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Category Archives: The Middle East

Enemies See America As Vulnerable Prey

Our domestic tensions embolden our enemies.

By Victor Davis Hanson//National Review Online

 

Here is a sampling of some recent news abroad:

A Russian guard attacked a U.S. diplomatic official at the door to the American Embassy in Moscow, even as NATO leaders met to galvanize against the next act of Russian aggression.

The Islamic State continued its global terrorist rampage with horrific attacks in Baghdad and Istanbul.

Iran rebuffed United Nations warnings and defiantly boasted that it will continue testing ballistic missiles. German intelligence believes that Iran, empowered by the release of $100 billion in impounded cash, is violating its recent American-led nonproliferation deal in an effort to import nuclear bomb-making technology.

North Korea conducted a test (unsuccessful, apparently) of a submarine-based guided missile.

There are various ways of interpreting these ominous events.
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The Highways To Orlando

We know what the recent terrorist attack in Orlando was not.

Forty-nine people were killed and fifty-three wounded not due to the violent outburst of a right-wing zealot. The shooter, Omar Mateen, was a second-generation Afghan-American, a registered Democrat, and a fierce critic of American politics and culture.

Nor were the killings caused by easy access to “assault weapons.” The vast majority of American terrorist casualties have not involved firearms. Box-cutters and planes, not rifles, led to the 9/11 attacks and some 3,000 deaths. The two Tsarnaev brothers used explosives to kill and maim during the Boston Marathon, a tactic that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab also tried in his attempt to blow up an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight. The Oklahoma beheader and the UC Merced attacker Faisal Mohammad preferred knives to guns, as did the recent Paris terrorist who knifed to death a French law enforcement couple.
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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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Same Old, Same Old Horror

The Orlando massacre brings up familiar lessons that we never quite learn.

By Victor Davis Hanson // City Journal

The aftermath of Islamist Afghan-American Omar Mateen’s murderous rampage against American gays seems disturbingly familiar, an echo of past themes that never stop playing—and lessons that never get learned. The post-911 debate over “why do they hate us” should have been settled long ago with a resounding “because of who we are,” rather than the refrain from the blame-America crowd—voiced from the Ron Paul libertarian Right to the Michael Moore Left—that the answer is “because of what we do.” Mateen did not cite the usual ISIS foreign policy boilerplate so much as reportedly express his furor over gay men kissing—suggesting that, like Mohammed Atta et al., he despised the essence of Western liberality and popular culture, yet, like a moth to a flame, was both repelled by it and attracted to it.

Once again, as in the case of the Tsarnaevs and San Bernardino murderers, the shooter and his associations were on federal authorities’ radar—and again to no avail. Apparently, dozens of Americans must be massacred every so often so that the rest of us can avoid the politically incorrect charge of being “Islamophobic.” At some point, intelligence authorities will have to take seriously American-born Muslims who consume ISIS propaganda and espouse radical Islamic hatred.
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ISIS and ‘Domestic’ Terrorism

In reacting to terrorism, Obama cannot bring himself to say the words ‘radical Islam.’

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

There are many threads to the horror in Orlando.

Most disturbing is the serial inability of the Obama administration — in this case as after the attacks at Fort Hood and in Boston and San Bernardino — even to name the culprits as radical Islamists. Major Hasan shouts “Allahu akbar!” and Omar Mateen calls 911 in mediis interfectis to boast of his ISIS affiliation — and yet the administration can still not utter the name of the catalyst of their attacks: radical Islam. It is hard to envision any clearer Islamist self-identification, other than name tags and uniforms. The Obama team seems to fear the unwelcome public responses to these repeated terrorist operations rather than seeing them as requisites for changing policies to prevent their recurrence.

On receiving news of the attack, Obama almost immediately called for greater tolerance for the LGBT community — as if American society, rather than jihadism and the cultural homophobia so characteristic of the Middle East, had fueled the attack; or as if Mateen had not phoned in his ISIS affiliation. Obama strained to find vocabulary equivalent to “workplace violence” and was reduced to suggesting that the Orlando club was a nexus for gay solidarity and thus a target of endemic LGBT hatred, a half- but only half-right summation. Why is Obama’s first reaction always to find perceived fault within American society rather than with radical Islamism, an ideology certainly at odds with all progressive notions of gay rights, feminism, and religious tolerance?
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Walls and Immigration — Ancient and Modern

The Roman empire faced a challenge similar to what the EU faces.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

When standing today at Hadrian’s Wall in northern England, everything appears indistinguishably affluent and serene on both sides.

It was not nearly as calm some 1,900 years ago. In A.D. 122, the exasperated Roman emperor Hadrian ordered the construction of an 80-mile, 20-foot-high wall to protect Roman civilization in Britain from the Scottish tribes to the north.

We moderns often laugh at walls and fortified boundaries, dismissing them as hopelessly retrograde, ineffective, or unnecessary. Yet they still seem to fulfill their mission on the Israeli border, the 38th parallel in Korea, and the Saudi-Iraqi boundary: separating disparate states.

On the Roman side of Hadrian’s Wall there were codes of law, habeas corpus, aqueducts, and the literature of Cicero, Virgil, and Tacitus — and on the opposite side a violent, less sophisticated tribalism.
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A Year After the Iranian Deal

 

Image credit: Poster Collection, IR 180, Hoover Institution Archives.

The July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to limit Iranian nuclear proliferation is now nearly a year old. Until recently, the urgency to complete the “Iran deal” had been explained by the Obama administration as an effort to capitalize on a new group of Iranian reformers who came to power with President Hassan Rouhani in August 2013.

The so-called moderates—labeled as such by pro-administration journalists and Middle East analysts—wished to send signals that they were ready to cease pursuit of a nuclear bomb in exchange for an American effort to end embargos, to release long impounded funds, and to allow Iran to reenter the world community. In other words, an Iranian change of heart, not U.S. acquiescence, prompted the rapprochement. And the Iranian “reformers” (apparently unlike the pro-Western Green Revolutionaries who hit the streets of Teheran in spring 2009 and were ignored by the Obama administration) apparently needed something tangible from the U.S. to empower their efforts to recalibrate Iran.
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Why Republicans Will Vote For Trump

By Victor Davis Hanson // Defining Ideas

If Donald Trump manages to curb most of his more outrageous outbursts by November, most Republicans who would have preferred that he did not receive the nomination will probably hold their noses and vote for him.

How could that be when a profane Trump has boasted that he would limit Muslim immigration into the United States, talked cavalierly about torturing terrorist suspects and executing their relatives, promised to deport all eleven-million Mexican nationals who are residing illegally in the U.S., and threatened a trade war with China by slapping steep tariffs on their imports?

A number of reasons come to mind.

First, Trump stays in the news not just by taking extreme positions, but also by taking extreme positions on issues that are already extreme. When Mexico prints comic books advising its own citizens on how to enter the U.S. illegally, when the major illegal-alien lobbying group is called The National Council of La Raza (“The Race”), and when major U.S. cities, in Confederate-style, declare themselves “sanctuaries” in which U.S. federal immigration law does not apply, then we long ago entered zones of extremism.

Of course, Trump would be wiser to become both more specific and reasonable about solutions to illegal immigration. “Making Mexico pay for the wall” could be finessed not by a trade war, but perhaps by slapping surcharges on remittances sent to Mexico, at higher rates for those in the U.S. who could not prove legal residency. Deportation certainly sounds like a reasonable punishment for the likely more than 1 million illegal aliens who either have committed serious crimes inside the United States or who have no history of being employed—then, once the border is secure, he could propose granting green card status to the illegal aliens who are employed, long-time residents, without criminal convictions, and willing to pay a fine and learn English.
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How Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy De-Stabilized the World

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

The Pajama Boy White House

Meet the 30-somethings who are running our federal government.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

“Cleverness is not wisdom.”
— Euripides, Bacchae

From left: Ben Rhodes, Jon Favreau, President Obama, and Cody Keenan in 2013. (White House/Flickr)

 

What exactly has birthed the Pajama Boy aristocracy — our overclass of pretentious, inexperienced, and smug 30-something masters of the universe?

Prolonged adolescence? Affluence? The disappearance of physical chores and muscular labor? The collapse of traditional liberal education and the triumph of the therapeutic mindset? Disdain for or ignorance of life outside the Boston–New York–Washington corridor? Political correctness as a sort of careerist indemnity that allows one to live a sheltered and apartheid existence? The shift in collective values and status from production, agriculture, and manufacturing to government, law, finance, and media? The reinvention of the university as a social-awareness retreat rather than a place to learn?

During the showdown over Obamacare, the pro-Obama PAC Organizing for Action put out an ad now known as “Pajama Boy.” It showcased a young fellow in thick retro-rimmed glasses, wearing black-and-red plaid children’s-style pajamas, and sipping from a mug, with a sort of all-knowing expression on his face. The text urged: “Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance. #GetTalking.”

Most men in Dayton or Huntsville do not lounge around in the morning in their pajamas, with or without built-in footpads, drinking hot chocolate and scanning health-insurance policies. That our elites either think they do, or think the few that matter do, explains why a nation $20 trillion in debt envisions the battle over transgender restrooms as if it were Pearl Harbor.
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