Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

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.

Why Do These Wars Never End?

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review


Weaker enemies, by design, do not threaten stronger powers existentially; ‘proportionality’ means stalemate.


From the Punic Wars (264–146 b.c.) and the Hundred Years War (1337–1453) to the Arab–Israeli wars (1947–) and the so-called War on Terror (2001–), some wars never seem to end.


The dilemma is raised frequently given America’s long wars (Vietnam 1955–75) that either ended badly (Iraq 2003–11) or in some ways never quite ended at all (Korea 1950–53 and 2017–?; Afghanistan 2001–).


So what prevents strategic resolution? Among many reasons, two throughout history stand out.


One, such bella interrupta involve belligerents who are roughly equally matched. Neither side had enough of a material or spiritual edge (or sometimes the desire) to defeat, humiliate, and dictate terms to the beaten enemy. Think Rome and Carthage from 264 to 146. For 118 years, they fought three Punic Wars until greater Roman growth and vitality finally allowed it to dominate the Mediterranean and dictate terms on the North African coast, which finally resulted in the destruction of the Carthaginian Empire rather than another defeat of it. There was no fourth Punic War.


Certainly over the length of the Hundred Years’ War, England and France were often either too equally matched, or both lacked the necessary military clout to destroy their adversary’s army, march on the respective enemy capital, occupy it, and end both the material and political ability of the losing side to make war. Read more →

From an Angry Reader:


Victor Victor Victor…


Come on lad … With your education I really thought that you would know that “nuclear” is pronounced nu-cle-ar, NOT nuc-u-ler. That is the way “dub-ya” pronounced it and he could get away with it because he is an idiot. You are not! Please fix that …


H.C. Southern


Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear H.C. Southern,


I get about 5 emails a day like yours on diction (careless), dress (tasteless), and even baldness, wrinkles, and facial scars (unfixable), and many of such citations perhaps have merit. I will put yours in the “I’ll get to it someday” file with the others.


Dubya is not an idiot, unless Gore (the “crazed sex poodle” who invented the Internet) and Kerry (“Actually, I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against the $87 billion.”) were too, whose GPA records and test scores were no higher—or Obama, who apparently believed there were “57 states,” thought the Malvinas were the Maldives, Austrians spoke “Austrian”—and assumed corpsmen was pronounced “corpse-men.”


V.D. Hanson

America’s Indispensable Friends

By Victor Davis Hanson// National Review


As long as the U.S. remains good to weaker but humane states located in dangerous neighborhoods, it will remain great as well.


The world equates American military power with the maintenance of the postwar global order of free commerce, communications, and travel.


Sometimes American power leads to costly, indecisive interventions like those in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya that were not able to translate superiority on the battlefield into lasting peace.


But amid the frustrations of American foreign policy, it is forgotten that the United States also plays a critical but more silent role in ensuring the survival of small, at-risk nations. The majority of them are democratic and pro-Western. But they all share the misfortune of living in dangerous neighborhoods full of bullies.


These small nations are a far cry from rogue clients of China and Russia — theocratic Iran, autocratic North Korea, and totalitarian Venezuela — that oppress their own people and threaten their regions.


In the Middle East, there are two places that consistently remain pro-American: the nation of Israel and the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Both show a spirit and tenacity that so far have ensured their survival against aggressive and far larger neighbors. Both have few friends other than the United States. And both are anomalies. Israel is surrounded by Islamic neighbors. The ethnic Kurds live in the heart of the Arab Middle East. Quite admirably, the U.S. continues to be a patron of both.
Read more →


From an Angry Reader:

Read your article in the NR.

Bad research, poorly written, some facts and a lot of your very biased opinions.

In short it is mostly drivel.

I hope your other work has good foundation and is better researched.

You should take the trouble to visit the so called “rogue states” so that you can opine with a balanced and, more importantly, informed view.


Best Wishes



Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear Angry Reader Farhan,


It is not wise to allege bias and “bad research” and then not cite a single example of error to support your wild claims. Otherwise the impression is that you are emotionally invested rather than empirically guided. I have visited many of the rogue states of the world and my opinion of them was not changed by visits there—except in most cases to have become even more pessimistic. There is a reason why many from Iran and Pakistan seek entry into the U.S.; but rarely do U.S.-born citizens seek to become citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or the Islamic Republic of Iran. The nuclear technology of both countries is derivative of Western science and technology; both have violated international accords on non-proliferation; and both while called republics are not true consensual societies, given their theocratic natures.

Best Wishes


Let Down at the Top

by Victor Davis Hanson//National Review


Our Baby Boomer elites, mired in excess and safe in their enclaves, have overseen the decay of our core cultural institutions.


Since the Trojan War, generations have always trashed their own age in comparison to ages past. The idea of fated decadence and decline was a specialty of 19th-century German philosophy.


So we have to be careful in calibrating generations, especially when our own has reached a level of technology and science never before dreamed of (and it is not a given that material or ethical progress is always linear).


Nonetheless, the so-called Baby Boomers have a lot to account for — given the sorry state of entertainment, sports, the media, and universities.


The Harvey Weinstein episode revealed two generational truths about Hollywood culture.

One, the generation that gave us the free-love and the anything-goes morals of Woodstock discovered that hook-up sex was “contrary to nature.” Sexual congress anywhere, any time, anyhow, with anyone — near strangers included — is not really liberating and can often be deeply imbedded within harassment and ultimately the male degradation of women.


Somehow a demented Harvey Weinstein got into his head that the fantasy women in his movies who were customarily portrayed as edgy temptresses and promiscuous sirens were reflections of the way women really were in Los Angeles and New York — or the way that he thought they should be. It was almost as if Weinstein sought to become as physically repulsive and uncouth as possible — all the better to humiliate (through beauty-and-the-beast asymmetry) the vulnerable and attractive women he coerced.


Two, Weinstein reminded us, especially in his eleventh-hour medieval appeals for clemency by way of PC attacks on the NRA and Donald Trump, that mixing politics with art was, as our betters warned, always a self-destructive idea.
Read more →

“Stu Taylor on Business” Interviews VDH

Listen now to Stu Taylor interview VDH.

Remembering Stalingrad 75 Years Later

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review


It is now fashionable to demonize Russia, but most Americans have forgotten key aspects of 20th-century history, including the Russians’ fight to stop the march of Nazi Germany.


Seventy-five years ago this month, the Soviet Red Army surrounded — and would soon destroy — a huge invading German army at Stalingrad on the Volga River. Nearly 300,000 of Germany’s best soldiers would never return home. The epic 1942–43 battle for the city saw the complete annihilation of the attacking German 6th Army. It marked the turning point of World War II.


Before Stalingrad, Adolf Hitler regularly boasted on German radio as his victorious forces pressed their offensives worldwide. After Stalingrad, Hitler went quiet, brooding in his various bunkers for the rest of the war.


During the horrific Battle of Stalingrad, which lasted more than five months, Russian, American, and British forces also went on the offensive against the Axis powers in the Caucasus, in Morocco and Algeria, and on the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific.


Yet just weeks before the Battle of Stalingrad began, the Allies had been near defeat. They had lost most of European Russia. Much of Western Europe was under Nazi control. Axis armies occupied large swaths of North Africa. The Japanese controlled most of the Pacific and Asia, from Manchuria to Wake Island. Read more →

The Year That Changed History

Defining Ideas

Sometimes, just a few months can change the course of civilization. That’s what happened in 1942 when a series of decisive events changed the trajectory of World War II.

Before that turning point, Germany seemed destined for victory. In 1939 and 1940, Hitler’s army had won a series of border wars, giving the Fuhrer control over ten conquered European countries. By the autumn of 1940, Britain was the sole European power standing against Hitler—and it was being mercilessly bombed by the Luftwaffe. At the same time, Russia was colluding with Germany, and America remained isolationist. Hitler and his allies, who reigned over an area larger than the present European Union, believed that the European wars were over, for all purposes—and decisively won.

But suddenly in 1941, Hitler’s calm march to victory ended and the global inferno of what we now call World War II began. The surprise German invasion of the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941), the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Singapore (December 7-8, 1941), and the declaration of war by Germany and Italy on the United States (December 11, 1941) precipitated a level of violence and destruction never before seen in world history. Because of the global expansion of the dormant European border wars, the conflict became the deadliest event in human history, with about 27,000 soldiers and civilians lost each day of the six-year conflict, leading to a total of 60 million deaths.

Until late 1942, the three Axis powers believed that they could quickly win their war against the new global alliance of Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States—despite being vastly outmatched in both population and industrial capacity. But the Axis seemed invincible. The new Third Reich extended from the English Channel to the Volga River and from the Arctic Circle to the North African desert. The war had been afoot since the mid-1930s and the Nazis were among the most battle-hardened soldiers in the world. Japan has expanded its even larger so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere from the Indian Ocean to Alaska and from the Mongolian border to Wake Island. The Japanese had been at war in China even longer than Germany had in Europe. Read more →

California, the Rhetoric of Illegal Immigration, and the Perils of Ignoring Thucydides’s Warning

By Victor Davis Hanson // Eureka

Vocabulary changes always reflect the agendas of a political debate.

The fight over illegal immigration plays out by altering words and their meanings. Take the traditional rubric “illegal alien.” The English has been clear and exact for nearly a century: illegal alien (cf. Latin alienus) was a descriptive term for any foreigner who crossed the US border without coming through customs to obtain proper legal sanction.

Illegal alien, then, was a politically neutral, exact, and descriptive term: one used by both the Supreme Court and Internal Revenue Service.

But open-borders advocates did not like the adjective and noun because they accurately emphasized both illegality and the foreignness of those arriving into the United States from another country.

What followed was a slow Orwellian devolution. Illegal alien initially was reinvented as “undocumented alien,” as if the violation became one of simply forgetting (rather than never having) one’s supposed legal documents at home. But the noun “alien” still implied arrivals were somehow separate from US citizens by virtue of their illegal resident status. So next the noun changed to immigrant, as if undocumented immigrant gave the impression that forgetful visitors had just strayed innocently across the border.

But why need a discriminating adjective at all?

So a mere immigrant has sometimes replaced an undocumented immigrant, as if there were now no real difference between coming into the United States legally or illegally. Being against illegal immigration was now seen as being against lawful immigration itself.

Finally, why prejudice the immigrant by suggesting that he or she came from another place into the United States–as if this individual were some sort of intruder who thought America was somehow preferable to Yucatan or Guatemala?

As a result, migrant is now used without any -in or -ex prefix denoting direction: 11–15 million illegal immigrants were perhaps just migrants who often came and went in both nonjudgmental directions in the manner of other travelers.

The deliberate inference is that the impediments of laws, borders, and walls were unnatural and illegal, not the travelers themselves who passed to and fro between. The fault then belongs to the host, who wrongly felt that his home was his own and guests subject to his invitation. Read more →

Don’t Forget Middle East Madness

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review


Thanks to the Iran deal, the mullahs can buy nearly all the weapons they need.


There is currently a real Asian pivot as the president completes one of the longest presidential tours of Asia in memory. Three carrier battle groups are in the West Pacific.


America at home is in one of its periodic frenzies — did Ben Affleck grab the behinds of actresses, and is Kevin Spacey a pedophile or a pederast, or both? — as it snores through existential crises such as $20 trillion in debt, or the sale to the Russians of 20 percent of its quite limited domestic uranium reserves.


In contrast, Americans lately have gladly almost forgotten about the Middle East, except for occasional updates on the systematic destruction of the once “jayvee” ISIS.


They are certainly relieved that Fallujah is no longer in the news much. It is a relief that no one catches any more Al Jazeera clips of ISIS cowards burning, drowning, decapitating, blowing up, and hanging women and children. More likely, ISIS jihadists are bedraggled, soiled, and drifting about asking for clemency from their betters.


There is no more official American talking head assuring us that the jihad is a personal journey, that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is largely secular, that the red line took care of all of Assad’s WMD, that terrorism is mostly a right-wing, returning-American-vet thing, that man-caused disasters and workplace violence are scarier than a young mass murderer from the Middle East screaming “Allahu Akbar” as he runs down, shoots, or stabs unarmed Westerners. Read more →

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