Skip to comments.Riding the Back of the Tiger [Victor Davis Hanson on Obama not understanding What Causes Wars...]
Posted on 11/30/2009 11:26:13 AM PST by Tolik
is what America has done since 1941. Obama wants to get off. Fine. Many of our countrymen are tired of the ride. But what makes him think that on the ground with the gnashing beast is any safer than on his back?
What Causes Wars?
I do not mean here the existential reasons for strife, brought about through pride, status, envy, honoror even the supposed desire for riches and natural resources. But rather, less grandly, what allows those aggressions to devolve into legalize murder on a vast scale?
I ask that question, because I am not sure our President or his advisors have ever raised it. But in almost every case in the past, wars were not caused by Bush-like smoke-em-out rhetoricno more than they were prevented by reset button outreach or bowing to thugs or the League of Nations or the United Nations or things like the Wilsonian Cairo speech.
Usually aggression, bullying, and nationalist agendas evolve into warswhen the aggressive party is convinced it has more to gain through war than lose. And such perceptions, wrong or not, emerge when a Xerxes, a Napoleon or a Hitler are assured that their targets either cannot or will not stop them. Or, if they belatedly try to roll the dice, the resulting losses will be small in terms of what might be perceived as gain.
I am not discounting error and miscalculation. Hitler, after all, got more natural resources through purchase from the Soviet Union (a willing ally) for the Reich between late summer 1939 and June 1941 than he ever did by looting Russia between mid 1941 and 1945.
Hitler also would learn that only postfacto. By June 1941 he was convinced that given Stalins poor performance in the recent Finnish War, the Red Armys so-so record in splitting up Poland in 1939, and the well known past purges of the Soviet officer corpsall collated with Stalins mysterious efforts to placate Hitler, and denials of the impending threatthe Soviet Union would be impotent, like Norway or France. He deemed its finish a 4-5 week cakewalk. (Remember, Hitler was also using WWI (faulty) analogies: 4 years /defeat in France vs. 2 years /victory in Russia meant 23 years later, a 6 weeks /victory in France would mean 3 weeks / triumph in Russia.
In the Arena
Take a war. Even the trivial can create dangerous impressions.
Korea? Dean Achesons inadvertent slip that South Korea lay outside the US protective shield, coupled with (wrong) impressions about Truman, who was on record as wanting to diminish US conventional forces (remember the revolt of the admirals?)all that and more helped to convince the communists that the US would not or could not react to aggression, a perception almost confirmed by the time we were encircled at Pusan.
How about the weird Falkland War (two bald men fighting over a comb)? Why would Argentina take on the reputation of the centuries-old British navy over a few windswept rocks?
Let us count the ways: the sinking Argentine dictators needed a nationalist distraction? They thought the new female Thatcher would not be so macho? They thought the withdrawal of a British minesweeper from the Falklands would mean that their invasion would be seen as a fait accompli, not as something the far away, supposedly decadent British would fight over.
Hitler could have been stopped during the Rhineland crisis, during the Anschluss, and in Czechoslovakia, given the paucity and vulnerability of the late 1930s Panzers. But he gambled that the French and UK were far more traumatized as winners in the Great Wars killing fields than were the defeated Germans.
What is the point of this pop historicizing?
Like it or not, the fragile postwar order was largely enforced by the US and its Western allies, along with a general understanding that the system had allowed a Russia, China, or the Gulf monarchies to thrive through maintenance of the rules. We spent trillions because we thought it cheaper for us and the world than what started in 1914 and 1939. And we were largely right
There was a general recognition among unhinged regimesa Cuba, Saddams Iraq, a Libya, a North Korea, a Syria, Venezuelathat regional aspirations were, well, contained. Redlines were everywhereTaiwan was sacrosanct; so was South Korea. Israel would not be destroyed. Europe would not face a Russian invasion. And so on. A Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Mao, Kim Il-sung, Gaddafi, Arafat, etc. would be corralled and not allowed to destroy the Western-inspired global order.
Not now. Ever so insidiously in just a year, with the best intentions, the President, driven by narcissism, fueled by post-Enlightenment ignorance, is undermining old-fashioned deterrence. Chavez may have called Bush a devil and he may appreciate his handshakes with Obama, but an incident along the Colombian border is now more, not less likely.
Call him pathetic (he is), but Chavez has visions of a unified South America, communist, totalitarian, and with himself as titular head. He need not invade and occupy Colombia, only bully it, shoot a bit, humiliate it, anything to show his neighbors that he is a little crazy, mean, unpredictable, and worth kowtowing to. He thinks either that Obama will do nothing or cannot do anything, or perhaps contextualizes Chavezs own socialist indigenous grievances against them.
Ditto that soon most everywhere. We bow to the Chinese and think, Wow, our Harvard Law Review, three-pointer outside the key shooter, looks great as he breezily strides through the majestic hallways and handles his Q&A in full campaign mode.
They in turn review his apology tours, dithering on Afghanistan, his bows, his trashing of Bush, his past demagoguery of the Iraq war and prior anti-terrorism protocols, his efforts to be liked, and always the soaring debt, and think Wow, its soon time to make some regional readjustments and then remind old U.S. friends and allies, that we, unlike America, are terrible people to have as enemies, but rather loyal and devout friends.
1979 On the Horizon
So I think we are going to see soon some regional flare-ups, minor in themselves, but terribly important as the world pauses to gauge the US reaction. Syria and Iran feel liberated and think they can act with impunity. Turkey is an emerging regional hegemon. I would not want to be a former Soviet republicat least if I were consensually governed, pro-Western, and democratic.
If I were in Manila, Id start learning Chinese; if in Tokyo, Id think about massive rearmament. I would not wish to be in NATO if east of Berlinallies in the West would (cf. 1939) stay theoretic and distant, enemies would be concrete and proximate.
The survival of Israel now depends on its pilots and missiles, not on any guarantees from the US. In todays currency, what we guarantee is worth about as much as US treasury bills, or promises of missile defense for Eastern Europe. If I were an Israeli, Id either pray for the skill and audacity of the nations Air Force pilots, or begin cultivating India, Russia, and China, or that and more.
The problem with all this pessimistic view of human nature is that our elite and anointed smirk at it. They seem to say, Tsk, tsk, we are 21st century Ivy-Leaguers in the postmodern age. The world is no longer like it was in 1914. I explained all this in my latest piece in Foreign Affairs. Cell phones and the World Court are the order of the day, not Neanderthal notions of something called appeasement. But does anyone think human nature has changed since the Greeks due to improved diet, or that brain chemistry has altered with video games?
A Cautionary Tale
Obama inherited, he did not make the ruleswhether he thinks he can hope-and-change them away or not.
He can read all the Paul Krugmans essays all he wants that swear that deficits dont matter that much, or the borrowing is too small, or that the mega-creditor always supposedly has leverage over the lender (reader: would you rather owe a million or be owed a million?), but that does not make a soon to be $20 trillion dollar debt go away.
Such fantasy does not mean interest rates wont climb to 5-6% and more, and does not mean that we soon will not be paying a $1 trillion a year in interest to pay back what we owe.
The President can Van-Jones the energy question all he wants, in soaring tones bellowing out solar, wind, and millions of new green jobs! But that does not mean that, when the global recovery begins, oil wont go back to $100 plus a barrel. Indeed, our import tab will grow by leaps and bounds in direct proportion to the new gas and oil we find that remains off limits here at home.
And, yes, again, we can give 100 Cairo speeches, back flip even, apologize to the world for being mean to blacks, Indians, Hispanics, Europeans, Japanese, women, birds, plants, butterflies, whatever. And still an Ahmadinejad, a Chavez or a Putin will not be impressed.
With Bushs first-term swagger, he may have made things unpopular for America among the masses. But his enemies knew that he would do what it takes to protect the US. His friends abroad assumed that the more they hated him publicly, the more privately they counted on his support in extremis.
Now? The more the masses hail Obama, the more overseas elites in private shudder that they are on their own.
And, of course, they are.
Just a partial list: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index:
Just a partial list. Much more at the link: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index
The New War against Reason - Medieval heretic-hunters had nothing on Obama when it comes to closed-mindedness Circling Sharks Smell American Blood: America should keep quieter abroad and try finding a bigger stick Palin-Odes? What Drives the Fear and Loathing of Sarah Palin? Obamas Prissy America - Why does Obamas tolerant, apologetic America seem so very self-centered? Same Old, Same Old at Fort Hood What Bush Inherited, and What He Left Left Behind Who Are They? To Obama, they are responsible for all our troubles. Problem is, they are most of us Afghan Mythologies. We have everything we need to defeat the Taliban. What If?Mr. President Fort HoodA now familiar horror The Discreet Charm of the Left-wing Plutocracy Truman and the Principles of U.S. Foreign Policy. Jimmy Carter rejected the postwar consensus. President Obama appears to be following a similar path 'Present' Vote Won't Create Border Order Americas Obama Obsession - Anatomy of a passing hysteria Obamanoia The Kitty-Cat Who Roared - The loud reformer Obama himself proves even emptier in his promises than Bush Some Signs of the Times - Victor Davis Hanson's conclusions from whats going on in the age of Obama Dr. Barack and Mr. Obama - The backlash is sharp as voters learn that Obama is not the man they thought he was Deconstructing the "Whup Ass". Obama's & Jones lucrative anti-capitalist careers What We Are Learning About the Era of Obama Obama and "Redistributive Change". His real agenda Obama vs. Obama "The fault, dear Barack, is not in our stars, But in ourselves" The Obama Administration : What Went Wrong Our Road to Oceania Bullying Israel-only country with which the U.S. has worse relations since Obama took office Prairie-Fire Anger. Why Are People in Revolt? Obama's Great Race to Change America Obamas Path Not Taken. What Might Have Happened On Shearing Sheep (relentless hostility to small business) The War Against the Producers A Thugs Primer - How to win liberal friends and oppress your people The New Orwellianism Our Historically Challenged President. A list of distortions I No Longer Quite Believe ... [Victor Davis Hanson on Orwellian media & science, race relations] President Palins First 100 Days. Imagine if Sarah Palin had Obamas record Confessions of a Contrarian [deconstructing Obama, the Left and more] Thoughts About Depressed Americans Bush Did It. What a difference an election makes [Brilliant Parody] Our Battered American [gets angrier - Must Read Rant]
Let me know if you want in or out.
FR Index of his articles: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index NRO archive: http://author.nationalreview.com/?q=MjI1MQ== Pajamasmedia: http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson/ His website: http://victorhanson.com/
I think this is the heart of the problem with the Left. They actually DO think that human nature has changed, or can be made to change. Enlightened leaders can solve problems on behalf of the masses. Those leaders will get it right ... this time.
A Christian worldview (which the Left does not have) would reinforce the idea that we all have a flawed nature, and our leaders cannot really make any better choices than we can ourselves.
The overweening confidence of people like Obama is frequently the cause of trouble.
Give that man a cigar!
The world doesn’t trust Obama any longer. They also question us if we don’t answer the following.
While I’ve little interest in getting in the middle of the Obama birth
issue, Paul Hollrah over at UTFSM did so yesterday and believes the issue
can be resolved by Obama answering one simple question:
What passport did he use when he was shuttling between New York , Jakarta ,
and Karachi ? So how did a young man who arrived in New York in early June
1981, without the price of a hotel room in his pocket, suddenly come up with
the price of a round-the-world trip just a month later?
And once he was on a plane, shuttling between New York , Jakarta , and
Karachi , what passport was he offering when he passed through Customs and
The American people not only deserve to have answers to these questions,
they must have answers. It makes the debate over Obama’s citizenship a
rather short and simple one.
Q: Did he travel to Pakistan in 1981, at age 20?
A : Yes, by his own admission..
Q: What passport did he travel under?
A: There are only three possibilities
1) He traveled with a U.S. Passport,
2) He traveled with a British passport, or
3) He traveled with an Indonesia passport.
Q: Is it possible that Obama traveled with a U.S. Passport in 1981?
A: No. It is not possible. Pakistan was on the U.S. State Department’s “no
travel” list in 1981.
When Obama went to Pakistan in 1981 he was traveling either with a British
passport or an Indonesian passport...
If he were traveling with a British passport that would provide proof he was
born in Kenya on August 4, 1961, not in Hawaii as he claims. And if he were
traveling with an Indonesian passport that would tend to prove he
relinquished whatever previous citizenship he held, British or American,
prior to being adopted by his Indonesian step-father in 1967.
Whatever the truth of the matter, the American people need to know how he
managed to become a “natural born” American citizen between 1981 and 2008..
Given the destructive nature of his plans for America, as illustrated by his
speech before Congress and the disastrous spending plan he has presented to
Congress, the sooner we learn the truth of all this, the better.
If you Don’t care if Your President is not a natural born Citizen and in
Violation of the Constitution, then Delete this and go into your cocoon.
If you do care, then forward this.
Right on. An insightful article. I see the rise in Piracy as a sign that things are not right in the world. The problem is—many see the world in a new way—there will be no more big wars because we have the UN, computers, and Starbucks. No, Russia’s invasion of Georgia proved that the old rules still apply. Fancy speeches at the UN and “sanctions” will not stop Russian T-90 tanks. The world is about to explode and we are still thinking that there is no danger. Look to see a major event happen soon—how well Obama handles it will be important. If he doesn’t do well or runs to the UN to give a speech—more events will happen until the world is on fire. That’s what I believe.
America’s error, on a national scale, was the error of the post-WWII generation.
In our nations, we each decided to support the general welfare with largesse, “welfare”, the end result of which created a dependency class.
At the national level, America did this as well to the other democracies, not just offering them “protection” under its nuclear umbrella, but providing for their “defense”, paying for their citizenry to have the protection of our military, instead of demanding that they provide for their own armies to defend themselves.
In the former case, what was created were generations of people who did not work, had little desire for education or self-improvement, and were just public charges. The ambitious among them became criminals.
In the latter case, what resulted were spoiled neo-socialist regimes which used their wealth not spent on defending their nations, into enlarging their own largesse, welfare programs. Had they not done so, the US could have been just another member of NATO, contributing an equal share to mutual defense.
Finally, the chickens are coming home to roost for all of us. Those nations of Europe who fed from the American teat for so long, are now weak before just about anyone who would oppress them, be it Russia or Islam. If it chose to, even the Turkish army could overrun the western half of Europe, even if it didn’t dare treat in the much more self reliant eastern Europe.
“Won’t let us join the EU, huh? How do you feel about western Europe joining the Sultanate?”
Inaccurate. Whether some other country considers an American citizen to be a citizen of that country and issues him a passport is irrelevant to status as an American citizen.
In fact, that a passport may have been held from some other country doesn't provide proof where he was born.
Similarly, it is not possible to "accidentally' relinquish American citizenship, particularly for a minor. It requires very specific declarations and paperwork be performed.
It is, of course, possible that this paperwork was filed at some point. However, doesn't it seem likely to you that Hilary would have dragged it out last spring?
Except for those French and British nukes, and the unfortunate fact that for Turkish armies to get to western Europe they'd have to fight their way across a good bit of Eastern Europe.
A cautionary tale on isolationism. The world gets into real trouble when we withdraw, and then we pay the price (big time) to try to sort it all out (see WWI, WWII)....
Wars are caused by undefended wealth.
Nuclear weapons alone are not an effective deterrent, for the same reason that a police officer’s gun alone cannot control any, or even most situations. Which is why police officers are very fond of Tasers.
True, although they’ll do a dandy job on massed armies or fleets.
The threat of Ankara or Istanbul being destroyed might also give Turkish leaders pause.
VDH for president.
Short....wars are NOT caused by the populous of people.
Everyday people just want to lives in the pursuit of happiness.
Ask any foreign citizen and he’ll tell you the same.
Political leaders of countries cause wars for various reasons of greed...not malice toward another individual
They just use the populace for war to arrive or get what they want.
PIng me, please.
I forget to read Victor sometimes.
You know, I wonder. If I wanted to implement all my marxist and socialist policies, which failed in the past and I were likened to a third rail, might it not be more expedient to get some unknown(chalboard if you will) to my work?
Sad, this guy is not a salesman and can’t close a closet door.
Too bad we aren’t going to see Crap & Trade or Healthcare pass anytime soon.
La, la, la, tee, dah.
Oh how I would love to see VDH and Steyn on the same
One of the few mistakes Hansen ever makes.
This president has no "best intentions".
He hates this country with a deep, seething, burning rage, kindled at adolescence by Frank Davis, stoked over two decades at the pulpit at Jeremiah Wright.
same old queestion
are the leftists stupid or evil?
(most days i think both)
vdh is a saint and a hero ( as well as a scholar).
Pandering and appeasement encourage miscalculation.
“I think this is the heart of the problem with the Left. They actually DO think that human nature has changed, or can be made to change.”
The emphasis is on society and environment with the Lefties - they think if you change the water the goldfish will change. Poor analogy on my part, but they don’t know anything about human nature or history. Their Communist masters do, but they’re not telling - yet.
“He hates this country with a deep, seething, burning rage, kindled at adolescence by Frank Davis, stoked over two decades at the pulpit at Jeremiah Wright. “
That pegs today’s White House precisely.
Added to the VDH ping list. Thanks
“Political leaders of countries cause wars for various reasons of greed...”
Yes, but it’s only a part of the calculation to start or not to start a war. Another part is: can they win? Nobody starts a war when they think they can’t win. Their calculation may be wrong, but they start the war thinking it’s right.
This is the point Hanson was making. Our shift to a position of weakness leaves many areas unprotected that previously were perceived being under American shield. Now, they may be perceived up for grubs. That calculation might ultimately be proven wrong, but at this point somebody might think that forces are balanced in their favor.
Osama bin Laden openly wrote about those calculations calling America a “weak horse” and himself a “strong horse”. All our actions in that region of the world after 9/11 may be characterized as a powerful response to that idea. No, WE are the strong horse, don’t mess with US, don’t provide safe haven, or else. That powerful stance was the reason why Qaddafi suddenly decided to come clean and surrendered his nuclear program. Now, we are back to 9/10 mentality or worse. Qaddafi must be kicking himself for not waiting a few years - he would not have to give up his Aces to Obama.