The War Nerd discovers van Creveld’s “power of weakness” and demography

Gary Brecher, aka The War Nerd publishing at The Exile, has written a long and fascinating article about the intersection of military and demographic trends in the 21st century.  This just sketches out his thinking.  I recommend reading the full article.

War of the Babies:
When Modern Warfare and Demography Square Off, Demography Wins

Gary Brecher
Taki’s Magazine, 6 May 2008

First, he “discovers” the power of weakness.  As Martin van Creveld wrote in 2004:

In private life, an adult who keeps beating down on a five year old — even such a one as originally attacked him with a knife – will be perceived as committing a crime; therefore he will lose the support of bystanders and end up by being arrested, tried and convicted. In international life, an armed force that keeps beating down on a weaker opponent will be seen as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will end up by losing the support of its allies, its own people, and its own troops.

Depending on the quality of the forces – whether they are draftees or professionals, the effectiveness of the propaganda machine, the nature of the political process, and so on – things may happen quickly or take a long time to mature. However, the outcome is always the same. He (or she) who does not understand this does not understand anything about war; or, indeed, human nature.


What was the most important battle of the late 20th century? You could argue it was the one that took place on the southern border of Morocco on November 6, 1975. Of course, we’re not talking about another Stalingrad here. In fact, what happened that day isn’t usually called a battle at all. Its official name is “The Green March.” On one side were 350,000 unarmed Moroccan civilians carrying green (Islamic) flags, and on the other-miles inside the border, because they were hoping not to have to confront any of the marchers – was a shaky, demoralized token force of Spanish troops pretending to defend a former Spanish colony, the Spanish Sahara. … The Moroccans had to think outside the traditional military-conquest box, for the simple reason that Morocco’s armed forces are pathetic.

It may not have been very exciting for combat fans, but it was an extremely effective invasion. The Spanish troops didn’t fire a shot. The marchers walked over the border, got sand in their shoes, shouted about how this sacred patch of waterless, flat desert was now an integral part of the Kingdom of Morocco, and went back home. And since then, the Spanish Sahara has been dominated by Morocco, although the local guerrilla army, POLISARIO, gave them some serious problems for a while.

What makes this weird episode my nominee for “Most Significant Battle of the Era” is that it showed the new way of winning disputed territory. If there’s one thing that we should have learned over the past hundred years, it’s that traditional armed conquests are getting less and less effective. This is one of the most surprising twists in all military history. All through the nineteenth century, the European powers, led by the British and French, took the land they wanted on the grounds that they had better military technology, transport and organization. Locals who disputed that notion tended to disappear as casualties of inevitable progress. And that was just an updated version of what had been happening all over the world for thousands of years: bigger, stronger tribes displace and wiped out weaker tribes whenever they could. That was the norm, even in pre-contact North America, where the Navajo were displacing the Ute in the American Southwest long before the white guys showed up.

Now, even though the balance in conventional warfare is if anything tilting further toward the first world, the technologically advanced and organized countries are in retreat, and the former victims are pushing back, not just claiming their old territories but infiltrating the former colonizers’ countries. What matters now is morale, national will. The Spanish didn’t have it, and the Moroccans did. So even though the Spanish troops could have wiped out those unarmed marchers, they failed to open fire.

Second, the power of demographic trends to reshape the world.  Excerpt:

“So there’s a shocking lesson that military buffs have been slow to face: military superiority doesn’t matter nearly as much right now as birthrate and sheer ruthless will.

“To succeed in the post-1918 world, the world Woodrow Wilson dreamed up where “small nations” have rights even if they can’t defend them, you need to use slower, less obviously military methods, like birthrate and immigration. Immigration and birth rate actually have one of those “synergistic relationships” New Agers like to yammer about, because immigrant families tend to have more kids than they would have had if they’d stayed home-and the base rate for their home countries is usually way, way more than the locals have in the rich countries they move to.

“The classic example of this kind of slow conquest is Kosovo. The Serbs could always defeat the Albanians on the battlefield, even when outnumbered, but the Albanians had a huge advantage in the most important military production of all-babies.

“So the movement of the peoples, the slow demographic wars, are going to go on. We just don’t have a counter-move, except maybe bombarding poor people with money to stay home. Basically, no matter where you are, the complexions and the features you see on the streets are going to change.”

The third section, about the implications of these trends, is an incoherent mess.  But that takes him to the outer limits of western thinking on these things, and out there are few rational discussions — and no easy answers.

For More Information

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See other posts about 4GW, about demography, and especially these…

  1. Another front in the geopolitical struggles shaping our world.
  2. “The Return of Patriarchy“ – a classic article about demography.
  3. More news about Russia’s demographic collapse.



25 thoughts on “The War Nerd discovers van Creveld’s “power of weakness” and demography”

  1. There’s only one way to fight birthrate: voluntary assimilation. If the country receiving immigrants has a sufficiently open and attractive culture, that culture will survive and flourish. Who cares if there is a change in the skin color of its citizens?

    Canada is very good at this, having a long tradition of population growth through immigration. 1/5 of our population was foreign born in 1911, and it is still about 1/5 today. The kids of the second generation have the same economic opportunities as anyone else, and tend to adopt characteristically Canadian liberal values. We have had isolated terrorist attacks, including one very nasty bombing by Sikh extremists, but such acts are rare and exceedingly unpopular in immigrant communities.

    Immigrants in France have been treated as second class citizens, and consequently France is in deep trouble.
    Fabius Maximus replies: So many social science issues are discussed in a numbers-free manner. At what combination of falling birthrate and increased immigration do the dynamics change, making assimilation difficult or impossible. i doubt that assimilation is magic, occuring under all circumstances.

  2. Maybe it’s just me, but I find the Nerd’s articles WAY cool. Crude but informative, just the sorta of work I like. Better than most of ’em so called experts on military history…excluding you, FM, of course.

    ‘Bout demographics as a weapon, wasn’t it mao zedong who said that he’d flood the U.S. with millions of Chinese if he could (can’t RECALL the a!@h!@#’s exact words though). Just another reason for the neo – cons to start presenting china as a Clear & Present Danger.(AGAIN!) As if they’re not busy enough tryin’ to handle the mess in the Balkans, Irak & the Afghan hills.

    Busy, busy ,busy. Turnin’ the world into a place safe for demockrasy.

  3. Robert Petersen

    I have some problems with this way of thinking. Please let me make clear that I fully understand the logic. I am also aware that for some people giving birth to children is a kind of warfare. I am sure the Palestinians see it that way in regards to Israel. But I want to make it clear that including “demographic warfare” in the definition of warfare would make an already complicated matter even worse and complicated to discuss. What is war? When will war end? Is terrorism war?. It is almost impossible to define terrorism and we shouldn’t do the same with warfare – or go the opposite way and deny war when there is a war going on (please recall that NATO denied being at war during the air campaign against Serbia in 1999). We need to be precise about what war is and what war isn’t.

    Second: If you accept this kind of logic then the whole enemy population would be a legitimate target. Not only the adults, but also women, children and even the unborn children. An SS commander named Otto Ohlendorf justified at the Nuremberg trials the killing of 95.000 Jews on the Crimea peninsula with the fact that everybody had to be killed, because otherwise the survivors would give birth to Jews wanting revenge against the Greater German Vaterland. Ironically he was right: 11 million Germans were forced out of Eastern Europe at the end of the war and the following years. We have already seen ethnic cleansening in Yugoslavia, Kosovo and Rwanda. Killing civilians is a crime agaisnt humanity. It should be treated like it is – a war crime and not warfighting.
    Fabius Maximus replies: First, you go to the great source of confusion about modern war theory. This confusion renders much of it of marginal utility, IMO. My solution to this analytical problem is given here, to consider war ason only one part of the broad spectrum of non-trinitiarian conflict.

    Second, I thought this was settled in WWII with the acceptance by both sides of strategic bombing. MAD and today’s use of massive firepower in urban areas (resulting in “collateral damage”) just follow in the inevitable stream of those decisions.

  4. Robert Petersen

    A comment to the last one: FM – if you were right about the last thing we would all be living in a radioactive wasteland today. SAC had a warplan in the early sixties – even more secret and detailed than the SIOP – called J-SCAP. The plan called for an all-out thermonuclear attack on every city in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and North Korea. No distinction. Estimated numbers of casualties would be more than 400 million dead people. Surprisingly the plan didn’t specify under what circumstances this plan would be implemented. So it could be a small provocation by the Soviets. If you were right Eisernhower or Kennedy would have implemented the plan and committed genocide. They didn’t even when they knew the Soviets were hardly able to retaliate (the Soviets had four ICBMS on two launch pads in 1961).

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed there was a limit to warfare. At least when it comes to firepower. Every leader has understood that whether we talk about Eisenhower, Brezhnev or Kim Jong-Il. Until now we have refrained from using the Bomb again. Unfortunately warfare itself has continued to evolve under the threat of a mushroom cloud and wars like we have seen in Congo or Sierra Leone are unrestrained. What we need is a taboo against warfare waged my AK 47 and other small arms like the taboo we have against the Bomb. There will always be wars, but that doesn’t mean it has to total wars like we have seen in low-intensity wars in recent years.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I think you are replying to something other than the specific point I made. I stated that targeting civilians, or operations that involved inevitable large civilian casualities, was a line we crossed with the (conventional) strategic bombing campaigns of WWII. Our operations since then have been logical consequences of that decision.

  5. Well I’ve argued reducio ad absurdom before. Follow the ‘population’ logic popularised by Spengler and his like then I suppose the human population will grow infinitly. Anyone for a trillion (=1,000 billion) people? Say the US has a billion, 2 billion? UK 500 million. Oz at 100 million. It is also a very sexist argument. Why not ask women why they are not having more children? Or are those that make this argument advocating taking away rights, education, contraception, jobs, etc from women?

    Nonsense argument. Basically a syndrome called ‘fear of the other’. This also forgets that the ‘others’ are trying to reduce their birthrates as well. E.g. China and Iran.

    That being said, Austrlia is like Canada in showing an incredible capacity for integration. I prefer that term to assimilation, as just like Canada, the waves of emmigrants have enriched these societies immensly. Lets face it, Oz and Canada were the most boring countries in the World just after WW2. The standard of life may have been good but the quality was appaling. Which is why just about everyone from there who had half a brain or any talent, left there and went to the UK or US in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

    In my area now I’m watching the Somalians work their way through the cycle. Arrived with nothing, living in public housing. Bit by bit they are carving out their niche. A butcher has been set up, a cafe, 2 grocery stores all in a shopping strip of about 20 shops. The young girls are interesting to watch. I saw 2 the other day. They followed the ‘letter’ of their ethnic clothing for women (ie modesty), but trust me when I say that they were stunning, their parents must have been apopleptic. It’s actually great to watch. Another generation and they will be rabid ‘Aussie footy’ fans (though soccer will always be number 1) and they will start to disperse to other areas and a new bottom of the tree group will come into the area. Fascinating to watch Aussies being created.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I am not sure to what you are replying. Apparently concern about rapidly falling population levels translates in your mind to advocating growing populations and taking away “rights, education, and contraception” from women. So far as I can see, this does not represent the concerns of any but a tiny tiny fraction of the debate.

    Then you provide another numbers-free celebration of assimilation. As above, at what combination of falling birthrate and high immigration does assimilation no longer function? It is not magic, and we may learn the answer.

    Societies that do not care about surivial of their culture (translated in your thinking to “fear of the other”) will IMO have high odds of disappearing in a few generations.

  6. I should add that its nice to see the Ward Nerd getting some recognition. Funny and accurate is a tough act to pull off but he manages it repeatedly.

    He actually is in an elite group of public forecasters about war outcomes since he is batting 100% at the moment. Along with the likes of Bill Lind and an unfortunatately very few others. Beats all the ‘talking heads’ on US/UK/Australian,etc TV, plus the Governments and the Govt ‘experts’ and even the various militaries themselves.

    One of the most lovely things you can say …. “I told you so”. Especially after you have watched the herd running off towards the cliff. “Excuse me, you are all running towards a cliff”. “Who is that Communist/Islamist/idiot/{insert adjective here} to question us .. we are ACCEPTED WISDOM and here is a million ACCEPTED experts to say you are wrong .. lock this clown up”.

    The hardest thing is not to giggle to much when you deliver the “I told you so” speech, as you look at the splatter at the bottom of the cliff.
    Fabius Maximus replies: In what sense have Lind and the War Nerd been “batting 100% at the moment”? Has the insurgency spread, overcoming the Iraq government and forcing out the US military? See this for a discussion: “Keeping score: how well did 4GW theory predict events in Iraq?”

    Neither of the two major trends in Iraq were, so far as I know, predicted by these two: the end of the insurgency and the fragmenting of Iraq into 3 more-or-less stable parts. Here are my posts on the subject (not bold forecasts, more reporting of events):

    Lessons Learned from the American Expedition to Iraq (29 December 2005)
    The Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace (13 March 2007)
    Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq (27 September 2007)
    Iraq, after the war (20 May 2008)

    Note also that professionals (i.e., Marc Lynch) tend to avoid bold predictions, for obvious reasons, leaving the field open to amateurs.

  7. To Oldskeptic:

    thanks for indicating how many “billions” there are in a “trillion”. Astronomical figures are simply beyond me.( How many “thousands” exactly are there in a “billion”?)

    I’m seriously considering migration in a couple of years ( sick of where I’m putting up,one of them reasons: many of those buffoons whom I share the same skin tone with don’t speak no word of ENGLISH or even make the slightest attempt to adopt the lingua franca of the world. Believing their own tongue to be SUPERIOR to the rest of what other peoples are using.Talk about racism).

    Australia seems like a pretty cool place,( well least the way you’ve described it). Canada seems like a really great place as well. New Zealand’s on par with the above. (That is if you Aussies don’t attempt to CONQUER the two isles in the near future).

    My only worries : the host governments expect me to be a neurosurgeon or some professor from some major university, equipped with a monthly wage of several tens of thousands.

    Well, I’m talking about yours truly becoming an addition to some other nation’s demographic. I’m not so off topic am I, FM?

  8. Oldskeptic is right about terminology: “integration” is a much better word to describe Canada’s policy of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a policy of toleration for cultural differences, and immigrants who have experienced this toleration tend to see the value of universal rights and freedoms.

    To reply to Fabius, here are some more detailed numbers:
    Canadian Immigration in 2004: 235,823
    Births in Canada in 2004: 337,072

    Canadian liberal-democratic values continue to propagate despite the fact that live births (including births of second generation immigrants) constitute only 70% of population replacement. Canada has been sustaining similarly high immigration rates for a very long time (~10-20% of the population being first generation immigrants for more than a century). I agree that integration is not magic, but the Canadian example is proof that a strong culture with a low birthrate can integrate huge numbers of immigrants while preserving its core values. I further agree that some even higher rate of immigration might harm the cohesion of Canadian society, but we have not reached that point yet.

    European societies have a severe immigration problem in part because integrating heavy immigration from a single country (e.g. Algeria–>France) is inherently more difficult, but primarily because European countries have a racism problem. Algerian immigrants in France are treated as second class citizens; of course they don’t integrate.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This misses the point, looking backwards. Canada’s population is 33 million (immigration aprox 1%/year), so the question concerns the future — when nativist population declines with a far smaller nativist population following. Since the fertility decline has just crossed replacement in this generation, we can only guess at the medium and long term cumulative effects. Some societies will successfully manage the transition; others (perhaps most) will not.

    This debate is similar to the longstanding one about the effect of American’s rising Household debt and government liabilities. They crept up and up, while folks said “no ill effects yet!” Much like the man who fell off a building — “I have fallen 20 stories and it feels great!” This inability to look forward calls into question are ability to manage complex social and economic organizations

  9. Fabius, thanks for your reply. Yes, Canada’s immigration rate is so high (only two births for each immigrant) that its “nativist” population is fast declining as a percentage of the population. Your concern is that this combination may have cumulative effects which cannot be predicted. My point was that in Canada’s case we don’t need to guess about the medium and long term cumulative effects, because Canada has been sustaining its high rate of immigration and population turnover for more than a century. The “men in sheepskin coats” arrived speaking slavic dialects and carried with them subversive religious and political beliefs; their descendants have long since become the “nativist” population of much of Canada. I can see no negative long term consequences of that wave of immigration (perogies?) and consequently I see no reason to fear dreadful repercussions from the more recent wave of immigrants from Hong Kong.

    I fully agree that many/most western societies are not well equipped for high immigration alongside low birthrate. I see the following factors as being among the indicators that a country is well equipped:
    1) Federalism – a history of power sharing between semi-autonomous regions/communities
    2) Multiculturalism – a tradition of formal respect for multiple languages, religions, etc.
    3) “New World” – even the “nativist” population arrived only over the past couple of centuries
    4) Bridging – when many immigrants from culture X have already found a satisfying place in society, it will be easier for subsequent immigrants from X to integrate
    5) Economic Prosperity – shared wealth decreases social friction
    Fabius Maximus replies: While upsetting to the “natives” of the US and America, theearly 20th Century immigrants from eastern europe required reatively little assimilation. The ethnic, liginguistic, religious, and cultural factors were all broadly similar to the natives’. Immigrants from third world nations of differ on 3 or 4 of these factors.

    Also, which do you expect: a multicultural society, or assimilation? A true multicultural society will probably see low levels of assimilation, which I suspect guts much of your reasoning and historical analogies.

    History is clear that multicultural societies (which I doubt Canada is at present, except for Quebec) tend to be unstable, unless held together by force.

  10. >theearly 20th Century immigrants from eastern europe >required reatively little assimilation. The ethnic, >liginguistic, religious, and cultural factors were all >broadly similar to the natives’.

    That wave of immigrants had as native language Greek, Polish, Ukrainian or Yiddish. The natives spoke English, and probably still their language of origin (Italian, Norwegian, German, etc). Linguistically speaking, this means that they were broadly similar because they all spoke (dialects of) Indo-European languages. How relevant is this, really?

    As for religions, they were broadly similar in the sense of being mostly Abrahamic creeds (various forms of Judaism, a plethora of divergent and often mutually hostile variants of Christianism, with some extras such as Mormons). How long did it take to have significant inter-marrying across those religious communities?

    The interesting case to consider are the Chinese — who started immigrating to the USA in numbers towards the end of the XIX century. Broadly and narrowly dissimilar to every other immigrant and native group on every possible count. How did they actually evolve regarding assimilation? What does this teach us regarding presumed prerequisites for assimilation?
    Fabius Maximus replies: Yes, Romantic and Germanic languages are more similar to English than Asian and African immigrants. And ditto for the Abramamic creeds. Are you suggesting otherwise? Your comment seems dismissive of this rather obvious point.

    The early 20th century flood of folks into the US was met by intense programs to force assimilation — the opposite of the multi-cultural doctrine you consider such an advantage today. Even so, the social tensions resulted in the 1920’s laws that greatly restricted immigration. We can only guess at its impact. This may have allowed the US to more easily assimilate the large number of first and second generation immigrants.

    Also, the closed door contributed, to some degree, to the rise in workers’ incomes. The re-opening of the door in the 1960’s clearly resulted in stagnant real incomes for blue-collar workers, esp for unskilled workers.

  11. The question we’re onto now is whether a polity can be heterogeneous and stable. I want to argue that a truly multicultural society can be stable. (apologies for my imprecision in comment #1)

    On the nation-state model of the polity, the state exists as political representation for a homogenous community — the volk, if you will. Ideally, the volk are homogenous in language, religion, values, historical ancestry, etc, and the nation-state acts to make this ideal a reality. Nation-states assimilate immigrants and minority groups, by force if necessary, and a nation-state which fails to do so will soon become something other than a nation-state. Frankly, I’m not bloodthirsty enough to see homogeneity as a goal worth pursuing if any alternate model of the polity is available.

    Historically, some multicultural polities proved to be quite stable. I have in mind the kind of empire which bound together many culturally distinct subcommunities; so long as certain core values were respected, considerable cultural diversity was permitted. Such arrangements were often quite stable; the Austrian/Austro-Hungarian empire ran quite well for centuries, surviving both the Turks and later Napoleon. Such empires held together without constant recourse to force; their constituent communities felt some allegiance to their sovereign.

    Stability: when the Balkans have been governed by a patchwork of nation states they have been a hotbed of war and genocide; when the Balkans have been governed by an empire/empires (the Turks, the Austrians, the EU?) they have been relatively peaceful. (on this view, the problem in 1914 was Serbian independence!)

    You said that you doubt that Canada is truly multicultural “except for Quebec” — that’s a big exception! Canada has never been a homogeneous nation-state since it was bicultural from its inception, and yet it has proven to be quite a bit more stable than most nation-states.

    (Terminology: by “stable” I mean that citizens need to fear neither foreign invasion, civil war, nor oppression by their government. On this definition, many empires have proven long-term stable, while many nation-states have proven to be unstable.)
    Fabius Maximus replies: All good points. I was thinking of AH Empire and Canada in my comment about m-c states proving unstable.

    The AH Empire was held together by force, which the individual components lacked the power to overcome. Once the center lost power everyone bolted for the exit. Like the multi-cultural Russian/Soviet Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. Not much of an example there for us.

    Canada is not multi-cultural in the sense we are discussing, in that the individual provinces are not multi-cultural. There is just a somewhat alien entity in the federation, which everyone has come to more or less accept.

    So we have two versions of multi-culturalism. One is a collection of societies, in which a power (internal or external to them) holds them together and maintains social peace. By force (Empire), voluntarily (e.g. Canada, Swiss, Belgium), or voluntarily after application of intense force (e.g., UK).

    The other is far more relevant to our discussion, in which individual societies are composed of multiple cultures. These are common, yet often (not always) quite fragile. Consider the large Chinese minorities in Asian and some Africian states (fractured into Malaysia-Singapore), Indonesia (holding areas like New Guinia and Timor by force), and the tribal wars in Africa.

    The other side of this is the ethnic cleansing accompanying the formation of new states. We had a version of this, when the loyalists were exiled to Canada (not ethnic by ideological cleansing).

  12. >Yes, Romantic and Germanic languages are more similar to >English than Asian and African immigrants. And ditto for >the Abramamic creeds. Are you suggesting otherwise? Your >comment seems dismissive of this rather obvious point.

    These similarities appear at such high a level that I doubt they constitute major facilitators as stated. So yes, I am skeptical about these obvious, even trivial, points. Notice I did not touch culture and ethnicity, which I view as far more involved issues — I am not sure what similarity amongst ethnicities or cultures really mean.

    As I asked: how relevant is this, really? Perhaps you can refer to serious studies showing, for instance, the level of difficulty of learning English when coming from different mother tongues from different linguistic branches. In other words: does a Korean or a Syrian have an order of magnitude, just marginally, or not discernably more difficulties learning English than a Bielorussian or an Albanian, all other things (educational level, etc) being equal?

    As for the similarity of Abrahamic religions: many of these faiths are very exclusive (with respect to interconfessional marriages or conversions, for instance), exhibit radical theological differences pitting them against each other, and stand apart regarding societal viewpoints (food, law, secular order, etc). A measure of their compatibility is the frequency of interfaith marriage; as I asked: how did this evolve? How does it compare with immigrants from non-Abrahamic religions (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism)?

    Once more, how did Chinese, or for a more recent example, Indians, assimilate compared to other (older and newer) immigrants? Does anybody know? Answers from countries like Canada or Australia would be relevant as well.

    If we are to keep at a high, general level, I believe that two factors determine the success of assimilation:
    a) “intense programs to force assimilation”, i.e. the will to assimilate immigrants;
    b) the will for immigrants to get assimilated into their new society.

    Apart from that, your mention about “the multi-cultural doctrine you consider such an advantage” applies to comments by other readers; I did not put forth or defend such a doctrine — you mean the one postulating that assimilation is not such a big issue because immigrants, all being Homo Sapiens Sapiens, rather obviously are broadly similar in terms of needs, wants, likes, dislikes, and means?
    Fabius Maximus replies: Based on some weak experience, I suspect that early 20th C immigrants from eastern europe did find the adaptation to our language and culture easier than today’s from Asia and Africa. I have no evidence for this, however, as this is not my field. There are probably studies on all of these questions, the results of which would be interesting to see.

    Also, my apologies — it was others discussing the advantages of multi-culturalism.

  13. The best description of integration I have ever read was by Bill Bryson in his book ‘Down Under’ (paraphrase to keep it short, he tells it much better so buy the book). New migrant just after WW2 from Eastern Europe. Arrriving at a country town and told to go to the police station. He arrives with much trepidation, tells this huge (by his standards) Australia policeman behind the desk that he had to report. The policeman gets up of his chair, flips open the door walks up to the guy (who is quaking after his experiences with the police in his native country) .. and holds out his hand “welcome to Australia”.

    Yes some countries have done it much better and have been enriched in all ways by their migrants. The originators of multi-culturism (at least here in Oz), so much derided by the right wingers in recent years, never intended ghettoisation. It was quite a pragmatic concept, reflecting the fact that our migrants tended to lose their original languages (etc) in the 2nd generation (ie the first native born). In a globalised world having large numbers of people with the language and cultural skills to work with the rest of world is a serious asset. Plus they were old enough to experience an earlier Australia, narrow London (later Washington) focussed and realy realy boring .. with rubbish food (British heritage is all I need to say).

    Has it worked here? Like everywhere, successes and failures, but, despite all our problems Melbourne (e.g) is one of the safest places in the world to live. The standard of living is good, though under pressure from neo-liberal economics. Good health system. Good food. Great places to go out to. Great sport. Pretty much everyone rubs along pretty well. We can put 100,000+ plus into a Aussie Rules footy match (or cricket) at the MCG (look it up it is totally famous) and there are no riots. When you have the President of my Rotary club being a 1st generation Chinese, that says something good about a place.

    The baby thing .. no one cares about it, except the right wing pundits. You see mixed couples all the time. Most people want more babies, just the economics (as I have always argued) mitigate against it. Half the cost of housing and THEN you will see a baby boom (as long as they have reasonably paying jobs of course).

    The right wingers (I characterise it as a simplifaction as the Spengler argument) state: we will screw your standard of living as we get rich. You will, if you are a normal person, be in debt forever. You will pay for schools, university, skills whatever. You will pay for health. You will have no unions. You will have no voice. You will pay a lot of tax .. we dont. We will grind your standard of living down to a bowl of rice a day .. or every second day. Because “it is economically efficient”. But we, who are abviously so much better than you will be become disgustingly rich .. as it is “economically efficient”.

    Whoops you are not breeding enough. There must be another reason above and beyond the fact that your, Joe Soap, wages have been dropping (e.g. in the US) for 30 years! It must be because you are not religious enough, even though ‘they’ are not, but we ‘peasants’ are all supposed to be. Oh for the the good old days …. feudalism.

    I have one answer to this line of argument .. Billy Connolly (wiki it, hint he swears a lot).
    Fabius Maximus replies: This was interesting, until I lost you with the paragraph starting “The right wingers.” I do not see the connection what follows to demographics or anything Spengler has written. Was this a cut and paste error?

    The next paragraph goes to the heart of the matter. In the 1970’s folks were worried about overpopulation — doomster fantasies described distopias with global population of 20 billion+ (e.g., the original Star Trek series episode “The Mark of Gideon”). But Daniel Patrick Monahan could see things more clearly than the rest of rest, and commented that western societies were committing suicide by overtaxation (which both decreases economic growth and family income). Children were a descretionary good, and declines in after-tax real income would be met by declines in fertility. Perhaps he was wrong about the causes, but this remains a powerful forecast.

  14. “Fabius Maximus replies: In what sense have Lind and the War Nerd been “batting 100% at the moment”? ”

    Being technical for a moment. 4GW wins because of grinding down. Both the WN and Lind (the WN obviously devours Lind’s work) predicted the grinding down would drain the US in economic, material and human terms. Actually, as stated, by Bin Laden as well (I’m sure he is a student of Lind too).

    Your own posts, connect the dots .. “the Army is broken”, “a need for a new Grand Strategy”, etc, etc. Shows the desperaration.

    Iraq is lost: Maliki now has the confidence to tell the US to leave .. now.
    Afghanistan: Lost. The Taliban, really the Pushtins ,have beaten everyone for how long .. a 1,000 years.
    Iran: War with them is, almost certainly WW3. The people who wave at us “we want to be your friends” .. are now Chinese, Russian, etc, friends.
    Russia: Beat them, thumped them down. Now you in the US will have bomber flights coming into Cuba .. Duh . what did you expect .. when the US puts WMDS right next to their borders.
    Pakistan: The US is actually at war with them. And there will be a teriible price for this.

    What next: England? The US “Luftwaffe” against the the brave RAF pilots? (ironic metaphore).

    Is there anyway out? Yes, Bill Lind is right (as is another true great American Ron Paul). Get out, shut down bases, quit geo-political moves, forget “full spectrum dominance”. Go back to the original US dream and rebuild the country. Lead by example. Make a lot of money as country as a whole.

    Economic (=real power): The US is on the nose. When will the Reserve Banks and Soverign Wealth funds pull the plug? Time to get back to being a ‘great power’. Wealthy, influential, a ‘beacon for the light’ again.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not see how this shows that Lind was 100% right, when so many of his forecasts were 100% wrong. He was right IMO about the costs vs. benefits of the war (high vs. low).

    I doubt the Iraq War substantially affected America’s economic condition. Just another in a long list of negatives — offset by many but too-few positives.

  15. When democratically elected Iraqi politicians can tell America of the Iraqi plan to withdraw US troops — that is certainly past time for “victory for democracy” to be declared, and such a victory has long been a US goal. While this has not yet fully been achieved, it is more in process in Iraq 5 years after invasion, than it was in S. Korea in 1957. S. Korea was kept a US ally by imposition of an occassionally brutal military dictator.

    Supporting Chalabi as an Iraqi-American dictator was a post-Saddam choice that the US did not choose, altho it would almost certainly have been cheaper in both US dollars and US lives, and likely even in Iraqi lives. Realistic post-invasion governance alternatives are far less talked about than the wisdom/ rightness of the 2003 invasion — which seems a bit daft, to me.

    A crucial “nation state” point is that, in Europe, “nations” are like tribes. So in Slovakia, there are Hungarian Slovaks who speak more Hungarian than Slovak, and are listed with a Hungarian nationality as well as a Slovak citizenship. As an American, I can never become a Slovak Slovak. At best, a non-Slovak Slovak citizen. (Because of my German ancestry, I *could* become a German German, if I wanted to.)

    Hungary used strong assimilation techniques to push non-Hungarians that were part of the A-H empire into becoming more Hungarian — which is one of the reasons for South Slavic Serbs & Croats to be anti-Hungarian and against the A-H empire.

    The 19th cen. spread of mass communication and travel made geo-identity and language more important. Slovak as a language wasn’t codified until the 1850s, excluding some local dialects and doing more standardization. With democracy increasing, “identity politics” is one of the easiest ways for power-hungry politicians to get more popular and thus powerful — “We against Them (who were unfair X years ago)”.

    Assimilation into the US or Canada means learning English and becoming a citizen.

    Inter-difference marriages is an excellent metric, also indicating a level of racism. Most Asian cultures are pretty racist, as are Jews. (See interesting Y chromosome studies!)

    But great post — demographics (today) is destiny!
    Fabius Maximus replies: All great points! One quibble: “The 19th cen. spread of mass communication and travel made geo-identity and language more important.” Martin van Creveld says that this allowed the State to increase the strength of its identity. French as a language standardized spread through France after the Revolution. The 19th century saw the intensification of national identities throughout Europe, using improved communication and travel, as deliberate projects of governments.

  16. “I suspect that early 20th C immigrants from eastern europe did find the adaptation to our language and culture easier than today’s from Asia and Africa. I have no evidence for this, however, as this is not my field. There are probably studies on all of these questions, the results of which would be interesting to see.”
    Regarding linguistic aspects, which is our first bone of contention in this discussion, here are two articles:

    Thomas J. Espenshade and Haishan Fu
    An Analysis of English-Language Proficiency among U.S. Immigrants
    American Sociological Review, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 288-305
    From the summary: We examine factors that influence the process by which foreign-born persons whose mother tongue is not English acquire English-language proficiency. We argue that the determinants of English-language proficiency include cultural and other traits that U.S. immigrants acquire either at birth or while growing up in their home countries, the human capital and other endowments they possess at the time they migrate to the United States, and the skills and other experiences they accumulate after their arrival in this country.[…]

    Teresa G. Labov
    English Acquisition by Immigrants to the United States at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century
    American Speech, Vol. 73, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 368-398
    From the introduction: […]This study makes use of such data to examine two closely related questions: How did the acquisition of English vary across first language? Which demographic factors contributed most to the transition to English for immigrants? It verifies quantitatively that those who settled before 1910 in urban areas with speakers of the first same language learned English more slowly than those, regardless of first language, who settled in linguistically diverse neighborhoods. […]

    At first sight it seems that linguistic assimilation does not depend on very high-level language similarities between English and the immigrants’ mother tongue, but on other socio-cultural factors and on the immigration experience. Since I do not have access to these papers, I cannot comment further.

    An interesting point: the second article indicates that 15% of the population of the USA was foreign-born in the early 1900s, and that this was the highest percentage during the XXth century.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for citing these papers. They strongly support your view!

  17. To Tom Grey :

    I concur , Tom. MOST Asians are pretty RACIST. I’ve the misfortune to live amongst them myself.

  18. FM, the ref to “right wingers” was in relation to the Australian situation and I apologise for not making that more clear. In other places it is more complex. For example Ron Paul could in some ways be considered a right-winger, but then again he is more ‘left’ than many so called ‘left’ people.

    The politics in many countries is more complex than Australia which is a bit simple and one dimensional at the moment (didn’t used to be).

    Economic arguments are a bit more complex re birth rates. ‘Free’ health systems do work, they deliver better overall care at a cheaper price, but their impact on birth rates? Similarly tax rates. What does seem to matter is expectations. If you are of the group where you (as a family of course) want children, but you wait because you want that better house, then wait a bit more because you need to get your careers up a bit more (need that money for the school fees and other expenses), then wait a bit more because you might want that last holiday before ‘your life shuts down’ and …..

    Then, for the female especially, you are well into your 30’s and fertility is dropping like a stone. So even if you want more than (say) 2 children your odds are poor. Personally I think expectations about salaries, debt and property prices are a major factor. From what I’ve read this seems to be a significant issue in the low birthrate EU nations. In simple terms if you expect your own life is going to be worse than your parents, then you are more reluctant to have children, their life might be worse than yours. So there is definately a pessimism/optimism affect.

    What does seem to work is to lift the economic burden on child bearers (in the richer countries of course). Either through a tax system biased towards child bearing families or tax payer paid services (ie child minding, etc). Those that have done that have lifted their replacement rates, but it has to be significant. Small amounts seem to have little effect. In econo-speak the elasticty of demand is .. stiff.

  19. “In simple terms if you expect your own life is going to be >worse than your parents, then you are more reluctant to have >children, their life might be worse than yours. So there is definately a pessimism/optimism affect.”

    Expectations are paramount, but the effects are not that simple and linear.

    A good illustration is France. That country has experienced an inexorable long-term decline of its natality, despite all governmental attempts to stimulate it; there were only 711000 births in 1994. Fertility picked up afterwards, resulting in a stable number of births varying between 775000 and 800000 per year. The reason has been analyzed and explained thus by demographers: the age at which women gave birth kept increasing since 1977 (average 26 years), and basically is reaching its limits (29,8 years in 2006; fecundity is increasing fastest among women aged 35 years or more). The increase in births therefore corresponds not to additional, but to delayed births. When correcting raw fertility rates for mother’s age, the level of fecundity remains unchanged since 1970, fluctuating around 2 children per woman.

    Since 2005, there has been a new, marked increase in fertility rates, resulting in 831000 births in 2007, at a time when studies show a rapid and generalized increase in pessimism in the population regarding its socio-economic perspectives — and the mood has been souring even more acutely for the past 6 months. It is too early for in-depth demographic studies, but there is some sociological evidence that increased pessimism is at least a partial explanation for this procreation drive:
    1. People want to have children (about 2).
    2. They tend to postpone births until a hoped for optimal material situation (better pay, established career, bigger house, etc).
    3. Since they are losing hope that their situation will improve, or that it will improve sufficiently soon for not physiologically jeopardizing their fertility, they no longer see the point of postponing maternity.
    4. People who believe that their situation will actually deteriorate in the medium term are motivated to have babies earlier, while conditions are still acceptable to raise small children.

    So those couples who could economically postpone births, no longer do so for physiological reasons, while the others no longer have any economic reason to postpone births: voilà, a baby boom. This notwithstanding, French demographers do not yet forecast any spectacular turn-arounds in the long-term evolution of the population (size, ageing structure, etc).

    Currently, France has the highest fertility rate in the EU and is the only country with Finland and the Netherlands where excess births over deaths are the main or exclusive source of population increases. The populations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany and Hungary decrease mainly or exclusively because of excess deaths over births. The polish population decreases mainly because of emigration. All other EU countries experience population increases exclusively or mainly due to immigration.

    References: French INSEE bulletin May 2008 and an academic demographical paper from CNAF/University of Paris XII, nr. 85, Sept. 2006, both in French.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Are these fertility numbers from the EU adjusted for the changing fraction of immigrants in the child-bearing age pool (the few I have seen do not account for this factor)? Since they have much higher fertility numbers than “native” euro-folk, this factor might explain the higher rates of France and Sweden.

  20. “Are these fertility numbers from the EU adjusted for the changing fraction of immigrants in the child-bearing age pool (the few I have seen do not account for this factor)?”


    Published fertility rates always refer to the entire resident population. In the case of France, Ireland and Finland, I have not found publicly available data regarding fertility rates by citizenship or origin.

    One should not forget that there is substantial intra-EU migration. Another distinction to make is between immigrants (born in other countries) and foreigners (who might well have been born and grown up in the country of residence).

    All in all, it is pretty difficult to sort out the figures at a fine-grained level.

    “Since they have much higher fertility numbers than “native” euro-folk, this factor might explain the higher rates of France and Sweden.”

    You probably mean Finland, not Sweden? The proportion of foreigners in Finland’s population is very low (2.5%, slighly over half of this from Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Germany, UK, USA). 2007 is the very first time that net immigration exceeded the natural population increase (greatest recorded absolute increase in immigration balances for Estonia, Russia, China, Thailand, India), with a really big absolute jump from Estonia. The high rate of fertility is indeed related to the native population’s procreation characteristics. Finland has also one of the most generous child and family support system in the EU (subsidies and tax breaks, free medical assistance for pregnant women, long maternity and paternity leaves, right for working women to return to their previous jobs up to 3 years after giving birth, excellent schools and pre-schooling infrastructure).

    As for Sweden, its population increase is essentially due to immigration (78%). Looking at 2004, 47% of net immigration came from Asia (lots if Iraqi refugees) and 33% from Europe. Largest contributors in 2006, an exceptional year because of a temporary relaxation of asylum laws: Swedish citizens returning, Iraqi refugees, Polish, Danish immigrants. In 2007, the population comprised 5.7% foreigners and 13.4% of foreign-born people. 17.3% of Swedish citizens had a foreign background (foreign born, or Swedish born from foreigners). Official estimates give a fertility rate of 1.829 for Swedish-born women, 2.259 for foreign-born women, 1.88 overall; 2.057 for Nordic countries excluding Sweden, 1.707 for other EU countries, and 2.222 for non-EU European countries. Following UNO definitions and statistics, it is 1.864 for non-European countries with a high HDI, 2.432 with a medium HDI and 3.186 for a low HDI.

    Regarding France:
    a) A paper mentioned a fertility rate of approx. 1.9 with immigrants (10.8% of the population) and approx. 1.8 without in 2005. So their fertility rate is indeed much higher. The general fertility rate has increased since, and is now at about 2.
    b) The fertility for immigrants peaks earlier (wrt the age of the mother) than for the “native” population. Immigrants get their children as soon as possible; French people get them later. Comparison of raw fertility rates is thus more delicate.
    c) From the figures I have looked at, it seems that, even with a lower fertility, native French women gave births in excess of deaths during recent years.
    d) The post-2005 increase seems to be shared 50%-50% due to more numerous, more fertile immigrants and due to greater fertility among French women.
    e) The overall migration balance in France exhibited stark ups and downs till 1995 (+42000/year), and then started to increase to +105000/year (2004). It has gone down to +92000 – +94000/year since. The majority of this balance derives from family reasons (French citizens marrying foreigners, or foreigners bringing in their family).
    f) Long-term studies show that fertility rates of immigrants converge to the national average after 2 generations.

    Besides France, Ireland is the country with the highest fertility rate. The birth rate has been stable since 2000, and returned to its level of 1990 (after a dip in the 1990s). It is still 30% lower than in the period 1950-1980. Ireland has become a land of immigration in the past few years; in 2006, 11% of its population was “non-Irish”, 60% of it from the EU. I doubt the stock of immigrants has yet had the time to distort a historically high fertility rate significantly.

    The demographic situation of the EU is more complex than the simplistic view of non-procreating Europeans overwhelmed by prolific aliens. Immigration and emigration run surprisingly high, intra and extra EU, with substantial assimilation in some countries (Sweden is well known for its policy regarding asylum seekers), and generally very low and declining fertility rates, with exceptions (the case of France is known and referred to as the “French demographic exception”).

    That was a bit too long, sorry.
    Fabius Maximus replies: All excellent data. I find the precision of this data interesting. I heard that the France gov’t does not track population or anything by ethnic origin. Hence, for example, the wide range of estimates for “native” French population vs. 1/2/3rd generation immigrants. How do they make these calculations?

  21. “I heard that the France gov’t does not track population or anything by ethnic origin.”

    That is correct. So far, it is even forbidden to track the ethnic origin. France has native citizens of various ethnic backgrounds from overseas territories and departments, and distinctions based on ethnicity would amount, according to the prevalent french view, to a violation of the principle of equality.

    >How do they make these calculations?

    They do track by citizenship, and that is how figures are derived. It should therefore be possible to know that a french citizen’s parents or grandparents were themselves algerian citizens, for instance. The Swedish stats office probably derives its statistics for Sweden by relying upon the same approach, and is more open about publishing the results.

  22. Here is a wonderful example of my point about assimilation — that we expect the same result as from the previous great wave in the early 20th century, but are unwilling to make a similar effort to make it happen.

    Septalingualism“, By Deroy Murdock, National Review online, 4 August 2008 — “Nanny Bloomberg’s latest scheme may turn New York into the Skyline of Babel.” Excerpt:

    “Big Apple Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest brainstorm outstrips his notorious war on trans-fats, both for its audacity and sheer senselessness. America’s largest municipality soon will conduct official business not only in English and Spanish — which is bad enough — but also five more foreign languages: Russian, Chinese, Korean, French Creole, and Italian.”

  23. Ian’s comment(1)

    “There’s only one way to fight birthrate: voluntary assimulation” sounds more like there is no way to fight birthrate.

  24. When ec said “the EU is more complicated than the simplistic veiw of non-procreating Europeans overwhelmed by prolific aliens” it is the predictions of Professor Heinsohn he ought be referring to; eu gives Swedish data without comment and then procedes to contrast France with Ireland.

    Does ec think the Swedish data speaks for itself and contradicts the “simplistic veiw” ?

    Well I do not, to me the Swedish data is consistant with Heinsohn’s predictions.

    Considering that Ireland is the least typical country in W.Europe for all sorts of things including calorie intake and happens to be on the extreme periphery of same it is hardly surprising they are somewhat of an exception, they are also less than a tenth the size of France.

    Heinsohn’s most telling point is this “of course France has 2 children per woman but out of five newborns, two are already Arabic or African. In Germany 35% of all newborns already have a non German background” Sounds simple enough to me.

    Many Sunnis in Iraq are convinced they are in a majority rather than being at most 20% of the pop. which they are.

    Lebanon has not had a census since 1932 due to the sensitivity of changing demographics. Why on earth would French leaders want statistics which could only facilitate discussion of this subject; their lack of enthusiasm for gathering accurate data is all too predictable.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Adding to Barry’s comment, that most of the EU does not collect census-type data — or crime data — by ethnicity displays an astonishing (IMO) “head in the sands” data. Effective public policy requires a foundation of reliable data and analysis, which these governments make difficult to obtain.

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