Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers


From An Angry Reader:

Professor Davis,


In your recent article “The Method to Trump’s Madness”, you claim Trump’s insults are retaliation to those who have said things against him. Even if that is (partially) true, that does not justify Trump’s immaturity and cruelty.


In many instances, Trump’s name-calling was unprovoked. During the early primaries, Ted Cruz was going out of his way to be nice to Trump. Despite this, Trump called Cruz a liar (without indicating what his lies were), cast Heidi Cruz as unattractive (by showing a photo where she had an angry expression) and claimed Cruz’s father was complicit in the JFK assassination (!).


Further, Trump insulted Carly Fiorina’s looks, Marco Rubin’s stature, Jeb Bush’s perceived lack of energy, the list goes on. And I haven’t yet mentioned Trumps mocking the disabled reporter.


Even if these people disagreed with Trump on an issue or criticized his (abysmal) behavior, poking fun at others physical features is never justified.


I was shocked at your attempt to justify this unacceptable juvenile behavior on the part of a now president.


I much preferred your writing during the primaries when you saw Trump for the swamp creature he was (and continues to be) and urged your readers not to vote for him in the primaries.


I realize that in the general election there was no choice. Despite major misgivings I voted for Trump over Hillary and am glad that he and not she is president. However to defend behavior that is indefensible is far beneath you.




Arlene Ross

New York, NY



Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear Arlene Ross,


The title of my essay was “the method to” not “approval of” Trump’s Madness. It sought to explain why Trump’s madness so far has worked; it did not condone it as ethically admirable. In other words, I reviewed the logic of his outbursts and tweets and why so far that they have not eroded his base of support. Try to read more carefully so as not to confuse efficacy and utility with morality.


You write that you were “shocked” that I tried to “justify” Trump’s behavior? But after listing all of his sins in the primary, you yourself voted for him in the general election? Do you seek medieval exemption by confession and penance to justify your help in seeing someone so crude elected?


More likely, I fear you again were confused in reading why Trump has not turned off 40% of the electorate by his tweets and jibes—and unfortunately conflated my analysis of his effectiveness with a desire on your part for me to damn it as unethical or improper—perhaps a topic for another column. Again, I wrote about utility, not morality.


In sum, Arlene, your own statements are illogical: you praise me for suggesting that we shouldn’t have voted for Trump as long as we had viable alternatives to Hillary Clinton, but then fault me for urging conservatives to vote in the general election for Trump when we had no other alternative to the Obama-Clinton 16-year regnum—and then confess that you did exactly the same thing as did I! Furthermore, you, like I, so far are still glad that he is president and not Clinton.


So I suppose your position by default is: “I finally voted for Trump but I didn’t enjoy doing so given his comportment”—which was the very topic of my column: why did voters like Arlene support (and perhaps still do [you use the present tense “I am glad”]?) Trump despite his often outrageous behavior.


A more interesting philosophical question is why someone so outwardly outrageous is pushing through a far more conservative and needed agenda than prior Republican presidents, who were more sober and judicious. And why did Trump at least profess to care about workers, miners, vets, farmers, and the unemployed in a manner his better informed and experienced rivals did not? That is a tricky moral question that no one has yet answered (other than scream “demagogue!”). Trump did not write off half the electorate as deplorables nor did he, as Romney, a far more ethical man, write off 47% of Americans as dependents. Nor did he as John McCain write off Trump voters as “crazies.” There was a callousness and insensitivity to voters in other candidates that the otherwise insensitive Trump at least did not display about voters.




Professor Davis (Hanson)

Interviews With VDH On His New Book, The Second World Wars

Check out the latest interviews with Victor Davis Hanson on his new book, The Second World Wars.

Listen to The Classicist: Part I The Second World Wars


Listen to The Classicist: Part II Behind the Book: The Second World Wars


Listen to Victor Davis Hanson speak about this book on the podcast, Public Morality, with the host Byron Williams.


Listen to Victor Davis Hanson discuss his new book, The Second World Wars, on the podcast, Dangerous Thinkers, with the host Teri O’Brien.

Military Historian/Author Victor Davis Hanson: Show Notes, Dangerous Thinkers 009



NATO For the 21st Century: Ensuring Liberal Democracy In Europe

NATO was originally founded after World War II to ensure that liberal democracy survived in Europe. While the fall of the Soviet Union may have led many to question whether NATO was still necessary, its mission remains vital and relevant. NATO should resist the temptation to expand its geographic focus.

For more information related to NATO and this video, please visit the Policyed website.

Related Resources:

Steele dossier farce shows why Trump relies on Twitter


The Hill

The media refrain on the Trump dossier has been that “considerable amounts of it have been proven.” No one had explained exactly what has been proven, however, until The Washington Post decided to answer the question itself.

Per the Post, the Trump dossier must be evaluated as a guide to the overarching claim that Russian government officials allied with Trump employees and campaign aides to help his election.

Yes, the Post is still interested in the Russian collusion story: that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee financed the dossier does not mean that its claims are automatically false.

As someone who follows Russia closely, my own first reaction to the Christopher Steele dossier back in January was incredulity. How could anyone take this combination of gossip and trash talk seriously?

The dossier claims to provide a breath-taking peek into the highest echelons of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. Dossier informants are presented as having first-hand knowledge of the most significant events within the highest levels of the Kremlin:

To read more:

Victor Davis Hanson’s interview with  Lewis Lapham for The World in Time is now available:

The ‘Never Trump’ Construct

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review


The president’s fiercest critics still do not grasp that Trump is a symptom, not the cause of the GOP’s internal strife.

For all the talk of a Civil War in the Republican party over Donald Trump, 90 percent of Republicans ended up voting for him.


Bitterness Over the 2016 Election?

So a vocal Never Trump Republican establishment had not much effect on the 2016 election. Voters do not carry conservative magazines to the polls. They are not swayed much by talking heads, and on Election Day they do not they print out conservative congressional talking points from their emails.


John McCain and Susan Collins are as renegade now as they were obstructionist in 2004. If in 2016 it is said that John McCain cannot forgive President Trump for his 2016 primary statements, it was also said in 2004 that John McCain could not forgive President Bush for how he won the 2000 primaries. Trump is called a Nazi and a fascist. But so was George W. Bush in 2006. Reagan in the campaign and during his first few months as president was slandered as a pleasant dunce as often as Trump is smeared as a mean dunce. If neocons are now on MSNBC in 2017 trashing a Republican president, paleocons were doing the same in 2006 over Iraq. Parties always have dissidents.


Donald Trump got about the same percentage of the Republican vote (about 90 percent) as John McCain won in 2008 — slightly less than Mitt Romney’s supposed 93 percent in 2012. If Romney’s 93 percent is the standard of party fealty (Obama usually pulled in about 92 percent of the Democratic vote), then it is hard to know whether the 3 percentage points fewer of Republicans who could not stomach McCain were about the same as the 3 percentage points fewer who were Never Trump. In either case, 90 percent party loyalty was not good enough for McCain, and even 93 percent did not win Romney an election. Both, unlike Trump, lost too many Reagan Democrats and Independents in the swing states of the Electoral College. Read more →

North Korea Knowns and Unknowns

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review


We are in the middle, not at the end, of a long North Korean crisis.


No one really knows all that much about North Korea’s nuclear or conventional military capability or its strategic agenda. Are its nuclear missiles reliably lethal, are they as long-ranged and accurate as hyped, and are they under secure command and control?


Conventional wisdom states that Seoul would be destroyed in minutes by at least 10,000 North Korean artillery and rocket batteries that are now aimed from right across the Demilitarized Zone. Such guns are said to be capable of firing 500,000 rounds within a few minutes.


As a result, South Korea and its allies are supposed to be veritable hostages, with no strategic choices in countering North Korea’s newly enhanced nuclear threat.


But is Seoul really being held hostage, and would it be doomed if war broke out?


In fact, no one can be sure of the actual size, nature, and readiness of the North Korea arsenal — or the degree to which it is coordinated and effectively aimed. Much less does anyone know how well North Korea’s guns have been pre-targeted by American and South Korean planes, counter-batteries, and missiles.


Seoul itself is a huge city of 10 million urban residents. Indeed, greater Seoul and its population of some 24 million are sprawled out over a vast area of more than 250 square miles. The idea that the North Korean military could destroy the world’s third-most-populated metropolitan area in minutes with conventional weapons is unproven.


Take the example of Israel and its existential enemies. The Iranians now claim that their Hezbollah proxies in Lebanon have targeted 80,000 rockets at Tel Aviv. Israel’s enemies brag that together they could bombard the tiny country with 200,000 rockets and missiles in a matter of minutes should Israel ever again go to war.
Read more →

An Avoidable Great War

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review

Far from being inevitable, World War II resulted from the Allies’ failure to muster their combined resources and power in the service of deterring Hitler.


Editor’s Note: The following is the fourth and final installment in a series of excerpts adapted from Victor Davis Hanson’s new book The Second World Wars. It appears here with permission.


Throughout history, conflict had always broken out between enemies when the appearance of deterrence — the material and spiritual likelihood of using greater military power successfully against an aggressive enemy — vanished. From Carthage to the Confederacy, weaker bellicose states could convince themselves of the impossible because their fantasies were not checked earlier by cold reality. A stronger appearance of power, and of the willingness to employ it, might have stopped more conflicts before they began. Put another way, deterrence in the famous formulation of the 17th-century British statesman George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax, meant that “men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen.”


But once thieves were not hanged and more horses were indeed stolen, who is strong and who weak became confusing, and the proper recalibration that pruned rhetoric and posturing from knowledge of real strength returned only at the tremendous cost of a world war. Hitler’s Mein Kampf — “the new Koran of faith and war,” according to Winston Churchill — was in truth a puerile rant that gained credence only through German rearmament and aggressiveness, at least before Stalingrad. After that battle, Hitler was no longer read widely and was only rarely heard by Germans, as the ambitions of the Third Reich waned and Nazi Germany was exposed as far weaker than its enemies and led by an incompetent strategist. The prewar reality was that Russian armor was superior to German. Inexplicably, the Soviets had not been able to communicate that fact, and in consequence lost deterrence. Hitler later remarked that had he just been made aware of the nature of Russian tank production, and specifically about the T-34 tank, against which standard German anti-tank weapons were ineffective, he would never have invaded the Soviet Union. Maybe. But it took a theater war in the East that killed over 30 million people to reveal the Soviets’ real power. Accordingly, leaders and their followers are forced to make the necessary readjustments, although often at a terrible price of correcting flawed prewar impressions. In the case of the timidity of the Western democracies in 1938–1939, General Walter Warlimont explained Hitler’s confidence about powers that easily could have deterred Germany: “(1) he felt their [the Allies’] Far Eastern interests were more important than their European interests, and (2) they did not appear to be armed sufficiently.” What a terrible cost ensued to prove Hitler wrong.
Read more →

Trump’s Constructive Chaos

Defining Ideas

Almost daily, President Trump manages to incense the media, alarm the world abroad, and enrage his Democratic opposition. Not since Ronald Reagan’s first year in office has change and disruption come so fast from the White House.

Let’s consider foreign affairs first. In response to North Korea’s nuclear threats to hit the American West coast, Trump promised Kim Jung-un utter destruction. And for sport he ridicules him as “rocket man.” ISIS is now on the run. The terrorist group has given up on its once-promised caliphate—in part because Trump changed the rules of engagement and allowed American generals at the front to use their own judgment and discretion on how best to destroy their enemies. Trump has bowed out from certifying a continuation of the Iranian deal and sent it back to Congress for reform, rejection, or ratification. In the case of the Paris climate accord, he simply pulled the United States out completely, reminding its adherents that the use of natural gas has allowed America to reduce carbon emissions far more dramatically than have most of its critics. As in the case of the Iran deal, the Obama administration never sent the Paris agreement to the Senate for a treaty vote.

Domestically, too, Trump has not been afraid to make major changes. In terms of the so-called Dreamers—children who were brought into the United States illegally by their parents and protected by the DACA executive orders of Barack Obama—for now Trump has sent the matter back to the Congress for proper legislative review. On Obamacare, Trump has issued executive orders to free up the health market and remove subsidies and monopolistic regulations on how health plans are structured and sold. His reasoning was that the Obama executive orders on health care were illegal, so revising them was necessary and legal rather than inflammatory. Read more →

The Deadly Cost of Mutual Misunderstanding

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review


Hitler went to war without an accurate conception of the Allies’ strength. The Allies did the same without an accurate conception of Hitler’s ambition. Unprecedented bloodshed ensued.

Editor’s Note: The following is the third in a series of excerpts adapted from Victor Davis Hanson’s new book The Second World Wars. It appears here with permission.


Over 2,400 years ago, the historian Thucydides had emphasized the military advantages of sea powers, particularly their ability to control commerce and move troops. Not much had changed since antiquity, as the oceans likewise mattered a great deal to the six major belligerents in World War II. Three great powers were invaded during the war: Germany, Italy, and Russia. Three were not: America, Britain, and Japan. All the former were on the European landmass, the latter were either islands or distant and bounded by two vast oceans. Amphibious operations originating on the high seas were a far more difficult matter than crossing borders, or in the case of Italy, crossing from Sicily onto the mainland. The protection afforded Great Britain and the United States by surrounding seas meant that containing the German threat was never the existential challenge for them that it always was for the Western Europeans. The generals of the French may have always appeared cranky to the Anglo-Americans, but then, neither Britain nor America had a common border with Germany. The only way for Germany to strike Britain was to invade and occupy the French and Belgian coasts, as reflected both in the German Septemberprogramm of 1914 and in Hitler’s obsessions with the Atlantic ports between 1940 and 1945. Since the 15th century, European countries that faced the Atlantic had natural advantages over those whose chief home ports were confined to the North, Baltic, and Mediterranean Seas.
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