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Dr. Larry Arnn On Chapter 5 of Churchill’s Trial – Strategy And Empire

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HH: This is the last radio hour of the week, an eventful week, but it is a week that ends, as it always does, with a Hillsdale Dialogue with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. Or if it’s a day that he’s away from the campus, or away from the Kirby Center in Washington, D.C., one of his colleagues. Everything Hillsdale is available at www.hillsdale.edu. All of these dialogues going back four years, are available at www.hughforhillsdale.com. And as we began last week, we are focusing in on the critical chapters of Dr. Arnn’s 2015 book, Churchill’s Trial. And the reason we are doing so is that the choice that will confront the United States in the next year, to rebuild or resign itself, to rebuild its military prowess and its ability to influence the world, or resigns itself to second power status, is one that is discussed at length in Churchill’s Trial, especially in Chapter Five, entitled Strategy and Empire. And we’ve got to hope that every voter reads it, every candidate reads it, and Larry Arnn, welcome back. I’ve spent the last two hours of this morning talking with Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy, old friends of yours, and Mac Thornberry and Devin Nunes and Bob Goodlatte and Mike McCaul about the Moving Forward agenda. National security’s got to be part of this conversation for the election, doesn’t it?

LA: It does. And you know, you learn from Churchill that when you’re dealing with the evil of the world, and the evil of the world is at another of its modern peaks, you need to be militarily strong. And you should be cautious about war, and one of the ways to do that is to be ready to win it.

HH: I was struck by Speaker Ryan. He’s got a good grasp of the details here. You expect Mac Thornberry, who’s chairman of the House Armed Services Committee to do so. And you expect Devin Nunes, who’s chairman of the House Intel Committee. But it’s not always the case that speaker have the time or the inclination to dive deep into national security. Perhaps that’s because of his time as the vice presidential candidate. But he knows this stuff.

LA: Oh, yeah. Well, Speaker Ryan has many virtues, and one of them is he understands a lot about the key public policies. He’s probably the best expert in the Congress on entitlements, and has the best plan what to do about them. And he’s, you know, he’s a protégé of Jack Kemp, and Jack Kemp was always interested in and strong on defense, maybe because he was an NFL quarterback and liked to be defended.

HH: (laughing) Yeah, better than getting hit repeatedly, right?

LA: (laughing) That’s right.

HH: By the way, did I see you make some aspersion on the Cavaliers online or in an email? Were you dismissing their chances of a comeback and of beating of the Golden State Warriors?

LA: You know, let me make one now. I did not do that, because they’re beneath notice. (laughing)

HH: (laughing) I thought so. I think it, maybe someone relayed that to me. Maybe our mutual friend, Senator Cotton, relayed to that to me.

LA: Yeah, he might have, yeah.

HH: Yeah, he might have done that.

LA: (laughing)

HH: Now let’s get back to, this is really the key chapter to me – Strategy and Empire. It’s Chapter Five in Churchill’s Trial, and it begins simply, “Churchill was an imperialist.” Now if you say that to the average college student, not a Hillsdale undergraduate, but the average college student, they will recoil in horror that you don’t immediately follow it with a denunciation, Dr. Arnn.

LA: Yeah, well see, so first of all, put the point the way it is, right? There’s a whole bunch of parts of the world, and it’s a smaller world even than it was in Churchill’s day, that are very dangerous. And how are you going to deal with them? And Churchill’s way was empire. But you have to know what he meant by that. Churchill was a monarchist and a democrat, and he was an imperialist and a believer in the Declaration of Independence. And he put all those things together. And he did it very consistently through his life. I mean, it’s not like he patched it together here and there. He started talking about it when he was a young man. And so how did he do it? Well, what Churchill thought was there are strategic places in the world, and it’s very important the way Britain got its empire, especially the controversial part, which was India. It got it, Churchill said, in a fit of absence of mind.

HH: We’ll talk about that, because it is, it’s so crucial to, but before we go deep into how they acquired it and why it was necessary, I forgot to ask you at the beginning. David Shribman of the Boston Globe wrote a review of a new book that shows the saga of how FDR worked the short-sided Churchill on war strategy. And it’s a new book by Ferguson called Commander-In-Chief: The Years 1943, and I said someone’s got to send this to Arnn, because in the end, the conclusion of this, FDR’s battle with Churchill by Nigel Hamilton, in the end, Roosevelt coaxed the British rather than cajoled them, and persuaded rather than pummeled Churchill. What do you make of that assumption?

LA: Well, that wouldn’t be true.

HH: That’s what I thought you would say (laughing).

LA: So we are finishing right now Volume 19 of the Churchill documents in the official biography of Winston Churchill. And it concerns late 1943 and early 1944. And when that book comes out, and you can get it, and we’re selling them cheap, and I can’t remember what for, but it’s a 2,400 page book, and 4,000 footnotes in it.

HH: Wow.

LA: And all of the documents related to that are in there. Well, let’s put it this way. All of them that came to the notice of Winston Churchill, which means the great majority, and what’s going on? Churchill prefers one kind of strategy, which is more enveloping, that is to say yes, an attack across the Channel into France, but also Italy and the Adriatic and Turkey and the Dardanelles, which he preferred in the First World War, too, and there were a lot of reasons for that. He thought that was a better way to fight in general in a world war. But also, he thought the Soviet Union is gobbling up Eastern Europe, and we should get south and east as much as we can. And Roosevelt didn’t want that, very much didn’t want that. The United States preferred a strategy, George Marshall included. They just looked at a map, and it was simple to Americans. We have to get to Berlin. Let’s draw a line from New York City to Berlin, and let’s go on that line, right?

HH: (laughing)

LA: And Churchill said in exasperation one time, Stalin is encouraging this, because he wants us to put all our force up in Northwest Europe, while he gobbles up the east. So that was a conflict. Now how did it get decided? Yes, there were arguments, incredible arguments. But it came down in the oddest thing, and that was to move armies around, beginning in the Second World War, not before, there was a certain technical kind of vessel you had to have. You had to have a landing craft. And the United States had all of those, basically. And Britain had the great majority of the force in the Mediterranean, in fact, the great majority of the force in Northern Europe, too, in all of Europe, until into 1944. But it couldn’t move it around. And so the United States denied the use of landing craft extensively, and that changed, that was their whip hand. Also, that they were the great emerging power. Also, at Tehran and Yalta, they announced to Churchill that they were going to take a more Soviet line there, go along with the Soviets more. So there was a lot of force in that. And Churchill, what Churchill did, by the way, was Churchill did two things that were very dramatic. One was he courted Turkey from 1943 on, and he eventually got them into the war, and eventually part of NATO. And in the fall of 1944, and remember, the war, the invasion, D-Day was in June, the anniversary just June 6ht of this month, and then the war was over in May of 1945. So about halfway between those two dates, Churchill up and went to Moscow by himself, and he never did that. And he didn’t ask Roosevelt to come. He just told him he was going. And he sat down with Stalin, the great conspirator, and Stalin said, you know, Harriman, Roosevelt’s right hand man, one of his right hand men, Averill Harriman, is in town. Shouldn’t we have him? And Churchill said we should have him at some of the meetings, but we also need to talk privately. And then Churchill leaned over and said I’ve brought a document. It’s a naughty document, he said, and he passed it across to Stalin. And as he did it, he said we should destroy this document. Now there was a British note taker sitting, writing all this down, by the way. And the account of the conversation still exists, and Stalin put a blue tick mark, a check mark, on the document showing he agreed, and gave it back to Churchill, and the document still exists. And what did it say? It named a bunch of countries in Eastern and Southern Europe that were being conquered by the Allies, mostly by the Soviet Union, and it assigned authority in percentage terms over who got to control the governments of those countries until free elections after the war. And in places like Poland and Bulgaria, where the Red Army was, the Soviet Union got 80% or 90%. And in Greece, Britain got 90%.

HH: That is the essence of command. Don’t go anywhere, America, I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, author of Churchill’s Trial when we return.

— – – – – – –

HH: And if you want to get up to speed on amazing classes, www.hillsdale.edu has them all for free. Go over there. And you have to put up with a lot of Dr. Arnn in these conversations, but that’s okay. That’s a double edged sword, actually, because you wilt under his cynical approach to the host of this show, but nevertheless…

LA: That’s tempered by a different kind of guy – Hugh Hewitt (laughing)

HH: (laughing) I want to spend just a moment on hubris. This is off topic, but I was rereading this book review. The book itself, for the benefit of our audience, is called FDR’s Battle With Churchill: 1943, by Nigel Hamilton. The review is by David Shribman, and it’s titled The Saga How FDR Worked The Short-sided Churchill on War Strategy. And it is, the key paragraph is, “One of the principal themes is Hamilton’s contention that Churchill was a deeply-flawed military strategist, the result of what he called the irreconcilable difference between his grand strategic ideas and his too often ill-considered opportunism, a difference affecting tens of thousands of soldiers’ lives.” Now I know you reject that, because I’ve read Churchill’s Trial and we’ve talked about Churchill a lot. But on the subject of hubris, given that you may be the best informed living person about Churchill, given the years you’ve spent on the official biography team and studying him, did Nigel Hamilton call you when he wrote this book?

LA: No, of course not.

HH: Isn’t that hubristic?

LA: No, I mean, let me ask you a question. Did the New York Times call you when it wrote its latest expose on Donald Trump, or anybody, right?

HH: No, of course not. You’re, but there is a difference. There are lots of Trump experts. There’s only a few, is there anyone else left from the official biography team, Dr.? Sir Martin Gilbert passed away last year. Is there anyone else with as many years as you left?

LA: Probably not, no. And you know, Andrew Roberts is a great expert. My colleague, Richard Langworth, knows a very great deal, but I’m not the one who knows the most, probably, but I’m one of the few who knows the most, and I have worked on it for a long time.

HH: And you have these 1943 papers.

LA: Yeah, and he…

HH: Does Mr. Hamilton have, Nigel Hamilton have access to these papers?

LA: That’s right, no. Well, yeah, they’re, probably, if he’s an academic. Then the Churchill archive, so let me, I’m talking both sides of my mouth. The answer is an academic can get access online to the entire Churchill archive now, which his housed at Churchill College – Cambridge, a very great thing. But the Churchill documents, they’re not just the archive, although most of them are from the archive. The Churchill documents are all of the research of Martin Gilbert for 50 years.

HH: Wow.

LA: You know, and I did a fair amount of that, too, right? And so that is from many different kinds of things. It’s huge, and it’s at Hillsdale College now. And that’s how we’re able to complete these document volumes. So nobody else has that collection except up to the middle of 1943, which have now been published by Hillsdale College. And so he can see those if he wants to, but given what you just read me, and of course, I haven’t read the book, and I don’t know what it says, but I wouldn’t, you know, having, I’m working in those documents right now. I’m writing the preface to Volume 19 right now. I hope to finish it this weekend. And I wouldn’t write that sentence based on what I see.

HH: Of course, and I wouldn’t even, I knew it was false based on the conversations we’ve had, and based upon Churchill’s Trial because of the economy of men that he stressed. That’s the giveaway, right? We have a minute to the break. He hated people to die.

LA: Churchill’s, you know, his grand strategy about the Dardanelles, reproduced in part in World War II, was specifically calculated to save British and American and Allied lives. And ultimately, also German lives, by the way, but he tried to fight war economically. And of course, he had a great fear of the Soviet Union that was not, I think it’s fair to say, matched by Franklin Roosevelt. And so he was trying to get ready for that, too, in the war strategy – beat the Germans more efficiently, and control more territory so that the Iron Curtain, he would eventually call it, would not cover so much ground.

HH: I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn, and we’ll return to strategy and empire from the 5th chapter in Churchill’s Trial when we return.

— – – — –

HH: And you can sign up for the free speech digest, Imprimis, absolutely free, just give them your address, and they’ll send it to you. I’ve never understood the economics of that, Dr. Arnn, but it works somehow.

LA: Somehow.

HH: How many copies of that go out every time you issue it?

LA: That’s right, yeah, so you can get it all for free, and you know, the Churchill documents, you know, if you’re really a nut and you want to know everything, then a great project for somebody is to read them extensively. And of course, by the time the narrative and document volumes are all done in the Churchill biography, which we hope will be in two and a half years from now, there’ll be 30 volumes of that. And they’re…

HH: Is there one volume, we’re about to talk about India and South Africa, because Churchill was an imperialist. He believed power was necessary to survival in civilization. Chapter 5 is all about Churchill and empire. But within that, is there a volume about the India crisis in the 30s that crippled him in the middle of his comeback?

LA: It’s all there, yeah, and yeah, because it’s everything, right? And so in 1933 and ’34, chiefly, Churchill fought against home rule for India, which it eventually achieved shortly after the Second World War. And to describe the empire, it’s in the time we’re talking about, any time after 1900, most of the empire had achieved self-government. And that meant South Africa, and that meant Australia and New Zealand, the United States not part of the empire anymore. And so they were ruling themselves. And they made Britain 40% stronger in the Second World War, and they rallied, right? And they were volunteers, right? Britain didn’t have the power to conscript any soldier in those countries. And the one, so the other part of the empire was the part still ruled by Britain, and the chief part of that was India. And India sent something like two million men to each world war, but they, too, were all volunteers. There was no conscription in India.

HH: So that is so astonishing. Volunteers for the empire.

LA: Yeah, I mean, it’s just you know, first of all, this whole thing, I mean, there’s this, in the last volume, we were reading these letters, and the prime minister of New Zealand is writing to Churchill, and he says we need our division back that’s fighting in North Africa, because Japan is in this war, and we’re in danger, and we’ve got a tiny, little army. We need it back. And Churchill writes to him and says I understand that, but he says we need it, too, because we’re going to go to Italy, and it’s very important in the war is turning here. Please consider leaving it. And all they needed to do, the New Zealand government, was send a cable saying to the general, and Churchill, saying sail for home. And they left them there.

HH: Please consider leaving it. How elegant is that?

LA: They left them there by a decision of a democratic Parliament and its cabinet. And that’s a sacrifice, right? And there must have been some reason, and Churchill loved to talk about that, that this thing is voluntary. Now India is a counter example. And Britain got India, as Churchill said, in a fit of absence of mind. What actually happened was a man, especially a man named Clive, there were these European outposts in India on the coast, mostly the western coast, and there were these Indian principalities, these princely states, and they were huge. Each one, most of them were much, much bigger than Great Britain. And there was this civil part partly provoked by German and French, and some British, probably, you know, collusion with various princes. And this civil war threatened the British establishment. And this guy, who was just a clerk, he had no military training, his name was Clive, Lord Clive eventually, he was an accounting clerk. And he, this war was going on, and he went out and joined the field. And by the time he was done about two years later, he had conquered India. And he gave it to the Queen.

HH: And he was very young and very ill-suited for this. He was not, he was, no one would have expected him to conquer India.

LA: No, and he didn’t have any training for it.

HH: That’s what’s amazing.

LA: He was just good at it. And you know, he, and then you know for the next 120 years, I think it was, India was actually ruled by a commercial corporation.

HH: Privately.

LA: And the British government eventually took it over, right, in the 19th Century. So, and then what Churchill’s argument is, is that the Indian people is a division of races and religions and languages, the only, Gandhi’s party was the great, the Congress Party was going to get India its freedom soon. And Churchill said it’s important that the only language leaders of the Congress Party have in common is English. And the only thing they know about parliaments, in the whole history of the place, is what we have brought them. And the Indian people are accepting of our rule. And it’s a very important fact to note that it’s not expensive for them or us. We both benefit. So he said we should stay there for the indefinite future until they are able to govern themselves, which they have a right to do, he always says.

HH: You know, Dr. Arnn, I ran into the airport during a long delay R.N. Singh, a big corporate guy, first-generation immigrant to the United States. His father was a Congress Party member, governor of one of the states. And we fell to talking for three hours about the complexity of India. I was not as stupid as most people, because I’d read this book. And so I knew a little bit, that there are in fact, as you said, 50 Indias. That’s what Churchill believed, right?

LA: Yeah.

HH: 50 Indias, that you can’t speak about any, and we talked about that. It was, it’s fascinating to me, but what you write in the book that arrested me, I did not know. Britain, Churchill believed that India, and empire, and India specifically, made Britain noble. What does that mean?

LA: Well, it was, see, just think of the chain of facts, which Churchill thought was very important. India didn’t, Britain didn’t put a military force together to go and aggressively conquer India. They had trading stations there, right? And you can object to that if you want to, but that’s the way free people, Churchill always said, get their living. And then they got it by accident. They got it by Clive and his actions. And then they, you know, step by step, they exercised what they regarded, and I regard, as humane control over the place. And Churchill said, and so you know, they, the princely states were, eventually became political subdivisions. They had local parliaments. They managed most local affairs. And Churchill thought they’re learning the arts of self-government in the democratic way. And so he wanted that process to go on. He also thought that Britain was obliged to stay, he said, because now the population of India is greatly expanded, quadrupled, if I remember correctly. And if we leave, there will be a terrible civil war, and massive displacements. And the Hindus and the Muslims will fight, and various tribes will fight, and we will be responsible for a much larger death toll.

HH: You know, our friend, Mark Steyn, argues the most catastrophic decision of the post-war era was that of Great Britain to leave, the Freedom At Midnight book, that that launched the million death toll.

LA: Right.

HH: A million people died in that civil war after Indian independence, and nobody knows about it.

LA: It’s something north of 10 million were displaced, and of course, there’s a partition, right? And Pakistan became the state for the Indian Muslims. And now Pakistan and India face each other with nuclear weapons. And so Churchill’s predictions about that were vindicated, in my opinion. Now…

HH: He also was vindicated, that you write that Britain needed India as a moral obligation because it had the power to help them defeat Germany and Bolsheviks. He was very foresighted with regards to this.

LA: See…

HH: If they hadn’t had India, they couldn’t have won.

LA: And see, national greatness, Churchill was very interested in that. But just like in war, Churchill was very interested in victory, too, but he always asked the question at what cost. And the cost could come in a variety of ways. It would come in a body count, it could come at great expense, which means the expenditure of property. Or it could come in doing a moral wrong. And all of those were too great a cost to pay. But Churchill thought India, and see, it’s just a fact about Churchill that you can’t find the major place that Winston Churchill during his lifetime proposed to add to the British Empire. He thought it was strategically very well-placed, and that it should keep its relations with the free governments close. They’re still pretty close. And that it should keep India and prepare it for self-government, to be an eventual friend of Britain and member of the Commonwealth. And you know, if you look at India today, I regard India as an extremely important place, a very ingenuous people, and they have the rule of law. And that is a British legacy. In fact, both, about 15 years ago, after the Soviet Union fell, because you know, for a long time, India was very socialist. It has been very corrupt. And it was an ally of the Soviet Union. And you know, that’s not good for anybody, in my opinion.

HH: No. Let me…

LA: It certainly wasn’t good for the Soviets. And so, but then they began to emerge from that, right? And that’s what, that’s 50 years after Britain left?

HH: Yeah.

LA: And in one week in the Wall Street Journal, the prime minister and then the next week, the leader of the opposition, both published articles in the Wall Street Journal saying India is open for trade. And we have the British legacy of the rule of law, and you can come here and do business with us.

HH: That is why it was so remarkable when I saw the picture of Speaker Ryan with Prime Minister Modi. I think it may be the first state visitor or address to Congress that Speaker Ryan has hosted. And I was thinking having read your book that Modi would not be there, and India would not be an ally for us, but for Churchill’s lonely fight in the 30s, to delay it as long as possible so it was there for the war.

LA: Yeah, and the other long term things that went on. You know, I mean, because you know, my opinion, and see, I think that one of the lessons in India is that we should be very cautious about nation building. Churchill was very cautious about it. Arguing with a senior official in the White House one time, he said to me you believe in democracy in Iraq? And I said yeah. And he said but? And I said well, that’d be hard, wouldn’t it? And he said well, Churchill founded Iraq. And I said yes, he did. He was in charge of the administration, that part of the administration that did that. Britain got a mandate over Iraq after the First World War. But I said what was his policy? And of course, he became doubtful. It’s always a shame to know not quite enough, I guess, and we’re all in that condition.

HH: Hold that thought. You can’t finish the story until after the break, because I want people to hear the full story. I’ll be right back with Dr. Arnn on nation building. Don’t go anywhere.

— – – —

HH: Dr. Arnn, when we went to break, you were talking about sitting down during the Bush years with a senior administration official, maybe named The Architect, maybe not, and talking about Iraq, and about putting together nation building strategies. And you warned him that Churchill did not believe in it.

LA: Well, that’s right. He thought, he didn’t, first of all, very few places where he wanted to undertake that, and I can’t think of any new places like that, except Germany and Japan, which we leveled, you know, and that changed things. And they attacked us first. But yeah, so he’s, I said you know, his policy in Iraq was first of all, diminish the cost of running it. He used airplanes to get the military around so they didn’t have to have so many soldiers, the first time that was done. But his second in command was T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, in the colonial office. And he and Lawrence agreed we’re getting out of there as quick as we can, because it’ll be really hard, it’ll take forever, and what do you get? Let them live as they can live best of their own. If we exhaust ourselves in trying to make their lives like ours, we might lose our own. And that, you know, that, the official in question said to me at one point, well, they want freedom, don’t they? And I said well, yeah, maybe. I think that might vary. But I said is that what you think it takes? And he said what does it take? And I said read the opening numbers of the Federalist Papers. You will see that we in America have had a very unique opportunity and made the best of it. But that opportunity doesn’t exist everywhere. And so the idea that we can go, because think what you’re doing. Like when we occupied Germany after the Second World War, and we didn’t really do that after the First World War, but after the Second World War, I know two guys. One of them gave a, you know, a man and a wife, and Mr. Harris, who was a foreign service officer, he gave us a chair in military history, and he helped, and his wife helped, manage the occupation of Germany.

HH: Oh.

LA: And they both are very intelligent. She was a PhD in medieval literature. He was a very learned man himself. I knew him very well. And he, they wrote long diaries, and she wrote a long essay about the experience. And of course, the first thing you learn is when we occupied Germany, the Germans had to run it…

HH: Yup.

LA: …because we’re not numerous enough a people, no people is, to go and manage the affairs of another people.

HH: And isn’t it obvious that the most, the terrible error of the Bush invasion, the invasion by the United States ordered by President Bush, is the firing of the Iraqi Army and the de-Baathification of Iraq? Isn’t it obvious in retrospect, because they’re now running ISIS.

LA: That’s it. And I, you know, I think, and see, you know, another strategy, and we’re not here to talk about that today, but another strategy might have been more cautious. There are places in the Middle East where we have very well-placed bases, and they were, and we are welcome in those places. And we don’t take casualties when we’re in those bases. And those bases are places where we can go out and whack somebody if they do something bad to us, or threaten other of our allies. And that’s a very unsatisfactory strategy. All of the options look to me unsatisfactory. And so the grand idea of turning Iraq into a democracy, I, by the way, am amazed at how far we’ve gone with that, and kudos to them. And I don’t criticize them for what they tried to do, except that it was probably a bridge too far, and events seem to indicate that now.

HH: Because we are a term limited presidency. As Dick Cheney once said to me, we only get eight years. And they were on, they had achieved what they needed to achieve, they understood it better than the present president understands it by about a factor of a thousand, and he left when we needed to stay. Maybe we went in when we shouldn’t have, I don’t know about that, I actually think it was probably inevitable that we do, given facts on the ground. But when we left was a tragedy, Dr. Arnn. We have a minute left. I just, Churchill wasn’t for leaving India, even if it was acquired in a fit of absence of mind.

LA: Absence of mind.

HH: But it…

LA: But that was because Churchill thought it worked. He could see a way to the end. It had gone on for a long time. Even at the height of the troubles, he would argue, it’s not expensive what we’re doing there. And we have a right there, because we have invested so much in it, and so much depends on us now. And so many people depend on us now. And Iraq looked to me, looked to him in the day, and of course, that was different than Iraq today, but almost every other place on the globe looked different to Churchill than India looked. And I think we have to, when we go into something like that, we have to choose with extreme care. And it’s not clear, you know, if we’re expending lots of money, trillions, I think, and we’ve got lots of soldiers, and they’re at risk, and they’re policing a people who are also demonstrating against us, or at least many of them are, and it’s hard to see the ones who are glad that we’re there, then that might prove to be a thankless task that the American people don’t see the value in it.

HH: Dr. Larry Arnn, as always, a terrific conversation. People should be reading Churchill’s Trial. It is available over at Hughhewitt.com, at Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, everywhere online. But the quick link is over at Hughhewitt.com. All of the Hillsdale Dialogues available at www.hughforhillsdale.com. Go start your binge listening right now. Be sure to sign up for Imprimis at www.hillsdale.edu.

End of interview.

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