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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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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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President Obama Is Visiting Hiroshima. Why Not Pearl Harbor?

On the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, what lessons does the U.S. need to relearn?

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the December 7, 1941, Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that killed more than 2,400 Americans.

President Obama is visiting Hiroshima this week, the site of the August 6, 1945, dropping of the atomic bomb that helped end World War II in the Pacific Theater. But strangely, he has so far announced no plans to visit Pearl Harbor on the anniversary of the attack. The president, who spent much of his childhood in Hawaii, should do so — given that many Americans have forgotten why the Japanese attacked the United States and why they falsely assumed that they could defeat the world’s largest economic power.

Imperial Japan was not, as often claimed, forced into a corner by a U.S. oil embargo, which came only after years of horrific Japanese atrocities in China and Southeast Asia. Instead, an opportunistic and aggressive fascist Japan gambled that the geostrategy of late 1941 had made America uniquely vulnerable to a surprise attack.

By December 1, 1941, Nazi Germany, Japan’s Axis partner, had reached the suburbs of Moscow. Japan believed that the German army would soon knock the Soviet Union out of the war.
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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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Setting the Record Straight on Britain, America, and World War II

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

While in London last week, President Obama waded into the upcoming British referendum about whether the United Kingdom should stay in the European Union.

Controversy followed his lecture about the future of the Anglo-American relationship should Britain depart the EU. Obama also implied that without an EU, the United States might again be dragged into European squabbling, as it had been in the prior world wars.

Americans might take this occasion to reflect on Britain’s role in World War II.

Before the war, the League of Nations had done nothing to deter the future Axis powers from invading or annexing Albania, Austria, China, Czechoslovakia, and Ethiopia.
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The Next President Is Going to Be Hated

By Victor Davis Hanson // Works and Days by PJ Media

Everyone hates the sourpuss who says the party is over. The next president will have to tell the American people that a reckoning is on the horizon—and that it is not going to be pretty.

President Obama has created lots of mythoi about the landscape he inherited in January 2009: the Iraq war was lost and al Qaeda ascendant; the September 2008 meltdown had wrecked the economy; the immigration system “was” in shambles; and Obama would have to restore fiscal sobriety after George W. Bush (all “by his lonesome” with a “credit card from the Bank of China”) in “unpatriotic” fashion had alone piled up U.S. record debt. Read more →

The Politicization of the English Language

Victor Davis Hanson // Tribune Media Services

Last week, French President Francois Hollande met President Obama in Washington to discuss joint strategies for stopping the sort of radical Islamic terrorists who have killed dozens of innocents in Brussels, Paris and San Bernardino in recent months. Hollande at one point explicitly referred to the violence as “Islamist terrorism.”The White House initially deleted that phrase from the audio translation of the official video of the Hollande-Obama meeting, only to restore it when questioned. Did the Obama administration assume that if the public could not hear the translation of the French president saying “Islamist terrorism,” then perhaps Hollande did not really say it — and therefore perhaps Islamist terrorism does not really exist?The Obama administration must be aware that in the 1930s, the Soviet Union wiped clean all photos, recordings and films of Leon Trotsky on orders from Josef Stalin. Trotsky was deemed politically incorrect, and therefore his thoughts and photos simply vanished.
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