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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Around the world in one hour with Victor Davis Hanson

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HH: Lots going on in the world, a number of hotspots have flared up, a number of places of concern, a lot of developments to cover. And to do that in comprehensive fashion this hour, Victor Davis Hanson, eminent military historian and classicist joins me. Professor Hanson, always a pleasure, welcome back.

VDH: Thank you for having me, Hugh.

HH: Let’s start, though, in American politics. You’ve been arguing forcefully at National Review, and at, Private Papers, that conservatives have got to get over it, and get on board with McCain. Do you see that happening?

VDH: Yeah, I think I do. I think that when they start to look at the alternative, and the platform agendas that both Hillary and Barack Obama are voicing, I think they’re going to see that on a lot of critical issues, whether it’s Supreme Court appointees, or the control of federal spending, or things like social issues like abortion, or the big one, the war, there’s a considerable difference, and that they’re going to finally come back to McCain.

HH: Now is there a significant understanding…is the understanding about the difference on the war widespread, Victor Davis Hanson? Or is that something that we’re going to have to hammer on every day from now until November?

VDH: I think we’re going to have to hammer it, because what…we’re seeing two things, that the Democrats are silent as the fortunes of war improve in Iraq, and things are getting better and better and better. And so their position is getting more and more ossified, that they wanted a quick withdrawal or retreat, or whatever, a departure, a flight, any way we want to talk about it. They’re not going to talk about Iraq very much, so I think it’s going to be up to conservatives to remind the American public that we have really defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, which was just beyond the imagination of almost any observer of the war just a year ago. And to throw that away just by fleeing would be the height of folly.

HH: Now how would you explain, if you’re John McCain or an advisor to him, how would you explain to the American population the threats that we face in the next four years?

VDH: Well, I think that we’d have to remind everybody that it was not preordained that we wouldn’t be hit again, and that for all their disagreements with George Bush, we’re coming up on eight years where al Qaeda was not able to repeat 9/11. That had a lot to do with killing literally thousands of jihadists, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. And as we see from Europe and the foiled attempts in the last seven years here, they haven’t been static. They’ve been trying to repeat 9/11 day after day. And there were certain things, the Patriot Act, the FISA legislation that stopped that jihadist attempt. And I hope we can get that message out. But we’re kind of complacent, because we’ve been pretty good at stopping, and creating the normalized situation in a very abnormal time.

HH: When you look at the fact that the Democratic Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi, allowed FISA authorities to lapse, doesn’t that convey to us a fundamental unseriousness about the war, and also tell us something about American public opinion?

VDH: It does, but it’s not just that, of course. That’s in line with her recent, excuse me, with Nancy Pelosi’s recent statement that we failed, failed in Iraq despite the empirical evidence of the surge, the Harry Reid comment, the Betray Us ad that endorsed the Obama candidacy, that group did, the suspension of disbelief by Hillary Clinton in connection with Petraeus’ testimony. All of that’s going to come out. I would imagine that we would have clips of all of those transcripts played throughout August and September.

HH: Do you think there is much difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when it comes to the war?

VDH: I think in the war, there’s a little bit of difference, that I think that Hillary, because of Bill’s influence, and he did have some experience in the Balkans, will not summarily withdraw in the first 60 days, no matter what the rhetoric. But what we’re witnessing is quite, I think, phenomenal. We were, the whole country went on this Obama craze, and suddenly, people in the Democratic Party, I think, are starting to say wait a minute, are we going to exchange…we have a choice of the Clintons, two lawyers from Yale, but suddenly, we’re going to get two lawyers from Harvard. And these people are wet behind the ears. Their only audience that they’ve ever really talked to or lectured at or shook a finger at are either universities in Chicago, Harvard, Princeton, Occidental, Columbia, or government poverty agencies, or Chicago politics. They’ve never had anybody stand up and say to Michelle Obama or Barack Obama, what you just said is ridiculous, that European socialism or the idea that you don’t have anything to be proud of in the United States, that’s ridiculous. So these two candidates, the husband and wife, the Obamas, they’re sort of mirror imaging the Clintons, except that the Clintons are old pros, and they need a guy, a Tip O’Neill with a cigar in his mouth to sit both those Obamas down and say look, you guys went to the Ivy Leagues, you got loans, you got scholarships, your kids are in prep school, you made almost a million dollars last year, that beautiful home, America’s been pretty good to you. And when you go out here and say that you can’t think of anything that America’s to be proud of, most people are not going to like that. This is not the Chicago politics that you’re used to, or the Harvard Law School lounge.

HH: When you mention that they’re wet behind the ears, has American history thrown up a president less experienced than Barack Obama would be? And if so, was it pre-modern times? I can’t think of anyone in the modern era less experienced than Barack Obama, less prepared.

VDH: Well, we’ve come close with a one-term governor from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, and we know what happened with the Iranian hostage, the Afghanistan crisis, the holocaust in Cambodia and Central America. And I think that we haven’t had this experience before where the Democratic Party has collectively become unhinged, and sort of like Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby in the 40’s, just sort of mass fainted, collectively fainted, and handed over the nomination to somebody who they’re not going to feel very comfortable with in August as this stuff wears off, and people look at Obama the man, what he said. This is…just in one day yesterday, examine that we find out that he’s using a campaign speech in a way that Biden did from Neil Kinnock that was not his own, Barack did. And then meanwhile, his wife is assuring people that she has nothing to feel proud about the United States. That came out. And that was just in a single day.

HH: Now Victor Davis Hanson, you’ve written a lot about the essence of command. And you’ve profiled generals modern and not so modern, as well as ancient. And command comes from somewhere. Expertise and command comes from somewhere. Where is that from, because we are, primarily in a time of war, electing a commander in chief. What are the habits of mind that you have identified? And where do they come from for successful commanders?

VDH: They come from years in the wilderness on your own, they come from personal setback, they come from risking your life, they come from reading and conversation, they come from having your views challenged, from succeeding and failing in the real world. And although the Obamas are African-American, what we’re basically getting is a couple who went at a very early age right to Princeton and Columbia, and then they came back into the comfortable environment of Chicago politics and anti-poverty work. And then they went back to Harvard Law School, and then they came back and stayed in that comfortable milieu. And nobody has ever said in Barack Obama’s career, or to Michelle Obama, wait a minute, that’s not right. That doesn’t make any sense, because they’ve been basically speaking to an African-American audience, or a wealthy, affluent, white liberal audience. They don’t go around and talk to people in NASCAR, or Chicanos in Los Angeles, or working-class people in Youngstown, Ohio, who have a very different worldview. And that’s what’s frightening about it, that they’ve apparently say these astounding things with the assumption that nobody has got the guts or the courage, or hasn’t done it in the past, to say wait a minute, this makes no sense whatsoever.

HH: Now as you look forward into the campaign, do you expect that they will bring around them people like Zbigniew Brzezinski and others to try and shield them from this? Or that they’re just going to try and wing it on charisma from now until November?

VDH: No, they’ll bring people around them, but the people that they’re bringing around them are either Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton people. I mean, we’re going to get Anthony Lake again, we’re going to be Brzezinski again. These are people who don’t have a track record of inspired foreign policy achievement overseas in any of these crises that we’ve had. We’re forgetting of our acrimony over Iraq that boy, in the 90’s, the complaint against the United States was Khobar Towers, and the East African Embassies, and the first World Trade Center, even under Reagan, the pullout from Lebanon. So that’s what we’re going to back again to, and I’m afraid that for all of the acrimony and anger at George Bush, people fail to realize we have achieved a lot in the 2000’s, and it’s called deterrence. It’s very unlikely today that any Iranian would send a speedboat of explosives into an American ship in the Gulf. That would be national suicide under George Bush to do that. I’m not sure that’ll be true if Obama’s nominated and elected, and comes to office in early 2009.

– – – –

HH: Professor Hanson, you’ve had a number of occasions to sit down with George W. Bush and talk about the war, and about the history of war. Have you done that yet with McCain?

VDH: I have not with John McCain. I have with some of the other candidates – Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and Giuliani, but not John McCain.

HH: Yesterday, there was a story in the New Yorker which I cited at that talked about the McCain reading habits. It included Churchill biographies, it included the Halberstam novel, the Halberstam account of the Korean War, other military histories. Is this what you want to see a commander in chief reading?

VDH: I do. I think that biography and history is, especially of those periods that seem to replicate our own, are very important. And whatever people feel about McCain being not conservative enough on certain issues, ultimately what shines through is McCain the man – what he’s gone through, what he’s done, his long career in politics. We have a seasoned person who will be competitive in all fifty states, and is very well read and educated.

HH: Now what about the appeal that Barack Obama is exerting, quite clearly, on young people. And I don’t mean teenagers, I mean college students and young adults. It’s almost like the Beatles have come back to the United States, and we have a 1963-1964-like reaction to them. What do you put that down to?

VDH: Oh, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that he’s a genuinely nice guy, that he speaks softly, that he’s wonderful at repartee and extemporary quips, that he can give a good speech without stumbling, he looks handsome, he’s dynamic, and he talks in platitudes that don’t offend anybody, because the moment he starts to say look, we’ve got a social security time bomb coming up, or wow, we’ve got two trillion dollars overseas held by the Chinese and the Koreans and the Europeans and the Japanese, or gee whiz, oil’s a hundred dollars a barrel, or gee whiz, we’re either going to have to cut taxes, raise taxes. Whatever we’re going to do, he’s going to offend 49% of the electorate, and he’s not going to do that. And he’s wise not to, because when he gets specific, we understand where the agenda is. It wasn’t an accident that the Americans for Democratic Action rated him 100% liberal. And so he’s probably the most liberal candidate that has run for president since, probably in the national arena, since Henry Wallace, who was on the Roosevelt ticket up until 1944.

HH: You know, yesterday, I had Jonah Goldberg in for a show that will be airing on Thursday about his book, Liberal Fascism. And we talked about how the movements, the mass movements of the 30’s and the 20’s always appealed, they were youth movements. They always looked for change now, action at any cost, break all the rules. Do you sense some similarities there as well, not that they’re anti-Semitic, not that they’re fascist, but is there a mass mobilization element to this which is alien to American political history?

VDH: I think so. They require a suspension of belief. There’s no specifics. It’s trust me, or I’m change, or I offer hope. And there’s also an implied threat, and we saw that with Ms. Obama the other day, where it said I had nothing to be proud of in the United States until Barack and I essentially led the United States out of your collective ignorance and stupidity. And if you’re willing to go with us, then we might reinvest in you. It’s a very messianic, prophet-like candidacy.

HH: Does that work well in American history?

VDH: No, it doesn’t, because ultimately, Americans are very pragmatic people. They want to ask Mr. Obama how are you going to pay for health care. Are you going to suspend foreclosures? If so, how? Would that be good or bad? How are you going to get out of Iraq? Do you just want to withdraw troops? How are you going to raise money? They’re going to ask these series of questions, and that’s why again, when pinned down, the answers that he’s given so far represent a mainstream European socialist, more or less pacifistic, utopian, socialistic, and I don’t…secular. And I don’t think Americans are quite ready for that. I really don’t.

HH: Victor Hanson, in your vast understanding of history, when democracies get tired of war, it doesn’t happen very often. Normally, they’re won, as you’ve argued, in short, sharp conflicts that reflect the national character. When they get tired of it, what do they do? Do they go demagogic? Do they go isolationist? Do they go other than Democratic?

VDH: Well, they usually look to somebody, a prophet, who’s going to come in, whether it’s a Douglas MacArthur, who was going to run against Truman, or it was McClellan, who was going to run against Lincoln, somebody who has a simplistic answer that says if you just give me the power, I could settle things, I could straighten things out. And usually, I think Vietnam is of course the big exception, usually people say wait a minute, let’s just stick with what worked in the past, and we can get out of this. I think that’ll be true of Iraq as well, because Obama’s platitudes, just trust me and I’ll get everybody out, what he’s basically saying is that every dollar we’ve spent, every life that was lost, every limb that was amputated, none of that mattered. It was all a waste. These people aren’t worth one drop of American blood. The Middle East is somebody else’s problem. It’s not a strategic interest of the United States. We’re getting out. And of course, if he’s the president, and he gets that agenda through, we’ll be back in the Middle East, but it’ll be under far more difficult circumstances.

HH: Now on that note, let’s turn to Iraq. How cheered are you by reports of incredible spreading stability, even as you have an occasional horrific attack like today, eight Iraqi policemen died today.

VDH: I’m very encouraged. I wrote an article about a year or two ago that said that Iraq would end with a whimper and not a bang. I think we’re starting to see that, that American casualties are getting down to 20 per month. The wounded are vastly decreasing. There’s a stabilization in Baghdad, of all places, where violence is down 90% from when the surge started. And there’s the inklings of a political settlement, where revenues are starting to be released to Anbar, there’s some agreement about oil sharing. The country has not been dissected. And far from the conventional wisdom, I don’t see that Iran is so much better off as everybody said it was. It’s surrounded by reform governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s got the world’s attention upon it. I just don’t see that Iran, people that are Shia are showing themselves to be more Arabs and Shia than pro-Iranian. So I don’t think that we’re in a bad situation at all in Iraq, and we’re starting to see the glimpse of an American strategy that we all hoped for four years ago.

HH: Now do you expect David Petraeus is at all attracted to American political life?

VDH: I don’t know. That’s a big…I would imagine, I’ve talked to him for an hour, and I’ve read a great deal about him. I would imagine that with a Princeton PhD, that he was probably a middle of the road Democrat, which makes it bewildering that the Democratic Party tried to eat him alive. I didn’t understand that. They would have been far wiser to say wow, we were against Rumsfeld, we wanted more troops, we wanted a change of plan, we got our counterinsurgency guy that we used…the media loved, we got our Democrat in there, he saved…that would be the natural reaction. Instead, they demonized him. It was suicidal.

HH: Would it make sense for McCain to reach out to Petraeus as a running mate?

VDH: I don’t think so, because I think what McCain needs is somebody who’s…Petraeus is younger, but we don’t really know what his politics…McCain needs somebody who’s articulate and can speak well, but who’s more conservative. He’d be better off to look at somebody, even if it was Romney or somebody like Condoleezza Rice, if Obama’s the nominee.

HH: Would you welcome a Romney ticket? McCain-Romney?

VDH: As I said before, I would.

HH: Yup.

VDH: I would, absolutely, because he’s youthful, he’s well-spoken, he’s more conservative, apparently, than McCain. He would unite factions of the party. And there’s been precedent between Ronald Reagan and George Bush I, who had a vicious campaign, and then reconciled in 1980.

HH: Yup.

– – – –

HH: Professor, Kosovo has declared its independence, Pakistan has voted in two coalitions, or two parties that appear to be going to be voting into a coalition, the Bhutto party and the Sharif party. Your take on the Kosovo declaration of independence?

VDH: Well, I think we all sort of admire the idea that it’s an autonomous, democratic nation. But we’ve got to remember this is not 1998 anymore, where we went in and used force to preserve the lives of the people of Kosovo. The Soviet Union is a vastly different…former Soviet Union, Russia, is vastly different than it was ten years ago. It’s full of petrodollars, it’s got clout with its energy supplies, it’s rearming the army, Milosevic is dead, the Americans have weathered 9/11, and the idea that you’re going to have a Muslim identified autonomous state in Europe will be a little bit different, even for the Europeans. So it’s…and we’ve had two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And the idea that we were going to go back into Kosovo to preserve its autonomy is a little bit different. And then we’ve also got the issue that the Europeans haven’t exactly been helpful in Iraq, and have been less than stalwart in Afghanistan. So the idea that if this new Kosovo were to be challenged by Serbia and the former Soviet Union, I don’t think Americans are up to going back into the Balkans, to be frank with you.

HH: Do you see that kind of a challenge happening? And what would it look like?

VDH: Well, I think the only thing that stops it now is that it’s not easy for the Soviet Union, they don’t have a contiguous border with Kosovo to get in there. But they do, still, have remnants of airlift capacity, and I think you’d see something like, oh, twenty or thirty thousand Serbian troops, with maybe Russian airborne support and air support going in there. And there’s only, I think, fifteen hundred, two thousand EU-NATO troops in there. And at some point, an American president would have to say wait, we’ve got to stop this. And then he would be looking at a whole range of difficulties – with the Europeans, really, you know, they’re not going to stand with us, even in Europe, because they need Soviet energy. They have on military deterrent of their own. And the Americans are going to say you know what? These guys are not really worth it, and we never really had…and we have these other issues. What’s Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi going to say? This was a war ten years ago that we did not get Congressional approval, we did not get U.N. approval, we don’t have any formal treaty ratified by the Congress, as they’re demanding with Iraq for the use of American troops to protect these countries. So there’s all sorts of problems.

HH: Do you expect the Soviets, or the Russians, to make that kind of a play, Victor?

VDH: I expect them to do almost everything up until an invasion of Kosovo. But I don’t quite think there, not because they don’t have the intent or the desire, but they don’t have quite a rebuilt military to pull it off. But I expect them to supply arms to Serbians, and even to give them air support if they get in a shooting war.

HH: Wow.

VDH: I expect the Europeans would do absolutely nothing.

HH: Let’s turn to Pakistan. Are you cheered or ambivalent about the results of yesterday’s voting?

VDH: Well, I think we’re all sort of, to paraphrase Hillary Clinton, a suspension of belief for a while. We don’t know what to make of it, because in theory, this is what we wanted in countries in the Middle East under Islam, that we wanted a multi-party election. They seem to have had one without a lot of violence. The will of the people have spoken. And we were kind of angry at Musharraf for all of his advantages of maintaining order. We were mad that there was this Waziristan. So the question is, is this people party going to be pro-American? Is it going to be pro-the integrity of Pakistan? Is it going to have the national will, now that it has the plebiscite of support, and go into these areas and clean up these jihadist enclaves? It’s all up in the air.

HH: Now when you study the history of Turkey under a military government, or a military that has been very political, do you expect Pakistan’s military to do other than they have done since the beginning of the country in 1948, which is to sit on the sidelines and then swoop back in when things get chaotic?

VDH: Yes, but it’s a little bit disturbing, because that was a very good example of raising Turkey, because what you see is that in Turkey, that the bulwark against radical Islam that was secular and Westernized was always the military. And the first thing that the Islamicists have done is go to the military in Turkey, and make the argument that they need to be nationalists in the Islamic sense. After all, we just had a Turkish prime minister go to Germany, and right on German soil, tell hundreds of thousands of Turks inside Germany that assimilation is a crime against humanity. I don’t think I’ve seen that since Hitler used to appeal to Germans in Czechoslovakia. And so I have the feeling that military that we see in Pakistan is not going to be secular very long.

– – – –

HH: Now we focus on a region – Iran, Israel and Hezbollah, and I do so because they’re all interrelated. Hezbollah is Iran, and Iran and Hezbollah are confronting Israel tonight. Talk to me, Victor Hanson, about your assumption about whether or not Hezbollah will strike back in retaliation for the killing of Mugniyah, their number one terrorist.

VDH: I guess I’m in a minority here. I don’t think they will, because I think that the verdict of the 2006 shooting war in Southern Lebanon has been kind of misinterpreted. As I understand it, the Israelis did billions of dollars of damage to the infrastructure of Shia-controlled Lebanon. And for all of the rhetoric of Nasrallah, and for all of the ineptitude of the IDF when they went in on the ground, that still was an Israeli victory. And I think that they understand now that should they try to restart something like that, they’re going to lose even more next time.

HH: Don’t they lose the ability to command a revolutionary movement, Nasrallah and his gang, if they allow such a brazen attack upon a senior official to go unpunished or unrebuked?

VDH: They do, except I don’t think it’s even clear to this day. I think the IDF probably pulled it off, but I don’t think they pulled it off entirely without some complicit understanding with either the Syrians or other people in the region, because I have a feeling that Israel and Syria are negotiating over the Golan Heights, and there’s all sorts of pressures put on Syria with the changing conditions in Iraq, and the isolation of Iran. And it may well be that they thought this guy was a liability, and they gave him up.

HH: Now do you see any sense that there’s moderation underway in Iran, Victor Hanson?

VDH: Well, there’s never moderation in Iran, despite what Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and the rest of them say, unless Iran feels that there’s no alternative but to be moderate. And that would mean that there is a rising dissident group that would mean that even as the people see the oil going over $100 dollars a barrel, they’re getting poorer, and they have to ration everything from milk to petroleum products. They can see that they’ve lost the support of the entire Europeans. The Chinese and Russians are not as friendly as they were, and of course the Arabs are creating a new ring of deterrence around them. So things aren’t going as well as they would like, and I think as a result of that, there are members of the theocracy that would like to go back to the 1990s, when they were two steps forward, one step back, and they got a one step gain, rather than just constant anti-Western, anti-European, anti-American, anti-Israel rhetoric.

HH: But opposed to that faction, others have written that there are ultra-conservatives, you know, the equivalent of the ultra-Montaignes in the Catholic Church who are absolutely committed to mixing it up with Israel at the earliest. Do they have the ability to act independent of the supreme leader, Victor Hanson?

VDH: I don’t know if we know that, but we know that they have no other choice but to do that. In other words, if domestic opposition starts to rise, or international pressure increases, the only way they’ll maintain power is to get themselves in a war with someone. And that may come to pass.

HH: Victor, do you think we get out of the next decade without someone using a weapon of mass destruction somewhere?

VDH: Yeah, I think we can. We’ve gone almost a decade with Pakistan going nuclear, because there is a such a thing even to the nuttiest Iranian mullah such as deterrence. Remember that a lot of we in the West, I think we’ve misjudged jihadism. The people in Hamas and Hezbollah, who send these suicide bombers, they’re usually pretty wealthy people. Bin Laden did not send any of his children with a suicide vest into American embassies. And so there are people there who have self-interest. And it’s sort of like the Japanese and the kamikazes. There were 7,000 kamikazes, but there was only about 7,000. Finally, in the last months of the war, remember in the Okinawa campaign, they were using alcohol, they were drumming up English majors out of the university, and drafting them into the kamikaze pilot corps. So I don’t really think that these people are quite as crazy as everybody says.

HH: Well then, are you of the camp that we ought to not strike militarily if they are on the brink of nuclear weapons? Or are you of the camp that would advise President Bush, if indeed that is imminent, to do so?

VDH: Yeah, that’s the question there, and you hit the nail on the head with the word imminent, and that’s given our ineptitude of our intelligence services. That’s the $64,000 question. I think that doing everything that we can to isolate them diplomatically, even an embargo economically, and raise the pressure on the theocrats, which is what we’re trying to do, and I think it’s starting to bear fruit, but we don’t know, we all know that the 2003 assessment was wrong, and they probably really are trying to enrich weapons grade uranium. But we don’t know at what point we’ll need some type of military action. I think if we have to have military action, it could follow only after an embargo or a blockade of Iran. That would be better.

HH: Oh, so you do not expect to wake up between now and the end of the Bush presidency to the news that massive waves of air strikes have been launched against Natanz and other nuclear facilities within Iran?

VDH: I don’t. No, I don’t.

HH: Does that disappoint you?

VDH: It would disappoint me if I’m proved wrong, and they actually do end up with the bomb. But I don’t think they’re going to be quite there yet. That’s my point.

HH: All right.

VDH: And that’s going to be a decision for the next president, which makes me think that the McCain presidency versus the Obama or the Clinton presidency is one of the most important choices Americans will make in the last fifty years.

HH: If Israel is indeed hit in some respect, and they mobilize their Patriot brigades in Haifa tonight, those are the anti-air missile defenses, which are very, very sophisticated, how would you counsel Olmert and Barak to respond? Another limited war? Or an all-out war?

VDH: I think what the Israelis are confronting is a new dimension in the Middle East war. As we all though, because of their overwhelming conventional power, and that the might of nuclear deterrence in Russia and the Soviet Union that was not readily available to the Arabs to bail them out on Day six or Day seven, that we weren’t going to see a conventional war. And then suddenly, the Scuds and the Qassams and the Katyushas came in, and that was a new existential threat, that we now have a scenario where Scuds from Syria, and Katyushas from Lebanon, and Qassams from Gaza and Syria could all strike Israel at once, and shut down the economy for five or six days, and do a lot more damage, both materially and psychologically, than the ’72 war and the ’67 war. And there would have to be some new Israeli deterrent to stop that from happening. And what I think we’re going to see is that Israel will tell Lebanon and tell Syria and tell Gaza okay, if you were to do that, this is what’s going to happen. And frankly, they should have done this in 2006.

– – – –

HH: Victor Davis Hanson, how much ground can be lost in four years, if the United States votes Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in, as opposed to John McCain?

VDH: Well, I think what we’d see is we’d have a return to the late 90’s, where the United States had no credible sense of deterrent force. In other words, in a world of Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejads in Iran, and Putins in Soviet Union, and al Qaeda, Islamic jihad, there would a notion that you can push, take, carve out regional hegemonies, and hit the United States and not get a serious response, that we would lose this deterrence that had been carefully acquired over eight years. And just to go to the other point I was making, I really do think that Israel is going to have to explain to its neighbors that it will take out the power grid of Damascus, or it will take out Southern Lebanon’s water supply, or it will shut down all power in Gaza if they go to this rocket attack type of war.

HH: Do you think Gaza is deterrable? Unlike the other ones, they don’t appear to have been deterrable to date.

VDH: Well, their argument that they’re not deterrable is that life is so miserable in Gaza, that you can’t punish them anymore, and that the Europeans will not allow that to happen. But if you can’t live along the border in Israel because of these rockets, I don’t think that the Israelis ultimately will care what the Europeans say. And life can be a lot more wretched without any power, and that Gazans will have to make that decision.


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