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09 November 2016


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Babak, you are forgetting Alexander the Great. The Great King is nothing to be proud of; Empire is evil. Alexander connected Greece, India (and distantly China), Persia, Babylon, Egypt and Arabia together for the first time. This opening allowed all these great cultures to combine in Alexandria, and much of the Golden Age was directly due to Alexander's conquests. Rather than a Persian mono-culture, we got the best of the world's great civilisations. This is the difference between democracy and imperialism.

Babak Makkinejad

"Empire is Evil."

Says who? You? If so, please kindly decamp to the North of Mason-Dixon Line, give back the Southwest to Mexico (1/3 of their country), Free Puerto Rico, and dissolve NATO.

What was wrong, tell me, with Austro-Hungarian Empire, nothing subsequent to its dissolution has been superior to it in any manner - little cities of no account now have flags waving high...

And do not tell me about Alexander's achievements; the Great King ruled for over 200 years, Alexander destroyed Order and replaced by chaos which lasted for centuries until the Sassanid Restoration.

Alexandria was a product of Roman Peace, as far as I can tell.


Addendum. With the later tallies, Trump outperformed the Five Thirty-Eight model by less than three points. The model this year was slightly more accurate than it was in 2012; it's just that the error was in the opposite direction, more crucial to the outcome.


There's a lot of BS circulating about this being a "Nader effect" election, i.e. Johnson and Stein siphoning off the votes that would have put Hillary over the top if they went into her column. In the case of the Johnson vote, the "if" part is extremely problematic. Trump's gains in the last days of pre-election polling were correlated with Johnson's losses. Stein's share had collapsed to the point where it barely moved the needle. There is every indication that the Johnson vote was at the expense of the Trump, not the Clinton, vote. Had the remainder of the Johnson and Stein votes gone in their most likely portions to the Trump and Clinton columns, it would have been a net gain for Trump.


Empire is evil because it always works against local sovereignty, democracy and individual liberty. Anyone who believes in human liberation opposes Empire. Empire tends to lead to mono-culture, and the stamping out of the Other. Alexander's conquests did not last his life, but they did open up freer trade of both goods and ideas East-West. Christianity is the result of Alexander's conquests; part Hellenism, part Egyptian, part Buddhism and part Babylonian.

We are both right Babak, from our separate points of view. It all depends on which part of the compass you look from.



" No Mainlanders to speak of, yet - and likely not many."
I'm shocked, just shocked that the the Republic of China isn't willing to let in millions from the Peoples Republic of China. Tell me, is their national health care just not as good as yours? Perhaps you could have your representative in the UN make a nice speech about it in NYC after Trump is inaugurated.

FB Ali

Thank you, David. Your detailed reply confirms my own estimate of the difference between Theresa May and Cameron, Blair et al. One of the things I like most about her is that she appears to be a 'doer' rather than a 'talker'. As you imply, she is likely to achieve something for the ordinary people of Britain, rather than just for "the City".

I also found engrossing your commentary on the Oxford graduates and the war.


Babak Makkinejad
What is your definition of superiority and why was the AH empire superior?

I am much closer to Earthrise's view, that substantially it all depends on which side you are looking from. But I do not agree with Earthrise that empires per se are ''evil'', it all depends.

David Habakkuk

Jov, Earthrise, Babak Makkinejad,

The answer is I think quite simple. The forms of ‘legitimate authority’ – to pinch a term from BM – associated with ‘modernisation’ are commonly much more problematic than Western liberals, and leftists, are prepared to acknowledge.

In particular, Americans commonly find it difficult to reflect seriously on the fact that the overthrowing of monarchical authority did not always work out as well as it did in the rather special conditions of the ‘United States’ in other places.

Among many elements of the resulting misunderstandings, a critical one has to do with the understandings of nationalism. Two major theorists of this phenomenon – Elie Kedourie and Ernest Gellner – taught at the London School of Economics.

Their interpretations reflected their different origins. So Kedourie, a Jewish refugee from Baghdad, focused on nationalism as an ideological phenomenon, while Gellner, a Jewish refugee from Prague, linked it with industrialisation and the concomitant spread of a ‘high culture’ throughout society.

In some polities it was relatively easy for an existing ‘high culture’ to spread itself through a coherent territorial space, with people of different ethnicity assimilating. (My Welsh-speaking grandparents deliberately brought up their children to speak only English.)

In the Hapsburg Empire, this was impossible. The result was that a reasonably viable coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups was replaced by a vicious conflict between different aspirant cultures trying to carve out their own territorial spaces.

Out of this – and parallel developments in the Ottoman and Romanov empires – came a whole range of not altogether pleasant developments.

Among them: the First World War, the triumph of revolutionary communism in Russia, the triumph of Hitler’s version of ‘national socialism’ (actually a generalisation to the European level of the politics of Upper Bohemia) in Germany, the Second World War, and the Holocaust.

An outcome of all these developments, ironically, was that between them Hitler and Stalin turned Eastern Europe into a system of reasonably ethnically coherent states.

This, of course, involved the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Germans from Poland and, as it then was, Czechoslovakia, as well as a small number of other unpleasant developments (ask TTG.).

As American – and I am ashamed to say, British – liberals are incapable of understanding any of this history, they are now involved in supporting an attempt by ‘Austro-Hungarian' Ukrainians to impose their version of Ukrainian identity on the whole territorial space of the country created by Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev.

A characteristic feature of ethno-nationalist struggles is that those prepared to fight are the most fanatical.

So it is hardly surprising that the ‘Azov Battalion’ – the sharp end of Ukraine's fighting forces in the current civil war – has an emblem which combines lightly transformed version of the Wolfsangel and the ‘Black Sun’ symbol.

Of these, the former was the symbol of the ‘Das Reich’ SS division.

The latter was set in the floor of the ‘Obergruppenführersaal’ in the castle of Wewelsburg, which Himmler intended as the centre of the new 'SS world'– the ‘Thousand Year Reich’.

This was to happen, following the destruction of the Jewish ‘Weltfeind’, and the elimination of between thirty and forty-five million Slavs, in order to create ‘Lebensraum’ – an autarkic German empire which would be prepared for the coming struggle for ‘world domination’ with the United States.

This was what, to my parents’ generation, was the ‘heart of darkness’. And now we are allied with them. The shame of it is quite difficult to take.

But these things cut different ways. Not long ago, for the first time in my life, I visited Vienna, and met up again with the German lady who was my mother’s ‘au pair’ when I was an infant – not long after the war’s end.

We talked, among other things, about the funeral, in 1989, of the Empress Zita – the last Empress of Austria-Hungary – at which she was present. And she described the ‘Anklopfzeremonie’ at the ‘Kapuzinergruft’. I had every sympathy with her nostalgia.

Babak Makkinejad

Austro-Hungarian Empire provided a uniform system of the Laws and Regulation that accommodated a diverse group of ethno-linguistic groups within a dominant and superior Germanic culture of Austria.

One the eve of World War I, it was a system of representative government in which a very small state apparatus governed the empire with a light touch. It was a state with a historical pedigree, with tradition and customs going back hundreds of years.

In that empire, many Jews had found places for themselves in her cosmopolitan culture, state apparatus, commerce and other areas of human activity. Indeed, in addition to those Yiddish speakers, many other nationalities could look forward to a gymnasium education and full participation in the life of the empire; political, scientific, commercial, military etc.

What followed its dissolution was dictatorship, ethnic cleansing, murder, chaos, and mayhem - for decades. For the Yiddish speakers and Jews, it was death that followed the dissolution of the empire.

Now, what we have left is a bunch of small pathetic little dukedoms - with their silly little flags - trying to assume a pose that puts them on the same level as Germany or UK or France. With Austria and within Austro-Hungarian Empire, they were some bodies - outside of it they are of no consequence; to be dominated by Germany for the foreseeable future.

Babak Makkinejad

In specific case of the Platonic Academy, it did not move East; there was a chance it could but the demise of the Great King and the Chaos that followed prevented that.

The Platonic Academy finally moved East when the Byzantine Emperor closed them and the scholars fled to Sassanid Persia - which served later as the seed from which Muslim Civilization arose.

I do not understand your enthusiasm for Alexander of Maceodon; it is like demonstrating enthusiasm for the Mongols and Chengiz Khan.


I have the feeling that you see the Austro-Hungarian empire through the eyes of Joseph Roth’s book - The Emperor's Tomb (Die Kapuzinergruft) (1938), and can’t deny that you have a point in many things – rule of law (although the laws were not uniform), the possibility for education, briefly AH was a modern society in many aspects.
But, on the other hand , the government was not representative, and the Habsburgs were the rulers (although Hungarians did sometimes have their politicians representing the Monarchy – e.g. Grof Andrassy). When the Habsburg power would be contested, they would use differences and hostilities between different people (e.g. 1848. and the Hungarian revolution, when the Habsburgs using excellent diplomacy directed the Hungarian military strength towards the Serbs and Croats and vice versa) to stay the sole rulers.
As far as I know there were no deaths of Jews after the collapse of the Empire. Only after the Anschluss and later Holocaust did the Jewish suffering commence. In Hungary, all through out the WW2 many Jews were not murdered nor persecuted, but sadly the systematic deportations to Auschwitz of Hungarian Jews started in 1944, as the war was coming to an end. How can you be sure that if the AH monarchy survived, it would have protected the Jews from the Nazis?
And if you are a Chezh, Slovak, Slovenian, Serb , Muslim from Bosnia– what is the difference if you and your people are dominated by a German elite from Austria (100 years ago) or by a German elite living in Germany (now)?
Austro-Hungaria was an empire nor better nor worse than other empires at that time, and there is no need to idealise it, which is what you are doing. The irony is, that this empire signed it's own death sentence when it insisted on the ''Drang nach Osten'' policy, not capable of any compromise (Russia and Serbia would have swallowed the anexation of Bosnia), and with its elites wanting war.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments.

I have not read that book, my opinions are solely based on my own variegated readings of European history.

No doubt, Austro-Hungarian Empire had many defects and problems and issue; all states do. But, in my opinion, compared to what followed - to this day - it was a superior political organization. And in 1914, had the Empire lived, it could have reformed; at the same time in US they were lynching African-Americans etc.

You ask what is the difference between being dominated by Germany now or by Austrian Germans then. It is the nature of that domination; Oster Reich was not run by Prussians, it was a qualitatively different ethnic group of German speaking people. Furthermore, the various constituents of the empire could exercise limited power to alter the policies of the empire domestically. Magyars were not a foreign people, for example, in the Empire; they were part and parcel of the state.

From the end of the Empire, through World War II, to the present we have seen what these various peoples like Chezh, Slovak, Slovenian, Croat, Serb , Muslim from Bosnia, Slovenian, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian, have accomplished in their respective duchies.

For let us not lose sight of what they all have become, small parochial states, insular, forever afraid of their neighbors - large and small - and with no control over their collective or individual destiny.

Yes, they fulfilled their nationalistic dreams, but at what price? And was being ruled from Vienna worse than being ruled from Brussels?

I am interested in issues of governance of human beings; seemed to me that Austro-Hungarian Empire was a rather successful construct for managing the affairs of that part of the world.

I agree with you that the Imperial Foreign Policy should have not been kept in the hands of the Court; that was the fatal shortcoming.

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