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Enlighten me.



The Germans were the border of the nation of Rome from 100 BC until the Empire fell. They once slaughtered an entire Republic field army--and remember the Republic's army consisted of most of Rome's young, able-bodied citizens. They defeated Augustus, among other emperors, and eventually sacked Rome. Twice. Before making the whole thing collapse.

So, small difference.


This is a movie simplification. The Romans copied battle styles from local armies during their conflicts. When Romans started having money problems they started outsourcing their armies to local people and they stopped their public works. When the army started getting less relevant to local affairs and only a tax imposing machine, the locals would turn against the Romans and join the militia. The Germanic leaders were also trained in the Roman army, and the "barbarians" pretty much knew how to conduct warfare and they also knew their weaknesses. So they fought a war of attrition, that forced the Romans to spread out. Soon enough the Romans knew they could not sustain their wars. So the "barbarians" tried different things until they found fight patterns that Rome did not have the technology to beat in a economic way. The Roman nobility had not lost it's privileges but nobody was interested in fighting, and they soldiers were only doing it for money which was not even enough to retire afterwards.

So it is totally irrelevant with the current situation.


So because we're geographically isolated, there is nothing to worry about? Modern technology doesn't change the circumstances any?


What exactly are you envisioning here? If not a sacking of the country by terrorist hoards, what exactly are you proposing the parallels between the fall of Rome and our modern society will be?

I can envision terrorist attacks doing major irreversible damage to our society, but only through the fear, spiraling out of control, that they have the potential to cause. A fear so excessive that it could figuratively drive our society off the cliffs of Saipan.

Presumably (since you appear to be advocating fear, and since it would be plainly idiotic to suggest a sacking is immenent) you are suggesting a different mechanism.

So what is this mechanism?


With modern technology, you don't need to sack New York to cause tremendous damage. People downplay the magnitude of 9/11, but as I noted somewhere else today, it involved more deaths than Pearl Harbor, and economic damage of almost $100 billion (without accounting for the economic impact on the stock market). Is a terrorist attack ten times stronger inconceivable? An attack on a nuclear power plant could cost into trillions (http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/03/a-nuclear-accident-co...). Maybe not irreversible damage, but crippling nonetheless. Is it totally pointless to fear one or more appropriately, to take affirmative actions to avoid one?


You really think that could bring "The Fall of New Rome"?

An attack a hundred times more deadly (which would be something like 3% of NYC's population dead, if my mental math does not betray me, or something a little less than 10x The Blitz.) than 9/11 would be a tragedy with only a few parallels in history. It would be an astronomically staggering blow to our economy. Hell, the mangled remains of the economy after such an attack probably would not even be recognizable as an economy at all... But bring down our society? No, not unless we allowed our fear to betray us. Not unless we abandoned any pretenses of maintaining our morale. Not unless we permit it to destroy us.

To be honest, it really just sounds like you've been having too many Red Dawn fantasies. There are no more barbarian hoards; sorry to disappoint.


No red dawn fantasies, just realpolitik ones. I would consider it a destruction of our society if our economy was not "recognizable as an economy at all." Indeed, the current recession only wiped out about $600 billion of GDP at the worst, and look at how much suffering it caused. I'm willing to vote for the US to send quite a few more drones to Pakistan to avert a possible 10x 9/11 event, even if we could technically rebuild from one.


You define "society" far too narrowly. A society is not an economy, a government, or even a piece of land enclosed by a border. It is an abstract idea, a sort of shared culture and basic methodology.

Here is the real trick though, this "New Rome" is not a city. We don't have a seat of power from which we derive our identity and shared culture, or any sort of sackable cultural Mecca which we define ourselves by. You could level NYC and kill every last person in it, dismantle the government and turn dollars into papiermarks, but you would not have dismantled the society.

Remaining you would still have hundreds of millions of Americans with no invading army to eradicate them and what they beleived in. More importantly, you would still billions of others, across the world, who would continue to make up bulk of our society. The worldwide shared culture of the 21st century, of which Americans represents but a fraction. A culture of appreciation for scientific progress, the arts, and political theories. A collective history, solemly remembering the same wars, sharing the same accomplishments. A Library of Alexandria that (thanks to dramatic advances in publishing and distribution since the last) cannot be burned.

A few well placed bombs by a few extremists who want nothing to do with any of this could never put an end to all of this. This is a society that cannot be taken, cannot be sacked; we can only give it up. Only we present an existential threat to ourselves.

Could there be massive lose of life, and would that be worth preventing? Absolutely. Are these people the Germanic hoards, posed to sack us? Are they in a position to dismantle our society? No.


You really ought to look into the history of the dark ages, because under the Pax Romana Europe enjoyed an extremely well-developed civil society that brought self-evident benefits to the participants, just like our culture of appreciation for scientific progress, the arts, and political theories...a culture which is not nearly as universal as you seem to imagine.

Also, the word you should be using is 'hordes.' Hoards are things like piles of gold or other valuables.


> under the Pax Romana Europe enjoyed an extremely well-developed civil society that brought self-evident benefits to the participants, just like our culture of appreciation for scientific progress, the arts, and political theories...a culture which is not nearly as universal as you seem to imagine.

What is your point? I am not claiming that the aspects of our society that we cherish are unique to our society, or were absent in Roman society.

"...a culture which is not nearly as universal as you seem to imagine."

We are talking essentially about the society of all developed and rapidly developing nations. This is not an American concept; even if this hypothetical mega-attack caused the American governmnet to go tits up it would survive, both domestically and throughout the world. Not even "starvation or hopelessness" would erase this modern identity. Not any starvation falling short of extinction-threatening.

Are particularly American perspectives in our modern society something that is, outside of the US, less than universal (to say the least)? Certainly. But 1) who cares? American perspectives are but few of many in modern society, 2) such perspectives are not endangered, and would not be endangered by any collapse of our particular current government.


Apparently I've said something offensive. I suppose optimism and confidence in the resiliency of modern society is not patriotic if it means I am not beating the drums of war loud enough.

By all means, you can all carry on being afraid. Your fear, your lack of resolve, your lack of confidence in our way of life... that is the real threat. It is that which the (few existing) terrorists wish to stoke.


Well, I didn't downvote you (I can't downvote replies to my own comments). I don't think you're being offensive, just loud and naive. Hectoring people with 'Your fear, your lack of resolve, your lack of confidence in our way of life' is an emotional argument. You're accusing people who have a different opinion from you of having an inferior character without bothering to engage with the actual arguments we're presenting.


> You define "society" far too narrowly

You're defining "society" as a pointless philosophical abstraction. I'm defining "society" in terms of the only thing I care about: the people and country around me. I'm not interested in the history books that remain to be written. I think most Americans feel similarly. It might be satisfying in some intellectual sense if "the worldwide shared culture of the 21st century" (of which America might represent a small fraction numerically, but which is disproportionately American in its composition) survives, but does little good for Americans who suffer.


> I'm defining "society" in terms of the only thing I care about: the people and country around me.

The country/government is irrelevant, the people are the society and that is what I am defining it as. Governments have come and gone with great frequency; societies almost always survive them. Really only genocides, cultural or otherwise, can halt them (and mad bombers are in no position to perform any sort of genocide against modern society).

It strikes me as a fairly American-centric viewpoint that conflates American government and American society. Plenty of other countries with strong, long-lived, cultural identities have gone through numerous governments in past centuries, many of these governments lasting a few short decades or less. A government is much easier to kill than a society, and dies with far fewer consequences.

If the death of a society is not what you are actually concerned about, then perhaps you should have put some thought into your initial comment before drawing comparisons to the fall of the roman empire. If merely the fall of governments and economies is what you are worried about, there are countless better examples.


What if the drones are more likely to cause a 10x 9/11 event, by helping al Qaeda's recruiting efforts?

I don't know that that's a likely outcome, but I think it's possible. In any case, I think this idea that we can pre-emptively kill everyone who might possibly attack us at some point in the future is both dangerous and evil.


I object to the characterization that we're killing random people with drones. We are killing people whose stated goal is to attack us. There is nothing evil about that. Use of force to defend ones self, whether preemptive or reactive, is the closest thing to a "natural right" that exists in this world.


What the fuck? Citations please? There is absolutely no reason I can see to beleive that every person we kill with drones had any plan (realistic or otherwise) to attack us? Where do you get this? Because of Obama's reclassification of male casualties between 16-65 as combatants? Is that kind of word-game nonsense really so effective?


There are of course collateral casualties, but I do believe every drone strike has a target that has expressed some intention to attack the U.S. We're not blowing up random Afghans for fun.


Actually, American drone attacks have a pretty miserably bad civilian:militant casualty ratio. Not that anyone has ever achieved a ratio sufficient in a fight against terrorist/guerrilla enemies to satisfy the bleeding-heart types, even when it's actually less than 1.0 (that is, fewer civilians than militants are killed or injured).


You have a lot of faith in a military which has done a lot of measurable harm in recent times for little measurable gain.


So the alternative is to use napalm strikes? Drones are way, way, way more targeted than bombing a whole area.


No, the alternative would be to stop killing people. We've had one big terrorist attack about once every 10 years. It's not worth murdering innocents over.


We've killed an awful lot fewer people with drones than we used to do with aerial bombing, even since the start of the 'war on terror.' It's like the difference between sniping and heavy artillery.


Some people just like waiting for the barbarians. Even if there aren't any barbarians out there.


It is a fantasy that is quite useful to some people, and seemingly very amusing in some sort of perverse way to others.


For those who don't get your reference, Waiting for the Barbarians is a poem by C P Cavafy.

http://www.cavafy.com/poems/content.asp?id=119&cat=1


It's also a Nobel prize winning novel by J. M. Cotzee. The allusion works either way.


Hell, the mangled remains of the economy after such an attack probably would not even be recognizable as an economy at all... But bring down our society?

Starvation or hopelessness tends to erode idealism pretty quickly. You don't need any kind of ridiculous Red Dawn fantasy to appreciate the possibility of critical injury; nor would the fall of an empire be an overnight thing. It's relatively easy to identify strategic weak points with the potential to tip a country into a tailspin.


Idealism has nothing to do with it. In the best of times and in the darkest of times, we retain the same society and merely expose different aspects of it. To erradicate a culture requires much more than destroying its economy and starving it.

We have numerous great examples of total societal collapse and eradication. Starvation to the point of extinction can do it on islands with no resources, disease can do it in previously isolated societies with no defense against it, invading armies can do it, and mass immigration and cultural conversion can do it. None of those is adaquate or available to a bunch of redneck bomb-chuckers. Not if they are trying to erradicate a society that spans countries, continents, languages, and armies.

Modern society simply does not face an existential threat from terrorists. They can do a lot of damage sure, but they will not erradicate modern society. If you want to suggest otherwise you are going to have to do better than "a few hundred thousand Americans die, the American government crumbles under the disaster relieve effort, then people start eating each other." I know you guys are really digging that fantasy, but you are delusional if you really think that would pose a threat to the modern global society.


Given any economic disruption that affects food distribution, you'll see your barbarism right quick.


The worst terrorist attack in US history managed to be about as bad as a strong hurricane hitting a densely populated area. That's noteworthy for sure, but not something that sane people would compare with civilization-destroying forces. It doesn't even compare to the "wars" of recent decades, let alone truly large-scale warfare of the sort that many countries have engaged in repeatedly without suffering the fate of the Roman Empire.


"People downplay the magnitude of 9/11, but as I noted somewhere else today, it involved more deaths than Pearl Harbor"

that's one point of reference.

Here a different point of reference. It involved about 1/10 the number of annual automobile accident deaths.


Twice as many people die every year from car accidents than murders. I suppose its pointless to spend all those police resources fighting that?

Human beings are not automotons.


"I suppose its pointless to spend all those police resources fighting that?"

Huh? Are you replying to someone else who made a claim about resource allocation (bc I didn't)?


The point I'm trying to make is the differences between terrorists and invading Germans are all of them. You might as well compare terrorists to the Irish potato famine.


My point isn't that islamic terrorists are like Germans. It's that Schneier's comment smacks of an inability to contemplate that anything bad could happen to the U.S., much like I imagine the attitude was in Rome before Germans proved them wrong.


I'm pretty sure he has the ability (and even makes a game out it[1]). What Schneier is saying is that U.S. citizens should not let the country's policy be dictated by panic blown-out-proportion reactions to imaginary threats.

[1] http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/04/sixth_movie-pl...


Boston was not invaded, sieged, or sacked.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sack_of_Rome_(410)




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