March 11, 2014

Land Power v. Sea Power

From my new Taki's Magazine column:
While American geopolitical thought tends to divide the world up morally into the Democratic (whoever is on our side) and the Evil (vice-versa), Russians tend to strategize geographically in terms of Land (Mother Russia) v. Sea (those deplorable Atlanticists). ... 
With natural defenses and a high-tech military, sea powers generally didn’t need enormous conscript armies, martial discipline, and centralized economic control. Instead, sea power was conducive to liberty at home and adventure capitalism abroad. 
So what’s not to like? Why doesn’t everybody love us? ... 
The land v. sea division in Western thought goes back at least to the differing roles of the Spartan and Athenian allies in the Persian Wars of early fifth-century BC. The number-one movie at the box office last weekend was 300: Rise of an Empire, the sequel to the 2006 hit 300, which was based on Herodotus’s history of the heroic delaying action the Spartan infantry fought at Thermopylae in 480 BC. The new film culminates with the subsequent Battle of Salamis in which the Athenian-led fleet, the “wall of wood” prophesied at Delphi, defeated the Persians.

Read the whole thing there.

By the way, here's Michael Blowhard's epic review of 300.
     

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw "Rise Of An Empire", and getting slightly off-topic, all I have to say is: Themistocles, the uber-macho.

That is how he is going to be known from now on: the uber-macho.

Surprisingly, there were as many teenage girls at the movie theater as teenage boys. From what I understand, the boys were there for the action and killing. The girls, however, were there to watch Sullivan Stapleton as the great Athenian general, Themistocles. They would giggle and their eyes would light up during the seduction scenes with that crazy woman. This is odd, since teenage girls are usually attracted to guys in their late tens to early twenties.

It is slightly unsettling to contemplate a bunch of 16 year-old adolescent girls having the hots for a 36 year-old man who could almost be their dad. But I can understand why. THIS GUY IS THE REAL DEAL. For the first time in a very, very long time, there comes along a TRUE leading man. His charisma, looks, gravitas and body language have sold me. I thought to myself:"Yeah, this guy could actually be the REAL Themistocles." This guy is amazing.

Anonymous said...

While American geopolitical thought tends to divide the world up morally into the Democratic (whoever is on our side) and the Evil (vice-versa), Russians tend to strategize geographically in terms of Land (Mother Russia) v. Sea (those deplorable Atlanticists). ...

You may be on to something here, that explains the deep-seated hate and fear of Russia for the West. Capitalism (and Randian envy of such), just a communist bugaboo used as an excuse to hate the West, and mask the true cultural differences.

Atlanticists ... how about Pacificists too? Americans and Japanese united in Sea Power and mercantilism?

donna death said...

But weren't the much-feared Mongols and Tatars also a land power just like Russia?

For Poland: Russians and Belarusians are the Mongols. For Germany: Slavs (Poles and Russians and Belarusians) are the Mongols. The Germans, and this includes the Nazis, got along fine with Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, Bosnians, and Bulgars.

Anonymous said...

In operation, the Peloponnesian league was closer to NATO and the Delian League closer to the Warsaw Pact.

Iberian said...

300 is a good show, but any relation with History is pure coincidence (and Alexander is not much better...)!

Luke Lea said...

Really nice historical synopsis. And some really nice comments over there too. Nobody but Steve Sailer can write set pieces like this -- just one more reason why he is the best journalist in America, if not the English-speaking world.

dearieme said...

"In the American mind, land powers are seen as militarist, brooding, and no fun.
... In contrast, sea powers are the good guys, the cool kids..."

And yet FDR was happy to leave the land Empire of the USSR with all its territory, and more, while he was keen to undermine the sea empires of the Dutch, the French, and the British. Earlier, the USA had despoiled Spain of large chunks of its sea empire.

So it would seem that in terms of action, rather than words, you've got it arse-about-face.

George said...

Very interesting article. I have never thought of the difference between "land powers" and "sea powers" before. Thanks for the insight.

Dan said...

I disagree with the premise.

The conflict between Greece and Persian Imperial forces was about ethnonationalism and multiculturism.

The Athenians had less of a navy than Persia, yet they fought as a single entity. They were somewhat lucky too. The Persians had recruited expert sailors from all over Pheonicia, Anatolia, Cyprus, Thessaly, Thrace, Judaea and probably Egypt.

I often wonder how the Persians afforded such massive expeditions.

Anyway you slice it Athens became a sea power after beating back a massive sea power. it still required the Macedonians to crush the Persians in later ventures. Cavalry, pikes, slingers, bows. All land forces.

Anonymous said...

http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/kenanderson/histemp/thegreatgame.html

Anonymous said...

"In the American mind, land powers are seen as militarist, brooding, and no fun: Sparta, Prussia, the Soviet Union, and now Putin’s Russia. In contrast, sea powers are the good guys, the cool kids: Athens, Holland, England, and America."

Americans never liked Spanish sea power. Or Japan's. Vikings got a bad rap.

Americans felt no ill will toward Russia until the Revolution, and even then, there were plenty of sympathizers and admirers.
US tore itself from the UK and established itself as a land power. After WWII, US did everything to undermine British sea power except in the Falklands.

"With natural defenses and a high-tech military, sea powers generally didn’t need enormous conscript armies, martial discipline, and centralized economic control. Instead, sea power was conducive to liberty at home and adventure capitalism abroad."

Mongols proved you can be stateless and a great land power.
Russia was hardly known for its martial discipline prior to communism. Nor was the economy centralized under the Tsar.

The extent to which Prussia was militarized has been greatly exaggerated. The book Iron Kingdom explains this. Prussia was actually one of the most progressive and liberal states of Europe. Far more than decentralized Poland.

Anonymous said...

"Kagan and his students, such as his sons Frederick (of the American Enterprise Institute) and Robert (of the Brookings Institution), have drawn peculiarly neoconservative lessons from his study of Thucydides."

To understand where Kagan & co are coming from, we need to remember the Hebrews who were neither a land power nor sea power.

They were an amphibian power that could go either way to serve what is good for Jews. Bolshevik Jews certainly had nothing against land power. And despite its size, Israel has proven itself as a land power against Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Jews seem to love that.

PS. UK and US are less anti-land-power than anti-land-power-striving-to-be-sea-power.

UK feared the rise of German navy.
FDR wanted to crush Japanese naval power to own the Pacific.
What US fears most is rise of China as a sea power.
Crimea is an issue because it allows Russia to wet its toes.

US don't like bears to go salmon hunting. Too much nutrients. It's like the Kodiak bear that eats salmon grow to 1000 lbs.
Grizzlies without access to salmon grow to 400-500 lbs.

Anonymous said...

It make take 40 million Poles to screw on a light-bulb but at least the Poles are all turning in the same direction due to homogeneity.

Ukraine can't screw on a light-bulb because two sides turn in the opposite directions.

Anonymous said...

"This dichotomy leads to endless paradoxes. For example, Russian grand strategy has traditionally been obsessed with making the country less of a land power by obtaining non-Arctic ports such as St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Port Arthur, and Sochi, which is why Sevastopol in Crimea is such an emotional subject for them."

Gad to see that you pointed out this central paradox in the fabled land power vs sea power contest. Land powers (Imperial Germany, Tsarist Russia, Soviet Russia) almost invariably long for powerful navies of their own.

AceWhiplash said...

Profound piece. What makes it more interesting is that culturally, the USA is a sea power type nation, but geographically, it has quite a bit of land mass. It seems that our masters on the coasts intend to rule the interior as a land power, but leave whatever adventurousness remains to them. Wonder if it will work.

Anonymous said...

"Instead, sea power was conducive to liberty at home and adventure capitalism abroad.
So what’s not to like? Why doesn’t everybody love us? ..."

The neocons don't want maritime splendid isolation.

They want it all.

Anonymous said...

The comparison of the US and the Vikings overlaps with Oswald Spengler's, who foresaw bourse democracy ("plunderous Vikingism") of the Anglo-US sort eventually falling to charismatic strongmen with political talent (Caesars). A mild version of this process may be Putin's puttin' the Oligarchs in their place and restoring strategic interests. But it's predicted to occur in the west only after the capitalists have totally wrecked their societies. Bummer.

Anonymous said...

Steve, With the amount of functional knowledge and anecdotes you possess, you could write a book about land vs. sea power.

Crawfurdmuir said...

It may be worth noting that the great theorist of sea power, Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan, was an American; the early geopolitician and theorist of land power was the German World War I general, Karl Haushofer. These days, Haushofer is mostly noted as the mentor of Rudolf Hess, and "respectable" students of geopolitics tend to shy away from acknowledging him.

Yet it should also be noted that the United States is a land empire just as much as Russia. While the Russians were fighting the Tartars and Chechens to expand the land mass under the control of the Tsars, this country was fighting the Sioux, the Comanche, the Apache, etc., to win control of the American west. But where we did a much better job of subduing our indigenous nomads, Russia still has problems with its.

Why? Ours had smaller populations, and were divided into tribes that historically warred with each other before the coming of the white man. Despite the myth of the noble savage, they had no unifying principle. Their religion was animistic and differed from tribe to tribe.

Asian Russia's indigenous population, on the other hand, had been unified under the command of the Tartar khans, and later had mostly converted to Islam. This provided, and continues to provide, the basis for their resistance to rule by Russia's central government.

Anonymous said...

No doubt, the Iranians are still pissed.

gore vidal said...

Glad to see you've come around to my way of viewing American history.

Whiskey said...

Steve naval powers are acutely vulnerable to other naval powers. Rome defeated Carthage in second punic war by a new navy not legions. Vikings terrorized the English, Franks, etc. The Dutch were defeated by the English and the US nearly so in 1812.

The Dutch were obliterted by Germany in WWII. Athens was destroyed by Sparta.

As for Vietnam it had to be fought in the aftermath of 1930s appeasement to keep Soviets away from the idea that one nuke strike would produce surrender.

The fifty thousand plus war dead were the cost of 1930s morality and comfort in isolationism. After the Soviets got nukes.

Anonymous said...

Sea powers have the privilege to project violence where they please and then go home.

Steve, would you add Air Power to this, or consider it to be an extension of Sea Power, since our navy combines the two? The US is probably the only real Air Power in the world. Whether it is mass airlifts (Berlin), remote bombing (Kosovo) or imposing no-fly zones (Iraq), we've been able to interject ourselves in a decisive and sometimes pirate-like manner reminiscent of the glory days of the Royal Navy.

Steve Sailer said...

"Russia was hardly known for its martial discipline prior to communism."

Czarist Russia had 25-year-long conscription terms, which drove a fair amount of immigration to North America. Of course, the Russian Army wasn't that effective, so that's the worst of both worlds (although its performance in World War I is underrated: it did fine against the Austrians, but couldn't beat the Germans, but then it took a combination of France, Britain, and America to finally do that.)

Dan said...

Germany was quite clearly the most social democratic state in existence 1914.

It's quite interesting to see American and British historians obfuscate this fact. What we see as liberal democracy defended is anything but.

Dan said...

You could write a PHD thesis on how America is Britain's Island mentality rewritten onto a Continent sized chunk of land. All the insularity unleashed in a well ordered chaos.

Dan said...

It look a hundred Athenians to row a galley.

The Persians used Egyptians, Jews, Cypriots, Thracians, Babylonians, Tyrians, Phoenicians, Kurds...

That's the point of Salamis.

Anonymous said...

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/03/11/sorry_putin_isnt_crazy

Anonymous said...

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/03/12/obama-regimes-hypocrisy-sets-new-world-record-paul-craig-roberts/

Anonymous said...

Anonymous:"The extent to which Prussia was militarized has been greatly exaggerated. The book Iron Kingdom explains this. Prussia was actually one of the most progressive and liberal states of Europe. Far more than decentralized Poland."

Only a modern Leftist would think that being progressive and militaristic is a contradiction.

Anonymous said...

Czarist Russia had 25-year-long conscription terms, which drove a fair amount of immigration to North America.

Russian martial discipline was known for being more brutal than effective. And very few ethnic Russians emigrated, mostly Jews, who compared Tsarist conscription policies to the Ottoman's devshirme. (In a way it was. The Tsars hoped that selective drafting of Jewish men would take them away from Jewish environments, and make them lose their Jewishness.)

Anonymous said...

Crawfurdmuir:"Yet it should also be noted that the United States is a land empire just as much as Russia. While the Russians were fighting the Tartars and Chechens to expand the land mass under the control of the Tsars, this country was fighting the Sioux, the Comanche, the Apache, etc., to win control of the American west. But where we did a much better job of subduing our indigenous nomads, Russia still has problems with its.

Why? Ours had smaller populations, and were divided into tribes that historically warred with each other before the coming of the white man. Despite the myth of the noble savage, they had no unifying principle. Their religion was animistic and differed from tribe to tribe."

There was also the little matter of the Old World pathogen advantage in terms of subduing the New World. The Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, etc, could all count on the invisible bullets of disease to do a lot of their fighting for them. The Russians were not so lucky.

Sean said...

You need to read Mearshiemer's 'The Tragedy of Great Power Politics'. If Vietnam had been in south Mexico the US would never have lost.

British military 'power' adroitly avoided fighting any land powers. It created Prussia to do that. Bretish 'power' was basically a bluff that was called in the Boer war, and that was the beginning of the end.

Falling out with Russia will get in the way of an attack on Iran, expect the neocons to ease up on Russia. Or claim that attacking Iran will be a way to teach Russia a lesson.

Anonymous said...

Sailer's Russian Strategy not working.

http://www.jta.org/2014/03/11/news-opinion/world/putins-jewish-embrace-is-it-love-or-politics

Anonymous said...

"Czarist Russia had 25-year-long conscription terms"

On paper.

Czarist Russia also supposedly had a fearsome secret police.

So, Lenin in exile lived in luxury, had all the books and writing material he wanted, tons of visitors.

Stalin in exile had a cabin, spent his time fishing, and was even given a rifle to hunt with.

In Russian math 25 is barely 2.

Dave Pinsen said...

"Of course, the Russian Army wasn't that effective, so that's the worst of both worlds (although its performance in World War I is underrated: it did fine against the Austrians, but couldn't beat the Germans, but then it took a combination of France, Britain, and America to finally do that.)"

I was going to write that there were one or two visionary Russian generals in the first world war, but their names escaped me, so I went to Wikipedia, where I didn't find them. But I did find this page on WWII's Zhukov. I never realized how much Dean Norris (Breaking Bad's Hank Schrader) resembles him.

Dan said...

Entirely false.

Britain is defined by its conflict with France over a 1000 year period more or less.

France was the most populous most militarily advance land power during much of the period. The English could only scrape together small numbers of men at arms and archers for expeditions. The French could effortlessly put together 20,000 plate armoured riders, lose them then raise another 20,000.

From Charlemagne to Napoleon they dominated land war and at times contested the sea efficiently. The English population was about 6-7 million during this period. The French population about 20 million. A huge homogenous politically unified force in world politics. It only ceased hegemonic status when the population of a unified Germany eclipsed it.

Dave Pinsen said...

The one disappointing thing about the success of these 300 movies is that it lessens the chance of a movie being made of Stephen Pressfield's superior Thermopylae novel, Gates of Fire.

Anonymous said...

Dan:" A huge homogenous politically unified force in world politics."

For a rather huge chunk of its history, France was anything but homogeneous.

Dan:" It only ceased hegemonic status when the population of a unified Germany eclipsed it."

France attempted to acquire hegemonic status under Napoleon and failed.

Dan said...

Brusilov.

Anonymous said...

DAn:"Germany was quite clearly the most social democratic state in existence 1914.

It's quite interesting to see American and British historians obfuscate this fact."

Who does this? Every serious history of Germany that I have read has discussed the German synthesis of militarism with the welfare state.


Dan:" What we see as liberal democracy defended is anything but."

Read up on the actual political structure of the German Empire. The Kaiser had far more power than the King did in Britain.

Plus, one also needs to factor in the role of Prussia, and its decidedly aristocratic political order:

"The Kingdom of Prussia was an absolute monarchy until the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, after which Prussia became a constitutional monarchy and Adolf Heinrich von Arnim-Boitzenburg was elected as Prussia's first prime minister. Following Prussia's first constitution, a two-house parliament was formed. The lower house, or Landtag was elected by all taxpayers, who were divided into three classes according to the amount of taxes paid. This allowed just over 25% of the voters to choose 85% of the legislature, all but assuring dominance by the more well-to-do elements of the population. The upper house, which was later renamed the Prussian House of Lords, was appointed by the king. He retained full executive authority and ministers were responsible only to him. As a result, the grip of the landowning classes, the Junkers, remained unbroken, especially in the eastern provinces. Prussian Secret Police, formed in response to the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, aided the conservative government." (WIKIPEDIA)

Anonymous said...

dearieme:"And yet FDR was happy to leave the land Empire of the USSR with all its territory, and more,"

Realpolitik.People like to pretend that the British and the Americans actually could have done something about Stalin's Empire in Eastern and Central Europe in 1945. But facts on the ground outweigh posturing. Stalin had sacrificed the men and gained the territory. Had Churchill really expected a different outcome, he should have pressed for a cross-Channel invasion in '43.

dearieme:" while he was keen to undermine the sea empires of the Dutch, the French, and the British."

As though that would not have happened anyway. The handwriting was on the the wall for the British Empire the moment the Irish left.Poetic, isn't it, that the first colony to be conquered was also the first to leave.

dearieme:" Earlier, the USA had despoiled Spain of large chunks of its sea empire."

And the British preyed upon the Spanish Empire, the Dutch Republic, the French Empire, etc. Game of Great Powers, and all that. Try not to feel too sorry for yourself.

Crawfurdmuir said...

"There was also the little matter of the Old World pathogen advantage in terms of subduing the New World. The Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, etc, could all count on the invisible bullets of disease to do a lot of their fighting for them. The Russians were not so lucky."

I'm not sure this was such an advantage as is often claimed. Syphilis appears to have come from the New World to the Old:

http://www.livescience.com/17643-columbus-introduced-syphilis-europe.html

It was a great killer when it first showed up in Europe; over 1 million persons are supposed to have died. As imported disease goes, it is probably an even trade for the smallpox and tuberculosis introduced to the Americas by Europeans.

Anonymous said...

Crawformuir:"I'm not sure this was such an advantage as is often claimed. Syphilis appears to have come from the New World to the Old:

http://www.livescience.com/17643-columbus-introduced-syphilis-europe.html

It was a great killer when it first showed up in Europe; over 1 million persons are supposed to have died. As imported disease goes, it is probably an even trade for the smallpox and tuberculosis introduced to the Americas by Europeans."

I'm sorry, but this is entirely wrong. Syphilis lacked the devastating effect of the Old World diseases in the Americas:

"Soon after Europeans and Africans began to arrive in the New World, bringing with them the infectious diseases of Europe and Africa, observers noted immense numbers of indigenous Americans began to die from these diseases. One reason this death toll was overlooked is that once introduced, the diseases raced ahead of European immigration in many areas. Disease killed off a sizable portion of the populations before European observations (and thus written records) were made. After the epidemics had already killed massive numbers of natives, many newer European immigrants assumed that there had always been relatively few indigenous peoples. The scope of the epidemics over the years was tremendous, killing millions of people—possibly in excess of 90% of the population in the hardest hit areas—and creating one of "the greatest human catastrophe in history, far exceeding even the disaster of the Black Death of medieval Europe",[27] which had killed up to one-third of the people in Europe and Asia between 1347 and 1351." (WIKIPEDIA)

Steve Sailer said...

Venereal diseases tend to be relatively slow-acting since it is in their interest that their carriers be lively enough to spread them. The most destructive diseases, in terms of mortality and speed of mortality (e.g., falciparum malaria), tend to be mosquito-borne, since the death of their human hosts isn't that detrimental to their spread.

Anonymous said...

It was a great killer when it first showed up in Europe; over 1 million persons are supposed to have died. As imported disease goes, it is probably an even trade for the smallpox and tuberculosis introduced to the Americas by Europeans.

There's no comparison. The Europeans were settled agriculturalists with large populations that could absorb epidemic losses and adapt. While many Indian tribes would get wiped out almost entirely upon contact with the pathogens and could never recover.

Dan said...

You miss the point with the Jared Diamond stuff about Germs.

The real advantage was threefold: Clockwork, Printing and large ships. I'll be generous and add guns. make it fourfold.


The European had mastered extremely advanced information systems. That's the killer for the Red Injun hunter gatherer. A massive crewed weapon like a galleon, with accurate time keeping and literacy with a cheap reproduction method.

Diamond is far too brutalist for my liking. White man's power is intellectual.

Anonymous said...

Realpolitik.People like to pretend that the British and the Americans actually could have done something about Stalin's Empire in Eastern and Central Europe in 1945. But facts on the ground outweigh posturing. Stalin had sacrificed the men and gained the territory. Had Churchill really expected a different outcome, he should have pressed for a cross-Channel invasion in '43.

Simple. No Lend Lease. Russian offensive power depended greatly on Lend Lease supplies. Russian defensive power depended on weather, climate, terrain, and the stubbornness of the Russian soldier to live under Stalin rather than die under Hitler.

If there was no lend lease at all, the great Red Army would have literally bogged down in the Pripet Marshes in 1944, and stayed bogged when Patton would be storming Berlin.

Anonymous said...

The most destructive diseases, in terms of mortality and speed of mortality (e.g., falciparum malaria), tend to be mosquito-borne, since the death of their human hosts isn't that detrimental to their spread.

Or what of rabies, arguably THE deadliest and fastest-spreading infectious disease? Mind you, rabies is a fluke, a disease so deadly that its victims never get a chance to spread it around much.

Anonymous said...

"If there was no lend lease at all, the great Red Army would have literally bogged down in the Pripet Marshes in 1944, and stayed bogged when Patton would be storming Berlin."

US casualties in the process?

Anonymous said...

"...when Patton would be storming Berlin"

Russians and Germans fought for nationalism. What would Patton's soldiers have fought for? Democracy? Even if it was real (and it hasn't been anywhere since the Dark Ages), even if it wasn't a just cynical slogan, that would not have been enough motivation. As I've said before, on the list of motivations for violence democracy is well below chicks, fun and the hell of it. It's so far below nationalism and survival that it couldn't see them if it had a telescope.

I'm sure that FDR and Churchill wanted the US and Britain to take a much greater part in the carnage of the war than they ended up doing, but that was impossible with the ideology they represented. On the field of battle nationalism will always beat "democracy". It will even always beat democracy.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Anonymous at 3:47PM wrote: "I'm sorry, but this is entirely wrong. Syphilis lacked the devastating effect of the Old World diseases in the Americas."

Steve Sailer at 3:49PM wrote: "Venereal diseases tend to be relatively slow-acting since it is in their interest that their carriers be lively enough to spread them."

Both are describing syphilis as it exists today, more than 500 years after it was introduced. It was a much quicker killer when it was new to Europeans, or at least so saith Wikipedia:

'The first well-recorded European outbreak of what is now known as syphilis occurred in 1495 among French troops besieging Naples, Italy. It may have been transmitted to the French via Spanish mercenaries serving King Charles of France in that siege. From this centre, the disease swept across Europe. As Jared Diamond describes it, "[W]hen syphilis was first definitely recorded in Europe in 1495, its pustules often covered the body from the head to the knees, caused flesh to fall from people's faces, and led to death within a few months." The disease then was much more lethal than it is today. Diamond concludes,"[B]y 1546, the disease had evolved into the disease with the symptoms so well known to us today." The epidemiology of this first syphilis epidemic shows that the disease was either new or a mutated form of an earlier disease.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_syphilis

Anonymous said...

Britain is defined by its conflict with France over a 1000 year period more or less.

No, Britain frequently had an entente with France against other Continental powers.

Anonymous said...

The European had mastered extremely advanced information systems. That's the killer for the Red Injun hunter gatherer. A massive crewed weapon like a galleon, with accurate time keeping and literacy with a cheap reproduction method.

The early guns weren't a huge advantage, especially since the Indians didn't fight pitched battles across a battlefield. And the Indians didn't have ships for naval battles, so the galleon was only relevant as transportation. It was mainly a mop up operation.

There are signs that there was increasing agricultural settlement in North America among the Indians around the time of European colonization, and that had European colonization been postponed to the late 1700s, it might have been much more difficult to colonize North America:

http://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2011/07/rapid-cultural-evolution-case-of.html

"Rapid cultural evolution was already under way in eastern and central North America when the first Europeans arrived. Had their arrival been postponed long enough, they would have encountered millions of sedentary Indians in a zone stretching from the lower Mississippi to southern Ontario. A northern Aztec Empire....

This cultural evolution was actually accelerating when the Europeans arrived. What if their arrival had been postponed?...

Had this fragile context taken a turn for the worse, there might have been insufficient will or ability to colonize the Americas. European settlers would have perhaps arrived on the Eastern Seaboard only in the late 1700s.

And beyond the Appalachians, they would have found millions of sedentary Amerindians living in fortified cities and recently united under the aegis of the Iroquois Confederacy …"

Anonymous said...

"...when Patton would be storming Berlin"

US casualties in the process?

Russians and Germans fought for nationalism. What would Patton's soldiers have fought for? Democracy?

Which is why Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to Lend-Lease. For their nations, they would rather pay the price of Russians in Berlin than 10,000+ more of their own troops dead.

Dave Pinsen said...

"There are signs that there was increasing agricultural settlement in North America among the Indians around the time of European colonization, and that had European colonization been postponed to the late 1700s, it might have been much more difficult to colonize North America"

It was difficult as it was. Indians in what is now the US put up more of a fight than most of the Indians further south. At one point, colonists had to abandon Maine. Indians adopted firearms and horses and were part of the battle for the continent up until about the early 19th century. They lost, but so did the Spanish, the Dutch, the British, etc.

Anonymous said...

Both are describing syphilis as it exists today, more than 500 years after it was introduced. It was a much quicker killer when it was new to Europeans, or at least so saith Wikipedia:

Yes, it was much more virulent in the past, but evolved less virulence among Europeans over time. This was possible because as a relatively large agricultural population, Europeans were able to acclimate to it over time. Had they been hunter gatherers with much lower levels of population, they may not have been able to.

Dan said...

The Hundred Years' War literally defined France and England as a Nations.

Dan said...

I did some digging around this subject and it turns out that the Russian soldier was paid a cash bonus for knocking off a tank, shooting down a plane and confirmed kills of individual German troops. Max Hastings in Armageddon outlines the cash for scalps. It's a critical aspect of understanding why the Russians fought so bloody hard and where much of the lend lease cash actually went. Pay your troops in gold.

Steve Sailer said...

As you'll remember from 3rd Grade Thanksgiving plays, Squanto advised the Pilgrims on how to grow corn (i.e., maize). Corn was the basis of the huge pre-Columbian population of Mexico. Mexican corn had only recently been acclimated to the short growing season of Massachusetts when the Pilgrims arrived, so if Europeans hadn't arrived, the population of Indians in North America likely would have gone up rapidly as they settled down to grow corn.

On the other hand, the settled peoples of Mexico and Peru were relatively easy for the Conquistadors to knock over by elite decapitation, while the wilder Indians of North America were, man for man, a much tougher fight.

Similarly, the most settled American Indian tribe, the corn-raising Cherokee, were organized enough to be dealt with en masse by not obeying the Supreme Court judgment in their favor.

David Davenport said...

And yet FDR was happy to leave the land Empire of the USSR with all its territory, and more, while he was keen to undermine the sea empires of the Dutch, the French, and the British. Earlier, the USA had despoiled Spain of large chunks of its sea empire.

How did FDR undermine those east Asian "sea empires", dear boy?

The British, Dutch, and French lost their east Asian colonies because because those decaying Old Worlde imperialists lacked sufficient military strength to defend their colonies from Japan.

Anonymous said...

Russians and Germans fought for nationalism. What would Patton's soldiers have fought for? Democracy?

There's something just weird about this comment. It's like a complete loss of translation. Perhaps you are very young. Anyone who grew up in the shadow of WWII in America, knew people who fought in the war, and knew the culture (it can still be found) knows that America was nationalist as sin in those days. WWII was way pre-1965.

HA said...

"rabies is a fluke, a disease so deadly that its victims never get a chance to spread it around much..."

That’s not really a fluke. A virus that infects and sickens a large portion of the host population is not going to survive as long as rabies has. It is better, so to speak, for the virus to completely kill upon infection (so to prevent the hosts from developing an immunity), but to do so sparingly enough so that the supply of future hosts is maintained. Rabies seems close to optimal in that regard.

ysv_rao said...

But on the other hand you the Salt Water Fallacy

BTW Persians were not big on crossing seas. As they believed salt water was the abode of the devil so much so that Xerxes built a boat bridge to the Greek mainland rather than sail in them! Hence they were overwhelmingly a land empire

Something that their "Aryan" cousins Mauryas and Gupta dynasties in Northern India also followed suit with their imperial conquests crossing contiguous borders of Afghanistan/Iran and Southern China

It fell to the more intrepid South Indians were considered Vratya Kshatriyas(fallen riteless warriors) to conquer and colonize much of South East Asia due to whom Hinduism and Buddhism spread in those regions.

Anonymous said...

Land power! Dodge gives you Land Power!

Anonymous said...

Crawfurdmuir:"Both are describing syphilis as it exists today, more than 500 years after it was introduced. It was a much quicker killer when it was new to Europeans, or at least so saith Wikipedia:

'The first well-recorded European outbreak of what is now known as syphilis occurred in 1495 among French troops besieging Naples, Italy. It may have been transmitted to the French via Spanish mercenaries serving King Charles of France in that siege. From this centre, the disease swept across Europe. As Jared Diamond describes it, "[W]hen syphilis was first definitely recorded in Europe in 1495, its pustules often covered the body from the head to the knees, caused flesh to fall from people's faces, and led to death within a few months." The disease then was much more lethal than it is today. Diamond concludes,"[B]y 1546, the disease had evolved into the disease with the symptoms so well known to us today." The epidemiology of this first syphilis epidemic shows that the disease was either new or a mutated form of an earlier disease."

True, but the simple fact is that we can compare and contrast the death tolls in Europe and the Americas, and the evidence is quite clear. Old World diseases like smallpox killed massive numbers of Amerinds.By some estimates, Old World diseases reduced the population of the Americas by 90%. Syphilis, in contrast, did not even equal the death toll of the Black Death.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous:"http://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2011/07/rapid-cultural-evolution-case-of.html

"Rapid cultural evolution was already under way in eastern and central North America when the first Europeans arrived. Had their arrival been postponed long enough, they would have encountered millions of sedentary Indians in a zone stretching from the lower Mississippi to southern Ontario. A northern Aztec Empire....

This cultural evolution was actually accelerating when the Europeans arrived. What if their arrival had been postponed?...

Had this fragile context taken a turn for the worse, there might have been insufficient will or ability to colonize the Americas. European settlers would have perhaps arrived on the Eastern Seaboard only in the late 1700s.

And beyond the Appalachians, they would have found millions of sedentary Amerindians living in fortified cities and recently united under the aegis of the Iroquois Confederacy …"

The problem, though, is that this Northern version of the Aztec Empire would have been equally vulnerable to decimation via Old World Diseases....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous:"Simple. No Lend Lease. Russian offensive power depended greatly on Lend Lease supplies. Russian defensive power depended on weather, climate, terrain, and the stubbornness of the Russian soldier to live under Stalin rather than die under Hitler.

If there was no lend lease at all, the great Red Army would have literally bogged down in the Pripet Marshes in 1944, and stayed bogged when Patton would be storming Berlin."

Yes, I've heard the old "Deprive Uncle Joe of his Lend-Lease Goodies and watch Britain and America take out Hitler while simultaneously depriving Stalin of his Empire in Europe" theory many times. And it is simply not tenable. Weakening Stalin vis-a-vis Hitler would have meant a massive increase in the number of British and American casualties stemming from a Second Front. That was a blood price that neither Churchill nor Roosevelt was willing to pay.

Anonymous said...

Dan:"You miss the point with the Jared Diamond stuff about Germs.

The real advantage was threefold: Clockwork, Printing and large ships. I'll be generous and add guns. make it fourfold.


The European had mastered extremely advanced information systems. That's the killer for the Red Injun hunter gatherer. A massive crewed weapon like a galleon, with accurate time keeping and literacy with a cheap reproduction method.

Diamond is far too brutalist for my liking. White man's power is intellectual."

Sure, but the critical role of disease cannot be discounted.When 90% of the enemy population is dying from smallpox, measles, etc, that is a tremendous advantage.

Anonymous said...

It's a critical aspect of understanding why the Russians fought so bloody hard and where much of the lend lease cash actually went.

No doubt those Rooskies are hard fighters but the Germans inflicted massive casualties whether attacking or retreating. Whatever else the Soviets were doing their main advantage was huge numbers. The Germans seemed to have outfought them man to man, gun to gun, tank to etc.

Marissa said...

Seems like there's an overestimation of Roosevelt's desire to keep casualties low. Does anyone know if Roosevelt favored the invasion of Japan instead of dropping atomic bombs?

Also, Roosevelt was a communist; he engaged in Lend Lease because he believed in the cause. He was not a great political strategist either and let Uncle Joe run roughshod over him.

Anonymous said...

"The Germans seemed to have outfought them man to man, gun to gun, tank to etc."

Yes, but not by much. The total ratio of Russian to German military losses was 1.3:1. If you discount the disastrous beginning of the war it was pretty much 1:1.

Dan said...

This is where Diamond falls on his face. The Indians were an integrated part of the alliances and wars fought between the frogs and the Limeys.


They simply lacked the larger advantages of a well oiled society. Mass literacy (Guttenberg) shipping (Galleons) and Clockwork (Mechanics).

They had a woefully deficient civil culture and were always going to go under or assimilate into the more advanced society.

Dan said...

Napoleon was the last demographic roll of the dice for the French.

They still had the raw manpower to dominate Europe. Once Germany united the French were second best.

David Davenport said...

Seems like there's an overestimation of Roosevelt's desire to keep casualties low. Does anyone know if Roosevelt favored the invasion of Japan instead of dropping atomic bombs?

FDR emphatically preferred A-bombing to a land invasion of Japan.

George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower, decided* not to try to take all of Berlin in spring 1945 because they thought they thought that was the late FDR's intention -- Better to let the Reds take more of Germany than to expend 100,000 or more additional Allied casualties.

I assume that some of the posters on this thread are Egnlish speaking foreigners. Instead, if you are American, perhaps a younger American, then you don't understand WWII history.

* British opinions becoming less and less important as the end of the war neared.

Anonymous said...

Marissa:"Seems like there's an overestimation of Roosevelt's desire to keep casualties low."

Both Churchill and Roosevelt wanted to keep casualties low.

Marissa:" Does anyone know if Roosevelt favored the invasion of Japan instead of dropping atomic bombs?"

FDR would have dropped the bomb on Japan. For that matter, if the atomic bomb had been ready in the summer of '44 (as opposed to the summer of '45), he would have dropped it on Berlin.

Anonymous said...

I came out of 300: Rise of an Empire thinking, I knew Hollywood could do it and they sure did! It all was due to those evil white Greeks. Well, and an evil white Greek woman who sadly guided the innocent Persians astray (and killed half their court and got away with it, how was that supposed to work out?). Oh, and she was pure evil because of evil Greek men, slave men at that, bad, bad Greeks.

On the surface pure PC. Though giving all moral agency to Greeks actually seems pretty racist. Of course, it probably has a long history that goes way back...