Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson

Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and an expert on the history of war. A regular contributor to National Review Online and many other national and international publications, he has written or edited sixteen books, including the New York Times best seller Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power. He has received a National Humanities Medal and a Bradley Prize for Outstanding Achievement.

Dependent No More

There is a revolution going on in America, but it is not driven by the tea party or the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Instead, massive new reserves of gas, oil, and coal are being discovered almost everywhere in the United States, thanks to revolutionary methods of exploration and exploitation such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling. Recent prices above $100 a barrel make even difficult efforts at recovery enormously profitable.

There were always known to be additional, untapped reserves of oil and gas in the petroleum-rich Gulf of Mexico, off America’s shores, and in the American West and Alaska. But even the top energy experts never imagined just how vast was the energy there—or beneath far more unlikely places such as South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. Some studies suggest that the United States has now expanded its known potential gas and oil reserves tenfold.

The strategic and economic repercussions of these new finds are staggering, and remind us how a once energy-independent and thereby confident American economy soared to world dominance in the early twentieth century.

America will soon again be able to supply all of its own domestic natural gas needs—and do so perhaps for the next ninety years, at present rates of consumption. We have recently become a net exporter of refined gas and diesel fuel, and already have cut imported oil from OPEC countries by one million barrels per day.

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1) If one suggests that there may not be, at least as yet, enough evidence to overturn the initial police decision of not charging Mr. Zimmerman with a crime, then one is a de facto racist.

In other words, the liberal position of letting all the evidence be reexamined in a dispassionate fashion is now illiberal. And the illiberal one of charging someone with a felony without established probable cause is liberal. But just arresting and charging a suspect to let a judge or jury post facto decide whether there was ever probable cause for such an arrest is neither liberal nor consistent with American jurisprudence.

2) It is clear now that the African-American civil-rights hierarchy is concerned largely with maintaining power and influence by promulgating the theme of unending white racism — and the need for its exclusive agency to find redress and reparations from that eternal fact. That is a serious charge, but one easy to substantiate — whether we compare the commensurate outrage accorded the Duke case, the Skip Gates mess, the Tawana Brawley hoax, or the present Trayvon Martin tragedy, with the veritable neglect about the carnage of young African-American males in our cities, or the deliberate distortion that white-on-black crime is an epidemic when, in fact, black-on-black crime is — in addition to the fact of vastly higher incidences of black-on-white crime.

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The New Anti-Semitism

Not long ago, the Economist ran an unsigned editorial called the “Auschwitz Complex.” The unnamed author blamed serial Middle East tensions on both Israel’s unwarranted sense of victimhood, accrued from the Holocaust, and its unwillingness to  “to give up its empire.” As far as Israel’s paranoid obsessions with the specter of a nuclear Iran, the author dismissed any real threat by announcing that “Iran makes an appealing enemy for Israelis,” and that “Israelis have psychologically displaced the source of their anxiety onto a more distant target: Iran.”

It is hard to fathom how a democracy of seven million people by any stretch of the imagination is an “empire.” Israel, after all, fought three existential wars over its 1947 borders, when the issue at hand was not manifest destiny, but the efforts of its many enemies to exterminate or deport its population. I would not otherwise know how to characterize the Arab promise of more than a half-century of “pushing the Jews into Mediterranean.”

While it is true that Israeli forces stayed put on neighboring lands after the 1967 war, subsequent governments eventually withdrew from the Sinai, southern Lebanon, and Gaza—areas from which attacks were and are still staged against it. The Economist’s choice of “appealing” is an odd modifying adjective of the noun “enemy,” particularly for Iran, which has both promised to wipe out Israel and is desperately attempting to find the nuclear means to reify that boast.

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There are lots of legitimate differences over U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Arguments continue over what happened to the “good” or “real” war that after the first five years of relative quiet (from 2001 through 2006 there were never more than 100 Americans lost per year) began heating up in 2007–8 (even as Iraq quieted), and by 2009 (317 lost) and 2010 (499 lost) had become a mess, even as we began to pour reinforcements and more money into the country. (No one to this date has explained adequately why violence increased even as we put more troops and material into the country and disengaged our efforts and attention from Iraq. There are all sorts of possible explanations, but none really have been offered.)

Forget the background, context, and all the various exegeses, and simply note that we have reached a point where the secretary of defense is met with a probable assassination attempt upon landing at a coalition, supposedly secure, airport, and the American soldiers he addresses, for the first time in recent U.S. military protocol, have to be disarmed, given fears of some sort of repeat of last week’s appalling shooting.

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(photo credit: The U.S. Army)

The Middle East Mess

Most polls show a decided unease to preempt in Iran, at least for now. The nearly inexplicable failure to encourage the 2009 Iranian protests seems more regrettable each month. Trying to lecture and embarrass Israel the last three years led nowhere. The Syrian dissidents are now infighting. Assad, once well-spoken-of by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, is receiving Russian arms, and seems to be silently warning to fight to the last bunker, atop supposedly massive amounts of WMD.

Libya — no U.S. congressional authorization, exceeding the much-referenced U.N. authorizations, and chaos in the postbellum era — is a blueprint for nothing. The verdict is out on the Arab Spring; but confidence mostly hinges on believing the supposedly reformed Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates either do not have broad support or are not as radical as they sound.

The once-”good war” in Afghanistan is being dissected every which way in terms of getting out without avoiding a 1975 Vietnam-like scramble. Certainly the old mantra that we took our eye off the ball in Iraq needs revisiting — given that when we put it back on Afghanistan and poured manpower and capital into the country, things either did not improve or got worse. In any case, four ground commanders in three years, diplomatic musical chairs, surges cum withdrawal deadlines, and a disengaged commander in chief did not send the message of a new administration finally bent, as promised in summer 2008, on winning the “real” or “good” war.

The Middle East Mess…

Ethnic politics have always been a facet of American politics. But recently the frightened Obama reelection campaign seems to be going to unusual lengths to appeal overtly to voters by virtue of Obama’s race — a sort of retrograde tribalism that Obama in 2004 promised that we would transcend.

What are we to make of the coach of the Chicago Bears, Lovie Smith, announcing on acampaign video, “I have the president’s back and it’s left up to us, as African Americans, to show that we have his back. Also join African Americans for PresidentObama today.” Does Coach Smith mean that “as African Americans” one has a duty to support the president by virtue of his race rather than his politics alone, or his politics as they relate to the welfare of African Americans? Are those African Americans who oppose Obama, then, doing so “not as African Americans”? Are whites and Hispanics who support Obama doing so because he is also half-white or as “not African Americans”?

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The latest mass killing by an American soldier follows a three-year downward spiral: the burned desecrated Korans, the murdering of Americans by Afghan “allies,” the surge followed immediately by loudly announced withdrawal dates, four different senior commanders in three years, a musical-chairs rotation likewise on the diplomatic side, and a president clearly uncomfortable that his prior promises as a candidate to fight unflinchingly in Afghanistan were strait-jacketing his presidential impatience at leaving.

After ten years, we have forgotten why we went into Afghanistan in the first place: a) to deny Islamic radicals similar bases from which to attack the U.S. in 9/11 style, who had been hosted by the terrorist-friendly Taliban “government”; b) to stay on and establish a consensual government to avoid resurgence of the Taliban-friendly radicals, in a de facto admission that our aid to Afghan Islamic radicals in the 1980s to defeat the Russians had been followed by a thought-to-be unwise departure after the Soviet defeat, ceding, in blowback style, the country to the Taliban; and c) at some point after our defeat of the Taliban and the establishment of the Karzai government, a third rationale emerged that we were now supporting “democracy” to ensure an end to the humanitarian abuses under the Taliban.

By 2005 the war and its aftermath were felt to be a general success in that two of our three goals were largely met; indeed, in those days, in contrast to the present, observers looked at the escalating violence in Iraq and wondered “where was the Iraqi Karzai?,” who was feted as a near-hero as American casualties were remarkably low and the Taliban stayed in disarray. There was never a real anti-war movement against Afghanistan.

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Americans — left, right, Democrats and Republicans — are all sick of thankless nation-building in the Middle East. Yet democratization was not our first choice, but rather a last resort after prior failures.

The United States had long ago supplied Afghan insurgents, who expelled the Soviets after a decade of fighting. Then we left. The country descended into even worse medievalism under the Taliban. So after removing the Taliban, who had hosted the perpetrators of 9/11, we promised in 2001 to stay on.

We won the first Gulf War in 1991. Then most of our forces left the region. The result was the mass murder of the Iraqi Kurds and Shiites, 12 years of no-fly zones, and a failed oil-for-food embargo of Saddam’s Iraq. So after removing Saddam in 2003, we tried to leave behind something better.

In the last 10 years the United States has spent more than $1 trillion and has lost thousands of American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both places seem far better off than when ruled by the Taliban and Saddam Hussein — at least for a while longer.

Yet the Iraqis now bear Americans little good will. They seem friendlier to Iranand Syria than to their liberators. In Afghanistan, riots continue over mistaken burning of some defaced Korans, despite serial American apologies.

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Here in California, students just marched on Sacramento in outrage that state-subsidized tuition at the UC and CSU campuses keeps climbing. It is true that per-unit tuition costs are rising, despite even greater exploitation of poorly paid part-time teachers and graduate-student TAs. But the protests are sort of surreal. The California legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic. The governor is a Democrat. The faculties and administrative classes are largely Democratic. Who then, in the students’ minds, have established these supposedly unfair budget priorities?

Sales, income, and gas taxes are still among the highest in the nation (and are proposed to rise even higher) — prompting one of the largest out-of-state exoduses of upper-income brackets in the nation. The state budget is pretty much entirely committed to K–12 education (whose state-by-state comparative test scores in math and science hover between 45th and 49th in the nation), prisons, social services, and public-employee salaries and pensions. Whom, then, can the students be angry at?

Are students angry at public-union salaries and pensions that are among the highest in the nation? Do they think the many highly compensated retired Highway patrol officers have shorted students at UC Davis? Are they mad at the 50,000 illegal aliens in the California prison system that might have siphoned off scholarship funds from CSU Monterey Bay? Or is the rub the influx of hundreds of thousands of children of illegal aliens who require all sorts of language remediation and extra instruction in the public schools, and so might in theory divert library funds from UC Santa Cruz?

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