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.
August 13, 2013 - 8:00 pm
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.
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:
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.
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:
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
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!
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’
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
Stephen Kruiser: Cincinnati IRS Official In Charge During Scandal Gets Promotion
Stephen Kruiser: Obama Is Still Lying About Obamacare
Also Around the Web Friday:
Matthew Boyle at Breitbart News: GOP Rep. Shock Claims Majority of House GOP Support Cantor’s Dream Act
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’
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.
Matt Goulding: Why the French Secretly Love the Golden Arches
John Nolte: Matt Damon’s Elysium in Trouble
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
“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.
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:
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”
Weekend News Round Up:
Lead PJM Stories this Weekend:
Michael Ledeen: There Goes the Judge, Sigh…
Ron Radosh: Political Correctness Run Amok
Rick Moran: Hollywood Protests Russian Anti-Gay Laws but Is Silent About Persecution in Muslim Countries
PJ Lifestyle Featured on the Main Page This Weekend:
Charlie Martin: Climate Change: What Are the Real Questions?
Charlie Martin: The Tomato on My Desk Is Ticking
Chris Queen: Walt Disney and the Fight for Mary Poppins
At PJ Lifestyle This Weekend:
Charlie Martin: 13 Weeks: A Writer’s Workout
Walter Hudson: Do Good Employees Do More Than They Get Paid For?
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
At the PJ Tatler this Weekend:
Myra Adams: Why There Will Never Be Peace in the Middle East
Sarah Hoyt: Israeli Drone Strike in Egypt
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
Patrick Poole: State Dept. Spokeswoman Psaki Denounces ‘Enemies of Islam’
Rick Moran: SNAP Goes Your Temper
Also Around the Web This Weekend:
Maureen Dowd at the New York Times: Madam 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.
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 The Blaze:
Oliver Darcy: Report: Apple to Unveil New iPhone on Sept. 10
At the Daily Mail:
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
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:
See the first five weeks of round-ups:
- Week One
- 1. Monday, July 8: “We Ought to Defeat Capitalism With Its Own Weapons, Comrades…“
- 2. Tuesday, July 9: Can We Just Fast Forward to 2040? Please?
- 3. Thursday, July 11: Researching the American Family’s War to Beat Death…
- Week Two
- 4. Monday, July 15: Turning On Mankind’s Magical Machines To Battle Mother Earth’s Cruel Monsters
- 5. Wednesday, July 17: ‘So, You Know How You Felt on 9/11? Yeah, That’s How We Feel When It Comes To Race.’
- 6. Thursday, July 18: ‘… And There We Can Still Maintain Our Mysterious and Dreadful Freedom.’
- 7. Friday, July 19: ‘Evil Always Takes Advantage of Ambiguity.’ – G.K. Chesterton
- Week Three
- 8. Monday, July 22: ‘His Father Urged Him to Study Marxism, But Valentin Preferred Science.’
- 9. Tuesday, July 23: ‘Perhaps The Final Secret of the Illuminati Is That You Don’t Know You’re A Member Until It’s Too Late to Get Out.’
- 10. Wednesday, July 24: Is Anthony Weiner a ‘Deviant’ or a ‘Normal’ Male?
- 11. Thursday, July 25: ‘The Most Ancient Conflict in Western Culture, Between Jew and Egyptian, Continues…’
- 12. Friday, July 26: Weiner’s Wild Women: Are Sydney Leathers and Huma Abedin His Succubi?
- Week Four
- 13. Monday, July 29: Malcolm X: ‘The Jew Cries Louder Than Anybody Else If Anybody Criticizes Him.’
- 14. Tuesday, July 30: ‘My Father Was a White Man.’ – Frederick Douglass, the Archetypal Anti-Slavery Republican
- 15. Wednesday, July 31: Why Is It Evil to Murder Unwanted Children?
- 16. Thursday, August 1: Nihilism Defined: ‘When You Realize Your Life Has as Much Meaning as Your Dog’s…’
- 17. Friday, August 2: Pastafarianism Is a Real Religion. Benghazi Is a ‘Phony Scandal.’ Hillary Will Be President.
- Week Five
- 18. Monday, August 5: ‘War, and Preparation for War, Are the Normal Conditions of Mankind, While Peace Is Extremely Rare.’ – Michael Ledeen
- 19. Tuesday, August 6: Muslim Brotherhood Operatives Have Infiltrated America’s Political and Cultural Institutions to Conquer Us from Within
- 20. Wednesday, August 7: First We Define Anti-Americanism, Then We Crush It Again Even Harder
- 21. Thursday, August 8: The United Nations is a Corrupt Failure That Does Not Unite Nations
- 22. Friday, August 9: No to Corporate Neoconservatism, No to Paleo-Libertarian Anarchism, Yes to Augustinian Realism