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  • Jack 3:11 am on December 14, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , victor davis hanson   

    Fake Truth 

    The most effective way for the media to have refuted Donald Trump’s 24/7 accusations of “fake news” would have been to publish disinterested, factually based accounts of his presidency. The Trump record should have been set straight through logic and evidence.

    So one would think after a year of disseminating fake news aimed at Donald Trump (Melania Trump was leaving the White House; Donald Trump had removed the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the West Wing; Trump planned to send troops into Mexico, etc.) that Washington and New York journalists would be especially scrupulous in their reporting to avoid substantiating one of Trump’s favorite refrains.

    Instead, either blinded by real hatred or hyper-partisanship or both, much of the media has redoubled their reporting of rumor and fictions as facts—at least if they empower preconceived and useful bias against Trump. But after the year-long tit-for-tat with the president, the media has earned less public support in polls than has the president. It is the age-old nature of politicians of every stripe to exaggerate and mislead, but the duty of journalists to keep them honest—not to trump their yarns.

    A Dangerous Tic

    Last week, ABC News erroneously reported that Michael Flynn, in a supposed new role of cooperation with the prosecution, was prepared to testify that Trump, while still a candidate, ordered him improperly to contact (and, by inference, to collude with) Russian government officials.

    For a while, the startling news sent the stock market into a fall of over 300 points. Was the purported pro-business Trump agenda shortly to be derailed by “proof” of a possible impeachable offense? A little while later, however, ABC was forced to retract that story, to suspend Brian Ross (the reporter involved), and to offer a correction that Trump actually had been president-elect at the time of the contact and completely within his elected purview to reach out to foreign governments.

    Reuters, likewise eager to fuel the narrative of a colluding Trump, asserted that the Mueller investigators had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank records of Trump and his family. Again, the leaked inference was that the inquiry suddenly was coming near to hard evidence of Trump wrongdoing and was thus entering its penultimate stage. In truth, Mueller has more routinely subpoenaed the records of Trump associates, not Trump himself or his family.

    In the most egregious example of peddling fake news, CNN reported that candidate Trump had once received an email entrée to unreleased Wikileaks documents—again suggesting some sort of collusion with Russian or pro-Russian interests. But that narrative was soon discredited, too. CNN failed to note that the email was sent 10 days later than it had originally reported, and instead referred to information already released into the public domain by Wikileaks.

    In this same brief period, Washington Post reporter David Weigel, perhaps eager to suggest that Trump’s popularity among his base was at last waning, tweeted a sardonic captioned photo of half-empty seats at a Trump rally in Pensacola, Florida. He soon offered a retraction and noted his tweeted image wrongly showed the venue well before the actual start of the event—a fact he surely must have known.

    The mainstream media has developed a dangerous tic: the more it warns about the dangers of Donald Trump deprecating the press for its fake news accounts, the more it cannot help itself in rushing out another news story about Trump that is poorly sourced and not fact-checked—and thereby substantiating his original accusation. The more it accuses Trump of exaggeration and prevarication, the more it fails to double- and triple-check its very accusations.

    Lies Live On

    Other unfortunate symptoms of the current epidemic of false assertions are the now familiar rounds of accusations of prejudice and bias in reporting of “events” that are soon revealed to be manufactured or staged. Next come the sometimes strange reactions to such retractions and corrections. In September, five cadets at the Air Force Academy alleged that racist threats were posted on their doors. That prompted Superintendent Lt. General Jay Silveria to lecture the student body with the stirring admonition, “If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.” Silveria became a virtue-signaling rock star when his YouTube sermon went viral—only later to learn that the cadets themselves had staged the supposed hate threats.

    Not much later, Marquie Little, a seaman on a U.S. aircraft carrier, posted photos that seemed to show his bed on the George H.W. Bush covered in trash and racial slurs. “I proudly serve the Navy and this is what I’m receiving in return,” Little lamented in a post. Later, Navy officials revealed Little himself had likely concocted the harassment.

    The late Michael Brown likely never uttered the refrain “Hands up, don’t shoot”—a veritable rallying cry that persists for a variety of social justice movements. The Duke lacrosse players were not, as alleged, racist rapists. A University of Virginia fraternity was not a den of jock sexual predators, as Rolling Stone reported. Nor was Lena Dunham, as she wrote, sexually traumatized by a right-wing assaulter while a student at Oberlin.

    What accounts for the latest epidemic of fake news and false allegations of prejudicial behavior? Examples above have preceded Trump’s presidency, but recently the trend has been reenergized by it.

    The singular media hatred of Trump’s style and agenda have galvanized wider elite resistance, in which a willingness to achieve perceived noble ends of removing Trump should justify almost any means necessary. In such a larger climate of “the Resistance,” we have witnessed a new assassination chic of threatening the president, coupled with sometimes vulgar attacks on the Trump family. A spate of supposed racial harassment fosters a narrative of renewed intolerance in the age of Trump.

    Fake news also channels the resistance of universities, Hollywood, and political operatives. And just as we have witnessed efforts to sue to overturn the tally of voting machines, and to nullify the Electoral College, or witness a House vote on impeachment, talk of invoking the 25th Amendment, and calls to sue under the emoluments clause, so, too, the media has substituted its original mission of disinterested reporting to keep everyone honest for one of trying to nullify the 2016 presidential election. Journalists such as Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times and Christiane Amanpour of CNN have at least confessed that, in such trying Trump times, journalists of character can no longer easily remain merely disinterested reporters.

    Second, for over a generation, postmodernism in the universities has seeped into the larger culture. The new relativism has postulated absolute facts and uncontested “truths.” do not exist as anything other than “social constructs.” Assertions of truth instead reflect the efforts of a race/class/gender-based hegemony to construct self-serving narratives. (Never mind that asserting there is no truth is, itself, an assertion of truth.) Today, the elites believe that a cadre of mostly white, male, and rich sanctions its narratives with uncontested and unearned authority, through which it further oppresses in insidious fashion the relatively powerless “Other.”

    “Truths” Bigger Than Facts

    Instead, “truth” consists of endless “my truth” claims versus “your truth” claims. Competing stories are then adjudicated by respective accesses to power—the ultimate arbiter of whether one particular narrative wins authority over another.

    In this context, if a sailor or cadet concocts a racist attack, what great difference do rather insignificant details of narrative make in the wider scheme of social justice and equality, given the larger and historical “true” canvass of racism?

    Upon the revelation that the cadets at the Air Force Academy faked their stories, Gen. Silveria seemed not especially bothered by it. Instead, he renewed his calls for increased awareness of racism at the academy—as if the fake news account could (or even should) have been true and thus an occasion for remediation: “Regardless of the circumstances under which those words were written, they were written, and that deserved to be addressed . . . You can never over-emphasize the need for a culture of dignity and respect—and those who don’t understand those concepts aren’t welcome here.” A noble sentiment to be sure, but are words written in falsity just as valid as those written in truth?

    When Brian Ross constructed a falsehood, or David Weigel concocted a fantasy about poor attendance at a Trump rally, the details apparently did not matter so much as the attention to the larger “Truth”: Trump surely must have collided with the Russians, or Trump by this point certainly must have been losing crowd appeal, so it does not matter all that much how reality is conveyed.

    On the one hand, larger “truths” exist of cosmic social justice; on the other, bothersome so-called “facts” are largely predicated on the prejudices and resistance of the powerful who unduly give them authenticity. In such a postmodern environment, the “truth” that Donald Trump is purportedly a reactionary sexist and bigot is what mostly matters, not the bothersome details of counter-progressive narratives or stories that in one-dimensional fashion claim to follow rules of evidence, but instead serve an illiberal reality over a liberal one. What do a few dates on the calendar matter, concerning when Michael Flynn consulted with the Russians—given the larger truth that they surely once sought to deny Hillary Clinton the presidency?

    In our brave new world, fake news is the truest news. Staged oppressions serve to remind us of the real ones. The higher “good,” not the lower facts, is all that matters.


    See Also:

    (1) Fake News Firehose: Science Proves Media Are Not Making ‘Honest Mistakes’ About Trump

  • Jack 3:40 am on December 13, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , victor davis hanson   

    Investigative Disaster 

    Special prosecutors, investigators, and counsels are usually a bad idea. They are admissions that constitutionally mandated institutions don’t work — and can be rescued only by supposed superhuman moralists, who are without the innate biases inherent in human nature.

    The record from Lawrence Walsh to Ken Starr to Patrick Fitzgerald suggests otherwise. Originally narrow mandates inevitably expand — on the cynical theory that everyone has something embarrassing to hide. Promised “short” timelines and limited budgets are quickly forgotten. Prosecutors search for ever new crimes to justify the expense and public expectations of the special-counsel appointment.

    Soon the investigators need to be investigated for their own conflicts of interest, as if we need special-special or really, really special prosecutors. Special investigations often quickly turn Soviet, in the sense of “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller has led what seems to be an exemplary life of public service. No doubt he believes that as a disinterested investigator he can get to the bottom of the once contentious charge of “Russian collusion” in the 2016 election. But can he?

    A Mandate Gone Wild

    Something has gone terribly wrong with the Mueller investigation.

    The investigation is venturing well beyond the original mandate of rooting out evidence of Russian collusion. Indeed, the word “collusion” is now rarely invoked at all. It has given way to its successor, “obstruction.” The latter likely will soon beget yet another catchphrase to justify the next iteration of the investigations.

    There seems far less special investigatory concern with the far more likely Russian collusion in the matters of the origins and dissemination of the Fusion GPS/Steele dossier, and its possible role in the Obama-administration gambit of improper or illegal surveilling, unmasking, and leaking of the names of American citizens.

    Leaks from the Mueller investigation so far abound. They have seemed calibrated to create a public consensus that particular individuals are currently under investigation, likely to be indicted — or indeed likely guilty.

    These public worries are not groundless. They are deeply rooted in the nature and liberal composition of the Mueller investigative team — whose left-leaning appointments just months ago had understandably made the liberal media giddy with anticipation from the outset. Wired, for instance, published this headline on June 14: “Robert Mueller Chooses His Investigatory Dream Team.” Vox, on August 22, wrote: “Meet the all-star legal team who may take down Trump.” The Daily Beast, two day later, chimed in: “Inside Robert Mueller’s Army.”

    Whose ‘Army,’ Whose ‘Dream Team,’ and Whose ‘All-Stars’?

    Special Counsel Mueller was himself appointed in rather strange circumstances. Former FBI director James Comey (now reduced to ankle-biting the president on Twitter with Wikipedia-like quotes) stated under oath that he had deliberately leaked his own confidential notes about conversations with President Trump, hoping to prompt appointment of a special investigator to investigate a president — whom he said, also under oath, that he was not investigating.

    Comey’s ploy worked all too well. Department of Justice officials, now in the Trump Justice Department but who once served in Barack Obama’s administration, selected Comey’s close friend and long associate Robert Mueller as investigator. From that germination, an innate conflict of interest was born — given that Mueller’s appointment assumed that Comey himself would not come under his own investigation, a supposition that may be increasingly untenable.

    Okay — but one such conflict of interest swallow does not make a discredited spring.

    But then there was the weird position of Comey subordinate and deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe. He ran the Washington, D.C., office that was involved in the Clinton email investigations. For some strange reason, McCabe did not recuse himself from the email investigation until one week before the presidential election, even though just months earlier his wife, Jill McCabe, had announced her Democratic campaign for a state senate seat in Virginia — and had received a huge donation of more than $675,000 from the political organizations of Governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton supporter and intimate. Like it or not, the behavior of the FBI during the Clinton email investigations also extends to the Russian-collusion probe, especially as it pertains to the Clinton-funded Fusion GPS/Steele dossier.

    Okay — Washington is an incestuous place, and such conflicts of interest may be unavoidable. Perhaps McCabe himself was not really so directly involved in the FBI investigations of Clinton, and perhaps he had not even talked about the current Mueller investigations.

    But then it was announced that at least six of Mueller’s staff of 15 lawyers, who previously had donated (in some cases quite generously) to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, were now investigating her arch foe Donald Trump.

    Okay — no doubt, such apparent conflicts of interests are not what they seem (given the overwhelming preponderance of liberal lawyers in general and in particular in Washington). After all, no one should be disqualified from government service for his or her political beliefs.

    But then we came to the inexplicable case of Peter Strzok, an FBI investigator assigned to the Mueller investigation of Russian collusion. Strzok and Lisa Page, a consulting FBI lawyer (part of Mueller’s once-ballyhooed “dream team”), were for some reason relieved from the investigation of Trump in late summer 2016. Mueller’s office refused to explain the departure of either, other than to let the media assume that the departures were both unrelated and due to normal revolving or transient appointments.

    Okay — even dream-teamers and all-stars occasionally move on, and the less said, the better.

    But then we learn that the two, while part of Mueller’s investigation of Trump, were having an extramarital affair, and exchanging some 10,000 texts, of which at least some were adamantly anti-Trump and pro-Clinton. One wonders, Why did that information, now confirmed, come out through leaks rather than through official Mueller communiqués? In other words, if there is nothing now deemed improper about the two Trump investigators’ amorous political expressions or in the anti-Trump nature of their exchanges, why was there apparently such a reluctance in August and September to avoid full disclosure concerning their abrupt departures?

    Okay — perhaps indiscreet electronic communications and affairs in the workplace are no big deal in Washington.

    But then Strzok apparently was also responsible for changing the wording of the official FBI report on the Clinton email affair. He crossed out the original finding of “grossly negligent,” which is legalese that under the statute constitutes a crime, and replaced it with “extremely careless,” which does not warrant prosecution.

    Okay — perhaps we can shrug and suggest that Strzok surely did not have the final say in such verbal gymnastics. Or perhaps his anti-Trump, pro-Clinton sentiments were not germane to his mere copy editing or his reliance on a thesaurus.

    But then we learned that Andrew Weissmann, who is another veteran prosecutor assigned to Mueller’s legal team, praised Sally Yates, an Obama-administration holdover at the Trump Department of Justice, for breaking her oath of office and refusing to carry out President Trump’s immigration order (Yates was summarily fired). “I am so proud,” he emailed Yates, on the day she publicly defied the president. “And in awe. Thank you so much. All my deepest respects.”

    Okay — it certainly does not look good that a disinterested government attorney investigating the president was so indiscreet as to write his admiration to a fellow Obama holdover who was fighting with Trump. But to give the anti-Trump attorneys the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Weissmann was merely reacting to Yates’s panache rather than to her shared political views?

    But then again, we learned that another attorney on the Mueller staff, Jeannie Rhee, was at one time the personal attorney of Ben Rhodes, the Obama deputy national-security adviser who is often mentioned as instrumental in making last-minute Obama-administrative-state appointments to thwart the incoming Trump administration. Rhee also provided legal counsel to the Clinton Foundation and was a generous donor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

    Rhee seemingly could not be a disinterested investigator of Trump, given that she has had financial interests with those, past and present, who are fiercely opposed to the current likely target of her investigations.

    Okay — but perhaps in Washington’s upside-down world, lawyers are mere hired guns who have no real political loyalties and they investigate, without bias, those whose politics they detest. Why should they feel a need to be shy about their political agendas?

    But then again, most recently, it was disclosed that a senior Justice Department official, Bruce G. Ohr, connected with various ongoing investigations under the aegis of the Justice Department, was partially reassigned for his contact with the opposition-research firm responsible for the Clinton-funded, anti-Trump “dossier” — which in theory could be one catalyst for the original FBI investigation of “collusion” and thus additionally might be the reason cited to request FISA orders to surveil Trump associates during the 2016 campaign. And note that it was also never disclosed that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, whose expertise was Russian politics and history, actually worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign, when the opposition research firm’s discredited anti-Trump dossier alleging Russian collusion was leaked shortly before Election Day 2016.

    Okay — perhaps Ohr, as part of his job, was merely learning about aspects of the dossier from one of its owners, for future reference.

    But then again, we learned of the strange career odyssey of yet another person on Mueller’s legal team, Aaron Zebley (supposedly known in the past as Mueller’s “right-hand hand”). He once served as Mueller’s chief of staff while employed at the FBI and was also assigned to both the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division and the National Security Division at the Department of Justice. In addition, Zebley served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the National Security and Terrorism Unit in Virginia. Yet Zebley, as late as 2015, represented one Justin Cooper. The latter was the IT staffer who set up Hillary Clinton’s likely illegal and unsecure server at her home, and who purportedly smashed Clinton’s various BlackBerries with a hammer in fear they would be subpoenaed. Zebley had come into contact once earlier with congressional investigators, when he was legal counsel for Cooper — and yet Zebley now is on Mueller’s team investigating Donald Trump.

    What’s Next?

    By now there are simply too many coincidental conflicts of interest and too much improper investigatory behavior to continue to give the Mueller investigation the benefit of doubt. Each is a light straw; together, they now have broken the back of the probe’s reputation.

    In inexplicable fashion, Mueller seems to have made almost no effort to select attorneys from outside Washington, from diverse private law firms across the country, who were without personal involvement with the Clinton machine, and who were politically astute or disinterested enough to keep their politics to themselves.

    Indeed, the special-counsel investigation has developed an eerie resemblance to the spate of sexual-harassment cases, in which the accused sluff off initial charges as irrelevant, unproven, or politically motivated, only to be confronted with more fresh allegations that insidiously point to a pattern of repeated behavior.

    What then is going on here?

    No one knows. We should assume that there will be almost daily new disclosures of the Mueller investigation’s conflicts of interest that were heretofore deliberately suppressed.

    Yet Donald Trump at this point would be unhinged if he were to fire Special Counsel Mueller — given that the investigators seem intent on digging their own graves through conflicts of interest, partisan politicking, leaking, improper amorous liaisons, indiscreet communications, and stonewalling the release of congressionally requested information.

    Indeed, the only remaining trajectory by which Mueller and his investigators can escape with their reputations intact is to dismiss those staff attorneys who have exhibited clear anti-Trump political sympathies, reboot the investigation, and then focus on what now seems the most likely criminal conduct: Russian and Clinton-campaign collusion in the creation of the anti-Trump Fusion GPS dossier and later possible U.S. government participation in the dissemination of it. If such a fraudulent document was used to gain court approval to surveil Trump associates, and under such cover to unmask and leak names of private U.S. citizens — at first to warp a U.S. election, and then later to thwart the work of an incoming elected administration — then Mueller will be tasked with getting to the bottom of one of the greatest political scandals in recent U.S. history. Indeed, his legacy may not be that he welcomed in known pro-Clinton, anti-Trump attorneys to investigate the Trump 2016 campaign where there was little likelihood of criminality, but that he ignored the most egregious case of government wrongdoing in the last half-century.


    See Also:

    (1) Trump lawyer wants separate special prosecutor to probe DOJ-Fusion conflicts

    (2) FBI’s McCabe ‘has an Ohr problem,’ will not testify on Tuesday, source says

    (3) Inside the Trump dossier handoff: McCain’s ‘go-between’ speaks out

  • Jack 11:21 am on December 5, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , victor davis hanson   

    Cruel Bullies 

    Observers look for some sort of common denominator that would make sense of the daily news blasts of nonconsensual sexual escapades of media, political, and Hollywood celebrities.

    No sooner are these lists of the accused compiled than they have to be updated, hourly. Long hushed, covered-up, or even forgotten sexual IEDs suddenly go off without warning and blow up a career.

    Weirder still, the now-outraged often overnight can become the outrageous.

    One moment Richard Dreyfuss expressed furor when he learned that gay actor Kevin Spacey long ago had groped his own son under the table (while the three were working on a script). The next minute, Dreyfuss himself was accused of an earlier repulsive unwanted sex act or advance toward a female subordinate.

    New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush condemns the bad behavior of journalist Mark Halperin — and then finds himself accused of similar coerced sexual behavior. Senator Al Franken’s often sanctimonious outrages over the Fox News harassers would soon apply just as easily to his own behavior. We forget that the original context of Juvenal’s famous quip “Who will police the police?” was the insidiousness of sex.

    Note these latest scandals are different from the age-old stories of consensual adultery. They are mostly not consensual affairs in the workplace, supposedly initiated by grasping subordinates or by oppressive bosses in midlife crises. Nor are they the connivances in dating and courtship — all the sort of consenting unions gone awry that are the stuff of novels and films.

    Instead, in nearly all these examples of sexual harassment, there is inherently a beauty-and-the-beast asymmetry, male arrogance — and spitefulness. What repels is not just unwanted or coerced sex acts — but the gratuitous cruelty that so often surrounds them.

    So what are the common pathologies to all these male icons — who are falling as fast as Confederate statutes a few months ago, in our earlier manifestation of collective moral frenzy?

    Was it male-menopause desperation on the part of these middle-aged men?

    Did fear of aging or death drive them to use their assumed power to get sex (of various sorts)?

    Did the terror of fading away bring Charlie Rose’s proverbial “crusty paw” out of his sleeve? His targets were almost always younger, less experienced, and attractive professional women.

    Few such women would probably have willingly consorted with someone like the septuagenarian Rose or the off-putting Weinstein (who had an uncanny resemblance to the late gruff American actor Kenneth McMillan, who played the creepy Baron Harkonnen in Dune)?

    Or were the prominent culprits more often liberals and progressives? Men of the Left assumed that their loudly professed feminist credentials earned them indulgences and exemptions to covet as they pleased.

    Many progressive predators assumed that if they were caught, most of the victimized women would weigh the damage that might be done to the liberal cause if they took out one of the good guys on their side. (Remember Bill Clinton’s progressive, “feminist” defenders of the 1990s.)

    Is the fuel of these accusations, then, loss of deterrence: Once a man of influence and power believes that his abstract morality can cloak his private immorality, there are few restraints left in our postmodern secular age to restrain his setting libido?

    Or was the catalyst for harassment age-old ego and narcissism?

    Being before the cameras and in the spotlight befuddled these celebrities into the delusional thought that their name recognition and petit fame meant that women — all women of every age and station — secretly wished to be part of their inner circle.

    Did they assume, despite their targets’ clearly expressed uninterest or outright resistance, that women “really” wished a Matt Lauer or Mark Halperin would flirt or make advances?

    Or was the problem occasionally rooted in the proverbial “revenge of the nerds” factor? The perpetrators were neither in their salad days nor athletes or physically robust. But mostly they were the former nerds of high school and college, who had been ignored by the dating crowd and who later excelled in writing, talking, making money, or administering.

    Once they found that their intellectual, artistic, or political niches worked like a narcotic on the naïve, perhaps they sought to make up for lost time. In other words, they would somehow do in their fifties, sixties, and seventies what they had failed to do in their twenties and thirties — now coercing with the brain and tongue what they had once failed to win with their biceps.

    Or were they just workaholic players who wished to engage in quickie impersonal sex? Their modus operandi was to skip the preliminaries and just crudely get down to business. And their warped logic was that for every ten targets that were repulsed by phallic exhibition, groping, or potty talk, there might be one who was some kindred demented spirit.

    All of the above may explain a similar pattern of behavior. But one ingredient seems missing in these analyses: gratuitous cruelty.

    Almost every allegation contains some theme of male orneriness.

    Think of the smirk on Al Franken’s face when he posed for the camera while fondling the breasts of a sleeping Leeann Tweeden. Why the need for a smile of triumph in humiliating an unaware target?

    Think of Matt Lauer’s purported sicko game of asking fellow grandees whether they would wish to marry, have sex with — or kill — his various female co-hosts? In what category would Lauer himself have fit, had his female subordinates played the same game about their bosses?

    Think of Bill Clinton allegedly smirking as he stalked out of a hotel room, advising the bleeding Juanita Broaddrick to “put some ice” on her lip that Clinton had just reportedly chewed.

    Think of Glenn Thrush fabricating stories of role reversal, to depict the victimized women as vixens for their supposed pursuit of him. Are we really to take seriously the claim of a dorky Garrison Keillor that he was groped dozens of times by nymphomaniac women, a victimhood apparently that offsets his victimizing?

    In the most macabre sense, think of the doomed Mary Jo Kopechne thrashing about in a sunken car, fighting for her young life, as the drunken driver and perpetrator — Ted Kennedy — sulked about on shore, worrying only about losing his Camelot career.

    Think of Charlie Rose’s victims who described the “fury” of his advances and his “animalistic” tactics. One victim said that Rose grabbed her hair and twisted her neck; another found herself trapped in his country house without transportation home, crying as Rose grew angry that she had not welcomed his sexual exhibitionism.

    Think of the similar sick exhibitionism of a Conyers or Weinstein. Both deliberately walked about in their underwear or in open robes, glaring at their grossed-out targets as they reacted negatively to their phallic exposure. (After how many terms in office, or after how many hit movies, did Conyers or Weinstein decide it was now an uplifting experience for a female subordinate to catch sight of his male organ?)

    Think of a Mark Halperin allegedly pressing a woman against a window, or masturbating behind a desk as he leered at her.

    The streak of malice is so frequent in all these allegations that it becomes a theme.

    Did the callousness result from the idea that such important men had a strict timetable, with not a second to be wasted by romance or even rudimentary expressions of professionalism and friendship? But why did they not even feign liking the women they coerced?

    Are feminist theoreticians on to something when they say that in these cases of sexual assault, physical gratification is only part of the equation (sometimes a small part) — that the real impetus might be the sadism of nastily humiliating someone judged weaker?

    I grew up on a farm and live there now, and for over half a century, I’ve at various times been surrounded by dogs, donkeys, horses, cows, and wild animals ranging from hawks to coyotes. One notices over the decades how animals eat and couple.

    They are utilitarian and in the human sense selfish to the core. The animal does not know where its next meal comes from, and so he bites, growls, and attacks any rival who gets too close as he almost instantaneously gulps down or swallows whole his meal.

    In matters of sex, the male animal, after an occasional rudimentary display of intention, simply approaches his target and attempts to mount; if he faces too much opposition, he tries again later or approaches another target. There is, of course, a Darwinian explanation for animal behavior. But humans are supposed to have developed over the centuries a civilized culture to repress our innate selfishness and cruelty in matters of food and sex.

    These men seemed to have enjoyed reverting to their premodern reptilian selves. Do they revert all the more easily to their instincts also because there are few marshals to take them down?

    In the old days, for every Weinstein or Charlie Rose, there would have been a get-even husband, outraged dad, family friend, big brother, or furious boyfriend who would have cornered the cowardly assaulter (called out as a “punk” or “bully”), and either knocked his block off or dressed him down. I once saw a tough old World War II veteran walk up and grab a stunned prominent local judge, raise him over his head, shake him good a few times, and say, “Listen, knock it off bothering my wife.”

    But is all that “toxic” masculinity now passé — killed off by the chaos of the Sixties and the assurances that the deep state could handle harassment? Women, we are told, don’t need deluded Gary Coopers or condescending Jimmy Stewarts around to open doors, pick up the tab, or play their historic chivalrous roles in protecting women from the cruel men among them.

    But the malicious men currently in the news knew that too often the slow-coach Human Resources Department would merely catalogue their assaults and weigh the costs and benefits of endangering the careers of rich, powerful, famous predators.

    Given that fact, lots of cowards like Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, or Harvey Weinstein did what all cruel bullies do. They attacked and humiliated the vulnerable without worry of repercussions — and they did so with wanton meanness apparently as sick relish.


  • Jack 4:59 am on November 25, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , chinese politics, japanese history, , , victor davis hanson   

    Déjà Vu? 

    A few weeks ago, Chinese president Xi Jinping offered a Soviet-style five-year plan for China’s progress at the Communist Party congress in Beijing. Despite his talk of global cooperation, the themes were familiar socialist boilerplate about Chinese economic and military superiority to come.

    Implicit in the 205-minute harangue were echoes of the themes of the 1930s: A rising new Asian power would protect the region and replace declining Western influence.

    President Xi promised that the Chinese patronage offered a new option for his neighbors “to speed up their development while preserving their independence.”

    Sound familiar?

    In the 1930s, Imperial Japan tried to square the same circle of importing Western technology while deriding the West. It deplored Western influence in Asia while claiming that its own influence in the region was more authentic.

    Only about 60 years after the so-called Meiji Restoration, Japan shocked the West by becoming one of the great industrial and military powers of the world.

    Depressed by the superior technology and wealth of Western visitors, late-19th-century Japan entered a breakneck race to create entire new industries — mining, energy, steel — out of nothing.

    It soon sent tens of thousands of students to European (and, to a lesser extent, American) universities and military colleges. They mastered Western military organization firsthand.

    Japanese engineering students returned home with world-class expertise in aviation, nautical architecture, and ballistics — and a disdain for the supposed “decadence” of their mentors.

    The Japanese model was to first inspect and assess the latest European and American military technology: single-wing fighters, aircraft carriers, naval torpedo and dive bombers, and battleships. Then they copied the most promising designs but applied trademark Japanese craftsmanship and government support to make even bigger, sometimes better, and often more numerous weapons.

    By 1941, Japanese super-battleships, fleet carriers, and fighter planes looked almost identical to British and American models. Often they were just as good, if not better.

    Japan also felt that it had persuasive propaganda to win over its Asian clients. It reminded its Pacific neighbors that Japan’s new industries were even more efficient than those of their supposedly more sophisticated European rivals. Tokyo offered greater wealth for Asian clients willing to submit to the Japanese patronage.

    Old European powers such as Great Britain and France, Japanese warlords insisted, were spent. They certainly had no moral business assuming the Pacific as their own.

    After Japan invaded Manchuria and, later, mainland China, Tokyo seemed to assume that conquered Asian peoples resented not imperialism in general as much as Western imperialism. Supposedly, Asian neighbors would see Japanese exploitation as at least being in the family of the wider Asian community.

    Haughty, complacent (and sometimes racist) Americans and British at first scoffed at the idea that previously backward Japan could ever achieve parity with the West. They wrongly conflated Japanese eagerness for copying all things Western with Japan’s permanent inferiority.

    The Japanese Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere was officially born in June 1940, to mask Japanese aggression in Manchuria and mainland China, to take over French Indochina a few months later, and to plan a preemptive war against Britain and the United States.

    Planning to have control over the oil riches of the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia), the rubber of Malaysia, and the mineral wealth of China and Burma, Japan sought complete independence from the West with a so-called “yen bloc” of subservient states.

    Satellite Asian clients were expected to overlook Japanese bullying and imperialism in exchange for the advantages of trickle-down wealth from a rising Japanese economy and the paternalistic security offered by the Imperial Japanese Navy and ground forces.

    In truth, Japan’s Asian subjects soon hated Tokyo even more than they did London or Washington. They made concessions to Japan only because Western appeasement and isolationism precluded active resistance to Japan’s rising sun — at least until Pearl Harbor.

    China is currently following the Japanese model of the 1930s and early 1940s.

    All the parallels are there: claims of Western decline, appeals to pan-Asian solidarity, the bullying of neighbors, visions of a Chinese-led trading and currency bloc, new westernized Chinese weapons, and boasts that Beijing has combined the best of both Western technology and superior Asian discipline to become the superpower of the future.

    China’s miraculous transformation from a peasant subsistence culture is even more impressive than was Japan’s — given that in 2017, China is a nation of more than 1.3 billion people, as opposed to Japan’s pre-war population of about 70 million.

    In our arrogance and complacency, we once scoffed at the Japanese and their idea of the first Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere — and then suffered what followed.

    Are we doing the same thing some 75 years later?

    — Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won. You can reach him by email at [email protected]. Copyright © 2017 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


  • Jack 3:23 am on November 23, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , victor davis hanson   

    On “Deplorabilism” 

    There is lots of talk about a new nationalist populist worker movement.

    Supposedly, something quite new would institutionalize, define, and solidify the Trump base of aging Reagan Democrats, old Ross Perot independents, Tea Party remnants, newly disaffected Democratic workers, and a few returning libertarians and paleocons. Certainly, together they helped to swung the election in 2016.

    But what exactly would be the formal agenda of the proverbial deplorables and irredeemables? And how would it differ all that much from conservative Republicanism of generations past?

    After all, despite a much-hyped conservative civil war, a bitter primary, and a NeverTrump movement that won’t quiet, 90 percent of the Republicans in 2016 still voted for Trump. These voters assumed, like deplorable and irredeemable Democrats and Independents, that Trump would push conservative agendas. And they were largely proved correct.

    After 10 months of governance, Trump’s deregulations, a foreign policy of principled realism, energy agendas, judicial appointments, efforts at tax reform and health care recalibration, cabinet appointments, and reformulation at the Departments of Education, the EPA, and Interior seem so far conservative to the core.

    Illegal Immigration, Trade, and Realism

    In the few areas where Trump conceivably differed from his 16 primary Republican rivals—immigration, trade, and foreign policy—the 20th-century Republican/conservative orthodoxy was actually closer to Trump’s positions than to those of recent Republican nominees, John McCain or Mitt Romney.

    Vast majorities of conservatives always favored enforcement of federal immigration law rather than tolerance of sanctuary cities. They wanted to preserve legal, meritocratic, diverse, and measured immigration, not sanction open borders. And they championed the melting pot over the identity politics of the salad bowl.

    In sum, voters did not believe the United States could continue with open borders, or the idea that foreign nationals could cross the border illegally and at will, and then dictate to their hosts the circumstances of their continued residence—much less accuse their magnanimous hosts of racism and nativism for not accepting the demands of their advocates.

    All Trump did was return prior orthodoxy on border enforcement to the fore, albeit often with blunter rhetoric. He called out a loud but minority corporate interest on the Right that wanted cheap labor. And he questioned the wisdom of Republican officials who apparently saw appeasement of illegal immigration as a way to compete for the eventual votes of inevitable and huge annual influxes of illegal aliens.

    But again, the rise of the deplorables was not evidence of some new strain of xenophobia and nativism. Rather their views marked a return not just to Republican values, but also the majority position held by most Americans.

    On trade, every Republican knew that China, as well other developing and mercantile exporting countries cheated and, in effect, ignored agreements on trademarks, copyrights, and safety regulations.

    Trump riled up his base by demanding the government do what Republicans in the past had once assumed to be the commonplace view of things—although in a fashion less radical than the former tariff-policies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Trump further opposed some of the policies of trade blocs like NAFTA. But as in the case of NATO, it is just as likely that in Art of the Deal style, Trump feigned much of his furor to give his subordinates greater leverage to renegotiate a fairer commercial and financial status quo.

    On foreign policy, Trumpism is a return to, or a refinement of, Reagan’s and the elder Bush’s principled realism: the acceptance that the United States has to protect its friends and deter its enemies, maintain the postwar order, avoid optional wars, and force allies in the West to shoulder the collective burden. A nation does not have to be perfect, but being better than the alternative, occasionally, should help it to earn American support

    Trump’s break from doctrinaire neoconservatism came not over punishing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein (despite Trump’s denials of his initial support for removing Saddam Hussein), but in seeking to rebuild both nations in the image of a Western constitutional state—a task often considered too costly in blood and treasure in the people’s strict cost/benefit analysis.

    Reactionary or Revolutionary?

    In this regard, Trumpism was again a sort of return to the Republican Party of the 1990s when the Republican-led Congress almost cut off funding for the Clinton Administration’s bombing efforts to remove Slobodan Milosevic—even as American jets were in the air over Kosovo. Certainly, in that aspect, late 20th-century Republicans were more isolationist than a 21st-century Trump.

    Again, the Trump foreign policy agenda is far closer to Ronald Reagan’s policies than past Republican nominees. Reagan in 1968, 1976, and 1980 was similarly demonized as an America First threat to Rockefeller Republicanism—whether renouncing the Panama Canal Treaty or opposing détente with the Soviet Union.

    So what drives deplorablism?

    It is not so much an ideological or even political movement as it is a spiritual and psychological frame of mind that is fed up with hypocrisies of the proverbial establishment, bicoastal cultural elites, and the deep administrative state.

    Deplorablism, Rightly Understood

    Deplorables grew furious as amnesty Democrats and especially corporate Republicans preached about the values of open borders and unchecked illegal immigration—but never quite experienced first-hand the effects their policies had on distant others. Influential advocates of lax border security tended to put their kids in private schools, lived in mostly apartheid communities, saw illegal aliens largely as cheap labor and personal servants, did not have any personal desire to live among, befriend, tutor or mentor those they championed—and assuaged their guilt by blasting their own fellow conservative with charges of xenophobia and nativism.

    I once experienced a lot of Republican orthodox disdain when I wrote Mexifornia in 2003 and discovered how unabashedly some elites believed that cheap labor should trump worries over routine lawbreaking, static wages of entry-level American laborers, and the impediments that that mass illegal immigration posed to the melting pot of assimilation and integration. In some sense, in 2003 the editorial position on illegal immigration of La Voz de Aztlan and the Wall Street Journal were almost indistinguishable.

    The deplorables were further enraged about national security that was never defined as predicated first on American interests abroad and at home. Nothing was more surreal than to read Vanity Fair in 2006 and learn that many of the architects of the Iraq War had bailed on the war in mediis rebus. Yet some of such critics had called for a preemptive strike against Iraq as early as the mid-1990s, during the Clinton Administration, as part of the Project for the New American Century agenda of preemptive war.

    But rather than to adhere to the old adage that the only thing worse than waging a bad war was to lose it, some who had sought optional wars were now perceived to have disclaimed the very ordeal that followed from the decisions they had once welcomed—even as more than 100,000 Americans were stuck fighting with vanishing elite support. “My perfect three-week invasion, your botched up occupation,” is not a legitimate fallback position once Americans are dying in the field.

    The point of calling for “fair” rather than “free” trade was to end the idea that commercial violations by rising powers were considered tolerable because they were better off in the family of nations than outside as renegades.

    In truth, the consequences of asymmetrical trade practices fell mostly on Americans who unfortunately were mired in industries considered passé, and therefore they were supposed to pass on with them. As one of “globalism’s sore losers,” I once wrote another book, Fields Without Dreams, chronicling the mass bankruptcies of farmers in a new globalized, vertically integrated world. Foreign subsidies, especially those of the European Union, had helped to crash some American commodity prices. Yet that fact was ignored, by the apology that such foreign cost-cutting at least drove down consumer prices. Foreign subsidies also supposedly forced farmers to “improve” their own domestic “productivity” to compete—and thus made us “leaner.” And ultimately we were assured that foreign subsidies would boomerang on their creators and prove self-defeating for cheating trade partners.

    All such arguments were, in theory, logical and were fine and noble thoughts. But again, they were applicable to a distant future—and to an “Other,” rather than immediately relevant to those who embraced such creative destruction agendas. These were also economic rationales that by needs ignored the cultural reality of agrarian annihilation—analogous to Hillary Clinton’s nostrums for the coal industry.

    Finally, the deplorables grew weary with sober and judicious Marquis of Queensberry campaigning rules.  Republicans had been losing nobly on the national level with presidential candidates who had not achieved 51 percent of the vote since 1988 and had lost the popular votes in five out of the last six elections—even as Republicans made substantial gains in Congressional, state, and local offices.

    Trump may have done no better in the popular vote and may have won ugly, but he won nonetheless against the odds and for now, showed that past political appeasement had done no better than fiery deterrence.

    In sum, “deplorablism” is mostly a style. The Trump agenda so far is mostly mainstream 20th-century Republicanism. To the degree it is not seen as such on trade, immigration, and foreign policy, it may be that it is far more traditionally conservative than what had become the de facto position of the 21st-century Republican Party.

    The departure from conservatism is not what the once liberal Democrat Trump has done since January, but what those who oppose him might likely do in his place.

    Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].


  • Jack 4:07 am on November 22, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , never ending wars, , , , victor davis hanson   


    From the Punic Wars (264–146 b.c.) and the Hundred Years War (1337–1453) to the Arab–Israeli wars (1947–) and the so-called War on Terror (2001–), some wars never seem to end.

    The dilemma is raised frequently given America’s long wars (Vietnam 1955–75) that either ended badly (Iraq 2003–11) or in some ways never quite ended at all (Korea 1950–53 and 2017–?; Afghanistan 2001–).

    So what prevents strategic resolution? Among many reasons, two throughout history stand out.

    One, such bella interrupta involve belligerents who are roughly equally matched. Neither side had enough of a material or spiritual edge (or sometimes the desire) to defeat, humiliate, and dictate terms to the beaten enemy. Think Rome and Carthage from 264 to 146. For 118 years, they fought three Punic Wars until greater Roman growth and vitality finally allowed it to dominate the Mediterranean and dictate terms on the North African coast, which finally resulted in the destruction of the Carthaginian Empire rather than another defeat of it. There was no fourth Punic War.

    Certainly over the length of the Hundred Years’ War, England and France were often either too equally matched, or both lacked the necessary military clout to destroy their adversary’s army, march on the respective enemy capital, occupy it, and end both the material and political ability of the losing side to make war.

    In contrast, there was not another American Civil War, because after the invasions of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan between 1864 and 1865, the Confederacy lost the ability to resist, and Union armies forced an unconditional surrender and a mandated reentry into the Union. The same sort of resolution was true of the Second World War, in which the victorious Allies agreed that they should and could destroy the political regimes — at whatever cost — of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The combined manpower, GDP, and munitions of Britain, the USSR, and the United States allowed them to crush the Axis — once they had the willingness to pay a high price in blood and treasure to avoid a World War I–like armistice that they believed would have led to World War III.

    In the post-war nuclear age, America’s enemies having roughly equal military power was never the reason that America failed to achieve victory in conventional wars. Rather, for a variety of reasons — political, cultural, social, economic — the U.S., at times, both wisely and foolishly, chose not to apply its full strength to pursue the unconditional surrender of its enemies.

    In other cases of never-ending wars, the two sides were clearly asymmetrical. One side easily could and should have won decisively and ended the conflict with a lasting resolution. Yet the apparently stronger side chose not to win, or for a variety of circumstances was prevented from victory.

    Tiny Israel has had the power to vanquish its enemies in an existential war, but chose not to use its full military potential — given both internal and external pressures. Israel apparently concluded that the permanent occupations of the Sinai, Gaza, and borderlands of Lebanon, which would have provided permanent demilitarized ground corridors, would be too costly either in terms of policing and stabilizing hostile populations or too politically expensive in alienating key Western allies.

    Nor did Israel think it could force a consensual government on the West Bank or change hearts and minds, as happened with the Israeli Arabs who do not regularly organize and fight Tel Aviv. Nor, in an age of missiles and rockets, did Israel yet have the technological ability to create absolutely safe skies or the global support to retaliate by air in Roman fashion.

    The American slog in Afghanistan is somewhat similar. Americans feel that the level of force and violence necessary to obliterate the Taliban and impose a lasting settlement is either too costly, or not worth any envisioned victory, or impossible in such absurd tribal landscapes, or would be deemed immoral and contrary to Western values. Therefore, as in most serial wars, the U.S. chooses to fight to prevent defeat rather than to achieve lasting victory.

    But given that no one welcomes either defeat or unending war, why do such conflicts continue?

    Again, prestige matters. Defeat in the modern age can cause a change of government or lose a country its deterrence at best — and, at worst, lead to impoverishment and decline. Often in such stalemates, both sides dream that cosmic forces will soon intervene to recalibrate relative strength or will, resulting in eventual victory, either by the enervation of the enemy, or the addition of new allies, or some sort of new weapon, new mobilization, or new strategy.

    In the present West, there are few optional or non-existential wars that can be won in the traditional sense, despite the West’s overwhelming military power. Western nations rarely deem an enemy so purely evil that it deserves the full force of Western might or that defeating it will be worth the potentially high cost.

    The bizarre modern Western doctrine of “proportionality” (akin to the tit-for-tat blood feuds of the Icelandic sagas) tends to ensure stalemate. Leisured Western publics are uncomfortable with using their militaries’ full strength, given the collective guilt and bad publicity that accrue when their forces inflict far more losses than they have incurred. Yet, paradoxically, disproportionality was always central to resolving chronic wars: Having much more power makes the weaker aggressor suffer so much that it never again tries to undertake another attack.

    A few exceptions to these constraints prove the rule. Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia was largely castigated by the world for its perceived cruelty and genocide against the former states of Yugoslavia. Certainly, Serbia was considered an unsympathetic Western power; Milosevic was deemed an odious dictator. And the Clinton administration believed it could force out Milosevic with air power alone, precluding televised mass casualties, both Westerners and Serbs alike. Despite political and military mishaps, American strategy largely worked, albeit belatedly and only after tens of thousands of innocents had been killed in the decade of internecine and tribal bloodletting.

    In cases such as the 1989 removal of Manuel Noriega or the 1983 invasion of Communist-run Grenada, Americans targeted unsavory characters (both within their own hemisphere) and nations that were small and easily defeated without serious costs (45 Americans killed in the two operations). In other words, both unpopular dictatorships without outside patrons could be easily removed at little cost and rather quickly. Likewise, few enemies were killed in either campaign.

    But such enemies are rare. Go into the Middle East to remove odious autocrats (such as Saddam Hussein or Moammar Qaddafi) and problems mount. The Middle East is a political nightmare, where any Western intervention raises issues of big-power patronage, radical Islam, Shiite–Sunni divides, oil, political hot potatoes of past colonialism and imperialism, the Arab–Israeli conflict, and hundreds of millions who profess Arab solidarity. Alliances are unsteady and melt away or appear ex nihilo. The specter of other big-power interventions loom. Difficult logistics elevate costs. The distance from the U.S. makes it hard to convince the American public that such optional interventions are really existential and worth the costs, which have a habit of rising rather quickly to levels Americans will not tolerate.

    The British pulled off the Falklands victory largely because of the clear aggression of Argentina, the support of the U.S., the indifference of a declining Soviet Union, the belief that the 500-year reputation of the Royal Navy was at stake, and the nuclear status and conventional military superiority of Britain, which allowed it to control the contours and escalation of the war. All that said, what allowed Britain to prevail was the ability to control losses (255 killed) and win the fighting quickly even at great distance (74 days).

    In sum, the classical rules of existential conflict rarely apply in the nuclear age, which explains why so often war becomes chronic and stalemated. Of course, in the future there may well be aberrations like Grenada or Panama or even Kosovo, or existential wars such as we’d see if North Korea launched a nuclear war or mounted a conventional invasion of South Korea — such conflicts would resolve fairly quickly one way or another. But the idea that the United States can customarily win a war quickly without using its full power or marshalling public support remains difficult. And it’s very rare that the U.S. faces existential threats prompting the full use of U.S. military superiority and earning the determination of an aggrieved public to purse unconditional surrender at any cost.

    A final irony?

    Our enemies know these paradoxes as well as we do. By design, they seek to involve the United States in conflict on their terms. September 11 aside, they seek to avoid posing a perceived existential threat that might provoke an infuriated American public, fueled with the military power to finish any war they enter.

    The result is the present age of serial Punic conflict, perhaps intolerable to the psyche, but in amoral terms tolerable as long as casualties are kept to a minimum and defeat is redefined as acceptable strategic wisdom. In the past, such periods of enervating war have gone on for a century and more. Ultimately, they too end — and with consequences.


  • Jack 3:45 am on November 18, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , victor davis hanson,   


    The world equates American military power with the maintenance of the postwar global order of free commerce, communications and travel.

    Sometimes American power leads to costly, indecisive interventions like those in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya that were not able to translate superiority on the battlefield into lasting peace.

    But amid the frustrations of American foreign policy, it is forgotten that the United States also plays a critical but more silent role in ensuring the survival of small, at-risk nations. The majority of them are democratic and pro-Western. But they all share the misfortune of living in dangerous neighborhoods full of bullies.

    These small nations are a far cry from rogue clients of China and Russia — theocratic Iran, autocratic North Korea and totalitarian Venezuela — that oppress their own people and threaten their regions.

    In the Middle East, there are two places that consistently remain pro-American: the nation of Israel and the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Both show a spirit and tenacity that so far have ensured their survival against aggressive and far larger neighbors. Both have few friends other than the United States. And both are anomalies. Israel is surrounded by Islamic neighbors. The ethnic Kurds live in the heart of the Arab Middle East. Quite admirably, the U.S. continues to be a patron of both.

    For some 500 years, the Ottoman Empire terrified the Christian Middle East and Mediterranean world. Almost every country in its swath was Islamicized. Two tiny unique places were conquered but not transformed: Armenia and Greece. Both suffered terribly at the hands of the Ottomans and their successors, the early-20th-century Turkish state.

    Yet both Armenia and Greece remained Christian and kept their languages and cultures. Today, both are still quite vulnerable to renewed neo-Ottoman Turkish pressures.

    America has been a friend to both Armenia and Greece, although their histories with the U.S. were often controversial. In turn, they have sent millions of talented and skilled immigrants to the U.S. The world is a far better place because there are 11 million Greeks who keep the legacy of Hellenism alive. Armenia still remains a Western outpost — the first country to formally adopt Christianity as a state religion, and a nation that has preserved its faith under centuries of cruel foreign persecutions.

    Without the United States, there would never have emerged a free and independent Taiwan and South Korea. The former would have been absorbed by communist China in 1949. The latter would have been wiped out in 1950 by Chinese-sponsored North Korea. Today, Taiwan and South Korea are models of international citizenship, democracy and prosperity. They have given the world singular products and brands, from Foxconn and Quanta Computer to Samsung and Kia.

    Given their relatively small areas, Taiwan and South Korea likely would not have survived Chinese bullying or, more recently, North Korean nuclear provocations without strong American support and protection.

    Our relationships with all of these vulnerable nations are as much practical as principled. All follow international law. All have sent gifted citizens to the U.S. All are fiercely self-reliant and are reputed to be among the world’s best fighters.

    To visit any of these countries is to experience islands of sanity and decency in neighborhoods of violence and madness. Will these unique but vulnerable nations survive?

    In the Middle East, age-old enemies are on the move. There is the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism, the specter of a nuclear Iran, and a newly aggressive Turkey.

    Kurdistan is threatened variously by Iraq, Iran and Turkey.

    Iran periodically boasts that it will soon destroy Israel. Iran’s clients in Lebanon and Syria brag that they can launch thousands of missiles into the Jewish state.

    Greece is bankrupt and overrun by hundreds of thousands of immigrants, most of them young, male and Muslim. Turkey systematically violates Greek national waters and airspace.

    South Korea and Taiwan are both threatened by North Korea’s nuclear-tipped missiles. China periodically warns them that they need to make the necessary subservient adjustments in their foreign policy to accommodate a rising China and a supposedly declining America.

    America itself is $20 trillion in debt and divided. It has lost global credibility after years of issuing phony red lines and deadlines to various rivals and enemies.

    The U.S. military is in sore need of repair and expansion. Much of the country is sick and tired of costly interventions that could not turn battlefield success into stability, much less into lasting strategic advantage.

    Yet a country is not just defined by its economic and military strength, its global clout or its powerful allies. It is also judged on how it treats weaker but humane nations. As long as the U.S. remains good to these impressive but vulnerable states, it will remain great as well.

    Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.


  • Jack 3:32 am on November 15, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , victor davis hanson   

    The Maniae 

    America is in another of its Salem moments. Frenzy is almost a living, breathing monster. It moves from host to host, fueled by rumor, gossip, and self-righteous furor.

    The Greeks knew well of the transitory nature of these mass panics. They claimed such fits were inspired by the Maniae, the three daughters of Night who were the goddesses of insanity, madness, and crazed frenzy. We’ve seen all three of them in action throughout the past year.

    Collusion Everywhere and Nowhere

    For about six months, cable news shows, the internet, and the major newspapers ginned up the charge of “Russian collusion”—as a means of explaining the otherwise inexplicable and unacceptable defeat of Hillary Clinton by someone without either political or military experience.

    Pundits and talking heads without evidence echoed each other with ever more preposterous charges. Voting machines supposedly had been rigged by a monstrous man who later had stooped to remove the Martin Luther King bust from the West Wing. We were also told that all good souls of the Electoral College clearly should have vitiated their constitutional duties and denied Trump the presidency.

    We were lectured at the height of the collusion frenzy that Trump would be 1) impeached, 2) removed by the emoluments clause, 3) forced to resign under the 25th Amendment, or 4) simply quit in shame.

    If not, how many ways could (or should) one kill Trump? Hanging? Decapitation? Dismemberment? Combustion? Shooting? Stabbing? Jet crash? As the madness grew, no obscenity from Stephen Colbert or physical threat from Robert DeNiro or Johnny Depp or Kathy Griffin or even Snoop Dogg seemed to suffice to express hatred of Trump.

    The font of this 24/7 hysteria was the Clinton campaign’s purchase of a leaked smear job from an opposition research firm, which in turn had hired a disreputable former British intelligence agent, who had paid for concocted Russian slanders designed to disrupt an election. The Fusion GPS/Steele dossier was peddled to U.S. intelligence agencies, some of whom may have seen it as valuable political fodder and thus used it as an excuse to surveille members of the Trump campaign and in turn, unmask the names of American citizens and allow them to be leaked to the press. “Collusion” may turn out to have been sired, grown, and spread from a single, fake, and partisan document.

    But now suddenly the hysteria is cooling. Robert Mueller’s own possible ethical conflicts of interests and increasingly bizarre agendas, the Clinton Uranium One scandals, the strange exemptions given the Clinton email debacle, and House Intelligence Committee investigations into unmasking and the origins of the Steele dossier dialed back the frenzy.

    Sages in Helmets and Pads

    The hysteria then moved on to the once dormant NFL “take a knee” protests, which were reignited by Trump’s public castigation of the players.

    Soon the players’ incoherent messaging was passed off by the media as some sort of grassroots Rosa Parks civil rights movement. But as viewers turned their channels and stadia emptied, the hysterical outbursts began to cool.

    Money, not the cause of winning hearts and minds to the cause of social justice, became the greater player and owner concern. It is hard to sustain outrage about NFL racism when twentysomething multimillionaires, in a league of over 75 percent African-Americans, insult the sources of their income by refusing to stand for the National Anthem—and belatedly come to realize that the logical trajectory of their supposed principled demonstrations is their own irrelevance and eventual impoverishment.

    What cooled the NFL hysteria was the reality that the hyped story of “taking a knee” was morphing into the scarier narrative of less money, an absence of politically correct proportional representation among players, looming league downsizing, pampered athletes, traumatic brain injuries, and a public weariness with everything from ESPN to Colin Kaepernick. In other words, taking a knee reminded about 20 percent of NFL fans that there were already reasons enough to turn the channel. And so they did.

    The Maniae then passed on to more new prey.

    The Statue Busters

    About the same time came the statue hysteria. America woke up one day and decided that century-old statues of Confederate generals or archetypical southern soldiers were proof of pernicious racism. So they had to be removed—by the dead of night and by the mob if necessary. Once these iconic impediments were gone, then social justice would be achieved, as if mute stones, not beating human hearts, explain deteriorating racial relations.

    As the frenzy spread and the virtue signaling characteristically escalated, the sin of 2017 was no longer just the 156-year-old Confederate secession from the Union, but politically incorrect sin in general—a remark from Lincoln deemed racist, or the slaveholding of the Jefferson and Washington families, or indigenous peoples mistreated by Columbus. Apparently, the mob reasoned that the present generation alone could best judge the past by its own transitory standards of probity—while being exempt from future charges that it, too, will be culpable for all sorts of moral lapses and pathologies. A generation that cannot even walk in safety at night in many of its major cities or fears contracting Hepatitis A from city sidewalks does not have the pre-tech, material excuses of a Dickensian London.

    The internet, cable-TV, and social media mob predictably soon tired with statue smashing and moved on. After all, when one’s negative traits alone define a person, and present morality supersedes time and space to become the arbiter of the past, then everyone stands condemned—progressives perhaps most of all. Was not the liberal saint Margaret Sanger a eugenicist racist? Was not Woodrow Wilson a segregationist reprobate? Was not Leland Stanford a white supremacist? Are the names of such progressive icons to be Trotskyized too from statues and universities on the principle that the worst of a man defines his totality—or are there suddenly to be found extenuating circumstances?

    From Harvey to Everyone

    The next collective furor arose over Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Sometime in October 2017, the progressive film titan was abruptly condemned as sick, evil, and unhinged—after 30 years of common knowledge that he routinely sought to use his power of hiring and firing to leverage or force sexual gratification.

    Once Weinstein’s progressive armor was pierced and he was exposed as a groper, assaulter, and likely rapist, then dozens, perhaps hundreds of similar stories of powerful media and film men surfaced. Some were not only pronounced guilty of past consensual though asymmetrical sexual relationships but of abusive sexual acts and cruelty. Apparently, the mostly progressive male entertainment and media hierarchy had long equated the 1960s-era liberal legacy of “sexual freedom” with a blank check for their own sexual coercion and phallic exhibitionism. We all had assumed a continuity of Hollywood culture of updated Harry Cohns, but Hollywood’s preemptive moral finger-pointing at others apparently allowed their hypocrisies to stay in-house.

    As the collective furor grew, the net widened. More stories, but from 10, 20, 30, and 40 years past, surfaced—calibrated to the current celebrity or perceived visibility of the perpetrator. The charges initially also ranged from horrific (and quite believable) allegations of rape and gross groping and assault to what used to be called male-power rudeness and bullying—and eventually including even the occasional crudity and stupidity that can accompany seduction.

    Soon, we assumed that if our celebrities, journalists, and politicians were power-hungry sexists and worse, then all of American manhood must be, too. Everyday Joes, for now, were saved from belated and embarrassing post facto accounting only by their ordinary stations that made confessions of their sins of little collective interest.

    As in the case of the other hysterias, such collective fits cool when they begin to snare the supposedly exempt—marque reporters, famous authors, prominent politicians—and morph well beyond the original and quite legitimate charges of sexual assault to include rude come-ons and callous, narcissistic and cruel behavior. But when married couples of 40 years begin to think back about whether they too were ever crude in their 20s and 30s or exploitive in their own courtship, then everyone is guilty, and thus no one is guilty and the hysteria subsides.

    Who Polices the Police?

    Hysterias are not the same as fantasies in that they usually start with some legitimacy.

    The Russians always liked to interfere and gum up American elections. It is, after all, the credo of Vladimir Putin to be mostly against what America is mostly for. But as the Obama Administration warned in a dig at Donald Trump (shortly before the election, when it was sure that Hillary Clinton was to be its picked successor), such Russian attempts at election sabotage usually were irrelevant and largely impotent. Instead, what fed the furor was not collusion facts per se, but the idea of yet another post-election weapon to take Trump out before he could dismantle the Obama bureaucratic and executive-order legacy.

    Certainly, it is bothersome that the racist and founder of the Ku Klux Klan, the brilliant but diabolical slave-trading Nathan Bedford Forrest, is still worshiped in bronze and stone. But the stone smashers lacked the education and ethics to differentiate individual Confederates like a Forrest from a Longstreet, and so smashed boldly on.

    The distance from Lincoln to Lee narrows to almost nothing. Every mute statue becomes a sinner and fair game for the more authentic revolutionary to outdo the latest violent act.

    Dozens, perhaps hundreds of women have had their entertainment careers ruined by choosing to fight off the crude assaults of the Weinsteins and their ilk, who sometimes gravitate to the top of entertainment and media, masking their depravity by claiming progressive exemptions and penances. But at this point in the frenzy, most Americans cannot keep up with whether a puffed up and arrogant Dustin Hoffman three decades ago was an uncouth potty mouth in his celebrity trailer as he sought to seduce vulnerable women. Most of the public had long assumed such creepy Hollywood behavior anyway.

    What then causes often legitimate writs abruptly to explode into collective fits that end up either ensnaring the innocent or taking legitimate concerns beyond human reason? In our Jacobin frenzy, is it now still permitted to listen to folksy Shelby Foote in Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, or to hear Joan Baez’s version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” or to read Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita? Have you or have you not ever read Death in Venice?

    Human nature is prone to a herd mentality and the politics of excess. Groupthink offers a sense of belonging and reinforcement to most people. Democracies in particular in their radical egalitarian culture and exalted sense of self-righteousness are particularly prone to shared frenzies. In volatile democratic culture, today’s sensational scoop becomes passé by tomorrow.

    Social media, smartphones, the internet, and cable news are accelerants—as we saw in the Duke Lacrosse and the Virginia fraternity cases. They do in minutes what used to take weeks, with the added fuel of anonymity. “Sources report” blare out TV journalists. Bloggers comment on rumors with their own fake names, photos, and handles, virtue signaling to each their own greater outrage. Chain email comes from pressure groups rather than from named individuals.

    In all these hysterias and frenzies, caution and moderation become proof of complicity. Calls for quiet reflection and moments of calm to weigh evidence are seen as veritable confessions of guilt or aiding and abetting the crime. To demand respect for the spirit of due process is to offer proof of one’s own culpability. One day, actor Richard Dreyfuss is furious that Kevin Spacey allegedly groped his son right under his nose. The next, Richard Dreyfuss is outraged that he is accused of allegedly earlier doing something himself far worse to a similar young aspirant.

    Hypocrisy and irony become endemic: the chargers of Russian collusion are the original colluders. The loud protesters who take a knee themselves became the targets of silent fan protests. The statue smashers can put up statues worse than what they tore down. The men who swear they are feminists do so because they are misogynists. The accuser is blamed for accusing, or for staying silent so long, or for exaggerating the ordeal; the silent non-accuser is assumed to have advanced a career through willful acquiescence. Who can sort out the crime, the collusion, the conspiracy?

    History is full of such frenzies—the stasis on Corycra, the Spanish Inquisition, the Committee of Public Safety, or the strange career of Joe McCarthy. They all can start over some legitimate grievance and all can quickly turn manic. And as we play each fit out, expect the madness to come full circle as it always does, when the spell wears off and 51 percent of people finally revolt at the very thought of tearing down Washington’s statue, or lumping together a criminal rapist with a loudmouthed sexist of 20 years past, or envisioning a multimillionaire spoiled, has-been quarterback as the next Jackie Robinson—or treating a fake-news smear document as if it were the New Testament.

    Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].


  • Jack 3:32 am on November 15, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , saudi-iran relations, us-saudi relations, victor davis hanson   

    Renegade Sheik? 

    If the crown prince of Saudi Arabia has in mind a war with Iran, President Trump should disabuse his royal highness of any notion that America would be doing his fighting for him.

    Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, the 32-year-old son of the aging and ailing King Salman, is making too many enemies for his own good, or for ours.

    Pledging to Westernize Saudi Arabia, he has antagonized the clerical establishment. Among the 200 Saudis he just had arrested for criminal corruption are 11 princes, the head of the National Guard, the governor of Riyadh, and the famed investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

    The Saudi tradition of consensus collective rule is being trashed.

    MBS is said to be pushing for an abdication by his father and his early assumption of the throne. He has begun to exhibit the familiar traits of an ambitious 21st-century autocrat in the mold of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

    Yet his foreign adventures are all proving to be debacles.

    The rebels the Saudis backed in Syria’s civil war were routed. The war on the Houthi rebels in Yemen, of which MBS is architect, has proven to be a Saudi Vietnam and a human rights catastrophe.

    The crown prince persuaded Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE to expel Qatar from the Sunni Arab community for aiding terrorists, but he has failed to choke the tiny country into submission.

    Last week, MBS ordered Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Riyadh, where Hariri publicly resigned his office and now appears to be under house arrest. Refusing to recognize the resignation, Lebanon’s president is demanding Hariri’s return.

    After embattled Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at its international airport, Riyadh declared the missile to be Iranian-made, smuggled into Yemen by Tehran, and fired with the help of Hezbollah.

    The story seemed far-fetched, but Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the attack out of Yemen may be considered an “act of war” — by Iran. And as war talk spread across the region last week, Riyadh ordered all Saudi nationals in Lebanon to come home.

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    Riyadh has now imposed a virtual starvation blockade — land, sea and air — on Yemen, that poorest of Arab nations that is heavily dependent on imports for food and medicine. Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni are suffering from cholera. Millions face malnutrition.

    The U.S. interest here is clear: no new war in the Middle East, and a negotiated end to the wars in Yemen and Syria.

    Hence, the United States needs to rein in the royal prince.

    Yet, on his Asia trip, Trump said of the Saudi-generated crisis, “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing.”

    Do they? In October, Jared Kushner made a trip to Riyadh, where he reportedly spent a long night of plotting Middle East strategy until 4 a.m. with MBS.

    No one knows how a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran would end. The Saudis has been buying modern U.S. weapons for years, but Iran, with twice the population, has larger if less-well-equipped forces.

    Yet the seeming desire of the leading Sunni nation in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, for a confrontation with the leading Shiite power, Iran, appears to carry the greater risks for Riyadh.

    For, a dozen years ago, the balance of power in the Gulf shifted to Iran, when Bush II launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, ousted Saddam Hussein, disarmed and disbanded his Sunni-led army, and turned Iraq into a Shiite-dominated nation friendly to Iran.

    In the Reagan decade, Iraq had fought Iran as mortal enemies for eight years. Now they are associates, if not allies.

    The Saudis may bristle at Hezbollah and demand a crackdown. But Hezbollah is a participant in the Lebanese government and has the largest fighting force in the country, hardened in battle in Syria’s civil war, where it emerged on the victorious side.

    While the Israelis could fight and win a war with Hezbollah, both Israel and Hezbollah suffered so greatly from their 2006 war that neither appears eager to renew that costly but inconclusive conflict.

    In an all-out war with Iran, Saudi Arabia could not prevail without U.S. support. And should Riyadh fail, the regime would be imperiled. As World War I, with the fall of the Romanov, Hohenzollern, Hapsburg and Ottoman empires demonstrated, imperial houses do not fare well in losing wars.

    So far out on a limb has MBS gotten himself, with his purge of cabinet ministers and royal cousins, and his foreign adventures, it is hard to see how he climbs back without some humiliation that could cost him the throne.

    Yet we have our own interests here. And we should tell the crown prince that if he starts a war in Lebanon or in the Gulf, he is on his own. We cannot have this impulsive prince deciding whether or not the United States goes to war again in the Middle East.

    We alone decide that.

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  • Jack 3:16 am on November 10, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: battle of stalingrad, , , , victor davis hanson   


    Seventy-five years ago this month, the Soviet Red Army surrounded –and would soon destroy — a huge invading German army at Stalingrad on the Volga River. Nearly 300,000 of Germany’s best soldiers would never return home. The epic 1942-43 battle for the city saw the complete annihilation of the attacking German 6th Army. It marked the turning point of World War II.

    Before Stalingrad, Adolf Hitler regularly boasted on German radio as his victorious forces pressed their offensives worldwide. After Stalingrad, Hitler went quiet, brooding in his various bunkers for the rest of the war.

    During the horrific Battle of Stalingrad, which lasted more than five months, Russian, American and British forces also went on the offensive against the Axis powers in the Caucasus, in Morocco and Algeria, and on the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific.

    Yet just weeks before the Battle of Stalingrad began, the Allies had been near defeat. They had lost most of European Russia. Much of Western Europe was under Nazi control. Axis armies occupied large swaths of North Africa. The Japanese controlled most of the Pacific and Asia, from Manchuria to Wake Island.

    Stalingrad was part of a renewed German effort in 1942 to drive southward toward the Caucasus Mountains, to capture the huge Soviet oil fields. The Germans might have pulled it off had Hitler not divided his forces and sent his best army northward to Stalingrad to cut the Volga River traffic and take Stalin’s eponymous frontier city.

    By the time two Red Army pincers trapped the Germans at Stalingrad in November, Russia had already suffered some 6 million combat casualties during the first 16 months of Germany’s invasion. By German calculations, Russia should have already submitted, just like all of the Third Reich’s prior European enemies except Britain.

    Instead, the Red Army drew the Germans deeper into the traditional quagmire of Russia until the 6th Army was low on supplies, freezing in the winter cold, and trapped more than 1,500 miles from Berlin. How did the Red Army not only survive but go on the offensive against the deadly invaders?

    In part, it had no choice. Germany was intent on not just absorbing Russia, but wiping it out or enslaving millions of its citizens. In part, Britain and the United States under the Lend-Lease policy began sending huge amounts of material aid, providing everything from boots to locomotives. In part, Red Army soldiers were terrified of their own communist strongman, Josef Stalin.

    Prior to the German invasion, Stalin was responsible for some 20 million Russian deaths through forced farm collectivization, planned famine, show trials and purges, and the murders of his own Red Army troops. More than 10,000 soldiers were likely executed at Stalingrad by their own officers.

    But most importantly, no European invader — neither Sweden under Charles XII in the early 1700s nor France under Napoleon in the early 1800s — had ever successfully invaded and defeated Russia.

    The country was too large, both geographically and demographically. Good weather was too brief between the spring floods and the bitter Russian winter. And Russians always fought heroically as defenders of their own soil, even if this wasn’t always the case when they were fighting abroad as invaders.

    Despite the horrors of Soviet Communism, the Allied winners of World War II owed a great deal to the Russian people. Russia’s male and female soldiers were most responsible for destroying Hitler’s vast ground forces, having killed more than two-thirds of the German soldiers lost in the war.

    The Soviet Union lost about 27 million soldiers and civilians — about 60 times more than America lost in the war.

    Due to memories of the Soviet Union’s Cold War ruthlessness, and because of Vladimir Putin’s autocratic government, it is now fashionable to demonize Russia. Moscow sent troops into eastern Ukraine, absorbed Crimea and has sought to tamper with a U.S. presidential election.

    But most Americans have forgotten key aspects of Russia’s 20th-century history, a tragedy of unspeakable human losses. Outside Kiev in late summer of 1941, more than 700,000 Russian soldiers were killed or captured by Germans in a single battle.

    In one of the costliest sieges in history, at Sevastopol in July 1942, 100,000 Russians were killed or captured in a failed effort to save the port on the Black Sea.

    We rightly see Putin as an aggressive autocrat. But millions of Russians view Ukraine and the Crimea as sacred, blood-soaked Russian ground.

    After the collapse of the nightmarish Soviet Union, Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd “city on the Volga.” Today, few in the West know exactly what happened there 75 years ago this month.

    This Veterans Day, we should also remember those heroic Russian soldiers. In bitter cold, and after losing hundreds of thousands of lives, they finally did the unbelievable: They halted the march of Nazi Germany.


  • Jack 3:41 am on October 27, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , james mattis, , , , , victor davis hanson,   

    Killing Evil 


    The Islamic State (ISIS) just lost its capital at Raqqa, and with it the last of the terrorist group’s fantasies of establishing a Middle East caliphate.

    In recent years, ISIS has horrified global audiences with video clips of unspeakable atrocities. What sort of human beings could behead, incinerate, drown, torture and blow up innocent civilians, mock and record such horror, and then narrate their macabre videos for a world audience?

    How could such pre-modern psychopaths ever be defeated, given that in a matter of months ISIS had managed to overrun vast swaths of Iraq and Syria?

    The zealotry of the Islamic State in celebrating the unthinkable added to its cult of invincibility. Young would-be jihadists from the Western world flocked to the group’s Middle East compounds, eager to engage in viciousness as if it were the latest video game.

    Dejected Middle Eastern armies seemed to have no answer for the medieval violence of ISIS. Impotent Western leaders either ignored or denied the group’s homicidal appeal. Indeed, in 2014, pessimistic analysts were predicting that ISIS might soon carve out enough oil-rich parts of Iraq and Syria to spread its barbarism throughout region.

    But recently, the entire Islamic State project began going up in smoke almost as abruptly as it was born. It turned out that squadrons of American bombers were not impressed by ISIS threats and bombed to smithereens its command centers and headquarters.

    Secretary of Defense James Mattis relaxed the rules of U.S. engagement and made it a veritable open season on Islamic State jihadists, while American forces trained entire new cadres of anti-ISIS fighters. Specialized drones and GPS-guided Western munitions made it almost impossible for ISIS leaders to escape constant attack.

    Their past horrors had earned Islamic State jihadists only ill will. Tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian victims volunteered to fight ISIS with a ferocity that they had rarely exhibited in the past.

    The net result is now mass ISIS surrenders. Half-starved jihadists in rags and in tears beg their captors for forgiveness — and not to show them the same savagery that had so often had fueled ISIS slaughtering.

    The fate of ISIS reminds us that throughout history those who posed as superhuman savages, without any limitations to their cruelty, were often bullies who could not stand up to the determined payback of their finally aroused and outraged victims.

    After Sept. 11, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden frightened Westerners with his tough talk about the “strong horse” of radical Islam, for whose brutality and cruelty a supposedly weak and decadent West had no antidote. But after years of the U.S. and its allies whittling away al Qaeda from Afghanistan to Iraq, and bombing its ringleaders wherever they appeared, bin Laden was killed in a dingy Pakistan compound.

    In the early 1940s, the most feared killers in the world were Nazi kingpin Heinrich Himmler’s SS elite. The SS claimed they were the new racial supermen, overseeing extermination camps and spearheading the German army by executing prisoners and civilians alike.

    But by May 1945, with Berlin in ruins and Hitler dead, former killers were trying to hide their SS tattoos. Like Himmler himself, most SS commandos were cowardly, fearing that their victims might do to the SS what the SS had done to others.

    Before and during World War II, Japanese militarists slaughtered millions of civilians in China and butchered their way through the Pacific. They boasted that they would never surrender in World War II. Yet after the Allies had rooted out fanatical forces from their strongholds in the Pacific and bombed Japan into ruins, even the most diehard fanatics meekly gave up.

    Civilization in peace becomes complacent. It understandably hopes that growing terror on the horizon will burn out on its own.

    During calm periods, prosperous and more liberal nations certainly do not want to send their youth across the world to fight those who claim that they would enjoy nothing more than dying while trying to kill those more successful and better off.

    But the true strength in arms is usually civilizational, not tribal. A modern state that lives by the rule of law and the consent of the governed, and is energized by free markets and a free people, can be a deadly force when finally provoked into rage. The same is true of innocent victims initially overwhelmed by tribal killers like those of the SS, al Qaeda or the Islamic State.

    ISIS may have been able to invent ever more macabre ways of dismembering innocent victims, but it could not make a fighter plane or win the lasting allegiance and loyalty of the majority of Iraqis and Syrians.

    And so, like soulless killing machines of the past, ISIS is now finally being killed off.

    • Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.


    See Also:

    (1) Facebook, Social Media, Aiding Jihad; Censoring Those Who Counter Jihad

  • Jack 2:29 pm on October 26, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , victor davis hanson   

    Unholy Mess 

    Despite having both an expansive budget and a large legal team, Special Investigator Robert Mueller likely will not find President Trump culpable for any Russian collusion—or at least no court or congressional vote would, even if Mueller recommends an indictment.

    That likelihood becomes clearer as the Trump investigators—in Congress, in the Justice Department, and the legions in the media—begin to grow strangely silent about the entire collusion charge, as other scandals mount and crowd out the old empty story. This news boomerang poses the obvious question—was the zeal of the original accusers of felony behavior with the Russian collusion merely an attempt at deflection? Was it designed to protect themselves from being accused of serious crimes?

    What Did the FBI Do?

    It was bad enough that the original narrative had the authors of the so-called Fusion GPS/Steele dossier leaking their smears to the media. Worse, the FBI, in the earlier fashion of the Clinton campaign, may have paid to obtain the Fusion concoction

    Now it appears that some of the leakers who had the file in their possession also may have belonged to the American intelligence community. Did the FBI pass around its purchased smears to other intelligence agencies and the Obama administration in the unspoken hope that, in seeing the file had been so sanctioned and widely read, some intelligence operative or one of the Obama people would wink and nod as they leaked it to the press?

    And why did the progenitors of the Steele dossier fraud—the Fusion GPS consortium and former Wall Street Journal reporters (a firm that had a prior history of smearing political enemies with “opposition research”) and working indirectly on behalf of Russian interests—reportedly behind closed doors invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying about the dossier, its origins, and its funding before the House Intelligence Committee?

    Increasingly, James Comey seems to be caught in contradictions of his own making. The former FBI director may well have misled the U.S. Congress in deliberate fashion, both about the timeline of events that led him to recommend not charging Hillary Clinton and about his denials that the FBI had communications about the bizarre “accidental” meeting on an Arizona tarmac between the U.S. Attorney General and Bill Clinton. How does an FBI Director get away with leaking his own notes, ostensibly FBI property, to the media with the expressed intent of leveraging the selection of a special prosecutor, only to succeed in having his friend, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, appointed to that very post—an official who presumably and earlier had been investigating possible Clinton collusion with Russian uranium interests?

    So Many Questions, So Few Answers

    Apart from noting how strange and surreal it was, no one yet knows the full relationship between former Democratic National Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her IT “expert,” the now-indicted Imran Awan. Why would Wasserman-Schultz go out of her way to protect him and by extension his network from government investigations—even as Awan’s criminal familial enterprises, as well as his unauthorized and perhaps illegal conduct concerning government communications, were being exposed? Why is Awan apparently eager to talk to prosecutors about his relationships with Wasserman-Schultz and other congressional representatives? Why did an “in-the-know” Wasserman-Schultz apparently allow Awan to act so illegally for so long? In other words, the behavior of the former head of the DNC seems inexplicable.

    After initial denials, Susan Rice now admits that she unmasked the names of private U.S. citizens swept up in Obama administration intelligence surveillance and seems to have no regrets about it. Samantha Power, the Obama administration’s former U.N. ambassador, does not deny that she, too, unmasked names—but strangely is reported to have argued that she was not responsible for all the unmaskings that appear under her authorizations on the transcripts. If true, does that astonishing statement mean that she has amnesia or that her own staff or others improperly used her name to access classified documents? Has anyone ever admitted to unmasking American citizens under surveillance, and then claimed that her authorizations were not as numerous as they appear in documents? And what were the connections between those who unmasked and those who illegally leaked information to the press?

    Despite roadblocks and media obfuscation, we are strangely still inching along a pathway that may end up not far from Donald Trump’s once widely ridiculed and sloppy tweet that “Obama” (read: members of the Obama administration) had Trump’s “wires tapped” (read: electronically surveilled) “in Trump Tower” (read: among other places too) “just before the victory” (read: probably well before).

    But perhaps the biggest bombshell concerns the entire foundation of the “Russian collusion” accusations. The Hill, not known as a conservative organ, now is reporting that as early as 2009 some within Robert Mueller’s FBI knew of possible blackmail, bribery, and money-laundering by Russian interests in seeking, through various means, control of sizable uranium sources inside the United States—an agenda Putin’s surrogates apparently knew to be impossible without a waiver from Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

    Where the Real Collusion Lurked

    Even as Mueller presses ahead and even as anti-Trump journalists have sought for a year to find any proof that Trump was a Russian patsy, the charge of “collusion” may be proved accurate after all—but it seems to have had little to do with Trump per se. Instead, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the former directly, the latter via the family foundation, may well have been empowering and profiting from Russian insiders who were eager to obtain control of 20 percent of North America’s uranium holdings.

    Indeed, Russian agents caught spying in connection with the deal were swapped out—in a not very favorable trade for the United States—without much audit. Stranger still, so far the denials have not contested the facts, but only the efficacy of the Russian-Clinton deal: there was supposedly not any wrongdoing given that so far the Russians have not shipped out any uranium as if a habitually drunk driver is not culpable until he kills someone on the road.

    Barack Obama was strangely in no hurry to move on the opportunistic Russian collusion charges against Donald Trump during the campaign or between his election and inauguration—and perhaps not just because he knew there was no there there. Instead, Obama wisely may have concluded that if quid pro quo election-timed concessions to Russian interests constitute a criminal or treasonous offense, then his own hot-mic offer to the Putin government was a similar transgression. But more important, it seems likely now that Obama knew that any such reopening of the Russian question would not only expose a compromised Clinton in an election cycle but also his own administration—as knowledge of politically motivated decisions to ignore what might well have indictable offenses came to light.

    At this point, it would be silly to ask why there will be no more $145 million gifts from Russian interests to the Clinton Foundation (or from anyone, for that matter), or no more $500,000 fees for a single Bill Clinton speech. Whereas the Clintons are always willing to sell something that properly belongs to the government, they are no longer in any position to negotiate anything and thus by their own financial standards have zero monetary value to the sorts who in the past were eager to buy them.

    Are we finally nearing the end of our own Jacobin cycle of revolutionary fervor—as wild charges of criminality are exposed to be little more than the bitter feelings over a blown election or, worse, efforts either to nullify that election or an attempt to cloak the accusers’ own felonious behavior? But the inquisitions will likely stop only when the inquisitors, under intense pressures, learn that they have far more exposure to the very charges that they have leveled—and thus finally beg to call the whole sordid matter off.

    Diminished Institutions, Stark Truths

    In a fair world, Robert Mueller would find that his original agenda had proved irrelevant, other than incidentally colliding with far more serious culpability on the part of many of those who had energized him. He would then either drop the investigation, recuse himself, or expand it to include far more likely charges of collusion that affected our national security.

    In a fair world, those in the House Ethics Committee long ago would have dropped politically motivated and empty complaints against Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and would have agreed that he was simply a political target. He was preemptively targeted not for leaking classified government information (which he did not do), but for presciently long ago announcing to intelligence agencies and to the president that Obama Administration officials had likely improperly unmasked information about private U.S. citizens that was subsequently unlawfully leaked to the press—a tawdry process that ultimately may well be connected to many of the scandals mentioned above.

    And in a fair world, those who were determined to indict all who profited from Russian largesse would conclude that the Clinton machine always should have been their most likely target.

    America is in a radical state of flux, or rather in a great accounting and recalibration, ranging from government to popular culture.

    Hollywood lived a lie and now is not what it was just three weeks ago. The NFL was based on known but ignored hypocrisies and is no longer the league it was in September. The media has put rank partisanship before truth and lost ideologically and morally.

    And the lie about Russian collusion has sired truths beyond our wildest nightmares.

    Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

    Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, and is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. Dr. Hansen is the author of The Second World Wars – How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won. It is coming out in October 2017 by Basic Books.


    See Also:

    (1) 10 Things Reporters Need To Understand About The Steele Dossier

    (2) Speaker Ryan backs House subpoena on Trump dossier, slams FBI ‘stonewalling’


  • Jack 3:57 am on October 20, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , victor davis hanson   

    Keep the Faith 

    No one really knows all that much about North Korea’s nuclear or conventional military capability or its strategic agenda. Are its nuclear missiles reliably lethal, are they as long-ranged and accurate as hyped, and are they under secure command and control?

    Conventional wisdom states that Seoul would be destroyed in minutes by at least 10,000 North Korean artillery and rocket batteries that are now aimed from right across the Demilitarized Zone. Such guns are said to be capable of firing 500,000 rounds within a few minutes.

    As a result, South Korea and its allies are supposed to be veritable hostages, with no strategic choices in countering North Korea’s newly enhanced nuclear threat.

    But is Seoul really being held hostage, and would it be doomed if war broke out?

    In fact, no one can be sure of the actual size, nature, and readiness of the North Korea arsenal — or the degree to which it is coordinated and effectively aimed. Much less does anyone know how well North Korea’s guns have been pre-targeted by American and South Korean planes, counter-batteries, and missiles.

    Seoul itself is a huge city of 10 million urban residents. Indeed, greater Seoul and its population of some 24 million are sprawled out over a vast area of more than 250 square miles. The idea that the North Korean military could destroy the world’s third-most-populated metropolitan area in minutes with conventional weapons is unproven.

    Take the example of Israel and its existential enemies. The Iranians now claim that their Hezbollah proxies in Lebanon have targeted 80,000 rockets at Tel Aviv. Israel’s enemies brag that together they could bombard the tiny country with 200,000 rockets and missiles in a matter of minutes should Israel ever again go to war.

    In the 2006 Lebanon war, Hezbollah and terrorist forces on the West Bank boasted that they had launched more than 8,000 rockets into Israeli cities. Israel claimed the number was closer to 4,000. The entire population of Israel in 2006 was then less than half of greater Seoul. Yet in total, some 40 to 50 Israelis lost their lives to rocket attacks in 2006. The rocket strategy of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas did not deter Israeli military operations, nor did it much affect Israel’s strategic options.

    Seoul may well be vulnerable to conventional artillery or rocket strikes. But the usual assessments that the city would be destroyed in minutes by North Korea and therefore the South Korean government is now held hostage in its strategic choices are probably not true.

    We are told that China has few choices in restraining North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. But without Chinese money, trade, and technology, North Korea would today have no nuclear-tipped missiles.

    Beijing enjoys playing dumb from time to time as it unleashes North Korea to threaten the West and consume American time, money, and military resources in Asia and the Pacific. In truth, China has as much leverage over North Korea as the United States would have over South Korea should it ever choose to set off missiles all over the South China Sea and brag about targeting nearby Chinese cities with nuclear weapons.

    The American options for pressuring the Chinese and the North Koreans, short of war, are said to be few. Most likely, they are almost endless.

    The United States could expel rich elites of the Chinese Communist Party and their children from U.S soil and universities.  It could ban Chinese citizens from buying U.S. property. America could ratchet up trade sanctions against China, and embargo (or blockade) all commerce with North Korea.

    America could ratchet up trade sanctions against China, and embargo (or blockade) all commerce with North Korea.

    The U.S. could declare solidarity with India in its border disputes with China, organize South Pacific and Asian countries to resist China’s illegal building of bases in the Spratly Islands, and triangulate with Russia over mutual worries about Chinese expansionism.

    Massive new regional missile-defense efforts might result in neither China nor North Korea maintaining a first-strike capability over its neighbors.

    The last-ditch lever is allowing Japan, South Korea, or perhaps even Taiwan to go nuclear. America’s problems with North Korea would pale in comparison to China’s dilemma of dealing with three democratic nuclear states nearby.

    It is not set in stone that either South Korea or the United States must spend the rest of eternity targeted with nuclear missiles by an unhinged dynasty in North Korea. There are economic, military, and diplomatic options other than all-out war that can dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons — our strategic goal.

    We are in the middle, not at the end, of a long North Korean crisis. But we need to ensure that worries over how the crisis escalates will be all Chinese and North Korean — and not our own.



  • Jack 3:40 am on October 18, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , victor davis hanson   

    ‘He’s Nuts’ 

    The Democratic Party, as it did after Hubert Humphrey’s close loss in 1968, seems still to be misdiagnosing its 2016 defeat.

    Democrats see too little identity politics rather than too much as their trouble, and thus are redoubling on what has been slowly shrinking the party into coastal enclaves.

    Promoting Black Lives Matter and open borders, promising free tuition and tax hikes, opposing fracking and pipeline construction, pushing single-payer health care and an ever-expanding transgender agenda as well as abortion—these are not majority positions. Neither will embracing Hollywood, the media, or the NFL protests win over voters. Thinking (or hoping) that President Trump will implode, quit, be jailed, sicken, die, or be impeached is not an agenda.

    Trump Compared to What?

    When Trump promises to restore Christmas nomenclature, to build a border wall, or to bark back against the NFL, he bets that 51 percent of the voting public is likely on his side. Trump’s tweets may be cul de sacs. And they may diminish the traditional stature of the presidency, but they are rarely on the wrong side of public opinion.

    The same holds true when in suicidal fashion he alienates those of his own party, many of them seemingly essential to his legislative agenda. Yet what is the logic of temporizing Republican senators who recently got reelected by blasting the Iran Deal, open borders, and Obamacare—apparently on the premise that their posturing votes would never really matter, given the likelihood of a liberal vetoing president? So far a Bob Corker, Jeff Flake or John McCain has not proven that he is more popular in his own state than is Donald Trump.

    The issue is never just Trump’s outbursts or tweets in isolation but, rather, the comparisons between them and his targets. Again, attacking NFL players may not be presidential, but Trump’s pushback is often judged by many voters on the basis of its intent—in other words, an effort to oppose the growing trend of multimillionaire athletes refusing to stand for the National Anthem. If we have never seen a president stoop to fight with the NFL, we have also never seen the NFL kneel to self-destruct by offending millions of its fans. If the president cannot defend a national tradition of standing in honor during the National Anthem, who else could?

    Pollsters, pundits, and the media have vastly underestimated how many in America loathe multimillionaire celebrities, pampered athletes, and triangulating politicians—the usual targets of Trump’s invective

    Reactive Not Preemptive

    Take a sampling of Trump’s most infamous tweets and adolescent outbursts—attacks on Bob Corker’s height, referencing Rex Tillerson’s IQ, the creepy description of blood oozing from a supposedly irate Megyn Kelly, or deprecating the capture and imprisonment of John McCain—and the common denominator is not just puerility and cruelty, but also retaliation. All had first attacked Trump and sometimes quite viciously. Corker had claimed that Trump’s White House was chaos, a reality show, and in danger of prompting World War III—a virtual charge that Trump was nuts. Anonymous sources accused Tillerson of calling Trump a moron or, at least, implying it—and the secretary did not explicitly deny the charge, although he deplored the climate in which such accusations were made. Kelly hijacked her own debate question and turned it into a scripted rant about Trump’s alleged misogyny. McCain arrogantly wrote off Trump’s supporters as “crazies”—a forgotten precursor to Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” and “irredeemables.”

    We assume that “he started it” is an immature defense. And it is, of course. But people do still distinguish a defender from an attacker. Collate Trump’s tweets and they are 24/7 responses to preemptive attacks by his critics.

    What can possibly be Trump’s purpose in appearing so thin-skinned and petty?

    Likely it is twofold. Most obviously he seeks to reestablish deterrence: don’t dare attack Trump unless you are willing to be dragged down with him into a netherworld whose rules he has mastered. Just ask Low Energy Jeb, Little Marco, or Lyin’ Ted.

    Second, he knows the politicians, media hacks, and celebrities who attack him are sanctimonious bullies by nature. Their professions traffic in self-righteous invective, with the expectation that they will be never be attacked in kind.

    But the public enjoys seeing them taken down a notch. It is inexplicable but also eerie to chart the subsequent downward career trajectories of those who sought to engage Trump in a mud-slinging contest.

    It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own

    Trump is not avoiding controversial or substantive issues, but often he is shrugging that the problem was not his—and thus may belong to others to solve. DACA was illegal; even honest Obama supporters concede that. Trump wants it reformed and clarified—but by the Congress that alone should have had the legal authority to pass or reject the law.

    Trump did not make the Iran Deal; but he knows that it is a de facto treaty that was never ratified by the Senate and could not be today. If it is such a good deal, then the bipartisan Senate now can either reform and resubmit it, or ratify it as is or reject it. Ditto the Paris Climate Accord. Cannot Chuck Schumer introduce a bill to reclassify the accord properly as a treaty and see it passed by the Senate with a necessary two-thirds majority?

    The same is true of Obamacare, the Korean nuclear crisis, and ISIS. Trump loudly announces he will solve the crises that others caused. But if he is prevented by legislative logjams and the courts, then nature will take its course: Obamacare will fall by its own weight, more quickly once its Obama-era illegal executive orders are removed; any sane country will eventually have to shoot down an incoming Korean missile and do what is necessary to protect its people; and as ISIS grew and immigration to the West exploded, Trump simply understood, when faced with the real threat of an ISIS caliphate, the Western world would drop its past insistence on Marquis of Queensbury rules of engagement.

    Moving On

    Trump never really enjoyed a Republican majority in Congress, given the large number of purple-state and NeverTrump senators. He is also not a reflective and sedentary president. Tweeting, attacking, and arguing reflect motion quite in contrast to sending bills to Congress, waiting for them to be sandbagged at the 11th hour by John McCain or Susan Collins, and then being once again written off as a failed president by the media.

    Barack Obama both weaponized and exempted Trump with the precedent of “pen and phone” executive orders and sermonizing on social and cultural issues and doing pop culture, from Ferguson and Trayvon Martin to the Final Four and GloZell. Trump wades into a controversy, tweets, outrages, and then moves on to the next day’s “controversy” or supposedly career-ending spat.

    Fresh episodic targeting serves two purposes. Trump is a sort of Road Runner: gone to reply to the next provocation by the time his Wile E. Coyote critics can put their hands around his long-gone neck. The pushback against him is usually yesterday’s news drowned out by tomorrow’s new melodrama.

    Unprecedented Subordinate Power

    Trump’s forte is his invective and brawling. He is not a Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton wonk, who micromanages even the smallest details. The result is that his cabinet secretaries, generals, and high appointees enjoy more latitude than during any administration in memory.

    Trump on the parapets not only means that others to the rear are freer to make and administer rules without much presidential oversight, but also that Trump, not themselves, is the controversy. That exemption means that a cabinet official has wide parameters, with less worry that he must fight the media and his political opponents.

    One of the reasons why the luminaries of Trump’s team do not resign after his supposedly embarrassing outbursts is that they realize Trump’s outrageousness allows them to play the good-cop, adult in the room role, usually with media sympathy. And when a president is doing downfield blocking, others are relieved of the interference. A Trump secretary of defense or national security advisor exercises power and influence in ways unimaginable in comparison to most earlier counterparts.


    It apparently is as important how, as what, Trump speaks, tweets or does. Half the country got tired of sober and judicious platitudes that gussied up careerist agendas. To listen in the past to an EPA director or sitting U.S. senator was a lesson in empty gobbledygook, designed to say to the listener, “I am smart enough to make you think that I am doing something for you.”

    Trump in contrast, in gesture, accent, vocabulary, and rashness, sounds like a cigar-chomping blue-collar machinist out of our past who is said to be outrageous in his crudity only because he is condemned by those who are far more outrageous in their mannered sobriety. In some sense, Trump welcomes wounds in order to inflict greater ones on the proverbial establishment.


    When will the public tire of Trump’s imbroglios?

    Likely when a few of several scenarios happen: he gets into a major optional war that bogs down; he so insults his own appointees that we finally see four or five marquee cabinet sequential resignations; he does not build the wall, reform health care, or achieve a middle class tax cut and so loses his base; or he cannot achieve 3 percent annual economic growth or is plagued by a recession or return to stagflation.

    A final thought: either Trump’s spats and tweets are IEDs that go off so often that his accumulated wounds finally prove politically lethal—or his invectives are mini-preemptive explosions that clear minefields ahead and help ensure that we will not get into a war, that his team sees no reason to resign, that he tries to do what he promised, and that he achieves 3 percent growth in GDP.

    Either way, the Trump presidency is moving at a speed likely unmatched by his predecessors, and he is getting somewhere fast.


  • Jack 1:12 pm on October 13, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , victor davis hanson,   

    The Putin Way 

    Nothing that Vladimir Putin has done in gobbling up territories of the former Soviet Union is new. In fact, he simply apes every tyrant’s time-honored four-step plan of aggression.


    From Philip of Macedon to Napoleon, aggressors did not necessarily have a grand timetable for creating an empire. Instead, they went at it ad hoc. They took as much as they could at any given time; then backed away for a bit, if they sensed strong opposition was building — only to go back on the offensive when vigilance waned.

    Hitler did not realistically believe in 1936 that he would within five years create an empire from the Atlantic to the Volga. Instead, he started out by moving incrementally — in the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia — testing where he might grab land without a war, always both surprised at the ease of his success and full of contempt for the appeasers who had so empowered him.

    So too Putin. Once the Obama administration had reset the mild punishments of the Bush administration for carving out parts of Ossetia, Putin went back on the move. Obama’s reset was a green light for Putin. Who in the real world of serious diplomacy shows up in Geneva with a red plastic toy reset button, complete with a mistranslated Russian label? When Putin soon sized up the Obama administration’s appeasement around the globe — from fake red lines for Syria, to a scramble out of Iraq, to chaos in Libya — he moved into Crimea. And then he waited.

    Western sermons followed; outrage grew. Then the Western hysterics predictably passed, as popular attention went back to the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus’s metamorphosis from Disney girl to vamp. After a bit of digestion, Putin was ready for his next Anschluss. He repeated the formula in Ukraine: a persecuted Russian-speaking minority, an anti-Russian illiberal government, civil unrest, denial of a just and much-needed new plebiscite, a need for paramilitaries to help out their brethren, a Russian army standing nearby just in case, a few bombers buzzing the West, and magnanimous promises to leave crumbs for the victims.

    Putin then waited to gauge the reaction. As he swallows eastern Ukraine, he now eyes the Baltic States. He does not quite have a map on his wall of a new czarist Orthodox state the size of the Soviet Union, but he does have a general sense that there are a lot more former Soviet republics to be had — and he is eager to poke here and there to find out which will be the easiest to grab next.


    All dictators feign craziness, or at least exaggerate their undeniably unhinged tendencies. Appearing capable of anything was always a dictator’s advantage, well before the North Koreans, Pakistanis, and Iranians started playing nuclear poker. Demosthenes warned Athenians about the obsessed, one-eyed, limping Philip II, who would ruin every part of his hideous body to destroy the free city-state. Napoleon fired on crowds and kidnapped and executed dukes to remind the old regimes in Europe that his was a new order in which nothing was quite out of bounds.

    When Hitler sweated quarts under the spotlights and screamed his lungs out at Nuremberg rallies, neighboring European statesmen with their ties and umbrellas fretted that such a nut might try anything — and thus should be given a little something before his derangement destroyed their comfortable world. Who in his right mind, just two decades after the Somme and Verdun, would want a replay?

    Obama laughs at the bare-chested antics of Putin on horses, up to his waist fishing in freezing water, and posing with comatose tigers. For the metrosexual Nobel Laureate Obama, Putin’s muscle-flexing is obviously an adolescent “macho shtick” — like what schoolboys do when they cut up in the back of the room. Cannot the world see how juvenile these antics are, so crass in comparison to mapping out the Final Four in front of the television cameras or hitting the back nine in circus-colored sportswear?

    But Putin without a shirt is no different from Philip on a charger, or Napoleon with braids and sword, or the Kaiser in his spike-topped helmet, or Hitler in his knee-high jackboots. Who seems more likely to risk destruction for an agenda — Demosthenes in his robes or Philip in his armor? Chamberlain in his Savile Row suit or Hitler in his brown shirt? Putin with his biceps or Obama with his bike helmet?

    Putin struts about, as one of his generals, in Goering’s Luftwaffe style, boasts about Russia’s big arsenal. Sometimes he accidentally-on-purpose sends a bomber too close to British airspace or a sub too near to Swedish waters. His message is the same as Napoleon’s and Hitler’s: “I am not your run-of-the-mill statesman, but a revolutionary nut quite capable of bringing the global house down upon all of you — unless you are willing to give up a little to save a lot.” Playing the sociopath has always won concessions, from Philocrates and Isocrates to Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain.


    Aggressive autocrats always have had a list of perceived grievances, what Thucydides once called prophases.

    For Philip, the pretext was supposedly Athenian aggression in northern Greece and cultural and racial disdain for his Macedonians. For Napoleon, it was foreign aristocratic cabals always plotting to overthrow his regime, forcing him to preempt and go on an offensive defense. For the imperial Germans, it was snotty colonial powers like France and Britain, neither of which was willing to accept the upstart unified Germany fully into their imperial club. For Hitler, it was the Jews, the socialists, and the Versailles Treaty that had combined to rob Germany of its destiny.

    For the present terrorist Iranian theocracy, it is always the victimization of 1953 — as if Iran had never intrigued with Hitler, as if the Soviet Union in 1946 would have, on its own, given up its wartime presence in Iran, as if Mossadegh was a utopian democrat who had not grabbed emergency autocratic powers, as if the mullahs were democrats rather than co-conspirators in the efforts to see Mossadegh gone.

    If the polis Greeks would just have allowed Philip to carve out a reasonable hegemony in his own region, he would have left the south alone. If Napoleon had been assured of a sphere of influence, he would surely not have gone east of the Rhine or challenged Britain at sea. If Hitler could just have returned all German speakers to the Third Reich, then he would have had no more territorial claims in Europe. The British and the French cared as much about “faraway” Czechoslovakia in 1938 as the Athenians did in 348 b.c. about faraway Olynthus.

    Aggressors always assume there are, among their enemies, plenty of influential naïfs with whom such appeals will resonate. We hear today empathy on the Left with the Iranians and on the Right with Putin. Obama is talking, misty eyed, of a non-existent Iranian fatwa supposedly barring the development of nuclear weapons, as he sends both greetings and condolences to Iran’s theocrats.

    If Putin can just be allowed parts of Georgia that were robbed from Russia in the chaos of the fall of the Soviet Union, he won’t take Crimea. If Crimea is rightfully given back to Moscow, then Ukraine can have its autonomy. If Eastern Ukraine is reunited with Russia, then the Baltic States will be safe from a satiated Putin.

    Many in the West buy into Putin as the victim of a bellicose and opportunistic NATO, a money-grubbing EU, and a cowboyish America that conspired to carve up the corpse of the Soviet Union to ensure that the Russian people would never again become world players.


    Every aggressor also advances sophisticated lies. These narratives appeal to the better angels of the naïve. They always seem somewhat logical, at least superficially.

    For Philip, it was a grand Pan-Hellenic crusade under his aegis against the real enemy of Greek freedom: the slavish and effeminate Persian Empire.

    Napoleon claimed that he was a reluctant autocrat, but that he alone had the muscle to protect the ideals of the French Revolution from monarchists at home and the old regimes abroad. He did not so much subvert the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity as ensure that they were protected by the proper revolutionary force.

    Kaiser Wilhelm’s plans for a conquered Western Europe and Russia included something akin to a German Co-Prosperity Sphere, with swaths of France, Belgium, and Russia simply handed over to Germany.

    Hitler wanted to redo the Versailles Treaty and convince the world that the Volk deserved most of Western and Central Europe — and a new Reich for all superior Aryan peoples.

    Putin is every bit as crafty. He only wants two minor things: to honor the holy sites of Mother Russia and to save Western Civilization from itself.

    Do we appreciate the sacred Russian soil of Ukraine, where in 1941 the brave Soviets fought to save Kiev — suffering 700,000 casualties in the greatest encirclement in military history? Does the West understand that the Russians lost another 120,000 in vain trying to save Sevastopol from Erich von Manstein’s Nazis? Does Obama appreciate that the Baltic States served as a direct autobahn for Army Group North to reach Leningrad — what is now once again St. Petersburg, as it was in pre-Soviet days — and starve a million people to death during the longest and most deadly siege in modern history?

    Putin’s second story is more ecumenical. He claims to be the true knight of Western Civilization — not the counterfeit, decadent version that has sold out to the sickness of gay marriage, rap music, abortion on demand, and politically correct multiculturalism.

    Indeed, from Pat Buchanan to the European Right, Putin is simply a reincarnated Byzantine Justinian sending out his knight Belisariuses to save what is left of the old Roman Empire after its collapse in the West from self-inflicted decadence.

    NATO grandees talk of opposing Putin, but he is the most popular man in the Orthodox world. Countries like Greece, Serbia, and Cyprus prefer him to either the EU or the United States. Middle Eastern strongmen find him more predictable and reliable than Western leaders. Those who do not respect him at least fear him.

    Nothing Putin is doing is novel, from his on-again, off-again digestion of nations, to his feigned uncouthness, to his victimization, to his idealistic and ecumenical agenda.

    Putin is scary because his time-worn method of aggrandizement is as predictable as it is usually effective.

    NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.


  • Jack 1:34 pm on September 26, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , victor davis hanson   


    It is the best and worst of times for progressives and liberals.

    Politically, their obsessions with identity politics and various racial and gender -isms and -ologies have emasculated the Democratic party: loss of governorships, state legislatures, the House, the Senate, the presidency, and the Supreme Court.

    Democrats, for the time being at least, are now reduced to largely a coastal, big-city party. It can certainly pile up lots of blue electoral votes. And, thanks to California, Democrats can capture the popular vote, without necessarily winning presidential elections.

    The old liberal idea that the new demography is progressive destiny did not work out as planned. When the Blue Wall crumbled; Hillary Clinton lost a sure-thing election. Large Latino populations in red Texas and blue California are not likely to turn either one into a swing state. Inner-city voters so far have not transferred prior record levels of turn-out and bloc voting to candidates of the Hillary Clinton sort. Identity politics did not ensure that the white liberals who created it were always exempt from the natural boomerang of their own ideology.

    24/7 Sermonizing

    Yet culturally, the progressive octopus continues to recalibrate popular life according to the new orthodoxies shared by a minority of the population.

    Indeed, the octopus has formidable and far-reaching tentacles that reach into every crevice of modern American life. Our progressive mollusk is big, and he swims with us everywhere.

    Most Americans are quite willing to concede spheres of partisanship — but not lawlessness. Some colleges, such as Evergreen State or UC Berkeley, while public and tax-supported, are, by definition, leftist in the manner that a private Hillsdale College or Saint Thomas Aquinas are traditionalist and conservative.

    But whereas the latter are calm and tolerant of dissent; the former, with public monies, are hysterical and often Stalinist when confronted by opposing views. That disconnect is unsustainable. Most citizens are fine with the fact that Fox News is the conservative cable-channel bookend to the progressive MSNBC. Americans realize that a different sort of crowd goes to a NASCAR race than watches the Tour de France.

    So it is not quite accurate to complain of the “politicization of everything,” given that the phenomenon is largely a progressive project in which nothing is much sacred from left-wing political hectoring — our vocabulary, the very cars we drive, even the TV shows we watch.

    No Escape

    Why are the major private research universities such as Yale, Harvard, Duke, and Stanford, not just liberal but fully in service to a left-wing social agenda? Do they not all pile up huge billion-dollar endowments that are not taxed, thus robbing taxpayers of considerable annual revenue, while they turn out more biased yet less educated students?

    Network news was always liberal. Yet in the last decade, ABC, NBC, and CBS, along with PBS and NPR, as well as their cable counterparts such as CNN, have become veritable progressive operatives. Mention of transgenderism, gay marriage, abortion, global warming, and identity politics will be massaged to promote a progressive position that was once held only by minority — until the position morphs into an intolerant mainstream orthodoxy that does not allow dissent.

    Sometimes the scripted metamorphosis takes just a few years. Obama’s loud support of traditional marriage in 2008 changed to support for gay marriage in 2012. And when he left office, he conformed to the idea that only homophobes agreed with the position he’d held a few years earlier. Bill Clinton’s stance not too long ago on legal-only immigration would reduce him to a nativist racist by today’s progressive standards.

    Whether it is a 2006 or 2016 Oscar ceremony, it matters little. Some actor, some screenwriter, some director is eager to lecture the audience (to applause) and a national television audience (to mute disdain) that George W. Bush or Donald Trump (the conservative names come and go; the progressive hysterical outrage stays the same), is a fascist, or a Nazi, or a buffoon, or a criminal.

    Thanks, but No Thanks

    The result is that increasingly millions of Americans do not watch the Oscars as they once did in the days of the liberal but mostly sensible Hollywood of Doris Day, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Sidney Poitier, Debbie Reynolds, Jimmy Stewart, and John Wayne. The Emmy Awards are even more polarizing in their lockstep messaging that resembles the dreariness of a May Day parade on a cold Soviet Moscow morning.

    Half of America no longer goes to the movies, for reasons that transcend the advent of cable TV and computer viewing. They are bored with the latest predictable remake of a far better earlier movie — now updated with tattooed, white villains speaking in a Russian, South African, or southern accent, diabolically seeking to harm a young, picture-perfect progressive social-justice warrior as she uncovers the racist, sexist, and homophobic machinations of an evil corporation or government agency, run by a white male cabal, that aims to pollute the water, dirty the air, or rob noble progressive victims.

    Much of America finds Hollywood a boring Pravda enterprise. It is hypocritical too in the Soviet style of a privileged apparat — given that movies are the products of huge corporations and multimillionaire actors who live apartheid existences.

    Sports used to be sacred. Not now.

    ESPN op-eds dressed up as sports analyses are not subtle. The working-class audience is often assumed to be bigoted in some way; the wealthy and elite sportscasters, athletes, and media celebrities imagine that they themselves are virtuous and exempt from their own criticism.

    Colin Kaepernick was the straw that broke the viewing audience’s proverbial back. He is lionized as Martin Luther King Jr. rather than portrayed as a confused young man of so-so talent, pampered by a multimillion-dollar salary. He and his newfound followers will not stand for the anthem of the country that ensured that the National Football League would be the most ethnically diverse athletic corporation in the world, with the most highly compensated players, and dependent on fans who would scrimp to pay outrageously high sums for tickets and cable packages just to see a simple football game — only to be insulted as the supposedly guilty party.

    The result is Orwellian on two counts.

    One, the NFL is an admirably meritocratic enterprise, absolutely immune from the progressive dictums of “proportional representation” (diversity in the workplace and university must reflect the race, gender, and ethnic ratios of the general population) and “disparate impact” (there is no need to show that the NFL is racialist in order to force it to diversify). Otherwise, the NFL, as in the case of universities or other publicly subsidized entities, would demand that player rosters “look like us.” That is, they’d make the necessary adjustments to ensure affirmative action for underrepresented Latino, Asian, and white players — in the manner that UC Berkeley currently takes steps apparently to keep it from becoming an Asian-majority university based on merit and skills.

    Two, the subtext of not saluting the flag seems predicated on the notion of a racist white America, which in overwhelming numbers watches, enjoys, and pays for a mostly black NFL. Do the players, then, not wish their viewer base to keep watching, given its supposedly illiberal temperament and contemptible respect for the National Anthem?

    The Soviet Strangulation of Thought

    Major weather disasters are now almost immediately contextualized in progressive terms (often on the air by news readers) — and not just by politicians. (Do we remember Barack Obama’s saying “10,000” died in a Kansas tornado because George W. Bush had shorted the National Guard?)

    A drought is proof of climate change. But so is a deep freeze. Storms or the doldrums, it doesn’t matter: Greedy corporations and clueless, in-hock consumers are the carbon culprits. A tsunami or a receding sea, fog, or sun — climate change did it. When everything is proof of climate change, then nothing is.

    Before 2017 there may have been a decade-long dearth of hurricanes into the Caribbean. There may have been a number of scientists who stated on the record that two large late summer storms in 2017 were not proof of global warming. Surely there is room for reasoned debate?

    Again, no. All the pop-culture talking heads, from somber pundits to late-night television hosts, explained Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in a drearily similar way: Americans’ wasteful consumption of carbon energies had heated the planet and brought down upon them a Biblical retribution of bad weather.

    Some even went so far to point out that the work of divine retribution had deliberately targeted Florida and Texas. The reason was not the obvious one that coastal states have long shorelines on the tropical Gulf of Mexico. Instead, they were hit by Nemesis because they were red states with populations more likely to doubt theories of catastrophic man-made global warming. Even the telethon for victims of the hurricanes turned into yet another media event in which celebrities trashed Donald Trump and his supporters.

    When Facebook is caught censoring, when Google fires its employees for talking freely, the sanctimonious high hand predictably comes down on the values of Middle America.

    Nothing is spared from rank politicization.

    Late-night TV? Superman comic books? Marquee chefs? The weary messaging is everywhere and always predictable: Superman now protects illegal aliens, so we are no longer to imagine him as an oversized cartoon hero but instead as a newly muscled Jorge Ramos.

    No Mas

    As the progressive octopus squeezes the country, its dominance comes at a price. Lately fewer and fewer want to waste precious time watching the pampered adolescents of the NFL. Fewer wish to blow an afternoon viewing preachy mediocrities from Hollywood.

    Madonna is a tiring bore who needs to go away and age gracefully. Ditto ESPN.

    Who wishes to pay for the latest overpriced Apple gadget, because an aging zillionaire dressed in black prances back and forth on stage before stockholders as if he were Mick Jagger with a mic?

    Most yawn that Mark Zuckerberg and Pope Francis have given one too many sanctimonious rants that project their own hypocrisies. And one too many sober and judicious ex-diplomats (of the sort whose mellifluous prior appeasement led to a thermonuclear North Korea) bores us with warnings about Trump’s “incendiary rhetoric.”

    Apparently in 2016, the deplorables and irredeemables struck back. Donald J. Trump symbolically served as a radiologically hot CAT scan that revealed long-festering inner metastases. Next, as deadly chemotherapy, he unpleasantly saturated the patient until the cancers within slowly began to fester and shrink — even as the convalescent resented the harsh therapy as much as he did the symptoms of the disease.

    If the diagnosis and treatment are clear, the prognosis is not: Will America the patient buckle under the treatment and its side effects before the malady is mastered?

    NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, to appear in October from Basic Books.


    See Also:

    (1) Why Corporate Leaders Became Progressive Activists

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