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America In Free Fall

By Victor Davis Hanson // Defining Ideas

 

Before the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), where Philip II of Macedon prevailed over a common Greek alliance, the city-states had been weakened by years of social and economic turmoil. To read the classical speeches in the Athenian assembly is to learn of the democracy’s constant struggles with declining revenues, insolvency, and expanding entitlements. Rome between the First Triumvirate (59 BC) and the ascension of Caesar Augustus’s autocracy (27 BC) was mostly defined by gang violence, chaos, and civil war, the common theme being a loss of trust in republican values. Russia was in a revolutionary spiral for nearly twenty years between 1905 and the final victory of the Bolsheviks in 1922, ending up with a cure worse than the disease. And Europe between 1930 and 1939 saw most of its democracies erode as fascists and communists gained power—eventually leading to the greater disaster of the outbreak of World War II.

The United States has seen periods of near fatal internal chaos—in the late 1850s leading up to the carnage of the Civil War, during the decade of the Great Depression between 1929 and 1939, and in the chaotic 1960s. Something similar is starting to plague America today on a variety of political, economic, social, and cultural fronts.

The contenders for president reflect the loss of confidence of the times. Bernie Sanders is an avowed socialist. Yet scan the record of big government redistributionism here and abroad—from Chicago and Detroit to the insolvent Mediterranean nations of the European Union and failed states like Venezuela—and there is no encouraging model of socialist success. Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination—if she is not the first nominee in American history to be indicted, on possible charges of violating federal intelligence laws, and perhaps perjury and obstruction of justice. Donald Trump has neither political experience nor a detailed agenda, but has charged ahead on the basis of his vague promise to “make America great again”—a Jacksonian version of Obama’s equally vacuous 2008 promise of “hope and change.”
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A Short History of Amorous Generals

by Victor Davis Hanson

Defining Ideas

Many were as pursuant of women as they were of the enemy — and the former rarely impaired the latter.

“You’re a very bad man.” So yelled Dorothy at the Wizard of Oz, once the imposing, larger-than-life face on the screen was revealed to be a mere projection of a tiny old man behind a curtain fidgeting with levers and knobs. Read more →

Oh, We Forgot to Tell You . . .

by Victor Davis Hanson

Tribune Media Services

The second-term curse goes like this: A president (e.g., Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, etc.) wins re-election, but then his presidency implodes over the next four years — mired in scandals or disasters such as Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica Lewinsky, the Iraqi insurgency and Hurricane Katrina. Read more →

Oh What a Tangled Web

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

Supporters of President Obama have dubbed those who question administration statements about Libya as either partisans or conspiracy theorists, on the premise that the administration had no reason to dissimulate. But in fact, it had plenty of political reasons not to be candid, as the following questions make clear. Read more →

Down from Olympus

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

David Petraeus’s resignation marks the end of one of the great postwar military and government careers — his successful surge in Iraq being analogous to and as impressive as Matthew Ridgway’s salvation of Korea or Sherman’s sudden taking of Atlanta that saved Lincoln’s and the Union cause before the 1864 elections. In a book due out in late spring, The Savior Generals, I argue that his achievements were comparable to those of the best of history’s maverick commanders who were asked to save wars deemed lost — and did. But for now, the explanation of Petraeus’s resignation unfortunately raises more questions than it answers, in a number of significant ways: Read more →

Too Many Narratives to Get Straight?

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

At some point the prurient angle of the Petraeus story that alone enticed a reluctant media into becoming tangentially interested in Benghazi-gate — in the way the deaths of four Americans never did — will die down. Then we are left with largely three unanswered questions of far greater importance that will probably not be answered. Read more →

A Tale of Two Surges

by Victor Davis Hanson

Tribune Media Services

From 2007 to 2009, a surge of 20,000 troops under the generalship of David Petraeus saved a mostly lost war in Iraq. Read more →

Memo to the General: Free Speech Doesn’t Kill People, Jihadists Kill People

by Bruce S. Thornton

Advancing a Free Society

Citizen control of the military is one of the most important foundations of political freedom. Rather than an instrument of a powerful autocrat or king, the army in a republic serves the collective interests, security, and policies of the state as determined by the citizens through the constitutional processes of deliberation and election. Read more →

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