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The Price We Pay for Our Ignorance of Military History Is Dead Americans

Victor Davis Hanson's illuminating take on history and culture can guide the journey through this collection of the weekend's headlines.

by
Dave Swindle

Bio

August 13, 2013 - 8:00 pm

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For season 2 of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen each weekday I juxtapose book excerpts with a selection of the previous day’s headlines and noteworthy excerpts. The goal is to make fresh connections between the events of the day and the bigger picture of humanity’s place in the universe. Each day also starts with highlighting the contributions of an important writer. 

Last week I was frustrated at the oversimplifying in the popular narrative of an alleged Republican “civil war” between the “interventionist,” “establishment” wing represented by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the “non-interventionist,” “libertarian” wing represented by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (son of the publisher of conspiracist and racist newsletters). This isn’t a boxing match, it’s a barroom brawl. Numerous foreign-policy voices with many perspectives fill the “right of center” ranks. A variety of philosophies and ideologies compete for influence.

And so I began naming the ones who had most shaped me, who had inspired me to join PJM two years ago, and whose vivid writing I still wake up eager to edit each morning. Michael Ledeen, Andrew C. McCarthy, Barry Rubin, Claudia Rosett, and David P. Goldman perpetually provide clear-eyed analysis illuminating world events. Through their books and columns we can begin to understand the analytic tools and life experiences that underlie the way they interpret the stories of the day. And we can then weigh the public policies they advocate.

My last key foreign-policy influence among PJ’s columnists is also going to be the first of a second list of PJM columnists I’m presenting this week. He is an important bridge between disciplines: for many years now Victor Davis Hanson’s writings and speeches have been vital influences on my understanding of both foreign policy and culture — two subjects which need to be considered in a more integrated faction. A culture that does not value learning the mistakes that led to the start of wars — and defeat in them — will be doomed to suffer, paying in the blood of the innocent and the heroic.

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On Friday I presented David P. Goldman’s conception of Augustinian Realism, an alternative to the foreign-policy approaches of Christie and Paul. Rather than the big government of Christie or the wimpy government of Paul, Goldman advocates for a values-driven government. Augustinian Realism recognizes that the civil society predates a government, and advocates that America must make common cause with those who share her value of the individual as sacred. Goldman argues that societies succeed when they value and empower the individual to be free to create value. Societies that do not, that fail to draw out the creative potential of their people, are doomed to failure — and we cannot force them to succeed no matter how much “interventionism” we attempt. Culture becomes the determinant of the fate of peoples and nations. And what a culture values defines them.

In Victor Davis Hanson’s large body of work and ever-growing, prolific archives of articles we can see the cultural values that formed Western civilization piece by piece. He’s a military historian and classics professor who brings his erudite understanding of Western civilization to his writings of contemporary events. Through VDH one can see the twists of the U.S.’s war against terrorists in the context of military strategies since mankind fought with shields and spears.

It’s one step to learn about the evolution of Western cultural values, but it’s a whole other trek up Mount Olympus to get emotionally excited and passionate about them. What sparked my enthusiasm for VDH’s writing and ideas was seeing him speak at conferences and events. He’s an engaging lecturer who demonstrates the relevance of ancient philosophy and military history to not just politics but our own daily lives. Thus, I’m hoping that with the upcoming release of the new Freedom Academy course “The Odyssey of Western Civilization,” others can begin to see today through the lens of classical wisdom. More on this new project soon at PJ Lifestyle.

One of the concepts that VDH will discuss in the series is an ancient Greek debate that mirrors the Christie vs Paul fight today. Which is a better form of government, oligarchy or democracy? The same question could be restated: which is not as bad, a tyranny of an elite that can execute you (drones and limitless spying went up under Obama…) or a tyranny of a 51% majority who can execute you (democratically elected Sharia states that then sponsor terrorists to attack us)? Paraphrasing their 2016 competition, the former secretary of state, what difference, at this point, does it make?

There is an alternative: Republicanism, the rule of law that checks would-be tyrannies of both the majority and the minority through creating systems that balance powers. This system makes it so that the abstract individual is supreme by dispersing the necessary powers of government amongst different powers. In the upcoming Western civilization series, VDH discusses how the Romans managed to grow much larger than the Greeks for centuries through amalgamating various aspects of the ancient Greek city states, creating institutions of government that could check and balance each other – from multiple legislative bodies to multiple rulers.

The price of failing to balance and defuse power is very real. Wars happen and are then won or lost as a result of the political choices by a state’s leaders. And in our day and age, leaders are chosen according to the whims of cultural sensibilities. Thus to revive a foreign policy that values military strength, and sees the proper use of force as an effective deterrent – often the only option — against tyrannical states and actors, we have to nourish and revive the culture from the ground up.

In addition to the upcoming Freedom Academy course and VDH’s PJ Media blog Works and Days, the first two of his books that I recommend (and will be blogging more excerpts from in the coming months at PJ Lifestyle) are The Father of Us All: War and History Ancient and Modern and Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (co-written with John Heath)Check out an excerpt from each at the beginning and end of today’s round-up of links from last Friday and this weekend. And one last thing: as I start new VDH books I’ll notate them in my Freedom Academy Book Club profile; now’s a great time to join in the Beta test of this new program.

Friday Morning Book Reading:

An excerpt from page 12 of The Father of Us All: War and History Ancient and Modern, explaining a contributor to the mass confusion of our time:

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Friday Morning News Round Up:

Lead PJM Stories:

Michael Ledeen: Obama, Putin, and Rouhani: The Sources of War

In short: Rouhani is not in charge, he is a cog in a machine, and he doesn’t seem to be at odds with the hateful doctrines that have defined the Islamic Republic since 1979. It’s hard to make a convincing case that the United States, or the West in general, should make a major strategic investment in friendship with the new Iranian president.

Putin is the opposite. He has much more freedom to act and he has imposed his will on Russia. Leon Aron has laid outthe nature of “Putinism” with admirable brevity and elegance: Putin knows what he wants, both at home and abroad, and he pursues his goals ruthlessly and relentlessly. He truly rules his nation, and there is very little guile in his strategies. With Putin, you get what you see.

The similarities between Putin and Rouhani are doctrinal. Both are contemptuous of democracy, both are resolved to crush opponents of their regime and to eliminate pockets of liberty. Both are therefore profoundly anti-American, recognizing that the very existence of a strong and successful United States is a threat to their own legitimacy.

As with Rouhani, there isn’t likely to be a warm American relationship with Putin. But, it is worthwhile to deal seriously with Putin, precisely because he can deliver if he chooses to.

Raymond Ibrahim: MSM Blackout? Egyptians Enraged by U.S. Outreach to Muslim Brotherhood

Rick Moran: SNAFU, FUBAR, ClusterF–k: Welcome to the Rollout of the Affordable Care Act

Clayton Cramer: Take It from Me: Heart Surgery Is Best Avoided

Roger L. Simon: Richard Dawkins’ Islam Problem and Ours

Roger Kimball: Bright Spots in the Bubble: The Case of St. John’s College

 

PJ Lifestyle Featured on PJ Home Page on Friday:

Paula Bolyard: Matt Damon Questions President Obama’s Manhood

New at PJ Lifestyle on Friday:

John Boot:The 5 Most Destructive Political Ideas in Matt Damon’s Movies

Chris Queen: The Dark Side of ‘Happily Ever After’?

Paula Bolyard: Matt Damon Questions President Obama’s Manhood

Kathy Shaidle: Sam Kinison Biopic Back on Track With New Star

Andrew Klavan: Why AMC’s The Killing Is Killing Me

Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin: The Dragon Of the Apocalypse, Ghost Lovers and The Memoirs of The Walking Dead

 

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New at PJ Tatler on Friday:

Bryan Preston: Obama to Hold Press Conference Today. Which Questions Will His Palace Guard Media Avoid?

Sarah Hoyt: Darrell Issa is Winning the Internets!

Bryan Preston: [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO] PJ Goes One-On-One with Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

Stephen Green: VIDEO: Weiner Roasts Reporter

Bryan Preston: Senator Durbin is a…

Stephen Green: Selling ObamaCare

Bryan Preston: MSNBC Goes for the Far Left Crazy Homophobe Demo

Bridget Johnson: FBI Probes Michigan Link in Bulgaria Bus Bombing

Bryan Preston: Matt Damon and Charles Krauthammer Agree: Obama is No Good

Bridget Johnson: Why Has There Been No Effort to Detain Benghazi Suspect?

Bridget Johnson: Contractor Fined $8M for Decade Worth of Arms Export Violations — Yet Still Eligible for Future Contracts

Bridget Johnson: Boxer’s Open Letter to Filner: ‘You Should Step Down Immediately’

Bryan Preston: Two New Polls Show Obama’s Signature Law and ‘Phony’ Message are Failing Miserably

Bryan Preston: Harry Reid Launches Slanderous Attacks on Tea Party, Republicans

Bridget Johnson: Senate’s Only African-American Wants Apology from Reid

Bryan Preston: Obama’s Presser: What the Media Did and Didn’t Ask

Stephen Kruiser: Even Time Notices that Matt Damon Is Full of It on Education

Bridget Johnson: ‘Reset’ Obama: Putin ‘Like the Bored Kid in the Back of the Classroom’

Stephen Kruiser: Cincinnati IRS Official In Charge During Scandal Gets Promotion

Stephen Kruiser: Obama Is Still Lying About Obamacare

 

Also Around the Web Friday:

Via Drudge:

Matthew Boyle at Breitbart News: GOP Rep. Shock Claims Majority of House GOP Support Cantor’s Dream Act

At Mediaite:

Andrew Kirell: Liberal Radio Host Goes After Malkin And Coulter: ‘Hate Hags’ Have ‘Moved The Dial On Creepy’

Matt Wilstein: Christian Radio Host To Voice Of Russia: Your Country Is ‘Not Homophobic, It’s Homo-realistic’

At Salon:

Brian Beutler: Libertarian populism isn’t a governing ideology — it’s a swindle

Joan Walsh: Rand Paul’s week of delusion

Whether it helped him or not, Paul’s star turn with major national reporters this week is the clearest evidence yet that he’s planning a 2016 presidential run. What’s also clear is that he hasn’t decided whether he’s going to run as the far-right extremist that he is, or whether he’s going to try to tone down or simply hide his less popular stands. Since his appeal with the Tea Party base lies not only in his extremism but in his candor about it, the latter would seem a risky strategy.  He’ll have plenty of competition to his right if he stumbles.

Alex Seitz-Wald: Glenn Beck-promoted event loses top speaker over neo-Confederate ties

At Slate:

David Haglund: Werner Herzog Made a Documentary About Texting While Driving. And It’s Haunting. 

Matt Goulding: Why the French Secretly Love the Golden Arches

At Breitbart.Com:

John Nolte: Matt Damon’s Elysium in Trouble

Christian Toto: ‘Elysium’ Review: Socialism 101 Bogged Down by Sorry Script, Story

William Bigelow: Transgender Celebrity Sues BET for Discrimination

At National Review:

Michael Walsh: Moral Victory Is Total Victory

But the military victories were only part of the triumph. What made the end of World War II definitive was the purging of the mindsets that had occasioned it. In Germany, the surviving top Nazis were executed or sentenced to long prison terms, the Fuehrerprinzip was utterly discredited, and the population that had been held in its sway was forced to confront its destructive reality. In Japan, we hanged Tojo but allowed — allowed – Hirohito to remain as Emperor but publicly stripped him of his “godhood” and made the Japanese see that he was just a man. Only then, minus the Fuehrer and their god, were Germany and Japan truly defeated, and thus free to rebuild and rejoin the family of nations.

We’re way too politically correct to do something like that today, of course, and so we fight pointless wars for speechwriter mush about “human freedom” that are all tactics and no strategy, with no apparent political objectives other than to see “elections” staged, some schools built, and some cups of tea drunk. But we did not fight to “liberate” the Germans from Hitler or the Japanese from imperial militarism: We fought them to crush them and eradicate the root of the evil that animated them. They started it, we finished it. Which is why we haven’t had to refight them.

Weekend Book Readings

Saturday:

“I am your perfected nature. If you wish to see me, call me by my name.” — an excerpt from page 205 of The Hermetic Link by Jacob Slavenburg.

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Ronald Reagan: “It is fantastic from my present vantage point to discover what really faces one when the chance comes to put order into the chaos our little liberal playmates have created.” Page 15 of The ‪‎Reagan‬ I Knew, a correspondence to William F. Buckley Jr. In 1966 after winning the governorship of ‪California‬:

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Sunday:

An excerpt from page 48 of Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy by Angela Franks quoting the founder of Planned Parenthood using the term “human weeds”

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Weekend News Round Up:

Lead PJM Stories this Weekend:

Michael Ledeen: There Goes the Judge, Sigh…

Ron Radosh: Political Correctness Run Amok

Andrew G. Bostom: Egyptian Army General Wrote Radical Thesis While Attending U.S. Army War College

Rick Moran: Hollywood Protests Russian Anti-Gay Laws but Is Silent About Persecution in Muslim Countries

Rick Moran: An Artist’s Rendering of ‘Angel Priest’ Who Appeared at Missouri Crash Site

PJ Lifestyle Featured on the Main Page This Weekend:

Charlie Martin: Climate Change: What Are the Real Questions?

Rhonda Robinson: How These 3 Simple Principles of a Judeo-Christian Diet Saved My Family

Charlie Martin: The Tomato on My Desk Is Ticking

Chris Queen: Walt Disney and the Fight for Mary Poppins

 

At PJ Lifestyle This Weekend:

Self-Improvement Saturday:

Chris Queen: Who’s The Bigger Idiot in Sports This Week: Tony Stewart or Johnny Manziel?

Charlie Martin: 13 Weeks: A Writer’s Workout

Walter Hudson: Do Good Employees Do More Than They Get Paid For?

Sarah Hoyt: Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

Rhonda Robinson: How to Slash Your Grocery Budget By $250

Spirituality and Religion on Sunday:

Susan L.M. Goldberg: Girls on Boys: The Body Politic of Goddess Feminism

Charlie Martin: Tomato Buddha

Rhonda Robinson: How the Father of Lies Made Jews Evil and Christians Murderous

Paula Bolyard: Fal$e Teacher$ — Christian Rapper Shames Prosperity Preachers

At the PJ Tatler this Weekend:

Saturday:

Rick Moran: How Bad is Detroit’s Government? Really, Really, Really Bad

Rick Moran: Reid: We Must ‘Work our Way Past’ Insurance-Based Health Care

Myra Adams: Why There Will Never Be Peace in the Middle East

Rick Moran: ALEC Pushes Back Against Senator Durbin’s Bully-Boy Tactics

Sarah Hoyt: Israeli Drone Strike in Egypt

Sunday:

Rick Moran: Hollywood Protests Russian Anti-Gay Laws but Is Silent About Persecution in Muslim Countries

Bryan Preston: US-Mexico Border Gets the Cloward-Piven Treatment

Rick Moran: Death Wish: Rep. Clyburn Says Dems Will Run on Obamacare in 2014

Patrick Poole: State Dept. Spokeswoman Psaki Denounces ‘Enemies of Islam’

Rick Moran: Rep. Gohmert: President Lied about Republicans and Obamacare

Rick Moran: SNAP Goes Your Temper

 

Also Around the Web This Weekend:

Via Drudge:

Maureen Dowd at the New York TimesMadam President

Many Democrats are hungry to make history again, and they see the first woman president as the natural successor to the first black president.

But in other ways, Hillary is not such a natural successor. The Clintons are ends-justify-the-means types with flexible boundaries about right and wrong, while the Obama mystique is the opposite. His White House runs on the idea that if you are virtuous and true and honorable, people will ultimately come to you. (An ethos that sometimes collides with political success.)

It’s odd that Obama, who once talked about being a transformational president, did not want to ensure that his allies and his aims were imprinted on the capital. Instead, he has teed up the ball for Hillary. Some of the excitement about Barack Obama was the prospect of making a clean start, after years of getting dragged into the Clintons’ dubious ethics and personal messes. Yet Obama ushered in the return of Clinton Inc. and gave it his blessing.

Buzzfeed: Sarah Palin Slams Chris Christie: “I’m On Team Rand”

Former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said Saturday she sided with Rand Paul in the on-going feud between the Kentucky Senator and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Palin was appearing on Fox New’s Cashin’ In.

“I’m on team Rand. Rand Paul understands. He gets the whole notion of don’t tread on me government. Whereas Chris Christie is for big government and trying to go-along-to-get along in so many respects,” Palin said.

At Breitbart.Com:

Tony Lee: RNC Comms Direction: Breitbart News, Conservative Media Tougher on GOP

Reuters: Four Vanderbilt Football Players Charged With Raping Unconscious Student

John Nolte: Reid: Obamacare Just a Step Towards a Single-Payer System

At The Blaze:

Oliver Darcy: Report: Apple to Unveil New iPhone on Sept. 10

At the Daily Mail:

Jamaican transgender 16-year-old beaten to death in the streets for wanting to be a woman

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong lashes out and fires his creative director during a conference call with 1,000 employees listening in

English teacher arrested for ‘sleeping with student, 17, more than 25 TIMES – and she was only discovered when the boy’s mother found them in their pool together’

Ramsay’s tax nightmare: Chef faces fraud probe over ‘seven-figure unpaid bill’ leaked to the authorities by whistleblower

Outrage as Florida abortion clinic offers coupons to low-income women offering $50 off on Sundays

Pope blesses plans to make writer of Father Brown stories G.K. Chesterton a saint

Duchess and her newborn prince get the biblical look in graffiti art inspired by the Virgin Mary

Revealed: Bernie Madoff was in ‘love triangle’ with ex-staffers and his corrupt Ponzi scheme office was filled with employee sex romps

Monday Morning Book Reading:

From Page 11 of Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom? by Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath on the anti-racism of Hellenic culture:

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******

See the first five weeks of round-ups:

David Swindle is the associate editor of PJ Media. He writes and edits articles and blog posts on politics, news, culture, religion, and entertainment. He edits the PJ Lifestyle section and the PJ columnists. Contact him at DaveSwindlePJM @ Gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle. He has worked full-time as a writer, editor, blogger, and New Media troublemaker since 2009, at PJ Media since 2011. He graduated with a degree in English (creative writing emphasis) and political science from Ball State University in 2006. Previously he's also worked as a freelance writer for The Indianapolis Star and the film critic for WTHR.com. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their Siberian Husky puppy Maura.

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VDH is a wonderful writer, but a mediocre military historian. A lack of historical knowledge is seldom the problem. On the contrary, many awful military decisions are made by officers with an excellent understanding of military history (for example, see Robert Doughty's "The Seeds of Disaster" on inter-war French doctrine). The problem is that military history is often used to support the status quo. The US Army encouraged volley fire into World War One, precisely because "history" taught that it was the most effective form of fire. German machine guns taught the AEF otherwise, but only after we suffered tens of thousands of casualties.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
" He is an important bridge between disciplines: for many years now Victor Davis Hanson’s writings and speeches have been vital influences on my understanding of both foreign policy and culture — two subjects which need to be considered in a more integrated faction. A culture that does not value learning the mistakes that led to the start of wars — and defeat in them — will be doomed to suffer, paying in the blood of the innocent and the heroic."

Have you read “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam” by H. R. McMaster, or "Vietnam in Retrospect: Could We Have Won?" from the US Army War College Quarterly (Winter 1996-97) ?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (son of the publisher of conspiracist and racist newsletters). "

Well this is a fine way to start off a trial (or a discussion) - trying to prejudice the jury against one of the two sides - a technique fitting for a Kangaroo Court.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
This isn't a trial and readers are not a jury. And my opposition to the paleo and anarchist wings of the Right are a frequent theme in my writing. I regularly write in opposition to the attempt to mainstream and whitewash the immoral ideology of Ron and Rand Paul.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of the most illuminating thinkers on the subject at hand is Professor Louis Rene Beres. Not only is he a pre-eminent international legal and nuclear warfare expert, but he understands the importance of military history and its impact on current events.

And, in order to disentangle disengage from the most 'peace-processed' to death conflict - the PA/Israel obsession - one must first look back at constant error - http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/09/27/looking-back-at-constant-error-understanding-the-tangled-narrative-of-middle-east-peace-professor-louis-beress-policy-paper-israel-journal-of-foreign-affairs-no-commentary-warranted-adi/

Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Question: What happened to US military doctrine between the end of Operation Desert Storm and the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bill Clinton and the continued collapse of the Conservative consensus after the fall of the Soviet Union.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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