Victor Davis Hanson’s Best Quotes From His 2003 National Review Columns

“Sadly, prosperous Westerners never seem to learn of the folly of honoring appeasement and naivet’ ‘ the awarding of Nobel Peace Prizes to the likes of a Le Duc Tho and Yasser Arafat, as if global praise might make them statesmen rather than murderers, to a Kim Dae Jung as if his demonstrable kindness would pacify rather than embolden North Korea, or to ex-President Carter as if his well-meaning parleys with tyrants could bring peace. As chief executive emeritus, his saintliness now plays well; but we forget in the rough and tumble of his presidency that Mr. Carter’s brag that he had no “inordinate fear of Communism” was followed by the brutal Russian invasion of Afghanistan, that sending Ramsay Clark to apologize to the Iranians did not win the release of the American hostages in 1980, and that U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young’s praise of Cuban troops in Africa and his clenched-fist, black-power salutes to African leaders did not stop Communist intervention and bloodletting abroad.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“(I)t is necessary in a free society to audit and question the government. But such self-critique does not mean that we must apply an unreal standard of judgment against the United States that is as one-sided as it is unfair. Let us retain our sense of balance and history. We must be vigilant about our civil liberties, but it is only because we have acted both lawfully and promptly to detain terrorist killers on our shores that so far we have avoided a repeat of September 11. That we have saved American lives and preserved our constitutional freedoms is the real story of our domestic-security efforts. We must worry about collateral damage in war and will always strive to prevent civilian deaths, but should keep in mind that the United States seeks to protect the innocent, while al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein murder thousands of civilians indiscriminately. Indeed, they seek to kill from the sanctuaries of hospitals, mosques, and schools precisely because they know ‘ sometimes more so that our own critics ‘ that we will not strike the homes of their own innocents, however cynically they are used. America’s burden is not just to fight to save Americans from Saddam Hussein, but to do so in such a way as to save his own people from him as well. That it is our duty to take up these moral responsibilities should not blind us to the fact that others do not.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“They should note instead that in the aftermath of major wars, the world is rarely put back together quite the same. When Rome entered the Punic Wars it was an agrarian republic; it finished as an imperial Mediterranean power. Waterloo reordered Europe for a century, and the defeat of Germany and Japan ushered in the 50-year long protocols of the Cold War, in which enemies became friends and friends then enemies. Who could sort out the shifting Sparta-Athens-Thebes relationships following the Peloponnesian War? It is not just that winners dictate and losers comply, but that even among allies, war and its aftermath often tear away the thin scabs of unity and expose long-festering wounds of real cultural, political, historical, and geographical difference. So it is with this present war against the terrorists and their sponsors, which when it is finally over will leave our world a very different place.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“The U.N. beats up on the United States because it accepts that ‘ unlike China or Syria ‘ we are predictable, honorable, and committed to acting morally. Thus it finds psychic reassurance and a sense of puffed-up self-importance ‘ on the cheap ‘ by remonstrating with an America that wishes to stop a criminal regime from spreading havoc, rather than worrying about the demise of million of Tibetans, Syria’s brutal creation of the puppet state of Lebanon, or Africans who complain that France has, without consultation, determined their fate. It is always better for a debating society to lecture those who listen than those who do not.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“Taking on all at once Germany, Japan, and Italy ‘ diverse enemies all ‘ did not require the weeding out of all the fascists and their supporters in Mexico, Argentina, Eastern Europe, and the Arab world. Instead, those in jackboots and armbands worldwide quietly stowed all their emblems away as organized fascism died on the vine once the roots were torn out in Berlin, Rome, and Tokyo. So too will the terrorists, once their sanctuaries and capital shrivel up ‘ as is happening as we speak.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“The American people are not naifs who yearn for isolationism, but they are starting to ask some hard questions about the way we have been doing business for 50 years, and it may well be time to grant the French, Canadians, Germans, Turks, South Koreans, and a host of others their wishes for independence from us: polite friendship ‘ but no alliances, no bases, no money, no trade concessions, and no more begging for the privilege of protecting them.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“It is the singular achievement of the present Canadian government to turn a country ‘ whose armed forces once stormed an entire beach at Normandy and fielded one of the most heroic armies in wars for freedom ‘ into a bastion of anti-Americanism without a military.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“The United States military is now evolving geometrically as it gains experience from near-constant fighting and grafts new technology daily. Indeed, it seems to be doubling, tripling, and even quadrupling its lethality every few years. And the result is that we are outdistancing not merely the capabilities of our enemies but our allies as well ‘ many of whom who have not fought in decades ‘ at such a dizzying pace that our sheer destructive power makes it hard to work with others in joint operations.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“True, most of the Arab street may curse infidels in Baghdad, but a sizable minority will acknowledge the freedom there and ask, “If there, why not here?” Or: “Don’t our own kleptocrats have lavish, glittery palaces of extortion just like Saddam did?” Nothing has been more pathetic in the last few days than listening to in-house Arab “intellectuals” damning the United States, ridiculing the “liberation” of Iraq, and railing at the old bogeyman of “colonialism” ‘ even as they watch demonstrations and a freedom in Baghdad impossible in their own police states. What a burden they must carry: supporting the old Arab nationalist status quo ensures the continual absence of their own independence.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“Our troubles with Europe are said to arise from differing views of the world order and an imbalance in military power. Yet these new tensions cannot truly be understood without the appreciation that there are no longer 300 Soviet divisions poised to plow through West Germany. With such a common threat, natural differences between Europe and the United States ‘ from the positioning of Pershing tactical missiles on German soil to prevent Soviet nuclear intimidation, to continental criticism of the American role in Vietnam and Central America ‘ always were aired within certain understood and relatively polite parameters of common history and interests.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“I wish I could attribute the absence of any conventional Arab offensive in the last 20 years to a change of political climate or a willingness to abide by past accords. But unfortunately it is more likely that the Egyptians or Syrians concluded that the next time their tanks headed to Tel Aviv, there was nothing stopping the counterassaults from ending up in downtown Cairo or Damascus.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“In Iraq #1 we stayed within U.N. mandates, limited our response, went home after Kuwait was freed ‘ and were censured for allowing Shiites and Kurds to be butchered and not going to Baghdad when the road was open and the dictator tottering. In Iraq #2 we removed the tyrant at less cost than the liberation of Kuwait during the earlier war, stayed on to ensure freedom and fair representation for various groups ‘ and are being castigated for either using too little force to ensure needed order or too much power that stifles indigenous aspirations and turns popular opinion against us.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“In Afghanistan #1 we once kept our distance, armed the locals to fight Russian expansionist Communism on their own, left when the common enemy was defeated, accepted noninterference in Afghan affairs ‘ and were blamed as cynical Cold War realists when the inevitable chaos followed. In Afghanistan #2, we defeated an equally odious force, stayed on to promote consensual government, attempted to provide aid ‘ and are now being blamed as either cynical imperialists who lust after some mythical pipeline or na’ve Pollyannas who are squandering blood and treasure to change people who cannot be changed.” — Victor Davis Hanson

” A country that cannot count its own illegal aliens ‘ estimates range from 8-12 million ‘ with a porous 2,000 mile border is not secure despite twelve carrier battle groups. We must accept that it is a cornerstone of Mexican foreign policy to export illegally each year a million of its own to the United States to avoid needed reform at home and to influence American domestic policy.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“Any time the Western way of war can be unleashed on an enemy stupid enough to enter its arena, victory is assured. And the antidote? Remember the Highway of Death or the insane evocation of “Dresden” on the first night of the three-week war. The way to combat the West is to appeal to either its generosity of spirit or its guilt in hopes that it will call itself off, and thus hand to terrorists and dictators a stalemate that will soon be seen as a victory of sorts, stolen from the jaws of assured defeat.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“This bloody past suggests to us that enemies cease hostilities only when they are battered enough to acknowledge that there is no hope in victory ‘ and thus that further resistance means only useless sacrifice.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“The problem with deterrence ‘ apparently sometimes forgotten by our former presidents ‘ is that it is not static, but a creature of the moment, captive to impression, and nursed on action, not talk. It must be maintained hourly and can erode or be lost with a single act of failed nerve, despite all the braggadocio of threatened measures. And, once gone, the remedies needed for its restoration are always more expensive, deadly ‘ and controversial ‘ than would have been its simple maintenance.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“The fact is that we have been consistent in a predictable 60-year commitment to national security, while our friends and former enemies ‘ by intent or default ‘ have followed different paths since 1989. We stayed mostly the same as they became hypopowers that, to take a small example, would and could do nothing should a madman in Korea wish to kill millions.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“Western societies from ancient Athens to imperial Rome to the French republic rarely collapsed because of a shortage of resources or because foreign enemies proved too numerous or formidable in arms ‘ even when those enemies were grim Macedonians or Germans. Rather, in times of peace and prosperity there arose an unreal view of the world beyond their borders, one that was the product of insularity brought about by success, and an intellectual arrogance that for some can be the unfortunate byproduct of an enlightened society.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“Had Mr. Atta and his fellow killers been arrested on probable cause, their Islamic haunts raided, and assorted charities and fundraisers shut down on September 10, 2001 ‘ cries of racism, profiling, and McCarthyism would have drowned out the purportedly farfetched excuses that such preemptory FBI raids had in fact saved thousands in Manhattan.” — Victor Davis Hanson

” The old notion that prosperous, friendly Western countries do not need our assistance, while fickle non-Western states deserve blackmail aid, is pass’ ‘ and, of course, has no public support.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“What is an ally? Were NATO brothers like France and Germany allies ‘ whose U.N. performances made China’s seem friendly? Is Greece an ally ‘ whose mass anti-American demonstrations were larger than those in Cairo or Damascus? Perhap it’s Mexico, which opposed our efforts in Iraq and exports 1-2 million of its own people illegally across the border as a means to prevent much-needed radical reform at home. In this context, the current meaning of “ally” too often reads as a state benefiting from American friendship that in turn expresses its thanks by gratuitous expressions of hostility in times of crisis.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“(T)he American people must habitually be reminded of our ultimate aims. Militarily we must reestablish both the ability and willingness to punish immediately any cadre or state that kills or plans to kill Americans. Politically we seek, both by arms and diplomacy, to end the present pathology in the Middle East where autocratic governments create venomous hatred toward the United States among their starving and frenzied to deflect their own catastrophic failures onto us. Morally we are trying to convey the message that the United States is a proven and reliable friend of international commerce, a guarantor of freedom of the seas and skies, a protector of nations that support consensual government and human rights ‘ and a terrible and totally unpredictable enemy of any one or state that seeks to kill Americans or their friends or to threaten the norms of civilization itself.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“Did either the nonexistent or the measured response after a series of attacks on Americans the past decade ‘ in Lebanon, Africa, Saudi Arabia, New York, and Yemen ‘ suggest to our terrorist enemies that it was wrong and unwise to kill reasonable and affable people, or did the easy killing imply that self-absorbed and pampered Lotus-eaters would not much care who or how many were butchered as long as it was within reasonable numbers and spread out over time?” — Victor Davis Hanson

“Once the world sobers up and the frenzy subsides, nations will still want someone to be worried about Iran and North Korea. The Bekka Valley will not disappear. China will still scare its neighbors. Japan will still look to the United States military. The NATO partners won’t wish us to leave; Russians will remember that we will never attack them, but always find a way to forgive them for almost everything they do. Egyptians and Jordanians will appreciate that they have slandered Americans and been paid in the process. And despite, or perhaps because of, past appeasement, Islamic terrorists will still hate the defenseless Europeans as much as they do the United States. Meanwhile the American public is tiring of them all ‘ and that will be the real challenge for any president in the years ahead.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“To ask brave soldiers to go into the inferno of Afghanistan and Iraq and by virtue of their skill and courage, under the televised scrutiny of a global audience, end the rule of murderers was not easy. Nor was staying on to help the helpless. Yes, the truly frightening alternative was the blustering inaction that we have seen for the past 20 years that led to September 11 and the real quagmire in the Middle East.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“For all the criticism about warlords, it is now likely that Afghanistan will never again be turned over to al Qaeda to train thousands to conduct the type of murder we saw on September 11. For all real problems with ambushes and sabotage, there will be no more gassings, mass murdering, invading neighbors, sending guided missiles across borders or no-fly zones in Iraq, but rather the hard work of consensual government ‘ a difficult process easily caricatured, but when completed universally admired.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“(I)t is likely that Saddam Hussein ‘ on the lam for six months ‘ will be found more quickly than the odious Radovan Karadzic or Ratko Mladic who, under very suspicious circumstances, are still in hiding inside Europe five years after their hideous regimes collapsed beneath American bombs.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“These Europeans like multilateral solutions not out of principle so much as because the tortuous process of implementing them creates the illusion that, in the meantime, nothing must be done. Hence, by the time the U.N. acts, most Bosnians or Rwandans or Kuwaitis are long gone, a sort of “talk, talk/die, die policy.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“(A) successful consensual government in Baghdad will serve as a glimpse of what life can be like amid the economic and political stagnation of the surrounding Arab world. More importantly, it will confront radical Islam with a competing ideology that possesses a far more revolutionary message than the Islamists’ tired old culture of death that ruined Afghanistan and Iran, wrecked the economy of the West Bank, tore apart Algeria, ended the tourist industry of Egypt, brought international scorn on Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, turned the president of Malaysia into an international laughingstock, nearly made Pakistan an outlaw regime ‘ and led to the reckoning after 9/11. Holdover Soviet-style Baathism didn’t work; Islamic fascism was a failure; tribal dictatorship and monarchies are no better; Pan-Arabism was a cruel joke. The Arab world is running out of alternatives to democratic governments and free markets.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“States are like people. They do not question the awful status quo until some dramatic event overturns the conventional and lax way of thinking.” — Victor Davis Hanson

“In the future, the American military must accept that if it is asked to go to war under a Republican administration, its public-relations problems will pose as much a dilemma as the campaign itself ‘ as the New York Times, National Public Radio, the campuses, the major networks, and the Europeans will almost immediately seek to oppose and caricature America’s efforts. In contrast, in our contemporary therapeutic society that gives currency to lip-biting, publicly feeling pain, and professions of utopianism, Democrats can pretty much use the military as they wish ‘ secure they will always be seen as sober and judiciously using force only as a “last resort.” — Victor Davis Hanson

” It is rather the nature of America ‘ our freewheeling, outspoken, prosperous, liberty-loving citizens extend equality to women, homosexuals, minorities, and almost anyone who comes to our shores, and thereby create desire and with it shame for that desire. Indeed, it is worse still than that: Precisely because we worry publicly that we are insensitive, our enemies scoff privately that we in fact are too sensitive ‘ what we think is liberality and magnanimity they see as license and decadence. If we don’t have confidence in who we are, why should they?” — Victor Davis Hanson

“In all major wars there reaches a critical tipping point when the ultimate outcome of the conflict begins to become clear. Then the pulse of war really quickens, as allies, neutrals, and observers all scramble to adjust their allegiances to match the inevitable verdict to come on the battlefield. For all the scary ante bellum rhetoric about thousand-year Reichs and the defiant slogans of “We will bury you,” no one wishes to lose, or even be associated with defeat.” — Victor Davis Hanson

You can read Victor Davis Hanson’s work at: National Review Online.

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