Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

These are Not Dark Days

"These are not dark days: these are great days—the greatest days our country has ever lived."--Winston Churchill

So ended a stirring talk delivered by Victor Davis Hanson at The Claremont Institute’s annual Winston S. Churchill Dinner. That said, Hanson (as Churchill before him) does not turn a blind eye to the difficulties and the challenges our country is facing. His description of these challenges and the striking magnitude of them is (to say the least) quite sobering. He does not believe our triumph is inevitable--but he does believe that we will triumph. More important, he believes that working toward that triumph is a challenge worthy of us and we of it. I had the pleasure of hearing the speech delivered a couple weeks ago. It reads almost as well--though I do wish they had provided an MP3 file!

Discussions - 23 Comments

"He does not believe our triumph is inevitable--but he does believe that we will triumph. More important, he believes that working toward that triumph is a challenge worthy of us and we of it."


I promise I’m not being argumentative here, but please define what you mean by triumph.

I’m sorry . . . I thought it was clear to most Americans that our country is at war. I keep forgetting how many of us wish to forget it or pretend that it is not so.

OK. Triumph in the War with Iraq, I suppose or triumph in the War against terrorism or radical Islam? One can be forgiven for not knowing exactly since Victor Davis Hanson represents a certain element that is well know for conceiving of triumph in abstract terms such as global democratization.


Haven’t read it all yet, but I find the rhetorical flourish and excess of his speech to be very problematic from a conservative standpoint. Have we learned nothing from Kirk? I agree with the condemnation of Islam. Too few anti-war rightist have been honest about the nature of Islam. But then he accuses the other side of Utopianism. When it is the anti-war right that has been saying all along that bringing peace, stability, and American style Jeffersonian democracy to the Middle East at the point of a gun is hopelessly Utopian.


The real triumph will come when "conservatives" shed their Cold War interventionist mindsets for the historical conservative position of non-intervention and non-entanglement.

It would be nice if the world would adopt American Jeffersonian style democracy. But I agree with you about this much, Dan, I don’t think it ever will--either through persuasion or through force. But here’s where we disagree: I do not think that this was the real intention or reason for the war. The problem with the anti-war Conservatives is not just that they have underestimated the threat posed by radical Islam--it is that they have allowed a preference against democratic rhetoric to cloud their view of reality. To the extent that the Bush Administration has been arguing that spreading democracy is our purpose in this war, I think it has been a big mistake. It creates false expectations and distracts us from our mission. We get bogged down in time-wasting debates like this one while our fate rests in the balance. I think the purpose of the war is self-preservation. I know that the administration has made arguments about spreading the seeds of democracy in the Middle East, etc., etc. At their best, these arguments speak of spreading democracy as a means to an end (namely, our security). But these theories can also get pretty pie in the sky, as well. I also know that there are people in the administration who truly believe this exporting of democracy can work. I wish they were correct but intellectually I don’t buy it. But, on the whole, I think sometimes that the opponents the idea of exporting democracy take it more seriously than its advocates. It would be nice . . . we might do some good to alleviate the suffering of those people over there . . . but I’m not holding my breath. Further, I wouldn’t send my son over there just to do battle for their cause and I don’t think it is proper for a country to ask that of its citizens. But we aren’t really doing that, are we? Perhaps the Bushies think it sounds good? Perhaps they hoped to win the hearts and minds of liberals with that rhetoric. But I think, at base, what we’re really doing is just working to keep the homicidal whacked out version of Islamofacist politics contained and, if nothing else, directed inward on itself. I think Hanson, in the main, agrees with this view. Spreading democracy is, if anything, a side-benefit and probably not a very likely one.

Actually, Julie, I agree with you. I’ve always thought of Iraq as "Operation Bugzapper." Start a really nasty (but low-level) conflict in the heart of Islam, and watch all the Islamofascist moths rush to the flame of war.

Unfortunately, it is possible that we have underestimated the millions who hold sympathies with these crazy thugs. The supply of them may be inexhaustible (although I doubt our presence in Iraq makes even more of them...the Left is wrong there...Iraq is just today’s excuse for their violence). It may be necessary in the near future to really go to war...the Old Testatment Shermanesque all-out kill-the-women/children/cattle scorched-earth ass-whompin’ Roman kind of war. I’m afraid it may require that...Israel has proven beyond doubt that tit-for-tat just won’t answer. And these people are thinking long-term.

The request to define "triumph" is a sign of post-modern degeneracy. The idea that "triumph" is some nebulous notion, and is a term in dire need of protracted discussion and delineation is a sad social commentary. It’s the type of query posed during the Vietnam war, by those who scoffed that there would be a blood bath in the aftermath of our withdraw. But afterwards, when human skulls were piled high, and people fled by the millions, such people who deemed themselves clever then, will be viewed by history as utterly decadent.

It might do well for some to recall that this isn’t an abstract discussion. Nor is it some political science hypothetical.

The request to define "triumph" is a sign of post-modern degeneracy.

anon - O, come on off the high horse. In context, Dan Phillips was asking a reasonable question. Western civilization needs defending, but I don’t see what Julie’s initial crankiness and your abstractions add to the task at hand.

I agree with Steve. In the past it was easy to define victory because everybody knew who the enemy was--and I’m not talking about the leaders, but the average enemy soldier. If they were wearing a swastika, they were the bad guys, and you shot them. Moreover, you could look at a map and see how the fronts were moving, and as long as that part of the world which was under your side’s control was growing larger, you knew that your side was doing well. You also had a good idea of when the enemy was beaten, because he surrendered.

All of these conventions--uniforms, battlefronts, instruments of surrender, even declarations of war-- strike us as merely quaint today. Terrorists--like the Viet Cong before them--refuse to play by the rules of war that Europeans set centuries ago. And recent experience suggests that we haven’t figured out yet how to deal with them. Coming up with a real definition of victory is an essential first step.

Anon, I’m "post-modern?" You have got to be kidding me. If anything, I am pre-modern. Before you said that I was going to make a funny remark about the title of the speech "Losing the Enlightenment." Some of us conservatives would dance a jig in the streets and sing hallelujah if we could only lose the Enlightenment. Sure it has brought unparalleled material prosperity, but at what price? The loss of Faith and traditional culture.


Read the speech. It is full of flowery rhetoric, but it is entirely appropriate to ask what is meant by "triumph." Would that mean the eradication of Radical Islam? The democratization of the Middle East? A successful, functioning government in Iraq? Would it be success if Iraq ends up partitioned? Etc. It is not at all an unreasonable question.


Julie, in the case of the case for War, it seems hindsight instead of being 20/20 is more blurry. That this War was partially justified on the basis of "toppling a dictator," "liberating Iraq," democratizing and stabilizing the Middle East is entirely clear. What is even more pathetic is that some of those guys believed their own "cakewalk" rhetoric. “We will be welcomed with open arms as liberators.” Yeah, right. "Mission accomplished." Yeah, right. Note that the anti-war right, or as I like to say the authentic right, was entirely correct in their predictions about how this would turn out, and for their efforts they were called "unpatriotic."


But even if we allow all the democratization rhetoric to be put aside at this point, what did Iraq have to do with 9/11 and fighting terrorism? Yeah I know they were shooting at our planes enforcing the no-fly zone. But why in the hell are conservatives supportive of America enforcing illegitimate supra-national dictates of the UN in the first place. We should be getting out of the UN, not enforcing their illegitimate dictates.


The only good thing this War did as far as enhancing our security was allow us to leave our base in Saudi which was a major league irritant to Muslims. But we were there enforcing the no fly zone anyway. The War has severely damaged our reputation abroad, resulted in 3,000 + deaths of US soldiers, caused untold misery from separations brought about by repeated deployments, cost billions of dollars, and resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and has made us not one bit safer. We have sacrificed civil liberties at home and strengthened the executive, a move you may regret when Hillary starts cracking down on "right-wing extremists." In fact, it has made us less safe since we are re-enforcing our image as global meddler and enemy of Islam.


And in case anyone wants to know, yes I have served in the Military. And if anyone wants to accuse me of being a liberal, I’m ready with a long list of government programs I want to abolish, so don’t even go there.

Well, Dan, you are a variety of authentic conservative, but others exist. I supported the war in Iraq, and for very good reasons (which I’m sure you know, you just don’t believe). I don’t generally favor interventionism (e.g., Somalia, Bosnia), but whether we ignore it or not, radical Islam is growing. We will have to deal with it very soon, and the best place to begin is right here in our own back yard. Once that is secure, you will have to "contain" RI in some fashion, and that will be like a "Warm War." Paleos like yourself...how do you think we’ll avoid taking the lead role?

Reading Hanson’s speech for a third time, I see even more strongly the source of Dan Phillips’ question. The speech, whose underlying premise I agree with, is a flawed performance: polemical, formulaic, with some partisan posturing thrown in. Churchillian it is not.

John: Regarding this business about this enemy being an entirely new kind of enemy, etc., etc. . . . Surely you know more about this than I do, but is it not true that the Japanese during World War II were, if not on a par with our current enemy, awfully close? I recall reading stories about our guys fighting in the Pacific and being told to regard all Japanese as potential enemies because they could not know if a woman or child might not be carrying a weapon or working in some other capacity to undermine their efforts. Children were encouraged to sacrifice themselves (as were the kamikazes) rather than do dishonor to the emperor. Almost all (or maybe all) wars have these blurry distinctions between combatants and civilians.

As for triumph or victory: I define victory as nothing short of being reasonably certain that we can contain or eliminate all real threats to our republic. I don’t expect to see an end to our current struggle (or, thus, a triumph) in my lifetime. I also don’t find that to be unsettling. I’m not happy about it, to be sure, but I still think we’re up to it. I just think we’re in the early stages of figuring out how serious this thing really is. This will be a long, long, long struggle. I could be (and I hope I am) wrong about the length of it, but I doubt very much that I am wrong about the resolve of the American people when push comes to shove. It is frustrating but also endearing that it takes so much to get us willing to go all out in a war. But, that said, I’m glad I’m sitting here and not in Tehran.

Dan: I guess I agree with the anti-war right (as you call them) about the nature of the difficulty in this war. The difference between us is that you all think that the difficulty of the thing meant that is should not be attempted. I submit that if you think this is difficult, try living in an Islamic regime. Further, you guys were not the only ones who made the case that it would be difficult. Plenty of pro-war commentators from the right argued that the neo-con (or Utopian as you call it) right was too optimistic about the prospects for democracy in the Middle East. But, as I said, that was never my motivation in supporting this thing to begin with.

Mr. Philips, the earlier post was deliberately left non-specific. It was contrived so as to encompass you if the shoe fit, but also left vague enough for you to be exempt from that criticism if you were simply being provocative. Nonetheless, the statement stands. Those that were asking what victory meant during ’Nam were degenerates. Likewise today, people who are pretending that we aren’t in the throes of a serious situation within Iraq, and aren’t already far advanced in this sitzkrieg with Islam, are people who are far beyond merely reckless. Such people have crossed the threshold into decadence.

As for you, rest assured, I’ll be pleased to conclude that you aren’t in such a morbid grouping. Their numbers are already legion....

As for Hanson’s speech, he repeated the polite fictions about Islam. That’s why he was somewhat vague about what victory actually consisted of. As a matter of common sense, victory will consist of a world where large segments of Muslims don’t harbour genocidal aspirations for other larger chunks of the global population. When Islam is no longer viewed as something intrinsically dangerous, when Islam is no longer viewed by reasonable as something that is a threat to a tolerant, republican form of government, when terror is no longer synonymous with Islam, when the world’s terror movements are no longer overwhelmingly Islamic, when Muslims no longer get vicarious thrills from fellow Muslims slaughtering non-Muslims, well, you get the idea, whether you wish to or not. That’s the world that we have to create, and this war has barely begun yet.

Steve and John, prior to reaching a firm idea of what victory will consist of, wouldn’t it be a good idea to get a handle on who, or what the enemy truly is. The terrorist is but the superficial target, behind him lurks the true enemy, the real party in interest, so to speak. The Wehrmacht was an enemy, likewise the Luftwaffe, likewise the Kriegsmarine, as well as the SS. But behind them lurked the true enemy, and that enemy wasn’t even the NAZI party, nor Hitler. No. The true enemy at that time was a German culture steeped in perverted romanticism, and equally steeped in a weird fascination with all things military. 1870, 1914, 1939, 1940. Generation of Germans yielded to another generation of Germans, but the threat from the furor teutonicus remained. And it was precisely that threat, that recurring nightmare, that the Allied Air Forces addressed when we paid visits to places like Dresden. THAT was what Dresden was ALL about.

So when you see the terrorist today spouting off his Islamic nonsense, when you see the terrorist snuff videos, their satanic and orgasmic thrill when they slowly saw off another human’s skull, you need to look beyond that, and see the historical parallels, which stretch all the way back, back to antiquity.

The great and morbid prophet said "First Constantinople, then Rome." And they are slowly but surely making good on it, now aren’t they.

Our forefathers stopped them, stopped them sword in hand, at places like Tours, and Vienna. Our own country, the last, best hope of man on earth, sent them a stern message when we dispatched our fleet to raise havoc with them along the Barbary coast.

We’re not going to get out of doing what they did. Baker/Hamilton, the UN, the UNSC, the EU3, it’s all nonsense, and it’s not going to delay for one hour, the reckoning that is coming.

Anon, are you trying to be a caricature of the typical saber-rattling, blood-lusting, neo-con keyboard warrior. (Homo sapiens freerepublicus) (Hey can I copyright that?) If you are not, you are a museum quality specimen of the type. Your hatred of all things Arab and German is the distinguishing feature.


I agree with you on the nature of Islam. There is no such thing as moderate Islam, and it has not historically been a "religion of peace." And we do not worship the same God no matter what Bush babbles, because their god is not Trinitarian. There are Muslims who are moderate, but the nature of Islam is not moderate. But once that is realized, it is not our job or our "Divine mission" to eradicate radical Islam from the world. That can not be done, barring unparallel barbarism. It is the job of our government to do the best it can within the limits of its constitutionally delegated powers to protect our citizens and our shores. It is not to make the world safe, or the Middle East safe, or remove every possibility of threat. As Julie put it, "I define victory as nothing short of being reasonably certain that we can contain or eliminate all real threats to our republic." That is an unreasonable goal, and the closer you get to that kind of assurance of security, the closer you get to a police state. The Bush doctrine of pre-emption is problematic in the extreme and does not square with historical Christian Just War doctrine.


As for the Germans, the Allies (WWI) continuation of the blockade of Germany for almost a year after surrender/Armistice was an act of utter barbarism. Nearly a million Germans are documented to have died as a result. The carpet bombing of the civilian city of Dresden (WWII) was a war crime of the worst sort. As was the nuking of civilian cities in Japan. (Kirk and Weaver recognized this. In fact it was the nuking of civilians and the loss of a collective soul that it signified that was said to have prompted Weaver to write Ideas Have Consequences.)Yes the Germans (Prussians mostly) generally have a certain attitude about regimentation/militarism. But in the real world you recognize those differences and live with them as best as you can (live and let live) until they directly threaten/attack you. (I concede that radical Muslims, attacked us, it is the proper nature of the responce where we disagree.)(Actually recognizing that these cultural/societal/ethnic differences exist supports what some of us have been saying about the problem with immigration, does it not?) You don’t set out to pre-emptively beat it out of them.


There is actually a strange ironic coincidence in all this. The Muslim worldview recognizes no national or ethnic bounds. There is Muslim good and other bad/need to become Muslim. (Ignoring for now the Sunni Shiite schism.) That is why American converts to Islam and orthodox Black Muslims (as opposed to Nation of Islam types) are welcomed with open arms as are Black converts from African nations or Asian converts from Bangladesh or Subcontinetals from India. In the Muslim scheme they are Muslims who happen to be India, Arab, Persian, American, African, etc. not Indian Muslims, Arab Muslims etc. This borderless world that must conform to their view of things is actually similar to the view of the neocons and the view of the Germans. (That hurts you I know, but it is by no means a stretch.)


My Brother used to have a hard time getting along with the neighbor kid, and my Mother always said it was because they were too much alike. Both wanted to be the "boss." Well that is why the neocons (and not just the Jewish ones, but also the America is on a "Divine mission" types, or that America is uniquely "the last, best hope of man on earth" (your words) types) hate the Germans. Both claim to be the unique embodiment of all things good and true, and both can’t be right. Or as my Mom wisely observed "both can’t be the boss." The Divine mission idea is profoundly hubristic and can lead to all sorts of excesses in the name of that mission.


I hesitate to bring this up, because the last person who did got scolded by Julie, but you could speculate that the Germanic character of the Saxon component of the American founding played a role in the formation of this mentality.


But it was the loss of real Faith by many brought about by the inevitable consequences of the Enlightenment (see comment 9) that allowed/required this new public faith of America’s Divine mission to flourish in the place of Real Faith where before it had been isolated to a small band of cranky New Englanders. As one other commentor put it, we replaced a Real “glue” with an artificial one.


He ducks, in anticipation of the onslaught.

Would to God that it were all a subject for humour and caricature. Mark Steyn called the Parisian riots and violence permeating France the French intifada. The media, the pundits, and especially the European pundits ridiculed him the same manner that you ridiculed me. BUT one year later, one measly year later, the leader of the French police union came out and called it a French intifada.

As bleak as I describe the situation, in reality, it’s worse, and my version, is the LEAST worst option of all the future scenarios.

It’s as one of the other posts observed, Ralph Peters suggests that the Europeans will unleash their inner Fascist on the outsider and foreigner, and a bloodbath will ensue, which will stave off the Muslim conquest and subjugation of Europe, and that future that Peters described was the POSITIVE AND OPTIMISTIC take on the situation.

That’s how bad the situation is, and it’s getting worse, and is going to influence all of our futures.

Sad but true.

And as for "hating" the Arab and the German, that’s simply ridiculous. When Lincoln unleashed Sherman in the deep south, did he hate the South? When Churchill unleashed "Bomber" Harris and the RAF for area bombing of the German heartland, did he do so because of a deep hatred and detestation of the German menace. Go read the first volumes of Churchill’s history of the first world war and the Second. Just go read them, and you’ll see that the problem was never about the NAZIS, it was all about a "recurrent" German nightmare. I could quote Churchill on it, and almost do so from memory. If you can’t handle that, that’s because you’ve been steeped in nonsense for too long. When Churchill went to war, and refused to make peace with Hitler, it was an issue that transcended Hitler. And if you had bothered to read any of the Holocaust literature, you would see that many RESPECTED historians place the origination and execution of the Holocaust within the modern German historical development. That it was something unique to them.

As for the Arabs, again, MANY RESPECTED historians and religious experts have suggested that Islam is nothing but a platform for Arab supremacism. I’m not the only one.

I’m sorry, but the attempt to wage limited war isn’t working, and isn’t likely to work, and what’s more, has rarely worked in our history. Sherman worked, Patton worked, Toohey Spatz worked, likewise Curt LeMay. But LBJ and McNamara didn’t work. Are you interested in pursuing victory, or are you interested in repeating banalities that have no historic foundations. You can’t do both. If you persist in living in a fantasy land, you’re future will resemble that of the Europeans, who are already up on the civilizational gallows.

That last sentence, and my last sentence upon this boring and morbid subject, should read: "If you persist in living in a fantasy land, your future will resemble that of the Europeans, who are already up on the civilizational gallows." The contraction within the foregoing post was an error.

Victor Hanson, although he has some interesting points on Greek warfare, is largely a stooge for the neocons. Almost all his NR articles toe the neocon line on the war in Iraq, and now, like the neocons, he is trying to extricate himself from the mess he helped create.

Victor Hanson is not a real conservative. And he’ll be the first to admit it. He usually votes Democrat, supports a big LBJ-like welfare state, and has backslid from his early opinions on immigration.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no fan of Islam. But the war in Iraq is doing nothing to deter terrorism in the West. In fact, it has probably accelerated it.

Srdja Trifkovic, of paleoconservative Chronicles Magazine, has made a very compelling argument that if we really want to end terrorism in the West we should do two things: (1) permanently leave the Middle East, and (2) deport all Muslims from the West.

But what are the neocons doing? The opposite. They want to antagonize Muslims in the Middle East, keep a permanent presence there, and they recently have increased quotas for Muslims in America.

And even more recently, according to the Christian Science Monitor, at least 200,000 Hispanics in the United States have converted to Islam, and many many more are expected to keep converting. Yet, the neocons have refused to publish on this phenomenon. It has in fact been liberal publications like the CSM that broke the story.

I am sorry but you can’t keep people from converting to Islam. Freedom of religion is the essential constitutional right. And the problem isn’t the enlightenment...it is the lack of enlightenment. In fact that is the whole problem. There is enlightened Islam (or muslims who are more or less moderns) and then there is Radical Islam...The only thing that seperates the two is that one half enjoys material prosperity (Kuwait City/Dubai) and the other half views these things as western/enlightenment corruption. In fact all the radical Islamicists would completly agree with Dan Phillips: "Some of us conservatives would dance a jig in the streets and sing hallelujah if we could only lose the Enlightenment. Sure it has brought unparalleled material prosperity, but at what price? The loss of Faith and traditional culture." The only difference would be that the jig might involve kicking around a soccer ball the chanting of Allah Akaba(God is great) and the burning of Israeli and American flags.

A vast majority of the world is modern. A vast majority of the world regardless of religious affiliation is working within the ontological framework of the enlightenment. A small minority in caves in Afghanistan...hovels in Syria and Sudan, and other armpits of the world reject the enlightenment and are striving to overturn it. That is what the war against Islam is really about. It is a war against those who reject the enlightenment. We don’t need to deport muslims or be overly worried about pure statistics...because when we are we are wrongly assuming that a vast majority of muslims are not moderns...and when we assume this...when we allow the terrorists to describe themselves as holy warriors(jihadists) we give them credibility and sanction that they would not otherwise have.

I am not a prudent person...but the assumptions that you guys are working off of are extremely imprudent...because they in effect reinforce the claim that jihadists speak to "authentic" Islam.

And Islam is the threat....but Islam is not the threat...unless you allow the minority terrorist thug interpretation to shape the parameters of the ontological structure that is Islam...and this is extremely imprudent when it is the largest/ fastest growing religion.

What we need more than anything is the enlightenment.

Mr. Lewis, I strongly suggest you watch Obsession. There never has been a "moderate" Islam...it’s a conquering faith, and it’s danger lies in the fact that, unlike many other religions, it provides theological sanction to some of humanity’s worst traits (i.e., violence, subjugation of women, the union of religion & politics...etc.). True, Christianity has done these things in the past, but generally against the teachings of Christ. Buddhism and Hinduism aren’t exactly hotbeds of holy war, and Judaism (which began as a conquering faith) has settled for modernity, essentially.

Forgive the "it’s" error...I think the rules about that contraction need to be changed.

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