Recovering from War in the Age of Obama

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Appeasement defined the global conflicts of the 20th century. Time after time, America and other forces for freedom and democracy withheld their power in efforts to appease the most evil regimes in recent history. Over and over again, the policy of appeasement has ended in disaster. Now, conservative giant Victor Davis Hanson asks: why is appeasement so seductive and where will it take us in the 21st century?

In this collection of Hanson’s best columns from the last four years on the policy of appeasement today and in history, the path becomes clear. If America continues down the road of appeasement with radical Islamic groups and aggressive regimes in Russia and North Korea, the world will see a conflagration rivalling World War II.

A copy of the book can be purchased here.

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The world is on fire. In every sphere of the world where America cares, the hopes for peace and prosperity are in peril. Most of this mayhem has erupted over the course of the Obama presidency.  Turning away from this tumult of turmoil will require a double dose of courage and character, argues the historian and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson.

Since 2006, Hanson has penned a weekly piece for PJ Media called “Works and Days.” Seductions of Appeasement is a collection of essays drawn from the column that specifically focus on foreign policy.

Hanson has something useful to say on every major blunder of the Obama administration, from the muddled way American left Iraq to the misguided effort to engage Iran.

And, he says it in a way that is well worth the read.

Victor Hanson is an intellectual blender. His columns reflect the deep wisdom that comes from a thoughtful study of the sweep of world history.  To that he adds an informed, rational, dispassionate, realist view of contemporary affairs.  He mixes it all together with a clear, engaging, and accessible style of writing. All these elements of the Hanson way of viewing the world fuse seamlessly, making for some of the best political writing to be found anywhere.

If nothing else, Seductions of Appeasement reflects Hanson’s uncanny ability to call balls and strikes. After almost a decade of casting judgement on the course of American foreign policy, he has nothing to apologize for. He predicted, for instance, that the White House handling of Libya and Syria was going to bring tragedy. He was so right—as he was foreseeing almost every other misstep made by the Oval Office.

What is most valuable about bringing this collection of essays together, however, is not just in offering a case study for how smart a historian can be about foretelling the future.  Scattered among his musings is all the advice a future generation might need to fix Obama’s foreign policy follies.

Every essay includes a least one item for the list of do’s and don’ts of getting the practice of American statecraft right. Reflecting on Iraq, for example, Hanson laments, “for a postmodern society that knows no history, mistakes must not occur. And when they do, someone else is always to be blamed.” That is a coward’s way of war.  Rather, Hanson writes, “going to war is a matter not of avoiding mistakes, but of seeking to correct them as soon as possible.”

Above all, Hanson cautions against the Obama penchant for just putting a happy face on failure and declaring every setback a success.  Instead Hanson asserts, “here is the point, to paraphrase Matthew Ridgway of the mess he inherited in Korea: the only worse thing for a great power with global responsibilities than fighting a poorly conducted war is losing one.”

Then there is Hanson’s best advice of all. “We will survive Obama, if barely, but then also—flourish if only by the wisdom of reacting to and doing the opposite of what the Obama era has wrought.”

Part civics lesson, part history lesson, part political playbook, this is one collection of modern essays that every thinking American ought to read.

This blog post is part of PJ Media's Appeasement Week, a series of blog posts celebrating the launch of Victor Davis Hanson's new e-book, The Seductions of Appeasement. Buy it now on the PJ Store, and get 50% until June 30! Click here to read.