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.

One-Eyed-Jack Law

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Robert Mueller’s legal team may write a damning report on Trump’s ethics, based mostly on flipping minor former business associates of Trump’s and transient campaign officials by threatening them with long prison sentences.

So far, we know that the U.S. government decided to intervene in a political campaign to help one candidate and to smear the other — under the pretext of Russian “collusion.” And so it hired or made use of spies and informants including Hank Greenberg, Stefan Halper, Felix Sater, and others to contact Trump campaign officials to catch them in supposed collusion traps. It enlisted the help of foreign intelligence agencies, specifically the British and Australians. It misled FISA courts into granting warrants to spy on Americans and, post factum, threatened long prisons sentences with those surveilled and interviewed. And as a result, it has so far found no collusion but may well find some misleading statements in hundreds of hours of testimonies from the likes of Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and perhaps Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone.

Mueller cannot fulfill the hype of the past 18 months, which forecast that the “all-stars,” the “dream-team,” and the Mueller “army” would make short work of the supposedly buffoonish Trump by proving that he colluded with Russia to swing an election. Collusion, remember, was hyped as doing what the Logan Act, the emoluments clause, the 25th Amendment, impeachment, media frenzy, and assassination-chic rhetoric had not.

Read the full article here.

Angry Reader 12-03-2018

From An Angry Reader:

This was the worst piece of historical analysis I’ve ever read in any halfway respectable publication. Please ask your alma mater for a refund on all degrees earned. There isnt (sic) enough time in the day to go through all the stupidity you posted, but I will point out what is perhaps the biggest error – your hot take on Brest-Litovsk. There was no sense of internationalism or any ideological factor that caused the reds to sign that treaty – it was the simple fact that they were fighting a civil war and did not need to fight Germany, AH and the Whites.

Craig Johnson

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Dear Angry Reader Craig Johnson,

Why all the ad hominem invective? Let your argument speak for itself without the resort to slurs and smears. The tired rhetoric trope that “there is not enough time to list all the errors” usually means there are no errors. You confirm that fact when you list only one—and the supposed “biggest”—which unfortunately reveals your own historical ignorance.

You write:

There was no sense of internationalism or any ideological factor that caused the reds to sign that treaty – it was the simple fact that they were fighting a civil war and did not need to fight Germany, AH and the Whites.”

My take is not “hot,” whatever that silly usage means, but is historically accurate and, in fact, non-controversial. Ideology—specifically the naive Marxist idea of an anticipated global and internationalist communism making the European nation state irrelevant—most certainly was the chief factor in the Bolsheviks’ disastrous signing of such an otherwise humiliating peace—one that was immediately seen as an abject betrayal of their Western allies and allowed the transference of at least 500,000 troops to the Western front.

Many in the nascent Soviet originally and vainly felt that they might at least drag out the humiliating negotiations for weeks in some pathetic expectation that their war-weary Western European “comrades” might in the meantime likewise revolt when learning that the war was ending in the East and a communist revolution was ascendant, and thereby force an end to the war in the West as well and join a communist continental take-over.

A desperate Lenin, a zealot beholden to Marxist ideology, had demanded of the Central Committee that it sign the “humiliating” peace in order to save the “world revolution.”

Your point about the communists’ need to be free to concentrate on the whites and not lose more blood and treasure to Germany and Austria-Hungary is banal and yet of course has the force of nullifying your own adolescent argument: Lenin and the communists were not nationalists, but ideologues, and global ones at that. And they felt confident in the future of a world communist revolution—but only if ensured by its beginning in a viable Soviet Union relieved of conflict, a surrender judged far more important to the international communist agenda than any worry about the individual fate of the old nation-state of Russia. Your own use of “reds” for Soviet communists is itself an internationalist ideological term and concedes that the Russian negotiators saw themselves in 1918 first as committed communist comrades and second, if at all, as Russian nationalists.

Ignorance when coupled with arrogant vitriol is a regrettable.

Victor Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson On Contemporary American Society

Victor Davis Hanson // Hoover Institution

Traditional values, whether manifested in public policy or contemporary culture, are besieged in today’s America but can still be found in the right places, says Victor Davis Hanson.

Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. His focus is on classics and military history. Last year, Hanson won the 2018 Edmund Burke Award, which honors people who have made major contributions to the defense of Western civilization. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Case for Trump, and most recently The Second World Wars.

Hanson was recently interviewed on the subject of traditional culture, public policy, and American culture, which he also wrote about in a National Review essay.

Where in today’s American society can parents look to find traditional culture—art, literature, the humanities—for their children?

The progressive agenda has largely captured popular culture, the media, entertainment, sports, and the university, so one must look to traditional atolls and castles—formally, colleges like Hillsdale, for institutional support the Bradley Foundation, cultural and political journals such as The New Criterion or American Greatness, as well as networks of traditional regions, communities, families, and organizations. Home schooling, traditional religion, and charter schools offer refuges—again, we are talking about salvaging a hallowed Western culture that is either rejected, ignored, or defamed by the majority today.

Read the full article here.

Does ‘Make X Great Again’ Ever Happen in History?

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

The short answer: Sometimes.

Here’s one example. By 527 A.D., the Eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople seemed fated to collapse like the West had a near century prior. The Persian Sassanids were gobbling up Byzantine lands in the east. Almost all of old Rome west of Greece had already been lost.

A growing and unsustainable administrative state exercised near control of Constantinople. Christianity was splintering into irrelevant factionalism. The law was a selective mess.

Justinian was certainly an unlikely emperor: an outsider of peasant stock from the northern frontier, an Eastern Latin rather than Greek speaker (and likely the last native Latin-speaking emperor), who would marry an infamous but shrewd courtesan, Theodora.

Yet in some 38 years of sometimes brutal rule, Justinian through the leadership of his brilliant generals, Belisarius and Narses, stabilized the eastern borders. He reclaimed for eastern Rome North Africa, Sicily, much of Italy, and some of Spain, often through small, well-organized armies and prudent alliances. He reformed the bureaucracy, systematized Roman law (Codex Justinianus), and built the magnificent Christian cathedral of Hagia Sophia—the largest church in the world for a thousand years.

Read the full article here.

Is There a 51 Percent Solution for Trump?

Victor Davis Hanson //  American Greatness

President Trump’s challenges are not really his economic policies and foreign affairs agendas. For the most part, they are supported by the American people and are resulting in prosperity at home and security abroad.

The economy continues to deliver near-record-low unemployment, wage gains, strong growth and unmatched energy production.

No nation can remain sovereign and secure with insecure borders. There are few ways to stop massive illegal immigration other than building a wall, insisting on employer sanctions and recalibrating legal immigration to be measured, diverse and meritocratic.

For all the hysteria over Trump’s foreign policy, many observers quietly concede that the U.S. is far tougher on Vladimir Putin and Russia now than Obama was in 2016: stronger sanctions, more help to the Ukrainians and greater NATO expenditures.

Read the full article here.

Putin attacks Ukraine again to boost his popularity at home

Please read this piece by my colleague Paul Roderick Gregory in The Hill

Over the weekend, the Russian navy fired upon and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels, wounding multiple sailors in the process. In addition, a Russian ship has been positioned to block entrance from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.

Ukraine has called for an emergency U.N. session and has voted to partially implement martial law throughout Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive move will intensify Russia’s international isolation as a pariah — but Putin had to create a diversion to promote his narrative of Russia’s encirclement.

He hopes that this action will restore his public opinion ratings on which his regime’s legitimacy rests.

Putin was elected against nominal opposition to a fourth term as president of the Russian Federation in March. Barring the unexpected, he will serve out his final (according to Russia’s constitution) six-year term, which will end in 2024 when he is age 74. Counting his “hiatus” as prime minister, Putin will likely match Joseph Stalin’s quarter-century of rule.

Read the full article here.

The Trump Paradox

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Today, Jim Geraghty writes snidely:

VDH writes, “The hostile reaction to Trump is a sort of proof of his success.” Does it follow, then, that if Trump was widely loved, it would be proof of his failure?”

Geraghty creates a false either/or binary. The hostile reaction against Trump does largely arise from his controversial agendas that are proving for the most part on the economy and foreign policy to be successful. And yet it is simultaneously true that if he were to moderate his positions and stick with the status quo, he might be more popular — and yet I think less effective.

Geraghty also did not read carefully what I wrote. The opposite of “the hostile reaction” as “sort of proof of his success” is not “widely loved” and “proof” (absolute as opposed to sort of proof) of his failure.”

But aside from either Trump’s diehard supporters or critics, the larger point of the column was a disconnect — that the upswing in the economy and restoring deterrence abroad, counterintuitively, seem to free voters to focus on a variety of issues less resonant in recessionary or wartime conditions. And that paradox does not necessarily benefit Trump.

Read the full article here.

How Did Shane End Up?

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

In director George Stevens’s classic 1953 Western, Shane, a mysterious stranger and gunfighter in buckskin with a violent past, rides into the middle of the late-1880s Wyoming range wars between cattle barons and homestead farmers. The community-minded farmers may have the law on their side, but the open-range cattlemen have the money and the gun-toting cowboys.

Shane enters the mess but decides to settle down, incognito, with a farm family, shed his past as a hired killer, and begin leading a settled and honest frontier life.

Almost immediately, however, he senses his tragic predicament. The West is not yet so civilized. The farmers, the future of civilization, hardly possess the gun-fighting ability to survive against the ruthless cattlemen and their hired guns.

So a reformed Shane is insidiously brought into the fray, as he figures out how to aid his new hosts while, at least at first, playing by their rules of civilized behavior.

Shane ultimately accepts that his second chance life is not sustainable. He learns that his newfound friends, the sodbusters, lack the skills to survive against Wilson, the cattlemen’s psychopathic hired killer.

Read the full article here.

The Costs of Presidential Candor

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

Predictably, Donald Trump was attacked both by the establishment and the media as “crude,” “unpresidential,” and “gratuitous” for a recent series of blunt and graphic statements on a variety of current policies. Oddly, the implied charge this time around was not that Trump makes up stuff, but that he said things that were factual but should not be spoken.

Trump’s tweets and ex tempore editorials may have been indiscreet and politically unwise, but they were also mostly accurate assessments. That paradox revisits the perennial question that is the hallmark of the Trump presidency of what exactly is presidential crudity and what are the liabilities of presidential candor?

Concerning the catastrophic California Camp Fire (150,000 acres) and the Woolsey conflagration (100,000 acres), which in turn followed prior devastating California fires in spring and summer of 2018 (perhaps charring 1 million acres in all), Trump tweeted: “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

Read the full article here.

Did 1968 Win the Culture War?

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Fifty years ago this year, the ’60s revolution sought to overturn American customs, traditions, ideology, and politics.

The ’60s radicals eventually grew older, cut their hair, and joined the establishment. Most thought their revolution had fizzled out in the early 1970s without much effect, as Americans returned to “normal.”

But maybe the ’60s, not the silent majority, won out after all. The world a half-century later looks a lot more like 1968 and what followed than what preceded it.

Most of the political and cultural agenda from that turbulent period — both the advances and the regressions — has long been institutionalized. The military draft, for good or bad, has remained defunct. There is greater transparency in politics, fewer smoke-filled rooms. Disabled children, once ostracized or dismissively labeled “retarded,” are now far better integrated into society and treated more ethically as special-needs kids. The rights of women, racial minorities, and the LGBT community are now widely accepted.

Yet lifestyles have been radically altered — and often not for the good. Before the late ’60s, most Americans married before having children; afterwards, not so much. One-parent households are now far more common.

Read the full article here.

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