Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The Reckoning

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media

Photo via PJMedia

Photo via PJMedia

Let us start our grand tour of an increasingly out-of-control world in Russia. Putin plays a two-bit Hitler in trying to gobble up his neighbors. The West responds with  a one-bit imitation of 1930s Britain and France. ISIS reminds us that beheading and human incineration are contemporary, not premodern, practices. The only difference is that we video them on iPhones now [1] rather hear rumors about them by word of mouth a year later.

Jews are wise to leave Europe [2] in the manner that some of the lucky got out in the 1930s. The danger is not that we are facing a sudden war on any one front, but that all these fronts — the former Soviet republics, the Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the roaming Islamic terrorist gangsters inside the West, and the Iranian soon-to-be-nuclear co-prosperity sphere from Yemen to Lebanon — are combining to create chaos as the new normal.

Whole swaths of the globe are becoming badlands that sane people avoid — the former Soviet republics, Russia, the Middle East, North Africa, Persia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Cuba, and perhaps soon Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus — as if they were the national no-go-zone versions of our own New Orleans or Detroit.

Ceding prior U.S. influence to regional hegemons — China in Asia, Russia in the former Soviet Union, ISIS and Iran in the Middle East — is turning the world into a pre-globalized Wild West. Think of travel plans. See the Parthenon? But will Greece be bankrupt and on strike from the airport to the Acropolis? See the Dead Sea? Will the rockets come in from Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, or Iran? See South America? Tiptoe around the mess in Argentina, Nicaragua, Peru, or Venezuela. See Paris or Copenhagen? Just don’t walk near a synagogue or kosher market. See St. Petersburg? Make sure there is not the next war nearby in Tallinn. See Turkey? The Hagia Sophia will probably be a mosque again soon.

The American Economy?

Hardly confidence there either. Bill Clinton slashed defense, hiked taxes and at least won a year or two of balanced budgets. Obama slashed defense, hiked taxes, and now brags that a $600 billion annual deficit is success — as if he still might not in his eight years double the amount of debt of all previous administrations combined.

What have zero interest rates accomplished? Another Wall Street bubble to implode, the end of passbook savings as we knew it for a century, and the encouragement of running up more national debt at a low annual service cost?

The Government?

What is terrifying about government now is not just that Obama has made it a tool of fundamental political transformation, by ignoring the enforcement of laws, overriding statutes through executive orders, and expanding entitlements to create new Democratic dependent constituencies. Scarier is the new 1984 state. The IRS is a rogue, but politicized organization that considers your politics in choosing audits. What exactly is NASA doing? The Justice Department sees the law as a hindrance to social justice. We can’t seem to find a secretary of Defense who can stand the White House effort to turn the Pentagon into something other than the military.

Government measurement of GDP and unemployment has been altered to suggest a robust economy. There is no such thing as an enforceable border, or perhaps a border at all. An illegal alien no longer exists. Amnesty is not so much a new law, as simply the relaxation of all immigration laws [3]. The U.S. border is resembling the badlands between Syria and Iraq, where smugglers, cartels, and drug lords do as they please. What exactly is the status of ICE? Do agents arrest and release illegal entrants, or simply not arrest them at all? And if so, what then exactly are they doing?

Popular Culture?

Is Brian Williams [4] our Eric Sevareid? Is Miley Cyrus [5] an update of Shirley Temple? Is Kanye West the new Lou Rawls? Is Fifty Shades of Grey just an updated Lolita? Is global warming [6] just a new phenology?  Is curvy Kim Kardashian just Rita Hayworth? Is Al Sharpton [7] just Martin Luther King? The latest snuff video game just resembles an updated pinball machine? Maybe Tiger Woods is just a petulant young Jack Nicklaus?

Civic Harmony?

Racial relations have hit a new low [8] in the age of “my people,” “punish our enemies,” and a “nation of cowards.” If an African-American entertainer does not win a Grammy, a celebrity rushes the stage [9] to intimidate the winner. If an all African-American Little League team breaks the rules to win a crown, then the enforcement of the rules is deemed racist [10]. If an Israel prime minister speaks to Congress without President Obama’s approval, then he is racist [11]. What can be racism when almost everything is racist?

Is the new racism something akin to integration and assimilation, racially blind criteria for admissions and employment, a wish to make skin color incidental not essential to our characters, and a desire for legal, measured and ethnically blind immigration?

Where Does the Center Hold?

For bewildered and increasingly quietist [12] Americans, the center holds mostly in family, religion, a few friends, the avoidance of the cinema and nightly news, the rote of navigating to work and coming home, trying to stay off the dole and taking responsibility for one’s own disasters — as the world grows ever more chaotic in our midst.

All sorts of escapism from the madness is now epidemic. Home-schooling. Gun ownership. A second home in the mountains. A trunk of freeze-dried food. Kids living in the basement. A generator. Some gold coins. A move to Wyoming. An avoidance of the old big cities. A tough choice between death and going to the nearby emergency room (at least your relatives are safe as you pass away at home). A careful and narrow selection of channels on cable TV. A safe room or escape plan. And on and on.

There is a strange new and dangerous sentiment brooding below the spoken surface that whatever is going on in the world and in America today cannot go on much longer — although as the sages say, there is a lot of rot in the West to enjoy for some time yet.

The postmodern world of our new aristocracy and the premodern world of those they both avoid and romanticize won’t hold. The old caricatured middle shrinks and turns inward. Even if the doomsday mood is a mere construct of the new instantaneous media, it is a dangerous mood nonetheless.

We all know what follows from this — either the chaos grows and civilization wanes and tribalism follows, or the iron hand of the radical authoritarian Left or Right correction is just as scary, or a few good people in democratic fashion convince the mob to let them stop the madness and rebuild civilization.

I hope for option three [13]. I fear option one is more likely at home. And I assume that option two will be, as it always is, the choice abroad.


Article printed from Works and Days: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson

URL to article: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/the-reckoning-2/

URLs in this post:

[1] we video them on iPhones now: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2014/08/08/isis-are-fast-track-nazis/

[2] are wise to leave Europe: http://twitchy.com/2015/02/15/netanyahu-condemns-extremist-islamic-terrorism-in-copenhagen-encourages-mass-immigration-from-europe/

[3] the relaxation of all immigration laws: http://dailycaller.com/2015/02/15/boehner-obama-defied-his-oath-of-office-and-constitution-with-executive-amnesty-video/

[4] Brian Williams: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2015/02/08/williams-will-return/

[5] Miley Cyrus: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2013/12/09/never-go-full-weimar/

[6] global warming: http://moelane.com/2015/02/13/gore-effect-yale-global-warming/

[7] Al Sharpton: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/investigation/al-sharpton-lies-657391

[8] have hit a new low: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/335286/ripples-election-victor-davis-hanson/page/0/1

[9] rushes the stage: http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/kanye-west-explains-grammys-stunt-voices-in-my-head-told-me-to-do-it-2015112

[10] is deemed racist: http://www.breitbart.com/video/2015/02/11/chicago-sports-talkers-speculate-race-could-be-part-of-little-league-scandal/

[11] then he is racist: http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2015/02/10/white-house-telling-congressional-black-caucus-netanyahu-speech-is-racism-against-obama-so-dont-attend/

[12] quietist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quietism_%28Christian_philosophy%29

[13] for option three: http://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2015/02/14/wonderful-copenhagen-lessons-for-2016/

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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.

15 Thoughts on “The Reckoning

  1. Elke Blinick on February 18, 2015 at 8:17 am said:

    The last major war that the US won was WWII. The Allies ‘bombed the crap’ (pardon my French) out of Germany and Japan. It worked. Korea: US did not want to engage China or Russia. Same with Vietnam. Also winning hearts and minds did not work so well. Now: let’s not hurt civilians. Question:. Can you win a war without hurting civilians. ISIS does not play by those rules, which is one of the reasons why they are successful. ISIS uses cruelty as an instrument of war and the West does not know how to answer them. Time to look for ways to not just defend against ISIS (defense does not win a war), but attack. It will not be politically correct though.

    • Even if we wanted to tangle with China, we couldn’t. China produces about 7 times the steel we do. China produces about 680 million tons per year, while America produces only about 86 million tons. And we have no true desire to rebuild our industrial sector.

    • Bob Smith on February 18, 2015 at 6:43 pm said:

      No it didn’t and the strategic bombing campaigns of production and civilian targets in Japan and Germany were both objective failures especially in Germany. They did not break civilian resolve/morale, German produced under Speer climbed and peaked despite massive escalation in German bombing production in ’44 and into ’45, and it diverted massive amounts of manpower, resources, and military assets that would have been better used on purely military targets at/near front.

      This was studied extensively by the US and British both during the war and well after it into the 50s and 60s. If anything, what the US bombing campaigns in Japan against cities with mass incendiaries designed to impact massive human casualties constituted crimes against humanity.

      So what do you suggest the US do except short of send in massive ground forces into Iraq (which they were on their way to doing anyways) for the 3rd time in less than 25 years. It has worked out so well previously.

  2. Brilliant! Thank you. Will be sharing with a number of folks who are equally frustrated with these trends and a few who are open mined but just don’t seem to comprehend the dangers of America’s leaderless world approach to foreign policy.

  3. Things can only get better when someone/anyone new steps into the WH in less than 2 years time.

    In the meantime, I foresee a very bumpy ride ahead.

  4. Doctor French on February 18, 2015 at 3:16 pm said:

    I agree with your conclusion Monsieur Hanson that the option two will be most likely to be chosen abroad, especialy when i Think about my old country France.
    Marine Lepen has pretty high probability to be the next president of France, which mean deasaster for sinking ship France.

  5. You know I’d sure be curious as to how many in the highest levels of the U.S. government read a history book at night. It’s apparent that we as a nation are suffering now from our so-called leaders being woefully
    Incapable of driving and steering a ship in extremely rough seas. They appear to have no map for the shoals nor showing a sense perhaps of past history to help understand and guide the way. In particular, It’s almost as if we are being ‘led’ by and dancing slovenly to Soviet music. Really it’s a song that shouldn’t be played anymore. We need to do better and wise up.

  6. S. Plankenberg on February 18, 2015 at 8:15 pm said:

    A growing segment of the population of the West ( mostly under age 30 ) is disengaged about what is going on in the world around them outside of sports, pop culture, and their electronic devices. They are not troubled by the erosion of their liberties as long as no one interferes with their sex lives. Not being guilty of the cardinal sins of judgementalism or stereotyping are more important than their survival. Oh well, at least we’ll have some really cool video games to amuse ourselves with until the end comes from nuclear attack, economic or cultural collapse, or a combination of all three.

    • If anything remotely serious actually stole across the border and into our country 99 percent of folks would be in the fetal position, paralyzed and in shock and unable to act. That’s the thought that worries me.

  7. nickels on February 19, 2015 at 9:48 am said:

    Yes, agree, we seem to be on the path to option three.

    It seems like an unstable osciallation to me. Each side (left and right) reacting to the audacity of the last, getter further and further from center. And the instantaneous media I think feeds it, as there is less emphasis on well researched and thoughtful stories, instead the media seems to be nothing but reactionary stories feeding the frenzy. Funny you use the word ‘mob’, because that is exactly what journalism now appears to be due to the speed of dissemination. It becomes dangerous to stand behind any idea that has even the hint of complexity because only the simpler mob ideas can float.

    So the opinions of your average Joe just get more skewed over time as these reactionary pieces are internalized and mistaken for actual thoughts with merit. And so moving back to center just gets less and less likely…

  8. nickels on February 19, 2015 at 9:49 am said:

    Oops, I meant that I think we are on path to option two:

    “iron hand of the radical authoritarian…”

  9. Mr. Hanson, Please be careful where you tread in regards to commenting on Islam.(probably did not need to be said). The lunatics running our asylum are doing to America what has already be done to Europe.( Look at California’s colleges for a taste of the mentally unstable Islam follower.)They are letting in hundreds of thousands of POTENTIALLY ticking time-bombs—who believe that their stream of thought is religious, and mass murder leads to sitting on the right hand of God, instead of the immutable Karma-Nemesis. “The mills of God grind slowly, But they grind exceedingly small.””

  10. “” Italy prepares for war with isis from the south”, from breibart news. Invading Muslim hordes…

  11. David Park on February 21, 2015 at 1:33 pm said:

    We live in a dangerous time when too many people think that something for nothing is a personal right, that
    overbearing pride in cultures fled because they reeked of poverty, backwardness, or criminality is not a form of insanity, that equality of outcome can be mandated in anything resembling a free republic, or that Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc. cannot reappear when given the same boiling pot of disintegrating social and economic stew. We are in need of unity in this country, not diversity. Yugoslavia got diversity.

  12. I would like to see a college history class based on the book, “America B.C.”

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