Pavlos Papadopoulos via Ekathimerini
Victor Davis Hanson’s views place him among the “contrarians” in the US academic establishment. A philhellene with deep knowledge of ancient Greece, he has been visiting the country regularly for the last five decades. He’s also been one of the most courageous supporters of the policies of Donald Trump, with whom he maintained communication during his tenure in the White House, but nevertheless has kept some distance since Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election. The professor emeritus of Classics at California State University, Fresno, and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Classics and Military History at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution does not fit the stereotype of the classic Trump supporter, but he presents arguments proving that certain positions on the American right are not without substance. His books and articles in major American newspapers have shaped the profile of a shrewd, bold, innovative and at the same time decent thinker. In this interview with Kathimerini, he talks about the war in Ukraine, the possibility of Trump being re-elected in 2024 and the support the US might offer to Greece in the event of a Turkish attack.
A 6-year-old shot a teacher. Abortion has become a crime for a third of American women of reproductive age. Republicans and Democrats have redrawn the electoral maps to entrench their leads while spending their time in Congress “investigating” each other. What should be done to stop American society from being at war with itself?
Crime that had been consistently declining is now accelerating because after the George Floyd death, and the 120 days of rioting and looting, a number of states, and almost all big cities, began defunding police forces and, more importantly, “decriminalizing,” by not charging arrested violent criminals with felonies or requiring instant release and no bail. Thus, deterrence was lost. And we are witnessing the result of emboldened criminals who feel the laws do not apply to them in any serious fashion.
The repeal of Roe vs Wade did not outlaw abortion. It simply returned the question to the states. Red states are now mostly stopping it except for incest and rape, and blue states are protecting it even up to the point of partial birth abortion.
For women in a red state wishing to have an abortion, it is fairly easy to cross a state line to have one. And for adamant pro-lifers in blue states, they are free to move to a more conducive anti-abortion red state. Again, the Supreme Court simply redirected the issue to the 50 states and with it more local control. A wider problem, however, one shared with Europe, is why has the fertility rate in the US dived from 2.1 in 2000 to 1.6 today – and dropping and reaching unsustainable European levels. In this regard, I worry about 10.5 million in Greece (1.3 births) juxtaposed to 85 million in Turkey (1.9 births). Secondly, the Trump phenomenon upset traditional politics and convinced the Left that he posed an existential threat to their agendas and justified any means to stop him.
So, we suffered through the Russian collusion hoax, the Russian disinformation laptop hoax, the Russian bots swaying an election hoax, and never before things seen in the House, such as denying the minority party its nominated members’ committee assignments, the speaker tearing up a state of the union address on national TV, two impeachments and an impeachment trial of a private citizen.
Now the Republicans have taken the House and apparently will boomerang these Democrat new precedents against the now Democratic minority. Again, behind these bitter political struggles is a more fundamental divide: those who believe America was unique at its founding, for all its faults was self-critical and self-correcting, and has played a needed role abroad and given its citizens at home prosperity, security and happiness unseen elsewhere, versus those who believe it was flawed at its founding, worsened over its maturity, and remains toxic in the present and so requires radical changes to its institutions, constitution and demographics.
All political fights reflect this essential divide that is apparently not reconcilable.
Trump is the front-runner to win the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential elections despite his low overall ratings and the setback of the midterms, where he lost some critical battles, hurting the Republicans’ overall performance in both the Senate and the House. Do you think he still has a chance of returning to the White House? What would that mean for the US, the Western Alliance and the world?
Biden, even before the recent “garage-gate” scandal, was polling 43 percent approval. In matchups, Biden beats in most polls Trump by 1-2 points. But he loses to DeSantis by 1-2.
So, it is far too early to take these polls seriously. From November to January candidate Trump committed a number of self-induced errors, while DeSantis soared in the midterms. Biden would be 82 in 2024 and is, to be honest, an old 82. Kamala Harris frightens Democrats.
Trump or DeSantis?
‘I try to encourage our establishment to maintain strong support for Greece, whose security and prosperity are vital to the West in so many ways’
About 50 percent of Republicans believe DeSantis can continue Trump’s successful record but without the circus-like atmosphere. Trump supporters counter that only a combative Trump can subdue the bipartisan apparatchik class that is responsible for US decline.
So right now, our politics is a mess, and the country is split in two between a traditional red-state America and a blue-state counterpart that wants to radically change what America has been. I would remind Europe that inherent in the left-wing woke agenda, at least in its American manifestations, is not some sort of shared green, ESG [environmental, social and corporate governance], DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] agenda, but a deep dislike of the Western tradition and an effort to recalibrate the nation more toward Latin America, Asia and Africa that the Left believes reflects more the emerging interests of 30 percent of the country and the effects of 20 years of open borders.
In the summer of 2021 Biden implemented Trump’s pledge and the US left Afghanistan. But in the summer of 2022 the US was deeply involved in Ukraine. Is the US determined to lead Ukraine toward a final victory over Russia by the summer of 2023? Would a possible defeat of Russia herald a radical rebalancing of power in Europe?
It was not quite that simple. In his proposed withdrawal, Trump had conceded to keep safe a remnant force of c. 3,500 US personnel to ensure the embassy (new $1 billion investment) and Bagram Air Base ($300 million retrofit), and US weapons and assets (c. $30-50? billion).
I think the laws of classical deterrence suggest that Putin was emboldened to green-light the February 23 invasion by the August 2021 humiliating flight of US troops (without consultation with our NATO allies in Kabul). He regarded the skedaddle as a sign that the West would not act in any muscular way.
Nowadays the US increasingly supports Ukraine.
There is a great split in the US over Ukraine that flips upside down traditional domestic politics: The former neo-isolationist Left that usually has opposed interventions abroad is adamant to supply Ukraine at whatever cost to expel every last Russian and restore all the pre-2014 borders (which Putin violated under the Obama administration). The Right largely supports Zelenskyy but believes absolute victory over nuclear Russia is unlikely, and the supposed pre-emptive and offensive steps to ensure total victory ($300-400 billion? in US weapons, along with attacks on the Russian Black Sea fleet and Russian bases and supply depots inside Russia) are quite dangerous.
Eventually I think most Americans will prefer a negotiated settlement that might entail ensuring Ukraine is defensively armed to the teeth, but not a member of NATO. And there are hopes that some sort of international plebiscite might adjudicate the future of majority Russian-speaking territories annexed in 2014.
What if none of the above is followed and the war keeps going?
In this case we could see by year’s end: (1) 400,000 total dead in the war, trillions of dollars in damage, and even more Russian nuclear saber-rattling, (2) the EU will continue to have chronic energy problems, (3) the West loses the traditional triangulating role of Russia vis-a-vis China, and (4) we are insidiously creating a dangerous new axis of Russia, China, Iran, and perhaps Turkey.
US-China competition is intensifying in all strategic sectors. The US is being challenged to prove whether it can defend and reiterate its status as the sole superpower. Can the US rise to this challenge despite its rancorous and divided politics?
The problem unfortunately transcends politics. We have not been investing at traditional levels in research and development. The Woke-Jacobin revolution in our universities is at its heart anti-meritocratic and now extends to science, engineering and mathematics – which is why the Chinese encourage it. And we are losing an entire generation of students who either are engaged in ideologically driven diversity/equity/inclusion sorts of research, or on the other hand are being rejected at our top universities despite superb SAT scores and GPAs.
Our southern border saw 5 million illegal entries since January 2021, and we voluntarily gave up energy independence by canceling a number of oil and pipeline projects. Moreover, many of our most powerful elites in government and private enterprise of both parties are deeply invested in and compromised by China.
There are 370,000 Chinese students in the US. And on and on. So, unlike the Cold War Soviet Union, China poses a much more insidious threat. Yet I am optimistic only because these problems are self-inflicted and so can be self-addressed. Nothing is fated; US decline is a choice not predetermined, so we all hope a suicidal America wakes up in time.
Bipartisan support for Greece
If Turkey “comes suddenly one night” to attack Greece, as Erdogan often threatens publicly, could Athens expect support from the US similar to what Ukraine gets to fight Russia?
I would hope so, given Greece, unlike Ukraine, is a NATO power with historic ties to the US that vastly surpass Ukraine’s, and in the last half-century, Greek-American relations have never been stronger, at least in comparison to the sometimes estranged past. You ask perhaps because not since 1974 have we seen one NATO member existentially threaten another – a new level of Turkish escalation well beyond its bullying of Cyprus, and its chronic overflights and aggression in the eastern Aegean.
US support for Greece is mostly bipartisan and I believe still strong. One of the ironies of the prior Trump administration, that was often unpopular abroad, was that he upped US policy support for both Israel and Greece in ways we had not seen by prior administrations of either party. In my own small way, I try to encourage our establishment to maintain strong support for Greece, whose security and prosperity are vital to the West in so many ways.