Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Iran Doesn’t Understand ‘Maximum Pressure’

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Iran has misjudged not only the toxic effects of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” sanctions on the regime but also the entire psychology of U.S. policy toward Iran. The result is that Iranian unemployment is soaring, its gross domestic product is tanking, inflation is raging, oil prices are crashing, and its friends are fewer than ever — and for the first time in 40 years, the regime believes that it must do something quite radical before it implodes.

2020 is not 1979, not 1983, not 1986, not 2004–2007, and not 2011 — all years when Iran variously pressured the U.S. by taking hostages, killing American personnel in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, threatening oil disruptions, and planning to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C. Now things are redefined for a variety of reasons, most of them apparently still underappreciated by the theocratic Iranian elite.

1) As the world’s largest oil and natural-gas producer, the U.S. is not vulnerable to cutoffs of oil from the Middle East. It, of course, cares about global free passage through the Straits of Hormuz, but not as much as do major importers such as Europe and exporters such as China.

Americans today certainly would not go to war if oil-dependent nations did not themselves first confront Iran over any threatened denial of access through the straits. That said, most Americans would not wish their sons and daughters to die to keep Chinese trade — or even Europe’s oil imports — safe.

As far as the old Middle East “tensions” spiking oil prices and thereby harming consumers in the U.S. are concerned, such theoretical crises now offer a wash to America: Higher gas prices would also mean that the value of ascending U.S. daily oil production would increase by hundreds of millions of dollars every week, because consumers mostly pay fellow Americans for increased gas costs at the pump.

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California Is a Cruel Medieval State

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

One way of understanding California is simply to invert traditional morality. What for centuries would be considered selfish, callous, and greedy is now recalibrated as caring, empathetic, and generous. The current ethos of evaluating someone by his or her superficial appearance—gender or race—has returned to the premodern values of 19th-century California when race and gender calibrated careers. We don’t pay medieval priests for indulgences of our past and ongoing sin, but we do tweet out displays of our goodness as the penance price of acting amoral.

A paradox ensues that Californians both have a high, indeed smug, view of themselves and yet do a lot of damage to their fellow human beings. Their haughtiness is based largely on the reality that Silicon Valley, sandwiched between Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley, became the birthplace of the global computer, internet, social media, and a high-tech revolution. For progressives who deprecate the capitalist lifestyle, having a lot of money still allows one to say one thing and live out the opposite.

The state’s multi-trillion-dollar companies have hired tens of thousands of seven-figure, mid-level executives and computer experts who assume that life in the California coastal corridor is a birthright paradise.

The resulting tax revenue bonanza to the state allows one-party-rule to rid California of the old bothersome Reagan-Deukmejian-Wilson working- and middle-classes by embracing not-in-my-backyard zoning, identity politics, anal-retentive regulations, steep tax rates, utopian green agendas, open borders, and decriminalization of things that used to be felony offenses.

Indeed, the bigger and wealthier California became, the more the rich sought to privatize their lives and to give up on public services, the more the middle classes left the state, the more the poor from Mexico and Latin America crossed the southern border illegally, the more its schools deteriorated, and the more its infrastructure ossified and became decrepit, from century-old power transmission towers to pot-holed and jammed highways.

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What We Don’t Know about the Coronavirus Is What Scares Us

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

The recent spread of the coronavirus is causing a global panic. Our shared terror arises not so much from the death toll of the new flu-like disease — more than 3,000 people have died worldwide — but from what we don’t know about it.

Experts at least agree that the virus originated in China. But Beijing’s authoritarian government hid information about its origins, spread, and severity for weeks.

Such duplicity only fanned the fears of a global plague — a hysteria not seen since the groundless fears of a Y2K global computer meltdown in the year 2000, or the political feeding frenzy during the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

Wild speculation followed that the coronavirus was a virulent or mutated superbug. Had it arisen naturally or escaped from a nearby military lab? Did it originate from a sick lab animal? A conspiracy theory arose that it was a manufactured virus that had escaped from scientists’ botched efforts to create either a vaccine or a biological weapon.

Is the outbreak an indication that China’s scientists are well behind their Western peers, at least in the areas of virology and bacteriology? Or is the problem that Chinese culture still features outdated traditions such as open-air “wet markets”? Unfounded rumors spread that the virus may have originated in one of these markets, where exotic mammals such as bats and pangolins are still sold for human consumption. For all China’s gleaming high-speed-rail lines and new airports, hundreds of millions of Chinese still live in places with suspect food safety and waste disposal — the historic incubators of epidemics.

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Globalization Bleeding

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

By the early 21st century, cosmopolitans were gushing that high-tech, instant communications, transnational agencies and agreements, free-flowing capital, international corporations, and a new eerily uniform global elite had, finally, made nationalism, borders, and even the nation-state itself all irrelevant. Nationalism was apparently relegated to dustbin of history, as we hit peak Socratic citizen-of-the-worldism.

There were always two flaws to these adolescent giddy reports from world-bestriding New York Times op-ed journalists about win-win globalization, with their praise of gleaming airports and superior high-speed rail in what was otherwise Communist China, or accounts of flying first-class on Qatar Airlines was heavenly compared with backward United or American Airlines.

Nothing New under the Sun
One, globalization was not the end of history. It is a recurrent, cyclical, and at best morally neutral phenomenon that has always, at least in relative terms, waxed and waned over the past 2,500 years of civilization — although recent transcontinentalism carries greater consequences in the era of electronic interconnectedness.

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New Impeachment Rules Would Snare Obama

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

Barack Obama’s eight-year tenure was detrimental to the United States, but like most of his nonbelievers, I harbor no animosity for his person.

Few critics that I know advocated that Obama be impeached, much less removed from office, before his reelection bid—even amid his worst scandals and dangerous policies. But we are now in a new age, whose protocols might have made it impossible for the Obama Administration to have finished two terms. 

Remember, his administration ran some 2,000 guns to Mexican cartels in some hare-brained scheme to monitor violence spilling into the United States. Under the new customs, he should have been impeached for instructing Attorney General Eric Holder to refuse to testify to Congress about Fast and Furious, or at least for not handing over subpoenaed documents. Imagine a Trump gun-walking scheme in Mexico. 

It was bad enough that Holder was the first attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress, well aside from the embarrassment of his unhinged outbursts about “my people” (hinthis “my” did not mean Americans of all races and creeds). We all remember Holder’s lunatic dismissals of his own country as “a nation of cowards.” (Imagine Bill Barr referring to “my people” or calling Americans cowards)

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Angry Reader 02-28-20

From An Angry Reader:

Subject: Gray Matter

Your articles are so offensively lacking in context, thoughtfulness, and reflection on history–basically simpleminded attack ads– that I am going to erase the National Review’s bookmark from my browser. And there is no case for Trump any more than there was a case for Mussolini.


Dear Angry Reader “Red Harmony”

At least your letter is free of the usual Angry Reader capital letters, profanity, and slurs, although you make accusations about a recent essay I wrote on elite disparagement of so-called average Americans (“ ‘Gray Matter’–Deficient Americans”) without citing a single fact, quotation, or particular name to ground your accusations.

And, of course, also in Angry Reader fashion, you resort to the usual reductio ad fascism (e.g., “a case for Mussolini”). Trump, unlike Mussolini, is in constitutional fashion up for reelection, and his agenda has to be ratified by a Congress, while he is subject to constant judicial review.

In terms of fascist anti-Semitism, Trump is the most pro-Israel, and perhaps pro-Jewish president in memory. He has a decided distaste for optional or preemptory wars, and does not wear uniforms, give 4-hour speeches, or form “pacts of steel” with fascist nations.

Currently, he has taken on communist China on trade, is far tougher on authoritarian Russia than was the “reset” Obama administration, and broke off the Obama Iran Deal with a theocratic and murderous Iranian government. So again, you should supply some evidence to support what are otherwise incoherent assertions.

Erasing your bookmark to National Review I suggest is a superb idea and could spare you further heartache and angst of the sort you demonstrate here.

Trump’s Chances for Reelection Are Looking Better and Better

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Donald Trump has at least five strong historical arguments for his reelection.

One, he is an incumbent. Incumbent presidents have won 14 of 19 reelection bids since 1900.

The few who lost did not enjoy positive approval ratings. In a Gallup poll from earlier this month, Trump enjoyed his highest approval rating since his inauguration, squeezing out a 49 percent favorable rating vs. 50 percent unfavorable.

Two, the public perception of the economy usually determines any presidential election — as incumbents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Herbert Hoover learned the hard way. Currently, the U.S. is enjoying low inflation, low interest rates, positive economic growth, near-record low unemployment, rising workers’ wages, and record gas and oil production.

Three, unpopular optional wars derail incumbent presidencies.

The quagmire in Vietnam convinced Lyndon Johnson not to run for reelection in 1968. Jimmy Carter was tarnished by the seemingly never-ending Iranian hostage crisis of 1979–1981. The Iraq War drove down George W. Bush’s second-term approval ratings and helped derail his would-be Republican successor, John McCain.

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‘Gray Matter’–Deficient Americans

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Former New York mayor and multibillionaire Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, four years ago at Oxford, England, dismissed farming, ancient and modern. He lectured that agriculture was little more than the rote labor of dropping seeds into the ground and watching corn sprout — easy, mindless, automatic.

“I could teach anybody,” Bloomberg pontificated, “even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer.”

He contrasted such supposedly unintelligent labor of the past (and present) with the “skill set” of the current “information economy” that requires “how to think and analyze.” In this new economy, he said, “you have to have a lot more gray matter.”

Gray matter?

For all his later denials and efforts to contextualize those remarks, Bloomberg seems to see both ancient and modern agriculture, and farmers, as either unskilled or not very smart, as if the genetically inferior gravitate to muscular labor far from the “skill sets” of those like Mike Bloomberg. He certainly has no idea about either the sophistication of ancient agriculture or the high-tech savvy of contemporary farmers — much less just how difficult it is, and always was, to produce food, much less that history is so often the story of mass famine rather than bounty and plenty.

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Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

Almost everything the Democratic Left said about Donald Trump causing a Republican Party implosion proved untrue—and yet is proving true this year of the Democrats.

Trump’s agenda, for the most part, was Reaganesque, with a few important exceptions—closing the border and enforcing immigration law, getting tough with China’s unfair trade policies, restoring assembly and manufacturing jobs to the hollowed-out interior, avoiding optional wars abroad, and trying to drain the proverbial federal swamp of its careerist bureaucrats and revolving-door apparatchiks.

Those wrinkles from the Republican agenda, in fact, were consistent with traditional conservative values, and thus even among establishment and mainstream Republicans still polled well enough. That reality later was empowered by Trump’s effort to keep his campaign promises, by an economy at near-record employment, and by foreign policy recalibrations that are starting to win grudging, if unspoken, bipartisan support on China, given news coverage of the Hong Kong crackdown, the reeducation camps, the coronavirus debacle, and the Orwellian surveillance state apparat.

Even before Trump’s governance, the NeverTrump Right was emasculated, largely because its pundits and politicians could offer no alternative party agenda superior to Trump’s. Moreover, they had spent much of their lives advocating most of the very policies Trump was advancing, and increasingly was getting results. Nor before or after the election could they ever convince Republicans that Trump’s crassness and uncouth tweets were quite unlike the White House crudity of past presidents (e.g., Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton) rather than in part attributable to the Internet/social media age and the new tabloid media.

All those facts explain why Trump in 2016 received nearly 90 percent of the Republican vote, at par with, or better than, previous Republican nominees. Polling suggests that in 2020 Trump will do as well with Republican voters, or even better than four years ago. Certainly, the current NeverTrumpers, for all the “character is king” lectures, remain inert, and without influence. Again, they have never squared the circle of opposing the implementation of agendas they spent their careers promoting.

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China’s Government Is Like Something out of 1984

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

The Chinese Communist government increasingly poses an existential threat not just to its own 1.4 billion citizens but to the world at large.

China is currently in a dangerously chaotic state. And why not, when a premodern authoritarian society leaps wildly into the brave new world of high-tech science in a single generation?

The Chinese technological revolution is overseen by an Orwellian dictatorship. Predictably, the Chinese Communist Party has not developed the social, political, or cultural infrastructure to ensure that its sophisticated industrial and biological research does not go rogue and become destructive to itself and to the billions of people who are on the importing end of Chinese products and protocols.

Central Party officials run the government, military, media, and universities collectively in a manner reminiscent of the science-fiction Borg organism of Star Trek, which was a horde of robot-like entities all under the control of a central mind.

Thirty years ago, American pundits began gushing over China’s sudden leap from horse-drawn power to solar, wind, and nuclear energy. The Chinese Communist government wowed Westerners. It created from nothing high-speed rail, solar farms, shiny new airports, and gleaming new high-density apartment buildings.

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