The Greek city-states in the fourth-century BC, fifth-century AD Rome, and the Western European democracies after World War I all knew they could not continue as usual with their fiscal, social, political, and economic behavior. But all these states and societies feared far more the self-imposed sacrifices that might have saved them.
Mid-fifteenth-century Byzantium was facing endemic corruption, a radically declining birthrate and shrinking population, and the end of civic militarism—all the last-gasp symptoms of an irreversible decline. Its affluent ruling and religious orders and expansive government services could no longer be supported by disappearing agrarians and the overtaxed mercantile middle class. Returning to the values of the Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century empire that had once ensured a vibrant Byzantine culture of stability and prosperity throughout the old Roman east remained a nostalgic daydream. Given the hardship and sacrifice that would have been required to change the late Byzantine mindset, most residents of Constantinople plodded on to their rendezvous with oblivion in 1453. Read more →
During the last days of the Ancien Régime, French Queen Marie Antoinette frolicked in a fake rural village not far from the Versailles Palace—the Hameau de la Reine (“the Queen’s hamlet”). “Peasant” farmers and herdsmen were imported to interact, albeit carefully, with the royal retinue in an idyllic amusement park. The Queen would sometimes dress up as a milkmaid and with her royal train do a few chores on the “farm” to emulate the romanticized masses, but in safe, apartheid seclusion from them.
The French Revolution was already on the horizon and true peasants were shortly to march on Versailles, but the Queen had no desire to visit the real French countryside to learn of the crushing poverty of those who actually milked cows and herded sheep for a living. It is hard to know what motivated the queen to visit the Hameau—was it simply to relax in her own convenient and sanitized Arcadia, or was it some sort of pathetic attempt to better understand the daily lives of the increasing restive French masses?
The American coastal royalty does not build fake farms outside of its estates. But these elites, too, can grow just as bored with their privileged lives as Marie Antoinette did. Instead of hanging out with milk maids in ornamental villages, our progressive elites, at the same safe distance from the peasantry, prefer to show their solidarity with the dispossessed through angry rhetoric.
Take the case of Colin Kaepernick, the back-up quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who makes $19 million a year (or about $20,000 per minute of regular season play). He has been cited by National Football League officials in the past for his use of the N-word, yet he refuses to stand for the pregame singing of the national anthem because he believes that his country is racist and does not warrant his respect. His stunt gained a lot of publicity and he now sees himself as a man of the revolutionary barricades. A number of other NFL athletes, as well as those in other sports, have likewise refused to stand for the national anthem to express solidarity with what they see as modern versions of the oppressed peasantry. But Kaepernick and his peers make more in one month than many Americans make in an entire lifetime. Still, for these members of the twenty-first-century Versailles crowd, the easiest way of understanding the lives of the underclass is expressing empathy for them for no more than a minute or two. Read more →
Beware international affairs the next five months, a dangerous period for America.
Deterrence is a nation’s ability to discourage aggressors by instilling in them a credible fear of punishment far greater than any perceived gain that could be achieved by an attack.
Deterrence is quite different from deference, which is a courteous accommodation to the will of another, often one deemed superior.
Deterrence is ultimately enhanced by the possession of overwhelming military force, but it is unfortunately not thereby ensured.
France, the Low Countries, and the British expeditionary force had a combined larger army, more tanks and comparable air forces, when Germany nevertheless attacked in surprise fashion and destroyed them in six weeks in May and June 1940. What the Allies lacked were not the guns and soldiers but the credibility that they would use them with dispatch, skill, and determination.
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Technology hasn’t changed the core of who we are, and history proves it.
In today’s technically sophisticated and globally connected world, we assume life has been completely reinvented. In truth, it has not changed all that much.
Facebook and Google may have recalibrated our lifestyles, but human nature, geography, and culture are nearly timeless. Even as ideologies and governments come and go, the same old, same old problems and challenges remain.
Compare what dominated the news in 1966, 50 years ago.
Abroad, Israel was constantly fighting on the West Bank against Palestinian guerrilla groups and in the air over Syria. It is likely that in another 50 years the story will remain about the same.
The Middle East in 1966 was going up in flames, just as it is today — and in many of the same places. The Syrian government was overthrown in a coup. The Saudis, Jordanians, and Egyptians were involved in a civil war in Yemen. The Egyptian government executed Islamists charged with planning a theocratic takeover. Read more →
By Victor Davis Hanson//Town Hall
A group of 50 conservative foreign policy elites and veteran national security officials of prior Republican administrations recently wrote an open letter denouncing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
They cited especially his lack of character and moral authority — and his “little understanding of America’s national interests.” Particularly bothersome, they wrote, is Trump’s inability “to separate truth from falsehood.”
The letter stated that Trump’s one-year campaign of blustery rhetoric suggests he could be as reckless in deed in the White House as he has been in word on the campaign trail.
Is there a like group of past Democratic wise men and women who can commensurately “police their own” and so warn us about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton?
Unlike Trump, Clinton already has an actual political record as a former U.S. senator and secretary of state.
If there were such a group, the heart of their letter might read something like the following:
“We the undersigned who have served in prior Democratic administrations will not vote for Hillary Clinton. Read more →
Can Trump get out of the trap of running against himself?
Donald Trump is not so much running against Hillary Clinton as against the inner demons of Donald Trump.
The 2016 election still should easily be his to win.
Americans do not historically like the twelve-year regnum of any party.
The termed-out incumbent Democratic president can win approval ratings of 50 percent only by staying quiet, out of the public eye, and doing as little governing as possible. Whenever Obama emerges from his hip cocoon and talks off his teleprompter, he reminds us that he is typically petulant, untruthful, and rambling. Witness his latest pathetic assurances that sending cash on pallets at night to obtain simultaneous release of hostages was not ransom. Even the obsequious pajama-boy D.C. press corps did not quite buy that. As so often, Obama’s soft-spoken prevarication comes across as being as coarse as Trump’s crudity.
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The Democratic Convention was an exercise in absurdist theater.
Donald Trump, to the degree he is coherent, wants Americans to think the following of the Obama administration, the Clinton candidacy, and the entire progressive enterprise. His three-part writ could be summed up as follows:
1) Obama has doubled the national debt in just eight years. He has abdicated U.S. leadership abroad, was taken for a patsy by duplicitous trade partners, has deliberately divided races and tribes at home for transient political advantage, has nationalized health care into a mess, has overregulated and overtaxed the economy into near-zero-growth stasis, and has whitewashed all of the above with upbeat banalities about hope and change.
2) During Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, the Obama administration oversaw the destruction of the modern Middle East, ignored the rise of ISIS, engineered a failed reset that empowered Putin’s Russia, let China systematize unfair and injurious trade practices that fuel an aggressive foreign policy, and alienated traditional friends while courting longstanding enemies. Clinton’s record of government service is one of decades of prevarication, malfeasance, and corruption.
3) Progressivism is a euphemism for a grievance-based agenda with mandated equality of result. An incompetent, uncaring, and always larger government is its agency — a project that demands constant tax increases and ever-greater social spending. It seeks to divide the country up by identity groups, politicize the bureaucracies, and ignore the old working classes, especially the white lower middle class. Read more →
We are very far from a politics of ideological purity and high character.
Many have weighed in on whether Donald Trump’s agendas — to the extent that they are different from what are now ratified Republican policies — are crackpot, unworkable, or radical: e.g., building a wall to enhance border enforcement (“And make Mexico pay for it!”), renegotiating trade deals with China, promoting Jacksonian nationalism rather than ecumenical internationalism, suspending immigration from Middle East war zones (after Trump dropped his call for complete Muslim exclusion), and disparaging an Eastern-corridor elite that derives privilege from the intersection of big politics, money, and the media.
No doubt, some of Trump’s flamboyant invective is isolationist, nativist, and protectionist. Certainly, we are in the strangest campaign of the last half-century, in which members of Trump’s own party are among his fiercest critics. In contrast, the ABC/NBC/CBS Sunday-morning liberal pundits feel no need to adopt NeverHillary advocacy. They apparently share little “Not in my name” compunction over “owning” her two decades of serial lying, her violations of basic ethical and legal protocols as secretary of state, her investment in what can be fairly termed a vast Clinton pay-to-play influence-peddling syndicate, and the general corruption of the Democratic primary process.
Amid the anguish over the Trump candidacy, we often forget that the present age of Obama is already more radical than most of what even Trump has blustered about. We live in a country for all practical purposes without an enforceable southern border. Over 300 local and state jurisdictions have declared themselves immune from federal immigration laws — all without much consequence and without worry that a similar principle of nullification was the basis of the American Civil War or that other, more conservative cities could in theory follow their lead and declare themselves exempt from EPA jurisdiction or federal gun-registration laws. Confederate nullification is accepted as the new normal, and, strangely, its antithesis of border enforcement and adherence to settled law is deemed xenophobic, nativist, and racist.
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