Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Trump’s High-Wire Act of Reestablishing Deterrence without War

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Donald Trump inherited a superficially stable world from Barack Obama that, in fact, was quite volatile. There had been no tense standoffs with North Korea, but also apparent intercontinental ballistic missiles with possible nuclear warheads now pointed at the United States. Obama more or less punted on North Korea, by declaring it a problem — and hoping that Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear testing did not get too out of hand before 2017.

Then there was the “Iran deal.” It was an appeasing agreement that almost surely guaranteed that Iran would soon have nuclear weapons, along with a revived economy liberated from sanctions and empowered with American cash. Iran’s terrorist surrogates were the greatest beneficiaries of U.S. naïveté. At best, Obama assumed that when Iran went nuclear, it would be on someone else’s presidential watch and therefore not his fault. At worst, Obama, in delusional fashion, believed that empowering Iran would balance Sunni states and bring justice to historically oppressed Shiite and Persian minorities who would take their rightful place in the Islamic world.

Everyone knew that China violated almost every aspect of world commerce. Everyone knew that China would never allow the U.S. to trade with China the same way that Beijing traded with America. Everyone knew that 1.3-billion-person China was a neo-imperialist Communist dictatorship that was headed on an announced trajectory of world hegemony. Obama in particular thought that stopping China’s agenda would be medicine that was more painful than the disease.

Like the proverbial medieval mice who voted to warn of a marauding carnivorous house cat by putting a bell around his neck, the prognosis of Chinese mercantilism and aggression — and the need to confront Beijing — was right-on. But no one wished to do the messy, dangerous work of belling the Chinese cat.

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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.

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