August 12, 2016

Another wave of Central Asian marauders destroying civilizations?

A post at Uncouth Reflections about the history of nomadic empires from the Steppe got me thinking about whether we've heard the last of the land that gave us the Huns and the Mongols.

A general weakness of arguments that say "X happened in the past, but cannot happen again" is that sometimes the average interval between occurrences of X are so long that you just might be in that waiting-around time. That's why it seems so unlikely. But project forward the interval length, from the last known occurrence, and suddenly you may not feel so secure.

Nassim Taleb reminds us that we can't rule out another World War I because wars on that scale show up around once every 100 years -- the last one before that being the Napoleonic Wars. For most of the 19th century, Europeans believed they'd moved beyond that level of warfare. Somewhat like how complacent they feel today about the prospect of another such war. And yet we're just coming up on 100 years after WWI, not to mention that there is always random variation in the length between occurrences -- somewhat longer, somewhat shorter.

The same applies to nomadic warfare that destroys / subjugates multiple civilizations across the Eurasian continent. Smaller cases of nomads sacking a nearby civilization are more common, but I'm talking about nomadic empires that span a good part of Eurasia, seriously destabilizing many different settled civilizations in their wake.

The last one was the Mongols, who conquered during the 13th C. If you want to count off-shoots of nomadic horse warriors from the Steppe, you can count the Ottoman Turks (descended from the Oghuz Turks), who conquered during the 14th C.

Before that was the Huns, who conquered during the 5th C. That was 800 to 900 years before the most recent wave of the Mongols / Turks.

Before even that was the Scythians, who conquered during the 7th C. BC. That was 1100 years before the Hun wave.

That suggests an interval of roughly a millennium, give or take a century, between these episodes.

Adding 1000 years to 1200 means we could see another Genghiz Khan or Attila the Hun by 2200, although maybe it'll be closer to 2100, or maybe closer to 2300. In any event, heading down the pike.

If it sounds alarmist, just think what someone would have said in 1000 or 1100 about a second coming of a band like the Huns.

"Seriously? A Steppe nomad invasion throughout Eurasia, in the current millennium? I mean, literally? The 5th century called, they want their fear-mongering back."

God help Eurasia if the Central Asians take up Salafi Islam like the Arabian nomads have. (That's a separate cycle -- Arabian nomads laying waste to the Crescent of Civilization and beyond).

The obvious targets would be the civilizations of the Middle and Near East, Eastern Europe, and China, just like always. But now there's a ripe civilizational target in America, as well as easier ways to travel over oceans. Who's to say that they wouldn't show up here and start wreaking havoc, like the Arabians have?

This is the kind of mindset we need to have when planning for our long-term national security and immigration policies. Certainly we need to respond to the current threats, for example the Arabians. But we ought to plan for the next coming of Attila the Hun -- just to be on the safe side, since we know they have re-appeared throughout history at certain intervals. And the window to prepare for the reincarnation of Genghiz Khan is closing faster than we think -- that army could show up as soon as the end of this century.

Given how slowly we prepare for long-term uncertainties, rather than pressing immediacies, we'd better start thinking about it now.

19 comments:

  1. I like the way you look at the bigger picture, agnostic. I've tried to get my transhumanist friends to think about the Enlightenment's social project as a failure in certain areas, so that technologically advanced civilizations in the 22nd Century and beyond wouldn't look like extensions or caricatures of our "progressive" society at all, but rather more like the world before the Enlightenment in a lot of ways. Think of a future world which looks more like the aristocratic, hierarchical and traditional space-faring civilization in "Dune" than like the progressive wet dream "Star Trek" has turned into.

    Mars colonization, for example, provides the ultimate reality test of progressive beliefs in a futuristic situation. If you had to choose colonists to go to Mars based on objective standards for success, you would wind up with intelligent, wholesome, conservative, and probably mostly white people with healthy sexuality, like the Duggars in Arkansas but with a few more IQ points.

    Because consider the alternative if you had to choose Mars colonists based on social-justice fantasies about diversity, inclusion, vibrancy and fairness. Sending a bunch of gays, lesbians, transgenders, feminists, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and cucked white boys to Mars would create a disaster.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Duggars are a poor example. They're not very intelligent, or wholesome with healthy sexuality (sexual abuse of the daughters by at least one of the sons). In fact , families of that type are usually disordered.

      A better example for your point is the oldest Trump children.

      Delete
  2. Yeah, but why were they actually able to do that? That's more important than "Chronology looks right".

    It was specific technology, mobility and mobilisation advantages that took a while to get right - the Scythians didn't have it, since they didn't conquer the sedentary world. That only starts to happen towards the end of classical antiquity, as horse and bow technologies start to favour the nomads, without gunpowder really being around, and while Rome was in its down phase.

    Doesn't replicate today, and hasn't really replicated since the rise of the gunpowder armies (1500s).

    "Seriously? A Steppe nomad invasion throughout Eurasia, in the current millennium? I mean, literally? The 5th century called, they want their fear-mongering back."

    I think no one in the 10th century who lived close to the steppe would ever have said. The Chinese spent a lot of time and money on defenses against the steppe. They took it very seriously, for the same kind of reasons we don't today. They didn't have the same qualitative differences in their armies compared to 500 years earlier that we have today.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "and hasn't really replicated since the rise of the gunpowder armies (1500s)."

    Basic error: proclaiming the end of once-in-a-millennium catastrophes, less than one millennium since the last one.

    If you think nomadic pastoralists can't acquire modern weaponry and destroy settled civilizations -- take a look at ISIS (Arabians attacking the Fertile Crescent). And that might only be the beginning.

    "and while Rome was in its down phase."

    I'm glad that no major power, e.g. America, will ever enter a down phase again...

    "the Scythians didn't have it, since they didn't conquer the sedentary world."

    Nitpicking produces ignorance, not understanding.

    While the earliest example was not as catastrophic as a later more advanced example, the Scythians still whipped the Medes, played a key role in destroying the Assyrian Empire, were a constant thorn in the side of the Achaemenid Persians, sacked the capital of the Western Zhou dynasty, and so on and so forth.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Okay, a better example: Charles Darwin and his fertile wife Emma, but without Charles's health problems and the inbreeding with his first cousin.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm not saying that anything similar couldn't happen again. Like, it's not like an Italian city state *couldn't* arise to dominate large swathes of of Europe again. Rome was a big deal then Venice was a big deal later - obviously there's a pattern here! Just whether you think it's likely and what you plan for has to be based on studying the phenomenon and why it happened and not just looking at the timing. What are the real forces that mattered for the phenomenon, and what's the probability you give it they actually happen again, before we start prepping for doom?

    You know ISIS aren't that serious. I get that you're an acolyte of Trump here, but you know what they're capable of and don't have to talk them up. People know better.

    I get it's your thing to claim any kind of disagreement with your premises is nitpicking that lacks gut feeling and intuition or whatever, but blithe sweeping statements with no analysis produce ignorance.

    ReplyDelete
  6. We also have to consider the recurrence of deadly pandemics. We know how infectious diseases work and how to stop their spread. But most of the so-called humans on this planet lack the cognitive efficiency to do this with their own resources. Brazilians can't even maintain the water in an Olympic swimming pool properly. In this environment the emerging Zika pandemic could become a real existential threat by damaging or killing babies for years on end.

    ReplyDelete
  7. One of my correspondents pointed out to me that someone has already written a novel about a Central Asian conqueror in our time:

    https://www.amazon.com/Arslan-M-J-Engh/dp/0312879105

    ReplyDelete
  8. "What are the real forces that mattered for the phenomenon, and what's the probability you give it they actually happen again, before we start prepping for doom?"

    I assumed my audience wasn't foolish or autistic (never 100% safe assumption on the internet). Or that they could click on the "nomadic empire" link in the first sentence to read more about what allowed them to wreck civilizations.

    The conditions for the nomadic empires was a sedentary civilization, that had become divided internally, and nomadic tribes that had become united around a common enemy -- those very civilizations (taking and squatting on all the valuable land and resources).

    Nothing has changed in any of those variables such that these conditions would never again be met. Therefore, they will be met, and judging from the attested rhythm, sooner rather than later.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "You know ISIS aren't that serious."

    Talk to the people in the Fertile Crescent part of Iraq, and see how non-serious of a threat they are. If Hillary Clinton became Pres, she would depose Assad, and ISIS would spread into the power vacuum in Syria and Lebanon. Turkey is coming closer to the brink of the Islamic whackjobs wrecking what's left of civilization there. And Egypt narrowly threw out the Muslim Brotherhood by coup, no thanks to American intervention.

    Like I said, this is only the beginning. We already know that nomadic Arabians are bad news once they manage to unite and attack settled societies. Now they also have access to Europe and America.

    If you can't tell that such a threat has been rising sharply since 100, 200, 300 years ago, you're not very good at seeing basic patterns. It's too early to tell if there's any deceleration, so therefore it will continue to get worse.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "We also have to consider the recurrence of deadly pandemics. We know how infectious diseases work and how to stop their spread. But most of the so-called humans on this planet lack the cognitive efficiency to do this with their own resources."

    That's right -- we stop them by breaking up mega-populations connected by constant movement, which facilitate their rapid spread.

    That's the upshot of the Kermack-McKendrick model of epidemic diseases -- most important parameter is population density, with greater density making epidemics more likely. And it's the lesson of history -- from the Black Plague, Plague of Justinian, Native Americans getting wiped out by Europeans, the Spanish Flu pandemic, etc.

    Are white people "cognitively efficient" enough to eradicate these diseases? No -- whenever they succumb to a desire for weak government ("gubmint is the problem"), it leads to unprotected borders and massive population flows from all over the world.

    We thought we had eliminated many contagious diseases and ectoparasites like bed bugs -- and yet they've come roaring back after we let down our border defenses:

    http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-return-of-old-diseases-and-pests.html

    The nerds think it was due to the science of vaccines, but in many cases the vaccines were invented and introduced *after* the incidence had already begun to decline, sometimes by decades. Plus, we still have those vaccines, yet the diseases are back.

    What killed them off was good old strong government shutting the borders closed so that the pathogens had an effective host population of "only" 100 million, rather than a billion worldwide.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Natalists tend to be weird people, so if they were sent to colonize Mars, it would quickly resemble the Mormon cult in Utah -- who would then invite the Plutonians to settle Mars, get fucked, and burn out.

    You'd want someone who had a large family, but was not deliberate about it. Trump, Darwin, etc.

    People who are deliberate about making large families have a kind of fetish -- unnatural conscious preoccupation with some natural activity, rather than just letting nature take its course. Fetishes are one of the telltale signs of mental weirdness. Not paragons of humanity material.

    ReplyDelete
  12. ISIS aren't serious in the sense that a real confrontation between them and any western power would only have one outcome, no more ISIS. They did as well as they did out of the chaos of Iraq and Syria and yet have already lost about half the territory they once held. Yes they've done enormous damage in their own backyard but so have the likes of the Lords resistance Army but they don't pose any conventional military threat to the West because they're backward savages.
    Could you clarify if you see Central Asia as a potential threat in terms of actual military invasions or just as another source of invading Trojan horse ''refugees'' and general run of the mill degenerate third world immigrants? If the latter I don't see any great reason to worry about the prospect of that when Pakistan, Africa and the Arabs have already all established footholds in Europe several million strong. The combined population of Central Asia is less than the current population of Nigeria and will probably be closer to half of it within a few decades, that's what we need to worry about. If I had to choose I'd rather two million Uzbeks and Tajiks had landed into Europe in the last 18 months than what actually arrived, they're considerably whiter and less inbred.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You've left out the Magyars. Maybe you don't consider them a big enough deal, but they did permanently conquer a part of Europe.

    I'm also very skeptical of this. There's just a lot less competence in the third world. You give the example of ISIS, but they can only really threaten the governments of third world Arab countries (in keeping with the trend away from interstate wars toward civil wars). In the west they're limited to just killing a bunch of civilians. Since the industrial revolution, the world really has been a different place, and while it's useful to look at the past before then to get a better understanding of the world, generalizing on the assumption that the same things will happen again seems foolhardy. Nomadic pastoralism, for example, just isn't what it used to be.

    ReplyDelete
  14. No one said that ISIS in its current stage would wreck multiple civilizations, but that as the start of a group that could easily grow and spread, would be the shape of things to come.

    "ISIS aren't serious in the sense that a real confrontation between them and any western power would only have one outcome, no more ISIS."

    Really? I guess that's why the lone superpower wiped out Saudi Arabia after they flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, with another headed probably for the White House itself.

    You're assuming a very high level of societal cohesion and a strong government. That's how we dropped not one but two nukes on Japan -- could never happen today because we're not united as a country, and government has given up on fundamentals like defending the borders -- let alone something as higher-up as nuking the enemy.

    Eventually, the governments surrounding Central Asia will go into a prolonged stage of weakness and internal division. They will not be in any position to take the fight to a united zealous band of marauders. Christ, we can't even wipe out pirates from Somalia!

    "Could you clarify if you see Central Asia as a potential threat in terms of actual military invasions or just as another source of invading Trojan horse ''refugees''"

    Any place where the people are adapted to an ecology of nomadic pastoralism. Also why TGGP's comment is missing the point -- it's been bred into them, whether or not they are currently driving herds or driving taxis.

    "Since the industrial revolution, the world really has been a different place"

    Once again, we cannot conclude anything about a process that has an inter-arrival window of more than 200 years from what has happened since the industrial revolution of 200 years ago.

    You'd agree that material, economic, and political development and complexity has increased monotonically since pre-history.

    And despite that, there have been periods of profound civilizational disruption and even destruction -- usually by a far less developed group of people.

    See: the Late Bronze Age collapse. The Sea Peoples were clearly adapted to a nomadic subsistence mode, just on the water rather than on land. That was in the 2nd millennium BC -- one of those once-in-a-millennium catastrophes.

    Think about how much more advanced, in every way, the civilizations of the Mediterranean and Near / Middle East had become by 1200 AD, compared to 1200 BC. And yet, did that stop them from getting destroyed by the Mongols, who were technologically far more primitive?

    ReplyDelete
  15. agnostic: Or that they could click on the "nomadic empire" link in the first sentence to read more about what allowed them to wreck civilizations.

    The conditions for the nomadic empires was a sedentary civilization, that had become divided internally, and nomadic tribes that had become united around a common enemy -- those very civilizations (taking and squatting on all the valuable land and resources).


    Not things your link actually talks about, cycles of "cohesion". Talks about bows and horses though. Maybe your particular mental conditions make it challenging for you to communicate?

    Peter Turchin actually has a theory and model for why these happened that at least halfway works. Part of that is the technological frontier. Maybe you should ask him what his theory says on the probability of anything similar happening again is.

    ReplyDelete
  16. ". Think of a future world which looks more like the aristocratic, hierarchical and traditional space-faring civilization in "Dune" than like the progressive wet dream "Star Trek" has turned into."

    Star Trek has always been very liberal; the precise flavor the liberalism changes from one era to another. The original crew episodes and movies were rooted in bold mid century utopianism/idealism in which people of various races/nationalities united for the sake of achieving a grandiose humanitarian goal.

    As the culture wars begin to intensify in the late 80's, various PC modern leftist causes infiltrated the Next Generation (the Next Gen. of liberalism). The GI and Silent original crew never lost the sense of mid century rectitude and hope. The Boomer and X-er characters of the Next Gen were definitely products of an era of growing cynicism, individualism, and angst. Just look at Spock Vs. Troi. Spock represents the earnest, low striving vibe of the 40's-70's. He avoids emotion, in keeping with the stoicism that took off in the mid century.Troi, on the other hand, is ostentatious new agey new school liberal fluff.

    Also, the original crew had a firm sense of gender roles. By the Next Gen, we were getting obvious feminist pandering from the get-go (the butch security officer Tosha Yar, the actress got herself fired for the usual headstrong Boomer drama queen BS).

    The Next Gen. movies were no where near as popular as the original crew movies, maybe because the greater angstyness of the Next Gen. made them less suitable for big screen heroics. The Abrams shepherded reboot series isn't doing well either. It tries to tap into the mid century zeitgeist. That's the problem; we're not in a low striving honest era right now so the audience smells a fraud and tunes out. These modern actors would not sublimate their egos, their emotions, their insecurities into a small part of their self concept so that they could cut the crap and Get Things Done. It's gonna be a while before camaraderie strengthens. Look at all the culture warriors who don't want to admit that Trump is capable of sorting out the nonsense. People are still very cynical.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "Not things your link actually talks about, cycles of "cohesion"."

    Second paragraph, retard:

    "Ibn Khaldun described a similar cycle on a smaller scale in his Asabiyyah theory."

    ReplyDelete
  18. We agree there have been periods of time when societies have stumbled or collapsed, which seems like another way of saying it's not actually monotonic. I'll agree with Sailer that societies tend to collapse as a result of homicide rather than suicide, but I won't say it's entirely one vs the other. Societies also sometimes just stagnate or regress on their own. Ancient Egypt seems to have remained at a certain level for an incredibly long time. Although I suppose Greg Clark wouldn't distinguish them from any other agricultural civilization, since he has remarked that there was really only one event that happened in history.

    I think there's only limited benefit to being "bred into" being a horse warrior these days. We have flying death robots, nobody else is willing to engage in pitched battle with us like a Mongol horde.

    To compare apples with apples, the Next Gen tv show lasted longer than the original did.

    ReplyDelete

You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."