Print Story Crackdown at Sundown
Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 10:23:10 AM EST) Reading, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "English Legal System". Web.


What I'm Reading
English Legal System (Nutshells series, 5th edition, 2001) by Penny Darbyshire.

It occurred to me that one field I'm pretty ignorant about is Law. I don't think I've ever read a non-fiction law book, and there's only so much you can learn from Rumpole. So I went to the law shelves in Acton Central Library hoping to find "Law For Dummies" or something. Most of the books were pretty specialized and pretty hefty though. The slimmest book on law in general was this one.

It turns out to be a kind of undergraduate law student study guide. It actually works reasonably well to give you an overview of the system. It's pretty basic and just-the-facts though, doesn't put things into much context. So, it's hard to retain much of the content based on this.

One thing it stresses is that the media portrayals of justice aren't very representative. Soliciters far outnumber barristers. Most cases are dealt with in magistrates courts. Only about 1% of cases are tried by juries.

Apparently there's no particular tendency for juries to be more likely to acquit. Higher courts are more likely to acquit than magistrates courts, but also hand down harsher sentences, so you're not necessarily better off.

Overall, somewhat informative but probably works best in its original role as a study guide. This version may already be a bit dated.

Web
Socioeconomics. German slowdown could be good for Europe. Britain must escape its longest recession (click on FT story to avoid registration). Gender identity and competition. Men, women and spatial intelligence.

Politics. Anti-EDL demo assembly point for Saturday.

Article. New UK passport.

Pointless discussions. MeFi, Reddit threads on whether a Marine Expeditionary Unit could destroy the Roman Empire. Good comment on the "A Song of Ice and Fire" sexism kerfuffle

Video. San Francisco timelapses. Hubble timelapses, via. Kiva loan visualization.

Tech. Google Plus traffic stats may be falling.

Random. Mickey Mouse Gas Mask, Markov bible.

Pics. Sticker placements. Glass beach. Dune covers, via.

< Put your money where your mouth is... | So this Rome vs. Marines thing... >
Crackdown at Sundown | 82 comments (82 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Glass beach by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 10:39:39 AM EST
We have a glass vase half filled with glass from there that my wife uses for flowers.

There are also the remains of cars on that beach.  Rusted out engine blocks that seem to be encased in rock.  They've corroded to the point where they are hard to recognize.  It's like fossils from some bizarre machine culture.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

Interesting poll by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #2 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 10:46:34 AM EST
The gun would have a huge psychological effect. I don't think it's a question of whether they could do it, but with how few troops.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

I don't think they could unaided by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #3 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:09:07 AM EST
As I said on Mefi, last time the Romans were faced with an unstoppable enemy running round their turf with a superweapon (Hannibal & elephants) they invented Fabian tactics: don't fight battles, harrass his supply lines and try to starve him out.

None of their allies switched sides to Hannibal because mass crucufixions really ruin your day.

The Marines need a way to hold territory, supply them with food, and get people to do what they say even without an M16 being pointed at them. I think they'd need local allies for that.

A lot of the Redditors seem to assume the Romans are just going to launch endless human wave attacks until every Legionary in every legion is dead, which woudn't happen.

Don't think gunshots would disrupt the discipline of soldiers with a proven willingness to march as the front rank into the mincing machine of a Phalanx.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Yeah their tactics were pretty advanced by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #4 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:27:43 AM EST
But the marines are going to have tactics in place to deal with guerilla warfare. In fact, they're going to be years ahead tactically.

Support is an interesting question - do they have vehicles? Are we talking about what we could consider a modern military unit, or just some appropriately armed marines?

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Yes and no by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #10 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 12:32:27 PM EST
The comparison to Hannibal doesn't entirely work because Hannibal didn't have the power to take Rome itself.  The best strategy for the marines would be to head straight for Rome and take that city.  With artillery and automatic weapons, this would not be hard.

Also keep in mind that there are no supply lines to disrupt...it's an entirely different problem.  The marines would be eventually forced to live off of the land.

(Note: I didn't like the way the original question was framed.  It was "Could the marines destroy Rome".  That's a clear "no".  But could they conquer it.  Maybe...)

The bigger challenge would be holding on, as in a city setting, it's easier to use assassination tactics without guns.  Still, I think you underestimate the shock value of weapons that are flat out not understood.  An elephant is scary and hard to defeat, but it is understandable.  It is not the guy standing next to you suddenly following over dead with no visible weapon sticking out when you can't even see the enemy.  One sniper picking out the command-staff one-by-one would probably be enough to disable a legion.

Eventually the Romans would adapt, but it would take time.

One unmentioned advantage the marines may have, depending on the interests/education of their members is some external knowledge of their foe.  Their best bet is not to work with the allies but rather to target factions in Rome itself.  Physically deposing Augustus would not be hard, whether you capture him or make him flee.  Then, your best option is to work with factions who dislike the imperial system to create new structures under the guise of "restoring the Republic" with you in control.  You'd want to co-opt the existing Roman state, and use that for control, pulling out the magic guns only for demonstrations.  (Which could keep the ammo around for decades if done right.)

The big difficulty would be the lack of Latin speakers in the marines.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
A brief comment: by ni (2.00 / 0) #15 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 12:55:21 PM EST
The best strategy for the marines would be to head straight for Rome and take that city.

That much does seem clear (although it's notable that Rome was invaded in the course of the empire, and promptly retaken). With no one speaking Latin (presumably), no GPS system, very limited fuel (see my previous comment) and an enormous empire (depending on what time they were to attack) it's not especially clear that they could do this, though. They'd need to learn what direction it was in without knowing the language (not impossible, I think -- you could perhaps convey the idea to some local, although being sent in the wrong direction would put an end to the whole thing), not get lost on the way (do tanks still have magnetic compasses? but perhaps the sun would be enough to navigate by) and be close enough to get there without running out of fuel.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

[ Parent ]
Depends on where they end up by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #21 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:09:28 PM EST
It also depends on who is in the unit.   It's very likely no one would speak latin, but I suspect these days it is not unlikely that you'd have at least one person with knowledge of linguistics and/or a facility for languages there.

Imagine the sort of guy who learned arabic in order to interpret...his probably good at languages, and probably knows a lot of linguistics.  Any linguistics training is almost certainly going to bring with it a rough knowledge of latin grammar.  (Hell, I have a rough knowledge of latin grammar.)  The massive number of latin roots in modern languages is going to make a simple vocabulary easy to pick up.

(Contrast this with Cortez, who managed to use a form of diplomatic warfare despite being faced with a language that was utterly distinct from Spanish, and of which no one knew anything.)

There would certainly be compasses around, and some non-GPS navigational abilities.  GPS is not reliable enough to depend on, so there'd be backups.  Imperfect obviously, but hell, my phone has a magnetic compass.  Much depends on where they start out, but the best bet would be to find a Roman road, then follow it.  To do this, you'd want to limit fuel usage to helicopters.  The tanks/trucks are nearly pointless.  Maybe you'd want to keep a single tank running to take down any walls that are in your way.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
I don't doubt by ni (2.00 / 0) #23 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:13:08 PM EST
that they would have someone capable of figuring out enough Latin to get by fairly quickly. My argument is simply that this would need to happen before they ran out of food or fuel, and I think that's much less clear.

While I'm not sure that all roads literally led to Rome, yes, that does sound like the right approach.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

[ Parent ]
Roman roads by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #26 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:39:21 PM EST
In regards to food...again, I don't believe Cortez had much in the way of supplies, and his forces lived off of a less organized land that grew more exotic foodstuffs and had a much bigger language problem.

Fuel, on the other hand, can't be replenished, but if husbanded carefully, would get you to Rome regardless of how long it took.  Worst case, modern marines have no troubles doing 20 miles per day with a full pack.  You'd lose a lot of the large scale weapons, of course, but that may well be not at all important.

Rome was a very centralized empire, and since most roads of the time were built by Romans, they are going to be either heading for Rome or another major port city.

....which comes down to the question of where the marines show up.  I've been assuming northing Europe or Italy.  Now that I think of it, if the marines arrive in North Africa, or Greece or Egypt, then they are pretty much fucked because (ironically) they won't have amphibious transport.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Marines .. by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #30 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:50:58 PM EST
No, I like all you Navy boys. Every time we've gotta go someplace to fight, you fellas always give us a ride.


[ Parent ]
Navigation by gzt (2.00 / 0) #27 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:42:40 PM EST
I think navigation might be slightly non-trivial. Stars move in the course of 2000 years. They can figure out their latitude, but not their longitude. How would they know they are in the Roman Empire and need to find Rome? And what direction Rome is? It doesn't take much intelligence gathering, though, to figure out where the capitol or nearest big city is and to start making maps. And, in the end, all you really need to know if where all your people are. The rest you can figure out.

[ Parent ]
Again by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #29 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:48:16 PM EST
It depends on Latin, but you'd want to find a Roman road, and look for something that said:

Roma ->

Determining longitude probably would be best accomplished by a historian combined with someone who knew the the rough geography of Europe.  Learn what the local tribe is called, or the local village, etc.

Which again means that a lot of this question depends on exactly what people are randomly in this unit.  Just one classical history buff in your unit would make a massive difference.  (And I suspect that the marines have more such people per capita than the general population.)
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
longitude by gzt (2.00 / 0) #32 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:53:00 PM EST
Once you figure out that you're in the Roman Empire, it's trivial to figure it out and suddenly you have all sorts of maps of (modern) Italy to work from. A lot has changed, sure, but they're a basis for work. Suppose these are people from a parallel universe with all the technology and people of an MEU: they can't figure out longitude, but does it matter? It's a minor setback, but not terribly important. They don't have maps of modern Italy to work from and they can navigate relative to each other, so it's not a huge deal. They can create their own longitude, since they have accurate clocks.

[ Parent ]
my brother went to the naval academy. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #78 Tue Sep 06, 2011 at 03:49:33 PM EST
they brought a sextant out once to point at, and the rest of the time just used GPS, and inertial navigation.


[ Parent ]
how long would it take you... by gzt (2.00 / 0) #81 Tue Sep 06, 2011 at 03:59:24 PM EST
...to figure out how to use a sextant? how long would it take 2000 marines?

also, inertial navigation is probably almost completely sufficient for their purposes.

[ Parent ]
Dunno by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #49 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 02:27:01 AM EST
Originally, I also thought the marines could easily "take" Rome, but thinking about it I'm not so sure.

As I recall, the Germans in World War 2 had problems with medieval fortifications. Their artillery couldn't easily destroy them. Roman fortifications are probably weaker: taller walls with more stress at the base since they're not built to resist cannons, but I think Marine artillery is probably lighter too .

But let's say they can breach the walls and get in. Remember that Rome has a population of a million, about the same as San Francisco today, and there are only 2,000 marines: they're outnumbered 500 to 1 within the city. I think Rome is just Italy in microcosm, the marines can go anywhere they want within Rome, fortify any area within it, but does that mean they actually control Rome? Sure they can make the Palatine Hill into the Green Zone, but what happens when they have to leave it?

Their advantage is distance weapons: do they really want to be patrolling narrow streets and alleyways where you don't know where the next slingshot or arrow or javelin or swordsman is coming from? When they hear someone's holding a "Death to the Americani" meeting on the other side of the city, what if it's a trap and they're going to be ambushed on the way?

Not convinced it's a great tactical idea to take over the city of Rome. "We have immensely destructive and long range weapons. Let's set up in a fire-prone, incredibly densely-populated city of tall rickety buildings where everybody lives jostling elbows with everybody else".

Burning Rome to the ground might be a better idea militarily, but not a great way to win hearts and minds if you want to take over the Empire.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
After thinking about this more ... by lm (2.00 / 0) #56 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 12:16:17 PM EST
... I think the question is insufficiently vague.

Consider two different situations:

  1. A typical batallion of present day marines find themselves magically transported  to ancient Rome at the height of its military power. Could this batallion seize and hold Rome?
  2. Time travel is invented and a batallion of marines is armed and supplied with the intention of seizing and holding ancient Rome at the hieght of its military power.
The tactics, supplies, armaments, goals, etc. would be quite different depending on which scenario we're talking about. And those two scenarios are really just the tip of the iceberg. There are multiple permutations. For example, what if instead of attacking at the height of Rome's power, the attack was planned to occur in the midst of one of Rome's civil wars?

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
whereby by "insufficiently" .. by lm (2.00 / 0) #57 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 12:17:15 PM EST
... I mean "overly."

The question is overly vague. So vague, that answering intelligently is pretty much impossible.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Well, by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #60 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 01:59:00 PM EST
I've taken it to be situation 1 in a peaceful part of Augustus' rain.

But even so, the question of where they appear is important.  Outside the gates of Rome?  In Parthia?  Makes a massive difference.

Situation 2 would be much easier, as they'd clearly then have latin speakers, months of supplies and extra ammo.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
rain? WTF? (nt) by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #62 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 02:16:35 PM EST

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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Nothing lasts forever by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #73 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 09:50:18 PM EST
Even cold Augustus rain

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Did Rome win by garlic (2.00 / 0) #79 Tue Sep 06, 2011 at 03:52:26 PM EST
by capturing hearts and minds?


[ Parent ]
More like purses and minds by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #82 Wed Sep 07, 2011 at 05:12:54 AM EST
A local leader who cooperated with the Romans could expect to get pretty rich. They did use a lot of terror and intimidation as well though.

But even the Romans worked pretty hard to get local allies, they didn't try to do everything themselves.

I think people have a kind of "Life of Brian" vision, with Roman legionaries patrolling the streets like in German-occupied Paris, but in reality they tried to get the locals to do tedious stuff like that.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Food would be one of the by ni (2.00 / 0) #13 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 12:47:35 PM EST
biggest problems. They could capture a few farming communities easily enough, and probably convince a sizable portion of the population that it was wise to side with them, but they'd always be at risk of poisoning -- particularly of the command structure. Rome was aware of slow-acting poisons, so doing this needn't be as risky as it might seem.

Tanks, and especially helicopters and airplanes, would be huge psychological weapons. They would need to be, though, since without a fuel supply line, it's not as though you'd actually be able to kill many people with them. You would get one or two shots (no pun intended) with each, and if that didn't result in surrender (and as you say, Roman history doesn't lead one to believe it would) their use would be over.

One non-obvious advantage that might be given to the marines would depend on exactly what point in history they were to attack at. From what I vaguely recall (which should be taken with an ocean of salt), Hannibal's battle tactics are  taught at the US Military Academy. If the marines were to attack at history before the Roman encounter with Hannibal, and the commander managed to remember the classes he'd taken a decade earlier, this could be of use. They did, after all, come very close to working when on an even technological playing field.

I doubt that modern strategy would be of nearly so much use as people claim. Without the use of vehicles (or with their use limited to the few occasions before fuel ran out), I suspect (again, without any real background in the area) that the majority of modern military strategy just isn't applicable. Communication would be similar: radios would initially be a huge advantage, but pretty soon they'd run out of power.

Medicine would be yet another crucial supply chain limitation. Rome was ravaged by malaria, and I find it hard to believe that an MEU would have enough medication with it to stave it off for more than a few weeks. From that point, you'd have marines who were desperately sick for the first time in their lives, with the commanding officers being hit as heavily as the front-line troops (unless they were preferentially given medication, which would come with its own social problems). Historically (most notably in WW1) malaria devastated invading armies -- I doubt it would be any different in this case.

I'm embarrassed to have spent time thinking about this, but I must confess, it's a fun game.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

[ Parent ]
Poisoning by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #17 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 12:58:24 PM EST
I don't think there's a real risk there.  All armies of the time lived off the land as they marched, often in very hostile territory.  I can't recall a single incidence in the history of that time of any attempts being made to poison the invader.

(Though often the legions were harvesting food directly from the fields.  Marines are likely to be less familiar with how to do that.)

In regards to malaria: the marines would have one advantage in that people would know how it was spread.  Whether a modern population or ancient population is more or less susceptible to it is, I think, an open question.

You are correct that a modern strategy wouldn't work, but someone with knowledge of human history would probably fixate on Cortez, which is the closest analogy we can come to.  Could modern marines implement that strategy?  Probably depends on the calibre of the particular commander.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Malaria by ni (2.00 / 0) #20 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:07:37 PM EST
Knowing how malaria is spread doesn't do much good. If I go to a region with malaria tomorrow, I'm probably going to get it fairly soon, despite knowing a reasonable amount about the disease. You can't swat every mosquito and you can't avoid exposure to them. Knowledge, unfortunately, does nothing (at least when invading. When holding territory you can drain swamps, etc).

Whether a modern population or ancient population is more or less susceptible to it is, I think, an open question.

Sure, but I think there's some reason to suspect that the modern population is going to have the bigger problem. The ancient population will have been exposed to the local malaria strains (causing partial resistance), will have been under strong selective pressure for resistance, and will have experience coping with the disease. The modern population will be facing strains it has never been exposed to, nearly certain an organism it has never been exposed to, will have had little selective pressure for resistance for several generations, and will never have been sick with malaria before. It's an open question, sure, but I know where I'd be putting my money.

With respect to poison, the situation is completely different for exactly the reason you've identified. Invading armies at the time would be capable of harvesting their own food, preparing their own food, and would have some idea what it was supposed to taste like. Marines might be capable of one of these (preparing), although even then I'm doubtful.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

[ Parent ]
Poisoning by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #22 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:12:17 PM EST
I think the bigger factor is that most peasants of the time likely didn't give a damn who ran things, and consider that a modern marine unit is likely to be much less likely to go on the sort of rape-and-pillage sprees that even friendly armies of the time were known for.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Yes, by ni (2.00 / 0) #24 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:18:07 PM EST
I remarked in a previous comment that they would probably have a considerable number of converts pretty quickly. The point you raise here would only make that more true (and even without discipline and modern morality, food and women excepted, it's not like the marines would even have much incentive to pillage). It would only take a handful of people loyal to the empire to poison the food supply of many marines, though -- and if they had to poison half a village of turncoats to do it, no great loss there.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
there's a lot that works without vehicles. by gzt (2.00 / 0) #25 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:36:01 PM EST
soldiers know how to march. And you can expect at least some of the officers to be well-informed and resourceful when it comes to coping with a lack of vehicles.

and they have solar power to charge batteries for radios.

Knowing about Hannibal's tactics (and the weaknesses of Roman strategy in general) won't be of too much help, because if they get down to the level where they're trying to win in the way Hannibal won, they're screwed. They have 2000 people. Fabius' strategy (attrition warfare) is the only viable one for the Romans. If the Romans engage in a pitched battle, they will be mowed down. The only thing the Marines have going for them is technological superiority. If their tactics for defeating the Romans ever become anything other than shooting them at a distance >50m, they're hosed. If they don't win quickly, they're hosed. If they ever get down to any sort of melee, the Romans will chop them to bits.

I agree malaria and other infectious diseases are the biggest problem. Modern militaries are used to dealing with malaria and other infectious diseases, but probably only with a supply chain. I was mildly amused to see comments wondering about smallpox, as smallpox wasn't in Rome at the time and military personnel have been vaccinated against it anyway.

[ Parent ]
Not to mention... by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #28 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:42:51 PM EST
That moderns very likely have more of a natural immunity.

(At least I presume, given most would be descendants of those who benefited from natural immunity in the Americas in the 16th century.)
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
I don't think your reasoning is very sound. by ni (4.00 / 1) #31 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:52:44 PM EST
Yes, some very dilute portion of the genetic immunity present in those who survived malaria in North America probably remains here. But nearly everyone in Rome was immediately descended from someone who had survived malaria, and further, had survived the strains which would be relevant!


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
indeed. by gzt (2.00 / 0) #34 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:56:49 PM EST
I am an American. My ancestry is northern European. I doubt anybody I descended from ever had malaria or was exposed to it. I had an English ancestor who was in America prior to the Revolutionary War (he was a Loyalist, so he fled the country). He was not in a malaria-infested area.

[ Parent ]
Smallpox by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #37 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 03:03:19 PM EST
I wasn't clear...I was referring to the comments about smallpox, not malaria.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by gzt (2.00 / 0) #40 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 03:32:16 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by gzt



[ Parent ]
Of course there is. by ni (2.00 / 0) #33 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:56:23 PM EST
I haven't said they're screwed without vehicles -- I said that you couldn't rely on the vehicles to do very much for very long.

I don't know what kind of solar power facilities marines have, but googling turns up a tonne of stories from a few months ago about a group in Afghanistan testing the possibility of solar power, so I suspect not much.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

[ Parent ]
you're right, I'm wrong. by gzt (2.00 / 0) #35 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 02:00:08 PM EST
I just recalled hearing that there was something they used that could be done solely with solar, so it was not problematic...

[ Parent ]
most of our current Marine Force by garlic (2.00 / 0) #80 Tue Sep 06, 2011 at 03:56:27 PM EST
has spent significant time in Afghanistan, a place where only light vehicles and some helicopters can go. However well their tactics work there, they should work better against spears and arrows than against ak-47.


[ Parent ]
This is often talked about. by ni (4.00 / 1) #5 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:29:32 AM EST
The idea that the first encounter with firearms would leave people terrified and quaking seems to be nearly received wisdom, and it's invariably mentioned in these sorts of discussions. Beyond it sort of making intuitive sense, though, I don't think there's much evidence supporting it. History is littered with battles in which one side had firearms and the other didn't, and, if you rule out cases in which the side with firearms was otherwise significantly more technologically advanced than the side without (that is, control for factors unrelated to the psychology of firearms) I don't think there's a particularly strong trend. Skimming through wikipedia's article on the history of firearms (a high-quality research technique), which has many such encounters, the side with firearms does win more often than not, but not devastatingly or by immediate surrender of the opposing force.

So I'm open to the idea, and as I say, it does make some intuitive sense, but I'm not convinced there is any evidence supporting it.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

[ Parent ]
Good point by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #6 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:37:35 AM EST
But what about advanced, precision firearms? A sniper picking out generals, miniguns, grenade launchers? Hard to say I suppose.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Oh, maybe. by ni (4.00 / 1) #7 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:44:58 AM EST
But I think that's a different issue. Having enormously, obviously superior technology does seem likely to instill a certain amount of terror in your opponent (particularly if they are undisciplined, which Roman legions were not known for being). This is why I suggested that cases where one side was wildly more technologically developed than the other be disregarded. This has nothing to do with firearms, though -- a magic wand which allowed you to kill a person of your choosing would have exactly the same effect.

The firearms argument, conversely, is generally something to the effect of "People are terrified to encounter long sticks that make extremely loud noises, omit huge puffs of smoke and kill people from a distance." And, as I say, that does make a certain amount of sense -- there's great drama involved, and we can understand how it might appear to be magic. I'm just not convinced that history supports it.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

[ Parent ]
Can't paste from the phone by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #11 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 12:35:16 PM EST
But in Darwin's "Voyage of the Beagle" there's an account of the "Fuegians" of Tierra del Fuego not being terribly intimidated by firearms.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Here we go by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #48 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 02:24:16 AM EST
From.
During our stay at Port Famine, the Fuegians twice came and plagued us. As there were many instruments, clothes, and men on shore, it was thought necessary to frighten them away. The first time a few great guns were fired, when they were far distant. It was most ludicrous to watch through a glass the Indians, as often as the shot struck the water, take up stones, and, as a bold defiance, throw them towards the ship, though about a mile and a half distant! A boat was then sent with orders to fire a few musket-shots wide of them. The Fuegians hid themselves behind the trees, and for every discharge of the muskets they fired their arrows; all, however, fell short of the boat, and the officer as he pointed at them laughed. This made the Fuegians frantic with passion, and they shook their mantles in vain rage. At last, seeing the balls cut and strike the trees, they ran away, and we were left in peace and quietness. During the former voyage the Fuegians were here very troublesome, and to frighten them a rocket was fired at night over their wigwams; it answered effectually, and one of the officers told me that the clamour first raised, and the barking of the dogs, was quite ludicrous in contrast with the profound silence which in a minute or two afterwards prevailed. The next morning not a single Fuegian was in the neighbourhood.
It seems the rockets were scarier than the muskets, though maybe they just wandered off the next day for unrelated reasons.

But the point is, even average tribespeople aren't particularly terrified by the noise and range of firearms, let alone trained and experienced Roman legionaries.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
wonder weapons by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #14 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 12:48:05 PM EST
The reason that there would be a terrifying effect on the Romans is that the marines wouldn't be using muzzle-loading muskets...they'd be using automatic weapons.  This would be compounded by the fact that Roman military tactics, which involve massing lots of men in small spaces, are tailor made to create high death tolls would faced with automatic weapons.

On the other side of the coin: Roman command practice is designed for a world where someone at the back of the line is relatively safe, and therefore it is safe and beneficial to have rank easily determinable from long distance.  This would make it very easy for a single sniper to take out the whole command staff.

The Romans were disciplined, but they weren't perfect.  There are instances where Roman legions broke, even when faced with opponents they knew well and were technologically superior to.  If you put them in a situation where their front ranks are following over under fire from something they do not understand and their leadership is being struck down one-by-one in a way they don't understand, they are going to run.

So on the one hand, yeah, guns aren't as terrifying when the technological gap is otherwise not that bad or where the other party has at least head of the existence.  But in this case, you've got a massive technological advantage coupled with complete surprise.   That's going to create true terror, and it will take any group, no matter how disciplined, time to adapt and overcome.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Yes, we essentially agree. by ni (2.00 / 0) #16 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 12:57:26 PM EST
I agree that snipers would be a huge advantage, and would likely be fairly terrifying (as they are in modern combat). My only objection, as I said, was to the idea that guns themselves are inevitably instruments of great terror.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
reminds me of (I think) the Boer war by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #8 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:58:37 AM EST
where Zulus sent wave after wave against the Brits. Ah, google helps and tells me the movie was Zulu and the war was the Anglo-Zulu war..

(No idea how historically accurate the movie was, I just remember the waves of waves of warriors walking into bullets.. No magical fear, but they knew firearms..)

[ Parent ]
The Zulus had firearms by jump the ladder (2.00 / 0) #9 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 12:30:06 PM EST
Just didn't have that many nor were they trained to use them in battle like the British.

[ Parent ]
More importantly... by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #12 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 12:38:10 PM EST
The Zulus knew what they were.  The real issue this example would be that the Romans would be facing a wonder-weapon that they had no knowledge of, and would be completely mysterious to them.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
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Alternatively... by Vulch (2.00 / 0) #41 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 04:25:53 PM EST
"Oh look, they've got some kind of ballistae"

Missile weapons were standard legion equipment, ranging from handheld to seige demolition. There are also stories of the polybolus, so even rapid fire may not be a surprise.


[ Parent ]
Maybe by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #43 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 04:56:32 PM EST
I think it's the sniper rifle that would truly terrify them as it would kill from seemingly out of nowhere.  Someone would just fall down, dead with no visible enemy in sight.

Eventually, they'd figure it out...the Romans were nothing if not adaptable.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Like a stone from a sling might do? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #45 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 12:10:54 AM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Slingers by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #46 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 01:13:44 AM EST
You know someone who can sling a stone from a mile away at pinpoint accuracy?

In any case, stones from slings don't penetrate the skull.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

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A.) Good luck doing that with an M-16. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #47 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 02:21:08 AM EST
B.) Yes, they can.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
While I'm sure you'd know by ni (2.00 / 0) #51 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 11:29:15 AM EST
much better than I would, is it seriously the case that out of > 2,000 marines and their equipment, the best long-distance rifle to be found is going to be an M-16?


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
I believe they have 1 sniper team per platoon. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #53 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 11:48:22 AM EST
I'd be surprised if it was taken down to the squad level.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Yes, and... by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #55 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 12:12:51 PM EST
We're talking about an MEU, which is battalion strength.  Plenty of sniper teams.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
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Great, until they deplete their match-grade ammo. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #58 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 01:20:39 PM EST
Which won't take long in a combat zone.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Yes, yes by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #61 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 02:06:49 PM EST
The question of ammo has been gone over extensively already.  We're talking a decapitation strike on Rome itself, and using snipers to take out the command staff (~50 men) of any legion encountered  in order to sow fear and destroy command and control.

This isn't a modern combat zone...it's an entirely new situation and the only way the marines could succeed is by using new tactics tailor made to the unique situation.

The basic tactics for taking out a legion would go something like this:

In the early morning hours set up sniper nests outside the Roman camp. 
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Roman soldiers knew how by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #63 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 03:06:06 PM EST
to respond to ballistic attacks. You're giving these hypothetical snipers far too much credence.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Er... by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #65 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 03:20:11 PM EST
Snipers use ballistic attacks?

Point is: Romans had no notion of keeping command structure hidden at distance because at the time, there was no reliable way of destroying a command staff at distance.

Snipers, as of about the civil war, were created as a reliable way to attack a command staff at distance.   This is why the notion of hiding the command staff came about about this time.

Besides, these snipers aren't hypothetical.  Are you saying that a modern Marine sniper can't reliably hit human targets from a mile out?
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
I certainly am. by ni (2.00 / 0) #70 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 05:41:46 PM EST
Considering a confirmed kill at that distance would be in the top 10 most distant in history.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
Also notice by Herring (2.00 / 0) #72 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 06:25:49 PM EST
the top 3 of those weren't USian.

And they would be unlikely to be able to make allies - I mean, what percentage of the USMC speak Latin?

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
You'd be surprised. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #74 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 10:35:23 PM EST
Unless it's changed recently, Latin has been taught at the U.S. Naval Academy and its prep school. Other prospective Marine officers can take it through ROTC at civvie colleges.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
I invite you to peep a man-sized silhouette by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #71 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 05:44:02 PM EST
at 600 meters, then re-evaluate the likelihood of consistently hitting that same target at 1,500 meters. I'll wait while you brush up.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
What's the next step? by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #64 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 03:16:27 PM EST
A Roman camp is surrounded by a ditch, earthwork and palisade, so the snipers have no line of sight to the interior.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Until... by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #66 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 03:20:40 PM EST
They leave camp for battle.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
I think they Romans would notice quickly by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #67 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 03:37:08 PM EST
That the guys in line of sight get killed, and the others don't, and draw the right conclusions. The Fuegians in the Beagle example assumed correctly that hiding behind the trees protected them from musket fire, not sure why the Romans should be dumber.

Also while decapitating the military might help, a decapitation strike on Rome and the Emperor itself might leave things uncomfortably chaotic. There's no line of succession for the Emperor, so you've now got no-one to negotiate with for the Empire.

As I said on Mefi, people are assuming that the Marines could cut a deal with some Roman faction. But while much later Romans did, I think at this point no Roman had allied with enemies of Rome as part an internal power struggle, not while fighting the Gauls, Etruscans or Carthaginians. Romans could be highly nationalistic and xenophobic. Killing the Emperor might just leave you with a hundred enemies instead of one.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
fast and ruthless by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #68 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 03:49:54 PM EST
You would have to be fast and ruthless about it.  Take out the command structure first, then hit the rank and file with assault weapons second, causing the rest to flee in all directions, taking with them confused and unbelievable tales.

Yes, if you shoot one or two and let them think about it, they'll figure it out.  You have to hit fast and hard so that they don't have time to examine bodies, reflect on the evidence, etc.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Fabian tactics by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #75 Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 03:24:30 AM EST
Remember I assumed that after the first couple of catastrophic defeats the Romans would adopt Fabian tactics like last time. Don't attack directly, instead harass supply lines and skirmish with any scouts or foraging parties you have a chance with.

Sure, any time they try to form a testudo and march towards a large, dug-in body of Marines they're doomed, whether by snipers or machine guns or mortars or rifles. But they wouldn't keep doing that.

As Pyrrhus found out, you can win battle after battle against the Romans, and find they don't say "hey you're good, join us in a factional power struggle against our fellow-Romans", but keep grinding on with a war of attrition. That's kind of how they got to rule most of the known world in the first place.

The first Punic war lasted 23 years, the second 17 years, the third 3 years; overall taking 118 years. The Romans could be patient for victory.

Also you're talking very casually about "In the early morning hours set up sniper nests outside the Roman camp." How does that actually work?

The Marines don't have GPS, satellite images or weather forecasts any more. So maybe they've got air reconaissance and know where the camp is. To get the snipers there quietly they have to carry everything cross country with map and compass: it's not that easy to know if you've covered 5 kilometers of ploughed fields or 6, or if you've gone directly North-West or drifted a bit

If it's a moonless night then night-vision goggles give them an advantage. But it's hard to fight only when the moon's right. What happens if cloud cover clears and they find themselves in plain sight by moonlight? A small number of Marine snipers in the open would be vulnerable to a cavalry charge or a rush.

How do they construct a snipers nest with just what's on their backs? Hard to quickly and silently dig an emplacement. Hard to carry many filled sandbags in backbacks.

When the sun comes up, how do they supply these snipers nests? Fabian tactics mean the Romans are going to try to make that difficult.

And is that even a good idea? Marines like to fight highly mobile warfare. If the Romans just sit in the camp and play knucklebones, then those Marines outside are immobilized. The Marines are vastly outnumbered while the Romans have manpower to spare. If both groups are just sitting around consuming supplies, the Romans are winning.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Many fair points though by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #77 Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 11:06:30 AM EST
Roman camps were generally wood and Marines would have incendiaries.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Plus by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #69 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 03:57:13 PM EST
It's one thing to realize that having commanders in the open gets them killed...quite another to figure out how to effectively command units when your entire set of command tactics depends on having commanders visible to subordinates.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
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Who said M-16 by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #54 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 12:09:58 PM EST
We're talking snipers.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
See: Comment #58 by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #59 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 01:21:59 PM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
yeah the Zulus were legendary badasses by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #18 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:00:41 PM EST
How many dozens of African tribes did the British squash likes grapes? The only reason we remember the Zulus is because they actually defeated an army of British riflemen with a force of spearmen.

[ Parent ]
Anglo-Zulu War by gzt (2.00 / 0) #36 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 02:33:42 PM EST
they learned lessons from the war and modern weaponry will be a lot better at disposing of the enemy. The battle depicted in that movie is the Battle of Rorke's Drift, 150 soldiers against 4000 Zulus, won with a loss of only 17 soldiers. Modern weapons will be more efficient.

[ Parent ]
Ancient v Modern by anonimouse (2.00 / 0) #38 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 03:19:30 PM EST
Yes but on the other hand there was Isandlwana

British losses: everyone (1,300 dead)
Zulu losses: 1,000 killed.

Assuming the Romans are informed about the capabilities of modern weapons before any significant encounter.,
A good Roman approach would be to do a Cunctator for a year or two till the enemies weapons don't function so well.


Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
[ Parent ]
Yes. by gzt (2.00 / 0) #39 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 03:31:07 PM EST
The British learned a lot of lessons from Isandlwana and applied them in Rorke's Drift. They tried to defend too large of a perimeter and had trouble getting ammunition out. Therefore, they got overrun and butchered. They were much more efficient later. The USMC undoubtedly covers the lessons learned there and is unlikely to be caught in a similar situation until they are low on ammo.

[ Parent ]
They didn't learn anything from Isandwana by jump the ladder (4.00 / 1) #52 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 11:35:44 AM EST
The officers at Rorke's Drift just did the standard British army tactics at the time for defending in hostile territory whereas the officers at Isandwana were over confident and over extended their lines.

[ Parent ]
Yay for "I, Claudius" by Vulch (2.00 / 0) #19 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 01:02:34 PM EST
A quick skim through the Reddit timeline and Augustus is still Brian Blessed.

I'm still convinced that's why Rome didn't get another series...


I don't know who would win by Oberon (2.00 / 0) #42 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 04:53:53 PM EST
but it would make an interesting book or film.

I'm imagining a scene where a low-flying helicopter is brought down by a lucky hit from a ballista ....


How now, mad spirit?
Women and Spatial Intelligence: Lesson One by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #44 Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:58:05 PM EST


"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Is your interest in law practical or theoretical? by lm (4.00 / 1) #50 Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 07:35:11 AM EST
HLA Hart's Concept of Law is considered one of the classics in legal philosophy. On the other side of the fence from Hart's positivism is FInnis Natural Law and Natural Rights which is one of the best revisiting of natural law theory from the perspective of legal philosophy.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Undergraduate law books by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #76 Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 08:36:43 AM EST
I bought the book whose website is http://www.thelegalanalyst.com/ and found it an enjoyable read, and accessible to me as a non-lawyer. It is quite theoretical and leans a lot towards the "Economics and Law" side of things

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