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Works and Days

Answering Back…

August 25th, 2007 - 7:14 am

Every once in a while, one must attend to business and reply to published critics. So here it goes. Long overdue.

First some readers responses:

a. First—the unhinged one about 150 years of open borders. Far from it. Illegal immigration at today’s massive rates is unique in American history and a phenomenon of the last 40 years. And yes, our ancestors did care about the melting pot. English was required in school, as well as patriotic singing, skits on Americanism, and the necessity to “assimilate”. I wrote about all this in Mexifornia.

b. “And by the way, scarce labor leads to mechanization, not higher prices.”

Well, in theory yes. But some crops like soft-fruits such as fresh grapes and peaches can’t be mechanized yet. The market will work, though, as I pointed out, and labor costs will rise. Prices will also rise accordingly. If they don’t, farmers who grow these crops will cease doing so, and the public will either pay more for scarce produce they want, or simply decide that fresh grapes and peaches at such prices weren’t that important anyway.

c. “When you speak of agriculture and immigrants you speak of the agri-corporations such as Tyson or the few large “truck” farms that need labor to pick their crops. The rest of us do our on work and wonder when the anarchy of our cities’ society will come break down our doors.”

I wish it were so. But a 40-acre berry farmer or plum grower (5,000 plus trees) can’t prune, thin, or pick his crop himself. Ditto a raisin grower of 30-acres. There are still some farms between corporate agribusiness and small 5-acre or organic or 400-acre family farms that are mechanized with row crops or nuts for example. So yes, these categories of small farmers have used illegal labor. It’s not a question of me “speak[ing]” but a fact that is not under dispute.

I also hope the anarchy of the city won’t break down our door, but in my case, with numerous break-ins, thefts, hot pursuits in our fields, and trash thrown into the vineyard, as well as endemic trespassing, it already has happened.

d. “Memo to Dr. Hanson: free markets work. Americans are demanding quality from Chinese manufacturers and will vote with their dollars. The Chinese will either reform or lose market share.”

Of course they do. But they work far better in the US than in China. And in the process of consumers sorting out that it isn’t wise to buy such products, a few of them (or their pets) may die–and that is the theory behind the Food and Drug Administration; i.e., the market is fast to react, but not always fast enough to protect the consumer. And the public, even a few, should not die to serve as a beacon to others that a particular product should not be purchased.

I. Dinesh D’Souza

Recently in an interview Dinesh D’Souza apparently was quoted as saying that I blurbed his most recent book The Enemy at Home—leaving him puzzled then why I would do something so inexplicable as to then go on and trash it in print.

Indeed, I reviewed very negatively on two occasions The Enemy at Home. My only prior professional relations with Mr. D’Souza was his request a number of years ago to blurb another one of his other books, What’s Right With America. I read that book, liked it, and blurbed it. But even then an odd thing happened. After I did so, I got an email from Mr. D’Souza informing me that the blurb had been somewhat altered and reworded.

But again, I did not blurb nor do I endorse his recent book on 9/11. Here’s a recent powerlineblog.com post by Scott Johnson on the matter:

Powerlingblog.com
August 25, 2007
D’Souza makes it up

Dinesh D’Souza’s The Enemy At Home is something worse than a bad book. It’s a rotten book. I took a whack at it in the New Criterion essay “D’Souza goes native,” and in posts here including “D’Souza’s dishonesty,” and “D’Souza’s soulmate.”

Perhaps no one has criticized the book more harshly than Victor Davis Hanson. In “The mind of Mr. D’Souza”, replying to D’Souza’s four-day NRO apologia responding to his conservative critics, Hanson left blood on the floor. When a reader recently sent me a link to this interview with D’Souza, I was therefore intrigued by this exchange:

[Interviewer Bernard Chapin]: Ah, that brings me to my next question. Several very famous conservatives condemned your book including the likes of Roger Kimball, Peter Berkowitz, and Victor David [sic] Hanson. I know that you penned a series of responses [published on NRO], but what is it that so angered them? Also, how much does this type of criticism personally affect you?

Dinesh D’Souza: Well, I think I’m a very non-confrontational guy in person. As a result of my early political education at Dartmouth, I have developed a thick skin in regards to criticism. The hysterical reaction that The Dartmouth Review received in the early eighties gave me an initiation to politics so I’m not a stranger to controversy. I’ve come to expect a certain degree of irrationality from the Left — not the liberals I mean — but from true leftists.

The difference with The Enemy at Home is that conservatives failed to take my back. That they chose not to do so is disappointing because my book is breaking new ground. So, in that sense, the reaction I got was completely different. There were half a dozen conservatives who went after me. Victor Davis Hanson and Peter Berkowitz are colleagues of mine at the Hoover Institute [sic] so the critical and harsh tone of their criticism disappointed me. The irony, of course, is that Victor Davis Hanson wrote a blurb for the book….

Hanson wrote a blurb for the book? There is not a single blurb on the dust jacket of the book or in the publicity materials that accompanied it from the publisher. Did Hanson write an unpublished blurb for the book? If so, it’s funny that D’Souza didn’t get around to mentioning it during his four-day NRO extravaganza. In fact, not surprisingly, I understand that Hanson never wrote any such blurb for a book that he has publicly condemned as morally vile.

Posted by Scott at 6:44 AM | Permalink | E-mail this post to a friend |
story on the matter.

II. Andrew Sullivan

Recently Andrew Sullivan—angry that I agreed with most others that The New Republic’s Pvt. Beauchamp was a fabulist for writing things untrue about Iraq— claimed I was equally culpable for once opposing troop increases and now supporting them.

His harangue was incoherent, since, as I pointed out three years ago, I felt 138,000 troops were preferable to having 200,000 in Iraq— the real problem being not so much numbers as the rules of engagement that precluded Americans from going on the offensive and rendered them instead targets for snipers and IEDs.

Sullivan warped that into saying I oppose the present 160,000 troop level surge, and am calling for Americans to shoot from tanks. He made that latter statement up of course. But it was not the first time I have such a run-in with him. Not long ago, in a debate, he announced in front of a Columbia University audience that I had supported government-sanctioned torture. Even though I had written exactly the opposite.

Here’s the posting on that one too (corner.nationalreview.com):

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

08/22 09:50 PM

A Response to ever more from Andrew Sullivan [Victor Davis Hanson]

The last time I had a run-in with the frenetic Andrew Sullivan was in front of an audience at Columbia University. There while loudly renouncing his former support for invading Iraq, he accused me of supporting government-sponsored torture — only later to concede that in fact, as I told him at the time, I had written a column specifically objecting to its use as others acknowledged. But that apparently has become Sullivan’s modus operandi — in frenzied fashion to toss out slurs and then to grow silent when they are refuted.

Now he is angry that I, like dozens of others, referred to The New Republic’s Pvt. Scott Beauchamp as a fabulist that he is, and so tried to make the case that an opinion writer whose views he disagrees with is comparable to a war chronicler making up facts on ground around him as he goes along.

That’s preposterous, but so are the examples Sullivan cites of my own supposed fables, when three years ago I emphasized that a need for a change of tactics, not sheer numbers, was the key to restoring security in Iraq.

First, I am not sure that Sullivan can read the English language. He lodges the following accusation:

“The first is an argument that counter-insurgency works best when American troops stay in their tanks and kill people. It’s a June 2004 defense of a strategy not exactly identical with the Petraeus strategy Hanson is now touting. Money quote:

“For their part, American troops have discovered that they are safer on the assault when they can fire first and kill killers, rather than simply patrol and react, hoping their newly armored Humvees and fortified flak vests will deflect projectiles.”

Sullivan’s quote of what I wrote proves the exact opposite of his allegation that I argued that we should “stay in tanks and kill people”. That would be entirely defensive and rely on armor like Humvees. Instead, as any reader can see, I argued for going on the assault, NOT simply patrolling and reacting in hopes that “newly armored Humvees and vests will deflect projectiles.” I don’t know where Sullivan got “stay in their tanks” other than once again he made it up himself.

Of course, I stand by all that and believe that much of the change in Iraq is due precisely to an alteration in tactics rather than numerical increases alone, which have allowed us to come out of defensive postures and “attack” those who are killing Iraqi civilians.

But when he gets to a discussion of numbers Sullivan only compounds his ignorance. I wrote in support of changing tactics and using the then current 140,000 troops differently, rather than sending in 200,000 troops to emulate existing tactics, a numerical increase that was called for by some. Sullivan objects that I wrote:

“There are other advantages to a force of some 138,000 rapidly responding soldiers, rather than 200,000 or so garrison troops. The more American troops, the less likely it is Iraqis will feel any obligation to step up to the responsibilities of their own defense. The more troops, the more psychological reliance on numbers than on performance of individual units. And, the more troops, the higher the profile of culturally bothersome Americans who disturb by their mere omnipresence, rather than win respect for their proven skill in arms.”

I stand by that. Apparently, Sullivan does not realize that the current 160,000-troop surge is far closer to 138,000 than it is to 200,000-and is designed precisely to provide a window of security by more aggressive operations apart from our compounds, and intended to allow us to disengage and turn over the war gradually to the Iraqis.
As for Sullivan’s final complaint. Yes, I did write the following:

“At the same time, the Arab world is beginning to see elections take hold in the Islamic world—in Afghanistan, the West Bank, and now Iraq. And that fact will eventually be fatal for Al Qaeda and Baathists alike. We cannot appreciate these positive symptoms in our despair over the post-invasion period.”
I think the general decline in support for bin Laden and suicide bombing in the Middle East, and changes from Lebanon to Libya support that evolution, and yes, that we can’t appreciate that in our present despair.

I used to think Sullivan was perhaps unstable, but not necessarily dense. But I fear that he is increasingly both-or more still.

I do plead guilty in consistently and without exception supporting the removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003, supporting the effort to foster constitutional government in Iraq from 2003-2007, believing that despite our acknowledged errors that we can adjust, just as we have in past wars, and will still prevail-and that a democratic Iraq will be a humane achievement for its people, a marked improvement for the region, and a positive development for the security of the United States.

08/22 09:05 PM

III. Nicolas Stuart

From the August 21, 2007 Canberra Times (http://canberra.yourguide.com.au/detail.asp?class=your+say&subclass=general&story_id=1040362&category=opinion)

An Australian author Nicolas Stuart alleges that the experience in Iraq has contradicted arguments made in Carnage and Culture about the general advantages Western civilization enjoyed and still enjoys in military practice, and he suggests I am a fan of Alexander the Great, using words like “hypnotic effect” to suggest the attraction I feel for such a cutthroat.

This essay too is absolutely absurd and full of errors and sloppy reporting.

Some points he misses:

1. Carnage and Culture was not “reissued” in a mood of “triumphalism” as Why the West Has Won. A complete fabrication. The latter title was the original one of the English publishers that appeared on the original publication date in the UK and Commonwealth. (Different title, cover, and English spellings). Carnage and Culture was the title I gave the book. It remains just that in the United States in the paperback edition.

2. Stuart has a long excursus on Alexander the Great as if I were enamored by him— who in fact figures in only one chapter of the nine in Carnage and Culture—negatively. Far from glorifying in his conquests, I pointed out how Alexander distorted the Western liberal tradition.

3. While I acknowledged why he was militarily successful and the dynamic infantry and cavalry traditions upon which he drew (and how different they were from the Persian tradition), I wrote negatively of his larger aims and behavior (“—and no foreigner did more to destroy three hundred years of liberty and freedom of the Greeks inside Greece than did Philip and his son” [C&C 82]; “”For all his professed devotion to Greek culture, Alexander died a man closer to heart to Xerxes than to Themistocles” [C&C 89]).

4. In fact, I wrote negatively of both Oliver Stone’s movie (http://victorhanson.com/articles/hanson112704.html cf: http://victorhanson.com/articles/hanson100904b.html)—and about a decade ago wrote a controversial article that took an extremely negative view of Alexander— “Alexander the Killer” for the Military History Quarterly.

5. So most of what Mr. Stuart writes in association with Alexander the Great in regards to my views is factually incorrect and once again fantasy. In fact, well before Iraq I wrote the following which, again pace Mr. Stuart, was the subject of my talk to officers of the Australian military: “We in the West may have to fights non-Westerners—in jungles, stealthily at night, and as counterterrorists—to combat enemies who dare not face us in shock battle. In consequence, we may not always fully draw on our great Hellenic traditions of superior technology and the discipline and ardor of our free citizen soldiers ins shock battle…[C&C 97].

6. Stuart ends his piece with :

“Today, an alternative (an effective) military strategy is being implemented. It’s apparently having an effect, but it may already be too late. Reports last weekend suggest the US is already beginning to withdraw some forces. If this is correct, they may be able to draw down troops before the Presidential election campaign swings into gear in Washington.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll be leaving a secure Iraq behind. To use an inappropriate historical analogy, don’t forget that Alexander’s empire began to disintegrate while the young king lay on his deathbed.”

Alternative? He didn’t read Carnage and Culture, which devoted a single chapter to decisive battle and explained why Alexander’s autocratic, top-heavy and corrupt regime in fact did fail. Our alternative and “effective” strategy of the present counterinsurgency is based on trying to implement not authoritarianism as did Alexander—but constitutional government. And it is being implemented in the military sphere by reliance on superior technology, the give and take between officers and enlisted men that are characteristic of free armies, flexibility and individualism that change, alter, and implement tactics, plenty of funding that is the fruit of capitalism, superior logistics of sending over and supplying 160,000 troops, free discussion and debate at home over the wisdom of doing so, discipline and civic militarism (traits we are trying to inculcate in the Iraqi military and police).

In other words, we draw on these Western institutions and traditions even when we cannot fight in our preferred mode of decisive battle using superior firepower. All this was carefully outlined in the book. Even when our enemies come over here, they are dependent on Western technology (like airplanes) to conduct a stealthily terrorist attack. And few doubt should this continue in serial fashion, the Western military response in all its fury would overweigh anything the Islamists might conjure up.

And that is, for now, that…

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