aspirations." And—
Well, you get the point: Yes, the hooligans have destroyed family businesses, trashed London institutions, sent millions of real and sweat equity up in flames, inflicted misery on thousands of innocent people. But one mustn't judge too harshly. One must try to understand. And to mollify.
In short, say the Ken Livingstones of the world, don't defend yourselves but instead put more money uinto social programs.  Pay off Alaric.

There's more.  Much more.  Ron Radosh:

The rioting continues unabated in London, and as of this writing, David Cameron has called out an extensive police presence and vowed to do everything possible to prevent them from spreading. Cameron should have acted earlier, but at least he cut short his Italian vacation to rush back to London and use his powers as prime minister to take the tough action that is needed. The measures include the stationing of 10,000 additional police throughout London, as well as the possible use of water cannons. He has good reason to enforce these measures. Last night, three men were killed when some of the thugs drove their car into a group protecting homes and businesses from looters. As of Wednesday, 1200 people had been arrested.
Londoners had good reason to applaud. An online petition was being circulated calling for rioters to lose all government welfare benefits they might have been receiving. The text said: “No taxpayer should have to contribute to those who have destroyed property, stolen from their community and shown a disregard for the country that provides for them.”  And Cameron added that the problem was as “much a moral problem as a political problem,” referring to pockets of society that “are not just broken, but are frankly sick.”
That, of course, will not win him plaudits from the British and the international left wing. As expected, a New York Times report of the riots is written in the usual liberal style, to try and show sympathy for the looters. The story’s headline proclaims: “London Riots Put Spotlight on Troubled, Unemployed Youths in Britain.” It’s the old liberal shibboleth: the underclass riots when the welfare state has failed it. The reporters quote one rioter, 19, as explaining that he took a $195 designer sweater “to get my penny’s worth.” Why not? The culture has told him he has a right to get what the rich can buy, so why not just help himself? The Times story, however, tells readers that the riots “reflect the alienation and resentment of many young people in Britain,” where one million people between 16 and 24 years of age are unemployed. The story notes that “economic despair” and “racial tension and thuggery” derive from the new austerity measures that are starting “to take effect.” In other words: if only the British government had not acted to cut spending and get its economic house in order, then there would be no riots.
Moreover, the story blames teachers who spend time educating solid middle-class students and who ignore those who cannot keep up. As the story says, “the most vulnerable people feel trapped.” As one rioter told police: “You know you are all racist! You know it.”
The former mayor of London, “Red” Ken Livingstone, said that rioting and destruction of businesses had no justification — but as if to contradict himself “Red” Ken noted that they had to “have a serious discussion about why this has happened.” Hence he feared that “the police will be forced into escalating conflict,” by which he meant that they may actually stop the looters from rioting and burning businesses and homes, and take tough measures to stop the riots. The danger was not from the looters, but from Thatcherism. As he said, “We do not want to go back to the 1980s.” The fault, as he saw it, was “cuts being imposed by the Tory government,” as when “Margaret Thatcher imposed such policies.” Those cuts lead to “people losing control.” It is not the fault of the looters and their culture, but the Tory governments who stop giving them handouts.
Speaking to the press, Livingstone added that the riots were a “revolt” against budget cuts, as if there was a political program advocated by the looters and thugs. He said: “If you’re making massive cuts, there’s always the potential for this sort of revolt against that.”
How long will it take for Frances Fox Piven to go public and applaud the riots? As we know, last year she wrote, “So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs? After all, the injustice is apparent.” She has got what she called for in Britain. Perhaps she is waiting for similar examples of revolt here in the United States.
Back in the 1970s, New York City faced looting and rioting during the 1977 blackout. This led the late celebrated historian Herbert G. Gutman to rush to the op-ed pages of the New York Times and, in the July 21, 1977 issue, attack people like Herman Kahn, founder of the Hudson Institute, who had commented that the New York looters “have no idea of what moral standards are. This ‘suppressed rage’ idea is crap. This kind of reasoning will make the same thing happen all over again.”
Kahn, of course, was completely accurate in his response. But according to Gutman, the rioters were engaging in legitimate social protest, revolting against oppression in the only way they knew how. He had the nerve to compare the thuggish acts of looters in  1977 to the peaceful action in 1902 on the Lower East Side of New York by immigrant Jewish women who boycotted Kosher butchers they thought were overcharging for the meat they sold! It takes the mentality of a leftist New York historian to make such an inane comparison.
Dina Gold:
For the moment, the rioting has stopped, but the analyses by British intellectuals are proliferating. In the Washington Post, Jonathan Freedland suggested a connection to the British government's proposed economic austerity program. In the Wall Street Journal, Douglas Murray laid the blame at the previous government's massively increased spending which had made "a life on welfare...the best life to live." The redoubtable Melanie Phillips (cruelly nicknamed "Mad Mel" by the UK liberati press) has been warning of the inevitable eruption for years - and had been mocked for doing so. She is vindicated now.

The causes of this sickness are many and complex. But three things can be said with certainty: every one of them is the fault of the liberal intelligentsia; every one of them was instituted or exacerbated by the Labour government; and at the very heart of these problems lies the breakdown of the family.
Yet instead of lone parenthood being regarded as a tragedy for individuals, and a catastrophe for society, it has been redefined as a ‘right’.
When Labour came to power in 1997, it set about systematically destroying not just the traditional family but the very idea that married parents were better for children than any other arrangement.
Instead, it introduced the sexual free-for-all of ‘lifestyle choice’; claimed that the idea of the male breadwinner was a sexist anachronism; and told girls that they could, and should, go it alone as mothers.
This was the outcome of the shattering defeat of Tony Blair, in the two years or so after he came to power, at the hands of the ultra-feminists and apostles of non-judgmentalism in his Cabinet and party who were determined, above all, to destroy the traditional nuclear family.
Blair stood virtually alone against them, and lost.
One of these ultra-feminist wreckers was Harriet Harman. The other night, she was on TV preposterously suggesting that cuts in educational allowances or youth workers had something to do with young people torching and looting shops, robbing and leaving people for dead in the streets.
But Harman was one of the principal forces in the Labour government behind the promotion of lone parenthood and the marginalisation of fathers. If anyone should be blamed for bringing about the conditions which have led to these appalling scenes in our cities, it is surely Ms Harman.
And this breaking of the family was further condoned, rewarded and encouraged by the Welfare State, which conceives of need solely in terms of absence of money, and which accordingly subsidises lone parenthood and the destructive behaviour that fatherlessness brings in its train.
Welfare dependency further created the entitlement culture that the looters so egregiously display. It taught them that the world owed them a living. It taught them that their actions had no consequences. And it taught them that the world revolved around themselves.
The result of this toxic combination of welfare and non-judgmentalism was an explosion of elective lone parenthood and dysfunctional behaviour transmitted down through the generations at the very bottom of the social heap — creating, in effect, a class apart.
Once, children would have been rescued from their disadvantaged backgrounds by schools which gave them not just an education but structure and purpose to their lives.
But the liberal intelligentsia destroyed that escape route, too. For its onslaught upon marriage — the bedrock institution of society — with a tax system that penalises married couples with a wife who doesn’t work, was replicated by an onslaught upon the understanding and very identity of that society. Instead of transmitting knowledge to children, teaching was deemed to be an attack upon a child’s autonomy and self-esteem.
Thus it was that teachers adopted the ‘child-centred’ approach, which expected children not only to learn for themselves but also to decide for themselves about behaviour such as sexual morality or drug-taking.
The outcome was that children were left illiterate and innumerate and unable to think. Abandoned to wander through the world without any guidance, they predictably ended up without any moral compass.
All of this was compounded still further by the disaster of multiculturalism — the doctrine which held that no culture could be considered superior to any other because that was ‘racist’.
That meant children were no longer taught about the nation in which they lived, and about its culture. So not only were they left in ignorance of their own society, but any attachment to a shared and over-arching culture was deliberately shattered.
Instead of forging social bonds, multiculturalism dissolved them — and introduced instead a primitive war of all against all, in which the strongest groups would destroy the weak.
Closely related to this was ‘victim culture’, in which all minority groups were regarded as victims of the majority. So any bad behaviour by them was excused and blamed on the majority.
In similar vein, all criminal wrongdoing was excused on the basis that the criminal couldn’t help himself, as he was the victim of circumstances such as poverty, unemployment, or as yet illusory cuts in public spending.
The human rights of the criminal became seen as more important than the safety and security of his victims. Punishment became a dirty word. So the entire criminal justice system turned into a sick joke, with young hoodlums walking off with community sentences or Asbos (antisocial behaviour orders) which they held in total contempt.
Mr Cameron has declared that all those convicted of violent disorder in these riots will go to prison.
Really? Isn’t it more likely that they will end up on some community penalty which will see them taken on trips to Alton Towers to make up for their disadvantaged upbringing? This is the normal response of our sentimentalised and addle-brained criminal justice officials.
There is a lot to object to in Phillips' piece in terms of her blaming the ritiong on the "demise of the family." Hopefully, I'll be able to get to that in a separate post.  And, absent much more evidence, I don't think the vast majorioty of liberals wanted anything like these riots to happe, but her point on liberal policies is well-taken with respect to security inasmuch as they seem to come from an assumption of utopia.  These barbarians have every reason to riot, therefore pay off Alaric, don't stand up to him.

Then there is this person:
A 13-year-old boy has walked free from court after admitting smashing up a shop with a stolen golf club as his mother said the riots are because the government does "f*** all" for children.

The boy, who cannot be named because of his age, was one of the very few defendants to walk free from court, after receiving a nine month referral order for burglary and violent disorder.
His mother, sitting beside the boy's father, wiped tears from her eyes as the court was told she handed him in after seeing wanted photos of her son being circulated by Greater Manchester Police.
She is on benefits, does not live with the boy's father and has 10 other children, the court heard.
Outside court she told reporters she was ''ashamed'' of her son.
''I didn't know he was in the riot. I went out to look for him. It's wrong I'm ashamed of him,'' she said.

But the woman also suggested her son was not entirely at fault, when asked who she blamed for the looting.
''The government,'' she replied, her son by her side, adding: ''There is f*** all for them to do.''
From the mouths of those who sacked Rome ... er, London.

But the problem here is not with social policy but with security policy.  Policy for prevention, deterrence and punishment of crime.  Paying off Alaric did not prevent the Sack of Rome, it encouraged it.

From Mark Steyn:

“In Britain, everything is policed except crime.”

Her Majesty’s cowed and craven politically correct constabulary stand around with their riot shields and Robocop gear as young rioters lob concrete through store windows to steal the electronic toys that provide their only non-narcotic or alcoholic amusement. I chanced to be in Piccadilly for the springtime riots when the police failed to stop the mob from smashing the windows of the Ritz and other upscale emporia, so it goes without saying that they wouldn’t lift a finger to protect less prestigious private property from thugs. Some of whom are as young as nine years old. And girls.

Yet a police force all but entirely useless when it comes to preventing crime or maintaining public order has time to police everything else. When Sam Brown observed en passant to a mounted policeman on Cornmarket Street in Oxford, “Do you know your horse is gay?”, he was surrounded within minutes by six officers and a fleet of patrol cars, handcuffed, tossed in the slammer overnight, and fined 80 pounds. Mr. Brown’s “homophobic comments,” explained a spokesmoron for Thames Valley Police, were “not only offensive to the policeman and his horse, but any members of the general public in the area.” The zealous crackdown on Sam Brown’s hippohomophobia has not been replicated in the present disturbances. Anyone who has so much as glanced at British policing policy over the last two decades would be hard pressed to argue which party on the streets of London, the thugs or the cops, is more irredeemably stupid.

The Favorites of the Emperor Honorius, by John William Waterhouse, 1883.
Last but not least, Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm:

The most amazing thing about the reaction of English MPs to last week’s terrible violence was how surprised they were. For a country whose criminal law is invariably sympathetic to offenders, nearly always harsh on their victims, and unwilling to pay for adequate policing the surprise is that they were surprised.
Since at least 1953 the English government has insisted that citizens depend on the police for protection and not try to protect themselves. The Prevention of Crime Act of 1953 prohibited anyone carrying an article in a public place with the idea it could be used for protection if they were attacked. If discovered they are charged with carrying an offensive weapon.
Since 1964 self-defense has not been considered a good reason to keep a handgun, even if for those who lived in a remote area. Then in 1998 all handguns were banned. Toy or replica guns are also illegal. A man was arrested for holding two burglars with a toy gun while he contacted the police.
More recently knives with points have been made illegal. A list of prohibited weapons, possession of which carries a 10-year prison sentence, includes not only machine guns but chemical sprays and knives with a blade more than three inches long. An American tourist from Arizona who protected herself from attackers in the subway using her penknife was arrested for carrying an offensive weapon.
The government does not permit even someone who is unarmed from acting forcefully when attacked if his or her assailant is harmed in the process. If a citizen is attacked in the street he is to flee. If a citizen is attacked in his home he is not to injure the attacker beyond what a court later considers a reasonable use of force. If a citizen harms his assailant he will be accused of assault, or, as the cases cited above illustrate, murder or attempted murder should the attacker be killed.
Burglars can sue for damages and the police are careful to ensure they don’t get hurt. This past February the gardeners of Surrey were told they could not use wire mesh on the windows of their sheds because burglers might get hurt breaking in.
Tony Martin, an English farmer jailed for killing one burglar and wounding another with his shotgun during the seventh break-in of his home was denied parole because he would pose a threat to burglars. The career burglar he wounded was granted parole and sued Martin for his injuries. Worse, the burglar was given public funds to pursue his lawsuit.
While law-abiding citizens have been treated strictly offenders have not. Since the 1950s it is only under extraordinary circumstances that anyone under 18 is put in jail. Instead offenders are given a warning, a fine or community service. Since young offenders know they will not be incarcerated there is little to deter them from committing ever more bold crimes. One of those brought to court during the recent riots was an 18-year old who had been hauled before the courts 21 previous times but never jailed.
Sentences for adult criminals have been shortened and they routinely serve only half of these. In lieu of policemen on the beat the English have opted for surveillance cameras. These are much cheaper but all a potential offender needs to do is to wear a hood or mask to greatly diminish their value. English police now dealing with the riots boast they have 20,000 hours of footage.
Even offenders who have been apprehended tend to be let off with a caution or electronic bracelet. This saves money on prison but means they are back on the streets in short order. In 2009 70 percent of burglars the police managed to apprehend avoided prison.
The extent of the tolerance of criminality and refusal to allow law-abiding people to protect themselves has led to an atmosphere where gangs can operate with virtual impunity. The recent, widespread riots, apart from their scale, are not radically different from the violence that has been occurring for many years.
Let us hope the English politicians so surprised and angry at the lawlessness in their cities realize it is time for change, time to permit people to protect themselves and to bring some rigour into the punishment of offenders.
Malcolm hits the nail on the head.  When a robber is pointing a gun at your head, it doesn't much matter where the robber came from or what type of childhood he had.  The robber has to be stopped.  A functioning civilization protects the innocent and punishes the guilty, not vice versa, which as Professor Malcolm explains, happens all too often in Britain.

So, the choice is in front of us, more stark now than ever.  Do we stand up to the barbarians?

Or do we continue to pay off Alaric? And hope he doesn't sack Rome this time?

No comments:

Post a Comment