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Victor Davis Hanson on the UK going soft, America needing a Churchill, and Rosie O’Donnell’s non-melting steel.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007
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HH: Joined now by Victor Davis Hanson, historian, classicist, fellow at the Hoover Institute, visiting professor at the wonderful Hillsdale College and other places. Professor Hanson, welcome back.

VDH: Thank you for having me, Hugh.

HH: I heard you on Dennis Miller’s show last week. I’m not as funny as Dennis, but I’m glad you came back.

VDH: I am, too.

HH: I saw two things you posted at Nationalreview.com today, over at the blog, The Corner, that I wanted to talk to you about, the first one of which is that the UK is now speaking softly and carrying a small stick. It’s very unnerving what’s going on, Victor Hanson, in terms of watching the collapse of will in one of our closest allies.

VDH: It is, but in defense of Britain, Hugh, we had a picture of our Speaker of the House with a scarf at the nexus of terror in Damascus, Syria, today, so anyone can pick any image and draw their own conclusion.

HH: That’s true. In paragraph three of this one post which went up at the Corner at about 8:30 this morning, you write, “In the context of the 300, we can now resurrect an old word from Herodotus-“Medize,” I think it’s pronounced…

VDH: (laughing) Yeah, Medize.

HH: Medize. Tell me what that means and why you bring that up.

VDH: That meant when Persia was ascendant, as it started to move westward, individual Greek city-states and communities decided to cut their own deals and to make, they called it diplomatic arrangements. And then they sort of either were bypassed or let go, or became subjects of Persia. In fact, it was so successful that in the Persian wars, there was only 17 city-states that really played a primary role. So I think what we’re seeing is, if I was Iran now and I was afraid of being bombed at some future date, I think I’d just kidnap British sailors, and then I would let them go if they promised not to participate in an attack in the future against Iran. You could do that with France, you could do it with Israel. Pretty soon, you’d have nobody to worry about.

HH: Now I want to read in the entirety your post twelve hours after that, from 8:30 tonight, just a few minutes ago. I think it’s revolutionary in its insight, and we’ll kick it around. Victor Hanson wrote earlier tonight, “What is disturbing about the Iranian piracy is that it establishes a warning of what we can come to expect when Iran is nuclear, and how organizations like the UN, the EU, and NATO will react. If a few Iranian terrorists in boats can paralyze an entire nation and the above agencies, think what a half-dozen Iranian nukes will do. This was the hour of Europe to step forward and show the world what it can do with sanctions, embargoes, and boycotts, and how such soft power is as effective as gunboats-and it is passing. The incident also redefines “asset”. A European naval vessel, under current rules of engagement, seems to me more a liability, a floating diplomatic embarrassment waiting to happen. In this Orwellian logic, the British decision to mothball some of the ships now on duty in the Gulf makes sense: fewer chances that one will be challenged, humiliated, or attacked by Islamists.” Victor Davis Hanson, that’s stunning, but it’s also, I’m afraid, it’s correct.

VDH: I think it is, too. If I was a British parliamentarian, I think I don’t want any ships, because what good are they? They don’t fight back, they don’t shoot, and they’re sitting targets. And all they’re going to do is embarrass me someday in the future, so let’s get them out of there and mothball them.

HH: Isn’t the next step, though, let’s get our embassies out of Tehran before they pull a replay of ’79?

VDH: Yeah, I think that’s the idea, and I think…I was kidding around, but I think this Ahmadinejad needs to get an international seminar, and have people come and court him like Kissinger used to do, because he could teach them a lot about international politics.

HH: Now is there a turnaround…Blair has spoken about this being a critical period, and a long missing Iranian pops up in Tehran today with denials that it’s connected. What happens next, Victor Hanson, if the Iranians up the ante again? We’re playing poker with ourselves, as we have before with these people.

VDH: Well, you know, it’s almost like they have a sign on their forehead that says bomb me, because they’ve offended the UN, they’ve offended the EU, they’ve offended NATO. It’s hard to offend the Russians, how can you do that, except welsh on debts, and they did that. So on the rule that whatever they want you shouldn’t do…what I would do is just to blockade the coast, and decide what goes in and what goes out, and not tell them. Or I would get the EU, who’s their biggest trading partner right now with Iran, all the EU would have to do is say you know what? We’re not going to trade with you for a month, or we could divest and say any company that does business with you can’t do business with the United States. There’s all sorts of things, we could make it really difficult to be an Iranian. But why we don’t do that, we don’t do any of it, and so it’s sort of an irony, because what it’s going to do, if you don’t do any of this first, you’re going to ensure you’re going to have to do something militarily. All these soft power people should be jumping at the chance to show the United States they have strategies that are better than carriers and tanks.

HH: Do you sense in the American middle, and this is the non-coastal America, disgust with things like Speaker Pelosi, and British appeasement of Iran? Or is it simply not on our screens?

VDH: No, I think…but I’m afraid it’s worse than that, Hugh. I think it’s a demoralizing disgust, that they’re just so tired of the whole thing, this is what we’ve come to. They really need a Churchill or somebody to say you know what? You guys, you’re a very strong country, you’ve got the biggest economy in the world, you’ve got the best military, you’ve got a brilliant guy over there in Iraq who’s doing a hell of a job, and you can win this thing and stop this, and get Pelosi back here, and don’t freelance in the middle of a war. This is like right in the middle of World War II, the Republican opposition to Roosevelt going over to talk to Franco, you know? It’s crazy.

HH: Now the British newspapers on cue have begun to blame us. Predictable?

VDH: Yes, I just…the only thing that you and I, everybody knows that. The only mystery was how they were going to blame us. I thought well, how are they going to do this? I thought they were going to blame the United States fleet at first for not coming to the rescue, and I though no, that’s too easy. They’re going to try to find something that we did, so then…it has to always be the victim, you know, this is how that mentality works. So they’re small, they’re weak, so we did something and kidnapped Iranians, so then the Iranians retaliated, and poor them, they’re out of it, they’re a third party. This is what happens when you ally yourself with Bush. And sure enough, it just popped up, just according to script.

HH: Now Victor Davis Hanson, did you hear Rosie O’Donnell last week?

VDH: Yes, I did.

HH: Now what should a mature news network do when they have someone like that saying things like that on their air?

VDH: It’s hard to know, because I don’t know…when you say mature, it’s sort of like having a crazy person…she’s…when somebody says also that steel doesn’t melt, you know, and I’m a person who had a farm, and that’s how I welded, by melting steel.

HH: (laughing)

VDH: And she says that, you think it’s almost entertainment like a person in a cage at the zoo that you poke a stick at. So I think that’s what their idea is, that tune into this View, and see what nutty thing this crazy woman says. And for a while, that’ll get some viewers.

HH: But doesn’t it put nuttery into the circulation of our intellectual bloodstream?

VDH: (laughing) Yeah, it does, but that’s what these people want to do. They want to make money. It’s entertainment.

HH: Victor Davis Hanson, always a pleasure. www.victorhanson.com, our favorite classicist and military historian, always a pleasure.

End of interview.

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