Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Only Deterrence Can Prevent War

Most aggressors take stupid risks only when they feel they won’t be stopped. 

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.

16 Thoughts on “Only Deterrence Can Prevent War

  1. When Obama says he “doesn’t have a strategy” for dealing with ISIS, he means he doesn’t have a *political* strategy. The answer is obvious. Bomb the crud out of their positions, lending much-needed steel to the spine of the Iraqi army. But Obama would risk dividing and demoralizing his base right before an election.

    The Liberal Meme, which heavily influences Obama’s thoughts, does not regard ISIS as an enemy. The American Republican Party is the enemy. And ISIS, which *IS* regarded as an enemy by the aforementioned Republican Party, is therefore seen as a potential ally. Bombing them sends the wrong message.

    So Obama is in a hard place. How does he answer ISIS, which he must do or risk losing votes from the Center without losing votes from the Left? A pretty problem to which the failed community organizer is not sufficient.

  2. Christopher Brosnahan on September 4, 2014 at 10:07 am said:

    The author makes the very same point in his book “The Father of us All” which I am currently reading,,,a week previously I finished another book by the Author “A War Like No Other” the history of the Peloponnesian War. As Thucydides points out – and from my own observation over 64 years of life,: “Human nature is immutable” and will always be thus…Ronald Reagan put it well when he said “I’ve been around for three wars.none of which began because the United States was too strong” It’s the same reason that concealed carry in so popular in the states which allow it…deterrence…Deterrence however, is nothing without the WILL to use the modes of deterrence when needed…Unfortunately we have completer wastes of “human” DNA in Washington who have either NO WILL to use these means or who are WILLFULLY trying to destroy the country they swore with their fingers (or toes) crossed to protect and defend…folks who are CRASSLY IGNORANT of human history.

  3. Tim Pyle on September 4, 2014 at 10:24 am said:

    In other words, this is still a world that is governed by the aggressive us of force. Who knew?

  4. Re: Putin as a modern day PAC-man rolling in and rolling out gobbling whatever he can get for the Russian state.

    Makes me think of Vegetius’ line, ‘Qui desiderat pacem praeparet bellum’. ‘If you want peace prepare for war’. Under the circumstances the West has to heed the maxim. It never ever gets old.

  5. I wonder what Barry’s response would be if the timing of the most recent ISIS events were to happen, say, a year from now, or a year ago, either after or before an election. Then we might see a more muscular response, because politically, Barry can get away with it.

    Right now he can’t. In fact, he’s going to be in trouble with Congress if he does, at least from the progressive wing of the democrat caucus. So he’s waffling, which is what he’s good at, and he’s crossing his fingers that nothing outrageous happens that might imperil his precious election, with which he and the Democrats in Congress can continue to dismantle our nation as quickly as they can.

    There’s also the notion that Barry lacks, for lack of a more appropriate set of words, intestinal fortitude, and I think this is a guy who doesn’t get into any kind of a scuffle unless he’s about 99% sure he can win. So he’s punting and hoping for the best. Some targeted strikes, some small number of boots on the ground, and he can claim it’s not a “war” and that he’s not re-living Bush’s Middle Eastern enterprises, etc, even though he’s doubled down on every policy Bush had, except for actually keeping boots on the ground, where they would have done the most good.

    Still wondering why he never, ever seems to get called out on this by the press, but that’s another story.

  6. ray ilchene on September 4, 2014 at 7:31 pm said:

    listen to bush’s warning speech about the dangers of leaving Iraq too soon.[july 12 2007

  7. Proudly Unaffiliated on September 5, 2014 at 6:04 am said:

    Si vis pacem, para bellum.

  8. “Most aggressors take stupid risks in starting wars only when they feel there is little likelihood they will be stopped.”

    a succinct summation of US activity under the control of the neocons.

    • curious what you meant by your comment. Which wars are you referring to explicitly?

      • The cola wars.

        • Iraq.
          Arguably Afghanistan.
          Ukraine.
          Coming war with Russia.
          Delayed war in Syria.
          Knocking over Libya.
          The list Gen. Clark recounted, awaiting completion.
          Who knows what else.

          Feel free to add to the list. If you intend to argue it, expect no reply – I won’t waste time talking to liars.

  9. It’s an interesting article, but one of your points about the Falklands War doesn’t hold a lot of water in my view.

    I think there is documentary evidence which shows that the Argentines invaded because their leaders wanted to divert attention away from domestic affairs; in the hope that they could inspire a wave of patriotic euphoria would overwhelm grumblings about the economy.

    As for the British, you must understand that they had a female prime minister for whom it was always necessary to demonstate that she was as firm and steady as any male. Moreover, given that everyone in Britain had been brought up with stories about Churchill’s defiance of the Nazis, the state of public opinion was such that the government would have fallen had they not fought for the Falklands.

    Once the Argentines acted, there was no alternative but war.

  10. Theophilus on September 5, 2014 at 8:39 pm said:

    Mr. Hanson has done a brilliant job, as always, to demonstrate from history and logical reasoning that the way to restraint the lustful behavior of aggressors, is to make clear to the aggressors that you have a bigger club and are willing to use it, if push comes to shove. Past presidents who have understood this principle are people like Teddy Roosevelt in his manta – walk tall and carry a big stick; Ronald Reagan ideas of peace through strength; Dwight D. Eisenhower ideas of his insistence that he would not spend one penny less than was necessary to maintain national security—nor one penny more. The problem with our current president is that his world view are in direct conflict with these ideas and he would have to dig very deep in his well to develop the muster to do something that will increase military strength – it goes against his grain – behind the scene he will be kicking and screaming before he finally does something, if he does anything at all.

    It’s interesting to note that the best that humans can do is to restraint evil, they cannot eradicate it, this conclusion bared out from various historical records and from the biblical records. The false thinking of people who hold progressive ideas believe that over time progress can be made to finally dispel the evil intentions of humans. This explains why people like our current president are so ambivalence about doing anything involving labeling people or actions evil and learning from the lessons of history.

    From a biblical perspective, the motivation for war is clearly explained James 1:1-3, where the linchpin of war is directly tied to the passion of lust. The passage uses five different Greek words to describe the various attributes of lust that people can exhibit if they failed to keep their passions in check. When it comes to people in general and political leaders in particular, are their great failure to keep their lustful passions for power, land, honor whatever in check.

  11. Colin Keesee on September 6, 2014 at 12:34 am said:

    It is strange that when a mafia boss or some gang banger controls 20 squares blocks and 20 men and he attacks a rival gang because of some perceived insult, we call that man a criminal and a menace. When a man controls a country and a quarter million fighting men, his decision to “send a message” and to start a war and to kill tens of thousands of people over a “dis” is praised as an act of shrewd statesmanship.

  12. Stuart Milligan on September 6, 2014 at 6:21 pm said:

    The struggle in Ukraine was inflamed by Barack Obama, as a way to punish Vladimir Putin for harboring Edward Snowden. Obama must have known that Putin would react this way. You don’t defy Obama in such an embarrassing way without paying a price. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see how it plays out.

  13. Marla Goodman on September 29, 2014 at 8:28 pm said:

    Very good points- deterrence is key, which is why countries like Singapore invest so heavily into their armed forces.

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