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 →
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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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 →
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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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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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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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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