Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Disasters at Home and Abroad

From ISIS at Ramadi to riots at home, nothing is going right.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online
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About 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.

24 Thoughts on “Disasters at Home and Abroad

  1. Eva Firla on May 26, 2015 at 9:10 am said:

    Hello Mr. Hanson, this is an impressive total of problems, however, I do not see any solution. Or suggestions?

    • Jim McNab on May 26, 2015 at 9:32 pm said:

      Eva Firia –
      You ask for a solution and/or suggestions from Professor Hanson. It is not his duty, nor does he have the obligation to produce any. President Obama has a team to perform the duties you petition for. The President, on the recommendations of his advisors, chooses to make the wrong decisions, or worse, no decisions on many of the issues pointed out in Professor Hanson’s article. Mr. Hanson’s critique of the President is within his First Amendment rights. You would do well to ask those who are in President Obama’s inner circle about those issues pointed out in the article. In doing so, you could also address the ineptitude of those members of President Obama’s team who, apparently, are making poor recommendations to the President.

  2. Proudly Unaffiliated on May 26, 2015 at 9:28 am said:

    Obama remains America’s greatest enemy as he continues to “fundamentally transform” us from a Constitutional republic to a third world totalitarian mess. The rest of the world are along for this hellish ride.

    • Scott Wiggins on May 27, 2015 at 10:43 am said:

      Just as they did during the Vietnam conflict, our socialists (communist lite) commonly referred to as democrats will do what is necessary to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. While many, if not all of us see Iraqi Freedom as a mistake, the fact remains that we won. Bush’s leadership and our brave combat troops destroyed al Qaeda in Iraq and subdued the country. Unfortunately, a democrat administration followed and all those hard fought gains, and sacrifices have been squandered in a few short years. Democrats will do anything including collaborating with the enemy to embolden and empower our enemies. Their desire for power and money trumps all else. Iraq is a lost cause now and the suffering of the Iraqi people is in large part, our fault. Funny, the Pentagon blamed the loss of Ramadi on Iraqi troops lacking the will to fight. Who is left to fight after thirty years of war beginning with the Iran Iraq war? Millions of Iraqi troops have died over the last three decades. And now, they have been abandoned by their latest conqueror, us. I wouldn’t fight either…

  3. Carl on May 26, 2015 at 10:14 am said:

    Great article! And some of the pictures are very appropriate: a disgusted looking POTUS, a statue of 2 women(?) weeping over a document (the constitution?) of our country, a laughing (“what difference does it make!?) Democratic candidate. So appropriate for this timely article, headed and footed by Old Glory!

  4. Well said, Professor. I would like to think that humans would promptly incorporate inconsistent data into their thinking but I cannot. Even today’s blizzard of disturbing facts on each and every front does not register.

    A radio talk show host some years back took a call from a fellow whose wife had left him. She obviously objected to his drinking but it still didn’t seem to register on a deeper level of his consciousness. The host told him that her leaving him “was like a kuh-LEW.” Meaning “clue.”

    Similarly, even just one of the matters you discuss ought to cause a person of reasonable intelligence to begin to discard any illusion that all is well with us. Rather, Franklin’s “Experience keeps a dear school but a fool will learn in no other” seems to be the order of the day. Solzhenitsyn’s version of that was “the pitiless crowbar of events.” Ten tons of reason, analysis, and remonstrance seem not to be up to the task or waking up the majority. The entire West is committed to utter madness. Sweden is only slightly more lunatic than all the other countries.

    Oh well!

  5. sir:

    historically all of this befuddlement is a run up to war.

    sooner or later, war is the answer.

    john jay

  6. David P on May 26, 2015 at 11:10 am said:

    As always, right on Mr Hanson. The only thing I see as positive is in the ME, with Obama waffling about what to do and not committing any ground forces, Saudi Arabia and others realize they need to step up and do their part or they will be toast.

    Everything else is exactly as you say, a total disaster! God help America.

  7. DenisO on May 26, 2015 at 12:25 pm said:

    When the current generation is purposefully uneducated, they are left only with their “herd instincts” to judge what is happening. Pain becomes the only teacher they will respond to, and that is exactly what Solzhenitsyn meant by the “the pitiless crowbar of events”. So simple and true in just a few words. Bravo.

    On the Middle East, one author, an academic former adviser and supporter of the Administration, said, on a panel discussion, that Obama felt Iran was more reliable than Saudi Arabia, the home of most of the 9/11 killers, and the source of their, and most, terrorists’ funding. He said 90% of Iranians love America and only a “small veneer” of tyrannical leaders hate the U.S. That sounded rational, but ignored Obama’s vast record of diplomatic failures, which only fools and people who lie to themselves could do.

    As a Viet Nam veteran, I see the desire to re-enter Iraq as a mistake based on frustration. We’ve sacrificed enough of our children trying to “nation build” a culture that loves its 1400 year old religious war. There can never be a real Caliphy to fear, while Muslims are split with hatred, so I believe they are only a serious nuisance to us, rather than a serious threat.
    Regards,

  8. Donald DaCosta on May 26, 2015 at 12:46 pm said:

    Mr. Hanson hits the critical points but who is paying attention? On Fox News, with Harris Faulkner, Pat Caddell, well known democrat and political strategist, said America is becoming tribalist. Meaning, I think, that the American voter makes choices based on political (tribal) affiliation only. Personal experience, reputation, character, integrity, honesty or lack thereof are a mere distraction, irrelevant and not worthy of consideration.

  9. zygote314 on May 26, 2015 at 3:03 pm said:

    My father was an old hippie from the 1960’s. He had gone from being the president of the Young Republicans at college and a fervent supporter of Barry Goldwater to a self-made guru of a buddhist layman’s organization. Along the way, he had indulged heavily in the hedonist pleasures of free love and mind altering substances which had been such a strong lure to so many people of his post-war generation. He claimed to be looking for enlightenment, but “turning on, tuning in and dropping out” had really become a convenient excuse to blow off responsibility to your family and escape into Neverland. For some reason, whenever the doobie was being passed around and he would extrapolate about this and that, people listened. He was charismatic and intelligent (he had originally intended on going to law school) so was a natural fit for leading impressionable young Americans searching for answers from the counter-culture. By the 1980’s he had become middle-aged, divorced and bewildered. He had been kicked out of the Buddhist organization for having affairs with the junior members, of whom some were married, and for trying to steer the organization in a different direction. The Sixties were passé and no longer cool, and he had had to adjust to a different world. He lived on an island where he tried to make a living selling real estate and writing code. He had been absent during my childhood because my mother was secretly afraid of him. When I was toddler, he had told her on more than one occasion that I ought to experience the wonderful drug LSD. When later as an adult I confronted him about this, he denied it, and said he would never have given me an illicit substance. I hope he wasn’t lying to me.

    I lived with him briefly after high school. During this time, many of his old hippie friends would stop by to hang and smoke pot. The conversation was often political and usually about how Reagan was such disaster. I guess having to live drug free and function like a responsible adult was a real drag. They seemed oblivious to what Liberalism had brought, ie: the debilitating welfare state, a stagnant economy, a foreign policy in turmoil etc. I remember one of them saying with such conviction and while lamenting the good old days of the 1960’s that the next time we have revolution, we won’t screw it up. At the time, I thought what he was saying was just the THC induced birdseed of some loser, but today, I fear this prognostication may very well come true. Unlike the electorate of 1980, a large segment of today’s voters seem fairly complacent and all too willing to put up with ineffective liberal policies that keep piling on debt and whose effects today foretell a much bigger misery tomorrow, as long as they get what they want today. But even more frightening, is the placid indifference many show toward the corruption of our institutions and our leaders, of whom, many are showing strong inclinations toward skirting the rule of law in order to implement their ideology and maintain their grip on power.

    Let’s hope that whatever “rough beast whose hour has come round at last slouches to Bethlehem to be born” isn’t wearing a pants suit and entering the Oval office.

  10. WRFREE on May 26, 2015 at 6:05 pm said:

    Sadly, it is true we as a nation are dismally adrift in trying to come to grips with the grave problems going around in our troubled world.

    I’d think it quite apparent that our representatives in power are without skill in navigating the United States of America in trying to deal with its difficult global relationships. I see no Pericles at the U.S. tiller but rather a sick eagle looking at the sky lost within an illness that saps its energy in confronting our enemies. I hope we wake up ….and quick.

  11. El Terry'ble on May 26, 2015 at 11:22 pm said:

    The fact of the matter is that as bad as things are, and they are bad, they can be solved. It may take an economic collapse, or the ongoing chaos and conflagration in the Middle East, Asia, or Europe to coalesce in to World War III, so as to focus the attention of the West, but we have no other choice but to resist and carry on as our forefathers would have. As American’s we owe it to the children of men like Chris Kyle and the fallen war dead who sacrificed all to carry on the fight. People like Dr. Hanson have spent great portions of their lives trying to bring knowledge to ignorant people, like me, and are national treasures, but I think we’ve reached a point were we must set aside informing and start preparing for what looks like a dark future ahead for America and for the world. We will need great minds like Dr. Hanson, but I think we may be in for a time where the qualities of men that are shunned and disdained in times of peace and prosperity, become a prerequisite for survival in the moments of desperation when nations erupt.

    It is times like these that make me glad I’m a Christian. No matter what happens, I know my side wins in the end. We should count ourselves fortunate to have been deemed by the Lord to exist at a time of such consequence for our Nation, and as American’s have the opportunity to defend her against usurpation and defilement.

  12. Karl Horst on May 27, 2015 at 3:55 am said:

    America is not falling apart any faster than it always has been. Go back a few decades and recall the Watt riots, Kent State shootings, Vietnam and Watergate. Go back another few decades and you’ll find the Great Depression, Tammony Hall, and the invention of the IRS and the Federal Reserve.

    For over a century, Internally and externally, America has really never been what thinks it is or claims to be. While it chants the mantra of “world leadership”, who asked for it to lead anyone in the first place when you can hardly lead yourself?

    You boast of the American Dream and a high standard of living. Which has turned out to be nothing more than a debt-based nightmare. You scoff at “lazy” Europeans while you work two jobs, earn less, have fewer vacations and an unaffordable health care program. Well, at least you can depend on your Social Security program for retirement, right?

    Yes, a big military and lots of flag waving is nice. But like Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments, even the mighty US military really can’t claim to have really done anything significant since WW2; Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Somalia and Iraq.Thousands of dead US soldiers, billions in wasted tax dollars, for what?

    For a what was once a Christian nation (according to president Obama, you’re not anymore) you fail on a national scale to heed a simple truth right out of the Bible: Matthew 7:5 “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

    • zygote314 on May 28, 2015 at 2:01 pm said:

      @Karl

      Actually, America is in grave danger of economic collapse, as we have over $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities and are running $500 billion annual deficits which are being piled on to our staggering $18 trillion national debt. The status quo is unsustainable. These problems are new to America and haven’t been around since Tammany Hall.

      The causes of the Watts riots, ie: decades of institutionalized discrimination in employment, education and housing which created poverty and despair, have nothing to do with Al Sharpton’s manufactured “war on black males” by supposedly homicidal, racist white cops. These communities are being deliberately torn apart by him and other like minded community organizers (if you get my drift) because they are trying to increase black voter turnout and see violence and property destruction as bargaining chips for future government largess, ahem, I mean redistribution of wealth. Since the 1960’s, we have spent trillions of dollars in transfer payments to address poverty on such things as AFDC, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, Headstart and Pell grants; we have implemented Affirmative Action (AA) programs – which was the right thing to do in the 1960’s in order to help blacks break through the color barrier – that have morphed into legalized discrimination against not only Whites, but high achieving Asians as well; and we have rewritten Federal case law in order to make AA and other dubiously constitutional laws legal.

      The Kent State tragedy was indeed a terrible day for America. Two of the four students cut down were exercising their free speech rights and the other two were merely walking to class. But we should also remember the riots and arsons that led lead up to this flashpoint, and the fact that local authorities were trying to protect their community from a violent mob of communists and outlaw bikers that were causing violence and mayhem in their streets. Today, many colleges won’t even allow ROTC programs on campus, and the idea that Kent State could be repeated on our heavily left-wing biased campuses is laughable.

      Watergate was a botched, third-rate burglary, and Nixon was caught redhanded trying to obstruct justice when he attempted to get L. Patrick Gray, the deputy head of the CIA, to cover it up. But our institutions were stronger back then, as he was nearly impeached for his malfeasance and was told politely to go to hell when he asked IRS chief Johnny Mack Walters to audit his political enemies. Compare this response to Lois Lerner’s disgusting abuse of power and the near unanimous failure to investigate her by the Democrat party.

      Vietnam was a different too. Back then we still had a draft which forced people into the military who didn’t want to be there. Today, our armed services are made up of an all volunteer force of some of the finest men and women this country has ever produced. Our cause in Vietnam was just, and was an extension of the Truman Doctrine of containment that every president since him had supported and for which the free world benefitted (Europe are you listening?). But the way our politicians fought the war, however, was wrong. We never invaded the North and didn’t stop the Ho Chi Minh trail supply line until late in the war. We waged a war of attrition that eroded public support and needlessly cost thousands of American lives.

      I’m assuming you’re European, from your loaded statements about America. But before you get too carried away with your self-righteous finger pointing and accusations of American hypocrisy you should remember a few facts: (1) since we rescued you from the fascist Death Camp ideology of Nazi Germany, the world has been a relatively stable place, at least until recently; (2) we spent billions through the Marshall plan rebuilding your countries after the war, a debt for which we largely forgave; (3) through NATO, we took on the lion’s share of the cost and responsibility for protecting you from Josef Stalin and the communist threat. Which is why you can afford to pay for your welfare state and take your long vacations, as we pay for your security; and (4) the sacrifices we have made in such places as Korea, where we lost over 30,000 lives, were made to ensure that the light liberty is not extinguished. You might want to remember that the next time you get the urge to trash the US.

  13. Rick Bonsteel on May 27, 2015 at 6:46 am said:

    History should damn Obama as the worst thing to happen to the United States in a long time — although in a lot of ways he’s just reflecting the zeitgeist. But a certain number of historians — and Obama himself, if he had any interest in or knowledge of history whatsoever — will see him as the modern Diocletian, making the necessary changes to slow the decline. Here’s a suggestive quotation from A Survey of European Civilization, by Ferguson and Bruun: “…hitherto the old forms of senatorial government had been preserved. Diocletian abandoned all such fictions….”

  14. Rocco Pirro on May 27, 2015 at 7:05 am said:

    “But we can be tranquil and thankful
    And proud for man’s been endowed
    With a mushroom shaped cloud

    And we know for certain that
    Some lovely day someone will set the spark off
    And we will all be blown away

    They’re rioting in Africa
    There’s strife in Iran
    What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man”

    Sheldon Harnick-1958

  15. It takes 300 to 700 days to build a custom home… only one to burn, flood, explode, bomb or smash it.

  16. WRFREE on May 27, 2015 at 8:04 am said:

    Nothing like handing over the initiative to our enemies. At this time, I don’t believe our representatives are very skillful in their handling of some grave global problems we currently face. They need to do better in problem-so,vying.

    I see no modern day Pericles to guide the ship of state. Rather the great US eagle looks sick with an illness that presents a perception of weakness and confusion. I hope we wake up soon. We are not flying so high now.

  17. THE OLD WAY

    There are two essential approaches in responding to the chaotic notions that “the center of the culture is not holding.” The lions and tigers and bears, oh my! – fear based approach being one reality eloquently set forth above as the good Professor seems to have done.

    This approach is not assigned exclusively to any one political party even as the evidence used suggests it must.

    Lions and tigers and bears express instead the nonpartisan state of current affairs that the people have come to realize after years of constant war, both main parties are driven by the same howling corporate masters in a cancerous corporatocracy culture that clings to power through constant war for the benefit of the few who are bankrupt of a vision for governing – right and left.

    AND THE OTHER WAY

    The other approach is to reject fear, face our nemeses with understanding and forgiveness, defang the beast and release it and us from its howls of aimless confusion.

    Nationalize the Federal Reserve, call in all Federal Reserve Notes and issue Treasury-Direct US Dollars.

    Whether these dollars are soundly managed fiat currency or transitionally disciplined gold-backed dollars are not as relevant as the act of nationalizing the Fed. This action will start a virtuous life cycle that cascades prosperity among people as we find them. Pivoting between China and Russia, oh my! — will transform away from existing game rules of “I win. You lose,” to “Trickle Through Prosperity & Trade.”

    So far I have found only one 2016 U.S. Presidential candidate who engages this discussion along with many other fearless topics, who seems to retain a vision for governing. Facebook “Andy2016!” Andrew D Basiago.

  18. zygote314 on May 28, 2015 at 2:39 pm said:

    The Second Coming

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer,
    Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world;
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    the ceremony of innocence is drowned.
    The best lack all conviction (are you listening John Boehner and Mitch Mcconnell?)
    While the worst are full of passionate intensity (Al Sharpton, anyone?)

    Surely, some revelation is at hand?
    Surely, the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming, hardly are those out
    When a vast image of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight; somewhere in sands of the desert
    A shape of lion body and head of a man,
    A gaze as blank and pitiless as the sun
    Moves its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again, but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep have been vexed to nightmare, by a rocking cradle.
    And what rough beast, whose hour has come round at last
    Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

    – Yeats –

  19. Karl Horst on May 29, 2015 at 6:33 am said:

    In respose to zygote314: “I’m assuming you’re European, from your loaded statements about America. But before you get too carried away with your self-righteous finger pointing and accusations of American hypocrisy you should remember a few facts”

    1) The “until recently” is a nice way of saying “until the USA put its boots on ground where they didn’t belong”. And you’ve been doing it ever since WW2 with questionable results.

    2) The Marshall plan was for all of Europe, not just Germany. Of the $13 Billion divided across the European counties, West Germany only received 11%. Yet the German people still managed to build an economy greater than that of the former British empire not to mention all of France, Italy and Spain combined. And we did that ourselves. And don’t kid yourself about Stalin and the old USSR rolling across Europe. They were never a real threat to Europe despite American Cold Ware rhetoric. They couldn’t even feed themselves and even their industry was stolen (piece by piece) from Germany. Do you know anyone who owns a Russian made product even today? I thought not.

    3) Long vacations and health insurance has always been provided by our companies. It has nothing to do with our government. Since the early days of Siemens and Krupps at the turn of the 1900’s, German industrialists knew if you take care of the workers, they’ll take care of the company. Pretty basic really. Maybe if your industry’s were less Upton Sinclaire’s “The Jungle”, you wouldn’t have to deal with Obama-care a hundred years later.

    4) And what did you get for those 30,000 lives? A country who’s industry helped to displace Ford, GM, RCA and Westinghouse with KIA, Hyundai, Gold Star and Samsung. Well done! And what about Africa, Cambodia, North Korea and all those other places where the “light of freedom” has been snuffed out? Are you planning to go there too? Good luck with that.

    There’s no shame in learning from other people, or recognizing that other ideas might actually be better than your own. Especially where things like a free education, affordable healthcare, a strong economy and low unemployment and long holidays are working quite well. Stop wrapping yourself in your flag and wearing faded laurels. It’s polemic and contributes nothing to the reality that a once great country has been brought low through its own arrogance and lack of leadership.

    Admitting a there’s problem is the first step in solving it.

  20. zygote314 on June 1, 2015 at 2:02 am said:

    1) Actually, it means until Obama failed to get a routine Status of Forces agreement in Iraq which would have have ensured its security and prevented ISIS from turning large swaths of that country into a festering hell-hole of beheading, immolation and rape. I could also go on and on about other Obama foreign policy failures such as red-lines drawn in Syria, Libya, the clownish reset with Russia that has only invited more aggression against her neighbors, the wobbly stance against China as she reasserts herself in the Pacific, the abandonment of our allies in the ME, most notably Israel, etc.. If Obama is consistent about anything, it’s his determination to remake the post-war world order that has provided 70 years of peace and stability. This world order was essential to the peace and prosperity of Europe in general, and of Germany in particular.

    2) “we spent billions rebuilding your COUNTRIES (my caps) after the war.” I think I made it clear in my last post that I was talking about all of Europe, and not just Germany.

    Your recovery is indeed to be admired, but to say “don’t kid yourself about Stalin” and the Soviet threat to Europe during the Cold War is utter lunacy. After WWII, the Soviet Union installed puppet communist governments in all of the countries they “liberated” from the retreating Wehrmacht and turned them into what became better known as the Soviet Bloc, or as Churchill called it, “the Iron Curtain.” The Soviet menace was real, just ask any Berliner who lived through the air-lift, any Czech who saw Soviet tanks crush the 1968 uprising, or any American who remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis. Russia’s command economy may not have produced any car that could have come close to competing with German made M-Bs or BMWs, but it was very good at producing excellent military hardware which could be used to arm its despotic client states.

    3) Before Obamacare, 85% of Americans said they were happy with their employer-provided healthcare. In 1965 Medicare was established to provide free healthcare for the elderly, and Medicaid, healthcare for the poor, followed a few years later. Yes, there were problems with containing costs, but these problems could have been mitigated had we instituted sensible tort reform to reduce expensive “defensive medicine” and if we controlled our Southern border properly which would eliminate free healthcare to illegal aliens. Obamacare has done the exact opposite of what president Obama said it would do, as people are seeing their premiums go up, not down; are losing their doctors, not keeping them; and are losing the plans the president said they could keep. American corporations and businesses today are hardly the anachronism of Sinclair’s “The Jungle” as you describe them. Because if they were, millions of people each year wouldn’t be risking their lives to come to this country to work for them. Maybe if we had economic policies that didn’t punish success and inhibit growth and innovation by onerous regulation and taxation America could be strong again.

    4) I once heard a USAF pilot say that when flying over Korea at night it was always very simple to know which side of the border you were on. The South was lit up like a Christmas tree, while the North was mostly a bed of darkness. I hope this analogy explains what we got “for those 30,000 lives.”

    Germany is hardly the Shangri-la that we can all learn from. You may have the strongest economy in Europe, but you have virtually no clout in foreign affairs. You might like to brag about your healthcare system, but according to my German friends it’s got just as many problems as any other socialized healthcare system. You might like to think your education system is superior to ours, but our universities consistently rank in the top ten of the world. And you’re quickly finding out that being wealthy and successful can have a few downsides, such as always being called upon to bail out Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and possibly Italy.

    No one is wrapping themselves in the flag. I’m merely defending my country from what are ignorant lies and distortions. And trust me, If the US ever does need advice on flag waving jingoism, I doubt anyone will ever ask the Germans.

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