Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Tag Archives: Dictatorships

What Drives Vladimir Putin?

Aggressors often attack weaker neighbors to restore a sense of pride. 

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a disaster of a declining population, corruption, authoritarianism, a warped economy, and a high rate of alcoholism.

Photo by:  www.kremlin.ru.

Photo by: www.kremlin.ru.

Why, then, would Putin want to ruin additional territory in Crimea and Ukraine the way that he has wrecked most of Russia?

 Doesn’t Russia have enough land for its diminishing population? Are there not enough minerals, timber, gas, and oil for Putin’s kleptocrats?

In the modern age, especially since Karl Marx, we rationalize the causes of wars as understandable fights over real things, like access to ports, oil fields, good farmland, and the like. Yet in the last 2,500 years of Western history, nations have just as often invaded and attacked each other for intangibles. The historian Thucydides wrote that the classical Athenians had won and kept their empire mostly out of “fear, honor, and self-interest.”

Maybe that was why most battles in ancient Greece broke out over rocky and mountainous borderlands. Possession of these largely worthless corridors did not add to the material riches of the Spartans, Thebans, or Athenians. But dying for such victories did wonders for their national pride and collective sense of self.

Why did the Argentine dictatorship invade the British Falkland Islands in 1982? The great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges dismissed the entire Argentine–British dispute over the isolated, windswept rocks as a pathetic fight between “two bald men over a comb.”

Taking the “Malvinas” apparently was critical to restoring the Argentine dictatorship’s lost pride. In contrast, the descendants of Lord Nelson were not about to allow a few peacock generals to insult the honor of the British Royal Navy.

Doesn’t China have enough land without starting a beef with Japan over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands? While there may be some oil in the vicinity, apparently both sides see these desolate mountainous islets as symbols of more important issues of national prestige and will. Lose the Senkaku Islands and what larger island goes next? Read more →

Of Pre- and Postmodern Poseurs

Obama’s postmodernism has met its match in premodern Putin.

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media 

Vladimir Putin thinks he has a winning formula to restore the global clout of the old Soviet Union. Contemporary Russia is a chaotic, shrinking, and petrodollar-fed kleptocracy. It certainly lacks the population, the vast resources, and territory of its former communist incarnation. For Putin, restoring a lot of the latter without necessarily the former failed communist state makes sense — especially if he can do it on the cheap with passive-aggressive diplomacy and not getting into a shooting war with the far more powerful U.S. If there is a downside for Putin annexing the Crimea in the short term, no one has yet to explain it. Read more →

Governing by Pen and Phone

Obama used to sigh that he was not a dictator who could act unilaterally. No more.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Lately a weakened President Obama has fashioned a new attitude about consensual government: “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that

picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama boasted Tuesday as he convened his first cabinet meeting of the year. At least he did not say he intended to govern by “pen and sword.” If Obama used to sigh to supporters that he was not a dictator who could just implement progressive agendas by fiat, he now seems to have done away with the pretense of regret.

Obama has all but given up on the third branch of government since he lost control of it in 2010: “And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”

There are lots of creepy things about such dictatorial statements of moving morally backward in order to go politically “forward.” Concerning issues dear to the president’s heart — climate change, more gun control, de facto amnesty, more massive borrowing supposedly to jump-start the anemic, jobless recovery — Obama not long ago had a Read more →

Ignoring History: The Folly of Our Iran Pact

Dictatorships abandon treaties when they become inconvenient.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

According to our recently proposed treaty with the Iranian government, Iran keeps much of its nuclear program while agreeing to slow its path to weapons-grade enrichment. The Iranians also get crippling economic sanctions lifted.  Read more →

Why Did We Invade Iraq?

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

On the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the back-and-forth recriminations continue, but in all the “not me” defenses, we have forgotten, over the ensuing decade, the climate of 2003 and why we invaded in the first place. The war was predicated on six suppositions. Read more →

Can Israel Survive?

by Victor Davis Hanson

Tribune Media Services

Will Israel survive? That question hasn’t really been asked since 1967. Read more →

The Middle East Mess

by Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

Libya, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and the All the Same Old, Same Old Mess

Each country in the Middle East poses unique challenges. That said, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, tribalism, dictatorship, statism, and lack of transparency and free expression are widely shared in the region, and mean that any particular policy will almost immediately collide with some two millennia of habit and custom antithetical and often hostile to the values of the West. Read more →

Post-9/11 -Isms and -Ologies: A Look Back at a Decade

by Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

The Never-ending Day

Like millions of Americans, I did not sleep much on the night of September 11. Read more →

The Nature of Arab Unrest

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

Across the Middle East, millions are rebelling against their poverty and lack of freedom, blaming their corrupt leaders, who have ransacked their countries’ treasuries and natural wealth. Read more →

The Secularist Delusion

by Bruce S. Thornton

Advancing a Free Society

The dubious received wisdom rationalizing our current intervention in Libya was crystallized in Senator John Kerry’s recent essay for The Wall Street Journal. For Kerry, the rebels in Libya are the same as those in Egypt, “peacefully demanding freedom and dignity.” Read more →

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