For all the hysteria over former defense secretary Robert Gates’s new insider memoir of his tenure during the Bush and Obama administrations, the disclosures are more breaches of trust than earth-shattering revelations. Much of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War is the ordinary stuff of public service.
What little gossip in the book there is that may be controversial — revelations that both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cynically opposed the successful Bush-era surge in Iraq on political grounds, or that Vice President Joe Biden is a buffoonish blowhard — was already common knowledge to many Americans.
Gates sees himself as reluctantly drawn to Washington to help rescue the fading Bush administration’s unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, he grudgingly stayed on at the Defense Department, apparently to add some sobriety to an at times comically inexperienced new Obama team.
There is a long tradition of retired court insiders revealing unflattering details about their bosses before they leave office — and it is not uplifting. The Roman court insider Petronius thought he could get away with caricaturing the buffoonish emperor Nero through his racy novel The Satyricon. Continue reading “‘Duty,’ and the Taint of the Tell-All”→
Today launches the Freedom Academy®, a project some 18 months in the making. In the present age, we need a meeting place where people can rediscover what freedom entails and appreciate the origins and role of liberty. The majority of Americans yearn for a rebirth of these values that have sustained Western civilization, and birthed the American experiment. Such reverence for our heritage and origins is why we at PJ Media will offer a variety of ways to understand our present dilemmas through an appreciation of past ideas and events.
Despite all the contemporary upheavals in Washington—whether over the government shutdown, debt-ceiling increase, or Obamacare—we can be certain that history remains both our gateway to the future and our window to the past. The political strife we are witnessing is not new, but a continuance of the age-old struggle between the tragic and therapeutic views of the human condition, over the collision of history and humanities with the social sciences, and the liberty of the individual pitted against the coercive power of the collective. Continue reading “The Launch of the Freedom Academy”→
I have been reading both new and classic books this week among the ruins (see photos below).
Martin Anderson, now almost in his 90th year, has written a fascinating memoir about fashioning a cattle and big-game preservation ranch in Africa: Galana: Elephant, Game Domestication, and Cattle on a Kenya Ranch.At one time Galana was believed to have been the largest single ranching operation in Africa, and one encouraged by the Kenyan government to be a model of tourism, cattle production, and wildlife protection.Galana is an analytical but also personal memoir about what Africa was like in its once hopeful and immediate postcolonial phase, and how Martin Anderson in his late thirties came to the Kenyan wild in 1960, when most Westerners were leaving, often for understandable reasons. When I last saw Martin two weeks ago, he was headed to Nairobi, undaunted by the recent Islamic violence at the shopping center, and eager to return to his ranch. When talking with Martin (who appears more like 65 than 89), one realizes that in some sense age is a state of mind — and old age a referendum on a life either smartly or unwisely lived.
Speaking of the bush and the wild, as I was finishing rereading Galana last evening, I got a call from my son about a truck speeding out of the family vineyard alleyway across the road. Yes, I know, reader — same old, same old:
The miscreants had already dumped their trash: chemical drums, paints, solvents, oils, concrete, tires, garbage, and lots of broken fluorescent glass tubes — something a bit worse than the usual toxic brew that is left on San Joaquin Valley property. Continue reading “Reading Among the Ruins”→
Classicists should infuriate other humanists, in the way that the handsome scholar-athlete who volunteers to help dyslexic children and is a genuinely nice guy should infuriate the guy who just made it onto the football team and has a hard time keeping up his GPA, or the kid with the great GPA who can’t do a pull-up—but they don’t hate him, because he’s just so good. That, at least, is how this historian feels whenever he reads a classicist.
These feelings of bitter self-recrimination are a normal part of the intellectual life, according to most intellectuals, but especially strong within me because I have just finished Victor Davis Hanson’s The End of Sparta, first published in 2011 and issued in paperback this spring. It was an absolutely infuriating experience. Isn’t enough for Hanson to have conceived of a genuinely original theory for the development of classical Greece? Can’t he be satisfied with roiling the waters of military history with his arguments for a “western Continue reading ““The End of Sparta” — A Review”→
After constant exposure to critically important news, it begins to lose all meaning and sense of urgency. Hearing the same warnings over and over again—especially when the status quo seems static—can cause a certain desensitization, a resigned apathy that ignores the warnings in the wishful hope that they won’t materialize. This hope becomes more optimistic (and passive) with each passing day that the warnings do not materialize.
One of the most evident examples of this phenomenon is the threat of a nuclear Iran. For years, the international community has been hearing about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons; for years, the world has been hearing Iran make bold, genocidal threats—most notoriously, that it will wipe the state of Israel off the map. But so far, Iran reportedly still has no nukes, and no large attack has been launched on Israel. Thus, many have become desensitized to the situation—including those charged with ensuring that a nuclear Iran never becomes a reality. Continue reading “Mideast Nuclear Holocaust”→
Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, former classics professor, scholar of ancient warfare, a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution and the author of some 20 books. He has been a commentator on modern warfare and contemporary politics for National Review and is a nationally syndicated columnist for the Tribune Media Group. Thus, it was particularly interesting to hear him talk about his new book, “The Savior Generals,” at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Wednesday Morning Club luncheon held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills on August 12th.