Interesting Material on Byzantium & Persia

Occasionally, I go through the stats in WordPress to see who is backlinking The Declination. Doing so can be pretty eye opening. I’ve found more than a few detractors this way, and some very amusing social justice warriors. But I’ve also discovered fascinating intellectual material this way.

In the course of perusing my backlinks, I discovered a little-known blog call the House of DavidThis one is fascinating because the author delves deeply into a topic which has bothered me for most my life: just how was it that Islam conquered Sassanian Persia and most of Byzantium more or less simultaneously? Normally this question is answered in the West, at least, by primarily Greek sources. Those are useful, yes, but only paint part of the picture. The proprietor of House of David seeks to answer the question from Persian and Arabic sources, also.

The strangeness of this event cannot be overstated. As successors to the Romans (or as Romans themselves, depending on how you account them), the Byzantines were masters of siege craft. Certainly the Theodosian walls impress well enough. Being consummate engineers of fortifications, Roman forts and walled cities dotted the empire, and for the most part, the Romans were excellent at defending them. The Byzantines continued the tradition of effective defense throughout most of their history, as they were under near-constant assault from all sides.

Hannibal himself found the Romans impossible to conquer, even when winning most of the important field battles. And when much of the Western Empire fell apart, it was due not to siege warfare, but to what might be called a refugee migration situation gone to pot. Modern Europe, it should be noted, ought to be paying very close attention to that portion of their history.

Now, one might say the Persians were able to do it, at least temporarily during the Sassanian war of the early 7th century. And that is true enough, though the Romans still emerged triumphant even then. But the Persians had long experience fighting Romans. They were no strangers to dealing with Roman fortifications and siege craft. Despite the feudal nature of their army (think of dehgans like predecessors to medieval feudal nobility), it was powerful and well organized.

The Arabs, on the other hand, had little organization along those lines. Neither, it should be noted, did they have experience storming Roman forts and cities.

In some cases, of course, there was treachery from some of the Byzantines themselves, most notably in Egypt. But in other cases, such as the Exarchate of Africa, local Byzantine resistance was absolutely fierce. The wars in North Africa absolutely devastated the place. It never recovered after this. So complete was this devastation and desolation that Carthage, which bounced back even after the Romans razed it, never recovered from it. Even conquest by the Vandals had not been so terrible.

And still, after the Byzantines themselves lost much of North Africa, the native Christian Berbers continued to resist for some time under a supposed witch-queen named Kahina. And Byzantine resistance remained for a time around Cueta even after Carthage was destroyed, where the possibly-apocryphal Count Julian was said to have finally thrown in with the Muslims in order to avenge himself upon the Visigoths.

Yet the Arab steamroller moved on.

The final triumph of Byzantine siege craft could be seen in the twin Arab sieges of Constantinople, both beaten back effectively by the Byzantines. So why did they lose so completely everywhere else?

It’s a mystery that has defied satisfactory explanation. Some would say that the Persian war exhausted both countries, and that is true to some extent. Persia spiraled into internecine warfare, and was ruined by Heraclius. But Persia never had the defensive depth that Rome did. Persia was more reliant upon the land-holding nobility, and they were a better offensive force than a defensive one. The Byzantines, meanwhile, had won the war, and Heraclius was (at least according to Greek sources on the matter) still able to field massive armies who, ostensibly, had great experience in the Persian war.

Byzantium was weakened economically by the war, at least to some extent. But militarily, it may have actually been stronger.

So how did a bunch of relatively disorganized Arabs, with little experience, overrun Byzantium and Persia in a way that even Alexander the Great would have gawked at?

The purveyor of House of David has more then a few theories and ideas about how this could have been done, and what may have been going on. And there’s a ring of truth to a lot of it. It ties in well with what is going on today in the West, namely that the bureaucracy and the nobility may have, in effect, sold out their own country for personal profit. That in Byzantium, at least, the bureaucracy may have deliberately sacrificed Rome’s old empire for the sake of what we might call proto-globalization of trade.

The idea of globalists selling out nations for profit, of course, has a long tradition. To them, nations are collections of people, they are arbitrary social constructs (like gender is an arbitrary social construct to them, also). So for them, selling out a country is more or less the same thing as selling your pizza shop. It’s just a pizza shop. Who cares? If you can make more money closing your business and selling off the assets, no big deal, right?

Except countries are not pizza shops. And the things you wind up selling off are people. Sometimes very literally, in the case of Islam.

I don’t want to go on a long lecture on that topic, though. I’ll save that for another day. As to whether or not I believe this theory, I don’t know. It has a ring of plausibility to it, but I’m not familiar enough with the primary sources to say. However, it is interesting, at the very least.

Suffice it to say I have been reading more of this man’s musings on Islamic and Persian history, and they are fascinating. It’s a very different perspective than reading all this from the translated Greek sources. There are a great many posts worth reading on there. Here are a few more.


Erdogan Strikes Again

Naturally, as one with Armenian family members, Turkey is not exactly high on my list of favorite countries in the world. But Erdogan has managed to lower my opinion of Turkey even further.

Now he has the unmitigated gall to call the Dutch Nazis. There’s a bit of pot, kettle, black irony in this, as Turkey still remains defiant in its assertion that the Armenian genocide never happened. Tell that to my ancestors who fled the place just ahead of Ottoman advance.

What prompted Erdogan to do this?

The Netherlands wasn’t pleased with Turks within their borders holding rallies to call for more power for Erdogan. The Turks responded with this little stunt:

Police clashed with pro-Erdogan demonstrators in the Netherlands overnight while in Istanbul on Sunday a man climbed onto the roof of the Dutch consulate and replaced the Dutch flag with a Turkish flag.

Finally, after a long time kow-towing to any Islamic country that asked, both the Netherlands and Germany took a harder line.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Sunday he was against Turkish ministers holding political rallies in Germany.

“A Turkish campaign has no business being here in Germany,” he told public broadcaster ARD.

Separately, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he hoped Turkey “would return to its senses”.

Before Leftists come to The Declination with accusations about free speech, let’s be very clear. These are Turkish citizens conducting large-scale “rallies” in a foreign country, in support of an authoritarian, who has been playing both sides against the middle where this refugee and migrant situation is concerned.

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want that kind of activity in my country either. If European countries were smart, they’d expel the ones that didn’t have citizenship immediately. If you’re not a citizen, you are a guest, you are in the country on the sufferance of its citizens. If you want to stir up trouble, they’ve every right to boot you out.

“The West has clearly shown its true face in the last couple of days,” Erdogan said.

“What we have seen is a clear manifestation of Islamophobia,” he added.

Turkey used to have a reputation for being at least somewhat secular, at least compared to their more radical Islamic counterparts. I would not go so far as to say Turkey was good, but certainly Erdogan has made things worse.

By making the Islamophobia argument, Erdogan is de facto admitting something I’ve long suspected: Turkey is back to being a fundamentally Islamic nation, not a secular one. The Kemalists are done. And insofar as Erdogan is looking at this from an Islamic angle, these rallies, and the massive number of Turks in the EU, must be looked at from that angle also. This is part of a bid for more control and power in Europe.

In other words, Erdogan seems to fancy himself an Ottoman Sultan, or something closely approximating that. He ought to be treated likewise. He’s no friend of the West, nor is he a secularist. He’s an Islamist with pretensions of restoring the Ottoman Empire under his own banner.

And, quite frankly, nobody should put any stock in the mutterings of some tinpot Islamist would-be dictator.

Fear of the Stranger

Sarah Hoyt wrote an excellent piece this morning describing the Leftist view of racism as, in essence, fear of the stranger. Fear of the stranger contains a strongly rational component, in that, as she puts it:

In pre-human times, with many bands and tribelets living close enough for kids to stray, the name for a kid who thought that his family or strangers were equivalent was — at least if we go by how our closest relatives, the chimps, treat young from other bands — “dinner.”

Oh sure, in times of stress and famine, the chances that your own band would tuck in were fairly high, but still the chances that dear old mom would eat you were not nearly as high as that a stranger would eat you.

In other words, the in-group was more likely to protect and cherish you — and less likely to eat you — than the out-group. So fear of the stranger was rational, and selected for.

That isn’t to say you cannot regard someone of a different background as part of the in-group. Over time, as individuals prove themselves and you get to know them, the fear of the stranger will ease because the individual is no longer a stranger to you.

My in-laws are of Cuban ancestry, and their culture is somewhat different from the one in which I was raised. But having lived with it for near to a decade now, it is very familiar to me. It is not strange or odd.

But therein lies the distinction. You get to know someone first. And if they prove themselves, then they are no longer regarded as strangers.

Instead of rationally determining which individuals and groups are good, and offer no threat to you, then acting accordingly, Leftists demand that you display a knee-jerk reaction every time fear of the stranger comes, and immediately accept that person into your home, regardless of what they say or do.

The Syrian migrant/refugee business is a great case in point, as is illegal immigration. The Left thinks it a crime to ask the stranger what his business is, and why he wants to enter our community. They think it is a crime to not immediately give the stranger every possible honor, a seat at our table, a home in our village, a position of power in our councils, and then demand nothing from him in return. We don’t even demand that he obey our laws, or speak our language.

It’s absolutely insane.

Their position is beyond stupid. Any species that acted this way in the wild would be rendered extinct within a generation. They would be eaten by everyone. They would be gullible fools, easy snacks for any predators.

A Leftist sees a sketchy van roll into his neighborhood, and in order to virtue signal his moral superiority over us, he immediately dismisses his fear of the stranger, and offers his children to the sketchy van owner, heedless of any threat or danger (because recognizing any threat is discriminatory). He asks the sketchy van owner to come into his home, eat at his table, and give company to his wife. It doesn’t even matter if the van owner speaks his language. In fact, the more difference he has from you, the stranger he is to you, the better for the moral preening.

Any hesitation to do this immediately and reflexively is racism/sexism/homophobia/islamophobia/whatever.

It’s knee-jerk moral preening, and if it weren’t moderated by a fair amount of Rightist common sense, it would have already destroyed the country, and then the Leftists themselves, in short order.

There’s a reason, of course, why Stalinists shot gullible true believers. They didn’t want those idiots around either. They were useful for destroying the old order — because they bring civilizational extinction wherever they achieve power — but they are useless for any other purpose.

Leftist anti-racism is a knee-jerk reaction to a survival instinct. If the choice is dismissing the stranger, or doing whatever the Left is doing, dismissing is the superior choice, because it at least concedes survival. The best position, of course, is a healthy skepticism of the stranger, until he proves himself adequately, upon which he is no longer strange to you.

But nothing other than civilizational hara kiri is acceptable to the political Left.


It’s the latest thing. It’s another sponsored hashtag pushed by social media platforms, elegantly scripted and carefully nurtured by celebs and stars. I’m sure we’ll see a TV commercial soon, just like that 84 Lumber ad during the Super Bowl.

Except these people are grasping at straws. They act like this is about legal immigration, but the Wall was never meant to have any effect whatsover on that. Legal immigration reform may be needed, and may be addressed in the future.

But that’s not why these people are blowing up Twitter with this stupid hashtag.

It’s all about undocumented immigrants, as they say. Or, more correctly illegal aliens.

Mexico is big enough for this woman and her family, too. Deport immediately. One reader who goes by the name of “Skywalker” had this to say:

I can’t believe we’ve actually gotten to the point where people have to defend the merits of immigration laws/policy (and the immigrant advocacy groups calling them “undocumented” rather than illegal is a none too subtle action to further that agenda).

Rather than treat it like the crime it is–which is not exactly a “victimless” crime as it steals vast amounts of public taxpayer resources–public and often federally funded institutions are standing up for these groups, forming support alliances like a “Dreamer Resource Center”:

To that truth I could only add the following:

I’m to the point where Lefties just give me a headache with their excessive moralizing. They believe that America’s chief calling is to give up everything, including the very country itself, as a sort of international charity service. Every time a man has a shitty day, or something goes badly in his home country, he is to be given an inalienable human right to immigrate to America, legally or illegally. It’s stupid.

Immigration should be considered on one basis, and one basis only: how it benefits the United States of America. If an immigrant obeys our laws, and applies legally, we may consider his application, and judge whether or not we believe America would gain from his presence, whether our country would be improved by his admission.

If he does not obey our laws, and tries to sneak in, he has shown contempt for us, and should not be admitted. If he obeys the law, and applies legally, but we see him as a terror risk, or a welfare risk, or we don’t think he’ll assimilate, or a thousand other such reasons… too bad, too sad. We are not the world’s charity service.



If you want to become American, you might want to fly American flags, not Mexican flags.


This is Weaponized Empathy again, folks. Everybody who wants to come to America has a sob story. Many of them are even true. After all, nobody leaves their home country because they love the place, and things were just great there.

We’re not a charity service. We get to choose. If we want great people like my friends Nicki Kenyon and Sarah Hoyt, that is wonderful. That is a fine thing. I am proud and honored to have them as fellow citizens.

But where do these people get off saying “my life sucks, so I should just be able to walk across the border, no questions asked, right?”

It’s beyond stupid.

Immigration is not charity. It’s a category error to consider it as such. And I’ve absolutely had it with idiots who claim it ought to be. Build the Wall, secure the border, deport illegals immediately.

Will the Wall Work?

Progressives are quite desperate to stop the Wall, most likely because they suspect it might actually work. Here is a video from the election period, wherein we are lectured by a smarmy Progressive on how stupid the plebs are for believing a wall could work:

Some of the claims here are quick to dismiss or explain. Let’s go through them in short order:

The Wall will cost between $15 and $25 billion.

This may be true. Current estimates are somewhere in that neighborhood for the total project. The video equates this to one year of NASA’s budget, and makes it sound like a big scary number. Now true, this is not chump change. And generally speaking, I loathe government spending on big boondoggle projects. However, border security is a legitimate function of the Federal government and, coincidentally, one of the functions it has refused to execute properly in recent years.

Democrats are screaming about a $25 billion wall, and yet spend more than that on social services for illegal immigrants. Everything from medical care to in-state tuition is provided for them. So the number on the invoice may be correct, but it does not take into account the savings that could be realized if the Wall worked as designed (especially if combined with deportation). If it did, we’d probably have a net savings in terms of government spending.

The host of this video would have you believe this is an unprecedented effort on a truly monumental scale, and that nobody could do it. That is lunacy. After all, we’ve built dozens of freeways crossing the entire country. The Interstate Highway system positively dwarfs this effort by orders of magnitude. The Chinese built their wall long before industrialization was a thing. The Romans built forts, walls, limes, and Roman roads crisscrossing Europe in the ancient era. No, this is not an unprecedented or impossible task. It’s quite doable.

The Wall won’t work because… planes.

Actually it has nothing to do with planes, insofar as those with legal visas can come in via other means also (boats, cars, etc…). It is spun as “planes fly over walls, you stupid pleb.” It’s just a rhetorical trick designed to make the viewer feel stupid.

But in any event, this argument discusses the illegals who are overstaying their visas. True, the Wall won’t do anything about these illegals per se. But if the Wall is accompanied by more rigorous deportation and enforcement, then the number of this type of illegal alien should be reduced. Then, of course, the Wall will serve to keep them out if they try to come back. Supposing, of course, we have the good sense to deny future visas to those who have already proven untrustworthy with them.

The Wall won’t work because of impassible terrain.

Mountains are shown on the video, and the wall cannot go over them, it is said. True, to some extent anyway. There are terrain features that would impede the construction of the Wall. But, it should be noted that such impassable terrain is no picnic for the illegals either. In this sense, Mother Nature will do the trick where the bulldozers cannot go. Or, put it in more simplistic terms: which is easier to get over, a mountain or a Wall?

The Wall won’t work because of a revolving door.

A Princeton professor is trotted out, and his theory is presented. He tells us that the open border is a revolving door, insofar as some illegals come in, while others leave to return to Mexico. And if, he says, the Wall is built, it will stop that flow. Then all the illegals currently here will be trapped here.

This contradicts the earlier argument that the Wall won’t work. After all, if the Wall doesn’t work, how could it stop illegals from coming and going? In essence, he’s actually saying the Wall will work.

Never mind the obvious fact that if the Princeton professor were correct, the level of illegal immigrants in the United States should stay relatively consistent over the years. Except that it hasn’t. Ann Coulter demonstrated this aptly in Adios America. The number is definitely increasing, so even if some do go back, clearly more are coming in than are leaving. Close the door by building the Wall and you will stop the increase.

Mitt Romney discussed something like this in the 2012 campaign. He wanted greater penalties levied against companies caught hiring illegals, in order to get them to self-deport back across the border. So even if there is some truth to this, the solution is simple: enforce the laws as Romney suggested while the Wall is still being built. And allow them to go back without interference. You can even advertise this as a service. Are you an illegal who wants to go home? We will provide secure, safe transportation for you and your family back to your home country. This way you can get the benefits of both ideas.

The number of Border Patrol apprehensions is at an all-time low.

Perhaps this is true. It appears to be, anyway. The question is why? Is it because of reduced enforcement? Is it because of a temporary condition, such as fluctuations in the economies of both the United States and Mexico? The makes of the video want you to assume this is because less immigrants are coming through today, and then tell you to project that amount indefinitely into the future. This is fallacious in the extreme. Even if the number of illegals has dropped off considerably, it is still a very large number, and there is no guarantee it won’t increase tomorrow.

Other arguments against the Wall.

The video skips over some other common arguments against the Wall, some of which actually have some merit (certainly more than the claims made in the video).

Illegals will just dig tunnels, or jump over the Wall.

There is some truth to this. However, scaling the Wall, or digging underneath the Wall takes a lot more effort than merely crossing an empty space. Of course, this depends greatly on the design of the Wall. Penn Jillette released a video many years ago (which appears to be gone now – I couldn’t find it) where he built a scale mockup of the then-proposed border wall, then hired some Mexicans to get around it as quickly as they could. It took the Mexicans less than 5 minutes to scale it, or dig under it. It was a shitty design. Some of the existing border fences are even easier to scale. But if you look the border fence in question, it’s an even crappier design than the one proposed by the Bush administration.

So the Wall should incorporate design features to make casual scaling and tunneling harder. It needs to go deeper into the ground, be taller, solid, and incorporate features like razor wire or other deterrents. Most importantly, designs should be mocked up and tested, to see how much time is required to defeat them. Experiment with this, and find an ideal balance of cost and design features.

It will not prevent all illegal immigration, but it doesn’t have to, just like locking your car door doesn’t prevent all theft, but certainly discourages casual thieves, and can increase the time and effort needed by more experienced thieves. If it takes longer to scale or tunnel under the Wall, that gives Border Patrol more time to discover them, and will reduce the number who make the attempt in the first place.

But this is a legitimate gripe. This must be designed and built properly, or else it will be a waste of money. And it must also be accompanied by more active border security measures.

The Wall will hurt the American economy.

This is the usual “who will pick our fruit for cheap” argument. It neglects the overall cost of an illegal immigrant, which includes not only their wages, but all the welfare state services they use, and the net drain on the American economy. To the farmer, it may seem like a good deal, because they are cheaper and often work better than bored teenagers, who used to bolster the ranks of cheap seasonal  farmhands and random handymen. But when the taxpayer’s subsidy is taken into account, the deal is much less attractive. I’ll have to go over the figures in more detail for a future post, but at the very least, the wage difference will be partially accounted for, and perhaps entirely accounted for.

Besides, who really gets benefit from this? A few farmers and corporations using off-the-books employees, or looking the other way to save a few bucks, are getting all of the benefit, while the taxpayer subsidizes the cost. This is why it’s sometimes hard to mobilize Republicans to do anything about it. Democrats want more votes, and some Republicans want the subsidized labor. As mentioned earlier in this post, if the Wall works, we’re going to realize some savings in welfare spending. Still, we can expect some kind of additional economic impact from border security. Whether it will be a net positive or a net negative for the economy, I cannot say for certain. There are too many variables to account for. And I don’t really trust anybody who is too sure about this.

But either way, it will be a net gain from a national security angle, from an immigration and cultural assimilation angle, and is, in any event, part of what defines one nation as separate from another in the first place. If your border is really porous, you have de facto open borders. If you have open borders, you don’t really have a country. It’s just a geographical expression on a map, a polite fiction and no more.

Keith Olbermann Plays on Your Sympathies

Here’s another blatant case of Weaponized Empathy:

Keith brings up the case of Fatemeh, an infant who needed open heart surgery. Like most cases of Weaponized Empathy, the story is a sad one, and it plays on the heartstrings. To be fair, the circumstance surrounding the case, if Keith’s presentation of the facts is true, does sound like something that might be accounted an exception to the rule, at least as long as the parents and the child had no intention of staying in the country after the surgery was performed. Supposedly, their sole reason for coming was to obtain the surgery, which was being paid for entirely by the family, and then they would return home.

But notice where Keith goes with it at the end. He ties this in to the “60,000 others” denied entry into the United States as a result of the ban. Here’s where it diverts from being a sad story, and a victim of happenstance, to its ultimate weaponized form.

Lift the ban, he is telling you, or else you want more little babies to die. Where, of course, this sympathy for babies is when they discuss late-term abortions, I cannot say. But instead of arguing for occasional exceptions to the ban for very specific business, in this case open heart surgery, he argues for admitting everybody.

Do you see the fallacy here?

And then he makes sure we know that it’s a travesty, and that it’s our fault, and being done in our name, because we voted for Donald Trump.

This is a classic bait-and-switch. We are sold on poor babies who need heart surgery. What we get, upon doing what they ask, is something entirely different. Observe:


The fascinating statistic from this little infographic can be found on the lower right hand corner. Note the overabundance of men. And note, also, that many children are actually military age men claiming to be children. So depending on whether or not the statistics account for that, the percentage of children may be even lower.

We are sold on poor children and families escaping a war-torn country. We get the bait-and-switch: here’s your invasion force of military-age men, some of whom may have even been participants in the conflict. You’re importing a war, not saving children.

Weaponized Empathy in the form that Keith Olbermann is employing is nothing more than an amateur sales tactic seen frequently at used car dealerships. Don’t fall for it.

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