HH: Joined now by Victor Davis Hanson, professor, military historian, classicist. You can read all of his material at www.victorhanson.com. Professor, good to speak with you again, always a pleasure.
VDH: Thanks for having me, Hugh.
HH: Have you been watching the YouTube debate at all?
VDH: A little bit, but I’ve been traveling today, so I didn’t see it all.
HH: Well, I’d like to play for you one question from a man who lost his son in the war, and Hillary’s answer to it, and then get your response to it. Here’s the question.
Q: Dear presidential candidates, you see those three flags over my shoulder? They covered the coffins of my grandfather, my father and my oldest son. Someday, mine will join. I do not want to see my youngest sons join them. I have two questions. By what date after January 21, 2009, will all U.S. troops be out of Iraq, and how many family members do you have serving in uniform?
HH: Now Victor Davis Hanson, what do you make of that question, and CNN’s selection of that question?
VDH: Well, it’s an ongoing process that we’ve been witnessing to get out of Iraq before the Iraqi democracy and this experiment in constitutional government stabilize. And everybody wants to get out of Iraq. We will get out of Iraq. The question is how and how quickly. And the United States is paying a great price, no one denies that. But if we get out before the country is stabilized, we’re going to see a rump state of Iran in the southern part of the Shia area, we’re going to see Kurdistan probably invaded by Turkey, we’re going to see a badlands in Anbar, Wahabism, we’re going to see Afghanistan redux, we’re going to see all the people who had in good faith supported the idea of reform killed. We’re going to have the absolute humiliation of the United States military, and that’s going to be far more dangerous than what it would be to stay in Iraq for the extra time necessary.
HH: Now here’s Hillary’s response to that question, and we’ll come back and get a comment from Victor Hanson.
HRC: You know, I’ve put forth a comprehensive three-point plan to get our troops out of Iraq, and it does start with moving them out as soon as possible. But Joe is right. You know, I have done extensive work on this, and the best estimate is that we can probably move a brigade a month if we really accelerated, maybe a brigade and a half or two a month. That is a lot of months. My point is, they’re not even planning for that in the Pentagon. You know, Mr. Berry, I am so sorry about the loss of your son, and I hope to goodness your youngest son doesn’t face anything like that. But until we get this president and the Pentagon to begin to at least tell us they are planning to withdraw, we are not going to be able to turn this around. And so with all due respect to some of my friends here, yes, we want to begin moving the troops out. But we want to do so safely and orderly and carefully. We don’t want more loss of American life and Iraqi life as we attempt to withdraw. And it is time for us to admit that it’s going to be complicated, so let’s start it now.
HH: Now Victor Davis Hanson, when she said we don’t want more loss of American life and Iraqi life, of course a withdrawal at this point would result not just in loss of life, but in genocide, in all likelihood.
VDH: I think so. I mean, we know what happened to the French in 1962, what happened to the Algerians who supported the French. 170,000 of them were butchered within six months. We know what happened in Vietnam, even though Senator Kerry the other day played down those effects, when a million and a half boat people, 500 hundred thousand sent to the reeducation camps, probably 200,000 executed, the Cambodian holocaust. And remember, it was 18 years later when George Bush finally said that Vietnam was laid to rest. So if you’re an al Qaeda person, a terrorist, and the United States flees at the rate that many of the Democratic Senators want, why would you stop in Iraq? Why not go to Kurdistan and Kuwait, and Qatar, and finish the job of getting Americans out? Because once an army is beaten, it rarely is able to make a rear guard stand. It’s a psychological devastation to the entire army group. This country, by the way, Hugh, we have never done this, an entire army group fled in the face of a battle. We’ve never done it. We lost the Philippines in 1942. Over five years, we withdrew from Vietnam. But those horrific images of the Saigon Embassy and the helicopters landing, those were to evacuate diplomatic personnel and friends of the United States. We hadn’t had combat troops for two years in Vietnam. This is something entirely new in our experience, what the Democratic Senators are calling for, a wholesale abandonment of the battle space of a magnitude of an entire U.S. army group, something new in our experience, and we should be really careful before we undertake it.
HH: Victor Davis Hanson, I’ll talk to Max Boot of the Council On Foreign Relations in a couple of segments. I’m going to talk to him about his op-ed yesterday about what the effect on General Petraeus, what’s going on here. I talked to General Petraeus on this program last week, he sounded optimistic. General North of the CentCom’s air command talked to National Review on Friday. He said the surge is working. But now I quote Max Boot about Petraeus. “He is being undermined by incessant withdrawal demands from home, which are convincing our enemies that they can wait us out.” Do you agree with Boot’s assessment that that’s what’s going on with the political circus underway in D.C?
VDH: Absolutely. When I went to Iraq in February of last year, every officer you talked to said the only way we’re going to win this is to get the insurgents who are Sunni and ex-Baathist and ex-Republican Guard members to turn on al Qaeda. They’re the people who know how to fight us, they’re people with military experience, they’re the people who are the key to this. We worry about the Shia, but they don’t have the skill, they’re not as ferocious as the Sunni. That was what they were trying to do from the very beginning. And only now that we see that’s exactly what’s happening, and it would be the height of folly that finally, after all that sacrifice and blood and treasure, to stop when it looks like these Sunni insurgents are now saying look, we don’t want al Qaeda anymore than you do, and we’re willing to make an alliance, and rid these people from Iraq. And I think it’s a testament to the brilliance of General Petraeus that he’s been able to pull that off with other senior commanders…remember one other thing, Hugh. The Democratic Senate said a year ago that they wanted Rumsfeld gone, we had to have more troops there, we needed a change of tactics, they wanted Casey and Abizaid gone, and they got Petraeus, and they confirmed him unanimously, they got Secretary Gates, they got more troops, and now they’re even talking about not giving him the promised September reporting back to the Senate. So it almost suggests that this is all just deductive. They wanted to get out from the very beginning, and to embarrass the United States, and especially the administration with a defeat.
HH: One last question, Victor Davis Hanson. In the debate tonight, a question from YouTube said will you meet, to the candidates, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, with no preconditions, in the first year of your presidency, and Barack Obama said yes. I interpret that as being a reflexive…and an admission that he is completely unprepared to be president. How do you respond to that answer?
VDH: I agree. What he’s really saying to the people who have been slaughtered by the Assad government in Syria and the dissidents, we don’t care about you. He’s telling the people of Lebanon who suffer serial assassination when they try to stand up for democracy, we don’t care about real politick at all. He’s telling the people of Irsrael…I mean, go talk with somebody who promised that you’re a one-bomb state and we’re going to wipe you off the map? He’s telling the Democratic dissidents in Venezuela…this is a man of the left, and what he’s basically doing is willing to talk with dictators and autocrats who are being opposed by people on the left, on the Democratic liberal side, supposedly, in these countries. It’s very strange that George Bush is talking about freedom and individual rights, and people in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party are sounding like old-fashioned, real politick, cynical people who say just accept the world the way it is, and most convenient for us is what we want, and don’t try to ask for something better.
HH: Victor Davis Hanson, always a pleasure. www.victorhanson.com, America, for all the Professor’s writings.
End of interview.