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Author Archives: Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

Victor Davis Hanson on removing Confederate statues and the erasing of American History

What began as a call to remove the statues of some Confederate leaders has escalated into a full-on debate over whether getting rid of historical monuments is really helping support racial equality or simply erasing a part of American history. 

Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, put the debate into historical context.

Watch the video here

The Bitter Irony of Revolutions

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

The ancient Greeks created new words like “paradox” and “irony” to describe the wide gap between what people profess and assume, and what they actually do and suffer.

Remember the blind prophet Teiresias of ancient drama. In the carnage of Athenian tragedy, he alone usually ends up foreseeing danger better than did those with keen eyesight

After a catastrophic plague and endless war, ancient democratic Athens was stripped of its majestic pretensions. Soon it was conducting mass executions — on majority votes of the people.

Throughout history, revolutions often do not end up as their initial architects planned. The idealists who ended the French monarchy in 1789 thought they could replace it with a constitutional republic.

Instead, they sparked a reign of terror, the guillotine, and mass frenzy. Yet the radicals who hijacked the original revolution and began beheading their enemies soon were themselves guillotined.

Read the full article here

On Name Changing and Statue Toppling

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

General David Petraeus wrote an impassioned article in the Atlantic this week about the need to change the names of military bases that for over a century have been named after Confederate generals and to recalibrate iconic remembrances such as statues commemorating Robert E. Lee at West Point — points of reference he reminds us that have been central in his own experience and career.

His relevant points were twofold and ostensibly rational: Commanders such as Bragg and Benning (Petraeus proposes the renaming of other eponymous bases as well) were not especially effective commanders worthy of such majestic base commemoration. In some cases, as Petraeus notes, they were not even highly regarded by their peers. No one, certainly, would wish to defend the worldview of a Braxton Bragg. And, as Petraeus put it, as “traitors” they fought for an ignoble cause that perpetuated slavery. (Of course, the logic of renaming should then apply to the northern California community of Fort Bragg, also named after the unattractive Braxton Bragg — an idea to which some in the Democratic California legislature failed to win over the town’s mayor in 2015).

I think Petraeus is in many ways correct about his anguish. Yet, the bases were named not so much to glorify overt racists as for a variety of more mundane, insidious reasons in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — from concessions to local southerners where many of these bases were to be located, to obtain bipartisan congressional support for their funding, and to address the need in the decades-long and bitter aftermath of the Civil War to promote “healing” between the still hostile former opponents.

We should note that not all Confederates were quite the same in terms of our current moral reexaminations. General Longstreet differed from, say, a General Nathan Bedford Forrest, not necessarily on the basis of their undeniable respective competency or even clear culpability in perpetuating the war, but on their quite different efforts at postwar outreach and healing. But then again such assessments would be to assume that we are all mortals and not deities.

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China Isn’t Letting a Pandemic Go to Waste

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis last week when a police officer used brutally excessive force to arrest him. It was the latest in a string of high-profile cases nationwide in which citizens, most of them African Americans, died from reckless police force. Once again, protests over police brutality turned violent and rioting ensued.

The U.S. is torn apart over the national mass quarantine. Liberal blue states accused red opened-up states of recklessly endangering national health by allowing their populations to go back to work before the virus has left.

Red states countered that blue states were hypocritical in wanting federal money to subsidize their locked-down residents while expecting other states to generate needed federal revenue. They also contended that there was no longer scientific evidence to justify the lockdown.

The nationwide protests and rioting have inadvertently adjudicated the issue: States cannot jail the law-abiding barber who wears a mask at work but allow the arsonist without a mask to roam the streets, burning with impunity.

There is mounting evidence that an array of federal officials had plotted to disrupt Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and his presidential transition, leaving Trump supporters furious.

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Remembering D-Day

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

D-Day was the largest amphibious invasion in history since King Xerxes’ 480 bc combined sea and land descent into Greece. The Americans, especially General George Marshall, had wanted to invade France as early as spring 1943, still confident from their World War I experience that they could land easily in France and within a year push back the German army to end the war. The British and their Dominions, mindful of disasters from the Somme to Dunkirk and Dieppe, were reluctant to land in France even in 1944. A good compromise was June 1944, when air and naval supremacy over and off the coast of France was achieved, sufficient landing craft were available, the Allies had learned a great deal about amphibious operations from North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and the Pacific, British and American strategic bombing was at last starting to pay off, and the huge Red Army had destroyed about 100 German divisions in the East.

For all the well-noted disasters on D-Day (e.g., air drops were often off target, naval shelling was too brief, intelligence about the Omaha Beach defenses and the Bocage was inadequate, the talented George S. Patton was left out of the planning and initial assault, etc.), the landings of some 150,00 troops were brilliantly conducted, and while costly (over 4,000 fatalities), were far less lethal than anticipated. And despite the subsequent six-week, post-D-Day stall due to fierce German resistance, difficult terrain, supply bottlenecks, the inability to take the Atlantic ports intact, and often sluggish generalship, by the end of July the Allied forces had at last broken out and were headed eastward at a phenomenal pace.

Joseph Stalin — who at one time or another would make non-aggression or alliance agreements with all the major Axis and Allied belligerents — had helped force a “second front” by unfairly deprecating the ongoing Anglo-American efforts in the Pacific, North Africa, Italy, the Battle of the Atlantic, the strategic bombing campaign, and massive Lend-Lease aid to the USSR. He had hoped that a second front in the West would tie up about 70 German divisions and ease his ongoing approach to Eastern Europe and Germany. It was likely that he had no idea that the Allied armies would cover nearly the same distance from the beaches to central Germany as from Moscow to Berlin in about a quarter of the time and at less than 20 percent of the casualties suffered by the Soviets.

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10 Rules for Postmodern Rioting

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

The peaceful protests against the terrible brutalization and death of George Floyd soon either themselves turned violent or, in many cases, were hijacked by Antifa operatives and opportunistic looters or both. It was certainly not as alleged a “small number” who destroyed swaths of New York, Santa Monica, Minneapolis, or Philadelphia.

After watching hours of such footage of mayhem and destruction, one can glean a few rules that the rioters apparently followed quite religiously. And they are often disconcerting if not bizarre. Here is a sample of 10.

Rule No. 1: Selfies 

In our culture of narcissism, rioters seemed intent on obsessing with their smartphones, often to capture their criminality with as many selfies as possible, as well as recording friends’ crimes in action. It was almost as if looting was envisioned as performance art.

Was the logic that there is always time to steal and burn, but not so much to capture oneself momentarily breaking and entering for posterity? Why would anyone take time to record the act of lighting up a store or kicking in a window? Is the postmodern assumption that when one posts these revolutionary acts on Facebook, some Hollywood talent agent in his Malibu home gym might spot the scene in cyberspace of shattering glass or defacing the Lincoln Monument and Skype his interest therein in a future actor? Are there stars born among the flames?

Rule No. 2: Masks

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Not-So-Retiring Retired Military Leaders

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Sometimes retired generals are deified. Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower won two presidential terms in landslide elections.

At other moments, war heroes such Generals Douglas MacArthur and Curtis LeMay were vilified as near insurrectionaries for their blistering attacks on sitting presidents.

In such a climate, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which became effective law in May 1951, prohibits active generals from disparaging their commander in chief — in the way perhaps MacArthur had bitterly pilloried then-president Harry Truman over the Korean War. Article 88 of the UCMJ makes it a crime to voice “contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State.”

But no one quite knows, and debate continues over, whether such codified prohibitions on free expression apply to retired generals receiving military pensions. Yet, given the spate of recent “contemptuous words against the President” leveled from retired generals, it seems that few worry about regulation AR 27-10 of the code: “Retired members of a regular component of the Armed Forces who are entitled to pay are subject to the UCMJ. (See Art. 2(a)(4), UCMJ.) They may be tried by courts-martial for offenses committed while in a retired status.”

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Strategika Issue #65

Taiwan: “The Struggle Continues”

Please read a new essay by my colleague, Gordon G. Chang in Strategika.

“Reunification is a historical inevitability of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” declared Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office in May, promoting the idea that Taiwan will be absorbed into the People’s Republic of China.

Read the full article here.

Recognize Taiwan

Please read a new essay by my colleague, Seth Cropsey in Strategika.

On 12 May, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters stated that his nation will support Taiwan’s inclusion in the World Health Assembly at the organization’s meeting the following week. The Assembly governs the World Health Organization, the international body tasked with fighting pandemics like COVID-19. China has excluded Taiwan from the WHA since 2017, after participating in sessions as an observer since 2009.

Read the full article here.

Taiwan

Please read a new essay by my colleagues, John Yoo and Robert J. Delahunty in Strategika.

As the confrontation between the United States and China intensifies, Taiwan will occupy a pivotal place. Since becoming the site of the exiled Nationalist Chinese government after the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) conquest of mainland China in 1949, the island state has become a flourishing and prosperous liberal democracy boasting the 21st-largest economy in the world.

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Donald Trump in Twitter’s Lilliput

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

Donald Trump has slumped badly in the polls over the last weeks. There are the usual suspects for his periodic dips: his cul de sac Twitter wars over Joe Biden, obsessing over the utter dreariness of Joe Scarborough’s past irrelevant life, the constant effects of a 93 percent negative media that blames him for everything from the economic collapse to the rioting in Minneapolis, and public frustration of nearly three months of enervating COVID-19 quarantines.

Yet despite the terrible news, the odd thing is that when Trump relaxes and allows even a bleak news cycle to play out, then his policies weather well and usually help him—regardless of the 24/7 negative media editorialization.  

Given the doom and gloom, few appreciate that beneath the bleak media veneer, there are some signs of growing optimism. The stock market is recovering on hunches that a vaccine is on the horizon and antiviral drugs may soon be appearing. Viral deaths are falling due to the synergy of warmer weather, a likely constantly mutating and attenuating virus, some growing herd immunities, more outdoor activity, and better hygiene and medical protocols.

Democrat and Expert Pessimists Fall Short

Expert pessimists who warned of millions of dead, of never-ending infection, of no vaccine in sight, of 3-4 per 100 of the infected dying of the virus were not just wrong, but wrong to the degree that the entire national quarantine may itself have been a tragic overreaction.

The restart states so far have not experienced the predicted viral disasters, and are slowly showing the way back to recovery. Large blue states like New York, California, and Illinois are increasingly in untenable positions. One cannot critique restart states as near treasonous when they alone are creating real wealth that can be redistributed to subsidize the blue-states’ own fetal-position edicts. 

Read the full article here

Strategika Issue #64

The Coronacrisis Will Simply Exacerbate the Geo-strategic Competition between Beijing and Washington

Please read a new essay by my colleague, Michael R. Austin in Strategika.

Even before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China late last year, the Sino-U.S. relationship had been in a period of flux. Since coming to office in 2017, President Trump made rebalancing ties with China the centerpiece of his foreign policy.

Read the full article here.

China Is Flailing in a Post-Coronavirus World

Please read a new essay by my colleague, Gordon G. Chang in Strategika.

Beijing’s propagandists believe the coronavirus pandemic will bring about the end of U.S. hegemony, “the American Century” as they call it. They are right in one narrow sense. The disease, which has reached almost every country and crippled societies across continents, has the feel of an epoch-ending event. What is likely to end, however, is not U.S. leadership.

Read the full article here.

China Lies, China Kills, China Wins

Please read a new essay by my colleague, Ralph Peters in Strategika.

As a plague compounds our political divisions, it’s essential to recall that the cause of the global carnage is not across the congressional aisle or parliamentary divide. This pandemic came courtesy of the breathtaking (literally, in this case) ruthlessness of the Chinese dictatorship, whose policies nurtured, hid, and fostered the spread of the COVID-19 virus currently killing our citizens by the tens of thousands and crippling economies worldwide.

Read the full article here.

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